The Amarok never made headlines for major problems or reliability issues. Although many doubted its long-term reliability and were unconvinced the tiny two-liter turbo-diesel engine would be up for the task. It came under heavy skepticism from Journalists and those favoring the Oriental Utes. More than 9 years down the line and the Amarok has proven its weight in gold. It isn’t, unfortunately, just good news though and there are a few known issues that have cropped up over time. This article will discuss those common issues in detail and available solutions.
The most common reliability issues associated with the 2.0 Diesel VW Amarok are:
- EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve failure.
- Serpentine/Accessory drive belt failure prior to its 75000km kilometer change over interval
- DPF (diesel particulate filter) getting clogged
When it comes to work and play no vehicle checks the boxes better than a reliable double-cab Ute. Reliability being the operative word here since the more hours spent in the workshop means fewer hours on the job and less money in your bank. Ouch!
The Amarok is without a doubt a working-class vehicle with a touch of luxury. VW released it to compete head-on with the Ford Ranger, Hilux, and Triton. This it does, and very well at that. This is by no means a bare-bones UTE, but as in typical Volkswagen fashion, is luxurious, oozes class and does well for your business image.
The 2.0 Amarok Engine Design
The Amarok is produced in Argentina and is offered in a choice of 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines. Volkswagen stuck to its familiar strengths delivering quality interior fit and finish, refinement and build quality. Initially, the Amarok showed no signs of what we call “common faults” but rather a mixture of smaller issues. Put it down to teething issues, which is pretty normal with the launch of any new model.
The initial (SA) launch was a single variable vane turbo version that delivered 340NM of Torque and 90KW at 1750-2250rpm. This delivered astounding efficiency levels in its class by fitting the 2.0 diesel engine, which was uncommon for the class it was competing in. Most of its competitors sported 2.5 and 3.0L engines. It clearly wasn’t designed to break any land speed records with 100mph top speed and 13.7 second 0-62mph time.
Later the same 2.0 engine was released with a Bi-Turbo engine delivering 400NM of Torque and 120KW with a 0-62MPH time of 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 112MPH. Later the same engine was upgraded to 132kw and 420NM.
Engines were initially released with a 6-speed manual transmission. The 4Motion was a part-time four-wheel drive with selectable 4×4 and low-ratio transfer box for ultimate off-road capability. Later came the 2.0 Auto 132kw 4WD. And more recently, the 3.0 v6. Yummy!
EGR Valve Function
One of the common faults on the VW Amarok is the EGR valve failure. EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation. It functions as a one-way valve or tap to allow exhaust fumes through at appropriate times. The purpose of the EGR is to feed a specific amount of unburnt exhaust fumes back into the engine to reduce NOx (Nitrogen Dioxide) Levels.
These second-hand exhaust fumes also relocate a percentage of the oxygen that would then be drawn into the engine from the surrounding atmosphere. Because the combustion chamber runs cooler and because there’s less oxygen, less NOx is produced. A cooler engine is a happier engine and particularly the turbo. The turbocharger and the lubricating oil viscosity break down sooner if the engine is running hot or overheating.
When there is less demand on the vehicle while driving slowly or not under heavy load is when the EGR primarily operates. Under these light-load driving conditions, the engine can afford to spare some capacity. The cooling effect of the EGR also creates a cooler operating temperature for the engine under a light load.
With a cooler-running engine and cooler lubricating oil, the turbo runs happier as well. Cool oil lasts longer and works better than oil that has been continuously overheated. So the EGR system is important for the cool running of the engine and also in the protection of the engine oil from continuous heat. IN THEORY!!!
The Nitrogen and oxygen in the engine combine to form NOx which reacts with sunlight and causes dark smog.
Car manufacturers are under constant pressure to produce greener, cleaner engines so the EGR valve is basically an anti-pollution device designed by manufacturers to drastically reduce the NOx levels that get pumped into the atmosphere.
EGR Failure Symptoms
The Amarok EGR was prone to failure which resulted in rough idling and the orange “check engine” icon appearing on the dash. Often the vehicle would go into limp mode as protection.
With the Amarok, there usually are a few things you can check if you suspect your EGR is faulty. What happens in many cases is a leak. The coolant that circulates through the EGR Radiator cooler which is designed to decrease the temperature of the unburnt exhaust gases starts leaking directly into the intake and gets burnt up in the combustion chambers along with the gases.
If you don’t suspect your EGR to be faulty and failed to notice your engine coolant levels dropping, you most likely won’t catch it in time. This can result in major engine damage when coolant mixes with gas in the combustion chamber. NOT GOOD!!!!
Below are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Engine knocking sound – This is caused by high combustion temperatures on overheating
- Stalling – A clogged EGR will result in emission gasses being shut off, resulting in engine shut-offs.
- Engine Light – The engine light will be triggered on the dash. Don’t assume anything and take the vehicle to a garage ASAP to have the engine scanned to exactly identify the error code.
- Rough Idle – Rough idle occurs when there is a problem with the EGR and the vehicle suffers from power loss.
Real-world examples of Failed EGR Symptoms
2013 BiTdi Amarok with 80k kms. About 3 weeks ago my coolant light came on, I happened to be right next to a garage, so I pulled in and filled up the round coolant bottle with water and light went away. This morning, the light is back, so I am concerned that I might have a leak somewhere? Where do I begin to check and what could be the possible culprits for this? Any help will be appreciated.https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/showthread.php/278966-Amarok-coolant-usage
EGR Failure Causes
The main cause of EGR failure in the Amarok and many diesel vehicles is lack of maintenance. Many owners do not expect such detailed inspections and care to be necessary for a diesel engine and only tend to the problem when something goes wrong.
If the vehicle is under warranty, the EGR can be easily replaced, provided major damage has not yet been done to the engine. Many of the EGR problems can be avoided if the valve is removed, thoroughly inspected and cleaned.
Many have decided (myself included) to remove or blank-off the EGR valve completely. There is however a pro and con to doing this.
Amarok EGR Fix
Option 1 – Leave it in and Clean regularly
Make sure your EGR system and Inlet are cleaned regularly. This will prevent failure due to the build-up of soot that chokes the engine. The up-side to this option is the vehicle is left factory standard and you have no reason to worry about warranty claims or any legal issues later down the line. The downside is, you have no way of preventing EGR failure due to cooler cracking and leaking into the inlet, causing catastrophic damage.
You can purchase a new OEM Amarok BiTdi EGR Cooler here
Option 2 – Blanking off your EGR and Tune
This option prevents both failures, better fuel economy, more power, better drivability.
The downside – It is a bit of a legal grey area but for technicality, sake let’s just say blocking the EGR is a legal no-no in some countries. A lot of people are quick to say ‘warranty will be voided’. Well no it won’t be, the dealership has the responsibility to prove an engine fault is a direct result of the EGR delete and tune. Certain dealers have offered tunes from factory and have yet to see one knocked back as a result.
Advantages of EGR delete
Blanking off or deleting the EGR results in smooth combustion of the exhaust fumes. There are other benefits like improved throttle response and a slightly improved power output. EGR delete also results in a more economical engine. The removal of EGR results in the reduction of oil contamination. As the EGR DELETE KIT helps in improving the efficiency of the engine and consequently oil contamination is reduced. Carbon deposits in the engine are also drastically reduced and fuel is completely burnt with no deposits remaining in the combustion chamber.
There are differing opinions regarding the EGR delete on the Amarok. I have personally opted to delete mine and have not had a day’s worry in 2 years. A major factor in what you should do is ask yourself, how long do you intend on keeping the vehicle, if it’s only for warranty years, ignore it you should be fine. If you want to keep this Amarok for 10 + years a tune and block are highly recommended. For me, it’s just one less thing to worry about, hence me deleting and tuning my Amarok. So far so good!
You will have to do a software update on the Amarok’s ECU to write out the EGR code else you will receive engine warning lights on the dash.
Amarok EGR Blanking Kit
Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDi EGR Cooler Delete Kit blanking plates bypass
- 2x EGR blanking block off plate (intake & exhaust side)
- Coolant hose
- 2x Coolant hose coupling
- 2x Hose clamp
- Exhaust Gases Recirculation valve block off plate.
Amarok Serpentine Belt Failure
Another common fault on the Turbo Diesel Amarok versions is the Serpentine Belt Failure which can cause massive engine failure.
There have been reports of serpentine/Accessory drive belt failure prior to its 75000km kilometer change over a period.
In the event that the drive belt snaps, the belt tears apart and debris gets behind one of the pulleys and eventually tangled up in the timing belt. This causes the timing belt to either snap or jump a few teeth. When this happens the engine valve timing will be affected and the valves may contact the pistons resulting in major engine repairs. The entire cylinder will likely need to be replaced.
Volkswagen subsequently resolved the issue by introducing a revised timing belt cover in May 2012. The new design cover completely protects the timing belt from any debris from entering. This was replaced on all Amarok’s with their next major service.
Amarok Serpentine Belt Fix
To avoid the problem altogether, the cam belt needs to be replaced every 50,000 miles or every 4 years, whichever comes first. Replace the water pump while you are at it as preventative maintenance.
Get the updated timing cover. If your Amarok is not a My14 or newer check if your cover is the newer version. If the cover is the old one and your drive belt snaps it can snap the timing belt which will chew your engine. It’s an $80 part and most reputable Amarok mechanics can do this upgrade.
If you live or often drive in dusty areas, the replacement intervals will be shorter so make sure you check your belts regularly.
Another reason for premature serpentine/accessory belt failure could be due to a misaligned pulley. When a major service is done make sure they inspect the pulley alignment.
Amarok DPF Failure
The poor design of the Diesel Particulate Filter is another component prone to faults on the Amarok
The purpose of the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) is to filter toxic particles from the emissions to further reduce NOx emissions. The Diesel Particulate Filter is a device that forms part of the exhaust system and is designed to reduce the amount of particulate matter that is released from the tailpipe. It is designed to catch and trap 80% of the harmful soot that exits the combustion chamber.
When the toxic particles from the emissions get blocked the driver is alerted on the dash via the Engine Management Light. These filters tend to get blocked from driving in stop-go city traffic.
There has not been an official recall from VW to rectify the DPF but apparently, it is under investigation due to the high number of premature DPF failures.
Blocked DPF Symptoms
The problem is, after a while, the DPF filter gets clogged up with all the particulate matter and soot. The Amarok has an automatic cleaning process called ‘active regeneration’. When the soot build-up reaches 10% the Amarok’s engine control software recognizes this and rectifies this by dumping extra fuel into the engine.
Once the fuel-rich exhaust fumes pass through the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst, the temperature is raised as high as 600°C which is enough for the soot to burn off. This sounds like a fantastic solution, however, the ‘active regeneration’ requires at least a quarter tank of fuel to be effective and 10 to 15 minutes of consistent driving over 2,200rpm. During this process, your fuel consumption will increase and the tone of your engine will differ somewhat combined with a fuel-burning smell. DPF warning lights will appear on the dash.
Blocked DPF Fix
Since the Amarok Diesel Particulate filter blocks very quickly, the DPF warning light can be on for a very short time before limp mode kicks in. Once the limp mode is activated, the blockage is greater than 50% and active regeneration is no longer possible. In this instance, you will need to take the vehicle to the VW dealership to do a forced regeneration or completely replace the DPF.
If you live on a farm or stay within the city where you seldom drive long distances on the freeway above 2000rpm you can be more susceptible to the DPF fault. If the DPF light does appear, head straight for an open road and drop down a gear to keep the revs high, which in turn will increase the temperature of the exhaust gases and burn off the trapped soot.”
Amarok Owners Real-World Examples
I bought the Amarok to replace a 2011 Navara, I couldn’t be happier with it, I’ve had 40,000 miles of trouble free motoring, it’s still on the delivery tyres and servicing costs are the lowest I’ve had with any car yet. The auto gearbox works well with the engine and means towing is progressive even with a full load. A Discovery or Land Cruiser it is not but for a pickup it’s worth it’s weight in gold….. which is good as they cost a small fortune.https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/volkswagen/amarok/sports-utility-vehicle/owner-reviews
No major engine failures or EGR faults reported there, but rather CV joints and brakes. Could be due to heavy off-roading, which tends to damage CV’s easily.
Excellent all round and a comfortable drive. In nearly two years mine has not used any engine oil. The only thing I do not like about it is the Sat Nav. A Garmin is far superior to what the VW has in it. Everything else is perfect although it would have been nice to have had a memory seat.https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/volkswagen/amarok/sports-utility-vehicle/owner-reviews
No complaints about reliability there either.
Amarok Recalls And Known Issues
Before you purchase an Amarok check to make sure it has been subject to all the necessary recalls.
Volkswagen recalled all Single-Cab Amarok’s built between 2010 and 2013 for a potential fuel leak problem, while 2014/15 Amarok’s needed their front brakes checked as the calipers may not have been tightened to the correct torque.
Fuel Leak – Single-Cab
In November 2013 a recall was issued for VW Single Cab utilities due to incorrectly positioned fuel piped in the engine compartment. This defect combined with engine vibrations could lead to chaffing or cracks developing in the fuel pipes. If this occurred diesel fuel may leak into the engine compartment and could pose a fire hazard. As part of the recall, a chaff protector would be fitted on the fuel line at affected points to prevent damage
Loose Brake Callipers – Single-Cab
On June 2015 a recall was issued for all MY2015 Amarok vehicles. On certain Amarok vehicles, the bolts on certain Amarok may not have been tightened with the specified torque. If bolt tension was lost, the loose brake caliper may make a noise, damage the wheel, and at worst cause the wheel to lock up, which could cause loss of control and possibly an accident.
Airbag Fault – Single-Cab
In April 2017 a recall was made for 2016 and 2017 single cab 2H Amarok’s. In the event of a collision, variations of the mixed ration of propellant for the airbag and belt tensioner may prevent them from deploying. Failure to deploy would increase the risk of injury to occupants.
Software Update – Single-Cab
In October 2015 a recall was issued for all Single-Cab Utilities with the 2.0 EA189 Diesel engines.
According to the recall notice, the emissions levels may not meet regulatory requirements when the affected vehicle is driven under normal conditions. This was like a NOx emissions “defeat device”
For the 2.0-Litre EA189 engine a software update will be introduced which takes advantage of improved simulation of air currents inside the air intake system. Volkswagen aims to implement the software update from January 2016. The labor time to install the update is around a half-an-hour
Loss of Power Steering Assistance (3.0 V6 Tdi 2017-18)
In January 2018 a recall was issued for 2017 and 2018 model year VW Amarok vehicles that had 3.0 Turbo diesel engines. During production, a clip may have been fitted incorrectly and this could damage the power steering return hose. This could cause hydraulic fluid to leak and for power steering assistance to be lost.
The loss of power steering assistance would affect the handling of the vehicle, posing a safety risk to occupants of the vehicle and other road users.
Amarok Maintenance Checks
Regularly inspect the power steering return hose for damages and leaks. This can lead to power steering failure.
This was a recall item in 2017. As discussed earlier, the timing belt on the Bi-turbo TDi is known to fail as early as 50 000 miles. Inspect it regularly for cracks and misalignment, if it does break it can destroy the engine.
Being a very capable off-road machine, check the undercarriage for knocks, dents, and deep scratches. If you are purchasing an Amarok and it has a tow hook, enquire if it has been towing and how frequently. The Amarok is a very capable towing vehicle, although regular heavy towing does add more strain and increased wear on the drivetrain.
The exhaust gas recirculation cooler is prone to corrode, and it can contaminate the oil, creating damage to the engine’s internals/cylinder bores. Volkswagen designed a new EGR cooler, check for excessive oil use, or smoke from the exhaust.
Volkswagen as a brand is well known for refinement, build quality, reliability and fuel efficiency. The Amarok checks all these boxes and does it well. Reliability is also a word commonly associated with Volkswagen’s reputation and the Amarok can proudly fly that flag even though it has a few flaws. The fact remains, no vehicle is perfect and they all have an Achilles heel of some sort. Some more than others and the Amarok is, unfortunately, no exception. Take care of the above and you’ll have a bullet-proof Amarok that rivals oriental reliability with a touch of class.
Keep on top of maintenance and it should deliver reliable service. The Amarok is well worth considering if you need a tough, smart pick-up truck that’s more car-like than commercial in its driving manners.
Now, who wouldn’t want that?