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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all. I'm considering purchasing a really straight 2003 Passat Wagon (see pics). The car has 93000 miles on it. I have two hesitations that are keeping me from "pulling the trigger".
1) The car lot can't tell me conclusively whether the timing belt has ever been changed. Is there a way to tell for sure whether it has been done? There is a paper sticker on the front of the timing belt cover that is old enough that you can't read it any more - is that a clue?
2) The car stinks of partially-burned gas - as though it's running rich - although it runs well. Is there any easy way to diagnose the problem?

Any help or suggestions would surely be appreciated!
Scott in Seattle
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I first smelled it when I was looking at the engine while it was running, then later inside the car. I don't think it's raw gas, like gas spilled from a gas can. It really does smell like partially-burned gas, as though it's running rich.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
If you can't prove the timing belt has been changed your only option is to assume it hasn't. It's a $1000+/- job to have it done and a few hundred if you can do it yourself.

The gas smell could be from anything: someone hauled a lawn mower gas can in it, leak at the fuel pump cover in back, etc. Is the smell outside or inside?
I first smelled it when I was looking at the engine while it was running, then later inside the car. I don't think it's raw gas, like gas spilled from a gas can. It really does smell like partially-burned gas, as though it's running rich.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Does the "Check Engine Light" come on when key is turned on (before motor is started)?

My first Passat Wagon had "No warning lights on the dash" because a Previous Owner had gone through the effort of removing the dash unit, opening it up and knocking the "Check Engine Light / MIL" off of the circuit board so it could never be lit up. No light = no problem.... NOT.
Yes, the "Check Engine Light" does come on before the engine is started, then it goes off after it is started.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Tips from an experience Passat rehab'r:
Hopefully your mechanic knows these (German) cars. The 100k mile mark often means the start of some heavy maintenance items (brakes, shocks, axles, ABS module, control arms, coolant leaks) and the pcv system was mentioned. Does the heater work well? Clogged cores are common.

Make sure the mechanic reports on all those items, plus the exhaust flex pipe, crankcase breather elbow, and look for oil in the spark plug wells.

Regarding the timing belt, an experienced mechanic may be able to see signs that "someone has been in here recently" vs "this has never bèen touched" in the area of the belt. A peek at the belt might reveal micro-cracking from age, if it is original. If nothing is clear-cut, your best bet will be to plan on changing the belt, tensioners and water pump soon. If you gamble and fail, you could be looking at a $4,000 repair bill.

If things check out and the price allows you to comfortably cover $3k -$5k of maintenance/repair costs over the next 30k miles, you'll probably be good for 60k miles.
Wow..... thanks for that lengthy answer! So given what you said, I'll bet you'd suggest finding a mechanic who's very familiar with these cars to do my pre-purchase inspection, wouldn't you?
 
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