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Polo 6n weird no start issue


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Hello to all,


My 1998 6n has developed a weird issue. It won't crank over if the temperature in the cabin is too high.

I'll explain. Something is going on with my key/key barrel assembly. If I park the car in the sun and the temperature in the cabin rises, then once i get back in, i'm able to turn the key to the on position, i can hear everything working fine, the pump primes, but then i turn a bit more to activate the starter and nothing. Dead. No starter action at all. 


It has happened 2 times by now, and to get it going I removed the plastics surrounding the key barrel and started blowing over the barrel to cool it down. Once I did that it started right up.


Has anyone heard of this before? What can I do to prevent that? I live in a country with rather hot summers so it is going to be a bigger and bigger problem if not fixed.


Thanks for reading!

Edited by contactnfsu
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Not knowing the inner workings of the barrel assembly by heart I'll have to take an educated guess, and this is working on the assumption that it indeed is temperature that is the issue - we often conflate different things when making tests and can mistake amazing coincidence for causation! 


Sounds to me like the lock part of the barrel is fine (i.e., your key is feeding the right pin positions as you can move to first position). Internally the switch contacts are likely the same or very similar as your cabin switches, being 12v and low current on your side of the relays. There is probably a lot of tolerance in these contacts, but my guess is they're getting hot enough that something is expanding and they're not making contact at all. The only sure-fire way to test this is either to strip the switch to look at the contacts (unsure if this is possible like it is with the panel switches?) or to replicate the fault and test with a multi meter for continuity across the switch terminals.


If you can prove electrically that the switch is not making contact when its hot then its the switch, otherwise there is something else going on that just happens to be occurring at the same time and is coincidentally 'clearing' while you're blowing on the switch barrel! E.g., it could simply be the starter relay is playing up and on the way out or you've got an intermittent continuity fault in your starter wiring.


If I were you i'd keep a meter in the car, get used to where the relevant contacts are and be ready to pounce when/if it happens again!

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Thanks for the info, it took me some time to reply as the problem went away in the days following, but returned this week.


In short I took apart the trim behind the steering wheel revealing the key barrel. I unpluged the wires and inspected everything, nothing seemed off. Sprayed some contact cleaner, closed everything and the problem remains.


Today i had the same issue again. As I struggled to start the car i noticed that if I push the key inwards at the same time I turn the key on the start position, it would start everytime. So i believe the barrel itself is going bad and needs some inward pressure to work. Anyway until it completely fails i will continue to press inwards while turning to start.


Thanks for all the help!

Edited by contactnfsu
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Sounds like the contact unit on the back of the barrel is worn. I've had it a couple of times on mk2 caddy vans. It's generally made worse if you've got a big heavy set of keys. 

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