Chirping sound from front end.

Arthurartel

Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2022
Location
Wisconsin
TDI
2004 Jetta
Hey guys,

My 2004 Jetta TDI started making some unsettling sounds out of the blue this afternoon as I was driving it. I turned a corner in town and I got some chirping from the front end. I then drove another 10 miles and was in a parking lot when the noise got really bad. Now whenever I turn my wheel, I get a loud chirping noise. The engine also idles a little loud and has a much quieter chirping undertone.

I did some research when I was back home and from what I'm seeing, it's most likely a problem with the alternator pulley. Being a college student, I can't really afford to take it to a shop to have it diagnosed and fixed professionally. Going off of what I've described, can I safely assume that it's the pulley, or are there other options that I ought to look into? I really don't want to go through the trouble of replacing the pulley, just to find out that it was actually the belt.

Thanks for the help y'all!
 

Mongler98

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Location
COLORADO (SE of Denver)
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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
Welcome to the forums, the diagnosis and testing can be very easy and strait forward. You should be able to do all the work yourself

The 1st thing to do it takes off the belt. Start it up again see if it continues.
Wiggle things by hand. It will be obvious if it’s a pulley or clutch on the alt or ac. check your PS fluid too.
It can also be the harmonic balancer.
Take the timing cover off too. you want to check the water pump for any leaks or pink/blue crust around the pee hole, usually when the pump fails it leaks out of the a small hole to let you know.
The issue with the water pump is that if it DOES fail it will take out the timing belt and trash the engine and you do not have the $ or time to fix that.
I do not think it is the water pump as it gets worse when you turn hence my suspicion of the power steering pump.
Since I mentioned the timing belt you should thing about its service. It’s about 100K miles or about 5 to 8 years for service depending on who you ask, spec vs people who change things before it’s a problem. You have an old car and that belt could be a time bomb.
ALSO if you’re serpentine belt fails due to a locked up anything it can and has been known to bind up things and cause a timing belt failure event as well. I would advise you to figure out the issue before putting many more miles on it just in case. Preventing an issue now could save you a totaled car worst case.
This is why I loved the mk3 vs the mk4 platform.

We also have members who might be close by or if you have a few $ you could go do one of our trusted mechanics vs going to the stealer ship.
Word of the wise, do not take your car to a stealer ship because you have a car so old that few know how to work on them specifically vs one of our mechanics on our trusted list. Not that they can’t, but that there are those who can for probably less as there more knowledgeable than some tech looking at a computer screen for directions.
 
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Mozambiquer

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Mar 21, 2015
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TDI
1998 VW Jetta TDI. 1982 VW Rabbit pickup, 2001 VW Jetta TDI, 2005 VW Passat wagon TDI X3, 2001 VW golf TDI, 1980 VW rabbit pickup,
Its pretty easy to check the clutch pulley on those. Pull the belt and you can either give the alternator a twist and hold it to see if it slips one direction, or stick a blunt tool into the alternator and engage the rotor fins, then turn the pulley, it should turn smoothly one way, and not go the other way.
If its failed, they're not that expensive, I have the oem ones for $32 and a usa made tool kit for changing them for the same price.
 

Arthurartel

Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2022
Location
Wisconsin
TDI
2004 Jetta
Welcome to the forums, the diagnosis and testing can be very easy and strait forward. You should be able to do all the work yourself

The 1st thing to do it takes off the belt. Start it up again see if it continues.
Wiggle things by hand. It will be obvious if it’s a pulley or clutch on the alt or ac. check your PS fluid too.
It can also be the harmonic balancer.
Take the timing cover off too. you want to check the water pump for any leaks or pink/blue crust around the pee hole, usually when the pump fails it leaks out of the a small hole to let you know.
The issue with the water pump is that if it DOES fail it will take out the timing belt and trash the engine and you do not have the $ or time to fix that.
I do not think it is the water pump as it gets worse when you turn hence my suspicion of the power steering pump.
Since I mentioned the timing belt you should thing about its service. It’s about 100K miles or about 5 to 8 years for service depending on who you ask, spec vs people who change things before it’s a problem. You have an old car and that belt could be a time bomb.
ALSO if you’re serpentine belt fails due to a locked up anything it can and has been known to bind up things and cause a timing belt failure event as well. I would advise you to figure out the issue before putting many more miles on it just in case. Preventing an issue now could save you a totaled car worst case.
This is why I loved the mk3 vs the mk4 platform.

We also have members who might be close by or if you have a few $ you could go do one of our trusted mechanics vs going to the stealer ship.
Word of the wise, do not take your car to a stealer ship because you have a car so old that few know how to work on them specifically vs one of our mechanics on our trusted list. Not that they can’t, but that there are those who can for probably less as there more knowledgeable than some tech looking at a computer screen for directions.
Hi, thanks for the speedy answer. I checked the power steering fluid. It was low, but adding more didn't change anything.

Forgive my ignorance, but would you be able to run me through diagnosing the problem in more detail, for example, what exactly I should wiggle and what they will do when wiggled if they are broken.

I'd love to not have to deal with this right now, but a tight budget doesn't allow for getting others involved. I'm just going to need to get my elbows greasy.
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
Hi, thanks for the speedy answer. I checked the power steering fluid. It was low, but adding more didn't change anything.

Forgive my ignorance, but would you be able to run me through diagnosing the problem in more detail, for example, what exactly I should wiggle and what they will do when wiggled if they are broken.

I'd love to not have to deal with this right now, but a tight budget doesn't allow for getting others involved. I'm just going to need to get my elbows greasy.
sure.
take the belt off.
put your hand on each ting that the belt touches. if its solid and only spins nice and easy then its fine. if any of them make any sounds, feel gritty, wobble, or anything at all other than a nice solid feel is suspect to being bad.
it will be very obvious.
if you are truly worried about braking something, go to a pick and pull junk yard with some tools and try it on a junker first. most places have a $2 entrance fee. cheapest way to learn with no risk.
 

Arthurartel

Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2022
Location
Wisconsin
TDI
2004 Jetta
sure.
take the belt off.
put your hand on each ting that the belt touches. if its solid and only spins nice and easy then its fine. if any of them make any sounds, feel gritty, wobble, or anything at all other than a nice solid feel is suspect to being bad.
it will be very obvious.
if you are truly worried about braking something, go to a pick and pull junk yard with some tools and try it on a junker first. most places have a $2 entrance fee. cheapest way to learn with no risk.
Thanks,
I'll give that a go tomorrow.
 

Mozambiquer

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With what Mongler98 said, the only one that's different is the alternator clutch pulley as the alternator can spin freely, but the alternator clutch pulley be failed.
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
With what Mongler98 said, the only one that's different is the alternator clutch pulley as the alternator can spin freely, but the alternator clutch pulley be failed.
In my experiance there is usually a bit of a sandy or grindy sound to them when they fail. I only worked on those that failed after they failed!
There not supposed to spin the other way though right?
 

Mozambiquer

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In my experiance there is usually a bit of a sandy or grindy sound to them when they fail. I only worked on those that failed after they failed!
There not supposed to spin the other way though right?
Thats only when you use something to hold the alternator rotor still or do the quick twist and grab method. Itll either be gritty or it may even be seized.
 

Arthurartel

Member
Joined
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Location
Wisconsin
TDI
2004 Jetta
sure.
take the belt off.
put your hand on each ting that the belt touches. if its solid and only spins nice and easy then its fine. if any of them make any sounds, feel gritty, wobble, or anything at all other than a nice solid feel is suspect to being bad.
it will be very obvious.
if you are truly worried about braking something, go to a pick and pull junk yard with some tools and try it on a junker first. most places have a $2 entrance fee. cheapest way to learn with no risk.
Alright, I removed the belt, started the car, and got no noise when I turned the wheel.

I rotated all of the pulleys that contact the belt and, in my untrained opinion, they all spun freely, with the exception of the bottom-most wheel, which I assume is the drive wheel.
What is this indicative of?
 

Mozambiquer

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Alright, I removed the belt, started the car, and got no noise when I turned the wheel.

I rotated all of the pulleys that contact the belt and, in my untrained opinion, they all spun freely, with the exception of the bottom-most wheel, which I assume is the drive wheel.
What is this indicative of?
The bottom one is the engine crank pulley. Did you check the clutch pulley?
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
The bottom most is the crank (harmonic balancer)
My bet is on the power steering pump and rack.
Fluid is cheap and it's a quick job to flush. This might solve the issue. And if not then it's just a few bucks of fluid. And if it's not the issue at all then you just dis some maintenance.

I would start now by doing a power steering flush.
This is really easy.
You want to unbolt the bottle that holds the fluid. Now suck all the fluid out as much as you can and tip it to get what's left if there is a screen. You can use a $1.99 Turkey basting syringe.
Now put a few paper towels under it and take the upper hose off. This is the line that takes fluid back to the resiviour. Now take an ear plug and plug the hole in the resiviour or a piece of hose and a vice grip, really even a rubber glove finger with a rubber band will work. Now connect this hose you took off to a longer length of hose and that goes into an empty clear can or bottle.
Now jack the car up so both front wheels are off the ground. Fill the reservoir with proper fluid and turn the wheel 2 turns left and right lock to lock. Keep an eye on that it does not run out of fluid and top off every 2 full rotations. Do so until the fluid coming out of the hose is the new color.
Put it all back togeather. Done.
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
It is entirely possible it's the harmonic balancer. There is a rubber sleve between the 2 halves. This wears out and can cause chirping. Usually most noticable when the engine turns off and let's out a chirp.
 

P2B

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I find leaving the belt on and gradually releasing tension to be the best way to diagnose these issues. If you remove the belt, nothing is rotating so you can't tell what was chirping, but if you take a long 17mm wrench and gradually release the tensioner while the engine idles, the alternator stops first, followed by the PS pump, then the AC compressor and idler.
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
I find leaving the belt on and gradually releasing tension to be the best way to diagnose these issues. If you remove the belt, nothing is rotating so you can't tell what was chirping, but if you take a long 17mm wrench and gradually release the tensioner while the engine idles, the alternator stops first, followed by the PS pump, then the AC compressor and idler.
all it does is confirm that its not the water pump and able to feel things and test the alt. for a rookie i would not recommend your method although its one that i use on every job i did and will do.
 

P2B

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all it does is confirm that its not the water pump and able to feel things and test the alt. for a rookie i would not recommend your method although its one that i use on every job i did and will do.
The water pump is driven by the timing belt on the OP's vehicle, so releasing serpentine belt tension tells you nothing about that, but it will instantly isolate a noisy alternator pulley.
 
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Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
The water pump is driven by the timing belt on the OP's vehicle, so releasing serpentine belt tension tells you nothing about that, but it will instantly isolate a noisy alternator pulley.
Yes it does. The sound stopped. If it continued then it's probably the water pump.
Since it stopped now we know it can not be any part of the timing belt like a roller or tensioner too.
 

Arthurartel

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2004 Jetta
Okay, so I reinstalled the serpentine belt and fired her up. The noise stopped when I applied more tension to the belt. I assume this means I have a problem with the tension spring?
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
Okay, so I reinstalled the serpentine belt and fired her up. The noise stopped when I applied more tension to the belt. I assume this means I have a problem with the tension spring?
probably.
i would slap a new tensioner on there and a new belt. but i would just do the belt first, belts are cheap, no harm
 

Mozambiquer

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Okay, so I reinstalled the serpentine belt and fired her up. The noise stopped when I applied more tension to the belt. I assume this means I have a problem with the tension spring?
No, it just means that it has more traction on the belt when you tension it more. Have you checked the alternator clutch pulley? That's now your most likely suspect.
 

Mozambiquer

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probably.
i would slap a new tensioner on there and a new belt. but i would just do the belt first, belts are cheap, no harm
Nooo don't throw parts at it. Test test test! 🙈
 

Mongler98

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HOW is that throwing parts at the problem when the problem was just diagnosed as a slipping belt.
i would say with confidence that a test has been done and that the belt and or the tensioner is suspect and nothing else was.
but hey don't take my word for it, im just a dumb clueless hick.
go ahead and keep testing things that you know are now good for no reason other than making sure you dont over spend $8 bucks on a part that needs to be changed often.
 

Mozambiquer

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HOW is that throwing parts at the problem when the problem was just diagnosed as a slipping belt.
i would say with confidence that a test has been done and that the belt and or the tensioner is suspect and nothing else was.
but hey don't take my word for it, im just a dumb clueless hick.
go ahead and keep testing things that you know are now good for no reason other than making sure you dont over spend $8 bucks on a part that needs to be changed often.
It was not diagnosed as a slipping belt, just the observation was made that putting more tension made the noise stop. All that tells you is that there its likely not due to a failed bearing. My bet is on the alternator pulley, not like I've seen this same scenario hundreds of times or anything...
Whatever, I must be a dumb mechanic then... carry on, throw parts at it, I know nothing...
 

Mongler98

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wasn't the alt diagnosed as good? he put a screwdriver in there and tried and it was fine... or did i miss something! no one, including me has ever said you are not knowledgeable unlike you and everyone else all talking down about me. so whatever.
were talking about a belt here.....This is also getting a rookie to figure this out so keeping things simple and getting service out of the way is a good idea. who knows how long that belt has been in service. IMO those belts should be changed every or every other oil change. Seeing as there able to take out the timing belt when they fail.... some times!
 

P2B

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wasn't the alt diagnosed as good? he put a screwdriver in there and tried and it was fine...
I don't see where the OP said that.
Okay, so I reinstalled the serpentine belt and fired her up. The noise stopped when I applied more tension to the belt. I assume this means I have a problem with the tension spring?
Try applying less tension to the belt. The alternator will be the first to stop, if the noise stops the problem is the alternator pulley, which really is the most likely candidate. They can feel fine when turned by hand and still be noisy while running.
 

Mozambiquer

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The op did not say they checked that. I recommend checking that, as it is the most likely issue.
 

Mongler98

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i assumed it was done when op said he checked it all out and it was mentioned to do so to the alternator much before he did the work.
 

Dannyboy

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I'd say it was the alternator pulley like some of the guys said, very common and I've had it on both mk4s ive owned. The tensioner will bounce around more causing the chirp especially if you load engine up more on idle with A/C. It's easy enough to diagnose.
 
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