My Solution to Radio Reception (AM & FM) Problem

Spine

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Location
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
TDI
2006 New Jetta TDI
Hello all. Here is my story of my VW, it's radio problem, VW stealership's poor response and the solution to the problem.

I own a 2003 TDI Jetta Wagon that is just out of warranty (with 89,000 km of the 4yr/80,000k limit). Until last week my radio reception has been fantastic and in my opinion surpasses many other OEM solutions for other auto makers. Last week I noticed that my AM reception dropped to nothing while my FM reception had severely decreased to the point of only tuning in VERY local stations.

I thought at first it could be atmospheric and might have something to do with the warmer weather we are finally getting in Ontario. The second day it didn't appear to be any better so I searched TDIclub for similar problems. I specifically noted a possible solution where corrosion forms between the car body and the antenna base. I put my radio in service mode and found that the antenna was "off". I then checked for corrosion between the body of the car and the antenna base and there was none (and why should there be, the car is just coming out of winter #2 and about 23 months old). I then narrowed the problems down to the head unit, the coaxial cable between the antenna and HU or the antenna itself.

That night I disassembled the antenna base (if you are interested all it takes are two phillips screws (mine had red paint/wax type material on it) and the antenna base will seperate giving you access to the amplifier circuitry found in the base of the antenna) Immediately I could smell salt and could see that salt had been accumulating in the base of the antenna. My suspicions are that the O-ring in the antenna base assembly had failed and salt spray from winter road traffic had worked its way into the antenna base eventually corroding the circuitry away. The attached pictures demonstrate how much salt is on the circuitry and this doesnt include all the powdery stuff that came falling out.

Because I thought that this was clearly a defect in the antenna I went to my dealership where I bought my car and tried to get a "good-will" warranty exchange as I feel this type of failure is time based and not kilometerage based and should not have happened this fast on a 2 year old car. The service manager said that "This is my fault because I didn't keep the salt off my car, and even if it was under warranty he would make me pay". I told him that I disagree and then asked for the contact information for Volkswagen of Canada. I am offended by his comments in the fact that I keep my car as clean as possible in the winter and in no instance did salt water or slush with salt in it sit around my antenna on my car. In the end the dealership didn't even reduce the price and I ended up paying list price for the antenna (mast and base assembly) which is $80.42 CAD.

I have noticed there are many problems with radio reception with the A4 models and feel this is a potential design error. If it helps one person solve their reception problems than it is more than worth my time to type this up and take the photos


<Begin rant>

I would also like to point out my disgust with Crosby VW/Audi located in Kitchener, Ontario. The first time I went there for service (16,000km) I noticed on the bill that I was charged $3.95 for part # ZVW-817-001 with the description -40PRE MIX. I asked the service person what that was and he said it was windsheild washer fluid. I then pointed out to him that most dealerships top off WW fluid for free and even if they wanted to charge me, the would have only put a maximum of 2L in the tank because I remember the light coming on, on the way to get the car serviced. This price per/L extrapolates to $7.90/4L jug which is almost double what a gas station charges and quadruple to triple the cost of what a regular store charges.

While I was in the queue for the cashier, I also noticed them charging an old man $46 CDN to replace 2 lightbulbs in the tail section of his TDI golf. Terrible.

I would advise anyone in the area to avoid this dealership for service & parts if you can. It wasn't so much the $80 that I had to pay for my antenna, it was the response from the service rep that "I didn't keep salt off my car" that will in the future prevent me from returning to that dealership for service and purchase of new automobiles for my family.




 

compu_85

Gadget Guy
Joined
Sep 29, 2003
Location
Springfield VA
TDI
... None :S
How did you remove the antenna base? My reception sucks too, and my radio is throwing an "Antenna Open Circut" failt code. I know it's plugged in tightly on the back of the radio... I figgure the base is the next thing to check.

-Jason
 

ymz

Top Post Dawg
Joined
May 12, 2003
Location
Between Toronto & Montreal
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI Wagon, 2003 Jetta TDI Wagon
Thanks for posting!!

I guess I'll be replacing my antenna base as well... (what size nut is on the inside of the car holding down the base, BTW ??)

Yuri.
 

PapaBare

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2004
Location
Regina, SK, Western Canada
TDI
Jetta GLS, 2005, Shadow Blue
Do you have the part number for the antenna base that we could check at World Impex ?
I am haveing a similar problem with my radio reception and this car did come from the GTA so the salt and corrosion is probably in there.
 

sportsguy

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2005
Location
Seattle-ish
TDI
2014 Beetle DSG TDI
Perhaps we could all drop an e-mial to the dealership reminding them that that was poor service and that they suck...

Nice work on the write-up, though. Excellent way to explain the problem.
 

AVE_ENG

Veteran Member
Joined
May 30, 2003
Location
Guelph, ON
TDI
2000 Jetta Atlantic Blue
HOLY SALT! I'm gonna take that thing and give it a good cleaning for sure now. Is there a good coating spray that can be applied to protect the circuit board for preventive maintenance?
 

PapaBare

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2004
Location
Regina, SK, Western Canada
TDI
Jetta GLS, 2005, Shadow Blue
Thanks for the info.

I found that my local dealership will match the prices that Brian can get. I just have ask for the reduced price so I have to do some detective work on the Impex prices first!
 

Spine

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Location
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
TDI
2006 New Jetta TDI
compu_85:

I have a wagon. all I did was take the trim off between top of rear hatch and roof, and two D pillar trim pieces and carefully dropped the headliner down enough to get my socket in there to take off the antenna. Warning: do not bend headliner down too much as you can permanently crease it.

ymz has the correct part number. you get the base + antenna mast. if you have some sort of GPS you might want to look into the telematics antenna (built in gps antenna too) but they wanted over 300$ for it.

You will need a large socket to remove the antenna base from the car. i forget the size but it is around 22mm.

Slave2school:

my parents just moved to alliston so I'll stop by the dealership to give them a try.
 

DPM

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Mar 16, 2001
Location
Newtownards, N. Ireland
TDI
2019 Rav4 AWD Hybrid, Citroen C4 BlueHDI
Was the base actually dead? Just wondering if a couple of minutes with the toothbrush and PCB cleaner might've saved some cash...
 

Spine

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Location
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
TDI
2006 New Jetta TDI
DPM:

You have a good point.. I was thinking of trying to clean it with rubbing alcohol but I noticed that some of the PCB traces were blackened. It also looks like the two components in front and above the 102K component are damaged. I also felt that the seal was damaged so just cleaning the circuitry and reassembling will just let the same thing happen again in a couple years.

If anyone wants my old antenna baseI will hapilly send it to them if they want to save a couple bucks and try to bring it back from the dead.

Mike
 

MiamiMike

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2004
TDI
New Beetle 1999 Tornado Red
Hey Great Informative post-having trouble with my AM reception also on my 99 NB TDI. First thing tomorrow I'm going to follow your plan and check things out. Thanks-Man talk about Salt!!!
 

porterman

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2001
Location
allentown, pa
I cleaned mine over the weekend, it was not as bad as Spine's, but definately had some salt in it. I think the gasket/seal could use some improvement. Now the radio signal is worse. Maybe the cleaning or assembly was too aggressive. I think that I am due for a new one...Big question, maybe I was not paying attention, but there are two wires going towards my antenna. I have a 99.5 golf. Is one for the 6-cd changer that I don't have? I really only remember unplugging one wire; and can not find another wire to plug into. Any info is appreciated.
 

Spine

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Location
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
TDI
2006 New Jetta TDI
Porterman:

That's too bad that your antenna is showing the same symptoms as mine. What did you use to clean the circuitry?

For as much work as it takes, it might be better to just buy a new antenna than to keep taking your headliner apart.

One more thing, The friction connector that connects the antenna base wire to the radio wire should almost click in place. I had a tough time getting my new one in. I recommend you putting your radio in service mode and seeing if the antenna is "on". If it is off the amplifier (circutry in base) is not working properly.

Mike
 

HAL9000

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2004
Location
Indianapolis (Greenwood)
TDI
Silver '01 Jetta GLS
I'm having issues with my reception, too. Before I tear apart the antenna, how do I put my radio in service mode? I only have the Premium radio, not the Monsoon...
 

Borborygmi

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Location
Cedar Park, TX
TDI
2003 Jetta Wagon
Re: My Solution to Radio Reception (AM & FM) Probl

Fascinating pictures, but I don't think that is caused by an ingress of road salt. It looks more like metallic degradation from a process of electrolysis. This could be caused by electrical conduction through the base and a poor choice of metal. In other words, it is due to engineering and manufacturing defects. It should be reimbursed, and VW should correct the problem in the design, by changing the metal, electroplating the base, or potting the assembly.
 

Uncle_Dave

Veteran Member
Joined
May 1, 2003
Location
Boston MA
TDI
Jetta TDI Wagon A4 Silver
Gues that I have got to come clean. I also have the same problem with the AM. I just did not want to fix it before it actualy broke. It broke during the bad weather.

There is one possible cause and cure, that I have not tried yet.

A BAD GROUND at the base of the ANTENNA.

I have seen this in other cars. The AM will not work leaving the FM OK.

If the antenna were to be taken out, and the inside of the roof checked for corrosion, and retighted, it might be fixed. just a little grease, the type used by the gassers on their Spark Plugs might help with the corrosion.


My daughter went to that little Bible School, married a Canadian, and is living in Toronto. Gave them our old car, which they traded in. After the deal was all closed, she got back to the house, and saw my book that she had kept up, on the Fuel, and oil changes. She tells me that she took it to the Dealer telling him that I thought it would be of interest to anyone who should end up with the car.

He gave her $500 Canadian.
 

PapaBare

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2004
Location
Regina, SK, Western Canada
TDI
Jetta GLS, 2005, Shadow Blue
I agree with Borborygmi that this looks more like metal corrosion than road salt.

I agree that VWOA should pay for the repairs but I think that the chances of that are like winning the lottery!

Here is a picture of what mine looks like.


I was not able to get the screws out due to the rust and corrosion so I will need to replace it.
 

Spine

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Location
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
TDI
2006 New Jetta TDI
Re: My Solution to Radio Reception (AM & FM) Probl

Hi Borborygmi,

I originally thought it was corrosion as well but the amount of material that came out when i opened the base and the kind of sea salt smell made me think it was salt infiltration.

I am not a metalurgical engineer though so I could be wrong. My car is just 2 years old though.

Another thing I can think of is maybe they put some sort of jelly or silicone in there when it is new to coat the circuitry and it is breaking down?

I know it looks like ALOT of salt, but I also keep thinking how they salt peanuts in the shell, by soaking them in salt water. The salt water somehow gets into the shell but does not seem to leave when the water is drained. some sort of membrane effect happening here maybe?

If anyone has any ideas how to test if the crystalline stuff in my antenna is salt i'd like to know and I'll post the results here (im not sure i want to taste it though).

Regardless, it's good to see that we are getting somewhere with the radio reception issue and hopefully people (and VW) will realize that this is not a freak incident.

Thanks for your comments.
 

Spine

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Location
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
TDI
2006 New Jetta TDI
Hal9000:

I have the premium radio as well (not the monsoon). It's a double din with built in CD and tape player. To get into service mode i think you hold down the mix button for about 5-10 seconds until it says "service".. then you can press the mix button again to cycle through the menus.

you will eventually get to a menu that says "ANTENNA" and it should say ON after it if the amplifier circuit is working. If it says off, you will need to check either the antenna, cabling or the Head unit itself.

hope this helps!

Mike
 

Fyrman

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Sep 27, 2004
Location
Hammonds Plains, NS, Canada
TDI
Jetta, 2001, Black
Wow. Great thread! A few of us are getting together on Friday for a mini GTG, this is something I'll be bringing up to check.

Thanx's ton for the heads-up!

BTW, Time for a new Stealership!
 

porterman

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2001
Location
allentown, pa
The antenna base that I cleaned was not the original, VW replaced one under warranty. There was an old TSB out on it, but the dealer refused to even consider a second replacement. I cleaned it with an old can of R-113 (sorry ozone layer) with goggles and gloves and a fine toothbrush. The circuits have waterproof sealer on them, but not all contact points were sealed. I'm fairly certain it is rock salt, I took the antenna apart after driving in the rain the prior day. There was moisture in with the white stuff. Also, the two little screw heads were mighty rusty. Contact with roof/nut looked good. Actually now, AM is better and FM worse. Bottom line, getting a new one soon. I caulked the old one on with shoe goo to keep out mosture.
 

Borborygmi

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Location
Cedar Park, TX
TDI
2003 Jetta Wagon
Re: My Solution to Radio Reception (AM & FM) Probl

It's a salt problem, but not the ingress of a sodium cloride solution from road salt. It's metal corrosion from poor design, maybe even deliberately poor design. Why are the electrical systems of these cars so trouble prone when using better metals would not significantly contribute to the cost of manufacture? If you look at Spine's pictures, the same process is evident on the both sides of the O-ring.
 

nicklockard

Torque Dorque
Joined
Aug 15, 2004
Location
Arizona
TDI
2010 Touareg Tdi w/factory Tow PCKG
Re: My Solution to Radio Reception (AM & FM) Probl

These bodies are heavily zinc coated (galvanically coated.) Under the right voltage (it's a power amplified antenna, isn't it?) the zinc will oxidize to zinc oxide... a whitish powder.

Test: dump all that you can collect into a glass of water and heat it up, stirring. If you can get it all into solution (dissolved) then it is salt. If not, add some muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid, you might have some lying around your garage(?)) in very small increments...like 3 drops at a time until it dissolves. Report how much acid it takes and the concentration on the bottle.

Looks like it could be ZnO. There may also be some road salt mixed in with it. Try the dissolution test. Salt alone should dissolve in warm water with stirring in a minute or two. ZnO won't.
 

meetis

Veteran Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2005
Location
MA (massachussetts)
TDI
2001 VW Jetta silver
The o ring might not be the total fix for such a solution if anyone can recover the circiutry ( god i cant spell ). and get it working again consider using some good old high quality gasket maker either in place of the o ring or in combination perhaps some external use of gasket maker also to be cautiouse.
 
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