Volkswagen Golf Not Starting – What To Do?

The Volkswagen Golf has been around in its various versions for over 40 years. Every year there are more bells and whistles to make driving more convenient and safe. With all the advancements, there are now also new reasons for common car troubles. If your Volkswagen Golf is not starting, in addition to common troubleshooting, there are new solutions and steps you can take to solve this problem! We have thoroughly investigated and have found some ways you can troubleshoot this frustrating issue.

Though there are many reasons why your Volkswagen Golf is not starting, there are more common troubles than others. The following issues are the most encountered and should be checked first:

  • The key fob is dead or not recognized
  • The starter is bad
  • A dead battery or corroded terminals
  • The alternator is faulty
  • A problem in the fuel system

We know that's quite a list! How can you tell which one is the cause? Keep reading as we discuss the different causes and ways to identify them. We'll also give you some basic troubleshooting steps that you can try to get your Volkswagen running.

New Volkswagen Golf Mk8 GTE car plugged in at an electric vehicle charging point, Volkswagen Golf Not Starting - What To Do?

How Do You Start A Volkswagen Golf?

To find out what is causing your issues with starting your vehicle, it's good to look into the different ways the car can start. The older years, mostly 2016 and older, would have to be started with a key. Since 2017 nearly all but the basic trim levels of  VW Golf come with a keyless system. With the advancements in later years, you can now use the following tools to start your car.

A new Volkswagen Golf Mk8 estate car in R-Line trim parked at a dealership

How Do You Manually Start A Volkswagen Golf?

If you have a VW Golf with a keyed system, you need to press down on the brake and the clutch. The gear selector should be in P or N.Turn the key in the ignition. Once the car starts, release the pedals. The ignition should snap back to its original position. If the engine does not initially run after this process, wait at least a minute and try again.

If you have keyless ignition, then press the start button with the key anywhere in the car. Have your foot on the brake when starting the car.

How Do You Start A Volkswagen Golf Remotely

You can start your car remotely with a key fob by pressing the lock button. Then press the ignition button, usually a circular arrow, twice. If working correctly, the car should start.

The Key Fob Is Dead Or Not Recognized

When trying to diagnose issues with starting your Volkswagen Golf, it's possible to find that the problem does not lie with the car itself but with the key fob. If the battery to the fob dies or the chip is not recognized, you may experience problems starting your vehicle.

How Do I Start My VW Golf With A Dead Key Fob?

As an anti-theft measure, the vast majority of Volkswagen Golf key fobs are fitted with a chip. This chip keeps the car from running when the key is not recognized in the vicinity of the car. This can happen when the battery on the fob is dead or too low to send a signal.

A dead or low battery in your key fob can be signaled by messages on your dashboard either about battery level or just displaying that it does not recognize a key. This happens most often in keyless start models.

To start your car with a dead key fob, bring the key in contact with the start button and press down while pressing on the brake. If this does not start the vehicle, then bring the fob in contact with the key icon on the side of the steering wheel where a key would have gone. Press the start button while the fob remains in contact with the icon. Release once the engine starts.

If you could start the car following these steps, then replace the battery in the fob. Check your owner's manual to confirm which kind of battery you need. Most Volkswagen Golf key fobs use a 2032 battery.

Click here to see these 2032 batteries on Amazon.

How Do You Reset A VW Golf Key Fob?

Car shape keyring and remote control key in vehicle interior

Sometimes your key fob can get out of synch. This can happen if buttons are repeatedly pressed when out of range. To reset the key fob's remote functions, remove the cap from the car handle carefully. Press the lock button and then insert the key immediately into the car and unlock the vehicle. Try the fob to see if it has paired again. 

If these steps have not resolved your car not recognizing your key, the dealership may need your key reprogrammed. Volkswagen protects its customers by not providing a way to bypass transponder chip issues. This is part of their anti-theft measures. Using shortcuts or workarounds may void your warranty. Consult your owner's manual before following any instructions to bypass a transponder chip.

A Dead Battery Or Corroded Terminals

If your car is not turning over at all, or you hear a series of rapid clicks, this could be a dead battery or corroded or dirty terminals. In some models, the battery may be covered. Check your owner's manual if you are unable to locate your battery. For more on checking your battery's life, read our article here. This video shows where the battery is in a Volkswagen Golf 2016:

Use a tender while disconnecting the cables so that you can clean the terminals. This will prevent electrical issues and problems with your infotainment center in newer vehicles.

Follow the steps by step instructions in your owner's manual for removing the car cables safely. Professionals state that the terminals can be cleaned with simple baking soda and water paste and a toothbrush or wire brush.

Click here to see this battery tender on Amazon.

Click here to see an example of a battery tester on Amazon.

What Does It Mean When Your Car Will Turn On But Won't Start?

Another sign that your battery might be the car's lights turning on, but the engine won't start. The vehicle may also turn over but not have enough juice to run.

If your car turns on and then turns off again, this would indicate a problem with the immobilizer not recognizing the key. You may want to have a technician diagnose this type of problem.

The Starter Is Bad

If your car is an older model, it could be a problem with the starter. Signs that it's your starter would be smoke coming from the hood, high-pitched whirring, or a grinding sound. If you notice these and have already checked the battery for corrosion, you should enlist your mechanic to further diagnose or replace the starter.

Does A Bad Starter Make A Clicking Noise?

One of the classic signs of a bad starter is a clicking noise. When the battery is the culprit, it's common to hear a series of rapid-fire clicks. When it's the starter, you may hear just one click and then silence. Replacing the starter on a Volkswagen Golf may require an intermediate skill level if you are comfortable doing it yourself. A starter can be purchased on Amazon.

Click here to see an example of a starter for a Volkswagen Golf on Amazon.

The Alternator Is Faulty

If your battery is relatively new, or you just charged it, and now it's dead, it could be that your alternator has gone bad. An alternator is responsible for charging your battery.

A common sign that your alternator is not working correctly is inconsistent starting and a frequent need for a jump. You may be able to get to your destination but then need a jump to get back again. Other signs include weak lights or difficult or hesitating starts. If you know how or can follow detailed instructions, replacing your alternator is a lengthy but relatively simple process.

See this example of an alternator for a Volkswagen Golf 2015-2018 on Amazon.

A Problem In The Fuel System

Finally, problems with starting your car could originate in your fuel system. Check for dirty fuel filters or faulty fuel injectors. If your gas tank is near empty in colder climates, your car may not start or have trouble starting. The best way to diagnose problems with your car's fuel system is to use a scanner.

Click here to see this OBD2 scanner on Amazon.

To read about how faulty fuel injectors can keep your car from starting, read our article here.

Regular Maintenance To Prevent Costly Repairs

Now that you have some idea of what might be causing your Volkswagen Golf not to start and what you can do about it, pinpoint the issue and resolve it! Once you are up and running, be sure to schedule regular maintenance and diagnostic scans to avoid costly repairs in the future. With regular care, your Volkswagen Golf can keep you on the road for years to come!

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