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  1. #1
    Senior Member Four Rings P0234's Avatar
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    Post Misfire 101 - Howto find and fix misfires

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    Since this topic comes up frequently and there doesn't seem to be any howto, I thought I'd toss something together based on my experience with misfire and notes I found here and on various forums. Feedback is appreciated, I can continue to update this.

    One of the most common problems almost every owner of a B5S4 will face is a misfire issue. Misfires are the common cold of the 2.7T. The Bosch ME7.1 system records misfires and if they exceed a given amount (the factory manual says 15+) in a given time duration (60 seconds?), the dreaded check engine light will come on. If the codes are retrieved, the owner will see P0300 or P0301-306. If you don’t take the time to troubleshoot the issue and either you or your mechanic start throwing parts at the car, you can easily spend $1000 on just parts and not resolve the problem. Sometimes you might get lucky, but the odds are stacked against you, real troubleshooting pays off big when diagnosing misfires.

    Tools needed
    Before you (or whoever is working on the car) begins, there are a few tools you cannot do without.
    - A basic code reader, you can’t know what’s wrong or when things are fixed without at least a basic OBDII code reader.
    - Basic hand tools (socket set, screwdrivers, plug wrench)
    - A boost leak tester, you can build one yourself using the directions here (note, you need a compressor): http://www.awe-tuning.com/media/pdf/...ure_tester.pdf
    - A Vag-com interface and software, this is really required for more advance troubleshooting, if you own an S4 and don’t have one, you need to get one.
    - A vacuum guage. A dedicated guage is much better than a boost/vac guage, but if that is all you have, its good enough for getting started.

    I don’t care, I just want to try replacing stuff.
    There are lots of people that are annoyed at the thought of troubleshooting a problem, many mechanics included. If you just want to “try stuff” go in this order:
    -Boost leak test
    -Change plugs to Bosch Platin F5DPOR
    -Swap coils around
    -swap ICM/POS units around (these are the electronic things sitting on top of your airbox)
    -move injectors around
    -unplug MAF (for testing only)
    -replace primary 02 sensors
    -buy new coils
    -buy new ICMs

    What causes a misfire?
    Before digging in, you need to understand that there are only three things needed for a cylinder to fire: Correct Air/Fuel Mixture, Compression and Spark. If any of these are not right, you will get a misfire. Anything that can impact the A/F mixture, compression or spark can and will cause misfires. Things like sticking lifters, bad gas, leaking injector seals, old 02 sensors, dirty MAF sensors and even evap system issues can all cause this problem. Don’t ignore anything that impacts air, fuel, compression and spark.

    Is the engine in good working order?
    Before you start digging into the cause of the misfire, you need to make sure your engine is in sound operating condition. Boost leak testing is the first thing you should do. The linked guide above will show you how to build a boost test kit. Fix any leaks you find before moving on. Next you need to check your engine vacuum at idle. With the A/C off and the car warmed up, you should see at least 19 inches of vacuum and a very steady needle. Low vacuum indicates leaks, either vacuum or a worn engine. If the needle is bouncing, you may have a compression/valve issue with a particular cylinder. Misfires do not make for a bouncy needle! Last but not least, don’t ignore the obvious. Think about anything that has changed or happened recently, this may clue you in to the misfire. Make sure you don’t have any crank/camshaft position sensor errors, if you do, misfire detection is not reliable until that issue is fixed.

    Specific Cylinder Codes
    Next, you need to tackle individual cylinder misfires before addressing a P0300 random misfire issue. If multiple cylinders are misfiring, you will get a code for an individual cylinder as well as the random misfire code. The good thing about specific cylinder codes is they are much easier to troubleshoot.

    Things to try:
    -Are the misfire codes specific to one bank? If so, swap ICMs.
    -Swap the coil pack AND plug. Does the misfire follow? If so, try swapping back just the coil. If it follows back, its the coil, if it stays, its the plug.
    -Swap the ICM (Power output stage) wiring, does it move to the other bank? If so, likely its a bad ICM.
    -If neither of the above work, swap the injector. Frequently people forget about the injectors, but a clogged one will cause a misfire, especially at or close to idle.
    -Last if none of the above works, re-check your engine vacuum at idle using a dedicated vacuum guage and confirm the needle is dead steady and above 19 inches. If you have any pulsation, its time for a compression test.

    Random Misfires
    Random misfires are as a rule much harder to diagnose. Do not try to diagnose random misfires if you still have cylinder specific issues. Since you’ve already done a boost leak test from above (you did one right???) the next step is to really figure out if the motor thinks it is running rich or lean. Without a vag-com or OBDII reader that streams live data, you are out of luck. Common issues are air leaks but we’ve already eliminated those in our first tests. Next, and fairly common are aging primary 02 sensors, the rears do not have anything to do misfires. As they get old, 02 sensors start reading lean and try to richen up the mixture. Dieing MAF sensors also cause mixture issues, you can unplug it and see if the misfires change. Old/Bad plugs can also cause misfires at idle but you will notice power issues up top also. Various tunes/injectors can also cause misfires at idle.

    Above and Beyond
    Beyond the scope of this basic howto is datalogging your car. First you will need to capture when and which cylinders are misfiring by logging blocks 010-019. You will then need to find out what the ECM thinks is going on and what the results are. Watching the short and long term fuel trims will tell you if the computer thinks it is running lean or rich. Watching 02 sensor data can show mass amounts of unburned fuel indicating spark issues at high rpm. Even something as silly as a coolant sensor can cause misfires because the computer is trying to compensate for a cold engine.

    Links
    http://wiki.ross-tech.com/wiki/index...4/P0300/000768
    http://wiki.ross-tech.com/wiki/index...5/P0301/000769
    http://www.ross-tech.com/vag-com/m_blocks/010-019.html
    http://www.sjmautotechnik.com/troubl...4_Ignition.htm
    Last edited by P0234; 07-07-2010 at 09:44 AM. Reason: update based on feedback

  2. #2
    Veteran Member Four Rings CONTROL ONE's Avatar
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    and this is why we need forum Rep points again. Kudos.

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    Veteran Member Four Rings tike0rz's Avatar
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    Omfg awesome. Truly appreciated. I know this will get at least a million views.

  4. #4
    Established Member Two Rings
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    Great Information Thanks!!

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    Veteran Member Four Rings gearhead1186's Avatar
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    finally documented well.. nice

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    Veteran Member Four Rings wdbdy2000s4's Avatar
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    under random misfires you should also check if it's isolated to one bank of the motor. If it's only one side then it's typically the ICMs. It's very rare for 3 spark plugs to go on one side and not the other. Same goes for injectors.

    Also, under cyllinder specific you should add compression test as the last resort. If your plug, ICM, injector and coil aren't the cause then you could have a leaky valve, or piston ring problem.

    Great write-up though. We should try to get this nailed down to a step-by-step procedure with links on the individual tests so that even the most basic noobs can give it a try before they go to a shop.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Three Rings AK1RA07's Avatar
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    Has anyone attributed their misfires to a faulty knock sensor? Or know the theory behind what parts of the tune are dependent on the knock sensor's proper operation that could possibly cause misfires?
    "I'm not easily impressed... Wow a BLUE CAR!!" -Homer Simpson

  8. #8
    Veteran Member Four Rings TighTT's Avatar
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    GREAT post!
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Four Rings P0234's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wdbdy2000s4 View Post
    under random misfires you should also check if it's isolated to one bank of the motor. If it's only one side then it's typically the ICMs. It's very rare for 3 spark plugs to go on one side and not the other. Same goes for injectors.
    Noted, though I'm curious is anyone has actually seen a completely failed ICM? I've read about individual outputs failing, I guess if you let it go long enough?


    Quote Originally Posted by wdbdy2000s4 View Post
    Also, under cyllinder specific you should add compression test as the last resort. If your plug, ICM, injector and coil aren't the cause then you could have a leaky valve, or piston ring problem.

    Great write-up though. We should try to get this nailed down to a step-by-step procedure with links on the individual tests so that even the most basic noobs can give it a try before they go to a shop.
    Yeah, agreed, I'll add the compression test, however the vacuum test would have shown a pulsing needle if there was a cylinder specific compression issue. Doing an accurate compression test is A PITA, and is probably a last resort item. I'd be glad to work on a really basic step by step, but before we go any further we need to have a real boost leak test DIY/howto, there is nothing out there that is good for real noobs and its the first thing to check on these motors.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback so far, keep it coming.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Four Rings P0234's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK1RA07 View Post
    Has anyone attributed their misfires to a faulty knock sensor? Or know the theory behind what parts of the tune are dependent on the knock sensor's proper operation that could possibly cause misfires?
    Good question, in the FSM, the only thing mentioned is the crankshaft and cam sensors measuring the rotational speed, so I'm not sure if knock sensors are involved at all in misfire detection.

  11. #11
    Veteran Member Four Rings rtl5009's Avatar
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    A common problem causing misfires is a crack in the check valve (part #078611933B) that sits right beneath the PCV valve. It is a multiple line, small, plastic, check valve in a high heat area. This all adds up and leads to cracking in high mileage vehicles.

    It will make your car idle like garbage on start up and throw random misfires as well as cylinder specific misfires, throwing the CEL.

    Mine was cracked and the wasn't loud enough to hear over the running engine. Replaced it from the dealership ($27) but you can go get the parts cheap from any local parts store and build one ( early 1970's corvettes had roughly the same size check valve, buy that, two T's and some hose and you'll be set)

    *Make sure to install the valve the right way (marked on the original valve to point towards the motor) or the car will run even worse*
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  12. #12
    Veteran Member Three Rings lbs4's Avatar
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    this is great info, we need more write ups like this

  13. #13
    Senior Member Three Rings AK1RA07's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P0234 View Post
    Good question, in the FSM, the only thing mentioned is the crankshaft and cam sensors measuring the rotational speed, so I'm not sure if knock sensors are involved at all in misfire detection.
    Its something Ive been looking into.. I don't know how passive the sensors are; perhaps when it is reading incorrectly, it richens up the mixture to the point of misfiring?
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    Veteran Member Four Rings Oompous's Avatar
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    awesome write up!
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  15. #15
    Veteran Member Three Rings TWiST's Avatar
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    Great work subbed!
    I no longer do B5 S4 tuning as my S4 TB slipped and I sheared an exhaust valve, I will most likely be parting her out soon. I am looking to get into Maestro tuning on my B7 A4.

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    Veteran Member Four Rings BITRBO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P0234 View Post
    "...If the needle is bouncing, you may have a compression/valve issue with a particular cylinder. Misfires do not make for a bouncy needle! "
    OP, this statement is a little concerning for me, cause this has always been my problem... A bouncy needle in VAC only (part throttle is OK), with one exception however: The bounciness seems to come and go as it pleases, and is not ALWAYS there. It is definitely more prominent in warmer/hot weather, and will actually disappear completely in very cool SFL winter weather (i.e. ~40's/50's). Do you think it could still be mechanical (i.e. lifter, valve, etc.) if the problem comes and goes like that... Unfortunately now the needle even shakes violently at WOT, which it never used to, so I'm getting even more concerned. I have tried just about everything you mentioned and even pressure/vacuum tested the PISS out of this car, so I am kinda at a loss here...

    p.s. HUGELY awesome thread OP, cause this definitely seems to become an epidemic lately with this car... I vote sticky!
    Stage 2+ '01.5 S4 // Brilliant Black // 6MT // Alcantara/Sport Package

  17. #17
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    ^^ Kind of going along with what BITRBO is saying, if the needle bounces while trying to hold a specific boost (i.e. on the highway going up a long hill), does this indicate a more serious mechanical problem?
    2000 S4 - SSP tuned Stage 3

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    Senior Member Four Rings P0234's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BITRBO View Post
    OP, this statement is a little concerning for me, cause this has always been my problem... A bouncy needle in VAC only (part throttle is OK), with one exception however: The bounciness seems to come and go as it pleases, and is not ALWAYS there. It is definitely more prominent in warmer/hot weather, and will actually disappear completely in very cool SFL winter weather (i.e. ~40's/50's). Do you think it could still be mechanical (i.e. lifter, valve, etc.) if the problem comes and goes like that... Unfortunately now the needle even shakes violently at WOT, which it never used to, so I'm getting even more concerned. I have tried just about everything you mentioned and even pressure/vacuum tested the PISS out of this car, so I am kinda at a loss here...

    p.s. HUGELY awesome thread OP, cause this definitely seems to become an epidemic lately with this car... I vote sticky!
    If it goes away when its cooler, I'd really think it was a lifter leaking, as cylinder leakage gets worse with cold. As oil gets hotter it thins out, and if you have a leaky lifter, its going to make the problem worse. Try running some 50wt racing oil for a few days and see if it helps. No doubt about it though, it is a mechanical issue. What is your vacuum at idle, peak and low when its bouncing? Also posting up a youtube of the needle would be helpful. A lot of people dismiss the old timer vacuum gauge, but its the mechanics stethoscope.

    As far as the breaking up at WOT? How much variance are we talking about? I'd say I get about a 1/4psi wiggle on my needle at full boost (19psi) but I can't feel it. Bad spark will definitely cause some bounce at the top end. When was the last time you changed plugs and what do you have them gapped to? Have you logged requested/actual boost, timing retard and 02 voltages? Actually might not be a bad idea to start a new thread for this....

  19. #19
    Senior Member Four Rings P0234's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drkenan View Post
    ^^ Kind of going along with what BITRBO is saying, if the needle bounces while trying to hold a specific boost (i.e. on the highway going up a long hill), does this indicate a more serious mechanical problem?
    You know, I'm not sure, I see about 1/4-1/2psi wiggle on my needle at full boost, but I'm not how smoothly the boost is supposed to be regulated. Though at boost, your bounce doesn't necessarily indicate any mechanical problems. If your engine vacuum @ idle is over 19lbs and dead smooth, its likely your engine is mechanically sound and you need to look into other issues beyond the scope of this thread.

  20. #20
    Veteran Member Four Rings jibberjive's Avatar
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    Sweet writeup. Sticky for sure.
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  21. #21
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by P0234 View Post
    You know, I'm not sure, I see about 1/4-1/2psi wiggle on my needle at full boost, but I'm not how smoothly the boost is supposed to be regulated. Though at boost, your bounce doesn't necessarily indicate any mechanical problems. If your engine vacuum @ idle is over 19lbs and dead smooth, its likely your engine is mechanically sound and you need to look into other issues beyond the scope of this thread.
    Awesome man...thanks for your reply and this awesome thread.
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  22. #22
    Veteran Member Four Rings 99ebpsi24's Avatar
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    Great write up!! Glad someone took the time to do this as we're seeing a lot more misfire threads recently.

    This needs to be a sticky!
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  23. #23
    Veteran Member Four Rings BITRBO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P0234 View Post
    If it goes away when its cooler, I'd really think it was a lifter leaking, as cylinder leakage gets worse with cold. As oil gets hotter it thins out, and if you have a leaky lifter, its going to make the problem worse. Try running some 50wt racing oil for a few days and see if it helps. No doubt about it though, it is a mechanical issue. What is your vacuum at idle, peak and low when its bouncing? Also posting up a youtube of the needle would be helpful. A lot of people dismiss the old timer vacuum gauge, but its the mechanics stethoscope.

    As far as the breaking up at WOT? How much variance are we talking about? I'd say I get about a 1/4psi wiggle on my needle at full boost (19psi) but I can't feel it. Bad spark will definitely cause some bounce at the top end. When was the last time you changed plugs and what do you have them gapped to? Have you logged requested/actual boost, timing retard and 02 voltages? Actually might not be a bad idea to start a new thread for this....
    Thanks... Yeah, the problem seems to go away when it's cold out and gets worse in the summer (while the engine is at FULL operating temp during both scenarios). I'll try some MB1 racing oil next time around to see what happens, cause I don't really DD my S anymore anyways.. At 35k miles, she's slowly turning into a garage queen

    The needle wiggle I'm experience may be just that... Wiggle. It doesn't bounce from 18 to 10 back to 15 or anything like that, it just spikes and wiggles really fast as it tapers off. It's probably nothing, but I just never use to notice it doing that before. IDK. I haven't changes plugs in a little while I guess, but I've been running Side-Fires for about 5k miles now.

    Anyways, here is a link to just one of the threads I started with YouTube videos and all. We can take it to PM's to keep your thread clean:

    http://www.audizine.com/forum/showth...=1#post4514102

    edit: my VAC is usually around 19in Hg and flutters intermittently between 21 & 17...
    Last edited by BITRBO; 07-08-2010 at 08:46 AM.
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  24. #24
    Veteran Member Four Rings
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    Awesome post - I really could have used that a couple years ago when I was going through the same thing. :P The Bosch sidefires did help quite a bit. Maybe some helpful information would be what the proper FXPDOR plugs are for stock, chipped, stg 3. I don't now - does someone else..?

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    Senior Member Four Rings P0234's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BITRBO View Post
    Thanks... Yeah, the problem seems to go away when it's cold out and gets worse in the summer (while the engine is at FULL operating temp during both scenarios). I'll try some MB1 racing oil next time around to see what happens, cause I don't really DD my S anymore anyways.. At 35k miles, she's slowly turning into a garage queen

    The needle wiggle I'm experience may be just that... Wiggle. It doesn't bounce from 18 to 10 back to 15 or anything like that, it just spikes and wiggles really fast as it tapers off. It's probably nothing, but I just never use to notice it doing that before. IDK. I haven't changes plugs in a little while I guess, but I've been running Side-Fires for about 5k miles now.

    Anyways, here is a link to just one of the threads I started with YouTube videos and all. We can take it to PM's to keep your thread clean:

    http://www.audizine.com/forum/showth...=1#post4514102

    edit: my VAC is usually around 19in Hg and flutters intermittently between 21 & 17...
    Gonna post in your thread, but it def doesn't seem like an engine mechanical issue, its not rhythmical enough.

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    Veteran Member Three Rings TWiST's Avatar
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    I would like to add I recently had a random misfire issues that I had a lot of trouble getting to the bottom of, I replaced my spark plugs, I replaced my fuel filter and my pressure test stuff had not arrived in the mail yet and it would only happen when I got on her a little if I drove super conservative no problems at all. It ended up being a small tear right in the front of the TBB and I visually noticed it just barely there so small but when I gave it enough gas it would give me random misfires in possibly any of my cylinders 1 - 6.
    I no longer do B5 S4 tuning as my S4 TB slipped and I sheared an exhaust valve, I will most likely be parting her out soon. I am looking to get into Maestro tuning on my B7 A4.

  27. #27
    Senior Member Three Rings Caddy7's Avatar
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  28. #28
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by TWiST View Post
    I would like to add I recently had a random misfire issues that I had a lot of trouble getting to the bottom of, I replaced my spark plugs, I replaced my fuel filter and my pressure test stuff had not arrived in the mail yet and it would only happen when I got on her a little if I drove super conservative no problems at all. It ended up being a small tear right in the front of the TBB and I visually noticed it just barely there so small but when I gave it enough gas it would give me random misfires in possibly any of my cylinders 1 - 6.
    This gives me hope of finding my really random one.
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