A flashing check engine light is your Volkswagen California’s way of saying “I have a serious problem, don’t ignore me”. Most of the time, that serious problem is a misfire. This flashing light should not be ignored. When your engine is misfiring, it is dumping raw fuel into the exhaust. This raw fuel can detonate, which causes damage to the catalytic converter and the exhaust system itself.
There can be other situations that can cause the check engine light to blink as well. It’s flashing to let you know that if you keep driving the vehicle, you are going to ruin the catalytic converter and/or damage the engine in a meaningful way.
Blinking Check Engine Light Diagnosis: Volkswagen California
There will always be trouble codes associated with the check engine light blinking. These trouble codes will be able to tell you where to start hunting down the problem. Here are the most common issues that end up causing the check engine light to flash. But, follow the OBDII codes. A code scanner is cheap. Use it to find out exactly why your vehicles computer decided to flash this light.
California Check Engine Light Flashing Due to Ignition Issues
The ignition system is the most common reason that the check engine light will flash. The ignition system consists of spark plugs, plug wires, and the ignition coil packs (older vehicles have a distributer that has the same function as coil packs). These parts work in concert to ignite the fuel in the combustion chamber at just the right time.
- P0300: Random Multiple Misfire– This is one of the most common codes that is thrown when the engine is misfiring. It means that the engine has a misfire, but the computer can’t detect which cylinder that it’s coming from. This code is often thrown when there is a fuel issue, or a timing issue, and not just bad ignition components. That is unless all the cylinders share a common coil (distributor ignition).
- P0301-P0312: Cylinder Specific Misfire- These trouble codes correspond with a specific cylinder misfiring (cylinder number corresponds with its place in the firing order). Although it’s a bad sign when the service engine soon light flashes, when one of these codes comes up with it (and nothing else), it’s almost always one spark plug or ignition coil. There can be other reasons this code is thrown, you can see more by clicking on the P0301 link above.
There are other misfire related codes as well, but those are the most common ones.
Fuel System Issues
Keeping in mind that any engine needs air, fuel, and spark for ignition, your Volkswagen California’s fuel system can often cause the engine to misfire. It can run too lean or rich. Alternatively, there may not be enough fuel for proper combustion, or the fuel isn’t atomizing properly.
- Fuel Mixture: If the engine is running rich or lean, the engine will misfire and throw the fuel mixture related codes, such as P0171, P0172, etc..
- Injector Issues: A bad fuel injector(s) can cause a misfire. If the fuel can’t atomize properly, the engine will misfire. Here’s a good article on how to diagnose whether your fuel injectors are bad from procarmechanics.
Other Issues: Flashing Check Engine Light- Volkswagen California
While a majority of the time, the flashing check engine light is going to be caused by a misfire related to your California’s ignition system or fuel system (as stated above), there are other issues that can cause it.
- Your timing chain could have jumped.
- If you have VVT, it may be having issues.
- EGR- The EGR system recycles burnt exhaust gasses back into the combustion chamber.
- Crank/Cam Sensor- When the cam or crank sensors are not being read by the ECM/PCM, it’s impossible to get the ignition timing right. If you California does start at all, it’ll run rough.
- It could be a more serious mechanical issue, such as as bent valve, bad lifter, etc….
We recommend that you don’t drive your vehicle if at all possible until you diagnose and fix your California’s flashing check engine light. Just pretend that it’s letting you know that it’s going to cost you way more money to fix the problem if you keep driving it. If there is anything that you would like to add, please feel free to leave a comment below. Good luck!