P0673 is a common diagnostic trouble code found in diesel engines. It’s generic, which means it has the same definition for the Volkswagen Passat as it would any other vehicle.
This particular code indicates that your Passat’s third cylinder glow plug is not working. This code is typically caused by a bad glow plug or wiring issue. We cover troubleshooting steps in detail below.
Here’s the definition of P0673:
Cylinder 3 Glow Plug
Diesel engines don’t use spark plugs. Instead, they use glow plugs to preheat the combustion chamber.
Each glow plug heats up one cylinder before your Volkswagen Passat starts. The “glow plug” light lets you know that they are doing their job. Once the engine is started, the heat and compression generated through diesel combustion are enough to keep the engine running (diesel engines have higher compression ratios than gas-powered motors), and the glow plugs are turned off.
Your Passat’s PCM (powertrain control module) uses data from the engine and transmission temperature sensors to determine if the engine is cold enough to warrant the use of the glow plugs.
They’re usually only needed when a diesel engine has been sitting for a while. It wouldn’t cool off enough while fueling up, for instance. That’s why the symptoms of P0673 are usually only felt when the engine is cold started.
In the case of P0673, the code means that the circuit that provides power to the third cylinder’s glow plug is faulty. That’s it. It doesn’t specify if it’s open, short, low, or high voltage.
P0673 Symptoms: Volkswagen Passat
If your Volkswagen Passat has P0673 there are likely to be some noticeable symptoms. Although one bad glow plug is usually not enough to bring a modern diesel engine down.
- Check engine light with P0673
- Hard start
- Misfiring (Until the third cylinder warms up)
- No start
- Low engine power until the engine warms up
- Diesel fuel smell from exhaust
If the engine starts, let it idle to build heat in the third cylinder before driving it. You want enough heat in there that cylinder 3 starts to fire on its own. While your Passat may run and drive ok once it’s heated up, it’s still dumping unburned fuel into the exhaust until all of the cylinders are firing.
With most diesel engines, having one glow plug out will not be enough for it not to start.
Volkswagen Passat P0673 Diagnosis + Causes
While P0673 refers to a circuit issue, it also can be caused by a bad glow plug as well. Here’s how to diagnose this code in your Volkswagen Passat:
1. Determine if the glow plug is bad
There are a few ways that you can tell if the glow plug is functioning properly. If they are easy to get to, you can do the “swap test.”
Remove the glow plug from the third cylinder. Then, swap it with another glow plug (whichever is easiest to access). Once you do that, use your scanner to clear the OBDII memory.
Make sure your Passat is cold, go ahead and fire it up. Wait for the check engine light to come back on.
If the code stays P0673, you know there is a wiring issue, you’ll need to troubleshoot the harness.
If the code changes to P067X (X being the cylinder with the bad glow plug), replace the glow plug with a new one, and you’re done.
You can also use a test light to determine if a glow plug is bad. Here’s how to do it.
2. Check the Wiring Harness
Now that you know your Passat doesn’t have a bad glow plug, it’s time to check the wiring harness.
Check it for damage (think cracked wiring, bad ground, or loose connection at the glow plug). The glow plug wiring harness has fusible links, so if the harness is hot on one side of the link, but not on the other, you’ll need to replace it.
If it all looks fine, you’ll need to get an OHM meter and check the resistance at the glow plug. You’ll need to look up the wiring diagram for the exact engine and model year of your Volkswagen Passat.
P0673 is usually pretty easy to track down. Please leave a comment if you have anything to say that could help the next person reading this article. Good luck fixing your Passat!