1.9L TDI VW Timing Belt Replacement Info ALH Engine

Everything you need to know about VW timing belt replacement on 1.9 liter TDI engine with ALH engine code; which was used in the following Volkswagen models:

  • 1999-2004 VW Jetta (US) A4 chassis
  • 1999-2004 VW Golf (US) A4 chassis
  • 1998-2004 VW Beetle (US) A4 chassis

Note: There are two different engine codes in 2004. ALH and the BEW. VW owners with model year 2004 should confirm their engine code.

ALH TDI VW Timing Belt ReplacementThe ALH TDI engine is driven by a timing belt system which links the cylinder head, camshaft, injection pump, and crankshaft to run in sync. This VW timing belt system consists of a wear resistant, high strength, corded/molded rubber timing belt (a.k.a. VW toothed belt). There's also an assortment of tensioners and idler rollers to guide and tension the ALH TDI timing belt.

It's very important to service your ALH VW TDI timing belt. The timing belt, tensioner, and idler components eventually reach the end of their recommended service life. The ALH engine code TDI is an interference engine (a.k.a. non-clearance engine). If the VW timing belt fails, the timing belt system that links the cylinder head, camshaft, and crankshaft no longer run in sync. Close tolerance engine designs allow for the cylinder head valves to hit the top side of the pistons. VW timing belt failure on these engines will results in catastrophic engine damage (i.e. bent valves and in some cases cracked pistons).

This page discusses many different VW timing belt replacement topics, such as:

  • What is the recommended timing belt change interval for A4 platform VW Jetta Golf Beetle 1.9 Liter TDI ALH models?
  • What affects the intended life-expectancy of timing belt parts?
  • How much does it cost to replace the VW timing belt on the 1.9 Liter ALH? How long does it take to change the timing belt on a VW 1.9 Liter ALH?
  • Looking to buy a used VW Golf Jetta Beetle TDI and wondering about timing belt replacement?
  • What to replace while changing the VW timing belt on the 1.9 TDI ALH engine. Can I just replace the basics?
  • Do I need special tools? Can I do it without the tools?

VW Timing Belt Service Change Interval

ALH VW TDI Timing Belt Change Interval

What is the recommended timing belt change interval for A4 platform VW Jetta Golf Beetle 1.9 TDI ALH models?

The most recent recommend interval is 100,000 miles.

Please Note: When originally released, the recommended timing belt interval for ALH TDI VW Jetta Golf Beetle was 40,000 miles for automatic transmissions and 60,000 miles for manual transmissions. However, in 2003 VAG raised the timing belt interval to 100,000 miles. This was done because of improvements made to the timing belt idler bearing (an increased ID from 47mm to a 60mm), and a stronger timing belt (carbon aramid material). Stressing the importance of choosing high quality VW timing belt parts.

Using our years of service repair knowledge, what do we recommend? The older 40,000 mile and 60,000 mile ALH timing belt system components should be updated to the current 100,000 mile interval by using our BASE VW timing belt Replacement Kits, which contains the specified improved timing belt and tensioners for the 100,000 mile change interval. When dealing with crucial timing belt service, err on the side of caution and change your VW TDI timing belt every 90,000 - 100,000 miles. It is our recommendation to closely inspect all timing belt components before the recommended interval. Play it safe, changing your timing belt may seem expensive. However, choosing to exceed your timing belt service interval is risky and can lead to unknown repair costs that will far exceed typical timing belt replacement service cost.

Intended Life-Expectancy of Timing Belt Components

VW Jetta Timing Belt Part Life ExpectancyIn our own service facility, we've seen a few original timing belts last over 90,000 miles and others ready to break before 75,000 miles. In addition to mileage there are other factors that age the timing belt and related components. The following are some reasons why you see the difference in how long a VW timing belt and related components last: (1) un-logged engine idle times and sitting in traffic; (2) warm-up time in cold weather; (3) environmental climate factors; (4) related engine maintenance that may have been overlooked.

Keys to the long-life of your new timing belt components after timing belt replacement. Make your new parts last! You can expect your new BLAU INA OEM components to last the specified 90,000 mile - 100,000 mile interval if the following important steps were taken:

1) Timing belt service was performed using the same timing belt and timing belt tensioner that are supplied to VAG, which are engineered to meet interval requirements.

2) Timing belt service was performed by an experienced competent ASE certified VW mechanic who is familiar with your specific engine 1.9 TDI ALH engine.

3) Factory service procedures must be strictly followed. Even if installing the best parts, using improper procedures can shorten their life span. Incorrect installation or missteps during timing belt service are often done without intent and aren't noticed until further down the road. Fortunately, some common mishaps are noticed after re-assembly and during the final engine rotational timing sequences.

VW Timing Belt Replacement Cost for 1.9 TDI ALH Models

How much does it cost to replace the VW timing belt on the 1.9 Liter ALH? How long does it take to change the timing belt on a VW 1.9 Liter ALH? How much will the parts cost? How much will labor cost? Thinking of buying a VW Golf, Jetta, or Beetle 1.9 TDI and wondering about timing belt replacement?

How Long Does It Take?

How long does VW Jetta timing belt replacement take?How long does VW timing belt replacement take? How long does it take to replace the VW timing belt on the 1.9 Liter ALH? The average timing belt service labor time for this engine is around 6-8 hours depending on the technician's experience and the amount of timing belt parts being replaced.

How Much Does It Cost?

1.9 TDI VW Jetta Timing Belt Labor CostThe average shop labor rate is $75 - $200 per hour. The lesser amount is often found in smaller cities and the more expensive labor rate seems to align itself with larger cites. Depending on shop rate, technicians experience, and the amount of VW timing belt parts being replaced it can cost approximately $600 - $1,600. This is just the labor cost (not including parts).

How Much Do The Parts Cost?

It depends. Some choose to source the parts themselves, while others get the parts through their repair shop. Some repair shops prefer to supply the parts themselves. This allows for cost margins and potential profits on the parts. Also, they can control the type of parts used, reducing the potential problem of having customers come back with part issues.

You won't have to worry about this with our INA Gen II BLAU VW timing belt Kits ranging from $200 - $360 and include the same INA OEM parts that are supplied to VAG, just without the genuine logo. This is a huge savings vs retail dealer cost. Have your mechanic call us!

Looking to Buy a Used VW TDI and Wondering About Timing Belt Replacement?

Many people who are looking to buy a used VW Jetta Golf Beetle 1.9 TDI ALH start researching the cost of replacing the timing belt. It's best to purchase a car that comes with service history records from the previous owner. Owners who value their car and took care of it will have a record of all service history, an indication of the vehicle's overall shape and reliability. The importance of service records is indisputable. A seller without any service records, is looking to take advantage of the "inexperienced" buyer, making more money at their expense.

Inspecting a timing belt that "seems fine" isn't enough. You'll also want to confirm when the last timing belt service was performed with the appropriate documentation. Don't just take the word of a seller saying "Oh, I think I changed it around 30,000 miles ago." Assumptions and no documents mean RISK. Calculate the cost of timing belt replacement into your purchase price if they don't have the records.

VW Jetta Timing Belt Replacement Service RecordsExample of Negotiation:

2001 VW Jetta 1.9 TDI ALH - 110,000 Miles - Asking Price: $5,300

Buyer: "When was the timing belt done last."

Seller: "Oh, I just did it. I think it was about 30,000 miles ago."

Buyer: "Do you have the paperwork?"

Seller: "No, I don't."

Buyer: "Well with no documentation, I'll have to get it replaced to establish a guarantee baseline. That will cost me around $700 - $1,800. Are you willing to take $700 - $1,800 off the purchase price?"

What to Replace While Changing the VW Timing Belt on the 1.9 TDI ALH Engine

VW Jetta Timing Belt Replacement Diagram 1.9 TDIIMAGE DESCRIPTION Apart from the timing belt the 1.9L ALH TDI Jetta Golf or Beetle engine's timing belt system consists of 5 serviceable timing belt components. One is the water pump that is driven by the timing belt. Second is the two small fixed idler bearing, one centrally located on the timing belt system and the other is on the top side of the timing belt system. Fourth is the timing belt tensioner which provides variable spring-loaded tension to the timing belt. Fifth is the large idler bearing centrally located on the timing belt system. All these components work in sync with each other to guide and tension the timing belt.

Before going through the significant work of taking your car apart for timing belt replacement, please consider the following:

Looking To Save Money... "Can I Just Replace the Timing Belt?" Simply changing the TDI timing belt isn't enough. Why? Around the timing belt service interval (90-100,000 miles), due to age the integrity of the tensioner(s), water pump, and other seals and o-rings are at the end or very near the end of their service life. Some individuals make the mistake of only replacing the timing belt. Then, 10,000-20,000 miles later, their new timing belt fails due to tensioner, idler bearing, or water pump failure.


Why replace your VW timing belt tensioner during timing belt service? Just as the timing belt has a designated service life and subsequent change interval, so do the tensioners and idler bearings. It's true that timing belts can get old, begin to crack, and eventually fail. However, it is just as common for the timing belt tensioners and/or idler bearings to fail, thus causing timing belt failure.

How can the tensioners cause a timing belt to fail? Most tensioner bearings contain a set amount of grease behind the seal. This grease provides ample lubrication and ensures tensioner reliability for the designated life span (90,000 - 100,000 miles). During engine operation, constant thermal temperature fluctuations eventually cause the bearing's grease to breakdown and loose it's lubricating properties. Over time, this results in unwanted bearing play and eventual seizure. If a timing belt tensioner has too much play or seizes, the timing belt can become misaligned, or begin to 'burn up' and shred, causing engine failure. Thermal temperatures also affect the timing belt causing the material composition of the belt to change and accelerates its life span, often resulting in premature failure.

Water Pump

Why replace your VW water pump during timing belt service? It makes sense from a labor standpoint since timing belt dis-assembly is required for water pump replacement. The water pump is driven by the timing belt and contains an internal sealed bearing that has a life span similar to the timing belt, tensioner, and idler bearings. The internal bearing and seals of a VW water pump can weaken and is the primary reason why a water pump eventually fails.


Why replace your VW thermostat during timing belt service? The engine temperature is controlled by the thermostat. Near the end of its designated service life the thermostat spring temper changes. This causes the thermostat to open too much allowing the engine to run cooler, resulting in poor fuel optimization, decreased fuel economy, and less horsepower.

Special Tools for VW Timing Belt Replacement on 1.9 TDI ALH Models

Do I need special tools? Can I do it without the tools?

Please Note: Our timing belt tool rental kits are no longer available for rent. All tool rental kits are available for sale in good used condition in our online catalog.

On older single-cam VW engines it is possible to achieve general timing without the special tools. However, on the ALH VW TDI engine, special tools were designed for a reason. Slight variations in timing or orientation can result in a very poor performing TDI or catastrophic engine damage (e.g. bent valves).

This isn't the area of vehicle maintenance to cut corners or try to save time. On these VW models, in order to achieve 100% proper cam to crankshaft, and injector pump timing, special tools are necessary. When the timing is off several degrees the check engine light could appear and a lack of performance is noticed (i.e. poor fuel economy, excessive black smoke and soot, hard starting). Remember, you're performing a crucial maintenance repair. If done incorrectly, catastrophic engine damage will result.

When replacing the VW timing belt on my 1.9 TDI ALH model, do I need the special tools? The 1.9 TDI ALH engine has no specific tools to hold the crankshaft in place. This can be easily referenced by the crank timing reference marks. The camshaft and injector pump sprockets are crucial in the proper engine timing and need the special tools to maintain engine timing. There are some other special tools that can make your timing belt service much easier. This would include special tools for counter holding the crankshaft sprocket when loosening and tightening the crankshaft bolt as well as the camshaft sprocket bolt. Other beneficial tools include the cam and crank seal removers, cam and cranks seal installers, and eccentric wrench for properly tensioning the timing belt tensioner.

1.9 TDI ALH VW Jetta Timing Belt ToolsBasic Descriptions of Essential VW Timing Belt Tools:

  • 3418 - Camshaft locking plate.
  • 3036 - Camshaft / injection pump sprocket counter hold.
  • T40001 - Camshaft sprocket puller.
  • 3359 - Injection pump sprocket locking pin.
  • T10020 / V159 - Two pin spanner and wrench.
  • Crankshaft lock tool.
  • TS25 - 1/4 Allen socket (for automatic transmission).
  • Feeler gauge set - Used to make sure the camshaft locking plate is tight in the camshaft.
  • 3415 - Crank holder - Used to hold the crank stationary when removing the crank bolt.

NOTE: The following tools are used depending on the depth of VW timing belt service that you're performing and if you've chosen to change the cam or crank seals.

  • 3203 - Crank seal remover.
  • 3265 - Crank seal installer.

SPECIAL NOTE: Mk IV A4 Chassis VW 1.9 TDI ALH Models

The following are NOT included in our tool rental kit:

Due to their size and complexity the following tools and software are not available to do-it-yourselfers.

Engine and Transmission Support Tools - The transverse mounted engine this is used in the VW Golf Jetta and Beetle A4 platform features a timing belt that runs through the center of the passenger side motor mount bracket. This motor mount bracket must be removed to perform the timing belt service. To remove the motor mount bracket, the engine and transmission needs to be properly supported. If they are not properly supported, damage can occur to the engine, transmission, fenders, and body of the car. It is necessary to use of the specified and specifically designed VW A4 chassis special tools listed below.

10-222 A - Engine and transmission support bar set.

10-222 A/1 - VW A4 platform (chassis) engine support bar to fender brackets.

Diagnostic Software - Diagnostic software (e.g. Ross Tech) is also needed in order to properly tune the injector timing. The timing belt tools will only get the injector pump timing to a window where the engine will start and run. The Ross Tech diagnostic software is designed to fine tune the injection timing for optimal efficiency and performance.