2.0 ABA Oil Cooler Gasket/Seal Replacement. or
How a $2.00 part can make you feel like a king...

This "how to" assumes you have some basic tools, and safety gear. Safety glasses should be worn at all times when working with tools and automotive fluids. Always use a hydraulic jack and safety stands when lifting or getting under a vehicle. If you are unsure on where to safety lift your vehicle, refer to its owners guide.  The writer of this how to assumes zero liability in how to use this guide, or any damages that may come from it to you, your property, or others and others property. If you are uncertain at any point, refer to a qualified automotive technician.

Oil leaks, seals or gaskets - often contour up high dollar repairs that involve a huge mess like removing the engine or transmission to fix.  Thankfully the ABA is not a big oil leaker (unless you drive low, as you should, and scrape holes into the oil pan), but there is one major seal/gasket that fails and makes a huge mess - and if ignored will cause engine damage. 

A seal, is a device used to keep oil on one side, and dirt on the other, so a crankshaft - has a front main and a real main seal.  The crank spins, and the seal allows the crank to spin, keeping oil inside the engine.  A gasket does the same job - only a gasket does not have any moving parts - the gasket takes up the space between two parts - and fills in "the gap" that would occur if the two parts were not a *perfect* match.

So really, this part that fails is a gasket - but its round and flexible so it gets called a "seal".  I'm going to refer to it as a "cooler seal" from here on out.  Hopefully me fellow automotive word Nazis will approve - but *technically* its a gasket. Ok, enough of the semantics.

So, VW in the MKIII model line decided to give the engine something a lot of other cars in its price range never had - a liquid cooled - oil cooler.  Oil gets hot - problem is, under hard driving, it can get *too hot* and cause a premature breakdown of the oil's properties.  VWs fix for this was to install a device that allowed the oil to pass through a mini-radiator that was part of the cooling system (engine coolant).  Now I know what your thinking, coolant (engine) is hot, 190 deg F.  Well, under hard.. hard driving oil temps can push up to 250 deg F.  Do the math, pass hot oil into an area where it comes in "thermal" contact with the cooler coolant - and you can shave 60 degrees off your oil temperature.  On the picture to the right, you are looking at part 6.  That's the seal we replace.

Oil leaks are just nasty - oil when in contact with rubber coolant hoses breaks them down it also leaves stains on the driveway, and stinks up my drinking water.

Ok - so what's the problem?  Well, the problem is the seal - that is "rubber" and sits between the engine block's mounting flange, and then the oil cooler - weakens over time and leaks.  This leak starts out slow - and almost forgettable until one day - when its cold out, and you are in a big hurry - late for a wedding - when you start the car - the seal blows out - spraying oil all over the ground, engine, radiator, you, your dog, and the moon.  Yea, its *that* much of a mess when it lets go.  Think super soaker on steroids filled with dirty old oil.  So, best get to it before it starts to blow apart.  And at $2, and not much more work then an oil change - its money and time well spent.  Do it now before your dog gets it.  Best of all, when you are done, pat yourself on the back - tell everyone you replaced a cooler seal - and they will think you are some type of automotive God.  It just sounds cool. Oh BTW - do this at your next oil change, yes - its a good idea - DO IT NOW!

Tools needed:

Oil Filter Wrench (optional)
27mm deep socket or 1-1/16" deep socket
6 or 9" extension
Torque Wrench (that can go down to 18 ft/lbs)
Oil Drain pan
Metric socket set
Jack Stands / Floor Jack
Small flathead screwdriver/dental pick

Parts Needed:

Quality Oil Filter (I use Mann or Mahle... only.. ever..)
5 quarts of a quality motor oil (I prefer 10w40 in the ABA)
Oil cooler seal (59mm) (Parts Link) - note some have "locating tabs" as little internal ears, these are helpful, but not needed.
Can of Brake Clean (spray solvent)

Time Needed: 30 min, including the oil change.


Step 1 - Look in the right place.  My engine was a mess anyhow - and it forced the camera to take a blurry picture.

Look down onto the filter and cooler flange.  This is on the front center of the motor.  The A/C compressor is to the left, and the Distributor cap is to the right.  My car has an aftermarket oil pressure gauge/sender - that's the blue wire - your car won't have this so don't look for it.

Step 2 - Jack up your car to change the oil.  Replacement of the cooler seal requires you to remove your filter, so why not just do it all at once.

Hmmm, tasty German filter..  The cap is my filter wrench.

Step 3 - Look at where the filter screws onto.

Step 4- Remove the nut (27mm or 1-1/6")

Step 5 - Unhook top coolant hose from bracket (no tools needed)

Step 6 - PUSH down on the cooler - with even pressure on both sides.  If you push too hard on one side, its going to get caught on the threads of the filter mount.  This is ok.  Just push it back up a little and try again.  Don't force it, wiggle back and forth if needed.  The dipstick and funnel (orange) are in the center left of the picture.

NOTE: Two other ways to remove the cooler are:

1 - Drain cooling system and unhook hoses form cooler.  This is an unnecessary step.

2 - Using needle nose pliers style vice grips, grab and spin the center shaft (where the filter screws onto).  And unscrew and remove it.  This is not a bad idea, and it does make the job a little easier - but I did not find the need to do this.

Point and laugh at the old seal.  Use your small flat screwdriver or pick to *carefully* remove the stuck seal.

Yea, this was long overdue.  I was lucky, and my seal just leaked - it never got to the point where it blew out.

Step 7 - Carefully install the new seal - and center it onto the cooler.  Use no sealants or RTV!

Step 8 - Install the cooler and reinstall the lower 27mm nut you took off.  Torque the cooler nut to 18 Ft/Lbs.  DOUBLE CHECK BEFORE TORQUE THE NUT THAT THE COOLER SEAL IS NOT SHIFTED OR PINCHED.

Step 9 - Start car once refilled with oil and a new filter has been installed.. Check for leaks!