Cleaning up another promised post, details about why my car was gone so long for those who are mechanically inclined. The following details came from the (very helpful) tech who worked on my car.
It all came down to one bolt.
The two camshafts in my car’s engine are driven by a chain. That chain meshes with an “intermediate shaft”, which in turn meshes with another chain that completes the mechanical connection down to the crankshaft. That “intermediate shaft” isn’t really a shaft. It’s the oil pump. At some point, a bolt which holds that oil pump in place sheared in two. This allowed the oil pump to tilt out of position. If this had been allowed to continue for any length of time, the oil pump and the entire cam drive train would have basically come loose and thus caused the pretty complete destruction of the engine from lack of oil pressure and from valves smacking into pistons.
Luckily, the very smart engine computer in the car noticed that the cams were out of position from where they should be and lit up the “check engine” light. I dutifully took the car into VW the next day to see what had happened.
When the local tech called VW to get some advice and described the problem, the guy on the other end of the phone put him on hold, and an engineer came on the line. The engineer told the local tech exactly what to look for and said to basically replace the entire cam drive set (oil pump, chains, gears, etc.). In other words, VW knows about this one. By the way, doing the work involves removing the transmission to get to the appropriate side of the engine.
The tech did as he was told, which required a wait for parts to arrive from Germany. He finally got it back together, cranked it up, and it quit. He tried turning the crank by hand, and it wouldn’t budge. More calls to VW. To shorten it up a little bit, the replacement oil pump was defective. Verdict? Replace everything again. More wait for parts from Germany. To his credit, the tech decided to pull the cylinder head and to drop the oil pan to look for signs of internal damage. None found. He finally got all the parts, got everything back together, and I got my car back. Total time: five and a half weeks.
So, I’m not happy that I was without my car for so long, and I’m going to be very attentive for future engine problems, but they weren’t just sitting on their hands. It was a serious problem. Overall I’m pretty pleased with how it went. I hope it stays that way.