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The Mk7 GTI is equipped with an evolution of the 2.0t turbocharged Volkswagen ‘TSI’ EA888 generation of engines. Although they share the same fundamental look, a limited number of parts, and utilize similar concepts, the EA888 Gen 3 of the Mk7 GTI features many distinct differences from the Gen 1 and Gen 2 variants.

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The engine block is thinner, as thin as 0.12” in some places, and lighter, while the engine produces more power and uses less fuel than previous direct-injected Volkswagen 2.0 turbocharged gas engines. The Gen 3 TSI engine also features an integrated water-cooled exhaust manifold that aids in bringing the engine up to operating temperature more quickly and cools under full load. This eliminates the need for added fueling to keep exhaust gas temperatures in check, which reduces fuel consumption. 

02_VW Gen 3 EA88 exhaust cooling diagram

 

EA888 Engine Codes/Designations

The Mk7 GTI sold in the USA is equipped with one of three engine codes depending on the production year, CXCA, CXCB, and DKFA. 

 

EA888 Specifications

  • Manufacture/Location
    • CXCA / CXCB - Silao, Mexico
    • DKFA - Silao, Mexico
  • Production Years
    • CXCA / CXCB - 2015-2018
    • DKFA - 2019+
  • Horsepower/Torque
    • CXCA / CXCB - 210 HP @ 4,500 rpm / 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
    • CXCA / CXCB w/ Performance Pack - 220 HP @ 4,700 rpm / 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
    • DKFA - 228 hp @ 4,700 rpm / 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
  • Construction Material/Alloy
    • CXCA / CXCB - Cast iron block/aluminum head
    • DKFA - Cast iron block/aluminum head
  • Cylinder Bore - 82.5mm
  • Piston Stroke - 92.8mm
  • Displacement - 1984cc
  • Compression Ratio
    • CXCA / CXCB - 9.6:1
    • DKFA - 9.6:1
  • Redline
    • CXCA / CXCB - 6,900 rpm
    • DKFA - 6,900 rpm
  • Oil Type/Capacity
    • CXCA / CXCB - 5.7 L VW 502 00 - 5w40 or 5w30
    • DKFA - 5.7 L VW 508 00 - 0w20
  • Operating Temp Range
    • Coolant - 185 F - 225 F
    • Oil - 190 F - 260+ F 
  • Engine Weight
    • CXCA / CXCB - 72 lbs (block only) / 290 lbs (complete)
    • DKFA - 72 lbs (block only) / 290 lbs (complete)
  • Fuel Economy
    • CXCA / CXCB - 25 mpg city / 34 mpg highway (manual) 
    • CXCA / CXCB - 25 mpg city / 33 mpg highway (DSG) 
    • DKFA - 24 mpg city / 32 mpg highway (manual) 
    • DKFA - 25 mpg city / 31 mpg highway (DSG) 

 

VW Models and Years Equipped With the EA888

Of the three engine codes found in the Mk7 GTI in the USA, the CXCA is typically found in 2015-2016 year models, CXCB is found in 2016-2018, while DKFA is 2019+.

03_VW Gen 3 TSI engine cover

 

Common Problems of the EA888

  • Low priority
  • High priority
  • Most common fault codes
    • P0300 - Random/Multiple Cylinder Misfire Detected
    • P0301 - Cyl.1 Misfire Detected
    • P0302 - Cyl.2 Misfire Detected
    • P0303 - Cyl.3 Misfire Detected
    • P0304 - Cyl.4 Misfire Detected
    • P0234 - Turbocharger over-boost condition/control limit exceeded
    • P0235 - Turbocharger Boost Sensor (A) Circ Control limit not reached
    • P0441 – EVAP Emission Control Sys: Incorrect Flow
    • P0455 - EVAP System: Large Leak Detected
    • P0456 - EVAP System: Very Small Leak Detected
    • P0420 - Catalyst System, Bank1 Efficiency Below Threshold
    • P0411 - Sec.Air Inj.Sys. Incorrect Flow Detected
    • P0171 - Fuel Trim, Bank1 System too Lean
    • P0172 - Fuel Trim, Bank1 System too Rich
    • P0130 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor1 Malfunction
    • P0131 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 1 Low Voltage
    • P0132 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 1 High Voltage
    • P0133 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 1 Slow Response
    • P0134 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 1 No Activity Detected
    • P0135 - O2 Sensor Heater Circ., Bank1-Sensor 1 Malfunction
    • P0136 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 2 Malfunction
    • P0137 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 2 Low Voltage
    • P0138 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor 2 High Voltage
    • P0139 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor2 Slow Response
    • P0140 - O2 Sensor Circ., Bank1-Sensor2 No Activity Detected
    • P0141 - O2 Sensor Heater Circ., Bank1-Sensor2 Malfunction
    • P0340 - Camshaft Pos. Sensor (A) Circ Incorrect allocation
    • P0016 - Bank 1: Camshaft Position Sensor (G40) / Engine Speed Sensor (G28): Incorrect Correlation
    • P2015 - Intake Manifold Runner Position Sensor Range Bank 1
    • P2004 - Intake Manifold Flap; Bank 1: Stuck Open
    • P0507 – Idle air control sys RPM higher than expected
    • P2293 - Fuel Pressure Regulator Valve (N276): Mechanical Malfunction
    • P0087 - Fuel Rail/System Pressure: Too Low
    • P0299 - Boost Pressure Regulation: Control Range Not Reached
    • P2563 - Turbocharger Boost Control Position Sensor Circuit: Implausible Signal

 

Preventative Maintenance on the EA888

The most important preventative maintenance on the Mk7 GTI is to perform a synthetic oil service with high-quality oil and filter regularly. Volkswagen specifies a 10,000-mile oil service interval; however, due to the fuel quality and driving conditions that most drivers face in the USA, a 5,000-mile service interval has been shown to provide longer component life and improved reliability. If you plan on keeping your GTI beyond 80,000 miles, moving to a 5,000-mile oil service interval is the single most important thing you can do to keep your GTI running strong and without issue. 

04_FCP Euro Mk7 GTI on OZ Racing wheels

 

EA888 Tuning & Upgrades

The Mk7 GTI and the Gen 3 EA888 2.0t TSI engine are extremely easy to tune and upgrade. The ability to unlock additional horsepower with a performance engine tune without any other changes from stock is remarkably easy, cost-effective, and with proper care and maintenance, very reliable. There are many options available for owners looking to make their Mk7 GTI a little more fun to drive. Hard part upgrades run from mild to wild, ranging from bolt-on parts like intake systems, turbo inlet pipes, intercoolers, downpipes, to fully upgraded engines with custom turbocharger systems. Depending on your budget and how far you want to take your GTI, power output can be pushed to nearly 400 horsepower without any internal engine changes, or even more if you’re willing to upgrade the internals. 

05_Unitronic Uniconnect at FCP Euro

Several tuners provide performance software for the Mk7 GTI, such as Unitronic, APR, GIAC, United Motorsport, REVO, and COBB.

Unitronic offers the additional benefit of being able to flash from home via their Uniconnect system. With this cable and a laptop, along with a stable internet connection, any owner can performance tune their GTI in the comfort of their own driveway. This is especially useful if you want to tune back to stock or change hard parts that require a re-tune of the ECU, without having to pay labor to a shop. 

United Motorsport offers both ‘off the shelf’ and custom performance tunes depending on your GTI’s set up. With larger than IS38 turbo systems or specific hardware setups, UM can offer a custom tune for your GTI. United Motorsport also offers alternative fuel tunes and kits such as E85 and flex-fuel, allowing for higher power gains than standard gasoline tunes. 

COBB Tuning is a newcomer to the VW tuning marketplace, offering baseline ‘off the shelf’ tunes as well as allowing for custom tuning by selected dealers. It is worth noting that because of the sensitive nature of ECU tuning and potentially expensive problems that could arise with unsafe ECU tuning, always do plenty of research before going with a small tuner without the research and development of the larger and more established companies like Unitronic, APR, and United Motorsport. 

06_034MotorsportsX34_Carbon_Fiber_MQB_Open-Top_Cold_Air_Intake_System__8V_Audi_A3_S3_TT_TTS

Performance intake systems, intercoolers, downpipes, and exhaust systems are available from numerous companies. They can offer an increase in horsepower and torque, as well as a more aggressive sound from your Mk7 GTI. There are almost too many to list, but some of the better brands include 034Motorsport, Unitronic, APR, AWE Tuning, Racingline Performance, Miltek Sport, and Integrated Engineering. There are a ton of options out there depending on your budget, the look or style, and material type. 

Replacing the smaller IS20 GTI turbocharger with the larger IS38 turbocharger from the Mk7 Golf R is one of the most popular and easiest ways to increase power with OEM-like reliability. Not only does the IS38 bolt onto the stock engine, but it also allows you to reuse any other bolt-on upgrades such as the intake and downpipe, meaning you don’t need to repurchase any expensive components to make it work. 

07_IntegratedEngineeringEa888 Gen3 TSI short block

Upgrading the factory engine connecting rods and pistons with forged versions can allow you to more safely exceed the 400 horsepower range provided that the fueling and turbocharger are similarly upgraded. Popular parts brands include Integrated Engineering, JE Pistons, and Mahle Motorsport, while Integrated Engineering also offers complete, pre-built short and long blocks. IROZ Motorsport offers a number of hybrid and big-turbo options for the Gen 3 EA888 engine in the Mk7 GTI, which, when paired with United Motorsport tuning and fueling upgrades, can produce 800+ horsepower. DBV2 is another popular ‘hybrid’ turbo company which offers upgraded versions of the factory IS38 turbocharger, with custom turbine and compressor wheels offering more airflow and horsepower potential in a factory housing. 

When it comes to increasing power on the Mk7 GTI, the only real limit is your budget. The number of performance tuning options is staggering, and no matter how you plan on using your GTI or whatever your horsepower goal may be, there is an option on the market to help you achieve that goal. 

 

EA888 Pre-Purchase Inspection

08_VW Mk7 GTI on lift inspection

Generally speaking, the Gen 3 TSI in the Mk7 is a solid and durable engine, which can last many miles with proper care. That said, there are a few things you should check before making a purchase. Here are some of the basics:

 

Startup & Basics

  • The engine should start smoothly, without any extended cranking or stumbling
    • Mk7 GTIs have secondary air injection, an emissions function, which means the engine idles up until it reaches a certain temperature. This is normal and takes anywhere from a few seconds to a minute depending on the outside air temperature (colder = longer) 
  • The idle should be smooth, around 800rpm, without any modulation or wandering
  • Any rough running or misfires at idle could indicate that the engine needs an intake valve cleaning 
  • Pop the hood and take a listen - Direct injection engines are noisy at idle because the injectors are loud and firing at high pressure, but there should be no excessively loud mechanical sounds or rattles
  • There should be no obvious signs or smells, indicating a water pump leak. Check around the passenger side front of the engine, just below the intake manifold/dipstick 
  • There should be no check engine or EPC lights on the dash, or any other warning lights

 

On the Road:

  • The Mk7 GTI should be able to pull away smoothly from a stop from very low RPM. The engine should accelerate smoothly without any ‘lumps’ or uneven power delivery. If the car is performance-tuned, this is something to pay attention to as not all tunes are created equally. 
  • The engine should respond well to small changes in throttle inputs, with smooth part throttle performance around town and on the highway.
  • Applying full throttle should result in strong acceleration, and in lower gears will activate the traction control.
  • There should be no check engine lights or other warning lights. A flashing check engine light under hard acceleration is indicative of a number of possible ignition or fueling issues, and the car should be stopped immediately. 
  • A check engine light with EPC light resulting in a lowered power mode (aka Limp Mode) could indicate an over-boost, fueling, or ignition issue. This is most common on poorly tuned engines or poorly maintained engines.

 

General Information

  • Check the engine oil level. Is it within the correct range on the dipstick? Looks relatively clean / recently serviced?
  • Service records
    • High-quality synthetic oil and filter changes are specified at 10,000 miles by Volkswagen but highly recommended at 5,000 miles for the longest life.
    • Engine air filter checked every year, replaced as needed depending on condition and mileage.
  • Engine oil filter cap - fits tight, no leaks. 
  • Engine coolant. It should be pink or pink-purple. Any other color is the wrong kind of coolant and could create problems. The level should be between min/max when cold.
  • Scan the Engine Control Unit for fault codes, even if CEL is not illuminated

 

Engine Codes and Details

  • You can find the engine code of the GTI in a few places
    • There should be a white sticker under the hood with a bar code and engine code, located on the timing cover by the dipstick
    • It should be listed in the owners manual 
    • It can also be found on the build sticker, usually located under the rear carpet near the spare tire well

 

How to Extend the Life of Your EA888

Keeping up with regular service and preventative maintenance is the best way to keep your Mk7 GTI running strong for many thousands of miles. Here are some of the basics:

  • Oil service with an approved synthetic oil and high-quality oil filter every 5,000 miles.
  • Check the engine air filter every 12k miles / annually, replace as needed.
  • Check spark plugs at 40,000 miles, then every 20,000 until replaced, replace as needed.
  • Always let the oil temperature warm to 180 Fahrenheit before driving at full throttle or driving over 4,000 rpm.
  • Perform an intake valve cleaning every 60,000-80,000 miles, or as needed.
  • Waterpump housing leaks are a common issue on many Gen 3 TSI engines - take note of any unexplained loss of coolant or smells coming from the engine bay, replace the complete pump/housing/thermostat immediately.
  • Never drive the car with a flashing check engine light. Immediately stop the car and shut off the engine. If the light flashes on restart or runs rough, tow the vehicle home or to a shop where it can be diagnosed and repaired 

 

EA888 Notable Torque Specs

All Volkswagen factory torque specs are specified in newton-meters (Nm). We have converted these to pound-feet (lb-ft) and inch-pounds (in-lb) and listed both for convenience. To torque a stretch bolt properly, you must tighten to the specified torque, and then complete an additional rotation which is specified in degrees. So 148 lb ft + 180 means torque to 148 lb ft, and then use a ratchet to rotate the bolt an additional 180 degrees (½ a rotation). Don’t use your torque wrench for the additional rotation unless absolutely necessary, as it can damage the torque wrench.

  • Brake vacuum pump to head - replace with new hardware
    • Snug by hand, staring with the bolt closest to 12:00 o’clock and proceeding in a clockwise fashion
    • Tighten to 71 in-lbs (3 Nm) starting with the bolt closest to 12:00 o’clock and proceeding in a clockwise fashion
    • Rotate 180 degrees, starting with the bolt closest to 12:00 o’clock and proceeding in a clockwise fashion
  • Air oil separator 
    • Tighten to 70 in-lbs (8 Nm) in a star pattern, starting with bolt closest to the PCV hose
  • Turbocharger to head - replace with new nuts
    • 19 ft-lbs (25 Nm) 
  • Oil lines, coolant lines, turbo inlet, diverter valve, turbo muffler to turbocharger
    • 80 in-lbs (9 Nm)
  • Wastegate to wastegate mounting bracket 
    • 89 in-lbs (10Nm) 

If you're looking for more Mk7 VW GTI DIYs, news, and guides, you can find all of that on our Mk7 Golf hubIf you have any questions or comments about the EA888 engine, or something you'd like to see added to this guide, leave them in the comments section below. 

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Written by :
Nathan Brown

FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55


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