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Podcast Episode 16 Volkswagen Reliability a Problem, or Is It Perception

Published on November 24, 2014 under Podcast

Happy Monday everyone. I hope that you all had a great weekend. Today on the Automotive Podcast we have a great yet touchy topic. Is VW reliability a problem, or is it perception. I had written a blog post years ago about this very topic. It is one of the most commented on posts on the blog. You can check it out at VW reliability problems.

I understand that there are a lot of folks that have very strong feelings about this exact topic. I also know that many folks have experienced the pain of having a huge repair bill on VWs. But you can take the VW out of the conversation, and input any other manufacturer. That is right, people have big repair bills with Toyota too. I also realize that there is truth to the issues that VWs have. I am a dealer tech, I see it all the time.

Today on the Automotive Podcast we discuss:

  • Why this topic came back up
  • VW ranks 5 from the bottom on J.D. Power
  • Why I “promote” VW as a brand? I DON’T!
  • My affinity for the brand
  • VW are not the right car for everyone
  • What fuels the problems car manufacturers have
  • Buy what you like, and expect problems
  • The story about my CR-V
  • A salesman wants you to by their brand
  • We can substitute VW for any other car brand

Well that wraps up Episode 16. I know that I may have hit close to home with many of you. Feel free to post your comments below. Remember this is not me standing on a soap box. It is a community.

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8 Comments

  1. jenn

    I agree that you really have to figure out what brand is right for you. I have had 2 Fords in my life that were so problematic that I would buy a bike before I bought another Ford. I have a friend that swears by them. I love my VW, but that may be because I’m married to someone that’s really into cars and I don’t have to think about it, I just get to enjoy driving it.
    I also don’t get the rating systems. If VW is rated 5th from the bottom on one site, isn’t it also rated the safest car or best for the money on also other site recently?

  2. Jacob

    Awesome video! I just wanted to say thank you for the point you made on people not knowing how to fix them. I hear talk and get bashed on (because I drive and love VW) about VW, and it always frustrates me. There’s one mechanic who’s been a mechanic for a long long time and who is a great one, but truly doesn’t “know” how to work on VW. It took him two days to replace a window regulator on a jetta, and all he would say is he hated VW. My teacher taught me how to replace a regulator on his jetta and taught me that you have to remove the door latch part with a special tool. Im only 17, so i dont have a lot of experience yet, but its not difficult see see that usually the people bashing it are ones who dont know (not in a rude way).

  3. Barry

    Great video. I too had a 2005 Honda CR-V. I had several issues with it before 30k miles. It had 2 replacement AC compressors, 1 strut, new brake rotors due to warping, a motor mount, and differential whine that was finally corrected. I do love Honda, but that one put a bad taste in my mouth for a while. I traded it right after the factory warranty was up. I currently have two 2012 VW’s (Passat and Jetta) that I’ve had for almost 3 years. While they have had a few minor issues, they have been pretty solid. I’d purchase them again.

  4. Brandon

    Great Video! I’m not sure about other peoples experiences but some of my favorite vehicles I have owned were actually far from the most reliable. A 1996 Land Rover Discovery comes to mind. I was constantly working on that thing. But that lead to a familiarity with vehicle. It was fun to drive and I took it everywhere and through everything. It made it to 200,000 miles and never left me stranded… yeah I limped home a lot with problems. But it was like fun girlfriend with some issues to me. On the other hand I had a 1993 Toyota pickup which was a base model. It had no a/c or power steering. I had it for years and just put gas in it and changed oil. Never had to fix anything. I hated every minute of owning it, and driving it. I bought it because I didn’t want to have to work on it all the time. I got what I wished for. A boring, uncomfortable vehicle without a personality.

    Just wanted to share my views. I have a 2013 Passat TDI and love it. Not a single problem other than some service issues with my dealer. But the car was not at fault… just a bad service department. It is my first VW and for a while I felt like chicken little waiting for the sky to fall after reading about turbo failures and HPFP failures. But VW extended my turbo warranty and I bought an extended warranty. I’m going to just drive worry free now and enjoy the car.

  5. Tamy

    Speaking as the girl with the totaled car and the brand new VW, I couldn’t be happier you posted this video. Charles is so right. The negative screams over the internet. It took me three pages into Google to find his first post that he references above and honestly, I must have been desperate because who really ever goes past page 1 in the search return?
    A few things I have learned in my 20 years of owning cars.
    1. Know how they operate, on a basic level and teach that to your own kids too.
    2. If you like the first one you bought, you may hate the second one.
    Point 2 was proven to me when I bought the first model year of the Scion xA. It is the car that was hit, I rolled over and was totaled recently. I loved that car. It fit me perfectly, it was easy to work on and it was a very roomy hatchback. It was my first car with automatic windows and a cd player. I knew I had arrived. I put 185k on it and was aiming for 250k before its demise. I miss it, but it’s only been 3 weeks. So in 09 when my daughter started driving we said let’s get another Scion. We were a one car family moving up to owning two. Scion had revamped the line and it was now the Scion xD. She never grabbed the manual transmission, so we bought an automatic. Improvements were in overall size and back seat leg room, but it was noisy on the freeway and too much free play in the steering. I hated it and happily took over the drudgery of driving the manual. When we had to look for another car, I knew I did not want another Scion. Nothing about the line excited me anymore. And like Charles said, drive what you like. We tried the Mazda line first and boy did that Mazda 3 hatchback feel fun to drive. It handled so well and its safety ratings were impressive, but something about the interior material used to make it seemed cheap. We settled on the Golf TSI. We always loved the VW line. I learned to drive a manual transmission in a 68 Beetle. We spent hours comparing and researching. I mean hours, like days upon days. Then we bought it. The only one available had the additional lighting package on it. It was expensive but we agreed to meet in the middle on the cost. It was well worth it. The lighting is amazing. So, I’m dropping off the Scion for its basic tire rotation and check and I say “Oh hey we bought a VW” to my favorite mechanic. Well you would have thought I killed a kitten. Everyone looked at me horrified. “Why didn’t you call me? Oh boy, I feel sorry for you?” I almost cried. I went home and hit the internet. In the end I found this guy here, Charles. Sure I may have issues with it, but its a great car and VW has really made some steps to improve the line. My husband and I laughed a lot because Charles said German engineering is great but it can be fickle and can require a lot of attention. As a German girl, I can appreciate that comment. Fantastic engineering, stubborn as hell. So, long story and to comment on point 1, get to know what makes your vehicle tick and get your maintenance service done. The one lesson my dad always told me about cars was that if you take care of them, you should expect them to reward you with years of service. I feel a lot better about my choice and I promise to keep Charles updated on it. Since it is a 2015, let’s see if it has gotten better. It beats the first few cars I had, my dad loved Dodge, so my first car was a Plymouth Horizon- thankfully very easy to work on, my second a Dodge Neon. I wanted to push that piece of garbage off a cliff. I put 150k on it in 6 years before the entire dash stopped working. If you hit it just right, like the Fonz, it would crackle back to life. I gave it another year and sold it for parts and bought my Scion. Anything was bound to be better. Here’s to driving what you love!

  6. Ken

    I have owned a unreliable Honda Accord, that still lasted 13 years and 307,000km. I have a 2004 Passat Wagon with the 1.8T and now my 2 boys share it. I would have gotten another VW Passat, but the new B7 does nothing for me visually. I got a Nissan Maxima instead.

    My experience with my Passat is that it has been very, very reliable. I also tend to hyper-maintain my cars, so this meshes well with VW ownership. The VW is, as you mention, not the right fit for a driver that wants a benign relationship with their car.
    My view is that a VW rewards the owner that reads and respects the owners manual instructions. If you tend to forget or delay routine maintenance, or try to use ‘cheaper’ materials for VW service…get another brand, VW is not for you!

    My B5.5 Passat is still fun to drive, solid and I feel my boys are very safe driving it ~ and they absolutely love it.

    When VW makes a smaller Passat than the Chev Impala (IMHO) looking current B7, I might come back for another. The Jetta is too low end for my ego, despite being closer to the right size.

    Thanks again for your time to make this such an interesting place.

    1. Charles

      I don’t love the current gen Passat. I love love love my B5.5 Passat. She just hit 135k miles.

      You hit it right on the head with the owners book. It is one of the most under used features of a car. Heck I often start with that when I am testing a car. I NEVER try and remember things like programming memory seats. I break out that book and follow it step by step. Wouldn’t ya know, it works almost all the time.

  7. George

    Charles,

    I just ran across Ep 14 while looking for info on my wife’s ’06 Jetta key FOB problem, (hoping for an EZ fix without buying a new one), 14’s topic caught my attention & I watched/listened while I should have been doing something else!

    I’m approaching 63 next month, and have worked on cars since I was about 12-13, (at my uncle’s shop). I’ve worked as an independent mechanic, owned shops and even spent a few years as a GM dealership line mechanic. I’ve worked on just about every brand you can imagine, from soccer mom cars to exotic sports cars.

    You do see trends in reliability, both brand wise and through eras of vehicles. Let’s take GM for instance, early on, (pre-70’s), you could differentiate between Chev, Buick, Pontiac, Olds, etc, and for the most part they were solid, reliable cars. Post ’70’s, they are all ‘GM’ as far as I’m concerned; corporate engines, a mishmash of suspensions, based on ‘types’, (cross brand letter designations).

    I’ve owned a ton of GM’s I just abused; never changing oil, throw pads on when the screeching got too annoying, etc, etc. But hey, I could fix it, &/or drag it home and fix it.

    But I’ve done the same things with Fords, Plymouth/Dodges, Fiats & VW/Porsche’s, though I couldn’t abuse the air cools as much, esp oil changes! And Loctite was my best friend when I owned them.

    Is GM the best car? Ford? Nissan? Toyota? Maybe… what I see you having to battle in perception is something I never had to deal with: the Internet. What I have seen is eras, some manufacturers can make great cars across the board, then really scrw the pooch for 8-10 yrs. All the US manufacturers have done it, and as the foreign manufacturers become more ‘bean counterish’ like the US manu’s, they will, as well.

    I guess I trying to say, I feel your pain when people start saying you are promoting VW. Ignore it, comes with the territory. As long as you are doing what you are doing, the reasonable people in the world will see you are just calling it like you see it.

    FYI, when my wife was forced to take a job in NY to save our house in Oregon from crooked mortgage people, the first car that came to mind when we realized she would need a car, and I wouldn’t be there: VW diesel. We ended up with the a 85k 06 Jetta. It’s been a good car, overall. The dual disk clutch puked at around 110k, the headliner is held up with plastic spring clips from Harbor Freight, (you know, the 22 clips for 5-6 bucks? One of the best things they make, besides their 90 second epoxy. Get some of each, if you don’t use them!)

    Other than that, the car has mechanically been sound, (oh yeah, had to replace the drivers side wiring harness). I just put front pads on at 135k, and need to do the rears before I go back to Oregon.

    You will get a kick out this. When I first drove it, it seemed like there was some turbo lag; it didn’t perform like I had read they did. A few years go by, (and 8-10 trips into various shops), and I come out this spring. First thing, “dear, the car is just not running right.” Wow, she was right, it wouldn’t pull a fat dog off the front porch. No power at RPM under accel.

    I really didn’t have a clue and walked over to a good little independent shop three buildings down from our Long Island apt. “You got time to look at our Jetta, it’s not running, etc, etc”
    Replay: “We are swamped til next week, but check the fuel filter.”

    Off I go to get a filter and our comes the gloves & tools for a bit off beside the hiway repair, (we live on 25a, a state hiway – the friggin’ Indy Speedway by most accounts).

    Now, I have changed a LOT of fuel filters, enough to know they should not resemble a diesel OIL FILTER, but that’s what this looked like! No one had ever thought to put one in at ANY of the shops. Remember the turbo lag? Gone. The Jetta chirps the tires in 1, 2 & 3. A diesel!? Unheard of. I couldn’t do that with my 911.

    Enjoy, and keep at it.

    GeoD

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