Is Volkswagen Reliability a Problem, or Is It Perception

As everyone knows, I work for Volkswagen. While VW has a die hard loyal following, no one can argue that they have earned some negative press over the last 10-12 years. From window regulator issues, ignition coil disasters, and the entire launch of the 2004 Touareg, I don’t blame people for having a negative opinion.

A question came to me from Brandon on the FB page. He asked me to give him my “ABSOLUTE HONEST OPINION” about VW and their car. Here is some of our conversation regarding the issue. You can see the whole conversation here.

Brandon Byron

i want to hear your ABSOLUTE HONEST OPINION, working as a vw mechanic for so many years i have to ask the big question. No matter where you go online almost EVERYONE says they are unreliable, they break after 100K, they are junk, etc. You cant escape the VW hate online. So i am wondering from your perspective as having to fix them, does vw really mass produce cars that are holding together by thread and duct tape or am i just seeing all of the people with a negative experience talking about the cars? I really want to know as im looking to buy a new vw for my first car and I want to make sure i made the right choice. Thanks! 🙂

Humble Mechanic‎Brandon, you have a great question and some pretty legit concerns. I want to give you a better answer than I can at at midnight. I will put something together for you tomorrow. Thanks for liking the page, and I will answer all you questions tomorrow.

Humble Mechanic

Ok Brandon~ Here is my reply
It’s true, VW has earned a bum rap. From the window regulator issues, and the ignition coil disasters to the launch of the 2004 Touareg, there is no shortage of things VW has dropped the ball on.Then you go and read things in forums like VWvortex, and TDIclub. The cars get slayed, the dealers get slayed, the mechanics get slayed. The info is out there, and I have read enough to make me sick.
The truth is,YES VWs break. I have had to fix cars with <10 miles on them. I have had customers get there cars bought back because of issue after issue after issue. Also remember that I see the worst of the worst.Then there is the flip side. The reason that VWvortex, and TDIclub exist is because people LOVE there VWs. If the product was that bad, it would have a hard time earning the following that it has.
Remember, the loudest voices are the people looking to complain. People now have a platform that allows them to tell their story, be it good or bad. Visiting the VW facebook page is a perfect example of that. Here is what they will not tell you. Did they maintain their car? Did they do all of the things that are required on EVERY vehicle to keep it running properly? What are they comparing it to? Is a VW even right for them?
You are looking to buy a DRIVERS car, not a toaster(Toyota). If you want to have a car that runs properly at 100,000 miles, you need to do your part. Proper maintenance is key. Plus everyone needs to understand that things will break. You will need to replace belts, batteries, tires, and brakes. The odds of the check engine light coming on is VERY high!
That is not just VW.If you owned a 1995 Honda Civic, and never had an issue, do not expect your 2012 VW to be the same. not only is it a totally different car, but emissions standards, and government regulations are vastly different. These cars are held to a much higher standard than they were 15-20 years ago.

I think I gave him the answer that he was looking for. I did want to expand a little about his concerns. Like I told Brandon, the loudest voices are the ones that are complaining. All of the social sites have given people a voice that they have not had since small town America.I think its amazing that we have this at our disposal. This does however allow people to complain about any and everything.

There is also the FACT that people are not looking to read about problem free Volkswagens. There were NO searches for any phrase I could think of that basically said VWs were great cars. I must have entered 20 phrases trying to find one. On the other hand ~74,000 people searched for “Volkswagen problems”. What does that mean? Well, before we buy something, we want to research the problems. Or, we have a problem and want to see what issues others are having. Misery loves company right 😉 It pretty much boils down to we want to read about problems, the numbers don’t lie!

Well, I hope that I have answered the question for Brandon and anyone else that might be concerned about cars and the negative thinks we read. What do you guys think? I think Brandon is dead on with his concerns, but just like anything else we need to take the information given and make our own choices.

Oh, don’t miss tomorrow’s post, we will be talking vehicle first aid kits!!! A good friend of mine is a nurse, and she is helping us(me included) build a first aid kit for our car! You can subscribe o the email list so you don’t miss anything!

74 replies
  1. Marshall
    Marshall says:

    Very good article between you and Brandon. It also helped me to understand more about the VW. Hope Brandon joins the Forum if he hasn’t already.

  2. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    My Passat had almost 300,000 miles on it and I still took it on road trips. That’s relieablitlity. It started perfect every time, shifted great, and got over 30mpg on the highway. What else can you ask for? It would still be running today if it didn’t get totaled.

  3. Charles
    Charles says:

    The easiest way to say this is;
    Some cars are junk, it doesn’t matter the brand, or the miles. It is the owners responsibility to do their part. MOST of the time that works out really good. Some times it doesn’t, it sucks to hear, and REALLY sucks when it happens to you.

  4. Garrett Craven
    Garrett Craven says:

    I must say..i love my vw to death. Ive spent much more time and money on it than any other car ive ever owned. Some of it on maintenance and some on mods/customization. It starts right up every time and runs strong with 192,000 miles. AND its not a rust bucket like some other cars from the mid 90’s (honda, toyota etc). Now on the flip side it has had some unusual quirks or “breaks” but has proven its reliability over and over. Since theyre so commonly compared to honda ill share my story on that. I had an ’02 civic (5 years old at the time) with under 100k and the water pump seized the temp skyrocketed and warped, cracked the head. Cost me over 1200 bucks to fix NOT at a dealer! So every car has its flukes or strange brakes. And i think ill choose faulty window regulators over the throttle/brake issue toyota carried

  5. chris
    chris says:

    all you said was that some cars are bad and some are good, and that you recommend taking the chance because VWs are somehow better cars to drive than other brands. doesn’t help. a car with problems will crap out even if properly maintained. on the other hand, a car with good engineering and quality construction will last even if the owner beats on it. people prove that every day. VW has a following because they drive well *when* everything is working, but they don’t have more of a following than any other manufacturer. i think this bad reputation is deserved.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      @Chris, you are not quite right when you say “a car with problems will crap out even if properly maintained”. Perhaps a car MIGHT or CAN crap out, but no one knows if it WILL.

      That being said, I see that from time to time. Not much worse than seeing a car that has been well maintained have some type of catastrophic failure.

      I never claimed that VW has more of a following than other manufacturers. All brands have their fans, and they all have people that will never own another one. For me, I will never own another Ford again. The one I had was a pile of junk. Does that mean that all Fords are junk. NOPE. It just means that I wont own one, and if anyone asks how I feel I will be more than happy to tell them.

      VW has no shortage of people that hate them They are 3rd from the bottom in initial quality for 2011. Not exactly a glowing review is it? Yet people buy new and used VWs every day.

      Would it be a safe guess that you got burned by a VW?

  6. Tom
    Tom says:

    I use too live in the street’s and in fact in my Neon … parked and used it as a home started all the time in a back alley where it was parked and i said too myself as long as the oil is changed and you let it warm up and then go makes a difference from stretching metal wires in the cold winter days if everyone let there cars warm up slowly they wont break …..

  7. Tom
    Tom says:

    Google.. my site Grandizercash … and get my two pages sent too you in the mail you will love the info i send you it will make you feel like a winner …i pulled myself off the street with this info a man in downtown stock exchange gave me at the TSE

  8. wsucram15
    wsucram15 says:

    I looked up an issue today I am having with my VW jetta that I found to be an issue with many, which did not surprise me as I am not a first time VW owner.
    Apparently headliner issues,ignition coil problems and in my prior vehicle a heat shield issue which became a huge issue for me over time, are not exclusive to just me or bad luck.
    I fell in love years ago with the handling during a test drive of a Passat, could not afford the car, but vowed one day I would. When I finally bought my Passat (used), I had been driving it for about two months before it caught on fire, VW even though I did not purchase from them along with my insurance stepped in and repaired the car. I should have sold it immediately, but I loved the car and had no idea how many problems I would encounter from not only the Passat, the long term damage from the fire under the car but from VW repair themselves, who I trusted and will never, ever do so again. The part the replaced under the car fell off while I was driving down the 95 almost killed myself and two other people. I called the dealership..never got a call back, when the company called me about another issue and wanted me to go to a service center and I refused, giving them my story..they not only did nothing about the damages which at that time I believe I sent them, they told me I HAD TO GO TO VW to get my car fixed during recall, which at that point was kind of funny because it was to repair the defective heat shield, that had already been fixed once and fallen off. It was apparent I had serious issues with their mechanical abilities and managerial staff it amazed me under those extreme circumstances no alternatives were offered.
    I finally found a good mechanic who worked with me, we dealt with the issues I THOUGHT I WOULD NEVER BUY A VW AGAIN..EVER!!!
    Test drove everything, tried everything, from trucks to small cars, fast, slow, everything. Nothing had the handling, control, and to be honest, pickup of my Passat. It was hard to trade something in on a “newer model” when nothing new that was even close to my price range was even close..I tried going to Honda, Toyota, subaru, accura..not even close.
    I could not afford the Passat I wanted so I agonized for some time and eventually purchased a Jetta 2.5.
    These cars are made for people who want “great cars with good engineering, affordably” and even since my 2000 Passat the engineering is worse, especially in the thing I liked the most, the steering and how the car handles..which Im told now is completely motorized.
    I guess you cant have great on a budget..but I still like VW’s better than Chevys..although Chevys are much cheaper to fix..
    I like the cars.. I really do but the company needs to do something to satisfy the customers who have legitimate complaints. Their customer service is horrible and I apologize, the service department was just as poor.
    But I have been in a VW while on fire, again, while a part installed by a certified VW dealership repair shop fell off and almost caused serious,serious damage to those in my car and others. The company itself is marketing an affordable car line which is expensive to fix with major mechanical issues..
    Like I said, I loved the vehicle..if you are a devotee be prepared to spend your extra cash in repairs..find a service person who is honest and learn about your car. My neighbor still dives his 1960s bus, its in great shape and he loves it.. Dont let people tell you “you must buy VW parts” but learn about the parts and what they cost, especially if you dont know your mechanic. A VW is an interactive dont just get in and turn the key. Know what you are buying..”Caveat emptor..Caveat emptor”.

  9. Charles
    Charles says:

    Thank you for your comment! I sadly I have heard similar stories. I have seen VW step up and help customers a lot. Then I hear stories like yours. I think a lot has to do with the dealer. A good dealer will go the extra mile for their customers.

    Mostly I am glad no one got hurt. The fact your car caught on fire is crazy.

    Is the headliner on your Jetta falling down now?

  10. Jhon
    Jhon says:

    Toyota sells way more than a lot of auto companies for a reason. Ive Owen 5 toyotas each has been really really really good. I resently I bought a vw Tiguan because i wanted to start having luxury sorta cars and I. Had soo many problems with the car. I couldnt wait till the lease was over to go get a lexus ( wich is in the toyota family) . I onestly don’t think ill ever change car companies in my life

  11. wkonrad
    wkonrad says:

    Do I love VWs? Well let’s just say it’s a love/hate relationship.

    2000 VW PASSAT V6 FWD – Consumer Reports hates this vehicle. I loved it’s low end torque, and 30 mpg/higway not to mention it’s cabin appointments that I have not seen matched by any midsize sedan (not luxury models mind you) to date. At 70K miles the water pump went out leaving me stranded on the highway. Dealer replaced it at no charge due to the number of water pump issues this model had. I traded in the car at 97K miles with no other issues.

    2010 VW TDI Sportwagen – I enjoyed this car as well for it’s low end torque and frugality. It was purchased new and right before 10K service, as I was driving down the highway, the car went into “limp mode” and the Glow Plug light came on. I turned off the car and restarted it and was able to drive to the dealer. The issue was a dirty EGR valve that the mechanic said may require cleaning in the future due to the inherent dirty internals of the CR TDI engine. This got me researching the CR TDI engine on the internet, and I found lots of complaints of high pressure fuel pump failures and DSG mechtronics unit failures. Some of the repairs were not covered under warranty. After reading of all these issues I traded the car at 20K on a 2012 Honda Civic SI. My decision was based partially because I wanted a manual shift, and partially because I didn’t want to think about expensive repairs in the future.

    Are VWs expensive to own and maintain? You bet. Do VWs offer state of the art powertrains that handle and perform well? Absolutely. Do German car companies (I mean all of them) spend more money on R&D than on Quality Control? Obviously, because they continue to make the most fun to drive cars, that offer the latest technology, and will possibly leave you stranded or spending a lot out of pocket after warranty expires.

    I am not thrilled with the latest trends of VW offering “Americanized VWs”, but I understand that the U.S. dollar no longer buys what it used too. Germans make good cars, but they could learn a lot from Japan when it comes to reliablity.

  12. wkonrad
    wkonrad says:

    It’s only okay. The cheapened interior in the 2012 Civic SI is rock hard (door sills and what a joke console rest); the seats feel like sitting on a board, and the engine hangs revs in between shifts ruining the fun of an excellent manual shifter. I guess this is common in recent manual shift cars (not just Honda) in order to pass US emission standards, and is termed Lean Throttle Burn. The stereo is great and controls are easy to use. It’s a fun car to drive for short trips, but long trips (over an hour) with the engine howling at 3K rpm @ 70 mph, and hard seats just seem to make me fell fatigued. I think the GTI would be more comfortable, but it has it’s own issues with leaky rear washer bottles and wind noise off the A pillar (seems to be a common complaint with modern VWs that I don’t remember in the 2000 Passat).

    Why oh why can’t we have a sporty compact sedan/hatchback that blends German handling/innovation with Japanese reliability. I was thinking the Golf GTD would be the perfect blend of practicality, performance (assuming it ever comes to US) and fuel economy. But then again if the HPFP and DSG gremlins haven’t been addressed???

  13. neevers
    neevers says:

    Having owned 3 Honda’s, then after a kid ran a red light and totaled out my 1998 Honda Civic, I went looking for a car, well I fell in love with the Jetta VR6. Huge mistake. I still own that car to this day, only because it’s unsellable, and worth nothing but as a beater car for me, I have since moved on to a far better car for 99% of my driving. The thing is a huge huge piece of crap, and frankly I’m shocked every time it starts up. It’s left me stranded no less than 5 times. I use it for things that might damage my nice car, which BTW isn’t a VW, and I don’t bother test driving them, in fact when I went looking for a new car, I didn’t know what it would be, but I knew it wouldn’t be anything designed in Germany.

    Anyways, today there are other options for a drivers car, better options, better interiors, better handling, and better steering feel, oh and all for a cheaper price, with better electronics packages, that work. AND you don’t have to deal with terrible parts availability, over priced parts, horrible mechanics, and vehicles designed by monkeys.

    My GF has a Mini, designed by BMW, yeah it’s a piece of crap too, I HATE that car, it’s insane, it pisses me off to drive it. I’m never buying anything built or designed by anyone in Europe for the rest of my life. I have an Aprilia motorcycle…. Never again. It has a 16mm x 1.5 oil drain plug, just try to find a crush washer with in 100 miles of your house, I DARE YOU. Yeah I have 25 of them I ordered from the internet. Keeping these stupid vehicles running is a full time job. I like driving, but I like being able to relax and not be frantically trying to find stupid sized parts, and paying 5X as much for them.

    This is just a fool me once fool me twice game. Sure you can buy a VW once, but if you do it again, your a sucker. Same with the Aprilia motorcycle, so I got suckered once, never again. Too bad I really like that V4 they have running now, but it’s just going to be too much trouble for anyone that wants to have a life outside finding weird parts, and consumables for it that cost 4X any comparable motorcycle’s parts. Looks are only skin deep, the price of keeping it running live forever, which is my time.

    I mean sure if you lease, the well BMW is for you, but if you want to own a car that works correctly, then just go Japanese, or dare I say it Ford, yeah I never thought I’d ever think a domestic car was worth owning, but you know what, it’s not a VW, how bad can it be? Honestly I got a new Ford Focus as a rental, seemed pretty nice….. I bet the motor doesn’t blow up the first week you own it either, you like like that POS VR6 did.

  14. argtheannoyedpirate
    argtheannoyedpirate says:

    Interesting article on reliability. I dipped back into VW in 2009 (having owned 7 of them). Basic machinery rock solid. Not a squeak. However, 2 door switches ($500 each, and the car will not lock without them), $500 for an exhaust pressure valve, and $500 for a radio antenna.

    The new antenna just broke. VW says sorry. What difference does it make if there are no squeaks when you have to pay $1,000 for RADIO ANTENNAS????

    I am back off the bandwagen. It is a shame really; they are terrific cars to drive.

    • chris
      chris says:

      I just posted the same story!! 2 door switches and 2 antennas. My exhaust pressure valve cost more and they (eventually) paid for it.

      The car is solid as a rock, not a squeak or rattle and when delivered was literally defect free. None, nada. But then …

      I suspect the suppliers, but it is VW’s name on the thing and I am convinced VoA just doesn’t care about their customers.

  15. infoseeker
    infoseeker says:

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their VW stories, good and bad. I have the opportunity to buy a coworker’s new 2013 GLI for a very reasonable price as he is moving to another continent; and wanted to look for some recent reliability info on VW.

    I currently have a Toyota and my family has had Toyotas in the past. From experience, they have great reliability. I do want a more sporty drive that the GLI should fulfil, but at the same time I might get a FR-S to satisfy this craving along with having reasonable confidence with Toyota (Scion) reliability.

  16. Matt
    Matt says:

    2011 GTI – Has spent a total of 30 days in the shop. Switches, intake manifold, 3 door latches. Third VW my family has owned, and the last vw we will ever own. Other than manufacturer defects and things breaking all the time, it drives great!

  17. Laurence Scroggins
    Laurence Scroggins says:

    It’s funny that Europeans do not have anywhere as near the amount of complaints about their VW’s than Americans do. Maybe its because they don’t have a set it and forget it attitude. I was stationed in Germany for 3 years, and never heard a complaint about a single VW ever. Return to the states and tears are falling from every nook and cranny of the internet. I currently own a 2013 GLI Autobahn w/ DSG, and I bought it because of the way it drives, not because I expect it to outlast nuclear holocaust. I owned a 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo before my VW, and that was the worst car I have ever purchased. Extremely reliable though, just couldn’t track in a straight line to save its life and Hyundai turned a cold shoulder for over 2 years of getting them to admit to their engineering shortfalls. I was never so happy that a car was totaled, not to mention for being a top rated safety pick my whole family was jarred and injured in a 25 mph collision that ended up totaling the vehicle…Hyundai quality at its best right.
    My point is that I purchased a “reliable” car but how reliable was it when it counted…not much at all. Yeah the window regulators worked just fine, and the engine may well have run into the 200k territory with no issues, but overall it was a P.O.S. car with a lot of afterthought engineering. The tiptronic transmission in it was a joke compared to the DSG in my GLI. The “sport” suspension in the Hyundai had more body roll than a tow truck compared to the very well balanced sport and comfort suspension in the GLI. The engine had 70 more horsepower in the Hyundai 2.0T direct injected motor but is sluggish compared to the 2.0TSI in the GLI. Are you getting the picture here. I buy cars for how they drive and how confident I am in them while driving them; thats the safest feature of any vehicle, knowing you can control the vehicle in a bad situation. Americans treat their cars like their kitchen appliances and they wonder why they have problems doing so. A car is a machine, much like an Aircraft (I was an aircraft mechanic for 6 years) Both require care and attention, and any car that can just go without that care and attention will become a death trap eventually; toyota, honda, and hyundai included. VW makes a great car, just not a great car for an American market.

    • Jess King
      Jess King says:

      Came across this forum and I know my reply is WAY after
      your original post, but……

      VWs for sale in USA (like my 1991 8v GTI) are made in
      MEXICO. European VWs are made in Europe. Also, I suspect that the mechanics in Europe (Germany) are better
      because they simply deal with many more VWs than mechanics here in the USA. My GTI has 440K miles on it.
      Original engine and fuel injection. Sure, I have some issues
      from time to time but they get fixed and I keep up on replacing things when it’s time. I’m not sorry I bought it.

      • Charles
        Charles says:

        That’s a good point I didn’t think of.

        Mechanics in Europe, from what I understand, are not paid of flat rate. That does have change the way a mechanic tackles a problem.
        P.S. I want to see pics of your GTI 🙂

  18. Curt
    Curt says:

    Hi there.Hi there to Everyone. I’m certainly seriously thankful I came across your blog. Now i’m wanting to get up to date. I’ve noted this for future reference and desire to participate in future chats. Cheers.

  19. see site now
    see site now says:

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  20. Randy
    Randy says:

    Do VWs offer state of the art powertrains that handle and perform well? Absolutely….LOL, What a joke statement. Over 500,000 DSG Transmission recalls (and counting) and that may cover 75% of them. 2013: 174 problems per 100 cars and it’s rising… (DSG and FIRE issues) VW is junk, End of story.

  21. Christianne Parser
    Christianne Parser says:

    I have a service question and scenario and I would appreciate advice and help. Had my Volkwagen 2012 TDI Jetta serviced about 3 months ago. Last week, I drove about 15 miles parked my car and returned to start my car. The oil light sensor came on immediately, I drove a block to the gas station and it stalled right as I was rolling in the lot. When they lifted it on the flatbed oil came gushing out on the flat bed. Ultimately, the oil plug light came undone and errors are turbo system and the glow light. The dealership I had it towed to is different from the dealership that serviced it. So, I guess they played a whose fault is it and who will repair it game between the managers. Finally, the guys who serviced it are going to repair it. I was advised to get in writing that any further engine problems needs to be checked first, to make sure it has nothing to do with the oil plug not being replaced. Well, this is awkward to ask for and the guy that I am dealing with, so far is acting like he is doing me a favor. My biggest worry is this the start of more engine problems? How should I approach this? Do I get stern with him? It is their fault this happened in the first place. But what should I ask for? Thank you

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      I am really sorry that happened. I have seen it happen a few times. It stinks for everyone involved.

      Just to be clear, the place that serviced it before will be the ones fixing it correct?

      What exactly are they replacing?

      I would recommend getting as much in writing as possible. I would also recommend calling VWofA and let them know about the situation. Not necessarily to just complain, but so they have it on record as well.

      Usually when this happens, the damage is known right away. I have seen cars towed in with no oil and be fine. I have also seen engines and turbos need to be replaced. Sometimes it’s the “luck” of the draw.

      Where are they at in the repair process?

  22. JR
    JR says:

    I am currently considering a Jetta TDI. I have 260k on my 2003 Corolla and have only done oil changes, brakes, etc. during that time. I like the looks of the Jetta and would like to be able to buy a VW without the fear of dumping money into a car weighing on my mind. I drive 75 miles (round trip) for work each day and most of those miles are highway so the diesel makes more sense than the hybrids offered by everyone else.
    On average, what are VW part prices like compared to the Japanese and American car makers?

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      The easy answer is that VW parts are typically more expensive than other car makers. German car parts are almost always more than Japanese car parts.

      Diesels are generally better for your type of driving than Hybrids. Even all that being said, VW TDI is the best diesel car on the market, in my opinion.

      • JR
        JR says:

        As it turns out, my wife’s cousin just bought a Jetta TDI and is giving us updates on facebook. I have considered going the extra couple thousand dollars and getting a Passat. I do my own oil changes, generally, and don’t want the hassel of adding the exhaust additive required for the Passat (and Chevy Cruze). What is that stuff priced like and do you know if it is available at an auto parts store versus the dealer?

  23. AJ
    AJ says:

    Thanks for taking time to give your opinion based on your experiences at VW. I agree that most people search for problems as do I. The reason is that problems cost time and money. I have owned my 08 passat for about six months and based on others experiences, reviews, and opinions I am a bit uneasy about my car’s reliability. I work for the previous owner who meticulously maintained the car until 59k when I purchased it. She sold it because the water pump went out, was replaced under warranty, then went out again after a few weeks. I figured it was a fluke and purchased the car. Now the water pump has gone out again & VW is replacing it today under the parts warranty. First I was quoted $900 but I reminded them it was warrantied. On the call back I was told that they would replace it “this time” under warranty but if I didn’t fix a $5 gasket and an oil separator totaling $500 the new pump would not be under warranty as the “small” oil leaks caused by these parts has caused the water pump to fail. I told the service guy that I was contacting VW America to see if I could get around that and he quickly clarified that he meant that if those items were not fixed and the pump failed again they would not cover it. I opted to fix the supposed oil leaks myself but the parts are $220 alone. I don’t mind doing maintenance but we are talking a well maintained car with 65k. I replaced my diverter valve a few months ago and the car is clean, no leaks. Even if there is a small oil leak, how would that cause a water pump to go bad? Not a good feeling at all. The car is a joy to drive though.

  24. Tim Flowers
    Tim Flowers says:

    I’ve owned 3 VW’s, although nothing recently. A 1985 Golf was constantly in the shop for warranty work due to hard starting and hesitation when accelerating. One time as I was leaving the dealership service center, the car backfired as I was pulling out! Fix it again please. Traded it in for a 1988 Jetta. It was even worse. Hand brake lever, door handles, battery and battery tray, all had to be replaced. This car also had problems with cold starts and eventually the dealer had to remove the head to “de-carb” it. They told me it was because I ran cheap gas in the car, but all it had ever had was Exxon Supreme. The problems went on and on, so I contacted VWofA and they told me a rep would come down to check out my car. No one ever did. I traded it in on a used BMW and it was a fantastic car, but eventually I almost wore it out and decided to try VW once more. I bought a 2000 Jetta turbo. Within a month it was in the shop for various squeaks and rattles, which they would fix would the noise would return in a month or so. In the summer, waxy undercoating would ooze out of the doors onto the rocker panels. Rubberized trim pieces in the interior peeled off. The front suspension groaned in turns. Turning on the A/C would cause sour air to gag me. Window regulators had to be replaced. Most of these were covered under warranty but when the problems continued and the warranty ran out, I bailed. Traded it in on a much older 1989 BMW, which I’m still driving to this day, virtually trouble free.
    Three Volkswagens, three disasters. Never again!

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      Hey Tim,
      I thanks for the comment. You sure did have one hell of a time with VWs! I hate that for ya man. If I had the same experience I would be right there with ya. Glad to hear that your BMWs have been good. I know you are not a VW fan, so sticking around the blog to see some of the disasters I post may be worth it 😉

  25. Ibrahim
    Ibrahim says:

    Agreed with what you said. It really is just people complaining. A great example is the Ford Pinto, great car, ultra reliable. Just a bunch of whiners that makes Ford quality look bad! And we all know they skewed those numbers about reliability!

  26. Brian
    Brian says:

    I am going to be in the market for a new sedan in the near future…am thinking the 2014 Honda Accord manual shift, Mazda 6 manual shift, or just saw the Passat TDI manual shift. From test driving the new Accord, it’s hard to believe any other car could be as perfect. However, I thought I may give the Passat TDI stick shift a try. I know personally of five people who have owned VW and Audi and EACH has been terrible. Is VW improving at all. German engineering is not good and the VW and Audi family are of the worst quality from experiences shared by family and friends and the internet searches as well. I would be TERRIFIED to buy a new Passat and feel like I could trust it. Is it worth the risk?

    • Norman
      Norman says:

      I would trust a TDI more than the best thing that Honda or Toyota could come up with. That’s honestly the only thing that they have so dialed in that it is embarrassing to other car companies.

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      I have been an owner of 3 cars from the vw/Audi family (a 2009 vw tiguan, a 2010 Audi a4, and now, back to a 2011 vw tiguan sel). I will not proclaim to be any sort of an expert on cars, but having previously owned Hondas (great cars), I am a true diehard fan of German engineering after opting to become part of the vw/Audi family. Yes, I will admit there have been problems. Expensive ones I might add. However, as has been mentioned in previous posts, that happens with any car. You must be an informed consumer. German parts tend to be more expensive and repairs can really drain your wallet, but this is something you need to plan for when purchasing a vehicle. If your motive is to buy an inexpensive vehicle, with smaller repair costs, vw/Audi is not for you. However, I must say, I will continue to stay w German engineering because of the thrill of driving these vehicles. My first tiguan had several brake issues requiring that I replace the brakes 3 times before 90k. I also had an issue w my stereo that had to be replaced 5 times (lost 30 cds in the process). I admit I was really let down w my first vw experience. I then purchased the Audi a4. By far the most amazing vehicle I have ever owned. Absolutely ZERO problems. 90k and I never even had to replace the brakes. Unfortunately it was totaled and I opted to go back to the tiguan because I really loved the “large space” in a small suv. So far I’ve had to replace 1 brake and I’m having issues w the p0299 (turbocharged underboost) code that has yet to be determined by the dealership. However, they have been great and haven’t even charged me for diagnostics as they haven’t determined a cause. Yes, I’m unhappy w the situation, but I knew before I bought it that there could be issues and they’d be expensive. The key is to be informed. Additionally, the dealership and it’s employees play a key part in your happiness w a vehicle. Knowing that repairs are simply part of car ownership, it’s important to find a dealer you trust and respect.

  27. Norman
    Norman says:

    I find this subject extremely interesting because I have experienced both worlds of VW. I owned a 2001 VW Jetta and after 133,000 miles it wouldn’t even move out of the shop without a tow truck. I was forced to leave that dealer in the middle of now where with a 2008 VW Passat and have had absolutely no problems with it whatsoever. That was a big relief to me especially after being in and out of the shop with my Jetta at least 1 time a week for 4 months! My Passat now has 70,000 miles on it and I still go wherever I need to and I wouldn’t trust anything more to get me there!

  28. chris
    chris says:

    I have a 2009 TDI wagon. I LOVE this car, but never another. I have spent $4K+ on repairs (in 100K miles). Not on maintenance, on fixing broken stuff. Like two radio antennas ($450 installed, EACH). And VW said, “we never warranty radio antennas.” I must be receiving over-strong signals. Two door latch assemblies (lock status switches failed and so the car would not lock), $500 each. Heater motor and fan, $500. Exhaust temp sensor, come on, let’s hear it… $500. The exhaust pressure door ($740, at least it was not $500!) was finally paid due to EPA action via a check months later.

    Bright spot, the dealer is expensive but they do outstanding work and are totally honest.

    The machine is great, the mechanicals are like a rock, the incidentals are totally incompetent (Mexican suppliers?) and VW is happy to let the customer take it on the chin.

    I wish it were not so …

  29. stp
    stp says:

    Thank you all for your fair opinions on VW’s. I’m looking for and new (for me) 2011 or newer vehicle, and have always liked the way VW looked. I found this website as I was trying to find more info on how easy it is to work on VW, as I like to work on my cars myself. 2012 Golf TDI is what I’m interested in…or should I say was…

    This website has by far the most useful info and after reading for a while I must say that I’m not even going for a test drive…. I do not expect the vehicle to ever break. Trust me I own a 2002 Focus which gave me a lot of trouble over the years but never left me stranded. What I do expect is for a well maintained vehicle not have catastrophic failures whichever make you choose. Too bad for me, I believe and VW are the best looking cars out there…

  30. Cory McDow
    Cory McDow says:

    I have a 2006 fully loaded VW Touareg with 110,000 miles it’s a 4.2 V8 4 cam and has been serviced r put on the Dealer cumputer every 10k and I Change my on oil I run Mobil one super syn hi mileage now the 15 k oil but I used the 10 k till 70 k but I changed it when the temp changed we have 105 summers and it’s humid as hell in ne bama but I d change oil and filter every 6 months r 7 k miles and new canister filter I like the k&n but use pureoillater LOL gold and had set of 255 55 18s last 70k miles but rotated and had balenced every 3 k and run nitrogen in them just put second set on it and had to put new sealed battery under seat heat killed mine that’s been my biggest two probs the Mich tires I put on were 1700 $ but worth it and bat 279 but if you service your car change trans fluid and filter every 50 k and at 70 changed diff frnt and back now I looking how to put my radio code in tomorrow I have xm sat and 11 speaker 12 +1 CD player and I went with e3 plugs last time change every 35 k and my mpg with borla cat backs k&n cold air and the e 3 plugs and 10 mm wires is 25 hwy but you stand in it she ll drink baby but it is the safest nicest car / SUV made bring your Cheyenne on ur BMW x3 r Merc I ll tear you a new one in side LOL make them look like a honda compared and looked wat better mines light green pearl with big wide 18s and I ll drag your jacked up Chevy around I have one with 450 hp and 35s z71 o8 and I ll raise up the VW and it will drag u don tha road and rides like a 550 Merc I rode in a 4 door and fast as hell mine runs 12.9 107 1/4 mile and I think it will run the same at 300k best car anyone that every sat in it has said but I take car of a 50k ride it has to last and I have a friend with VW cumputer and I know cars but can’t put the radio code in well can now read how a min ago, mines never poped a trouble code knock on wood and I m almost 110 k take care of your Cars and say good things if you can’t afford to maintain one don’t buy it hell most 20 year olds can’t change oil and run castrol gtx LOL was great 20 years ago Mobil one!!!! VW Touarg lover baby get some!!! Did I forget the twin turbos and 568 hp oh sorry lol

  31. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    Bottomline… some auto companies produce more reliable cars than others. That’s fact. For example, Toyota produces more reliable cars than Ford. Honda produces more reliable cars than VW. You can’t deny reliability reports on car makers regardless how much emotional investment you have in VW. Anecdotal evidence about VW reliability is just that. It’s not fact considering actually statistics compiled on car makers.

    VW makes great cars that last a long time but have more problems than on average. Other car makers like Volvo and Mercedes are in the same boat. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get a VW lemon. Also doesn’t mean you’ll get a problem free Toyota. However, it’s just *more likely* you’ll get a problem free Toyota or Honda than you would a problem free VW.

    And if it was just maintenance, according to reliability reports, apparently some car owners of certain brands have more difficulty following maintenance schedules than others?

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      I agree with you whole-heartedly. Reliability records don’t lie. Howevever, the anecdotal evidence (as you’ve put it), is a valuable measure when it comes to the overall happiness one may feel in the day to day ownership of any car. Stick to the maintenance schedules, anticipate potential repair costs, and I predict most vw owners would concur, vws are unlike any other vehicle when it comes to the simple enjoyment of driving the car.

      As an update to my previous post, my 2011 tiguan needed to have the turbo completely replaced. A 3000k cost. However, the dealership advised me to contact vw customer care to inform them of my loyalty to the company and to find out whether they may help w the repair cost. Utlimately, vw opted to pay for the entire repair w no out of pocket cost to me…. All as a result of my customer loyalty record. Amazing. Ive since traded the tiguan on a 2014 passat tsi se. Couldn’t be happier!

  32. Brian
    Brian says:

    Have owned many VWs since mid 70s as well as a 69 convertible.
    Have had issues, many listed by others in this forum over the years. Have tried Ford, Jeep, Chrysler, Mazda, Toyota in between and just never satisfied by their ergonomics, performance or just plain lack of ‘personality’. Currently have 2010 Tiguan and one of the first CCs. Only issue between them has been Tiguan’s 2.0T engine carbon buildup, which cost $600 to ‘cure’. CC with 70K miles has been flawless, a hoot to drive and beautiful to look at.

  33. Cari
    Cari says:

    I have a 2002 Jetta TDI with 209k on it. It has only started to give me a slight amount of grief after the 186k mark. That being said, I’ve never been stranded, and after the repairs the car works great. I’m confident that It will be running fine until I purchse a new car in a year or two. I do hear that the newer TDIs have some pretty expensive problems.

  34. Alan
    Alan says:

    Having owned Golf 2000 and Jetta 2013 from new, my opinion is that both cars are great when working fine. They both have unexpected issues much more than the Honda or even Mercedes that we had. But IMO, the #1 problem with VW America/Canada is their shady practices and incompetent technicians.
    Our Golf MK4 went in to be fixed by them many time and they often broke something else with the original issues unresolved. We tried all the local VW, same crappy services. On top of that, they tended to blame us for defects and even asked us never to return after they broke our car. Eventually, I had to fix the Golf myself whenever possible. Just bought the parts from them and watch videos online and fix them properly. It is not rocket science. If an untrained person like new can do it, why couldn’t they do it?
    During the process I also discovered they broken many parts in hidden areas. Some parts were even missing. Now that our Jetta is having Windows issues which are electronic related (Windows refuse to move randomly occasionally), they wanted me to pay for the diagnosis under warranty if they couldn’t find anything. This is just absurd but I am not surprised because I have very low expectation of them. And right, they didn’t find anything because the computer said so. Can they use their own brains? They asked if I wanted the door panels to be removed for inspection, thanks but no thanks because I know they would just screw up my car further.
    I am ok with products with issues if they can fix them, problem solved. We used to have 2 Mercedes and we had 2 local dealerships. One is like VW, shady and incompetent. The other is fast and professional. Their techs always fixed things in one shot, no surprise. Guess why? It was run by the Mercedes headquarter directly. The difference is, all local VW dealerships are franchises which are operated based on $$$ and the results are ugly. IMO, the existing VW business model in N.A. is totally broken and they have nobody but themselves to blame for their sale decline. Well deserve it.

  35. Nia
    Nia says:

    We own 3 cars with the same exact mileage of 135000 miles. A 1999 VW Passat V6, 2007 Toyota Matrix, and 2002 Ford Escape V6. The Toyota Matrix only needed oil/fluid change , filter, battery and tires. The Ford needed CV joint, water pump, Idle sensor, rebuilt engine+transmission + maintenance. The VW had less than 50 miles transmission stopped working due to coffee spill, at 50k Thermostat stuck closed, then Coil pack, cracked coolant tank, abs module, 3 faulty engine coolant sensor, complete lower and upper suspension, vacuum hose leak, starter, bad ground cable, driver window fell off the rail, AC stopped working, heater core clogged, hood cable broke, moon roof slides open on it’s own, motor/transmission mounts, front snub mounts, 3 cracked oil pan for being to close to ground, driver window switch, rear light housing, + usual maintenance. But the VW is the safest car with the lowest fatality rate. I’m a DIY otherwise I would have never purchased a VW.

  36. josh
    josh says:

    My mother in law purchased a 2000 vw jetta with the 2.0 motor when it was three years old and this past year she bought a new car so me and my wife bought the jetta off her. It currently has 350 000km and every button and knob are original right down to the hubcaps. The motor and trans have never been rebuilt this car will not die. Its always been well maintained and it shows! Das Auto

  37. Colin
    Colin says:

    Hi, I’ve been following your blog for about a year now and submitted questions related to the 7 speed dsg found in the hybrid Jetta in the US as well as in most VW group vehicles world wide.

    I own a 2012 1.4 tsi Jetta bought as new and so far these are my issues:

    Smelly aircon after the first four months. Dealer replaced ac filter at cost to me but scent returned months later. I changed the filter myself after and the scent again returned. I plan to replace the filter again but also purchase an ac system antibacterial cleaning spray. Easy fix.

    The passenger ac vent (main one in centre console) is partially stuck open at all times.i heard it’s an easy fix requiring the entire dash trim behind the steering wheel to be removed to access the vent.

    Driver side door does not lock wth the remote button press but the alarm arms when I press lock. The door can be locked by using the physical key.

    Ignition cool issues starting in August 2014 around 40k miles. Replaced them myself. Common problem on VW it seems.

    Mechatronic unit failure in February 2015 after 52k miles. Dealer wanted me to pay for replacement @ US $3500. I refused and argued with the dealer that this issue is common and that it should be replaced under goodwill as I was out of warranty after 2 years. Dealer replaces under goodwill after I stand my ground considering that Vw just imitated a world wide recall on mechatronic units at the time in this transmission.

    April 2015 got the car back from the dealer and was told that the waterpump was leaking. Was quoted US $1500 for the pump and $500 labour. I ordered a pump off eBay for US $200 and got it replaced by a VW specialist instead.

    August 2015 my roof headliner dropped in the back by the passenger light above the back seat. This is a common problem I researched that happens in hot humid climates such as in the Caribbean and Florida. I haven’t fixed this yet but I plan to get the roof headliner reupholstered using a different glue.

    Radiator leak now in December 2015 that requires me to add coolant every 35 min of driving as that’s when the low coolant alarm comes on. No overheating and I drive conservatively. Dealer price for radiator is US $600. I have ordered one off eBay for US $150 and I’m awaiting its arrival.

    I ABSOLUTELY loved this car up until the radiator issue. It drives like no other within its price bracket amongst new vehicles and regularly keeps up with cars double its price with respect to performance. The radiator is the last straw. The car is doing 61000 miles. If I’m going to have these types of issues in a new car it might as well be faster so the plan is to sell and get a used EVO X. Manual. I love VW but it feels like they do parts testing via the customers. Almost every Jetta owner I speak to here has had their mechatronic unit replaced but that will not be captured in surveys because we don’t have that here for cars.

    I learned a lot owning this car as a first purchase. VW group has VERY impressive tech and information databases for you to fix everything yourself and just learn about why they used certain technology types. I am an enthusiast and even I find the issues are too much so worst yet for those who are not car enthusiasts but deal with the same issues.

    I am going to fix all the problems with my car so the next owner gets a healthy car but this reliability issue makes me upset.

  38. joe
    joe says:

    ugh, what don’t you just like at Consumer Reports reliability data? VW has been below average for many, many years (1.3 million drivers a year can’t be wrong)!

  39. payday loan
    payday loan says:

    Thanks for another informative web site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I’m just now working on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

  40. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hey Charles, major fan of your videos, learned a LOT about my VW GTI ’08 and did a lot of repairs with your guidance, thanks again!

    Although I am a self admitted VW nut, and leaned to be a gear head by doing these repairs from kind folks like Charles and Paul (, I believe that there still are problems with Volkswagens that have nothing to do with proper maintinence that cause very expensive repairs after 60k, even in the GTI line which has been made in Germany up until the MK6.

    In the ’06-08s, they had a cam follower issue that would literally nuke the high pressure fuel pump and cam, causing a $2000 repair. I only learned about this after watching Charles videos, and the checked the cam follower on my gti. Sure enough, it had a hole in it. No recall from VW, no technical service bulletin recommending everyone get it changed, every VW dealer I visited for the 20k checkup never said a word about it. What kind of crap service is that when a vehicle has a known fault?

    In the ’09 GTI, they switched to a new engine to fix this, cool. However they have their own issue of a failing ABS sensor which is another $2000 repair, typically happens after 90k. Just search the enthusiast forums and you’ll see hundreds of threads about this.

    As much as I love driving my GTI, and it has never left me stranded, I just don’t think the word “reliable” comes to mind with the above issues. Fun, sporty, affordable german engineering, easy to mod, great community, amazing interiors, class, sure. But reliable, nope.

  41. jesse
    jesse says:

    nay, vw.s are cool, only thing is ya need a thick wallet, because there’s little for the shade tree mechanic can do to these computerized buggys.

  42. Steve
    Steve says:

    I have a 2013 Beetle TDI with 24K miles. It has been solid; no problems at all. It is fun to drive and the torque is great. We have a lot of steep hills in the area and it zooms right up with ease. Unfortunately, I will take the buy-back soon, and will give it up. Wonder if I should buy a gas one.

  43. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    You call a Toyota a toaster? I don’t get it. I guess this is what they get from “enthusiasts” for building the best cars in the world for 40 years. A VW is a piece of crap, and anybody that pays attention knows that. I’d trust a Toyota to go 300k before I’d trust a VW to go 100k. There’s no comparison. Toaster? ?

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      No denying that Toyota makes amazing quality cars. But to me the are just like an appliance that has one just.

      I don’t like how they drive or the feel of the car. To me they lack a personality.

      That’s just my view. 🙂

      • Metlar
        Metlar says:

        Completely agree. You can mistake a Toyota for almost anything. You won’t mistake a vw for anything. Whether it be aesthetics or performance. I own a 2016 s4 and a 2014 tsi Passat. I’ve owned vws and audis all my life. Two Tiguans, and an a4. They weren’t without their faults. However, most cars are. You have to know what you’re what you’re paying for. If you want a toaster. You’ll get a toaster. Reliable, rusty, outdated in 3 months in comparison to the others on the market and cheap. But if you want a convection oven, you get a vw. Far prettier. Far more high tech. Far more sensitive. Far more capable of meeting the needs of the consumer. May cost more to fix as there are more parts to attend to, but it’s worth it.

    • Metlar
      Metlar says:

      Maybe I missed it, but is there a reason, in particular, that you’re on a vw chat if you’re a Toyota lover? My guess would be that, even given the aforemorementioned problems, in addition to others mentioned in the news, vw still surpassed Toyota in top car brands. More specifically: Audi is number 1 in consumer reports and vw beat Toyota to become the worlds biggest carmaker.
      As mentioned in earlier posts, every car company has their fandom. It’s apparent you’re part of the Toyota fandom. So why not join a Toyota chat?

  44. Mikey
    Mikey says:

    I bought a 1 owner Passat with 137k last June, and it has easily cost twice the purchase price in repairs. Clutch, timing chain tensioners, radiator, recurrent oil leaks (still unresolved), trunk that wouldn’t close then wouldn’t open, rear door that wouldn’t open (twice), brake hardware, minor suspension, heater core blockage, undiagnosable rough idle and hesitation, I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. The flex pipes are now starting to look ragged.

    It appears the previous owner maintained the car, with a few exceptions (e.g. just changed out a 7 year old fuel filter). I have gone to well-regarded mechanics who are fixing things, hoping not to need to dig deeper. There are no short cuts on these cars.

    Spending money to restore is one thing; repairs that don’t last are another. Parts are buried in the worst places, and there’s no room to work.

    When right, the car is great. High speed handling and performance with the V6 5-speed are amazing. The body never rusted, and the original paint still looks about a B+. And no denying the car is great looking in a restrained way, especially from the side view. The interior is classy, but narrow for a mid-size, and interior storage is almost non-existent. The controls are anything but simple to operate (things we take for granted on American and Asian cars).

    The resale value reflects these issues, and makes the investment dubious at best.

    I would rather drive a Passat than a Camry, Altima, or Malibu, but not when I’m struggling to get the bills and mortgage in on time.

    The cars do last. Very unreliable cars can wear away at you, but keep running.

    I say never again, but now I see dealers selling new VW Passats for $17.5k, and Jettas for $2K less.

    Not sure I would trust any older European car, regardless of the make/model. Unless you are a mechanic, have a friend in the vw repair business, and other cars to drive…… don’t just walk away, run!

  45. James
    James says:

    Hey my name is James and I’ve been thinking of buying a 2015 VW Jetta 1.8 SE(non-diesel version), I am 20 years old. I’ve been looking up on Google “reliability of Jetta” (the type I want) and it says they’re great. I really need feedback though of this. I can do practically all regular maintenence.

  46. Luke
    Luke says:

    I hear a lot about this online, so let me clear some things up.
    I’m not a mechanic, but I drive these vans a lot, 100000 miles a year.
    And out of the last 6 vans i have owned, the Volkswagen crafter has been by far the most superior.
    It is now on 180000 miles, and it has had no major surgery at all.
    That’s not a fluke that’s a long way.
    The previous sprinter I owned, was in the shop every 3 months, it had a new engine after 100000 mile, new turbo, and constant failure of peripherals.
    Although it was a wonderful van to drive.
    I’ve owned a few iveko, which seemed to hold out a little better than the transit, bad fuel economy, sluggish awkward around town, but the engines do go for a long time, I retired 1 at 330000 mile.
    And the transit what can I say, most if not all people on the internet seem to think they’re a wonderful vehicle, but from my own personal experience, I wouldn’t touch one with a barge pole.
    Looks great drives better, made of Meccano and bean tins. I will only be using volkswagen’s from now on.

  47. gabriel
    gabriel says:

    I wanted to add my 3 cents. I earn my living as a mechanic, not brand specific, I work on everything. That being said, Vw seems to have an affinity for things designed to fail. aluminum fasteners, brittle plastic hoses and bits all over the engine, and high pressure fuel pumps that eat cam followers in 6000 miles. dont get me started on the brackets, all the extra little bits that serve no real purpose but to get in the way, and make service more difficult. I love what I do, but when I see a work order for a vw on my desk, I want to quit. just the truth. volkswagen is garbage in my humble opinion.

  48. Robert
    Robert says:

    They are horrible. Ive been getting all vw models in my shop with 30000 miles or so with coolant issues interior falling apart. Etc. That stupid lugnut design that the wheels falls on your damn foot every time you try to take them off. Have to use a scanner to reset a simple maintenance light. Every one almost has some sort of splash shield thats a pain to remove to do a simple oil change. When we hang one on the hook everyone runs from them.


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