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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
61,667 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Volkswagen Beetle transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Volkswagen Beetle Owner Comments (Page 3 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #45

Sep 152010


  • 91,000 miles


I bought a used 2003 VW Beetle conv. In 2006. I immediately reported to the service dept. That it there was some jerking happening when the car changed gears and they told me that this was normal for VW. Recently the jerking got really bad, and almost caused an accident because the transmission hesitated in the middle of an intersection and then I could not regain any speed. I was very close to being hit by an oncoming car. The replacement cost will be around 5800. My mechanic talked to VW and they told him they were aware of the problem and have fixed it in the newer models.

- Dupont, WA, USA

problem #44

Sep 062010


  • 78,248 miles
I've been driving my 2003 Beetle convertible for 7.5 yrs. Been taking it in for the last 2 yrs about hesitation/grabbing while driving. Was told that they couldn't find any problems. This week, the engine light comes on and I get the diagnostics run and found out I have transmission problems. And it's been going on for a while, which is what the grabbing and hesitation is. I only have 78K miles on a nearly 8 year old car (again, only owner) and shouldn't have this issue. Found out that VW has known about these issues with the transmission but waited until I was well out of warranty. Now I'm looking at minimum of $5K, most likely $6.5K in repairs.

- Warrenville, IL, USA

problem #43

Sep 072010


  • 83,000 miles
2003 VW bug stalls when hitting around 35 miles per hour, almost was rear ended - takes a while to start back moving but is sluggish. Took it to the mechanic and he said it was the transmission. I only have 80,000 miles on this car - how could this be the transmission.

- Tallahassee, FL, USA

problem #42

Sep 032010


  • 103,600 miles


Overheat light remains on after replacing thermostat and cover and timing belt and water pump. The system has been flushed multiple times. I took it to the VW dealer that I purchased the car from on 8/25/10 after overheating light. The dealer said it was the engine coolant sensor my previous mechanic had replaced in the car. (a VW factory part). $244 repair from cooley-Mazda VW dealer. I drove home 10 miles and the overheat sensor was on in my car. I had the car towed back to dealer at my expense that day. Rented a car for the weekend. Returned on Monday 8/30/10. Car wasn't worked on. Picked up car on Wednesday, 9/1/10. Paid additional $170 for repair, of thermostat cover which was said to be leaking. Dealer had said there were no leaks prior to this. System flushed. Said there was air in the system. Car overheat sensor after driving about 20 miles. Car was towed back to dealer. Car was picked up on 9/3/10. Dealer told me they could not get the overheat light to go on. I drove car home 15 miles. Overheat light on. I called dealer. Service technician informed me that the increased city driving I was doing was causing car to overheat. Informed that the transmission was causing the car to overheat and that I would need a new transmission. He informed me that since I said okay at the shop when they told me that the sensor was not going on and the transmission was slipping. That I knew that the transmission needed to be replaced. That is my fault and my prior mechanics. I had car towed to a recommended independent shop who was going to look at the transmission. I can not drive my car and I still owe money on it. I desperately need a vehicle to drive.

- Pittsfield, MA, USA

problem #41

Aug 272010


  • 56,000 miles
2003 new VW Beetle transmission issues. Please look into this.... look on the VW forums and edmunds- there are 100S of complaints on this cars issues. I have a 2003 VW Beetle convertible and it hard shifts downwards from 3rd to 2nd. I am told by the service advisor off the record that this is a problem with Beetles in general, and he has seen over 100 in his one year with the company that need to be replaced. Mine has what many people have reported- brackets around all the drives (P, R, N, D, S) so the transmission does not know what gear it is in, it gets stuck in 3rd sometimes and I have to pull over to shut it off and restart it, and when it downshifts, the car jerks and pushes my head forward (this is an automatic, and does not downshift properly). Please investigate and recall....please please please. It is a very common problem, and we as consumers should not have to purchase new transmissions when there is obvious faults with these cars.

- Dacula, GA, USA

problem #40

Aug 252010

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 96,000 miles
2003 Volkswagen Beetle transmission. The cost to fix this problem with the Beetle is way out of line. An Volkswagen should have to fix the problem. With all the other hard working people that has had the same part to break. Please look at this and do something.

- Elizabethton, TN, USA

problem #39

Jul 162010

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 87,935 miles


VW bug 2003, 87,000 miles, original owner. Transmission shifting rough. Dealer said we needed to have the "valve body" checked ($1413). If this wasn't the problem would need to replace the transmission ($5761). I do not understand why it costs so much before we even know if the transmission is bad, or why the transmission is going on such a relatively young car.

- Dublin, OH, USA

problem #38

May 102010


  • 78,500 miles
2003 Volkswagen new Beetle convertible 6sp. Tiprtonic transmission needs replaced at 78,500 miles. I pulled out of a parking lot and onto the road and the car accelerated like it was supposed, shifter through first, second, and third, then never shifted to fourth just revved. Was told transmission need to be replaced and quoted $4,800 by mechanic. Have been doing research about this topic since and have discovered several others in the same situation. I feel Volkswagen should at least help us out. I contacted Volkswagen on May 12th and was told basically they would do nothing about it. With everything I have seen on discussion forums about this particular transmission, I feel a recall may be in order to force Volkswagen to look at the issue. Thanks you for time and consideration on this matter.

- Ironton, OH, USA

problem #37

Apr 152010


  • 40,000 miles
Transmission will not shift out third gear, triptrontic automatic, leak in trunk, top will not go up.

- Piketon, OH, USA

problem #36

Apr 152010


  • 118,000 miles
2003 VW Beetle, transmission control module...original owner, regular servicing, completed. Automatic 6 speed sport shift. Runs fine when the car is cold. Drive 10 miles or so an the car starts to jerk and fails to shift into 4th gear. Yesterday got stuck in 3rd gear while on hwy, created a danger for me and others on the road. Took it to a trany place, not the transmission, but suggests it is the transmission control module, which is located under the dash on passenger side. When the car fails to shift the rpms go to 5K or 6K then the car jerks and tires screech, I called VW and the parts guy said that a new trany runs7 K or so and he is aware of the problem as I described it above.

- Kinsale, VA, USA

problem #35

Apr 262010


  • 55,000 miles


Transmission problem in 2003 VW Beetle. While braking car jerks and jumps. Car has 56K miles and has been consistently serviced by VW. VW states car needs new valve body and tiptronix switch totaling $2500+.

- Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #34

Mar 082010


  • 45,000 miles
Transmission on the VW new Beetles are faulty. Cars should last more than 45,000 miles before the transmission goes. This has been a documented problem on website forums like and I hope that you can do something about it.

- Williamsport, PA, USA

problem #33

Jan 012010


  • 70,134 miles
Normal driving with recommended service intervals. Transmission starts hard downshifts. Transmission will also wind out and slip or wind out and not shift into 5th and 6th gear.

- Gilbert, AZ, USA

problem #32

Jan 082010


  • 75,000 miles
My 2003 was serviced at the dealership and certified mechanics. I only have 75,000 miles on my 2003 new Beetle convertible and the transmission has failed. I have since found many of the same year car with the identical complaint of the transmission failing.

- Los Gatos, CA, USA

problem #31

Mar 102010


  • 62,000 miles
2003 VW Beetle convertible has transmission problems that are a safety issue that VW of America does not want to do anything about. Car hesitates after stop with transmission jerking and causing cars behind VW to almost rearend VW. Transmission jerks when shifting between 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears causing front drive tires and steering tires to lose grip on pavement. This happens after car warms up (approximately 15 minutes). This is a large safety issue. If the car jerks when in a turn it will crash! my fiancee drives this car and I am concerned for her safety and anyone else driving near this car. This is a common issue with the 6-speed transmission that VW knows about but disavows any responsibility for. Can my government help the VW owners" will you do your job and forcee a safety recall onto VW of America or will more owners have to be injured or die for any concern to be shown" VW just says they want to replace transmission at over $6000. The whole car is worth just $8000.

- Athens, GA, USA

problem #30

Feb 012010

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 39,000 miles
Purchased 2003 new Beetle convertible in June 2003. I am the only owner of the vehicle. The car had approx. 69 miles on it when I bought it. The car now has 39,038 miles as of this writing. Within the last month (when the car turned over to 39,000), I have been experiencing major transmission issues. Starting from a complete stop, accelerating, the car will not shift into 1st gear. Instead, the transmission grinds & then jumps (lurches) forward, causing the tires to screech. When the car lurches forward, there have been a few times when it jumped so as to almost hit the car in front of me. The problem is intermittent & seems to occur once I have driven the car for 10 miles or more. There is no rhyme or reason for this problem, & I cannot predict when or where it will happen. I would say that it happens frequently. I have read on line that many people with this make/model/year of car have experienced this problem. Some people have indicated that an accident was barely avoided - - same scenario that I am complaining of in this complaint. My question - why is Volkswagen not recalling this car for the transmission issues before someone is injured by this unexpected lurching problem. Like the Toyota accelerator problem of recent weeks, injuries could be prevented if the car manufacturer would take responsibility for this problem. I am unable to afford to repair my car & have an ad on craigs list fully disclosing the problem I am experiencing. Hopefully, I will be able to sell the car to someone who can afford the $4,000+ repair to replace/repair the transmission. [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #29

Jan 142010


  • 73,000 miles
The transmission bang into gear sometime and gets stuck in gear between 3th and 4th. You never know when it going to happen, when accelerating on to the interstate it can be dangerous.

- Hanover, PA, USA

problem #28

Feb 272010


  • 74,000 miles
2003 Volkswagen Beetle convertible. Car only has 74K miles on it and the transmission is slipping badly. When downshifting it shifts really hard and lunges forward. This also happens when upshifting in the auto trans. This seems to be a big problem with the new Beetles. The only fix is replacing the transmission, which cost about 6,000. There is no reason for a transmission failure at 74K miles.

- Abilene, TX, USA

problem #27

Jul 152009


  • 95,000 miles
I have 2003 Volkswagen new Beetle and the transmission has gone bad once already and was replaced by a new one...but the tranny has gone bad again just after 35,000 miles after the new tranny was replaced...its really scary driving that car because you never know when its going to runs well for a while then it just starts skipping gears...we have change the tranny fluid about 3 times and nothing has worked out...its going to cost me $1,700 to fix....I think VW should have a recall on new Beetles to replace the transmissions...

- Santa Ana, CA, USA

problem #26

Feb 072010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,335 miles
2003 VW new Beetle convertible has a transmission flaw which results in jerky shifting between 2nd and 3rd gear causing whiplash to the driver as well as a hesitation (and high engine revving) shifting into 5th gear. This is an automatic transmission with some kind of shifting control problem. The transmission works fine when it is cool (first start driving) but gets worse as the car warms up. After 15 miles the transmission shifting is very jerky and unsettling. There is a hesitation and then a very hard clanking sound when shifting from park to reverse and neutral to drive. Highway driving is very dangerous due to hesitation between gears 4 and 5 at around 60 miles per hour. City street driving is dangerous due to the jerky shift into 3rd gear at around 20 miles per hour. This is happening 1 day after having the car in the VW shop for 4 days having the tiptronic gear shift control module replaced to address the problem. This condition has been happening to a lesser degree for several years. The car has had the transmission checked 4 times in 5 years to address the rough shifting condition. The VW dealers\service people report the transmission is operating as designed. The automatic transmission is not designed to jerk roughly between gears nor to hesitate between upper gears. Any hesitation at 55 to 60 mphs shifting from 4th to 5th gear (similar to pushing in the clutch but not shifting gears in a manual tranny) can result in someone running into teh rear end of the car. In a small vehicle like the Beetle, a rear end collision at 60 mph can result is flipping the car and deaths. Please take action against VW America to address and resolve this unsafe condition. Thank you.

- San Jose, CA, USA

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