Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
62,709 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 Jetta engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Volkswagen Jetta Owner Comments

problem #20

Aug 222014

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 45,423 miles


My water pump failed suddenly while driving, the engine overheat sign lit up. I was in the middle of nowhere. After a painfully long drawn out tow, taxi, rental car, and return to pick up the car 1 week later (drive 200 miles there and then back to do so), the garage which repaired my car indicated that there was a bad "design flaw" to the water pump where it had a plastic part that would commonly fail during the life of the car. They told me that this was a "well-know" problem in the Jetta, many people had experienced & written online about it. They recommended that I install an "after-market" pump with all metal parts so that it would not occur again, which I did. My co-worker who owned a Jetta a few years older than mine (2001?) for 10 years and later traded it in, informed me that she had the exact same problem and in fact had to replace the water pump 3 times during the period she owned the car. I would like to make a complaint about the water pump design in the Volkswagen Jetta. If it had been recalled & fixed prior to my breakdown, I would not have had to endure the whole ordeal I went through.

- Fremont, CA, USA

problem #19

Sep 012012

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
I started experiencing a hot spot in the driver's heated seat in the fall of 2012. I have to put a cushion between my right leg and the seat or it will nearly burn. I have also been having an issue with either the O2 sensor or catalytic converter whenever it rains and it's cool weather. The car will lose power, sputter and lurch until it has been running for a while then it acts normally. Finally, for the past two months the rear door locks will not open with the keyless entry or by hitting the lock/unlock button on the door. I just reached the 100K mark and keep up regular maintenance on my car so I'm a little upset that things like this are happening so early.

- Staunton, VA, USA

problem #18

Mar 292013


  • 100,000 miles
I have noticed a burning crayon smell in my 2003 VW Jetta for a few months. I have had the car detailed and had the dealer clean the ac ducts yet the smell remains - and gets stronger in hot/humid weather days. I see others have listed complaints of the same nature - and the sound deadener material under the carpet seems to be the culprit. I am concerned that this will affect breathing and could be toxic.

- New Rochelle, NY, USA

problem #17

Jan 302012

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 117,529 miles


The drivers side motor mount broke, engine dropped and fell on the axle and broke it.

- Ricmond, VA, USA

problem #16

Feb 112011


  • 61,190 miles
Rattling noise in the engine, oil pump was not pumping oil and camshaft chain tensioner (timing belt) rattling from lack of oil. I was informed I needed to replace engine due to metal particles and carbon in the oil pan.

- Wichita, KS, USA

problem #15

Feb 032010

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 67,491 miles
After taking my 2003 VW Jetta 1.8L turbo to the VW dealership for a broken dipstick and ignition recall, I was told there was sludge in the engine in which the car had under 68,000 miles. The dealership stated it was not under the manufactures warranty and would cost at least $900 to clean out the engine. Upon deciding to take it to a mechanic for a 2nd opinion, the car seized up and ceased to work while driving. The mechanic informed me that the entire engine was blown from the sludge build up when oil changes had been performed at 3,000 mile intervals though the manufactures owners manual stated it only had to be changed every 5,000 miles. The dealership stated there was nothing they could do about it other than for me to purchase a new engine or a rebuilt engine. After having a used engine installed from a salvage yard, I discovered from the car pouring smoke and making a high pitched whining noise. Apparently when the original engine went it also damaged the turbo as a result of sludge build up. I've further discovered after doing some research that this is a common problem to VW cars with 1.8 liter turbo engines from models following 2000. Unfortunately because the turbo is considered an accessory to the engine, the turbo was not covered under the salvage yards engine warranty I just had installed and would require the turbo being replaced as well. The VW dealership informed me that a rebuilt turbo would cost $1700 alone not including small parts and labor after I had already spent $2800 on a used 1.8L turbo engine and small parts and labor. The used engine had 46,000 miles on it so it is highly likely that it will also go due to engine sludge.

- Lakeland, FL, USA

problem #14

Dec 012007


  • 25,000 miles


When I start my car, the engine idles inconsistently and the car shakes or stutters. If I begin driving normally one of two things will happen, either the engine will stall (happening more frequently lately) or the car will continue to have idling problems until it warms up. In the second case, the car will drive normally for about 15 minutes until I come to the first hill. If the car down shifts while going down a hill at lower speeds, the asr light will come on and from this point on the car has a difficult time shifting gears. The shifting is abrupt and the engine does not sound normal. If I stop, turn the engine off and turn it back on the car appears to function normally. To avoid the above problem, I do the following when first starting my car. I start the car, turn on the headlights and rev my engine to about 3000 RPM's. I hold this RPM for about 30-60 seconds and then I notice that the headlights flicker once and become stronger and the engine will then rev up another 500 RPM's on its own. At this point I usually do not experience the asr problem with the car. Problem first started in 2007 and persisted until 2010 when it was finally repaired.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #13

Feb 222010


  • 85,000 miles
2003 VW Jetta: Digital display would shut off when key was removed from ignition. Unable to lock vehicle doors with remote. Vehicle had to be restarted for digital panel to appear (re-set) and for door to lock with remote. Engine would also shut off while at a stop light and while driving on freeway. Possibility to cause a crash. All digital panels still illuminated, key would be locked in ingnition, un-able to turn or be removed until car placed back in park and hand brake pulled up. Issues occured bi-weekly, weekly, and now daily. Vehicle brought to dealership. Was told that ignition switch failed and needed to be replaced. Would have been covered under warranty (warrant just expired last month). After trying to diagnose problem prior to bringing to dealership, I've found on several forums that this is not a new issue/repair for VW customers with the same make and model. Many customers have had similar complaints/experiences, all of which were taken in for repair after warranty expired. Vehicle is only 7 years old and is at approximately 85,000 miles. This vehicle has also had service for the following recalls: Catalytic converter, failed ignition coils, failed rear window/door locks. This car is a lemon!

- Newark , CA, USA

problem #12

Sep 212009


  • 84,342 miles
2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8 turbo, engine failure due to sludge formation.

- Laporte, IN, USA

problem #11

Dec 152008


  • 67,500 miles
2003 VW Jetta - fuse box inside engine compartment melted!

- Sandy, UT, USA

problem #10

Oct 302008


  • 84,000 miles


I have had 27 things break or fail on my 03vw Jetta 1.8T. I bought the car used in 01/06 with 32,000 miles. After buying the car the first five mins the window shattered. First two months 2 tires blew out, front rim cracked, back tires out of alignment. Dealer paid to fix rim broke 2 weeks later the dealer paid fo used set of similar rims. Every light inside and out went out by 05/06 driver seat wont raise up cargo net in trunk falls apart dealer wont cover. Gas and trunk release buttons fell down inside of door. Radio stopped working front door speakers are shorting out. Driver window switch goes up when you push down and down when you push down have to fiddle with it for it to go up. Exhaust hanger broke causing chatter. Swaybar bushing fell out causing grinding and shaking when ever moving. Not cover by warranty all these happened by 05/07. Now its 10/08 and I have 84,000 miles. Current problems are rear spoiler brake light hangs down(dealer just glued it in place lasted about 4 months) cam and crank seals leaking oil cause odor inside of cabin. If I drive for more then an hour I get sick and light-headed. Seat, cargo net in trunk, is still broken. Radio still isn't fixed so I just went and bought an after market. Speakers still shortening out only when its cold out. Keyless entry only works within 4ft of the car. In the winter the car only gets 18mpg on the highway and about 14 in the city and the car is parked in a heated underground garage.

- Eden Prairie, MN, USA

problem #9

May 142008


  • 88,000 miles
My 2003 VW wolfsburg edition Jetta continues to lose power. While I am driving the car will almost stall the power catches and powers back up prior to stalling. The lights interior and exterior go out, the radio turns off, the clock loses power, the engine loses enough power to not accelerate, but still does not stall. The power lose last for a few seconds. The interior lights also flicker. This happens several times every day. So far I have replaced the coolant fans and censor (1st diagnostic from VW dealership), replaced the 2nd coil (2nd diagnostic from VW dealership) replaced the ignition switch (lesueur car co), & replaced the control module (3rd diagnostic lesueur car co) when I picked up my car from lesueur car co I didn't get a mile away when the car lose power again. I bought this 2003 VW Jetta from cardinale way of scottsdale last Sept. (2007) I asked for a bumper to bumper extended warranty at the time of purchase. My car started losing power and when I took it to a mechanic I found out my warranty is not what I asked for. It's just a power/tran warranty which doesn't cover anything! I have spent almost $1300 in the last 2 months trying to fix the power lose problem and no one can figure out exactly what is wrong with my car"!?! everytime it gives a diagnostic error, we fix the error, and the car still continues to lose power! it has been in the shop at least 6 times, twice at a VW certified dealership and the 4 or 5 times at lesueur car co which is the largest non-certified dealership in AZ. I have contacted cardinale way and they are unwilling to help me with this matter. I do not know what to do??" I have 3 more years to pay on a car that no one can fix!! and I can't afford to keep fixing things that aren't the problem either! if there is anything you can do to help it will be very appreciated. Thanks

- Mesa, AZ, USA

problem #8

Jul 012008


  • 90,000 miles
My 2003 VW Jetta has been in the shop more in the past 6 months than in the last 5 years. The latest two problems were; 1) the engine coil (was replaced once by recall) and 2) my fuse box on top of my battery melted. I have spent over $1,500 in the last two months on the car. Was told that only one engine coil was allowed under the recall, and was told the fuse box melting was a common occurrence even though they did not ever find the "real" reason for it to melt.

- Hinsdale, IL, USA

problem #7

Nov 282005


  • 47,423 miles
On March 1, 2004, I purchased and financed a 2003 Jetta tdi from the VW dealership in chico, ca. I began to experience problems with my new vehicle in late November 2005, with mileage at 47399. I suffered intermittent loss of power when accelerating onto the freeway and in traveling up hills. During the loss of power, I also noticed that I could not hear the whine of the turbo and assumed that the problem must be related to my turbo. The chico dealer test drove the car for approximately 25 miles with a scan tool but was unable to verify my complaint. Unfortunately, the problem with the turbo persisted. I brought my car back to the chico dealership on January 7, 2006, with mileage at 50856. Once again, the chico dealer was unable to verify my complaint because their scan tool did not pull a code. The chico dealer stated that they would replace the mass air flow sensor in an attempt to resolve my complaint regarding the loss of power. The mass air flow sensor was replaced by the chico dealer on January 7, 2006. Feeling defeated and frustrated, I suffered through the turbo problem for another year. During this time, I was forced to take extra special precaution when entering the freeway in case my turbo failed to respond upon acceleration. In addition, when I experienced a loss power traveling up-hill, I was forced to utilize my hazard signal and move to either the slow lane or the shoulder of the road to allow other vehicles to pass me. When my turbo failed to respond properly, my vehicle would only travel at a maximum of 45-55 mph when accelerating onto the freeway and 35-45 mph when traveling up-hill. Needless to say, even large semi-trucks passed me traveling up-hill. The problem with my turbo jeopardized my safety and that of my passengers¿ as well as those traveling around us. This has gone on too long without the proper attention to my concerns and I feel unsafe while traveling in my VW.

- Windsor, CA, USA

problem #6

May 112008

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 69,000 miles
I have a piece of junk Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T that is a lemon. At 64,000 miles the fan shorted out and caused some problems to the tune of $800. Then at 70,000 miles the air tubes melted making the car run terrible. That was another $600 dollars to fix. Now at 71000 miles the heating and cooling system stopped working along with other electrical components. I have had it talking to the dealer and constantly writing Volkswagen. There customer service sucks and they do not stand by their products. Thank you, george and laura bogdan

- Duluth, GA, USA

problem #5

Nov 072007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,234 miles
A) 1) drove vehicle for about 2 miles on the morning of 05/21/07 when the failure happened. 2) vehicle lost engine power and vehicle started to vibrate a lot. 3) failed ignition coil #3 was replaced under warranty. B) 1) drove vehicle for about 1 miles on the morning of 11/07/07 when the failure happened. 2) vehicle lost engine power and vehicle started to vibrate a lot. 3) failed ignition coil #4 was replaced.

- Santa Clara, CA, USA

problem #4

Nov 292007

Jetta 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 39,046 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta. On two separate occasions, while driving approximately 30 mph with the accelerator pedal depressed, the vehicle hesitated to accelerate. The contact drove home and had the vehicle towed to the dealer. The dealer stated that the coil inside the cylinder failed and had to be replaced for the second time in one month. The current mileage was 39,890 and failure mileage was 39,046. Updated 03/14/08. The coil pack was replaced

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #3

Jan 012003

Jetta 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles
I have owned a Volkswagen Jetta (turbo - 2003) and have had one horrible problem after another. Without fail, I have taken my vehicle in for random mechanical repairs every few months since purchasing the vehicle. I found out the car was manufactured in Mexico and that VW was aware of how bad their car's manufactured in Mexico were. If that is the case, how can so many car owners with so many mechanical issues continue to sell in this country? I would like to report VW for lackluster performance and for continuing manufacture in an area well known for its below average standards and for continuing to bleed the consumer when it is fully aware of the issue.

- Ashburn, VA, USA

problem #2

May 272007

Jetta 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,000 miles
VW Jetta 2003 oil leakage from oil pan screw according local service guy: Alumin pan and steel screw theard on oil pan loose grip. VW need to recall this.

- Sterling, VA, USA

problem #1

Sep 152003


  • Manual transmission
  • 26,000 miles
The oil pump quit, causing the oil pressure lamp to come on. The vehicle is still under warranty, but since I cannot produce all of the receipts for oil changes since I purchased the vehicle, they will not cover the warranty. The dealer says that the failure was due to oil sludge. I was not informed that I had to keep receipts for oil changes durring the lifetime of the vehicle.

- Waterford, MI, USA

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