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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 9
Injuries / Deaths:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
54,214 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 Passat engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 3 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #21

Sep 122007


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


2003 volkswagon passet caught fire went from engine compartment, the instrument-panel area and on the underside of the cars near the catalytic converter and along the passenger side of vehicle.

- Valencia, CA, USA

problem #20

Aug 052007

Passat 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat wagon. The vehicle caught fire under the hood while it was parked. The fire destroyed the vehicle. There were no warning indicator lights present prior to the fire. There is a fire report available; however, the fire department was unable determine the cause of the fire. The contact has photos and a video tape. The manufacturer had an investigator inspect the vehicle to determine the cause of fire. The failure and current mileages were 57,000.

- Ashland , MA, USA

problem #19

Aug 012006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 47,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving 65 mph or attempting to stop, the vehicle loses power and shuts off without warning. The vehicle was taken to the dealer several times and the speed sensor was replaced. However, the vehicle continues to shut off. The contact stated that the brake lights also malfunction and the electrical switch was replaced. The vehicle is currently at the dealer and they are unable to determine the cause of failure. The vehicle's warranty has been charged for each replacement. The current mileage was 57,006 and failure mileage was 47,000.

- Hillsboro, OR, USA

problem #18

Jun 292007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 35,000 miles


Driver was on daily commute to work, stopped at an intersection. A loud bang was heard by the driver and when the driver exited the car to see what had happened, a bystander immediately yelled toward the driver to warn them that the car was on fire. Driver was able to make it out of car safely, with minor injuries incurred as a result of trying to put out the fire. The fire itself was limited to the engine compartment, however as a result the entire engine and engine compartment were destroyed and the car was considered a total loss by insurance. Since the defective component(s) and surrounding area involved in the defect were completely destroyed, there was no parts to repair or replace.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #17

Jul 132007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles
Oil sludge build up. Stop engine light came on. Immediately took car to dealership and learned that it was an oil pressure issue to sludge. Volkswagen had issued an extended warranty. However, they requireed complete records which most people did not keep. There were numerous complaints with regard to this issue. Wondering why a recall has not been imposed given the expense to consumer's for something that was obviously a manufacturer's defect. Consumer protection should be first priority.

- Oceanside, CA, USA

problem #16

Jan 222006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,500 miles
I financed a 03 Passat gls 1.8T in Jan of 05 a year later it stopped running. When I took it to the dealer it was oil sludge. The engine has a warranty for sludge for unlimited mileage for 8yrs. The car needed a new engine due to the sludge. VW refused to replace the engine stating that I did not have enough proof of maintenance done to the vehicle. Which statement is false. The vehicle had all maintenance done in the time that corresponded, I had proof of them which I submitted. Therefore I have spent 4 months making payments towards a vehicle that can not be used. Now I had no choice but to replace the engine myself since VW refused to solve the situation.

- Richmond Hill, NY, USA

problem #15

Nov 112006


  • miles


Owner was driving Volkswagen when it started to hesitate and the engine caught on fire. Fire burned most severely in center rear and right side of the compartment.

- Seekonk, MA, USA

problem #14

Jun 012003


  • miles
Owner was driving the Volkswagen and smelled a weird odor, so he pulled over to the side of the road. He opened the hood and looked toward the back of the engine and observed smoke and smelled something burning. He stated he observed fire from the bottom part of a wire harness. A subsequent examination revealed the spark plugs showed a slightly rich fuel/air mixture in the cylinders, resulting in possible overheated exhaust components. Cause of fire undetermined.

- Seekonk, MA, USA

problem #13

Dec 112006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles
: the contact stated while driving 65 mph on the highway, an oil pressure warning light illuminated. The contact pulled over to the side of the road. The vehicle was towed to the dealer, who determined the oil pump needed to be replaced, and failed due to maintenance negligence. The manufacturer was alerted.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #12

May 302006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70 miles
VW Passat 2003 62,000 miles with oil pressure "stop driving" light at 70 mph. Car stopped and towed to dealer. Told by dealer that this was an engine sludge issue which was a very common problem with this car. Still awaiting engine analysis. Was told engine could have potentially seized if I did not stop driving.

- Framingham, MA, USA

problem #11

Jul 102005

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles


2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated the vehicle stalled at highway speeds. There was no warning lights that came on before this occurred. The vehicle was pulled over, and it started up immediately. The vehicle was taken to the dealership, and they had it for 77 days. The vehicle was returned to the contact twice. The dealership replaced a coil pack, spark plugs, and four brake light bulbs. The dealership told the contact the vehicle was ready, he picked it up and drove 3 miles and the vehicle stalled. He immediately took the vehicle back to the dealership. They contacted technical support, who told the dealership to check for the electrical grounds. The dealership then took the vehicle on a test drive and it stalled again. The factory service engineers said to put every electrical wire on the car through an ohm test. All of the wires checked out, and no out of tolerance ratings were found. They told the dealership to check the ignition key adaptation, and the security system for proper function. No problems were found. They found nothing definitive at that point. The technician told the dealership to replace the engine wire harness that was replaced August 8, 2005. The vehicle was then picked up on August 10, 2005. The contact went on vacation, and 175 miles later the vehicle stalled again on the interstate. The vehicle was taken back to the dealership; they found 20 fault codes in the engine computer. They replaced the vacuum pump on August 25, 2005. They road tested it and it stalled. The contact was trying to get Volkswagen to take the vehicle back. The vehicle is still at the dealership, and they are still working on it. The dealership is now going to replace cylinder heads. It was finally determined that the fuel pump relay was the problem and the reason why the dealer could not determine the problem the first seven times was because they were relying on the computer to display codes. Updated 01/11/06.

- Ledgewood, NJ, USA

problem #10

May 132004


  • miles
2003 Volkswagen Passat consumer request for early termination of the lease.** answer required***. the consumer made the request due to the numerous mechanical problems such as a defective purge valve, right front head light, the vehicle overheated and started T O smoke due to a faulty water pump. The brake light would not shut off and the right head light went out for the second time. The brake light switch was replaced. The cruise control would not disengage. The vehicle would not start at times.

- Kensington, CT, USA

problem #9

Jun 012005

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Have had nothing but problems with this lemon. * 500 miles cruise control fails, has to be replaced. * 16,000 miles ignition coil fails, replaced coil and mass air flow sensor. * 28,000 miles fan in dash diagnosed as faulty and needing to be replaced. Parts ordered, never installed. * 40,000 miles oil pump and oil hoses are replaced due to oil pressure failures. Car broke down on road. * 44,159 miles oil pressure switch replaced due to oil pressure failures. * 46,000 miles fuel pump failure, replaced under warranty. Car broke down on road. Volkswagen has a problem with these cars and "oil sludge". VW refuses to fix my car under warranty. Last word was "we reserve the right to refuse any warrany claim, regardless of documentation of oil changes." I've talked to several dealerships and it's a #1 problem with these cars comming in for ruined engines and oil sludge. VW is refusing to pay for fixing the problems in most cases. I've got all documentation, original paperwork when purchased, etc.

- Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

problem #8

May 012005

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles
I have a 2003 volkswagon passot 1.8 turbo and I have had it at the volkswagon dealership 3 times in the past 6 months and it is still there.the light in the car saying stop oil pressure low kept coming on so we had it towed to the dealership now for the second time.and they were the last ones to change the oil. They are refusing to fix the car under warranty. They say I need a new engine because of oil sludge on the engine.I have provided them with all the reciepts stating the car was properly maintained. And they are still refusing to cover it under warranty. They told me there is no other recourse. I don't feel I should have to put out the expense for something that seems to be a problem with this make and model. Please help.

- Loxahatchee, FL, USA

problem #7

Oct 012004

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
Engine sludge in 2003 VW Passat. Engine is shot. VW customer service agent told me he personally gets 3 to 5 calls a day on this issue. VW won't pay unless you produce every service receipt. VW dealers via VW directive now only use synthetic oil for oil changes on the 1.8 liter Passat engine. Its a Passat not a ferrari. This is clearly an indication of a design flaw.

- East Brunswick, NJ, USA

problem #6

Aug 262004


  • miles
The vehicle's engine oil pressure warning light illuminated occasionally.

- Greenville, NC, USA

problem #5

Oct 072004

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles
The vehicle 1.8L engine sized while driving 60 mph. Vehicle was tow to the dealer. Dealer informed the consumer that the cause of the problem was engine sludge build up.

- Bay Shore, NY, USA

problem #4

Sep 292003

Passat 4-cyl

  • miles
Problems with engine shut down on 2003 Volkswagen Passat. There was a problem with the odometer reading. The ecp light would constantly come on, the engine would go out intermittently, and there was rough idling.

- Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

problem #3

Jun 242004

Passat 6-cyl

  • 86,000 miles
While driving at low speeds, the vehicle stalled. The dealership informed the consumer that the problem pertained to the engine cylinder. The vehicle stalled at the stop sign 3-4 times. The ignition coil was replaced but the vehicle stalled the next day. The vehicle was towed and the ec module/fuel pump relay was replaced.

- Rockville, MD, USA

problem #2

May 282004

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 9,500 miles
2003 Passat with 1.8T engine. Driving in heavy rain on nieghborhood streets, came to standing water (approx 2 inches deep), witnessed other passenger cars passing through water and proceeded at approx 2-3 mph, car stalls and will not start, car towed to dealer where purchased, told a rod was thrown through the engine block due to water (approx 3 gal.) in the engine block, was told water gained entry via air intake vents at the bottom (fender level) of the engine, was told to file claim with insurance company. Presently waiting for appraiser's report. Vehicle should be able to handle the driving conditions mentioned. Appears to be a design flaw in that the air cooling intake is in such a position as to allow the intake of water into the engine block.

- St. Louis, MO, USA

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