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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
44,571 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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Volkswagen Passat:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments

problem #7

Feb 092008

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


Oil sludge causes oil pump to fail damaging the engine.

- South River, NJ, USA

problem #6

Jan 262006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,500 miles
On the morning of January 26, 2006 I drove my 2003 VW Passat at short distance (approx) 3 miles. As I arrived at my destination and pulled into a parking place the car died on me. There did not appear to be anything that precipitated the failure. I did not understand what happened but I soon began to smell smoke. I got out of the car, opened the hood and saw that there was a fire in the engine compartment. From the front of the car, facing the engine compartment, the fire was located toward the upper left-hand corner of the compartment near the front passenger side. The fire was fairly far along before the fire department arrived. Ultimately, the car was totaled by my insurance company. A police report was filed with the local police, a claim was filed with my insurance company and a complaint was filed with Volkswagen customer service. There were no injuries or damage to any other property. The car was less than three years old with about 27,500 miles. The insurance investigation cleared me of personal responsibility but did not determine a cause for the fire. I eventually settled with my insurance company and turned the car over to them. I have heard nothing further until a friend gave me an ap article from 10/4/07 that reported NHTSA investigations of engine fires in Passats.

- St Louis, MO, USA

problem #5

Jan 262007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,500 miles
My 2003 VW Passat gl sedan sputtered, stalled and subsequently caught fire in the engine compartment around 6:30 pm, Jan 26th, 2007, in holmdel NJ, police report # 07-1914 holmdel police dept. The car has been maintained well by a local VW dealer since purchase and there has been no modifications made, nor any signs of trouble prior to the incident. The fire was very extensive and put out by holmdel NJ fire dept and the car is totaled. The symptom just prior to stalling is consistent with ignition coil failure which was recalled by VW until 2002 model year, I.e., engine warning lights, sputtering, smokes under hood and though exhaust and final stall. The engine stall nearly caused collision due to the loss of steering boost and the fire was rapid and large. Thus, I fear a less fortunate combination of circumstance may lead to injury or worse to other passengers of cars with VW/Audi 1.8T engines such as Passat, zeta, A4, golf, etc..

- Morganville, NJ, USA

problem #4

May 192005

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles


I was driving my Passat with 1.8 T engine and the engine failed. Volkswagen "advocates" were completely unhelpful this occurred in summer of 2005. Volkswagen aware of problem and left consumer to pay for 9000 dollar repair. In the last year my car has been in at least eight times for check engine light. Company aware of problem and unwilling to help.

- Mesa, AZ, USA

problem #3

Dec 222005

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles
My Volkswagen Passat stopped dead in the middle of a major highway and had to be pushed off to the side of the road. I almost got hit by oncoming traffic trying to get the car off the highway. Three rivers Volkswagen dealership is saying the timing belt went well before the scheduled replacement, thus destroying the engine+.the car has 83K miles and not recommend to be changed until 105K. There are many instances reported on the web of the happening. My car was in for a service check at 78K and other problem items were brought to my attention; however, a timing belt problem was not. Volkswagen is blaming the dealers service department and the service deparment is blaming Volkswagen. So far no resolution. There are many instances of VW and Audi having timing belt issues on the interenet.

- Bridgeville, PA, USA

problem #2

Jan 152005

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 30,000 miles
2003 Volkswagen Passat 1.8L turbo 30000 miles, "oil pressure" indicator lighted, immediately stopped vehicle. After towing to dealership, was informed that the engine was "full of sludge" and that warranty would not cover unless I had proof of *every single oilchange* with VW synthetic oil. Oil changes have been regular in the vehicle, however I lack proof of every single one. Again, odometer only 30000 miles. Research leads me to believe this is a common problem with VW/Audi 1.8L engines between 1998 and 2004.

- Boca Raton, FL, USA

problem #1

Nov 242003

Passat 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
On November 21, 2002, my 2001 VW jetta gls 1.8 turbo lost the oil drain plug on the highway. I stopped the car as soon as possible but the engine and turbo were damged severely and had to be replaced. Total cost $6,500. I was not reimbursed. I replaced the jetta with a 2003 VW Passat W8. On November 23, 2003 the oil was changed by the dealer and the dealer contends that the oil drain plug was tightened to factory specifications (20 nm), however the car had an oil leak coming from the drain plug. The dealer replaced the plug free of charge. Here is what is common to both situations: Both drain plugs were tightened to at least the factory specification (I changed the oil and always used a torque wrench on the jetta) and both had drain plugs pull away from the pan. I do not know what the root cause was but I have a hypothesis on two important variables: (1) both pans are made of aluminum, which changes shape easily with temperature change, (2) the drain plug is manufactured in such a way that the washer (seal ring) cannot be removed and replaced. If the seal were warped or damaged in some way (perhaps overtorquing or dropping the plug) it might not seal properly. Would like for someone to contact me as Volkswagen has been less than helpful (especially with the jetta).

- Louisville, KY, USA

Not what you are looking for?