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pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
75,663 miles
Total Complaints:
42 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace engine (14 reports)
  2. not sure (11 reports)
  3. class action law suit (6 reports)
  4. vw to pay for $8000 for a new engine (5 reports)
  5. had to pay dealer $2000 to fix, but no garantees! (3 reports)
  6. complain to warranty co./dealership until they agree to fix (1 reports)
2003 Volkswagen Passat engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #42

May 222015

Passat GLX AWD V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 89,000 miles


My car was running very rough so I brought it to Bill Jacobs Volkswagen in Naperville, IL. I approved an initial inspection/diagnosis for $140. The next day, a service adviser asked me if I would approved a more thorough diagnosis for $640 because they said they heard a "rattling" further in the engine.

They broke down the top portion of the engine and found a ton of sludge among other things. They said they could clean out the sludge and do other repairs for $6,000. The car, being 12 year old, is only worth $2,500-4,000 so I didn't think it was worth it to do the repairs. So, I started searching the web for a possible solution and found all of these complaints about sludge in 2003 Passat engines and the class action lawsuit.

The problem is that I thought I saw the deadline for claim submission for the lawsuit was back in 2011. Is that the case? I never heard of it until now. I never received anything in the mail about it. Is it too late to file a claim??? Another thing I'd like to get an opinion about ... Would it be worth the money to replace the engine? I see engines going for $1,500-2,500 online. I'm guessing 10 hours for replacement. Does it make sense to that or should I just sell the car for scrap?

- , Naperville, IL, USA

problem #41

Jun 052013

Passat GLS 1.8t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles

Within two months of buying car, with 92,000 miles, engine / low oil pressure light came on. Checked oil all good lights went out and we drove it two more weeks. Then lights came on again and engine seized up. Found recall letter about engine oil sludge problem in owners manual but according to that it was to late because of date not milage. Started reading more about it and seems like almost everyone with 1.8t had the problem. Called VW and they basically laughed out loud. My friend who is certified master mechanic, my son and I put a used engine out of 05 Audi with 73,000 miles in it which had been rearended. Have been driving it about 15,000 miles and now engine light is on again. According to scanner readout and some mech knowledge I have discovered it has an intake gasket leaking!!!! Got the car for a good price then the cost of the new engine....Not a very good deal now but guess I will have to fix gasket so I can get $50 out of it when I trade it in!!!! FIRST AND LAST vw I will ever own. Too bad because the wife liked the passat turbo diesel and the milage it boosts, but when vw wont stand behind their junk why would anyone buy more!?!?!? For the people looking at changing the engine in their vw look around because i bougth my engine for $2500 plus a few bucks for hoses, clamps,etc. Book time is about eight hrs to swap. Good luck

- , hastings, MI, USA

problem #40

Dec 062012

Passat 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

2003 vw passat 1.8 turbo. engine sludge never received recall. stop engine/top motor. now just makes a zipper sound when trying to start. big paper weight!!!

- , Johnson City, TN, USA

problem #39

Nov 292012

Passat GLX 30V6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


I guess I cant be too bad since i bought the car salvaged tittle for $3700. Although the car only had 84k when I bought it, 6K miles later the low pressure oil light comes on.. Next thing i do is do a little google search and end up here on carcomplaints.com. Yippie! So glad to see 2003 is the worst year for the passat with this particular problem. I am towing car in tomorrow because it will not start. I really hope the engine is not toast..

I am also assuming I don't have a chance at the class action settlement since I bought the car used and salvaged.. Any suggestions? Besides not buying another VW?

- , Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #38

Nov 092012

Passat GLS 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

I bought my vw used in June of 2008. I used the synthetic oil in it, because I got a letter from the company stating I should use that oil. Had oil changes regularly. I had just had an oil change in October.

As I was driving from my doctor's on the 9th of this month, the STOP oil pressure light came on. So I checked my manual and it said if it was just blinking to check oil. The oil was full. So, I drove it to my mechanic and he said the dealership should look at it. Well, they just called me and said I need a new engine. I can't afford a new engine. I'm on a fixed income. What can I do? I looked engines up for this car, and they alone cost $2000-$4000. Isn't there some recall on this yet, as I saw how many people are having difficulty with this. My car only has 63,000 original miles on it. When I bought it, it only had only 37,000. So, as you can see, I don't even drive it that much, and I just paid it off this June. The dealership said it is out of warranty. Is there any place or someone I can call to get someone to help? I thought volkswagens were a great car, but I am finding out they don't live up to their name. I feel the company should do something to help all of us.

Update from Nov 28, 2012: I just wanted to let all of you know that I was in on the Class Action Suit against VW and they are replacing the engine free of charge. Thank you so much for sending me the information regarding the Class Action. I would have never known.

Thank you again for carcomplaints.com


- , Altoona, PA, USA

problem #37

May 142011

Passat ESL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,000 miles

My 2003 VW Passat has an oil sludge problem. The engine died on the freeway in very heavy traffic and would not restart. Have been told I need a new engine. The dealer told me the "sludge warranty" (I didn't even know there was one and did not know about oil sludge) was for eight years. I have owned my car for 8 years and 3 months and ALWAYS had regular oil changes at the dealership where I purchased the car. So far they would not help. Am still trying to get them to own up to the problem which I have found out is rampant.

- , Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #36

Apr 072010

Passat Turbo 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,835 miles


my car just stopped running from no oil pressure,i was not aware of any oil sludge problems.vw will not fix and i have no records of oil changes now i have a car in the yard and cant drive it.and i cant pay over 4000 dollars to fix it.

- , Mechanicsville, VA, USA

problem #35

Apr 072010

Passat Turbo 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,835 miles

i purchased this car on 6/20/2006 from Carmax and its was a great car then all the sudden the oil light comes on indicating stop vehicle and oil pump was not working i was very ill.so i called numerous vw dealers and they all said it was a sludge problem and would cost me up too 4300 dollars to fix,i have had a few recalls for this car and they were fixed.but no one ever said these cars had a sludge problem,now i don't have a car to drive thats sitting in the yard.

- , Mechanicsville, VA, USA

problem #34

Jan 202010

Passat 4 Motion V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I never thought that a problem can occur in a short time of millage especially in a VW product . everybody was telling me to buy this product vs other brand because of the trust and durability but now I m very disappointed about my situation with the motor. it takes so much oil and the effect of that is the catalisser is getting packed with bad oil and now I need to change both sides and it costs so much again. I presume that repair will go up to 4K to get fixed unbelievable!!!

- , Granby, Quebec, Canada

problem #33

Nov 202005

Passat GL 4cl 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

Bought the Passat from Used cars section at North Texas Nissan with an extended warranty. One year later the engine just died, literally one morning I was driving to work and the car stopped. Oil changes were performed on schedule and proof was given at the request of the warranty company. Still the auto dealers (Nissan, where I bought it, and VW) and the warranty company gave me the run around for two months and demanded I paid $7,000 to get it fixed. I continued to complain and even would show up at the Volkswagen Lewisville and North Texas Nissan to complain in person....finally VW conceded and called to let me know they'd fix it.

In short: costumer service given by all parties involved was horrible. Will not buy a VW or Nissan (their dealer sold me the lemon car) vehicle ever again. The Passat has had even more issues which I have reported as well (heater stopped working, all windows stopped working, etc).

- , Dfe, TX, USA

problem #32

Dec 112009

Passat GLS 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,500 miles


I recently took my car to the vw dealer where I bought the car in 2005 because the stop engine light came on, so I called them and they said not to drive it and to have it towed 50 miles to them where they would look into it and fix it. Then they said that the oil pump was shot and the pick up tube was shot so they took a week and a half to fix the problem which cost me 1,708 dollars. Well the problem seemed fixed, then only 2,000 miles down the road the problem came back, so of course I brought it back to them to fix the problem that they had charged me already for. Then they told me that they would have to charge me at least $700 dollars to take off the oil pan AGAIN to see what the problem is. I said that I already payed for this to go away and that they should fix it for free. they said they can't do that and they really pissed me off, specially since this is the third car I bought from them probly 70,000 dollars later. And they said they were sorry but could not help me. I told them I will never come back there again. Well now I think my motor is ruined and I still owe lot's on this pile of Do Do. Now I think I will have to take them to small claims court even though I don't know how I will find a way...

- , Arlington, WA, USA

problem #31

Jun 122009

Passat GLV V6 Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,631 miles

I purchased a 2003 passat at the dealership in Greensboro, N.C. The mileage was 67,230 and it was certified under volkswagen. The warranty period was from 67,000 to 91,000 and at 91,631 the engine blew. Terry Volkswagen in Lynchburg, VA towed the vehicle in and said the cam bolt snapped which caused the engine to blow because of oil flow problems.

My wife called me from the road and said the engine light is on. I told her to pull off the road and she did while on the phone with me. She said when she came to a stop the engine cut off and wouldn't restart. I called the nearest Volkswagen dealership, which was Terry Volkswagen, and they went out and picked her up and towed the vehicle in to their shop. My 2year old daughter was with her and they were stranded in Lynchburg, VA for about 5 hours. She had to rent a vehicle to drive back to Greensboro.

Volkswagen refused to help with anything. The car was 300 miles outside the warranty and they wouldn't even pay for the towing. Here's the problem. I've learned that Passats have sludge problems and have a lot of problems with their engines. My problem may have been related to engine sludge. To have a cam bolt break is not common. I kept the vehicle up on the scheduled maintenance and only had the vehicle for 1 1/2 years. I put 23,000 miles on my vehicle. I just put an engine that cost 7,000 in the vehicle. That was recommended by the service manager in Greensboro. Why should anyone have to pay 14,000 for a vehicle and then turnaround and have to put 7,000 in it a year and a half later. They were terrible to work with. When I picked the vehicle up the hood bar was broke and there response was "we don't know if it was broke before it was brought in". It's still broke. I've spent another 1,000 on the vehicle since the engine blew, all on parts that were attached to the engine, they claim these parts were not part of the new engine. I don't think complaining helps at all. I would advise everyone that has had problems with their volkswagens, hire an attorney and take volkswagen to court. Because they refuse to take any responsibility for their product, we need to do everything possible to let the public know the problems with Volkswagens. Hopefully an Investigative Journalist like "Date Line" or "48 hours" will expose Volkswagen's shady practices. I just hired an attorney and will do everything possible to reach out to the public to expose Volkswagen problems and Volkswagen's terrible customer service practices. My advice would be to stay away from any Volkswagen. They don't care!!

- , Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #30

Dec 272009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

Yes, add this one to the list too. I had every receipt and now the dealership doesn't says it may not be sludge and they found a piece of plastic in the pan. I don't think so. I took it to my mechanic first and they said 99% it was sludge. I am so pissed. This will be my last VW too.

- , Columbus, OH, USA

problem #29

Nov 102009

Passat GL 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,623 miles

From the moment we purchased this car, there has been nothing but engine problems.

- , West Palm Beach, FL, USA

problem #28

Jan 262009

Passat 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,000 miles

This is the 2nd time that the engine has needed to be replaced in my 2003 VW Passat. The first time was at 50,000 miles in 2005 due to the oil sludge issue and VW replaced the engine at no cost to me. In January, 2009, the engine failed again due to oil sludge. According to the dealership, this was due to the fact that I used regular oil instead of synthetic oil when I got my regularly scheduled oil changes...How pathetic is that? That was the first time I've heard anything about having to put synthetic oil in this car. VW failed to make me aware of this fact and also the mechanics at the Express Oil Change location about the need to use synthetic oil. I'm just very dissatisfied with this whole situation. I will never, ever buy another VW. It's a lemon as far as I'm concerned, so buyer beware!

- , Birmingham, AL, USA

problem #27

Apr 112009

Passat ES 1.8t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

I never had a problem with sludge in the engine. Anyone that has a turbo charged engine should only be using full synthetic mobil one oil anyway. Regular oil only burs up in the engine. Full synthetic only gets dirty and will eventually clean up the engine. That's one thing the dealer won't tell you. Any type of turbo charged engine MUST HAVE FULLY SYNTHETIC OIL for your own good and the good of the car do this and you wont have an issue.

- , Katy, TX, USA

problem #26

Apr 012009

Passat LX 1.8turbo

  • Manual transmission
  • 72,000 miles

Bought a 2003 Volkswagen Passat, and it was the worst decision I ever made. The oil pressure light came on and I took it to the shop. The car had plenty of oil, but I changed the oil anyway. Since I did most of the oil changes myself, another pain in the ass thing to do with the Passat, I do not have proof of actually changing the oil. Anyway, the mechanic could not find anything wrong with the car and thought it might be a sensor problem. So I drove the car for about one more month, then the light came on and the engine died. Took it back to the same mechanic and he took apart the engine. He said it was pretty impressive what he found in there: The inside was all torn up. It will cost me $5,000 to get fixed; not worth the time or money. I will never buy another Volkswagen again.

- , Louisville, CO, USA

problem #25

Nov 102008

Passat 1.8t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles

My husband and I both own vws. I was unaware of the "extended" warranty for the oil sludge problem and had it fixed at my mechanic's shop. I had all of my oil change receipts, done at the dealership, since I had bought the free oil changes for life package when I bought the car. VW would not pay for the replacement engine because it was not done by an authorized VW dealership. The replacement engine cost $3,600. They did offer a $2500 loyalty voucher towards the purchase of a new volkswagen. I told them no thanks, and they just lost $40,000 instead of $3,600 because my husband and I will never buy another volkswagen.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #24

Feb 012009

Passat 1.8T V4 1.8t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

I still cannot explain why my engine seized. I noticed an odd sound, checked the oil level, looked good, and drove straight to a shop for an oil change...all Checked out. Soon after, Engine seized. I need help or direction on how to get VW to fix this.


- , Boston, MA, USA

problem #23

Mar 192009

Passat GL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles

Are we living in the dark ages here? Since when does a car (ANY car) with 38,000 miles (and proper maintenance) require a new engine? this is ridiculous. The 2003 VW Passat has had so many recalls, that make/model year should just be retired completely. Our Passat is in the shop, completely un-drivable due to a VW manufacturing flaw. I will be tracking the class action lawsuit related to this issue. And, I will never ever buy another VW!

- , Portland, OR, USA

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