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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 6
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
55,963 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 exhaust system problems

exhaust system problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments

problem #9

Oct 152010


  • 115,000 miles


Catalytic converter heat caused fabric material behind silver reflective liner on passenger side to catch and hold a smolder and flame causing damage to the structural body panels and melting some plastic components. Fire was extinguished by using a chemical fire extinguisher and remaining smoldering components had to be extinguished as exposed manually. Caused grass to catch fire and left smoky residue.

- Wingate, TX, USA

problem #8

Jan 212009


  • 110,000 miles
Car missing a getting bad milage...same car does not run well and caught fire by turbo 2003 Passat VW 1.8 liter turbo.

- Arlington, TX, USA

problem #7

Mar 162009


  • 104,668 miles
Dealer refuses to fix recall unless I accept responsibility for any damage to aftermarket parts occurring while replacing heat shield on exhaust system. There is a potential for fire if original heat shield is not replaced. Recall R5, criteria 1.

- Sharon, MA, USA

problem #6

Apr 082008


  • 52,000 miles


I was pulling out of my apartments when my car lost all horse power and pretty much sputtered then died; I was left exposed to traffic on a busy road. Then, I was towed to the VW dealership where I was told that my ignition coils failed and that in turn ruined my oxygen sensor and catalytic converter. All these had to be replaced by VW at my cost. The mechanic told me when I was being towed there he already knew what it was because they go out all the time. Doing further research it seems many people have the same problem.

- Boise, ID, USA

problem #5

Aug 082008


  • 18,000 miles
The heater core tubing in the car disintegrated at about 18,000 miles. This resulted in the check engine light appearing, coolant leaking into other parts of the engine department, and the fumes from the coolant in the passenger compartment. At this time the vehicle was under warranty, so I took it to the Volkswagen dealership. They replaced the purge valve (about an hours work) and returned the car to me. I took the car back two more times for the same problem before the warranty ran out and the dealership performed the same service. The coolant leak became significantly worse (I began adding coolant every 3-4 days) at around 82,000 miles and the fumes from the coolant in the passenger compartment became very strong. I took the car to another repair shop and the mechanic discovered that the tubing from the heater core had completely disintegrated and the heater core needed to be replaced altogether. I have seasonal asthma associated with allergies and inhaling the fumes from the coolant has made the condition worse. I am currently having the vehicle repaired at a cost of approximately $1200.

- Austin, TX, USA

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problem #4

Aug 062008


  • 104,000 miles
I was driving about 55 on the highway when I saw smoke coming out of my vents I stop and open the hood and notice my car had caught on fire from the left bottom side.

- The Colony, TX, USA

problem #3

Jan 242005


  • miles


Owner drove vehicle to work and noticed it started smoking. Drove back home and went inside to call and have vehicle towed. He did not go back out to the vehicle until later in the evening, when he found the windows gray from smoke and the inside of the vehicle was partially melted because it caught fire. Catalytic converter light came on several days prior to the fire. Fire damage limited to floor below center front of dash, above catalytic converter and exhaust system.

- Seekonk, MA, USA

problem #2

Dec 072003


  • miles
Owner was driving when someone on the side of the road pointed and indicated there was something coming out of her vehicle that looked like fog. Smoke was then noticed and her husband got out of the vehicle, looked underneath, and saw fire. He began throwing snow on the vehicle. Fd extinguished fire. Subsequent examination revealed the exhaust system overheated and ignited the fire due to an engine management problem - spark plugs showed overly rich fuel/air mixture.

- Seekonk, MA, USA

problem #1

Oct 112006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Vehicle started feeling sluggish, repair facility changed spark plugs, an ignition coil, and a hall sensor. Facility admitted they could not repair vehicle so it was driven to a dealer for diagnosis. While being driven to the dealer, the vehicle started smoking. Continued driving, arrived at dealer, and there was a fire under hood. Exhaust system overheated, burning materials on the right front floorboard.

- Seekonk, MA, USA

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