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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
27,726 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments

problem #12

Jan 082011


  • miles


Power train lack of power when pressing the accelerator may have caused an accident, pulling out in traffic. This was due to water leak in pollen filter box (cracked) which affected the shift lock solenoid, affecting the transmission control module. 2003 Volkswagen Passat mileage of 121,000 miles. Normally garaged and maintained according to schedule. After rain, found an inch of water in rear passenger floor. Transmission non-functional, air bag warning light and other warning lights on. Dealer said the pollen filter seal was no good and that water leaked in and destroyed the transmission control unit which is located in the floor behind the passenger seat. I have read many accounts on the internet from many angry owners of similar problems where leaks from this seal have caused catastrophic repairs. The service manager at the VW dealer told me that checking the pollen filter seal is not part of any regular maintenance and that in order to check it, you'd need to disassemble quite a few things in the engine compartment. When I asked him how an owner could possibly know if the seal needed replacement and he replied "you found out how". I am clearly not alone in having experienced a failure from a part that is not in any way maintainable (the pollen filter seal) and that has caused major damage to the car. I feel this is a consumer issue and that this is a design defect in the Passat that VW should compensate owners for. There is no way for an owner to be able to avoid this situation -- it is not a matter of maintenance. It got to do with the Passat leaking water and the location of an extremely expensive component in the rear passenger floor, the area where any water that leaks migrates to. If this failure had occurred during driving, I might. I have been told to replace transmission spent another 2000$ and its not even this the problem!!!!

- Corolla, NC, USA

problem #11

Oct 052008


  • 86,000 miles
I have a 2003 Volkswagen Passat and for a little while now it has been saying this: Stop, oil pressure, stop motor, service manual. This is now happened 3 times. The first time it happened I took it to the dealer(which is not where I purchased my car) and they changed the oil filter which cost me $160. My car worked for about 2 months and it happened again, and the dealer then said it was the oil pump and wanted $965 to fix it. I, however took somewhere else got the problem fixed for $720. It has just recently happened again. I went to change the oil and transmission fluid was accidentally drained. The dealer fixed the problem and now says there is something wrong with the transmission, the car is drivable but now for long. This the second time something has gone wrong with the transmission.

- Lodi, NJ, USA

problem #10

Feb 032006


  • 26,411 miles
Purchase car in fl, now live in Iowa due to job transfer. A/C unit continues to not blow cold air in a dependable method. Have to shut off vehicle and restart to sometimes get it started again. Now torque converter light came on just after powertrain warranty expired 1 month outside of warranty. Got in contact with VW of America. Would not asist, but instead sent $2,000 good faith voucher towards to purchase of a new vehicle to make an attempt to help me with the problems. Please help.

- Waukee, IA, USA

problem #9

Aug 022003


  • 2,300 miles


Brake failure light appears even after multiple brake repairs. Driver"S side rear upper brake light replaced for 29th time in less than 2 yrs. Multiple coolant leaks still present even after repair and water pump replacement. Radio/amplifier not functioning even after replacement (radio was only used twice in vehicle"S lifetime). Diagnostics show airbag malfunction. Regulator pin on rear passenger side window keeps breaking (3rd replacement since 2003). Engine cover below car keeps falling off due to rusted bolts. Homelink system keeps malfunctioning. Fuses keep blowing out. Dashboard panel lights out (odometer, fuel gauge, etc.). ccm module keeps breaking down. Car needs to be jumpstarted when not in use for over 48 hrs. Climate control (A/C and heater) works only sporadically. All repairs performed by VW dealership, yet same issues keep reappearing just a few weeks after repairs. Repairs performed in past 2 years: ECU unit replaced, brake light switch replaced 3 times, A/C compressor unit replaced, ABS module replaced, alternator replaced, brakes replaced 3 times.

- Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #8

Apr 052008


  • 38,000 miles
1. driving car transmission shifted erratically when pulling out of house. Also hit another car as transmission shifted without doing anything. 2. always when rains. 3. sunroof drain/air plenum area dealer said was blocked and water went down B pillar. Shorted out transmission computer in passenger foot well. Water passed over junction connections in B pillar also shorted out airbag sensor and other electrical. VW now issues service action 66C8/P9 to cover this which was not listed as maintenance. Dealer said he was not doing this. Very poor design. If drains for sun roof and plenum clog then water goes inside and shorts critical electronics. Transmission computer in passenger footwheel which filled with water costs $2000 and could of been my life. In general this car has had many recalls and is unsafe. I have had it for 5 years and only 38K miles and every recall has surface as problem in this car from seat heaters staying on, brake lights shorting, head leaking, front suspension assembly vibrating loose almost causing accident.

- Pvp, CA, USA

problem #7

Jun 202008


  • 81,000 miles
My 2003 Volkswagen Passat is holding 6inches or more of water on the passenger side in the floor board and has shorted out the computer underneath, in servicing the car the technician advised he found 3 other Volkswagen Passats of the same year to have the same defect. I have also been advised that a serious crash could have resulted because the computer underneath regulates the transmission.

- St Louis, MO, USA

problem #6

Jul 012005


  • 42,000 miles


I own a 2003 Passat 4-motion. I purchased it from the dealer in July of 2005 when it had 42,000 miles on it. Almost immediately I noticed two things about the car: First, it sometimes hesitates when trying to accelerate and then when it does finally take off, it "leaps" forward. Second, when shifting down sometimes, it does not do so normally but will actually jerk the car badly and make a "clunky" sound, like the transmission is failing. This seems to happen when you don't come to a complete stop and then try and accelerate again, like stop and go traffic. I have had the car back to the dealer many times and have been told that this is just a "characteristic" of the car and that there is nothing they can do about it. Overall I am very disappointed in the car.

- Prospect, KY, USA

problem #5

Dec 142007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,000 miles
Car makes jump when slowing down looks like trouble with the transmission. After four times I took the car for check up in northeast wv outlet in philadelphia, pa problem is still there. They replaced the battery, ignition coils reset computer and so and so but looks like they can't solve that problem. My wife drives this car, and this scares her, she gets nervous and can cause an accident.

- Northampton, PA, USA

problem #4

Apr 162007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have an '03 VW Passat. About 4 months ago I noticed it had started hesitating when trying to back uphill. I took it to the dealership and they put transmission fluid in it. It was ok for a short period of time and it started again. I took it back. They scanned it and said there were no leaks but they put in more transmission fluid. That lasted 1 1/2 weeks. They are now ordering a whole new transmission because the slipping did it when the service people drove it. They had not test driven it the previous times until after they put in fluid.

- Macon, GA, USA

problem #3

Jan 202004

(reported on)


  • miles
After making a stop and returning to normal traveling 55 mph or at higher speed vehicle started jerking. Dealership serviced vehicle and noticed that transmission needed to be replaced.

- Export, PA, USA

problem #2

Jun 302003

(reported on)


  • miles
Consumer states while driving the vehicle jumps in and out of gears, took to mechanic, and they stated tha ttransmission needed replacing.

- Millersville, MD, USA

problem #1

Sep 192002

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,000 miles
I recently leased a VW passatt station wagon and things have gone wrong with it even before the car had 300 miles on it. The car has less than 5000 miles on it and it has spent some 10 days at the repair shop. Defects have included a transmission that would disengage, heated seats that would not turn off, A/C and side mirrors that would not work, a module had to be replaced, the car had to be aligned, the front spoiler fell off, a speaker had to be replaced, part of the trim on the back was falling off, the memory settings on the driver's seat were not working, and the sun roof was rattling. The sales department has responded to all my calls by saying that I need to talk to the service department or to VW corporate directly. I have done both, when I called VW corporate they responded that as long as the car was driveable they would cover it under warranty and would not replace the car. They offered me a lube job as a settlement!

- Glendale, AZ, USA

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