really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
72,111 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 Beetle drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Volkswagen Beetle Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #27

Aug 162012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 96,503 miles


The 2003 VW Beetle has started to slip at 96,500 miles going from 2nd to 3rd gear. I have done alot of online research and there are several forums and thousands of similar cases as the one I am having. I called VW of America customer care and talked to tim and he said because the car was out of warranty they could not do anything. I mentioned that the problem seems to be the valve body and he agreed but still could not help me. Further research led to me finding a class action suit agains VW America for exactly this problem. Since there are so many documented cases, I feel there should be a recall immediately as this can lead to a serious safety issue on the road. Worse yet, VW knows about it and is not doing anything! please help.

- Davie, FL, USA

problem #26

Aug 092012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 60,000 miles
The transmission downshifts on its own at any giving time. Was close to getting rear ended several times..

- Canton, OH, USA

problem #25

Aug 032011


  • 88,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle convertible. The contact stated that while driving 60 mph, the transmission down shifted automatically and the vehicle decelerated. The contact mentioned that the check engine warning lamp illuminated and the vehicle started to jerk violently. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, who was unable to diagnose the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and did not offer any assistance since the vehicle was no longer under warranty. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 88,000 and the current mileage was 98,000.

- Petaluma, CA, USA

problem #24

Jun 182012


  • 108,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle convertible. The contact stated that the vehicle jerked when there was a shift of gear. The contact also stated that the vehicle slid out of gears by itself. The vehicle was taken to a repair shop, where it was inspected and it was determined that the transmission was faulty. The contact was informed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure, however no assistance was provided. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was 108,000 and the current mileage was 109,000.

- Jensen Beach , FL, USA

problem #23

Apr 272012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 69,000 miles
When this car shifts into third gear, it is very hard and violent with an awful lunge, making it difficult to keep the car in control. I am still driving it, but waiting for an accident to happen.

- Saginaw, MI, USA

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problem #22

Jun 012011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 68,000 miles
My vehicle will down shift really hard from 3rd to 2nd with a loud clunk noise. The transmission at times will get stuck in a gear at a intersection and not move at all..then all of a sudden it will take off really fast. It has done this on the freeway as well. I have done some research on this car and found that I am not the only one that has complained about this issue. I have contacted VW and they said I need a new transmission. They know that their is a problem with their transmissions but fail to fix it. They should be recalled. This is a very dangerous situation a lot of these car owners are young (new ) drivers and this is not a safe car!

- Elk Grove, CA, USA

problem #21

May 192012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • miles


2003 Volkswagen Beetle owner blogs, failed transmission is a common and frequent occurrence./31/12 the consumer stated that upon starting the car and shifting it moved forward for a few seconds and then stopped. The engine still ran fine but, the transmission did not shift to higher gears. The transmission slipped and the car would not move forward. Updated 06/06/12

- Grand Central Station, NY, USA

problem #20

Feb 252012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 72,000 miles
At 70,000 miles, my VW starting shifting hard causing it to be difficult to drive. VW states that this should not happen this early but that they can't do anything about it.

- Hemet, CA, USA

problem #19

Aug 012010

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
My transmission valve body is faulty, but VW's extended warranty only covers vehicles after 7 years or 100,000 miles. My car was just 4 months too old to qualify and they refused to replace anything, despite it being a major issue affecting drive performance. Other cars in my same model year qualified, but mine did not. How is this fair?

- Perrysburg, OH, USA

problem #18

Oct 072008


  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen new Beetle. While driving approximately 30 mph, the transmission began to down shift continuously into lower gears. The failure recurred whenever the vehicle was in operation. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer who stated to the contact that the transmission valve body was faulty. The vehicle was repaired. The failure recurred two years later. The vehicle had not been repaired for the most recent failure. The manufacturer was notified of the defect and was unable to provide further assistance. The approximate failure mileage was 60,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Randleman, NC, USA

problem #17

Jul 202011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 69,000 miles


My 2003 Beetle has been violently jerking after about 10-15 minutes of driving (when it warms up). If I'm at a stop sign or red light and accelerate - it violently jerks into gear !! if I baby it and barely move (where traffic is practically running into me from behind), it is not soooo bad, but still bad and it is very dangerous. VW also extended the warranty until 2010 or 100,000 which ever came first, and unfortunately 2010 came first and they refuse to extend the warranty to be used under the 100,000 miles rule. This is extremely expensive to fix, I've read thousands of the same exact complaints in this car -- thousands, the very same thing and VW will not take responsibility to change it to 100,000 miles and not just 2010 (which obviously has past 2 years ago). This is dangerous and expensive. It is a defect and VW should pay for this. Do people have to get killed before they offer the extension up to 100,000 miles"?" thank you

- Lambertville, NJ, USA

problem #16

Dec 202011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 111,225 miles
I was driving on the highway and as I was exiting the highway, my car shifted down very hard and the steering wheel jerked causing me to hit a guardrail. I took my car to a shop and had the body repairs done ($3910), and upon taking my car, it did the same thing again. I had it taken to a mechanic and he stated that it was a known problem with those VW's and they had a recall on it. My local VW dealership stated that they would not do anything for me because the warranty on the vehicle was up. I was hoping that someone there could help me resolve this issue. The estimated cost of the repair is $5900 for the transmission and the body damage was $3910. Thank you, [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #15

Mar 192003


  • 1 miles
From day one this car had transmission problems which were denied by the dealer on 5 visits, after I sold the car I received a recall from VW, now that I am looking at blogs they have apparently recalled this recall to suit them. Other complaints with this vehicle are window troubles, convertible roof troubles, electronic troubles, seatbelt troubles, airbag troubles. I can't believe anyone will allow this car to still be sold or on the road. It is a safety hazard on wheels.

- Alta Loma, CA, USA

problem #14

Dec 052011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 95,000 miles
This car was purchased new and within three months had to have the transmission replaced under warranty. Recently it started to lurch at stops and starts, and the diagnosis was a failed valve body on the transmission. The transition company referred me to websites where there are multiple complaints for this exact problem with this model. I called Volkswagen in mi and was told there had been a warranty extension, of which I was not informed, but that it would not apply to me now. It appears to me that the frequency of this problem warrants a look at this model and its transmission. The dealer warned my transition specialist that the repair which has been frequent only works about 50% of the time. I asked if it is safe to drive as is and was warned only for short distances. It appears to E that this should have triggered a recall or a class action suit.

- Randolph, NJ, USA

problem #13

Nov 012011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
I purchased my 2003 new Beetle convertible brand spanking new in Dec 2002. The car had 32 miles on it when I bought it; the car now has 77K miles as of today. I have been experiencing a major transmission problems that VW is acutely aware of. The car is a 6 speed auto transmission with trip tronic. The car hesitates upon acceleration and before shifting into 2nd gear. Instead, the transmission lurches from 1st into 2nd, causing the tires to screech. When the car lurches forward it causes the front drive/steering tires to lose grip on the pavement which is a safety issue. There have been a few times when it jumped so hard it almost hit the car in front of me and sometimes the lurch is so strong it feels like another car hit me from behind. The transmission works fine when it is cool but gets worse as the car warms up - after about 5 miles. The other gears have shifting problems too; just not as harsh as going into 2nd. This happens when the car is downshifting as well. I have also experienced the car getting stuck in 2nd gear while traveling in traffic which created a danger for me and others on the road. The only way to cure the problem is to safely make my way to the side of the road, turn the engine off, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on. This doesn't completely make the lurching go away but it gives me several travel miles before getting stuck in gear again. I contacted my local dealership who looked up my VIN. They told me I was over my years for the recall on the valve body which is what should correct my transmission problem. I have lived at the same address since I purchased the vehicle in 2002 and never received a recall notice for this item. I am very disappointed in VW of America! I waited several years for the convertible version to come out and this was a birthday present to myself (this is how much I love this car!)

- Long Beach, CA, USA

problem #12

Mar 152011


  • 71,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen bettle. While driving approximately 25 mph the vehicle began to decelerate and there was an increase in the rpms. The failure occurred constantly after driving the vehicle for approximately ten minutes. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician stated the transmission had to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 71,000.

- Bowling Green, KY, USA

problem #11

Sep 192011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 64,000 miles
I couldn't wait for the new Beetle convertible to come out. I bought it brand new from the dealership. Now, after only 60,000 miles, I am told I need a new transmission. The car is completely unsafe to drive--it will get stuck in first gear, it will kick between gears one and two, and it will jolt suddenly and without warning. These vehicles are unsafe for the road.

- Playa Del Rey, CA, USA

problem #10

Sep 182011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • miles
The six speed transmission shifts at random I got this car for my 16 year old daughter and im scared to let her drive it. Got a notice in the mail from VW about it they drove it and said it was ok but obviously its not. They need to address this situation before some one gets injured.

- Edwardsville, IL, USA

problem #9

Sep 062011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 60 miles
Recall on airbag crash sensor back in 2008, which we had replace. However this problem constantly happen were the air bag crease sensor lights comes on and stays on. When you call the dealership they wants to charge the consumer. There is always a jerking in the power transmission while driving. This is dangerous you would think the car is going to stop going up hill. I made a complaint back in 2009 complaint #102868 never received a response.

- Perris, CA, USA

problem #8

Aug 132011


  • 123,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen new Beetle convertible. When decelerating to approximately 5 mph, the vehicle would jerk before switching gears. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic and after inspection the contact was advised that the transmission failed. The replacement of the transmission would be at the owners expense at a cost of $6,000. In addition, the contact stated that the rear passenger window would open and close independently. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 123,000.

- Nebo, NC, USA

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