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 1 of 3)

problem #47

May 152015


  • 75,000 miles


Once the car warms up, the transmission begins to shift very erratically. This includes while upshifting - the transmission slips causing the engine to rev up and suddenly shift into the next higher gear without warning. Sometimes the upshift is so sudden that it causes the tires to break free. It also occurs when slowing down to come to a stop - the transmission downshifts into low gear unexpectedly at too high of a speed causing everything in the vehicle (including occupants) to lurch forward. The sudden deceleration could cause rear end collisions from following vehicles. Edmunds.com has a forum full of this exact problem - forums.edmunds.com/discussion/7375/Volkswagen/new-Beetle/Volkswagen-Beetle-transmission-problems/P2

- Portage, WI, USA

problem #46

Mar 152014

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 118,000 miles
My daughter was driving her 2003 VW Beetle on the highway and noticed that she was having an issues with her RPM's revving very high. She pulled off the highway and shut the car off and restarted it after awhile. She got back on the highway and continued to drive home, her speed was roughly 65. All of a sudden her vehicle dropped her speed down to 50 causing her to almost be rear ended on the highway. This has happened at least 3 times. As she is away at college so her car is not driven much, so we are unsure if this is a constant issues. This is a safety issue with the vehicle and was taken to a car repair shop and we where told the transmission is having issues.

- Gloucester Point, VA, USA

problem #45

Apr 042015


  • 86,560 miles
We have purchased this 2003 Beetle bug for my daughter and the transmission is hard shifting and down shift really bad. After doing research on this model and year. There as been nothing but complaints about the transmission (valve body). My understanding the extended the warranty for 7 years and 100,000 miles. This Beetle bug only has 86560. We can't even drive this car. I can't believe with all the issue that Volkswagen has had with transmission there is no recall on this. This is a major safety issue while driving this car.

- Moseley, VA, USA

problem #44

May 012014


  • 86,560 miles


We just bought a 2003 Beetle bug and only has 86560 and shifting and jerking really hard after driving the car for a couple miles. It shift hard and down shift thru 1, 2, 3 gears. After reading several reports there is a known issue with the transmission for this year and model. Every where I read, they extended the warranty until 2010 and 100,000 miles. We are under the mileage by far. I feel the dealer need to fix this issue since this is a know issue for this year. You don't know you have an issue until you hit around 80,000 miles mark. I need some help and direction what can be done for this car,

- Moseley, VA, USA

problem #43

Jan 142015


  • 65,551 miles
Vehicle engine stopped while driving. Battery dead, no power in vehicle at all. Found melted battery fuse box under hood. Root cause determined to be corrosion on alternator power supply cable that created heat enough to melt plastic (~450F) and burn the protective cover off the alternator supply wire back 2 inches. Poor contact due to corrosion caused battery to drain, which eventually could no longer sustain engine ignition. No warning lights prior to engine stopping. No battery power also means no power steering, no power brakes, no airbags during collision. Online forums indicate this is happening to a lot of people. It would appear to be as deadly as the GM ignition switch issue, but it is not being taken seriously by VW.

- Plainfield, IN, USA

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problem #42

Sep 012012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 97,100 miles
I was out driving my 2003 Beetle on the freeway and the vehicle begin to stall and slow down. I pressed the accelerator and the engine just rev very high and started jerking. I immediately got off the freeway as soon as I can. This problem appears to be on going. After driving for approximately 20 to 30 minutes the transmission will rev high as though I put the car in neutral and eventually jerks and lunges. If I stop at a red light the car will stall and lurch forward upon acceleration. I have approximately 106,000 miles on this vehicle. This car is unsafe and should be repaired by Volkswagen.

- Laveen, AZ, USA

problem #41

Nov 142012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 118,000 miles


My car was purchased as a used car. I purchased it with 100000 miles (approx.), and I have put on 31000 additional miles since (within 5 years). My car has always been routinely maintained/serviced. I take excellent care of my Beetle. In November 2013, my automatic transmission began to slip. It has become worse, and it lurches forward will in drive, and at a controlled intersection my car either hesitates to take off or it rocks back and forth. This is a very expensive fix, having consulted two mechanics and receiving their estimates. I feel that this transmission issue poses a safety hazard for myself, other drivers, and pedestrians who may be crossing in front of my lurching vehicle. I think that with the multitude of 2003 transmission issues/failures, VW needs to stand behind their faulty product with a recall.

- Eau Claire, WI, USA

problem #40

Sep 122013

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 36,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle. The contact stated that while driving 20 mph, the vehicle stalled. The contact took the vehicle to a local mechanic for a diagnostic test and the mechanic stated that the power train had failed. The contact had the transmission replaced. The contact did not call the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 36,000. Updated 11/15/13

- Durham, NC, USA

problem #39

May 012013

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 67,000 miles
The automatic 6 speed transmission fails to work properly.

- Ventura, CA, USA

problem #38

Aug 202013


  • 123,000 miles
I am the third owner and I should have cked this car out since the person who sold it too me didnt tell me a thing about the car.I am so dicusted about this adorable looking car. I only drove it once and took it too our mechanic. Wished I had taken it there first$800 later and just the beginning! I paid too much to begin with. Ipaid $4500 for a 2003 VW because it was cute! so I wish VW would help us american people. I want to drive my car but have only driven it once.! help !! still at the mechanics! wish people could be honest ! this would not happened in the 60"S. we have a good mechanic! thank god!

- Pismo Bch, CA, USA

problem #37

Feb 152011

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles


Over the last couple of years my 2003 VW Beetle has been in and out of the garage. It seems to have trouble changing gears (it's an automatic) and has gotten stuck in 3rd gear. It will jerk and lunge when slowing down. Each time the mechanic has "reset the codes" and the test drive showed no signs of anymore trouble. It has gotten much worse and now after driving for about 25 or 30 minutes it begins the jerking and lunging. After researching, I see that this is a common problem with this car. I love my car, but no longer feel safe driving it and I certainly cannot rely on it. I now feel that I am stuck with a car that I cannot drive nor can I sell.

- Appomattox, VA, USA

problem #36

Jan 142013

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 79,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle. The contact stated that the transmission would not shift and would exhibit an abnormal banging sound. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was determined that there was an internal problem and the transmission would need to be replaced. The failure mileage was 79,000 and the current mileage was 82,200.

- Plattsburgh, NY, USA

problem #35

Jul 212013


  • 71,000 miles
My daughters 2003 Volkswagen Beetle shifts very hard after driving for about 10 minutes, almost to the point of possible causing a severe accident! I've read message boards and have realized that this year of Beetle needs to have a recall on this before someone losses their life! it shifts the worst between 2nd and 3rd gears. She is scared to death to drive this car!

- Round Lake, IL, USA

problem #34

May 112012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
The transmission on this vehicle has started hard shifting when warm, causing erratic speed changes and possible lack of traction. Vwoa issued a recall around a year ago however only within a very limited number of miles done, showing they acknowledge there is a problem but will not take adequate action to resolve the issue.

- Baton Rouge, LA, USA

problem #33

Apr 242012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • miles
I have a 2003 VW Beetle that I purchased on May 18, 2003 off the showroom floor of my local dealership. It currently is sitting in my garage as I have experience issues with the transmssion slipping hard into gear or jerking to a hard stop when slowing down. This started in April, 2012, I took it in to the VW dealership and was told I need a new transmission and I only have 85,000 miles. Well, I took it too several independent repair locations and they said the same with a cost up to around $6,000. I worked hard to pay my car off and now it sits covered in my garage as I have read their are possible class action lawsuits against VW for this issue. I did receive a notice from VW in November of 2010 regarding warranty extension - transmission valve body. It covers the valve body in your vehicle's transmission to 7 years or 100,000 miles, whichever occurs first, from the vehicle's original in-service date. Well, I bought my car in may of 2003, so my 7 years was up in may of 2010...so VW sends out a worthless notice in November 2010 and I am stuck with the bill. I have been getting calls and emails from my VW dealearship that I can trade in my car and they will give me top $$. I don't want another VW car, I just want this one fixed by VW. Please help direct me to the appropriate group, person so that I can be included in any lawsuit or settlement.

- Lilburn, GA, USA

problem #32

Jan 042013

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 59,040 miles
While driving the vehicle unexpectedly and erratically down shifts or hard up shifts, creating an unsafe condition.

- Redmond, WA, USA

problem #31

Mar 082013


  • 112,013 miles
Was driving my Beetle convertible at around 40mph there was a car that stopped in front of me and I started slowing down as the transmission down shifted it jerked so hard it made me go into oncoming traffic and almost have a head on collision VW is aware of these cars doing this and warrantied the valve body's but when I called and told them about mine they said I was to late that the warranty was over!!! this is a very serious issue and could result in people being killed VW didn't even offer me the part to pay someone to fix my car so now it sits in the yard and I can not drive it due to I have children and I'm scared it will gets us in a very bad accident and harm us! there needs to be a recall for this before so many people are hurt!!!! step up VW and do what's right!

- Silvercreek, GA, USA

problem #30

Feb 262013

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 162,000 miles
Transmission suddenly failed!

- Durham, CT, USA

problem #29

Nov 122012

Beetle 4-cyl

  • 55,000 miles
The vehicle starts up fine and accelerates normal at first. Just before the vehicle switches to second gear it gets stuck. The only way to get it to properly shift to second gear is to give it more gas, which makes the rpms go up to 7,000. At this point the vehicle changes to second gear and lunges forward. I have almost rear ended multiple people do this problem. Once the vehicle gets into second gear it accelerates normally again, just until it changes to third gear and does the same problem that I described above. This problem is not only dangerous, but also financial hurtful. I have read hundreds of reviews on this problem and they all describe the same thing, along with their vehicles being very low in mileage.

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #28

Oct 102012


  • 114,385 miles
I own a 2003 VW new Beetle convertible with an automatic tiptronic transmission. Recently, at random times, when shifting between 3rd and 4th gear the engine would rev up past 4000 RPM and jump into gear. Essentially a very hard shift. With plans to keep this vehicle for many years to come, I immediately took the vehicle to a trusted mechanic. After test driving and experiencing the "hard shift", I was informed that it was most definitely transmission related, however, only VW can access the transmission due to the fact that it is completely sealed. The vehicle was taken to a david maus Volkswagen of orlando for the diagnostic. I was informed that the transmission was "coming apart from the inside" and that it was a "ticking time bomb". because the vehicle is over 100000 miles, it does not fall under the transmission valve body recall. The repair cost for a new transmission is $6000. I feel that this is gross negligence on the part of Volkswagen of America, to knowingly place this vehicle with such a major defect on the marketplace. I now have an unusable hunk of scrap metal sitting in my garage for fear of the time bomb under the hood. I refuse to drive this car and potentially put others lives at risk. Volkswagen needs to be held responsible for knowingly putting a car with such a major defect on the road.

- Orlando, FL, USA

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