really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 8
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
88,134 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 Jetta electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Volkswagen Jetta Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #39

Dec 262013

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 89,235 miles


The thermostat on my 2003 Volkswagen Jetta failed for the second time. The first time it failed as at approximately 40,000 miles in 2009.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #38

Jun 012011


  • 52,000 miles
The safety light on the interior of the front passenger door that lights up when the door is opened failed on my 2003 Volkswagen Jetta. The dealer stated that the problem was a failure in the front passenger door latch mechanism. The door latch mechanism was replaced, and was not covered under warranty.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #37

Sep 242011

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 56,000 miles
The rear O2 sensor on my 2003 Volkswagen Jetta failed causing the mil indicator to illuminate. The sensor had to be replaced, and is not covered under the extended warranty for emissions.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #36

Jan 242012

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 61,000 miles


My 2003 Volkswagen Jetta has experienced a coil pack failure causing a reduction in power, and the engine to misfire. According to the Volkswagen dealer, the housing of the coil pack was cracked which allowed moisture to affect its operation. The dealer also stated that there is no recall or replacement program for 4 cylinder engines experiencing this problem.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #35

Nov 122012


  • 94,000 miles
All warning indicators (ABS, cel, airbag, ecp, battery and other instrument dash panel lights) would flicker repetitively until the car lost all power. After inspection of the engine compartment it was found that the alternator cable that attaches to the fuse box located on top of the battery was melting the fuse box and causing power distribution problems. The Volkswagen dealer recommended that they both be replaced as the cable could have become high resistance thereby causing excessive heat at the fuse box. I had the alternator cable replaced with an oem part and the fuse box with an aftermarket part. On 10-9-13 with 104K miles while driving to work at 6am in the morning, the exact same symptoms were experienced again. Luckily I was on a side road and was towed to a dealer which said that all oem parts should be used and that this is common as they had just replaced the alternator cable on another Jetta of the same generation. I requested the dealer check the entire electrical system including the alternator because the parts that were installed last year should not go bad in 1 year, the dealer said there was no other issue. I am not the only one experiencing a melting fuse box. At the links below are others who have experienced the same thing, even across other VW models. There seems to be a serious problem of melting of fuse boxes which can occur at any time the vehicle is in operation. (with pictures) forums.fourtitude.com/showthread.php"4562591 forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?4682918-why-S-my-fuse-box-melting newbeetle.org/forums/questions-issues-concerns-problems-new-beetle/28982-battery-fuse-box-melting-04-new-beetle.html forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?4705261-battery-light-flickering-on-acceleration forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php"4829541-burnt-black-cable-fuse-box-on-top-of-battery.

- Newton, NJ, USA

problem #34

Sep 302009


  • 40,000 miles
Rear passenger doors fail to respond to key fob. Stay locked/ unlocked.

- Boise, ID, USA

problem #33

Jun 092013


  • 145,000 miles


The car was parked for two days without being driven. While it was parked, neighbors ran over to report it was smoking under the hood. We saw that there were flames coming out from underneath the front of the car. Fire department came, but fire had already extinguished itself. Fire department disconnected the battery ground and said the wires going to the cooling fan had set on fire. All of this was spontaneous. Engine was not on.

- Newburyport, MA, USA

problem #32

Mar 012013

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 153,000 miles
Both front seats, the bottom right side bolster burned. The heated front seats will over heat, the failure appears to be confined to the right bolster on the bottom section of the seat. The heating elements get hot enough to burn through the seat material. Being the side of the seat I was able to shift my leg away and power off the heated seat. If left on the seats will start to smoke. I consider this a safety issue, I haven't tried, but it seems as though the seat could catch on fire if left on. The local dealer's service rep said just unplug it the option.

- Milton, VT, USA

problem #31

Jan 262012


  • 120,000 miles
Driver's seat heater malfunctioned. Right side of seat has small burn marks, is discolored, has exposed elements, and seat foam is melted. Two pairs of pants obtained singe marks on separate occasions. I drive the car to and from the city via interstate for 40 minutes each way. Seat heaters are typically on for about 20 minutes. Beginning in November when I used the seat heaters I could smell a slight burning smell. Since it was the beginning of the winter season I figured it was just heated dust on my seats from being inactive all summer. The final time I used the seat heaters (1/26/12) the smell got so bad that I had to open the sun roof for air. I also noticed the seats got hotter than usual and wondered if my seat back was heating at all. As was usual when the seat was hot enough I would manually turn off the seat heater. I did not know what was happening until one day when I noticed brown marks on the right side of my pants. I then looked at the seat and saw the damage to the seat. The driver's seat element was replaced in May 2006, the passenger seat August 2006, due to previous recall/warranty service.

- Hugo, MN, USA

problem #30

Jan 242012


  • 122,000 miles
Hola mi hija tuvo una experiencie terrible con su auto.ella SE dirigia a la universidad en su auto Y de momento comenzo a salir humo pr el area donde esta el guia Y el conta milla mas O menos por lo poco que no pudo explicar por lo afectada que estaba.inmediatamente ella SE detuvo Y SE bajo de vehiculo para llamar a su papa Y jucto en ese momento SE incendio Y estamos seguros que fue un problema de fabrica para que SE incendiara de esa manera.gracias a dios que mi hija estaba fuera del vehiculo porque por lo que rapido sucedio no le hubiera dado de salir Y la historia hubiera sido otra.hago este reporte para que no vuelva a suceder algo asi.porque mi hija esta sumamente afectada. Muchas gracias por su atencion.

- Aguada, PR, USA

problem #29

May 022011

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 60,000 miles


My drivers side seat heater doesn't recognize the setting of 0-5. it's either on, or off. Meaning, 0-4 the seat heater doesn't heat the seat. But when I turn it to 5 on the setting within 10 minutes the seat gets so hot it burns my legs through clothing.

- San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #28

Jan 312011

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
My seat heater failed in my 2003 VW Jetta, burning a hole in the seat under my left [xxx]. I was startled when suddenly there a strong burning smell in the car, then a hot spot in the seat occurred which caused me to have to quickly shift my seating posting and I immediately turned off the seat heater. Luckily I was driving slowly in the city and able to pull in the in a parking spot quickly and the seat or my clothing did not catch on fire. The seat was set to 3 on a scale of 1-5. the car has about 125K miles on it. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6)

- Bainbridge Island, WA, USA

problem #27

Nov 052010

Jetta 4-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
I am the owner of a 2003 VW Jetta. I was recently burned(11/2010) by the seat heater while driving and the car seat smelled like it was going to start on fire. My car had a recall not long after I bought it for the seat heaters. It is obviously a malfunction in the seat heater that VW has had numerous problems with based on the recall and the plethora of complaints on the internet. I can no longer use the heating unit. I took it to patrick motors in auburn, MA where I bought the car. They said it was out of warranty and they would charge me to look at it to see what the problem was and then maybe ask vwoa if they would help. I was not willing to pay more money for something that is obviously a manufacturing problem and has been documented as problematic.

- Worcester, MA, USA

problem #26

Aug 062010


  • 47,315 miles
(prior incident) 05/27/08 at 32K miles alternator harness burned and melted fuse panel (while car operating at low speed returning home from local trip). Fuse failed to prevent overheating of terminal connector on alternator harness at fuse panel. Current incident: 08/06/10 at 47K miles the alternator harness that had been replaced at 32K miles burned and melted fuse panel again, and alternator was also damaged requiring replacement (car failed to start at home after being parked overnight). Fuse again failed to prevent overheating of terminal connector on alternator harness at fuse panel.

- Fort Myers, FL, USA

problem #25

Jul 032010


  • 111,000 miles
As we were driving home, all the lights on the dash started blinking. The accelerator pedal stopped working in the middle of a busy intersection. The car engine continued running, but it just stalled in the middle of traffic and could not accelerate to get out of traffic. So we coasted the car for about 1.5 miles to a family members house. When we arrived, we turned off the car and tried to restart it, it would not start. After opening the hood we noticed that the fuse box/harness that sits on the battery was very hot. We opened it and saw the far left black wire/cable was burnt up and melting the plastic in the harness. The black wire was extremely hot. I had this problem before, it was 3 years ago, but I did not know where to look. I spent over $500 fixing what seems to me the same problem as before. On the dealership receipt it said "found generator harness at battery fuse box melted causing high resistance in voltage circuit.....replaced fuse box and generator cable". on that occurrence it was so bad the burns had ruined my battery causing it to leak. I called VW manufacturing, but they were not very helpful and just told me to call my local dealer for assistance. They said it was not a safety issue, even if there was a fire hazard. My car is currently being looked, looking for an underlying cause for this...if it is the cable or something else in the engine. The connection was reset but the wire/cable continued to get excessively hot.

- Johnson City, TN, USA

problem #24

Jun 062010


  • 74,050 miles
Started car and turned on headlights. Started driving home and the dashboard dimmer switch caught fire. Fire went out but all dashboard lights were out.

- Woodbridge, VA, USA

problem #23

Mar 272010


  • miles
2003 Volkswagen Jetta gl was found to have fried cable from alternator leading to fuse box on top of battery. Problem was found and fixed 3 years prior to being found again at the dealership. Both times cable and fuse box were replaced. Pictures of the second incident are available. Also found that this incident has happened on other Jettas as well. Worried that could potentially cause a fire.

- Huntsville, AL, USA

problem #22

Feb 222010


  • 85,000 miles
2003 VW Jetta: Digital display would shut off when key was removed from ignition. Unable to lock vehicle doors with remote. Vehicle had to be restarted for digital panel to appear (re-set) and for door to lock with remote. Engine would also shut off while at a stop light and while driving on freeway. Possibility to cause a crash. All digital panels still illuminated, key would be locked in ingnition, un-able to turn or be removed until car placed back in park and hand brake pulled up. Issues occured bi-weekly, weekly, and now daily. Vehicle brought to dealership. Was told that ignition switch failed and needed to be replaced. Would have been covered under warranty (warrant just expired last month). After trying to diagnose problem prior to bringing to dealership, I've found on several forums that this is not a new issue/repair for VW customers with the same make and model. Many customers have had similar complaints/experiences, all of which were taken in for repair after warranty expired. Vehicle is only 7 years old and is at approximately 85,000 miles. This vehicle has also had service for the following recalls: Catalytic converter, failed ignition coils, failed rear window/door locks. This car is a lemon!

- Newark , CA, USA

problem #21

Sep 262009


  • 121,000 miles
Sun roof drain clogs!!! no direction in manual for cleaning nor warning that it can happen. I found nearly three inches of water in the floor and water all over the interior fuse block. My concern is fire related. Corrosion can lead to high impedence connections and after water intrusion I have no idea how safe my electrical system is. This is the second or third incident and I finally found out what was causing the problem by doing research on the internet. Many others have experienced this problem and it appears that the design of the outlet nipple is the issue.

- Winnabow, NC, USA

problem #20

Jan 122009


  • 65,743 miles
I have a 2003 Jetta gls. I had about 65K miles on it and the speedometer first fluctuated wildly then died, or appeared to be dead. It would randomly start working for a few days and often would die again while I was driving. Non functioning speedometer affects function of auto locking doors, odometer, trip computer, and related functions (they do not work when speedometer not working). My mechanic tested the vehicle speed sensor located on the transaxle. It is fine. I had the entire instrument panel replaced (to the tune of almost $700, $500 of which is for the part!). now I am being told it may be a coolant migration issue similar to that of the my 99-01 cars. However there has been no tsb for 2003 Jettas and now my car is out of warranty. Replacing the wiring harness is a very expensive ($6K has been mentioned) repair. Internet research shows that my issue is not unique, many failed speedometers in this model year Jetta, although VW to date is silent w/customers.

- Springfield, VA, USA

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