really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 44
Injuries / Deaths:
25 / 0
Average Mileage:
36,558 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 accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 1 of 5)

problem #81

Jan 162015


  • 117,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving approximately 35 mph, the heated seat was activated and within two minutes, the seat was unbearably hot and burned a hole through the contact's pants. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 117,000.

- Highland, IN, USA

problem #80

Dec 012011

Passat 4-cyl

  • miles
Heater stopped working and blew cold air. Brought car into VW dealer be serviced. Heating system was flushed with cleaner. A couple of days after "repair, " car was driven with the passenger seat heater on and a 1 1/4" hole burnt through seat exposing burnt heating element and burnt foam. Heater stopped working a couple of weeks after above "repair." Returned to dealer to redo repair and requested the seat heater and seat upholstery leather replaced. Told that it would cost $1000 and that it would be the owner's responsibility. Clearly the seat heaters on this car model are defective given all the complaints and prior recalls. VW replaced the driver's seat heater with a recall...which leads to the obvious question: "why weren't the passenger side seat recalled as well"" was this a calculation on the part of VW corporate....that the cost of replacing the driver seats through a recall was less that the liability due to burns/accidents/loss of life...but the cost of replacing the passenger seats through a recall was calculated to be more than the liability there" this does not smell good. Class action suit seems appropriate.

- Providence, RI, USA

problem #79

Mar 142011


  • 54,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving approximately 55 mph with the heated seat engaged, the contact felt a burning sensation coming through the seat. The vehicle was pulled over and the contact noticed there was a burned hole through the front driver seat as well as a burn to his pants. The vehicle was not taken to have the failure diagnosed nor repaired. The failure and current mileage was 54,000.

- Cranston, RI, USA

problem #78

Jan 022010


  • 79,000 miles


The contact owns 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The buttons used to adjust the heated seats have malfunctioned and feel as if they are shocking the driver when they are engaged. The leather around the coils has melted a hole in the drivers seat. Although, the contact has not turned the heated seats on the coil continued to smoke and become heated while driving. The failure mileage was 79000 and the current mileage was 79200.

- Trinity, FL, USA

problem #77

May 012009


  • 102,500 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving at an unknown speed with the heated seat feature activated, the contact noticed that the heater burned through the seat and through his clothing. His leg was burned. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and they stated that the heated seat motor needed to be replaced. The current and failure mileages were 102,500.

- Leesville, SC, USA

problem #76

Jun 262008

(reported on)


  • miles
2003 Volkswagen Passat with coolant system and heated seat recall. Consumer states that the coolant system was under warranty. The heated seats were repaired but now don't work at all. She also states that the gas has been burning out very fast. The consumer stated she was smelling fumes inside the vehicle.

- Suitland, MD, USA

problem #75

Mar 052005

Passat 4-cyl

  • 32,251 miles


2003 Volkswagen gls Passat with several problems. Consumer states that they have had problems with the fuel pump, cam shaft sensor and more. The vehicle stalled on 2 occasions due to a faulty fuel pump. The consumer soon discovered there was a recall on the fuel pump, however the consumers vehicle identification number was not included in the recall. The front cv boot and timing belt were replaced. The vehicle also had a transmission leak. The drivers heated seat malfunctioned.

- Alpharetta, GA, USA

problem #74

Feb 202008

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles
The seat heater in my 2003 Passat gls burnt my leg on the lowest setting. It also melting a hole in the cloth interior and discolored other spots. At this point it has not been replaced so the seat is available to look at.

- Bellaire, MI, USA

problem #73

Feb 172008

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles
Defect with the driver side heating coil in the seat - today during a 5 minute drive I began to smell something burning on the interior of my car and felt a burning sensation on my leg. I immediately stopped the car and turned it off to investigate. Upon existing the vehicle I saw burning embers on the seat and a 1/4" hole. I was forced to smother out the fire. I have since turned off the heaters and refuse to use them until the problem is rectified.

- Roselle, IL, USA

problem #72

Nov 292007

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,237 miles
At approximately 9:35 pm, November 29, 2007, I entered my 2003 VW Passat and started the engine. The air temperature showed 39 degreesf so I switched on the control for the heated seat on the driver's side to high. Approximately 10 minutes after starting the car it smelled like something was burning. I am a non-smoker. It became apparent that the smell was from inside the car and I began to evaluate possible sources for a fire since the smell seemed too close to be coming from the engine compartment. I began to feel around the seat since I knew the seat warmer was on and suddenly realized that an area under my left thigh was hot. Further investigation, with my hand, revealed that my coat felt burned or melted and the seat was extremely hot to the touch. I immediately turned off the seat heater. The area seemed to cool off slightly so I continued home - about a 10 minute drive. After arriving home I checked the seat and my coat. The seat was still warm to the touch 25 minutes after the switch had been turned off. There is a hole in the leather seat approximately 0.5 inches in diameter, with flecks of black soot around the edges, about 4.75 inches from the back of the seat and 2.5 inches in from the left side of the seat. My coat has an area approximately 0.5 inches in diameter that is either melted or the seat is melted onto my coat. The incident will be reported to the local Volkswagen dealer on 30 November 2007.

- Westfield, MA, USA

problem #71

Sep 192007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles


Normal operation of automobile, drivers side seat heater placed on setting level 2. fire began within the drivers side seat and burnt a quarter size hole through the fabric of the seat.

- Westford, MA, USA

problem #70

Apr 182007

Passat 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
I had taken my car to the dealer to replace a fuel pump. When the car was returned to me there was a hole burned into the driver side seat. The rep at the dealer said the seat warmer in the driver side seat had burned completely through the seat. He had seen it happen before. But my seat warmer was not on at the time. I don't need to use it in southern California weather. The problem will need to be fixed but the manufacturer should be made to cover the cost.

- Yorba Linda, CA, USA

problem #69

Apr 072007

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,400 miles
The seat heater that comes with this model car, shorted out while I driving the car. It burnt through the leather seat, my trousers and burnt my wallet. At no time was there an open flame. If it wasn't for my wallet, I probably would have been burnt. If my pants were flamable, I would have had a major problem. The Volkswagen dealer will replace the defective, driver side, heated seat at no charge.

- Roslyn Heights, NY, USA

problem #68

Feb 092007

Passat 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 91,350 miles
Driver's side seat heater burned hole through seat cover. Burn through could have resulted in personal burn, however, I stopped prior to any injury. Dealer is considering replacement of all damaged parts.

- Arlington, TX, USA

problem #67

Jan 312007

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,543 miles
- while the contact was driving the vehicle with the seat warmer on, in a 2003 volkswagon Passat, it burned a hole on the front driver seat. The contact had a slight burn on her coat and had to shut the vehicle off completely and kept the seat warmer on zero in order for the seat not to continue to burn. The contact currently has vehicle at dealership. The current and failure mileage were both 60543 miles.

- Lexington, KY, USA

problem #66

Feb 012007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles
While pulling out of my garage this morning, I smelled something burning. I exited my vehicle and noticed my front heated seat burned through the fabric and caught fire (small flame). I had to put it out with my hand. Afterwards, I noticed the seat sparking. I called the dealership and they said to bring it in for review by the service manager. It was on the 2nd setting and also burned on my jacket.

- Amherst, NH, USA

problem #65

Nov 152006

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,200 miles
2003 Volkswagen Passat V6 (heated seats)- heating element burned hole in leather seats while driving vehicle! had to pull over to side of road as the seat became very hot and started to scorch my pants. Despite a number of recalls (and complaints filed by others- many listed on the NHTSA site) for both Passats and jettas, Volkswagen of North America refuses to pick up the cost of the $1100. Repair (or any of the cost for that matter) because they insist my VIN is outside of the range of vehicles affected and my vehicle is out of warranty. There is clearly a safety problem here and VW knows it. They say a different heating element was used in my car so it isn't part of the recall. Who cares which element was used? it still resulted in the same problem- a burned seat.

- Caldwell, NJ, USA

problem #64

Jan 092007

Passat 4-cyl

  • miles
Drivers side seat heater shorted out and burned a hole in seat cover. Seat was dry and tempeture set at low.

- Ann Arbor, MI, USA

problem #63

Dec 222006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 56,175 miles
Was using the heated drivers seat as I was driving down the highway in cold weather. The seat began to overheat, caught on fire, burned a hole in my pants, and burned through the padding and seat fabric in my 2003 VW Passat. I quickly turned off the seat and pulled off the highway as soon as possible, and put out the smoldering seat. The seat, padding, heating elements, and my pants are completely ruined.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #62

Nov 302006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 26,850 miles
: the contact stated while driving 35 mph, a burning smell was noticed and the driver seat was hot. The contact noticed two holes were burned in the seat. The dealer was notified.

- Milwaukee, WI, USA

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