really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
63,312 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 cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments

problem #8

Dec 102010

Passat 6-cyl

  • 51,414 miles


Heater core plugs thus resulting in inoperable heating of the interior of the car. Also causing a leak thus spewing steam and fluid into the interior of the car. With the windscreen receiving the steam and impairing the vision of the driver which may lead to an accident.

- Anchorage, AK, USA

problem #7

Oct 012009


  • 90,000 miles
Heater core has failed (plugged up) at just over 90,000 miles. Over $1200 to replace; may burst hot fluid through vents into passenger compartment if not replaced soon. Currently the smell in the car when running is very strong of radiator fluid.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #6

Aug 282009


  • 115,000 miles
2003 VW Passat heater core had to be replaced and VW America refused to do it at no cost.

- Huntersville, NC, USA

problem #5

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 #4

Aug 082008


  • 18,000 miles
The heater core tubing in the car disintegrated at about 18,000 miles. This resulted in the check engine light appearing, coolant leaking into other parts of the engine department, and the fumes from the coolant in the passenger compartment. At this time the vehicle was under warranty, so I took it to the Volkswagen dealership. They replaced the purge valve (about an hours work) and returned the car to me. I took the car back two more times for the same problem before the warranty ran out and the dealership performed the same service. The coolant leak became significantly worse (I began adding coolant every 3-4 days) at around 82,000 miles and the fumes from the coolant in the passenger compartment became very strong. I took the car to another repair shop and the mechanic discovered that the tubing from the heater core had completely disintegrated and the heater core needed to be replaced altogether. I have seasonal asthma associated with allergies and inhaling the fumes from the coolant has made the condition worse. I am currently having the vehicle repaired at a cost of approximately $1200.

- Austin, TX, USA

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problem #3

Nov 112006


  • 130,000 miles
Radio not functioning, air conditioning unit works intermittently, airbag malfunction recognized, operation unit in steering wheel malfunctions, no communications with brake control unit, brake light switch causes drivers side brake light to malfunction. Horn not functioning nearly caused 2 accidents within a month. I drove over an island to avoid one collision from the other non-attentive driver and ended up scraping the transmission pan. Cost of replacement: $550. After thousands of dollars in repairs and diagnostics, VW dealerships still unable to fix any of the above!

- Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #2

Nov 202006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,672 miles
As I drove home from work, the vehicle's temperature gauge suddenly shot into the red and warnings flashed on the dash to stop the car immediately. I pulled over at the first highway exit and parked at a Volkswagen repair shop. The mechanics diagnosed the problem as a broken water pump impellar, essentially a small fan-like device that keeps coolant moving through the engine. The mechanics explained that this model VW used a plastic impellar instead of the metal ones commonly used in most cars. Apparently, VW has recognized that this plastic part is failure prone, and now makes aluminum replacement impellars. But the mechanics said I wasn't entitled to any recall or warranty. The repair cost me $879, plus the costs of renting a replacement car. Updated 12-12-07. Updated

- Felton, CA, USA

problem #1

Jun 062006

Passat 4WD 6-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
On June 6th 2006 my 2003 VW Passat car caught fire. My certified VW mechanic stated the cars after run water pump over heated, melting wiring and the fire resulted. My insurance company appears to be dening the claim.

- Providence, RI, USA

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