really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 9
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
57,095 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #50

Jul 012015


  • 130,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated that the vehicle stalled without warning while driving at various speeds. The failure was experienced numerous times. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who performed diagnostic testing. The engine oxygen sensor, coil spring, sparks plugs, and wires were replaced; however, the failure was not corrected. The contact stated that the tail lights also failed. The tail lights were not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failures. The failure mileage was 130,000.

- Waldorf, MD, USA

problem #49

Oct 052015


  • 108,000 miles
Driving at night, 65mph, interstate hwy. Low beam headlights went out. High beams did work. Replaced both headlight bulbs. Did not fix. Cost $95. Replace headlight relay. Did not fix. Cost in excess of $200. Recall for later year Passat for same problem caused by "hood slam?"

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #48

Feb 112009


  • 60,000 miles
Cylinders misfire causing acceleration hesitation. Spark plugs and coil were replaced Feb.2009, Dec. 2013, Aug. 2014, June 2015. The conditions are repetitive and identical.

- Southbury, CT, USA

problem #47

Apr 152014

Passat 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles


Car was constantly getting the passenger side (front and back) flooded w water during a rain storm. Had to get new battery cleaned out sunroof drainage. It didn't matter. Whenever it rained the battery would be dead because the control module which is there is all messed up sending mixed messages. Finely just died in the middle of the road. Not worth putting money into the car. I purchased this car less then a year ago and had this problem after the first rain and went down from their. Im so disappointed hoping buying a used VW I was going to be satisfied but had nothing trouble from day one.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #46

May 202013

Passat 4-cyl

  • 91,000 miles
ABS module failure, ABS light on brake light blinking and then asr light on, happens randomly, no specific reason, dry weather, humid, day or night. Still comes on randomly, no speeding, problem goes away when car is turned off.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #45

Nov 212012


  • miles
The turn signal would continue to make a clicking noise even after the signal had been shut off. This continued to happen for several minutes and then smoke began to rise from behind my steering wheel where the turn signal enters the wheel console. I began to pull over at the next safe area and before I could I noticed small flames coming from the same area where the turn signal enters the wheel console. When I turned off the car the smoke/fire slowly subsided. I ended up removing the turn signal fuse in order to drive to a repair shop. After some research this seems to be a common issue with no recalls issued yet.

- Saint Cloud, MN, USA

problem #44

Mar 182012


  • 174,256 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving approximately 20 mph, the contact noticed smoke coming from under the hood and pouring inside the vehicle. The contact found water and coolant leaking from the dashboard and onto the driver's side of the vehicle. The vehicle was also overheating. After exiting the vehicle, the contact noticed flames coming from under the hood. The contact was able to extinguish the fire however, the contact sustained burns to her legs due to the hot leaking coolant. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician stated that the engine blew and the instrument panel cluster was damaged. The contact was unaware of what caused the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 174,256.

- Canoga Park, CA, USA

problem #43

Feb 282012

Passat 6-cyl

  • 108,819 miles
Coils failing randomly and causing the car to shake violently and lose power on highway. Potential damage to be caused to other areas of the car because of this. Ie oxygen sensor etc.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #42

Oct 042011


  • 85,000 miles
Heated seat coils overheated and burnt seat on driver side. 1 year after recall was done by [xxx] VW brockton MA, they told me the heaters in the seat are no longer under warranty and told me to call VW usa with my problem, information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Brockton, MA, USA

problem #41

Apr 142011


  • 63,400 miles
My 2003 volkswagan Passat wagon has roof/chassis drains that are backing up inside the vehicle causing the vehicle electronics to short out and fail. My rear door will not open. This is a safety issue.

- Cornelius, NC, USA

problem #40

Nov 082010


  • 89,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated that the malfunction indicator warning light illuminated intermittently, causing the vehicle to shake excessively. The dealer made six attempts to diagnose the failure but to no avail. The manufacturer was notified who contacted the local dealer but offered no additional assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The current mileage was 91,252 and the failure mileage was approximately 89,000.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #39

Dec 312010

Passat 4-cyl

  • 121,752 miles
I was driving my VW Passat 1.8L turbo stationwagon at a speed of 40 miles per hour and the car suddenly stalled without any warning. My four month old baby was in the back in his carseat and had I been in a different setting we both could have been injured or killed. This was the first time it had occurred and once I took it to the mechanic the car started and drove fine and they could not duplicate the problem. They informed me that it was likely a parts recall issue: Recall: 07V375000: Fuel pump replacement. I contacted VW America, Inc. And was informed that while in fact there was such a recall for 2003 Passats, my VIN number was not covered in the recall and thus there was nothing they could/would do to help me despite the fact that the problem appears to be the very one indicated in the recall notice. This is very frustrating and scary.

- Kamuela, HI, USA

problem #38

Oct 042010

Passat 6-cyl

  • 84,000 miles
VW 2003 Passat AWD 2.8 L V6 gasoline engine...wife called me said car was miss firing badly and then smoke was reported coming from underneath car. She pulled over and saw flames coming from underneath the car. Turned car off and fire luckily went out...I changed coil and problem was fixed for about three months. Now car is miss firing again and running rough....I hate that I've fixed this same coil three times now and it is acting up again...

- Elgin, IL, USA

problem #37

Dec 272010


  • 82,000 miles
I purchased a 2003 Passat 6 months ago. I have had nothing but trouble from it. It is just one thing after another. I have had to take it in to be fixed about six times. I can't even remember everything I have had to have fixed. I do remember the last thing though. It was the tail lights, the tail light would not go out even when I had no lights on and even when the car was turned off. My car is in the shop again right now. It has been there since Monday December 27th. It is a four cylinder and has been running on three. I found out for the first time Monday that my car has 5 recalls on it. I was never notified of none of them. After leaving it for all the recalls to be fixed, I had to rent a car for $30 to get home. Now I have no way to pick up my car because I had to return the rental car the next day because I could not afford to pay $30 per day. I have nobody to take me to pick up my car, I guess I will have to take a taxi and that will probably cost me about $50. I am very upset with VW I paid my hard earned money for a reliable car and now I am stuck with nothing but a lemon, something needs to be done about this. I have no way to go anywhere, what am I supposed to do?

- Greenville, SC, USA

problem #36

Jun 012007


  • 28,000 miles
I just read that the NHTSA was investigating the failure of coils on 2002/2003 VW Passats. I had a 2003 Passat that had the number 2 cylinder coil fail at about 28,000 miles in 2007. The dealer replaced it, but I had to pay approximately $150. At about 29,000 the number 4 cylinder coil failed. I still had to pay about $100 with the dealer absorbing the cost of the part itself. The VW dealer told me that VW did not have a problem with their coils other than on a random basis, and that there were no manufacturing defects with the coils. They said that it was just coincidence that I had two coils fail. Because of the failure of two coils at relatively low mileage I decided that the car was not reliable, and traded it in for a Honda Accord. Now it appears that VW did have a problem for which I was penalized both by having to pay for the cost of the two repairs, but also because those problems caused a lack of confidence in the reliability of the VW resulting in my trading it in well before one would expect to have to trade in a car. My 2007 Honda Accord has over 45,000 miles, and there have been no problems of any kind.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #35

Jan 122010


  • miles
I purchased an 03 VW Passat from a VW dealer as a certified pre-owned vehicle back in 2/07. Within the first week of purchase I had brake problems. The next couple years were followed by valve cover leaks, engine leaks, auto window problems, battery problems, recall issues, water intrusion issues, ignition coil recall and the list goes on. After a water intrusion just days after the replacement of faulty ignition coils I contacted the manufacture notifying them of the problems. The manufacture had held their foot to the ground that my car is out of warranty (that I was told at time of sale I did not have) and so they are able to do nothing about any of the problems with this vehicle. However as it stands I have nearly $3000 in repairs needed to this vehicle. Not to mention the water leak/damage from what I understand may actually mean my vehicle is considered a total loss at this point. I have expressed to the manufacture that I am concerned for the safety of myself but my small children as well ever time we are in this vehicle. Among the several things that are potential to occur while I am driving I also worry about the potential for mold exposure from the water damage. Due to cost I am unable to get any of this corrected and can not afford to go thru my insurance only to be told that it is a manufacture issue and so I am stuck. I feel that at this point I am driving around in a safety hazard and don't know what to do. Every time I receive a replay from anyone I just end up back at the same place....contact the BBB, etc. I am getting no where and don't know what to do therefore am looking into any and all resources so any information would be useful. Thank you for your time.

- Carmichael, CA, USA

problem #34

Apr 202010


  • 92,000 miles
On April 20, 2010 my 2003 Volkswagen Passats check engine light came on at around 4:45 pm. I immediately called the place who does all my repair work, and was told I could drop off the car that night, and they would check it out the following morning. I arrived at the location around 5:10, parked the car and went to place my key in the night drop box. When I walked back to the car I saw smoke coming out from under the hood. I raised the hood and saw flames coming from what looked like under the back of the engine compartment. Then I noticed that there were flames coming out from under the dashboard inside the car. I called 911 and ran to a nearby gas station to get a fire extinguisher. When I got back to the car there were flames visible inside the car. I used the entire fire extinguisher and it did not even phase the fire. Within 1 minute the entire car was engulfed in flames. The fire dept. Arrived within 6 minutes and the car was gone.

- Springdale, AR, USA

problem #33

Aug 082009


  • 95,837 miles
Recalled VW coil failure.

- Bushnell, FL, USA

problem #32

Jan 112010

Passat 6-cyl

  • 89,952 miles
Went to start my car and the malfunction indicator lamp light was on and my car was shaking uncontrollably. I called the dealership they had told me to have my car towed in. As I did, the problem was the ignition coils, they did mention that there was a recall on the 4 cylinders and they have had several people come in with this problem after the artic blast came through last week. The reason why I'm writing is because I think its kind of weird after this recall came out so many people have had this problem recently and just wondering why this particular part is not covered under a recall for a V6. To me it doesn't make any sense why not, my problem is occurring exactly when all these other cars are being recalled for the same thing.

- Arlington, TX, USA

problem #31

Jun 142008

Passat 4-cyl

  • 83,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving 40 mph the vehicle stalled. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, and a technician replaced the ignition coil at an expense of $403. The failure resurfaced one year after the vehicle was repaired. An authorized technician concluded that the ignition coil failed and caused the wiring harness, and the engines computer to burn. The vehicle was repaired at an expense of $887.97. The manufacturer was notified. The failure mileage was 83,000 and the current mileage was 92,000. Updated 10/21/09. Updated 12/07/09. The consumer stated in addition to the other problem, the failed stalled on the highway and the the lights on the dashboard illuminated. Updated 12/08/09

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

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