really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 9
Injuries / Deaths:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
54,214 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 2 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #41

Dec 312009


  • 119,000 miles


My 2003 VW Passat 1.8T has the well documented sludge issue that thousands of VW/Audi owners are experiencing. Initially I had to have the car towed B/C a gasket was leaking oil into the spark plugs, and my engine coil pack was bad. I paid $700 to repair and replace the parts. 80 miles after leaving the mechanic shop, the oil light and stop engine lights came on. Towed the car again; no oil pressure. Collected all of my maintenance records and took them to VW to get approval of the warranty issue before letting them "confirm" engine sludge ($500 diagnosis fee for dropping the oil pan). If the issue is engine sludge, the engine is a lost cause because the low oil pressure starved the engine head for oil. The VW dealership is waiting for my money before they'll diagnose the engine sludge- which you can see in the engine head with your eyes. Vwoa has issued an extended warranty, unlimited mileage, 8 years from sale date, to owners with all of their oil change/maintenance receipts. Yet, despite the "effort" by VW, they deny all the claims I've researched- saying everyone was irresponsible with their maintenance- no one took care of their engine. Loopholes left and right to blame the consumer, while we sit powerless to get our cars back on the road. Yet, this issue leaves me with no car. All of us "sludge" owners are left with cars dead on the side of the road, all with the same problem and VW turning their heads the other way.

- Dacula, GA, USA

problem #40

Apr 122007


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact was driving approximately 45 mph on normal road conditions when the "oil pressure" warning light indicator illuminated on the instrument panel and suddenly, the engine stalled. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer for diagnostic testing. The failure was contributed to oil sludge. The vehicle is in the process of being repaired for the malfunction. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was 80,000.

- Houston , TX, USA

problem #39

Dec 302009


  • 86,320 miles
While driving or idling, an engine warning light appears telling the driver to stop immediately due to no oil pressure. This can happen at any time. The problem is due to a known issue by VW of oil sludge buildup. The consequence is the engine will seize up and need to be replaced along with but not always including the turbocharger. VW has extended the warranty to 8 years unlimited miles for those engines, but unreasonably requires production of all oil change receipts for the entire history of the car.

- Fairview, OR, USA

problem #38

Nov 062009


  • miles


VW issued a voluntary safety recall for replacement of the underbody heat shield on my 2003 Passat wagon. (open campaign: 26E5/R5). I took the car to the local dealer to address the recall but was told my car could not be serviced without potential damage to the flexible joints behind the catalytic converter. Both joints were said to have small fractures in the metal and braided steel. I was told that the heat shield replacement required the exhaust line to be dropped via the flexible joints and that they could be broken in the process. If damage to the joints occurred, the charge for the parts (excluding labor) would be $1500 and that the full bill for parts/labor would be my responsibility. Because of the excessive cost, I was not able to have the heat shields replaced. I am concerned about the potential safety hazard for continued use of the vehicle without addressing the recall. I would like Volkswagen to be responsible for the full cost of replacing the heat shield up to and including the replacement of the flexible joints, should that be necessary.

- Princeton, NJ, USA

problem #37

Nov 152009


  • 84,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. While driving approximately 55 mph the vehicle stalled. The vehicle was towed to a side road. A technician from the dealer stated that the engine needed to be replaced because of an oil/sludge problem. No repairs were made. A representative from the manufacturer stated that they would not provide her with any assistance. The current mileage was 84,167. The failure mileage was approximately 84,000.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #36

Nov 232009


  • 85,000 miles
My 2003 VW Passat was having problems with coils and valve covers. My car caught on fire! luckily the fire went out about 10 minutes after I stopped the car! I can't believe this happened! is there anything I can do" are there any recalls out there"!

- Manning, SC, USA

problem #35

Dec 082008


  • 98,000 miles


9/2002 purchased 2003 Volkswagen Passat 1.8 turbo. 2005- 48,000 engine failed due to sludge. Towed to commonwealth motors santa ana, ca after 2 mos installed new oil pump, we each paid half even though it is a known design flaw with oil pump. 2007 same thing happened( but I was away and car towed to local garage) mechanic stated that no warranty would cover problem. Estimated 95. Final $2,569 to replace oil pump and turbo picked up car in March 2008, in Dec 2008 engine failed again towed to mesa West who suggested dealer should be called. Dealer accepted responsibility on phone since they had done original repair, 4 months later car needs new engine is still at dealer. Oil pump cannot process properly. VW aware of chronic problem but won't stand by product unless all receipts from oil changes are available. Car need $6000 of work and dealer doing nothing to assist regardless of promises made.

- Costa Mesa, CA, USA

problem #34

Mar 162009


  • 78,000 miles
I have had my 2003 VW Passat for 7 months now and have already had it in the shop 3 times. Right after I bought it used from a VW dealership the turbo went out. I had to pay for that. I then drove the car about 150 miles for a tournament and when almost there a light came on saying to stop and turn off the engine. Took it to VW dealership and it was covered by VW. It had something to do with sludge from oil. Got it back and 3 days later a light came on. It was the mil light. I took it in to the VW dealership. Still waiting to hear what the problem is this time. I have now had my oil changed 3 times in 5 thousand miles due to repairs. It has been one thing after another with this car so far.

- Eugene, OR, USA

problem #33

Feb 072009

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,100 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated that a new pair of rare brakes failed on her vehicle after 14,952 miles. She usually gets over 36,000 miles on a pair of brakes. She stated that the brake pads failed and damaged the rotors. The contact feels that the pads are defective and should have lasted longer than 14,000 miles. She also feels that the dealer should cover the cost of the new pads. The current and failure mileages were 95,100. Updated 04/21/09. The serpentine belt was cracked, the power steering fluid was low, the vc boot and hood strut was replaced.. updated 04/21/09.

- Traduco Cannon, CA, USA

problem #32

Aug 022003


  • 2,300 miles
Brake failure light appears even after multiple brake repairs. Driver"S side rear upper brake light replaced for 29th time in less than 2 yrs. Multiple coolant leaks still present even after repair and water pump replacement. Radio/amplifier not functioning even after replacement (radio was only used twice in vehicle"S lifetime). Diagnostics show airbag malfunction. Regulator pin on rear passenger side window keeps breaking (3rd replacement since 2003). Engine cover below car keeps falling off due to rusted bolts. Homelink system keeps malfunctioning. Fuses keep blowing out. Dashboard panel lights out (odometer, fuel gauge, etc.). ccm module keeps breaking down. Car needs to be jumpstarted when not in use for over 48 hrs. Climate control (A/C and heater) works only sporadically. All repairs performed by VW dealership, yet same issues keep reappearing just a few weeks after repairs. Repairs performed in past 2 years: ECU unit replaced, brake light switch replaced 3 times, A/C compressor unit replaced, ABS module replaced, alternator replaced, brakes replaced 3 times.

- Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #31

Oct 072004


  • 29,143 miles


VW Passat 2003, purchased01/09/03, 4 motion sedan, for $32,766.50. On 10/7/2004, I went through a 2" or less, rain puddle. Because of the air intake on the Passat location being very low, the engine was damaged due to the water intake in the air intake portion of the vehicle. The engine had to be replaced and cost $11,077.53. The car mileage was 29,143. VW refused to pay, saying it was not their fault. My insurance company refused to pay because they said it was a default in the vehicle. As a result, I had to pay the $11,077.53 to keep a vehicle that I had purchased new in 2003. It was 1/3 the cost of the new vehicle with only 29,143 mileage. The amount of rain can be determined on the day it happened, in middlebury, in. I did contact cartalk, after no result from VW, and they stated that they had been contacted by other people experiencing the same problem. It obviously was not enough to post a recall, but it is still something I should be reimbursed, even though it happened in 2004. I do still own the car, because of my investment, which would have been over $44,000, because I cannot afford another vehicle compared to this one.

- North Freedom, WI, USA

problem #30

Aug 162008


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. On two separate occasions, once while driving 50 mph, the contact made a sudden stop and the engine shut off. On the second occasion, while driving 15 mph, the vehicle stalled. On both occasions the vehicle immediately restarted. The dealer informed the contact that the failure would have to repeat itself in order for them to diagnose the vehicle. She was advised not to restart the vehicle and have it towed to the dealer. The VIN was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 80,000.

- Alexandria , VA, USA

problem #29

Aug 012008

(reported on)

Passat 4-cyl

  • miles
2003 Volkswagen Passat with an oil sludge problem. Consumer states that there is an extended warranty due to this oil sludge problem. The vehicle had a slight engine knock, before the oil was changed. The dealer stated the low oil pressure was probably caused by the pick up tube in the oil pan blocked by oil sludge.

- Lynbrook, NY, USA

problem #28

Jul 242008


  • 95,000 miles
I have owned 3 vws and have always made sure to stay up to date on scheduled maintenance. Recent knocking noise in engine lead us to take the car in for a repair at which time we were informed that we had a major sludge problem and it would cost me $6900 to replace the engine.

- Valrico, FL, USA

problem #27

Jul 032008

(reported on)

Passat 6-cyl

  • miles
2003 Volkswagen Passat with recall for faulty seal and heat shield. Consumer had the problem repaired and then received the recalls. He would like reimbursement for these repairs. The consumer stated there was a burning smell coming from the vehicle. The dealer discovered oil leaking from the valve cover and cleaned it. The sunroof tubes and drain plug were replaced.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #26

Jun 082008


  • 27,314 miles
Driving on I-87 upstate NY around albany in the fast lane about 80 miles an hour the car completely lost power. We pulled over quickly to the grassy area between the highways. We heard a sound but it might have been from the road when we pulled off or a backfire? the car was completely dead. We called 911 and a sheriff arrived soon and told us how difficult it would be to get back on the highway with traffic going 90-95 miles an hour. We had to get into the fast lane. We drove a little on the grassy area to see if the car would work. With great difficult and tremendous fear we managed to get onto the highway. We were then able to drive to nyc without problems in the slower lanes. No lights or sounds came on to warn us of the loss of power. This happened about 6 weeks ago as we were approaching the williamsburg bridge in manhattan but going at a much slower speed. We pulled over and had to restart the car. We have had the recalls from VW but not a recent one that may have come out in May. It seems like it could be a fuel tank issue. I will be taking it back to VW in brooklyn in two weeks to have them look at it. They have told me that since I did come in and get all the recalls that it could not be that. I am afraid of this car and only have about 27,000 miles after 5 years. It is a 2003 Passat turbo wagon. It was a hot day on June 8th and when we turned on the car the temp out side light said 101 degrees.

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #25

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 #24

Nov 252007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 82,000 miles
We were driving up to the base of the palm springs tram on a cool day at a relatively slow rate of speed and parked at the valley station. The temperature gauge was apparently operating normally during the entire drive. A few minutes after parking, we noticed smoke coming from under the hood of the car, and upon opening the hood discovered the fire. Since tram security was there with a fire extinguisher, the fire was extinguished relatively quickly. The insulation was burned and the car was not able to be driven any further. It was towed to indio, ca.

- Manhattan Beach, CA, USA

problem #23

Nov 012007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles
1.8L turbo engine with 51,000 miles, still under power train warranty. Oil press/stop engine light illuminated momentarily. First time was the summer 07. I called the dealership and they advised changing the oil, which I had done 2K miles and 2 months previous, but did again. That worked, no other advise by dealer. No occurrence again until Nov 07. Dealership inspection revealed sludge and coking. VW of America will not pay for any type of repair without receipts proving maintenance in accordance with the owners manual. I did all my own oil changes on schedule but did not keep receipts for oil/filter. The $130+ diagnostic charge was not covered by the warranty either. Additionally, dealer said the warranty was void because I had an other than VW oil filter on. Repair estimate is $3,000 to rebuild engine.

- Savage, MN, USA

problem #22

Oct 182007

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles
I have a VW Passat 1.8 liter turbo engine that has sludge in it causing my oil pressure to be low which threw my timing off. Luckily stopped driving the car before it lock up.

- Naperville, IL, USA

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