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 1 of 4)

problem #61

Apr 092013

Passat 4-cyl

  • 83,000 miles


Engine lights come on. Car at times start shaking - not consistently though. Took it to shop: Found out ignition coils misfires. This has occurred 4 times in a 2 year time span. The most recent 2 being a month apart. The most recent incident burned almost all of the spark plugs. Did research and this website describes my situation perfectly: www.vwproblems.com/trends/ignition-coil/.

- Laurel, MD, USA

problem #60

Jun 212012

Passat 4-cyl

  • 135,652 miles
Fuel supply line began leaking at mounting point on firewall above catalytic converter. Break/crack in line was significant and posed a high probability of fire, as any fuel leak, but substantially more so due to the location above the catalytic converter.

- Maumelle, AR, USA

problem #59

May 082012


  • 113,008 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start. The contact also stated that the vehicle emitted a noise in which it sounded like it was low on fuel. The vehicle had not been taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was notified and stated that the vehicle was not under recall. The manufacturer also stated that they were not responsible for repairs. The failure and current mileages were 113,008.

- Kingsport , TN, USA

problem #58

Jul 112008

Passat 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles


At a stoplight car began to shake and sputter, I made it home with the car shaking the entire time. Had to replace coils. Have broken down twice and had to have car towed since then and replace coils. Not too mention the other several times coils were replaced without the car actually breaking down. Due to the coils constantly going bad caused the catalytic converter to go bad, which had to be replaced May 2011 along with the coils and O2 sensor. But two months later the engine light was on again, once again due to the coils. They were replaced, and engine light on again. They told me it would void the warranty on the converter due to the issue with the coil packs! the car now smells like it is burning when only driving for 20-30 mins. Had to get a emissions waiver from the dot for 2 years due to the problem since it wouldn't pass inspection. There is obviously a problem with more than just the coil packs themselves. They have been replaced a dozen time, yet there is still a problem. It seems to me that the whole housing unit for the coils need to be replaced along with the wires, too prevent fire and other problems with the cars.

- Winston Salem, NC, USA

problem #57

Nov 052011

Passat 6-cyl

  • miles
Owner drove the 2003 Volkswagen Passat (2.8 V6 engine) home and parked it. He came back out to the driveway approximately 2 hours later and found the vehicle smoking. Small fire at right front floor pan/minor melting of dash plastics caused by heat from right side exhaust pipe/catalytic converter. Heat shield melted, rubber body plug ignited and consumed, carpet just above body plug was charred. Car just had right side catalytic converter and pipe replaced.

- Seekonk, MA, USA

problem #56

Mar 282011


  • 77,908 miles
I have a 2003 Volkswagen Passat with 77,650 miles with problems with the oilpump and engine problems that is unknown. The automobile will stall not start it hasn't been driven in over 6 months due to the rattling noise in the engine and I believe slugged is build up in the engine but since then I have replaced two oilpumps in the vehicle and the sensors. Engine oil pressure failure and defective coils on each cylinder.

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #55

Nov 212010


  • 98,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated the timing belt could not be adjusted. The check engine light illuminated because of the timing chain failure which also caused damage to the ignition coil. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer who stated the timing chain was designed to be a lifetime timing system and could not be adjusted. The contact was unable to register the vehicle because the check engine light was on. The contact spoke to the manufacturer who stated the only thing that can be done is to replace all four cam gear adjusters, control solenoid housing, adjuster bolts and timing chains, the valve cover gasket and seals, torque converter bolts, exhaust gaskets, intake manifold gaskets, injector seals, chain cover, chain tensioners, rear main seal and the throttle body gaskets. The failure mileage was 98,000 and the current mileage was 105,000.

- Mesa, AZ, USA

problem #54

Jun 012011

Passat 4-cyl

  • 86,523 miles
I own a 2003 VW passatt 1.8L turbo. I purchased this car brand new, and have used fully synthetic oil for the entire life of the vehicle. From reading several forums on the issue I am going to report, I do not have a gold plated record of all oil changes and maintenance. I have changed my oil every 3000-5000 miles. Two months ago, I was driving my car when the stop engine oil pressure light came on. I immediately pulled over and had the car towed to my mechanic, who is a master mechanic. The cause of the problem was the oil intake tube in the oil pan....it was completely clogged up and no oil was getting through it. I paid for parts and labor for him to make the repairs and it cost me $2500 dollars. I would like to be reimbursed for my cost, and find out what VW has done to cover owners for these repairs? thank you very much.

- Ewa Beach, HI, USA

problem #53

Mar 192011


  • 125,600 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact was driving approximately 55 mph when the oil warning light illuminated. The contact moved off the roadway and shut the vehicle off. The vehicle was restarted and driven a short distance before the failure recurred. The vehicle was later taken to the dealer for the failure and she was advised to call back and schedule an appointment. She stated that the dealer advised her that there was a warranty repair dealing with the oil sludge. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 125,600.

- Anaheim, CA, USA

problem #52

Feb 242011

Passat 8-cyl

  • 78,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8. The contact was driving approximately 35 mph when the vehicle began to shake uncontrollably causing difficulty in the steering. Suddenly, the check engine warning indicator illuminated on the instrument panel. The engine stalled while attempting to drive onto the emergency lane. Within ten minutes, the contact was able to restart the vehicle and drive to an independent mechanic who informed him that the failure was related to the cam shaft and torque. The technician could not guarantee that the failure would not recur after the vehicle was repaired. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 78,000. The VIN was unavailable. Updated 06/29/11 updated 1/13/2012

- Kansas City , MO, USA

problem #51

Dec 032010


  • 82,000 miles


The VW 1.8T engine has know sludge issues that lead to engine failure. When the engine fails the driver looses all power functions associated with the vehicle. This includes steering and brakes. This is exactly what happened to me and I was lucky enough to be in the left hand lane and was able to pull over and park. Had this happened when I was on an interstate it could have been a completely different outcome.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #50

Apr 012010


  • 96,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact was driving approximately 65 mph when the accelerator pedal became stuck in the depressed position. The vehicle was pulled over and shut off. Upon restarting, the vehicle operated as normal. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where they were unable to diagnose the failure and the vehicle was not repaired. The failure recurred intermittently. In addition, when driving approximately 65 mph the oil pressure light began illuminating on the dashboard. The vehicle was pulled over and towed to an independent mechanic where it was repaired. The failure persisted so the vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that the head gasket would need to be replaced. The vehicle was in the process of being repaired. The failure mileage was 96,000 and the current mileage was 105,000.

- Guernsey, WY, USA

problem #49

Jul 292010


  • 88,863 miles
2003 VW Passat wagon 1.8 T sludge issue stop engine light came on at 88,683 miles indicating oil pressure is low and vehicle should not be driven. Has not yet been repaired/replaced: Oil sludge low bar pressure $1792.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #48

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 #47

Jan 052010


  • 96,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated the vehicle started to make noises while driving 40mph. He stated that the oil function light also came on. The vehicle was taken to a mechanic and they stated that they have seen this before and should take the vehicle to the manufacturer. The contact took the vehicle to the manufacturer and they refused to repair the vehicle because he didn't have all his records for the oil changes. The failure and current mileages was 96,000.

- Dacula, GA, USA

problem #46

Sep 182004


  • 26,000 miles
Volkswagen Passat 2003 engine was ruined and had to be replaced with 26,000 miles on it. I was told by my purchase dealer that they would not cover the cost of replacement and my insurance company replied the same. My incident occurred during a rainy day in middlebury, in. The engine stopped working when I was on a bridge and in a 2" puddle. Both VW and my insurance company said they do not cover anything related to water damage. An engine should not be ruined in a 2" puddle. I wrote to "click and clack" eventually about the damage. They told me other vs Passat owners had their engines damaged and needing to be replaced but it was by other events. The loss of the engine happened in the Passat because the air intake was the lowest part of the engine and was affected by anything near the intake. This happened in 2004 in my car and my replacement was over $11,000 and had to be paid personally by me. I did not know that I could complain to the government at that time. I would still like to file the complaint and ask for investigation into the number of cars involved with the loss of the engine. Mine is the vs Passat glx, 4 motion.

- North Freedom, WI, USA

problem #45

Jan 102010


  • 90,000 miles
2003 VW Passat spontaneously combusted in the garage of our home. There are no events of concern leading up to the fire. The car had been parked in the garage since 5:00 pm on January 9, 2010 and the fire was discovered at about 3:00 am on January 10, 2010. A noise from the car alerted us and upon looking in the garage there were flames coming from the engine under the car. The fire totaled the car and caused over $100,000. Damages to the structure of our home. The cost to replace and repair contents is not yet known.

- Warrensburg, MO, USA

problem #44

Jan 202010


  • miles
Driving at 65mph and oil pressure light comes on -takes us 15 minutes to find a safe spot to pull over- get car to dealer -'sludge " in the engine- regularly serviced car for 7 years.

- Southampton, NY, USA

problem #43

Jan 152010


  • 104,000 miles
My 2003 Passat has 104,000 miles and is currently being fixed due to oil sludge in my engine. 2 years ago my mechanic warned me of this issue; however, a faithful Volkswagen owner I decided to keep my car and faithfully change my oil every 3,000 miles while the owner's manual say every 5,000 miles. Friday, January 15, 2010 I found myself stranded off the highway, on a trip, due to oil sludge. I am firm believer in taking care of your car and feel as though this is a Volkswagen issue. It seems as though there are several issues with this and Volkswagen and would like for an action to be considered.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #42

Jan 132010


  • 70,000 miles
Had my ignition coils in my VW 2003 Passat go out. Went to auto repair had repairs done at $340. 2 months later got letter of recall for exact problem, letter said to send in receipts for reimbursement. Sent forms, followed up with call and got check this week...for $78. Called # on form and they said they refund what the us average cost would be and in this case that was it. I went back to the dealer to ask them and they said they would have done the repairs for $320 and that I was being ripped off. After talking with the recall Agency and being put on hold 4 times they said that was it and all I would receive.

- Roseville, CA, USA

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