really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
86,400 miles
Total Complaints:
22 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (13 reports)
  2. oil pan screen was replaced (2 reports)
  3. paid dealer $2600 to clean out sludge (2 reports)
  4. replaced oil screen (2 reports)
  5. new rods and components and possibly new turbo (1 reports)
  6. replace oil pump & intake tube, clean oil pan (1 reports)
2003 Volkswagen Passat engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #22

Oct 082018

Passat 1.8t

  • Manual transmission
  • 106,000 miles


The dealer that sold me this car never said a WORD about this issue.

- Craig D., Raleigh, NC, US

problem #21

Sep 052014

Passat LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 170,500 miles

Do not have time for this thk iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

- navi75, Av 5ta # 1983 Otay, Tijuana, mexico

problem #20

Nov 012010

Passat GLS 1.8L T

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I have oil sludge problem just right before the next oil change. I took my car to the dealer. asking me for $2100 to fix it. i went home and googled and saw other people having the same problem. i said no to fixing oil sludge problem, but had regular oil change. after that it went a way.

- John T., Westminster, CA, US

problem #19

Dec 182010

Passat GL 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 63,000 miles


Oil pressure light came on after an oil change, took it to VW dealer & they wanted $500 to look at it. They did not say it was a typical oil sludge problem for this vehicle. We called VW dealer after the engine stopped and they will not repair it. I have a private mechanic working on replacing the engine now.

- thacker, Holland, OH, US

problem #18

Oct 222010


  • Manual transmission
  • 153,000 miles

I switched to an independent VW mechanic when I had my timing belt replaced and glad I did. I am seeing reports of $2600 to fix the oil sludge problem and my mechanic charged me about $500 for the same service.

- Bryan B., Tipp City, OH, US

problem #17

Aug 232010

Passat 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,000 miles

I love(d) my Passat till now. I even named it! My oil light came on so I thought ok I will have it checked. Had the oil changed before it was due and everything was fine. Oil light came back on and started making a noise a few weeks later. Took it to the oil change place and they shook their head when I pulled in. They immediately told me to go to VW specialist. I went to the specialist and they told me it was the oil pan and screen and sludge. I was told to go home and park it so I did. On my way home (2 miles from my house) my car died. Just cut off. I have been told my motor is blown. I was also told that will cost $2500-4500 just for the motor. I was told by the specialist VW is aware of this problem yet they did not do a recall to fix it...I have a constant headache!

- Rj E., Birmingham, AL, US

problem #16

Aug 122010

Passat 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 75,000 miles


Oil pressure light came on, pulled over lifted the hood and now the engine rattles. Told the problem was a clogged oil screen and maybe bad oil pump, @ 75,000 miles give me a brake. I changed oil when scheduled every 3k and treated this thing like a baby. VW has screwed us. I purchased this car brand new for about $22,000.00 this is the last VW for me. I have a 1997 Ford Expedition with 200,000 miles that I have never replaced anything on it but a cruise control cable. It runs like a dream and does not use oil, way to go Ford.

- Louis S., White Pine, TN, US

problem #15

Aug 092010

(reported on)

Passat Wagon 1.8t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,603 miles

I have a 2003 VW Passat Wagon 1.8T with 88k miles. When taking the vehicle into the dealership to replace coils under one of the multiple recalls on this vehicle, the STOP engine/oil pressure light came on. I was told at the dealership it is an oil sludge issue ( I have always used Mobile One in this engine).

The solution, according to VW, is to drop $2500 - $3000 to fix the issue which is not of my making.

It appears this factory design defect is common among 1998-2004 VW Passat 1.8T and Audis of similar years. Seems more than a coincidence if both Audi and VWs are having the identical sludge issues.

I want to know why, Volkswagen, if it is so terribly concerned with fine engine "werks" and safety, has not recalled this problem. Anyone? Better yet, I'd like to know when, VW, you conscientiously raise a recall to resolve this issue for your customers?

What up, Vee Dub?

- Laura C., Atlanta, GA, US

problem #14

Jun 172009

Passat 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

I brought this car new because as a single female I thought I would be safe and not have the issues if I had purchased a used car. In June of 2006, the dealer told me I had to have the engine replaced...it was only after I put up such a fuss & proved they were the ones serving the vehicle for its scheduled maintenance; that they replaced the engine at no cost to me; now here it is almost 4yrs to the date & I'm having the same issue.

- Lupe K., Lisle, IL, US

problem #13

Jun 112010

Passat 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles

I just had my oil changed on 24th May 2010 and while driving the STOP ENGINE light came on, I made an appointment couldn't get the car in until the following Monday but on that Friday the car begin running rough. I took it to the nearest repair shop & the guy told me there was oil sludge build up and that I need a new engine.

I brought this car new in 2003, in 2006 the dealer where I purchased it from, told me the same thing & the engine was replace in 2006 with less than 100,000 miles on it then and VW didn't care; here it is almost 4yrs to the date and the same issue.

- Lupe K., Lisle, IL, US

problem #12

Jun 242008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles


I continously took the car for the routine oil changes at the vw dealer, however when I noticed the problem of the loud engine noises, was a month after the warranty had expired and now rhe dealer wanted 15k for a new engine stating that the warranty ran out and because i took it for an oil change every 4 mos rather than the 3mos suggested they can not cover it however i have papers stating that they new there was sometime of failure prone to happen with the engine eventually but that was never communicated to me within the warranty period. I feel that this is all a scam and vw is out to cheat people who not only trusted in them to provide the customer service help they needed but who also worked hard in order to have such car. i am very dissapointed.

- Juan F., East Hartford, CT, US

problem #11

Mar 102008

Passat GL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,607 miles

2nd time this had occurred.

Started out as a $95.00 estimate and had taken to Arman Auto/Herb's Garage in Costa Mesa, Ca. I had taken previous cars here. The mechanics aren't great, BUT they always would look at it again if there were problems. I trusted them. After estimate was approved the oil sludge diagnosis was given by phone as I was out of town. I asked if the VW warranty would cover for repeat oil sludge issue and the mechanic at Arman stated NO. After paying the $2,569 on December 8, 2008 after 10,000 miles the same thing happened again. I called the shop they would not honor the warranty and put up a sign in the shop stating Not to accept 1.8 turbo problems.

- phyllisr, Costa Mesa, CA, US

problem #10

Dec 082008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

I had my car towed to Commonwealth Auto Group where I had purchased the car. They "repaired" it for the same issue in 2005. Mark Thurber, service director, by phone stated to me that he felt responsible for this because his shop had repaired it the first time. When I questioned him about the cost, he hedged and said it wouldn't cost anything to take apart and clean this and that and put back together. NOW, 4 months later he has denied that he said this to us and the General Manager, Jeff West states to remove the car today or he'll start charging rent. Mark knows that he told me to have it towed there, I had already had it towed to another VW shop who suggested that I call this doofus who accepted responsibility, lent us car for 2 months and did absolutely nothing to fix the car. Will be taking them to small claims court for a new engine.

So for now, I am sharing a 12 year old trooper for transportation, and renting a car when I have to drive very far from home. Passat turbo sucks Commonwealth motors is apparently going insolvent and couldn't care any less about this particular customer. Last VW!!!!!

- phyllisr, Costa Mesa, CA, US

problem #9

Mar 062009

Passat GL 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I feel compelled to join this conversation because the "oil sludge buildup" just happened to my car too. I'm floored about VW's lack of ethics!

Let me start by saying I love the look and feel of my Passat. I purchased it new, and have meticulously maintained it for the past 6 years - every oil change, major maintenance, etc. I bought it w/ the intent to pay it off (which I have), and then keep it for many years to come, payment free. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. It literally has been one problem after another, most recently the oil sludge buildup.

Luckily for me, the dealership offered the extended warranty and cleaned it up without a fight, but they never alluded to the fact that this was a known problem. I only found that out after the fact via the internet. From what I understand, there's nothing that I can do to prevent it from happening again - it's a defect in the 2003 Passat engine.

If it happens in the future, I wonder if I will be offered the extended warranty again (doubtful), or if I'll have to pay the $1500 out of pocket. Not worth the risk. Like many others on this site, I plan to sell my Passat. It goes without saying, I will never again purchase a VW.

- Corine K., Seattle, WA, US

problem #8

Dec 232008

Passat 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

Relocated out of NY where I had purchased my new 2003 Passat. It finally is paid for. Now I live in Pinehurst NC. My car only has 47,000 miles on it and I take great pride of routine maintenance as well as addressing all the RECALLS on this car.. While driving my car to work the STOP the engine sign came on. I pulled over stopped the car waited a few minutes and restarted the engine w/o any problems. Extra oil was applied later on in the day. After work I needed to drive up to Raleigh (approx 1 1/2 hrs away) my car was fine until 45 min into the drive. I stopped again waited and drove directly to an auto service repair station. I had no choice! I had no idea where I was and needed my car. This all happened the day before Christmas.. What an ordeal. The cost was >$1000 and the mechanic stated this will absolutely happen again. Nice news and Merry Christmas to ALL!!!!. I went home (flew) to NY for the holidays and called the dealership in Riverhead where I purchased my car. The service manager requested I bring the car in for immediate repair at NO COST. Unfortunately the car is in Raleigh and already fixed. With that said he could not help me, but I was provided w/VW's corporate number and was told they will do good by me. YEAH RIGHT. They were quite aware of this known problem, decided Not to place it as a recall, leaving it up to the unsuspecting consumer. Of course they requested 9 proof of oil change receipts which I misplaced with the move or thought it wasn't necessary to hold onto. The reality is I'm up the creek w/o a paddle... I will get rid of this CAR ASAP and advise anyone I speak to NOT NOT Not to by a VW......Enough said....

- jschipf`, Raleigh, NC, US

problem #7

Nov 072007

Passat 1.8t

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

Never Buying a VW again. The fact that this design flaw is killing engines and they wont help is ridiculous.

- David A., Portland, ME, US

problem #6

Nov 032008

Passat 1.8L Turbo

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

My VW Passat has never given me trouble, and I even went as far to say I would only buy VW in the future. That is, until my check engine, stop the car immediately warning flashed on my dash. I was close to home so I coasted into my driveway, looked up the warning, and checked my oil. It was low, so my husband added a quart, and took it for a drive down the block to see if the problem was resolved. No. We had it towed to carmax, where it is warranteed, they referred us to VW where it is under warranty for the "SLUDGE" build up in the engine. After examination VW asked us for our oil change receipts, we could only find 4 of the 7. We did not use our regular mechanic for the other 3 oil changes. Since we can't produce the other documents VW won't cover it, even though they told us that a lot of 03' VW's are having the same problem, and have replaced engines to fix the problem. Obviously there is an issue with the car, and the sludge buildup happened even with proper maintenance of the car. I am boiling over this because the estimate to fix the car is $2500 to $5000. WTF !! Why pay up to $5000 for a problem that they should fix for free, for their crappy engine. I can't help but feel taken advantage of. My husband is fighting with VW but who knows what the outcome will be!!

- Sarah R., Montgomery, IL, US

problem #5

Apr 292008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 53,000 miles

I was exiting the highway on Tuesday when my Passat started loudly beeping. It was the same sound it makes if your fuel gets low or it's col outside, only it kept going. I looked at the dash, and it read "STOP!" which flashed over to "Oil press. Turn off engine" I drove a couple of blocks down the road, to a repair shop. My oil level was good. It's been 3 days now, and they still don't know what the problem is. I'm afraid that it may be the infamous oil Sludge problem. Already, it's going to cost us about $700 just to diagnose the problem, and that's not including rental car charges. We have an extended warranty through CarMax, but I don't know that they'll pay if it is the Sludge problem. This car has been a pain since we bought it. It only had 36,000 miles when we bought it, and immediately the engine was riding rough, and the air conditioning had problems. We also had to have the heated seat replaced because it was about 140 degrees on one tiny spot, and would burn you if it was turned on. Luckily, Carmax did fix those problems. Because we bought this car used, I'm worried that we will have the same problem everyone is...we don't have oil change receipts from the previous owners.

- Chantel C., San Antonio, TX, US

problem #4

Jun 012005

(reported on)


  • 39,000 miles

i have had my Volkswagen Passat 1.8 turbo in the shop 3x out of the last 6 months. and at this time the car is still at the dealership not fixed. the 1st time was for the same problem im having now which they say they fixed, the light in the car kept going off. 2nd time the power steering went out as well as i had to have the rear brakes replaced they covered the power steering but i payed for the brakes. Now the car is still there and for the same problem i went in with the 1st time. But this time there are refusing to fix it under warranty. i have provided them all receipts of maintenance and still they are refusing to fix the car.

- manger, Loxahatchee, FL, US

problem #3

Aug 272005

(reported on)


  • 38,000 miles

Have had nothing but problems with this lemon. 2003 VW Passat

* 500 miles cruise control fails, has to be replaced.

* 16,000 miles Ignition coil fails, replaced coil and Mass air flow sensor.

* 28,000 miles Fan in dash diagnosed as faulty and needing to be replaced. Parts ordered, never installed. (they used them in another car....)

* 40,000 miles oil pump and oil hoses are replaced due to oil pressure failures. Car broke down on road.

* 44,159 miles oil pressure switch replaced due to oil pressure failures.

* 46,000 miles fuel pump failure, replaced under warranty. Car broke down on road.

Volkswagen has a problem with these cars and "oil sludge". VW refuses to fix my car under warranty. Last word was "we reserve the right to refuse any warranty claim, regardless of documentation of oil changes."

I've talked to several dealerships and it's a #1 problem with these cars coming in for ruined engines and oil sludge. VW is refusing to pay for fixing the problems in most cases.

- Thomas M., Tuscaloosa, AL, US

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