really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
56,129 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

problem #7

Mar 162015

Passat 4-cyl

  • 116,000 miles


After a couple attempts to start the vehicle the engine turns over and runs for 2-3 seconds then dies. This happens multiple times before fully starting up and is able to be driven. While out of gear and car is running, pressing on the acceleration does nothing. Car is able to be driven short distances but stalled at one point going approx. 5 mph. I was told my specific VIN # is not covered under warranty for fuel pump/system malfunctions. If this is a known issue of 2003 Passat's already why would some not be covered?

- Salem, OR, USA

problem #6

Feb 012013

Passat 6-cyl

  • 112,000 miles
On or about Feb. 1, 2013, I started my manual-transmission 2003 Volkswagen Passat gls (V6) and shifted into reverse to back out of my driveway. As soon as I took my foot off the brake, the car lurched backward even though I was not depressing the accelerator pedal. I quickly shifted into neutral, engaged the parking brake and turned off the ignition. When I tried to restart the car, it would not start and did not start until about an hour later. My first thought was that the accelerator could have become lodged under the floormat, but that was not the case; nor was it the case in at least four other similar incidents. Two of these incidents took place as I was driving at a low speed in a residential area. Fortunately, there were no pedestrians or other cars around me and I had the presence of mind to recognize the issue, shift into neutral and park the car. However, I fear what could happen if this incident recurred when I was at an intersection, railroad crossing or crosswalk. Despite repeated attempts, my mechanic has been unable to replicate the incident or identify the cause.

- Germantown, TN, USA

problem #5

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 #4

Aug 162009


  • 54,800 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Volkswagen Passat. The contact stated while driving with the cruise control function at 72 mph and attempting to decrease speed, the cruise control would not disengage. She applied pressure to the brakes and the vehicle accelerated. The contact was forced to drive into a median; however, the brakes failed to stop the vehicle which caused the driver to crash into two metal poles causing the air bags to deploy. The contact sustained minor injuries of powder burn from the air bag. A police report was filed. The vehicle was inspected by an insurance adjuster who determined that the vehicle was destroyed; however, the failure is still under investigation. The contact is in the process of notifying the manufacturer. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was 54,800.

- Elmira, NY, USA

problem #3

Jan 312005

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,700 miles
I was stopped at a light with several cars in front of me. When the light changed and the car ahead of me moved and was about 15 feet in front I took my foot of the brake and the car accelerated forward with out me touching the gas pedal. I was startled and I slammed on the brakes. The car did not slow down at all and only the rear end of the car in front of me stopped my car. I looked down at my foot to make sure I had hit the brakes and not the accelerator. My foot was squarely in the middle of the brake pedal. Normally when the brakes are hit hard the front end of the car dips and the sudden stopping of the car jerks the driver forward. None of this happened until my car hit the car in front of me.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #2

Jan 282004

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 2,400 miles
On a super highway(315), columbus, Ohio, at rush hour in the morning, the engine RPM suddenly jumps from about 3000 to the red line at 7500. The car quickly accelerates to almost 100 miles an hour. I try to press the brakes as hard as I can, and maneuver the car to avoid collision with slower vehicles. It takes about seven minutes to slow the car to a relatively safe speed. In the meantime the engine is revving at 7500 RPM all the time. I stop the car safely and wothout collision. The clutch appears to be completely un-operational. The car is towed to to the dealer(mag in dublin, Ohio). The dealer dignoses driver error for cluth damage, and no fault with the car. They are adamant that I sign a letter accepting all the blame. I refuse. They charge me $ $456 before releasing the disabled car back to me. VW of America confirms the two false dignoses of the dealer. The manufacturer in wolfsburg is not helpful or interested. I have driven 7 manual VW's for 42 years! I have kept many of those cars for 15 -20 years and have never had any problem with the clutches or engines before. The car is a manual Passat, 2003 with 2400 miles.

- Worthington, OH, USA

problem #1

Nov 152003

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 1,000 miles
Manual five speed 2003 Passat turbo's engine suddenly revs up to 7500 RPM, and the car jumps forward about 13 feet after starting from a stop at a light fortunately, I had enough distance from the car in front not to have a collision. It took about 20 -30 seconds of hard braking to slow the car down. The RPM dropped to normal at this time.

- Worthington, OH, USA

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