Problems With VW Cars: 6 Known Issues (Explained)

There’s no arguing that even the best car brands in the industry are prone to have issues. Car models always have accompanying issues that owners report.

Manufacturers like Volkswagen have been around for some time and have also shaped the auto industry.

If you own a VW car or are planning to buy one, it is best to find out what common problems you might find. Sometimes your particular model might have the same problem, even if the issue is not apparent yet.

In this article, we are looking at some common issues you can find in VW cars.

Here are 0-60 MPH times for all VW models.

1. ABS Control Module Failure

The anti-lock braking system has been known to have ongoing issues of failure. The VW Passat is the model that this issue is most occurring on.

An ABS control module controls the anti-lock braking system and, when not functioning correctly, can render the ABS dysfunctional.

The main function of the ABS is to keep the brakes from locking up and skidding. It keeps the braking of the car smooth to avoid hydroplaning and crashing.

A faulty control module leaves the car vulnerable to skidding and causing an accident. Most of the time, the module fails because of moisture in it.

Another sign of a failing ABS control module is when you notice your brake pedal is failing to engage. When this happens, you will have a difficult time controlling your vehicle at high speeds.

When you notice the ABS sensor flashing and braking is abnormal, it is likely a sign the control module is failing. A control module failure can be avoided by making sure the car is properly maintained.

Because ABS is such an important safety feature for your car, if it fails you’ll have to get it checked out immediately. A visit to the mechanic or dealership should be scheduled as soon as the symptoms appear.

They can get the problem solved by either fixing or replacing the entire ABS control module.

2. Coolant And Oil Leaks

The VW Jetta, Tiguan, and Golf all have issues with oil and coolant leakage. VW owners have always known this to be an issue with these models, and VW is still to fix the problem.

Coolant and oil leakage on more than one model is mostly a sign that the manufacturer cut corners somewhere. It is said that the coolant liquid container is of low quality and allows coolant to flow out.

We have more here on the known problems with the VW Tiguan.

Since the VW Golf is one of the highest-selling models of the car company, a lot of people have reported oil leaks. The issue has been around in the last three generations of the VW Golf.

The company has often reported that oil leaks are due to normal wear and tear of engine parts. However, the issue is occurring in a wider range of the company’s models.

Normal wear and tear can cause engine oil leaks because the valve gasket can get clogged up. When you take too long between oil changes, the oil gasket seal breaks down and starts leaking.

Built-up sludge and dust can also lead to the oil filter starting to leak. The sludge is built up from the dust and soil that increases the pressure.

Oil filter problems occur mostly in the VW Jetta and can be quite expensive to fix if left for too long. If the filter is fitted loosely after an oil change, it can lead to a leak.

Regular oil changes and maintenance can prevent the problem up to a certain point. A certified VW dealership should be able to stop an oil or coolant leak.

3. Clunking Noise On Acceleration

The VW Golf R and the VW Tiguan both get amazingly high-reliability scores on J. D Power, but both have acceleration issues.

On acceleration, these models experience shaking and a clunking noise that scares owners a bit. The noise seems to be coming from the front end and gets worse during acceleration.

It can be very annoying when your car makes such noises, especially when it is still under warranty.

Some owners of these models have rounded down the problem to be coming from bad CV joints or bad axles. A quick visit to the mechanic and the problem was fixed for most owners of the Golf R.

The clunking noise seems to be a problem with the VW Tiguan. This might be due to the car being an SUV, which is rather difficult when pinpointing a problem.

What is similar to both Golf R and the Tiguan is where the noise is coming from. Moreover, owners of both models report the noise worsening upon acceleration.

On the VW Tiguan, most people were able to diagnose the problem to be an issue with worn engine mounts. Engine mounts on the VW Tiguan can last about 5 years and cost around $500 to replace.

When the German company was approached about this issue, they chalked it up to a software update. A reset of the DSG and a software upgrade were able to solve the issue for some owners.

With that said, it is recommended to visit your nearest VW dealership if this problem occurs in these models.

4. Engine Overheating

Problems with overheating engines have also clouded the German company’s Golf and Jetta models. The engine overheats and the electronics start acting up in response.

An overheating engine is a big problem as it can render the car uncontrollable and possibly cause a crash. This is because the heat can affect the safety features of the car, like the ABS or EBD modules.

The Jetta is particularly a great example of this because as soon as it heats up, it affects other components of the car. This can be seen by the warning light illuminating the instrument cluster.

For the VW Jetta, overheating problems are difficult to diagnose because the heat masks the problem.

Commons Causes of Overheating VW

  • Broken Water Pump
  • Cooling System Leak
  • Bad Gasket
  • Radiator Problems

Because the VW Golf sells more units than the VW Jetta, the problem is easily traced down and solved. In this case, the Jetta is not that easily diagnosed and solved.

Most Jetta owners are advised to keep an eye on the temperature gauge in extremely hot climates. As soon as the gauge rises abnormally high, the driver must stop the car and let it cool off.

Driving a car with the engine constantly heating up can cause the engine to completely stop running. It can be rather expensive and time-consuming to fix an engine that is broken from heat.

As soon as you have symptoms of overheating on a VW engine, it is best to immediately visit a VW dealership near you.

Related: How Long Do Volkswagen Cars Last? (4 Models Checked)

5. Dashboard Lights

Maintenance lights on the dashboard are important signs to let you know when there’s something wrong with a vehicle’s component.

These lights give warnings about low oil, low fuel, engine failure, and battery problems, among others.

Issues with malfunctioning dashboard lights mostly affect the VW Passat, but can also occur in other models.

When you first turn the ignition key, all the lights should come on for a second or two. The problem is when a particular warning light is always on.

If a warning light is always on, it indicates a problem with that particular component. It might be the battery or engine oil, but the issue has to be diagnosed.

When the light is yellow when on, it means that the components need to be checked. However, if it illuminates red, then it means it is probably an emergency that requires immediate attention.

The problem with the VW Jetta is that warning lights turn on intermittently without a problem with any components.

For example, the battery light might always be on even though the battery had just been replaced.

Not only is this frustrating for owners, but it can also be dangerous. You might ignore the warning light only to find that there really is a problem.

On the VW Golf, a quick visit to the dealership diagnosed the problem to be electronic. A reset of the ECU was able to sort out the issue for most owners.

Regular maintenance checks are again advised for any VW model in order to prevent common problems.

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6. Won’t Start After Refueling

This problem occurs mostly in the last two generations of the VW Tiguan and VW Golf R.

Even though the Golf R seems to have far fewer problems than the VW Tiguan, it does get its fair share of complaints.

These models were reported as not being able to start and run immediately following a refueling. This problem can leave drivers stranded at or after leaving a gas station.

VW says that this is likely caused by the EVAP purge control valve being stuck open. It looks like this causes fuel vapor to be pushed back into the intake manifold.

Simpler causes can also be a bad battery, a bad fuel pump, or a clogged fuel filter. Of all those causes, the bad battery issue is the easiest to diagnose and solve.

Of these causes, the VW Tiguan was the model most susceptible to fuel pump and fuel filter issues. The VW Golf R, on the other hand, seemed to have simpler causes, like a bad battery or worn spark plugs.

Replacements are in line if it turns out the problem is a bad fuel pump or fuel filter. However, if the problem turns out to be a bad battery, it can be easily checked by a mechanic.

For the VW Tiguan, fuel pump replacement is between $700 and $850. This is divided into labor at around $180 and parts at around $700.

It’s no secret that a problem with the fuel filter or fuel pump must be fixed as soon as possible. This is to avoid the issue potentially affecting other components in the engine.

A certified VW service technician will be able to diagnose and solve issues when the car cannot start after refueling.

Related: How Long Do Teslas Last? 6 examples (Miles & Years)

Annual Repair Costs For VW Cars

Model Average Annual Repair Cost
Volkswagen Passat $640
Volkswagen Golf $650
Volkswagen Tiguan $750
Volkswagen Golf R $903
Volkswagen Jetta $600

From the table above, we can easily tell that the Golf R is the most expensive model to maintain. However, this VW model also has the least number of complaints from various owners.

Consequently, the VW Passat is the model with the most complaints about various issues. Surprisingly enough, the Passat also has the lowest average annual repair costs associated with it.

Repair costs will differ according to the model of the Volkswagen. To avoid paying from your own pocket, it is best to get auto insurance.

Volkswagen also has a list of extended warranty plans to choose from.

Related: 5 Volkswagen Models With The Most Recalls (Check Before Buying!)

Final Thoughts

Volkswagens rank above average in terms of reliability and longevity. Competitors like Toyota and Honda still get higher scores when it comes to reliability.

The least reliable VW model is the Jetta, with the most common problem being engine stalling amongst others. It gets an average annual repair cost of about $600, which is still lower than other models.

The most reliable model is the VW Golf GTI, particularly the 2014 model year, and gets very few complaints. With this model, the most common problem is carbon buildup and a few owners also reported not starting after refueling.

With advances in vehicle technology and innovation, Volkswagen cars are still a great buy.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.