The Volkswagen Dilemma: Quality Cars

A 2006 VW jetta TDI with 200,000 miles, no tranny problems.
A 2006 VW jetta TDI with 200,000 miles, no tranny problems.

The Volkswagen reputation for quality and durable cars was fairly solid and good through the 1960s and towards the end of the 1970s. Their staple, the Beatle, oops, I mean Beetle, was durable and solid. They were everywhere and most owners could work on them. Once the Beetle was phased out in most places, VW tried different types like the Sirocco, Fox, and to cut costs, built in Brazil, Mexico etc.

The quality of VW cars starting from 1980 to the present, remains their Achilles heel and is hit and miss. It was not until very recently, VW had started building their cars in the US, of course, this changed nothing. German cars are different than Japanese cars, they use many differed parts that are not interchangeable, they even use different brake, coolant, and oil than Japanese cars, which, let's face, are everywhere. VW is not. Audi is not. It is not hard to get but you have to look and ask and pay a higher price generally. Food to think about when buying German.

The quality issue for VW is a problem. It can be serious or minor. It can happen with less than 25K miles on the new car or never. When buying a VW, one never knows if it will be a lemon or not. Buying a new VW means little when it comes to reliability. For instance, the 2008-10 Passat, Jetta, Golf diesel TDI's (or non-diesel) with their DSG automatic transmission have been plagued with unreliability. Whether buying new or used, customers (over 53,000) had failures from its Mechatronic computer unit (this unit tells when the gears to shift and is like a large hardrive with software attached to the tranny) and faulty DSG tranny temperature sensors and loosening flywheels. Thousands have complained to the US Government and VW finally decided it had volunteer their own recall. The engine itself is nearly indestructible and gets 30\45 MPG. The worse part of the failures is the cost and danger. Danger, in that, should the tranny go into protect mode ( gear will go into neutral, dash will have flashing lights), you may panic and react adversely because you could lose control of the car. Repairs can easily hit $4-6000. You may need a new tranny from internal damage.

Angry buyers are easily found on the Internet forums and YouTube. New car owners with less than 10K, suddenly have the above problems with no warning. Others, with a used car of 150K miles, finally fails. Yet, some buyers with over 200K miles have never had these problems. So, it is real gamble.

The impression many VW owners get from dealing with their VW dealer is that most know little about what they sell. Many dealers will tell you the tranny oil change interval is every 80000 miles, when it is 40000. Of course, they neglect to tell you it will cost up to $500 to change this oil! Why? Special oil and filter costing $130. A few special tools and 2-3 hrs time. Even simple questions like, why does my radio get FM but not AM stations baffles them.

Most think that they only people who should work on these cares are VW specialists. This is untrue, even if the the ad does not state they work on VW cars, ask. Many do. All mechanics, even small time, can find out how to do the procedure and get the parts for basic procedures. The VW engine is not THAT different than other overhead cam engines.

If you buy a used VW, verify and ask for receipts as proof, the following were replaced or checked: timing belt, water pump, cam or worn cam lobes, tranny fluid changes, history of any repairs, torn CV boots. Just don't take their word if you can help it. Ask at what mileage the repairs\service was done and compare with maintenance schedule. There is little one can do about a faulty Mechatronic unit or failing temp sensor (it should be within temp spec which can be tested electronically). If the sensor fails, faulty data is sent to the tranny computer, which then tells the gears to shift incorrectly or worse.

If you are buying a new VW, your only comfort is that you are covered by the warranty should the nightmare happen.

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Comments 13 comments

mattdigiulio profile image

mattdigiulio 5 years ago

Hi there, great Hub! Voting up and all that good stuff.

One question though: this may be wild rumor, but I read in an article elsewhere (at a reputable site) that VW recently started sending out letters to owners of DSG models, saying that they were extending the warranty on the transmissions sue to an overload of customer complaints. If you want the article I can send it to you. I'm curious to know if you have heard about this, or if these are just inflated half-truths. Thanks! Best, Matt D

perrya profile image

perrya 5 years ago Author

I do believe it is true. Why not post what the extended warranty is?

mattdigiulio profile image

mattdigiulio 5 years ago

Yes! The extended warranty as of 2009 was 10 years/ 100,000 miles (!) for the DSG-equipped cars. I'm not sure if VW gave this to all DSG owners, or just those with particularly problematic models (GTI, GLI, etc.)

Again, great hub. Aside from DSG chaos, the newer V-Dubs are exceptionally well built. The fit and finish is superb. And if I had a 100,000 warranty on the fancy transmission, it would be quite tempting.

perrya profile image

perrya 5 years ago Author

Does this extended warranty apply only to DSGs 2009+?

oldandwise 5 years ago

Good hub, very informative. My first car was a 1967 karmain ghia. Wasn't aware of the problems in today's models.

perrya profile image

perrya 5 years ago Author

The extended warranty is for 2006+ with DSG.

mattdigiulio profile image

mattdigiulio 5 years ago

Great! Thank you

perrya profile image

perrya 5 years ago Author

One caveat is if you have a battery that goes dead or is weak, this can also cause the dash lights to flash, so it is not always the worst-case scenario.

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I owned VW Passats for 12 yrs when I lived in the uk. They were trouble free. After losing my Isuzu Axiom at 100K miles to transmission problems I have acquired a Tiguan so far so good but I'm keeping my fingers crossed! It is a very nice vehicle though the name is very strange and we call it the Tishuan!

perrya profile image

perrya 5 years ago Author

Well, like I said, with VW it is either a good experience or a nightmare

klebinek 4 years ago

Had a 96 golf gl, constant electric issues, underpowerded, terrible on gas.

Had a 2008 passat, same above plus way overpriced/heavy car and very unreliable. I will never buy a volkswagen again this has to be the worst brand ever, I would buy a hyundai elantra before phaeton. vw sucks, most german cars are unreliable but vw tops them all.

GaryM 4 years ago

We bought both a 2003 and 2004 Jetta TDI's. The 2003 had multiple complete brake system failures. 5 Trips to the dealer, no problem found. I finally told the Service Manager to drive my car to work and back in Phoenix during the summer. Finally, the brake pedal went to the floor. VW of America replaced just about everything in the brake system, no additional problems found. Shortly after that VW of A came out with a high temp brake fluid.

On the 2004, with the new pump deuce engine. It ran fine until the first recall. Each time the repair was botched by the dealer, and then back again. We waited nearly a year for a new dealer opened in Flagstaff, AZ, took car there and asked them to fix it. THEY REFUSED TO WORK ON THE CAR even though it was under warranty. VW of America told me any dealer can refuse any time they want. VW of America refused to intervene to help.

Out of pure frustration. I pulled the entire front drive line out of the car and was shocked to find broken bolts, cross thread bolts, missing nuts, missing parts, glow plug wiring harnesses butchered with splice connectors, etc. After about 2 weeks of full time fixing everything. I'm pleased to report that we have had zero problems with this vehicle since the butchered work was corrected.

I do think that many of the problems we see with these VW's are a result of poor repairs.

Further, the various FORUMS have been far more helpful to me than any support from VW of America.

We plan to take care of our own cars until we replace them.

When we do replace them, they WILL NOT BE A VW Product.

perrya profile image

perrya 4 years ago Author

I have 06 TDI jetta, love the MPG, but have been dealing with an engine light code regarding a MAF sensor which is VERY sensitive. Come to find after much expense of looking it was a simple small leak in the MAF air connector hose.

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