Newer VW reliability

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Sep 3, 2004
Grove City, OH
Wife is looking at an 01' VW GTI with the 1.8T she can buy from a co-worker ($7k firm, but with 74k miles and needs new tires). VW's dont seem to have a very good reliability record from what I see. Anyone know what to expect with these cars as they age?
If it was a 1.8T, I'd be more concerned about the past oil change history as this engine CAN be a sludge monster.

1. window regulator clips - 7 yr. unlimited mileage warranty

2. coilpacks - VW has offered some sort of extended warranty on these; not sure of the details

3. MAF sensor - 7 yr./70k mile extended warranty

4. coolant temp sensor - black in color - less than $20 for a new one (green in color) & very easy to install yourself.

All 4 O.E. parts had high failure rates. Their OEM replacements seem to be very reliable.
Don't do it! 99.5 to 2003 were some very bad years regarding quality & reliability for VW. VW officials are on record for noting quality issues and just receintly, a some VW exec's in Germany have been brought up on charges for taking bribes and kick-backs from suppliers.

As this thing ages it will need more and more maintenance and repairs, compared to anything else in its class. If the engine is slugeded up, a motor and/or turbo are on the way out $5000-$1000, if VWoA doesn't feel sorry enough for you. The clutch has a dual mass flywheel that leaks oil when it fails...budget another $2000 for the clutch. If it is an AT, VW xmissions are lucky to make it to 100k before blowing up.

Then all the electrical querks. Hopefully the window regulators, MAF, coil packs have already been replaced...if not it might be a fight with VWoA to get these thinks covered (MAF warranty extension is only 70k!)

If you really really want it, offer them $100 more that what they would get on a trade-in. Then go buy the biggest and best service agreement you can find.
Its a 5 speed. I have known people with old, high mile VW's that seemed to sit in the shop more then in the driveway. My wife drives a 94' civic with close to 180k and its had few problems, but is getting rust around the rear wheel lips. I think I'll talk her out of the VW and try to convince her to get a new civic.
And if you can't appeal to her on grounds of reliability, perhaps you could plant a seed in her head about what will become of the relationship with her coworker...
Why settle for a newer Civic? Get a 2003 Accord 5-spd.
I am not an anti-VW guy. I love VW. I mean they have some gonads. They will do some cool engines. They will do the TDI. Who else pushes diesel and has hung with it? I don't always agree with them -and they step in it sometimes - the new Jetta? YIKES TOO heavy, ugly and nasty - let's hope the get the 5 cylinder pumped up fast! I was about to buy a new Jetta wagon diesel. Not now.

All that said - there is a reason people sell used VW's. And it's not mainly because they want a new VW.
New(er) Civic or Used Jetta...this IS a no-brainer.

Go to a couple VW dealers. Hangout around the service department, observe & listen. Then do the same at a Honda Dealer or two. Monday mornings are always interesting…Also between 10 and 2, when the service writers need to call all the ‘customers’ back with the bad news the techs found.

I am a bit opinionated, as I had a 2001 Jetta that was virtually re-built at the dealer, due to all the warranty repairs...turbo & manifolds, transmission, MAF, door locks, brake light switches, etc... Yea, most of the stuff was ‘covered’, but the time and inconvenience was ludicrous! I bought it new and was contemplating a used Accord wagon. I thought the (used and highly desirable) Accord wagons were priced too high & went with the new Jetta. Boy was I wrong!
The problem is the part suppliers for the whole german car industry they better do something about it or there going to hurt. The only thing honda and toyota fear is each other. Dan
You guys are making my GTI angry.
Whatever happened to the concept of a reliable, well-built, reasonably-priced, "peoples' car" that came to its full realization during the immediate two decades following the second world war? Oh, yeah, now I remember - the names for this genre were later modified to "Corolla" and "Civic" . . .

(Gonads or not, if the darned thing sits in a dealer's service bay so often that it can find its way there without the owner, it's not worth its keep!)
I had a newly bought VW Bettle in 1972 for $1995 and it had emission related engine running problems as so many cars of that time period. Otherwise it was a reliable car. My 1975 Rabbit was a dog. The 1977 Rabbit was ok after I had a new head installed because the valve guides were crappy from day one. I burned 1 quart per 200 miles from day one. VW's answer, Hey not our problem you must be doing something wrong. I paid for a new head, with less than 5,000 miles on the car, and whoa! no more oil burning
I sold it at 116,000 miles to a girl who promptly totalled it
. I then bought a new 1985 Golf and it ran good until I sold it with 108,000 miles 10 years later. When I was looking for a new car in 1995 I tested a Honda Accord, VW Jetta and the Ford Contour. The Ford Contour was actually the best feeling, most solid, fastest and best handling vehicle of the group. After 10 years I still have the Ford Contour. It still runs like new and handles great and looks great. It's a real shame Ford cheapened the Contour from model year 1997. It was a really great European design that until model year 1997 wasn't too "Americanized".

I guess the bottom line is I was a faithful VW buyer but they finally drove me away. And with their sludge problems of late I'm glad I'm not a VW or Audi owner anymore.

Bought a Golf GTi 16V while in college, was actually the cheapest hatchback with performance, sadly turned to be a nightmare, heater core busted one day and spewed hot coolant all over me, the engine had a crank bearing faliure and that was the final straw, VW bought it back from me.
If you really want a VW, I would suggest the 2.0L engine. Its the same engine design they been using from the previous generation VWs. Its probably their most reliable gas engine. However if other choices are a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, I would go for that.
I've owned three VW's and three Audi's over the past 25 years, however I must say that based on my unscientific survey of the parking lot at work, most aerospace engineers are C-H-E-A-P and revere consumer reports and buy "safe" cars like 4 cylinder Camrys, Accords, and Nissan Altimas. These tend to be the married, white shirt/black tie, risk averse types whos' idea of gambling is a $3.00 bet in Vegas or Tunica...
They married their HS sweetheart right after graduation and never inhaled, or even had the opportunity to.
They may think they live longer, but my theory is it just SEEMS longer....

VW/Audi products are great for folks who really love to drive and have a certain degree of mechanical ability. I've kept my 230k mile, 1990 Audi 100 on the road for a reasonable # of money by doing most of the normal maintenance and minor to medium repairs myself. I also sought out a good independent garage to handle the major stuff at reasonable labor rates.

If you are looking at VW;s, the made in Europe vehicles seem to be screwed together better than the Golfs/Jettas made in Mexico. I know that VW has sent legions of engineers south of th border, but they're never been able to get the quality up to snuff.

My advice would also be to buy the comparable Audi over the VW as they are made significantly better and have fewer squeaks/rattles as they age. For example, I'd go with the new A3 over the Golf GTI, a basic 2WD, Audi A4 over the new Jetta and the new A6 over the Passat. Audi customers also get free maintenance for the first 50k miles, they get free loaner cars when their vehicles are in for service and they just plain get treated better by VW/Audi dealers.


1979 Dasher
1985 Jetta GL
1985 Audi 5000 - I have to admit, this one would do everything but fetch a stick...

1990 Audi 100
1997 Jetta GL
2002 Audi TT quattro roadster
Since I purchased my 2000 VW GTI used with 15k miles, in 2003, I have had the following problems:

1) Replaced drivers side airbag - the dealer I purchased the car from paid for as part of my purchase agreement.

2) MAF sensor died - was replaced under 7yr/70k mile extended warranty.

3) Just received a recall notice 2 days ago about a possible fuel leak. Have to get that taken care of.

4) My airbag light is on again.

Even with these problems, I love my VW. It is a dream to drive. Like Tooslick said, if you have a little bit of mechanical ability, these VW/Audi's can be enjoyable cars. The obvious downside is that they can be relatively expensive to repair.

I've always been treated well by my local VW dealer, too. I would buy another VW.
I am mechanically inclined, I used to $ hop up $ V8 cars with my dad when I was younger. I have rebuilt engines, an automatic tranny and have even put a different gear ratio ring&pinion in a rear end once. Wife likes the hatchback, and she drove the car yesterday and said it was fun to drive. She says she's buying it.
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