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The Most Annoying Volkswagen Passat Problems Owners Complain About

The Volkswagen Passat has had more than its fair share of issues. The German automaker has pleaded more than once for consumers to forgive and forget its past problems and give it another chance, and so far, things are definitely looking up.

There is one model year that is worse than any other, however, and that is the 2002 Volkswagen Passat. According to Car Complaints, it has three major issues that drive drivers crazy. Here are the details about what those problems are and how it may impact you if you drive this Passat.

A/C heater problems

There’s nothing that will get someone into the mechanic quicker than a heater or A/C that won’t work. Whether you’re so sweaty that you feel like you’re sticking to your leather seats, or the temperature is so cold in the car that you can see your breath, these are two issues that can’t be ignored. 

While there weren’t a lot of complaints about these issues, there were enough to make this the third-worst problem in the 2002 Passat. The two major issues were that the heater began to blow out cold air at about 109,700 miles, and the air conditioner simply stopped working. The drivers who complained about the heater reported that no solution could be found, and Car Complaints didn’t provide an average repair cost. There was only one complaint about the A/C breaking at about 125,000 miles. It costs owners $450 to fix.

Interior accessory problems in the Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen Passat GTE is displayed during the first press day at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show
The Volkswagen Passat | Robert Hradil/Getty Images

It’s no secret that problems inside the interior are harder to overlook than problems under the hood. You can always ignore that ominous noise by cranking up your radio, but if the radio itself is skipping, you begin to take notice. 

That might be why so many drivers are complaining about the garage door opener falling out of the visor. Unless you don’t have a garage door opener, you become used to reaching up to press it. If it’s constantly falling down and hitting you in the head, it can become both highly annoying and very distracting. 

Some owners report that they had the visor replaced, but this costs a shocking $520 on average. Other drivers simply refused to pay this much and used carpet tape to stick the garage opener to the visor. It might come loose after a few weeks, but it’s a lot cheaper than replacing the entire visor. This aggravating little issue begins to show up at about 63,750 miles.

Oil sludge

The biggest problem facing the 2002 Volkswagen Passat is oil sludge in the engine. This results in engine failure, which means that you’re stuck relying on the good grace of family members or Lyft to drive you around until you can get your Passat back.

It might be covered under warranty, though this is doubtful considering the 2002 Passat is over 18 years old now. If it isn’t covered, you’re looking at shelling out $2,840 to get it repaired. The average mileage when the oil sludge strikes seems to be about 92,100 miles, so if you have a Passat with low mileage, beware. 

The one good thing about this is that this isn’t one of those mysterious problems that the dealers can’t figure out how to fix, and end up jerking you around for weeks on end. Many drivers report that their engine was replaced, the dealer cleaned the engine and changed out some parts, and removed the oil lift tube on the pump and cleaned the screen. Another solution included using only synthetic oil. 

It’s no surprise that this resulted in a lawsuit. According to Top Class Actions, “Volkswagen and Audi have agreed to pay sludge-related maintenance costs for nearly 480,000 vehicles as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit settlement preliminarily approved in federal court. All current and former owners and lessees of certain Audi A4 model years and Volkswagen Passat model years are eligible to file a claim for the class-action settlement.” 

Sadly, if you have recently bought a Passat from the affected years, you can’t take advantage of this. Still, forewarned is forearmed. If you’re thinking about buying a used Passat, you’d be better off buying from 2014 to 2018. These years have significantly fewer problems and complaints.