The Most Common VW Passat Problems You Should Know About

The Volkswagen Passat is a modestly priced midsize sedan with full-size aspirations. It boasts a spacious cabin, ample room in the trunk, and a serene ride. The Passats midsize sedan competitors include the well-equipped Honda Accord and the reliable Toyota Camry. Yet, the Passat is an excellent family car, and it’s even more affordable if you buy one secondhand. However, before you shop for used Volkswagen Passat, we recommend that you learn more about the most common VW Passat problems.

The Volkswagen Passat’s engine misfires

Most common VW Passat problems are featured in the 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC Coupe model
2009 Volkswagen Passat CC Coupe | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Using helpful data from Repair Pal, one of the most commonly reported problems with used Volkswagen Passat models is engine misfires. Misfires on some or all of one or more engine cylinders caused by a bad ignition coil, ignition wire, or spark plug were the fourth most common problem reported by 138 VW Passat owners. Model years experiencing this problem included 1998 through 2000, 2002 through 2010, and 2013. On average, this problem happened at 88,873 miles, but cases occurred as early as just under 11,000 miles and as late as over 187,000 miles.

Engine sputtering, shaking, and jerking all were symptoms related to this problem, causing major Volkswagen Passat reliability issues. One Passat owner wrote about a sudden loss of engine power while driving on the highway. Some owners had to repeatedly replace faulty spark plugs to resolve the problem. Some owners also said that the engine misfires triggered the check engine light to turn on. The estimate to repair these problems ran from $100 to $500 and required the replacement of an ignition coil, a spark plug coil, or a spark plug wire, depending on the model.

The digital display on the instrument cluster stops working

The third most common problem involves the digital display going dark on the Volkswagen Passat’s instrument cluster. VW Passat reliability on this issue leaves something to be desired. Approximately 179 owners reported this problem, which occurred in 14 model years, including the 1995 model and every Passat model year from 1998 to 2010. The average mileage at which the digital display became troublesome is 134,623 miles, but it occurred as early as 14,000 miles.

Volkswagen Passat owners describe the digital display as functioning intermittently or going dark completely. In some cases, the display is affected by high temperatures or humidity. To solve the problem, the entire instrument cluster must be replaced. RepairPal estimates costs between $101 and $128 for parts and labor to diagnose and repair the issue.

Engine oil leaks in the Volkswagen Passat

According to 214 owners, 13 model years from 1998 to 2010 have had engine oil leaks due to the Volkswagen Passat’s failing valve cover gaskets and camshaft chain tensioner gasket. The problem occurs on average at 102,809 but has happened with only 11,555 miles on the odometer and as late as 227,800 miles logged.

Oil leaks affected several engine options for the Passat, including the 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo, 1.9-liter four-cylinder diesel turbo, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, 2.8-liter V6, and 3.6-liter V6. Some owners said they smelled burning oil, saw oil on the garage floor, or had to add oil several times in a month. This problem is the second most common one reported for the VW Passat. To fix the oil leaks, new valve cover gaskets are necessary. Estimates for this repair run between $156 and $224.

The ABS light illuminates due to control module failure

The most common problem reported by over 250 owners of the Volkswagen Passat affected 15 model years that included the 1993, 1998 through 2010, and 2012 Passats. Many owners reported that the ABS light lit up and brake lights started blinking as well. In some cases, indicator lights for oil level, power steering, traction control, or engine were also illuminated. Usually, the illuminated ABS light signaled that the ABS control module needed replacing.

One California owner warned that the flashing ABS light affects the state emissions test because the emissions check system will register the car as failing. However, the most severe reports involved failing brakes, transmission problems, and no power for acceleration.

The average gas mileage for Passat owners’ seeing the flashing ABS light and related troubles is 118,896, but the issue emerged as early as just under 11,000 miles. RepairPal estimates that the cost to replace the ABS control model ranges between $1,628 and $1,783, yet one owner reported receiving a higher estimate of $2,300. Additionally, if you’re unsure of the issue, you can pay for a diagnosis of your Anti-lock Brake System, which ranges from $91 to $115.

No used car—including the Volkswagen Passat—is entirely free from problems. However, you can save time and money by knowing which issues might come up and what they might cost to repair before buying the car. This knowledge can also help you make the best choice among the used VW Passat models out on the market.

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