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. It competes with 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.
The Volkswagen Passat’s 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 177 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.
Engine sputtering, shaking, and jerking all were symptoms related to this problem. One owner wrote about a sudden loss of engine power while he or she was out driving on the highway. Some owners had to have faulty spark plugs replaced repeatedly to resolve the problem. Some owners said that the engine misfires triggered the check engine light to turn on.
The estimate to repair this problem ran from $295 to $638 and required 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. 177 owners reported this problem, which occurred in the 14 model years that include 1995 and 1998 through 2010. The average mileage at which the digital display became troublesome is 134,623 miles, but it occurred as early as 14,000 miles.
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.com estimates that it costs between $88 and $111 to diagnose and repair it.
Engine oil leaks in the Volkswagen Passat
According to 212 owners, 13 model years from 1998 to 2010 have had engine oil leaks due to the 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.
Oil leaks affected several engines: 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 for the VW Passat. To fix the oil leaks, new valve cover gaskets are necessary. Estimates for this repair run between $221 and $287.
The ABS light illuminates due to ABS control module failure
250 owners reported the Volkswagen Passat’s most common problem, which affected 15 model years that included 1993, 1998 through 2010, and 2012. Many owners reported that the ABS light lit up and brake lights started blinking as well. Indicator lights for oil level, power steering, traction control, or engine were also illuminated in some cases. 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 serious reports involved problems with failing brakes, transmission problems, and no power for acceleration.
The average 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.com estimates that the cost to replace the ABS control model ranges between $1,223 and $1,328, yet one owner reported receiving a higher estimate of $2,300.
No used car—including the Volkswagen Passat —is completely free from problems. But you can save time and money by knowing which issues might come up and what they might cost to repair before you buy the car. Having this knowledge can also help you make the best choice among the used Passat models out on the market, too.