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There is nothing worse than buying a new-to-you, pre-owned car, only to get it home and the check engine light comes on. Or maybe within your first week or two of ownership, you start hearing a strange sound or feeling a vibration at highway speeds. It’s a scenario that befalls many car-buying consumers, and even with complete vehicle history reports available, it can sometimes be unavoidable.

When it comes to the Volkswagen Jetta, most owners will tell you how proud they are of their reliable cars and brag at the high mileage they’ve racked up. But even VW has common problems across several Jetta model years. Before you buy the used Jetta you’re looking at now, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t have any of these issues.

What’s that smell?

For 185 Volkswagen Jetta owners, a musty odor began circulating in the cabin from the heating and air conditioning system. This problem caused a stink early on in ownership, on average, around 49,000 miles.

With over 15 Jetta models affected and around $100 to diagnose, it is a widespread pain in the vent. Technicians shared using a cleaner on the heater case, and cleaning debris from the drain system should clear things up.

Phantom electrical issues are common for Volkswagen Jettas

Have you ever had a problem, only to arrive at the mechanic’s shop and then suddenly, the issue is gone? For almost 200 VW Jetta owners, this frustrating visit to the dealership was common.

Tough to diagnose electrical malfunctions under the battery and at the engine, were plaguing them. Over 25 Jetta model years presented these phantom issues, and once properly identified, cost around $100 to address.

Window regulator failures

One or more power windows experienced failures, requiring complete regulator replacement for over 200 VW Jetta owners. Occasional window unit failures are bound to happen, but over 23 model years experience these issues, between 500 and 250,000 miles. They’re not cheap to replace either, between $493-$597.

Spark plug and ignition coil problems

Failures with the spark plugs or ignition coils resulted in check engine lights illuminating and misfires under the hood. Of the 240 plus consumers with these problems, the solutions varied.

Some replaced the spark plugs, others replaced the plug wires, and many replaced the ignition coils. The average cost is only around $160-$250, but still annoying and affecting model years from 1996 on up.

Automatic transmission replacement

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Brb. Escaping the cold.

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A whopping 820 VW Jetta owners experienced the worst. Their high-mileage and often reliable cars began presenting shifting issues. After repeated trips to the shop for repair assessments, the only real resolution comes with complete automatic transmission replacement.

Over 24 models are represented in this data, beginning in 1990 to present. The drivetrains affected most were 2WD automatic transmissions.

Beware of engine problems in Volkswagen Jettas

To cross-reference actual ownership data, offers insightful information about VW Jetta engine concerns. The 2002 model year is notorious for burning oil. The 2003 model experiences engine failure due to oil sludge, and costs around $3,400 to replace. The timing chain is breaking for some 2005 Jetta owners, as well. is one of the sources out there available to consumers, that helps outline real repairs and maintenance efforts of various vehicle owners. Before you buy a used Volkswagen Jetta or any car, it may be useful to know what others have reported.

Knowledge of common issues can help you ask the right questions before driving off into the sunset. Remember, you’re trying to avoid running into problems down the road. While the VW Jetta is a historically reliable car, it too can present with costly maintenance and repairs.