The Most Common Volkswagen Problems

Volkswagens commonly have issues with overheating, but they can also have coolant leaks, ABS failures, and electrical issues.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
While electrical issues seem to plague most Volkswagens, ABS failure, transmission issues, and ignition problems are also common in most models.
No matter how advanced vehicle technology gets, there will always be some glitches. And it seems that car manufacturers can run into the same glitches even across different models. 
That’s why
the top-rated super app for
car insurance
, put together this guide on common issues found in Volkswagen models. So if you own a Volkswagen or want to buy one, take a look at some of the things you need to watch out for and for how to get the lowest
Volkswagen car insurance costs
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What are the most common Volkswagen problems?

Volkswagen appeared on the worldwide vehicle market in 1937 with its flagship
model. Their goal was to produce a “people’s car” at a time when vehicles were still a luxury only available to the wealthy. 
Today the German car manufacturer is one of the largest in the world, but that doesn’t mean their vehicles are completely free of issues. Here are some common problems in multiple Volkswagen models:
  • Ignition issues and failure
  • Electrical issues
  • Transmission issues
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta seems to have the most issues with seven major recalls and 294 complaints to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
. Compare that to some of Volkswagen’s most reliable models, like the Golf GTI or Tiguan with no major NHTSA complaints between them. 
The table below has a better breakdown of five Volkswagen models and their common issues.
Starting price
J.D. Power reliability rating
Most common problems
Years to avoid
Transmission problems, ignition issues, electrical problems, coolant leaks, failure of several sensors
2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2019
Carbon buildup, clunking noise on acceleration, won’t start after refueling, popping noise from trunk
2009, 2010, 2011
Transmission issues, engine overheating, bulb harness failure, power window failure, coolant leaks
2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
ABS control module failure, oil leaks, instrument cluster failure, spark plug failure, engine issues
2002, 2003
Golf R
Clunking noise on acceleration, won’t start after refueling, popping noise from trunk
2016, 2019
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Most common Volkswagen Jetta problems

Average annual repair cost: $609 complaints: 1334
Volkswagen Jetta
has its fair share of issues. The most common problems seem to be transmission issues, such as trouble shifting, reverse gear failure, and strange noises in manual models. 
However, drivers have also complained about failures of the ignition coil, ignition wires, and spark plugs along with power window failure and coolant and oil leaks. With such a wide range of commonly reported issues, owning a Jetta can be a gamble.

Most common Volkswagen Tiguan problems 

Average annual repair cost: $730 complaints: 413
Volkswagen Tiguan
is one of their more reliable models, but drivers have reported some problems. For instance, the Tiguan seems to have issues with carbon building up in the intake valves, along with a
strange clunking noise
when accelerating.
A few Tiguan owners have also noticed their vehicles will refuse to start after refueling and some have reported a strange popping noise coming from the trunk.

Most common Volkswagen Golf problems 

Average annual repair cost: $630 complaints: 190
Volkswagen Golf
seems to have nearly identical transmission issues to the Jetta, including shifting problems, reverse gear failure, and strange transmission noises. They also share electrical issues (like power window and headlight failure) and coolant and oil leaks.
While these issues seem most common among higher mileage Golfs, they do still occur in lower mileage vehicles.

Most common Volkswagen Passat problems 

Average annual repair cost: $639 complaints: 982
Whereas most Volkswagens seem to have transmission issues, the
Volkswagen Passat
most commonly has engine issues. These range from oil leaks to water pump failure to faulty catalytic converters and torque converters.
Passat owners have also reported ABS control module failures, instrument cluster failure, and rainwater clogging the sunroof drains, thus damaging control modules. 

Most common Volkswagen Golf R problems

Average annual repair cost: $903 complaints: 5
Unlike the base model Golf, the
Volkswagen Golf R
seems to have very few reported issues. Like the Tiguan, the Golf R might make clunking noises on acceleration and there have been a few reported cases of the vehicle refusing to start after refueling. The Golf R also seems to have that pesky popping noise from the trunk.

Are Volkswagen cars reliable?

As far as reliability scores go, Volkswagen seems to rank a little above average with experts like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. While they sit a little higher than some popular American manufacturers, other foreign car companies like
still blow them out of the water.
The average annual cost to repair Volkswagens is $676 a year, which is higher than most other car brands. However, the severity of those repairs is less than the average of all car brands.

The least reliable Volkswagen model: 2019 Jetta

Most common problem: Engine stalling
NHTSA complaints: 294 
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta has received a lot of criticism, and it all seems to center around the engine. A lot of owners reported first hearing a terrible grinding sound starting when the Jetta hit around 10,000 miles. After that, the real trouble started.
The Jetta’s engine, according to multiple NHTSA complaints, would stall without warning. The vehicle would most often stall when coming to a stop or turning a corner, but some reports say the engine would give out at speeds of 20 miles per hour or more. Engine stalls are extremely dangerous, as drivers behind you have no warning before you stop, and the risk of accidents is severe.

The most reliable Volkswagen model: 2014 Golf GTI

Most common problem: Carbon buildup
NHTSA complaints: N/A
Compared to the 2019 Jetta, the 2014 Golf GTI is a dream. Volkswagen’s most reliable model, the Golf GTI has very few reported issues, and those issues are very minor.
The most commonly reported issue is a buildup of carbon in the intake valves, but the Golf GTI also has a few reported issues of not starting after refueling and a popping noise from the trunk.

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If properly maintained, Volkswagens typically last 100,000 to 200,000 miles, with some running up until 260,000 miles.
A car’s reliability depends on a lot of factors besides just the type of common issues it has. Volkswagens are pretty average in terms of general reliability and they tend to have a lower rate of severe issues compared to other brands. However, the cost of repairs, when they do happen, is more expensive than other brands.
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