The Volkswagen Jetta is a solid compact sedan from German automobile giant, Volkswagen. The Jetta has been sold in America since 1984, and the company launched the seventh generation of the model in 2019. Some Volkswagen Jetta problems, however, led us to question the entire lineup.
If you are considering buying a secondhand model, you might like the MK5 – a fifth-generation Jetta produced between 2005 to 2011. Although Volkswagen is known for its quality vehicles, there are some particularly disappointing Jetta model years that you have to avoid completely. In these model years, the Volkswagen Jetta problems are quite severe. All that and more:
- Common Complaints
- Worst Model Year
- Other Complaints
- Jetta Problems
- Body Problems
- Engine Problems
- Interior Accessories Problems
- Transmission Problems
History Of The Volkswagen Jetta
The Volkswagen Jetta was introduced in 1979 by the German automaker. For the last four decades, the small family compact sedan has undergone numerous changes. Seven generations in, the Jetta is a famous car in the market.
First Generation (1979-1984)
Volkswagen launched the Jetta by calling it the “best-selling European car in America, Mexico, and Canada.” The first model, Jetta A1 came in both two-door and four-door sedan options with the common link between them being the three-box design. In addition, the introductory VW Jetta featured a twist-beam rear suspension and a front MacPherson strut setup.
To separate itself from other small family cars made by the brand – like the Volkswagen Golf – the VW Jetta was the first of its kind to have a luxurious upscale interior featuring matching carpet and sill colors as well as velour seating.
Second Generation (1985-1991)
Second-generation VW Jettas went by the name Mark 2 and were the longest-running models in the Jetta lineup. They were launched in 1984 and not more than a year later, sold more units than its sister sedan. Although the power and suspension system were mostly unchanged in the model, second-generation Jettas impressed with increased seating. It could now accommodate 5 people instead of 4.
Despite being a small sedan, the trunk of the Volkswagen Jetta could now be compared to those of a few full-sized U.S. sedans. The interior received a 14% size increase and that made the EPA class jump to compact from sub-compact.
Third Generation (1992-1999)
By the early ‘90s, European nations had forgotten the name “Jetta.” No, the model was not discontinued; it simply got a new name – the Volkswagen Vento, the worthy successor to the Mark 2. However, the success of the former VM models was more than enough to convince the automakers to keep the old name. They also took forward the exterior design from the second generation to the third.
The Vento looked very similar to the Mark 2, but it had more redeeming factors. The performance was fine-tuned to give a better experience. Refinements included improved aerodynamics alongside a brand new structure meeting global crash standards.
And since this model used recycled paints and plastics without heavy metals, it was much more environmentally friendly.
Fourth Generation (2000-2005)
The fourth-generation Volkswagen Jetta got a new name in some parts of the world, like Turkey, Greece, Russian, and Bulgaria’s Sliven region. To them, it was the Volkswagen Bora whereas North America continued with the name Jetta.
While they shared the same name, the new Volkswagen Jetta got a whole remodel. The frame was less boxy and it had more of a rounded shape. The round shape allowed it to have less drag in the wind. Other features included automatic climate control, a rain-sensing windshield, and a turbo-diesel engine – the first of its kind.
Fifth Generation (2006-2011)
Volkswagen introduced the fifth generation of Jetta just five years after coming out with the fourth-gen Jetta. While the new Jetta had a design similar to the former Jetta models, these model years were a new direction for the brand as a whole. The wheelbase was longer and the front grille featured a sweet chrome finish.
Another first-of-its-kind addition was made to this generation – a newer, more powerful yet smaller 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Thanks to the 6-speed transmission, fuel consumption was decreased by 17%.
Latest Jetta (2012-Present)
The sixth and seventh-generation Volkswagen Jetta was produced to compete with similar compact sedans like the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, and Toyota Corolla. Model years 2018 and 2019 were also the first of their kind to have a hybrid form. In 2019, the 2019 Jetta was awarded the position of “Best New Car for Teens.”
Most Complaints About Volkswagen Jetta Model Year
There is one particular model year that owners struggled most with, but the year that has the most shortcomings is something else.
Over 150 Volkswagen Jetta problems were submitted by owners about the 2006 model year – highest for any model year of Jetta. Out of those, most of the complaints were about the interior accessories.
They were quite unimportant and had a wiring harness short in the side door on the driver’s end. Moreover, the headliner separated from the ceiling and the paint would wear out super-fast on the interior buttons.
Another significant issue category was engine problems. That being said, most of the issues were minor, related to the CEL (check engine light) coming on in nippy weather. Two other less prevalent yet dangerous engine issues included the engine stopping while driving and the camshaft failure.
This model year had an equal number of transmission problems. Drivetrain failures were common and usually cost owners an average of $4,000 in repairs. A lot of these problems happened at higher mileages (on average). With the exception of transmission and camshaft failures, the general price to fix these problems was a few hundred dollars.
All these reasons combined, the 2006 Jetta put up a solid fight to be named the worst Jetta ever made. However, one model year beat it to the title.
The Absolute Worst Volkswagen Jetta Model Year
A few model years are not great because issues would pop up early in the car’s life, or the repairs were pricey. But a life-threatening issue is enough to make a model year the worst from the lineup. This is the case with the Volkswagen Jetta of 2009.
At the heart of this sedan’s defects is the poor anti-lock brake system module, accounting for 31 out of 32 reported brake complaints. Drivers reported that when the module failed, the ABS light lit up. In some cases, the vehicle stalled. The ABS module would cause the traction control and brakes to fail, aggressively increasing the risk of accidents. In fact, a few drivers got into accidents too.
Owners submitted 136 complaints to the NHTSA – 11 crashes, 3 injuries, and 1 fire was reported. This led the NHTSA to issue a recall in late 2016 to address the inoperative traction and ABS module control in the Volkswagen Jetta.
86 additional complaints submitted to the NHTSA mentioned incidents of 3 injuries and 8 crashes. If the ABS module was working properly, the vehicles did not qualify for the 2016 recall. The vehicle owners had to pay for the repairs on their own.
Typically, the cost to fix the ABS module ranged between $2,000 to $2,300, if it was repaired before the recall. Owners claimed that the problem occurred at 98,500 miles on average. CarComplaints.com recognized the failure of the ABS module as the number one Volkswagen Jetta problem.
Other Complaints About Model Years
After the problem-riddled model year of 2009, the market had high hopes for Volkswagen. Car enthusiasts were hoping they would do something to re-establish the greatness of the Volkswagen Jetta. Unfortunately, both the 2010 and 2011 model years were two of the most complained about Jettas.
114 complaints were registered about the 2010 model year; out of which 34 problems involved interior accessories, 12 engine issues, 22 about electrical problems, and 8 fuel system problems. Other problems are more of an assortment related to the transmission, brake system, and body and paint of the Jetta. Although these complaints were not as daunting as the ones registered against the 2006 model year, they still had to be mentioned.
For instance, 317 NHTSA complaints revolved around the fuel system, with more than half of them regarding the diesel problems that forced the engine to stall or die. Furthermore, NHTSA received 215 engine problems, like issues with the timing chain system, stalling, hesitation, and the engine occasionally catching fire. Many of these issues happened when the car had less than 75,000 miles on it.
Similar to the 2010 model year, Jetta’s 2011 model year had a slew of complaints registered with the NHTSA. CarComplaints.com gave this model the badge of “Beware of the Clunker.” In the sedan’s overview, readers received a formal warning about the number of complaints submitted to the NHTSA about the high-pressure fuel pump failure and sudden loss of power.
Common Volkswagen Jetta Problems
Not all of the model years were plagued by major issues. Tweaks had to be made to every model year based on the complaints and recommendations received from users in the past year but the changes got more drastic for a few specific models.
The primary Volkswagen Jetta problems that owners mentioned included body issues, poor transmission, prematurely worn interior accessories, and age-old engine problems.
Volkswagen Jetta Problems: Body
The squeaking door and chipping door are two of the most commonly reported problems for the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta. Owners reported one of the doors made a squeaking sound even after the door hinge had been replaced multiple times. Paint on the hood would chip easily as well.
Rough Shifting On The Auto Transmission
Model years 1990 to 2012 and 2016 had struggled with shifting problems. Owners said that the vehicle tended to jerk when they shifted to third gear from the second one, as well as chances of transmission slippage when moving at 35 to 50 miles per hour. The problem could persist even after they replaced the valve body, prompting some owners to change the whole transmission.
Reverse Gear Problems With Manual Transmission
While the auto transmission Jettas had harsh shifting problems, the manual transmission Jettas made between 1990 to 2015 showed problems with shifting into reverse gear. Customers reported that the gearshift would go in half before it would start grinding. For some, the clutch had to be pumped many times before the car would go into reverse gear. Others said they found success after putting the gear back in neutral to reset the system.
Failure Of Window Regulator
Jettas made between 1993 to 2017 with the exception of the 2015 model year, have had multiple problems with the power windows suddenly halting due to a bad window regulator. While a few had to fix only a single malfunctioning window, two or more had to be repaired in others. Replacing a window regulator can cost between $100 to $200 without labor costs.
Unusual Smell From HVAC Vents
1993, 2003, and 2005 to 2017 Jettas have always suffered from bad odor coming from the HVAC system. The problem would start after the system would be on for at least two hours. We recommend getting the drain system inspected for debris and using a cleaner to keep the heater case tidy. If you have a clogged drain system, you can clean it yourself too by following this video guide.
1990 through 2014 Jettas have dealt with a bunch of electrical problems, like defective wipers, intermittent door locks, a poor cruise control system, faulty ventilation, heating, and air condition settings.
Polluted Air Bag Clock Spring
Airbag clock spring problems are exclusive to the 2012 model year. In 2015, Volkswagen recalled Jettas made between 2010 to 2014 alongside other models such as the Passat, Golf, CC, GTI, Sportwagen, and Tiguan due to polluted airbag clock springs. The cable would tear due to the pollutants in the clock spring, cutting off the electrical supply to the frontal airbag.
ABS Module Failure
Several reports were made about the 2009 Jetta redesigns because the ABS module would keep failing. Owners reported experiencing slow acceleration, steering difficulties, weird fuel gauge readings, beeping noises, and a malfunctioning speedometer. A few instances were reported where the sedan rear-ended another vehicle after the ABS malfunctioned.
Misfiring engines were a common concern with the model years 1996 to 2002, 2004 to 2006, and 2008 to 2014. Failure of spark plugs, ignition coil, and ignition wire created this problem. Drivers of affected models reported:
- Loss of power on the engine
- CEL staying on
- Blue smoke emitting from the exhaust
- Sputtering and shaking of the engine upon acceleration
Oil And Coolant Leaks
A faulty valve cover gasket and faulty water pump have been the main culprits behind the engine oil and coolant leak in 1990-2008 VW Jetta. Coolant would pour out from the bottom of the engine along the passenger end, and hissing sounds emitted from under the hood. An aftermarket water pump can cost around $50 to $200 whereas a valve cover gasket would set you back $50 to $150 excluding labor costs.
Many owners had to get their 2005 Jettas repaired multiple times to a poor clutch. According to the complaints, the gears would not engage as the clutch pedal would be stuck. Owners also noted a charring smell from under the hood despite the sedans being brand new. Jetta clutch repair kits can be priced between $500 to $1,500. Labor costs are separate.
Volkswagen Jetta Problems: Engine
Regarding the Jetta engine, similar issues were found in many model years and all of them were more or less detrimental to the longevity and performance of the vehicle.
2002 Volkswagen Jetta
A few of the most common engine problems with the 2002 VW Jetta include the engine light lighting up on the dashboard, engine burning excessive oil, catalytic converter failure, EGR valve burning, engine revving while being in neutral gear, engine stalling, ignition coil failure, engine shaking harshly before stopping, overheating, and damage to the glow plug harness over time.
Excessive oil consumption issues could be fixed by a pricey repair. By pricey we mean at least $2,500. Worst case scenario: the engine would have to be rebuilt after it got 69,000 miles on the odometer.
2003 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
The engine issues persisted with the 2003 VW Jetta. Top concerns were based on engine failure which primarily happened due to the failure of the coil packs, oil sludge, car dying when driving, the transmissions mounts and motor braking, failure of oil pump, malfunctioning glow plugs, and cracking of the oil dipstick tube.
A Jetta engine that has to be fixed due to sludge is will usually set you back $4,500 on average. Problems occurred at about 81,000 miles. The common solution is to replace the entire engine.
2006 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
Problems continued for the fifth generation Jettas as the engine issues were not being solved. Issues included:
- CEL turning on in cold weather
- Failure of camshaft
- Engine stalling during drives
- Faulty intake manifold
- Excessive noise from the engine
- Throttle lagging
Fixing the check engine light is not the most expensive repair owners did for the infamous model. Clocking in at $400 on average, the CEL problems are only a start for this model year.
2010 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
Engine issues somehow got worse with the 2010 model year. Worst issues revolved around the CEL being on, engine backfiring, engine stalling, defective timing chain, and difficulties getting the engine to turn over. Typically, fixing a stalled engine costs $4,500 and problems occur at around 88,000 miles.
Volkswagen Jetta Problems: Interior Accessories
Complaints about the interior accessories were a common thing for the Volkswagen Jettas of all model years.
2006 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
Main problems for the 2006 VW Jetta include:
- Short circuit in the wiring harness
- Paint wear in the interior buttons
- Paint coming off the stereo
- CD player stops working
- FM reception of the radio fading in and out
- Power seat moving automatically
Fixing a short in the wiring harness costs $700 on average. Occasionally, the door wiring harness has to be replaced as well.
2009 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
Reports about the interior accessories displayed a common pattern. Problems noted:
- Radio dying
- Malfunctioning cruise control
- Rattling sound from the sedan’s interior
- Glow plug lights illuminating automatically
- Failure of interface
The only way to fix a dying radio is to replace the whole thing – wires and all. The typical replacement cost rounds up to about $800.
2010 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
By this point, owners were convinced that Volkswagen was not doing anything to solve the interior accessories concern. The problems of the previous years were carried onto the next. For example, in the 2010 model year, complaints talked about:
- Malfunctioning power door locks
- Failure of stereo
- Car locking itself
- Not enough storage space in the accessories
There is no way to fix a stereo without sacrificing some features and performance so it is best to replace it entirely if problems persist. A radio on the Jetta would have to be replaced at the 82,000-mile mark and costs $670 on average.
Volkswagen Jetta Problems: Transmission
Transmission problems became a key area of concern for fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-generation VW Jettas. These difficulties took a toll on the car’s overall performance and efficiency.
2006 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
Problems in this model year involved:
- Transmission failure
- Transmission not engaging
- Rattling noise from under the car’s hood
When repairing a transmission that does not engage, costs run up to $6,000.
2010 Volkswagen Jetta Problems
For the 2010 VW Jetta, complaints were somewhat similar to the ones recorded for the 2006 Jetta. When the transmission does not engage correctly, it fails, and there is a rattling sound from the transmission. The general repair cost to repair a failed transmission comes to about $4,000 and starts at around 118,000 miles.
Before purchasing a Jetta, keep in mind that there will be complications from time to time. Volkswagen Jetta’s problems tend to rack up with mileage. The drivability of the sedan decreases every time you leave a major problem unaddressed. This is why it is essential to know about the common issues so you can repair your car as needed in the future.
All that in mind, you should never purchase a 2006 or 2009 VW Jetta. Additionally, steer clear of the 2010 and 2011 model years. The more recent models, like the ones between 2018 to 2018 have shown much fewer problems.