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Volkswagen Passat, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta, Audi A4, Audi TT, Volkswagen New Beetle, Electrical, Engine, Sedan
#77 of 243 Huge Problem
Jan 27, 2003 (1:14 pm)
pkradd, I don't think you have a clue about the scope of this problem for VW until you read this article from the Boston Globe
No easy fix for failing ignition coils in Audis, VWs
By Royal Ford, 1/26/2003
One man, looking to escape his monolithic SUV but wanting to tackle slippery New England weather with all-wheel-drive, opted for an Audi A4. A Cambridge couple, baby on the horizon, looked for a good price, reliability, and a touch of sporty performance and chose the Volkswagen Passat. The Passat also caught the engineer's eye of a Marlborough father whose two sons were finally out of expensive braces and, though an Audi was out of reach, was able to rise with expectation from the worn seat of the Chevrolet Cavalier he had been driving for 12 years.
Theirs are not happy stories.
They are among more than half a million people who purchased 2001 and 2002 Volkswagens and Audis with 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged engines. Those engines are found in Audi A4s and TTs and in Volkswagen Jettas, Passats, New Beetles, and Golf GTIs.
The problem, and it is epidemic, is that the ignition coils in the vehicles are failing, leaving drivers to sputter off the road under greatly reduced power.
Volkswagen and Audi acknowledge that every coil on every cylinder in these cars is susceptible to failure. That's four coils for each of the 320,000 Volkswagens and 140,000 Audis (US auto sales) in question. (An ignition coil is a pulse transformer that boosts power from the battery or alternator to generate highly charged sparks for ignition in the cylinders. Some cars have one coil whose pulses are ''distributed'' in a timed pattern to the cylinders. Others, such as the 1.8-liter engines in question, have coils for each cylinder - in this case, four coils for four cylinders.)
And here is where the problem gets worse. The sibling automakers cannot get enough replacement coils (even as they build better coils for their current model year runs) to yank out all the bad coils and put in good ones.
So what are they doing?
If a coil fails, the owner has to limp or be towed to his or her dealer and get the bad coil replaced. Very few will replace the other ''bad'' coils that have not yet failed. That means drivers leave their dealership with one good coil and a sense of great trepidation because three other ready-to-fail coils lurk beneath the hood.
Tony Fouladpour, a Volkswagen spokesman, acknowledged that a second coil failure means a second trip to the dealership - and I assume a third and fourth.
''It's not a situation we necessarily like,'' Fouladpour said, but added that with production limits, ''We're just trying to get people back on the road as fast as possible.'' And for those whose cars can't be fixed quickly, VW and Audi are picking up the tabs on rental or loaner cars.
There have been some reports of dealers rejecting those whose warranties have expired, even though their cars had faulty parts from the get-go. After all, there are those who drive more than 50,000 miles in a two-year period. Don't take that for an answer.
Jennifer Cortez, speaking for Audi, which has 4-year, 50,000-mile warranties, said that anyone who has exceeded the 50,000 miles should not feel left out. Contact Audi, she said. ''We will not leave them high and dry.''
It is the same story at VW, said Fouladpour.
''On those specific parts, we're going to make good,'' he said.
But even being finally back on the road does not equate with being there with any confidence.
Kathleen Spencer and her husband Andrew McLean, of Cambridge, bought their 2001-1/2 VW Passat with a baby in their future. They bought it ''because of reviews saying it was a great car'' and after lots of research. They wanted a car that was not too expensive, was reliable, and did not say ''Soccer Mom on Board.'' (The last being my interpretation of a conversation with Spencer.)
The car failed, was taken to a dealership, and sat for a few days before it was acknowledged that their case was symptomatic of a massive problem with these cars, but that just one coil would be replaced.
While they use the car for around-town errands, Spencer and McLean will be spending their own dime to rent a car in the days ahead for a holiday trip.
''I don't want to get stuck out on some icy road in Vermont,'' said Spencer.
Steve Lesser, the ex-SUVer from Ashland, chose a 2002 Audi A4 when he went shopping for a sporty ride.
He'd had the car for about eight months when, right after the first of the year and on a Friday night in commuter traffic on 128, he felt a thump, thought he had hit a pothole. Then, he said, he thought he might have a flat because of the way the car sloshed its way along the highway. Then the engine warning light came on, and he knew there was bigger trouble.
He called Audi assistance, was told to have the car towed, and when the tow truck had him hooked up, he climbed in with the truck driver.
''I've been towing two or three of these a day,'' Lesser said the driver told him. Then the driver asked him if he had heard about the coil problem.
They rolled with the Audi to his dealership, Bernardi Audi in Natick, and pulled into a yard basically closed for the night except for a yard boy cleaning up.
Lesser said the tow truck driver asked where to put the Audi.
''Over there with the other 25,'' Lesser recounted. And the yard boy diagnosed the problem for him - correctly.
Lesser is mad at Audi, not his dealer.
''Absolutely, it's not the dealer's fault,'' he said.
The fault, in fact, lies with the supplier for Audi and Volkswagen, Bremi Auto Electrik in Germany. They built bad coils. Now they are running triple shifts (only Christmas Day was a day off in recent months) to try to catch up.
Yet it remains unclear what ''catching up'' means.
Even though Fouladpour said supply has doubled in the past week, most dealers are still replacing the coils one at a time.
''The supply situation is getting better,'' he said. ''I couldn't have said that a month ago.''
Will there ever come a time when, emergency demand sated, people with suspect coils that have not yet failed will get them replaced, free of charge, just for peace of mind, for a sense of reliability, for faith in the car they have purchased?
That's unclear. And why not a recall?
Volkswagen does not see this as a recall issue, said Fouladpour, because recall issues are safety issues and, he said, this is not a safety issue.
I'd argue with that, given that I wouldn't want to find myself limping along Route 128 in high speed commuter traffic. Or crawling through Franconia Notch in New Hampshire, cold wind howling, late at night, returning from a ski trip.
#78 of 243 Huge Problem Part 2
Jan 27, 2003 (1:32 pm)
For some reason the article from the Boston Globe was cut short in the above post. Here is the conclusion.
Of course, the Internet is abuzz with this controversy, and I wonder, without the Internet, how long it would have taken for this problem to reach critical mass.
A sampling from the Internet:
''Please tell me how is it that a car that is exactly one year old...has to be towed?''
''I cried this morning as they towed my car for the second time in five weeks. It's only 18 months old.''
Douglas Philpott, the engineer from Marlborough who bought a 2002 Passat after his boys got out of braces and he got out of that well-worn Cavalier, might be considered one of the lucky ones.
His car failed back in September, before the epidemic had spread so widely, and he got all four coils replaced.
Yet he does not have faith in his car - and in the you-can-look-it-up department, lemon laws are based on the notion that when you buy a car, you purchase ''more than the sum of its parts,'' you also purchase faith. Do I smell class action suit here?
''I keep my fingers crossed every time I start it,'' Philpott said of the time he spends in the car that was the glorious step up from the Chevy he drove for 12 years.
Royal Ford can be reached at fordglobe.com.
This story ran on page K1 of the Boston Globe on 1/26/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
#79 of 243 Passats outfitted with the 2.8l V6
Jan 27, 2003 (1:48 pm)
Thank you for all the responses to my above inquiry. However, so far respondents have only written about the 1.8l turbo problem. What about the the Passat with the 2.8l V6 engine? Is anyone driving the GLX4Motion wagon? What are your experiences with this car? Any positive/negative experiences? Thanks!
#80 of 243 I have a clue
Jan 27, 2003 (1:53 pm)
I know that a lot of Passats have had a problem. But the simple fact that not all have. I spoke to my dealer today and he said that about 20 cars have come in since December for coil related problems. The Boston Globe article, which I read at their site, gives the impression that all Passats are having the problem. It simply isn't true. I understand from what my dealer said that a recall may be in the works next month when VW of America has enough coils on hand. I will keep my fingers crossed that I won't have a problem (except when driving as it is very uncomfortable).
#81 of 243 95% Chance Of Failure
Jan 27, 2003 (6:01 pm)
Visited my dealership first thing this morning and found the service techs nervously perusing printouts of the Boston Globe article. I asked what their policy was regarding replacement of defective but not yet failing H series coilpacks and got the standard answers: VW won't let us, we don't have the parts, etc. I decided against making too much of a stink (not that it would have done much good anyway) because they were so obviously frustrated with the situation. One of the techs said they had cars on lot that had been waiting three weeks for replacement coilpacks. I told them that I had already had two coilpacks replaced and asked what the chances were that the other two would eventually fail. 95% chance was the answer. Swell...
Jan 27, 2003 (10:22 pm)
With regard to the V6 and 4Motion you may want to ask questions in other boards, since the ignition coil problem (this topic) does not apply to it.
I have a V6 4Motion and I am very happy with mine (almost 3 years and 40K miles). It did have a few problems that were covered under warranty and that could be taken care of during scheduled maintenance. But so will most other owners of other brands.
VWs will likely have a few more problems than e.g. Honda or Toyota, but for me the difference is slight and not as important as other reasons for which I like this car. My VWs have been very reliable and have never left me stranded. Well maintained, they can easily last as long as if not longer than other brands known for their reliability.
As I said, I am very happy, enjoy every moment of driving my cars, and would buy another VW in a minute.
#83 of 243 Considering an Accord..
Jan 28, 2003 (4:39 am)
I have an '02 Passat GLS 1.8T which I adore. I have about 13,500 miles, and only a seat heater has been replaced. Knock on wood, the coils haven't blown yet even though I live in Massachusetts with temperatures hovering around 0 degrees for the past 2 weeks. For what it's worth, the car is garaged every evening.
But, like others have said, I'm nervous every time I drive it. I commute 35 miles each direction, 90% of the trip on the highway (Rt. 3, 128, Mass Pike), another 5% on Rt 9 (crazy drivers), and the rest on residential roads. The highways are high speed roads (80+ mph). It's a scary thought of being rear ended by an 18 wheeler doing 70 while I'm puttering at 20 mph in limp mode.
Getting an '03 Honda Accord EX Sedan, 4 cyl, 5 speed, leather, and voice navigation for about $24k has crossed my mine more than once recently. I'd be giving up 10 hp, head airbags, MFA, and night time illumination on everything. But I'd be gaining peace of mind reguarding reliability.
#84 of 243 Horrible Experience
Jan 29, 2003 (6:54 am)
I too had the same ignition coil problem along with other electrical issues. I have the 2001 model with 40k and I'm wondering what else is in store for the near future.
The Dealerís lackadaisical attitude had me in a rage after two weeks. Also, is it standard business practice to charge sales tax on the total amount covered by the warranty? Are all Volkswagen Dealerships as painful as the ones here in Austin, Texas?
I plan to trade the car in and take my chances elsewhere.
#86 of 243 Want new coils?
Jan 29, 2003 (3:33 pm)
I have now gotten all of my coils replaced. VW Customer Care was absolutely worthless in this regard. I sent a written letter to my dealer explaning the situation. In it, I stated, "Due to the substantial failure of the vehicle to meet its intended normal use, I am requesting once again (in writing) that you replace all of the ignition coils in the vehicle with the cost covered under warranty. In doing so, I am attempting to give you the opportunity to correct the defect in manufacture of the vehicle. I would like a written acknowledgement and decision regarding this request sent to my email address as soon as possible". Thus I asked them to give me a written acknowledgement that they were denying my request. Of course, they won't do that, but the dealer did contact his VW District Service Manager , who showed up the next day and had all the coils on my car replaced. Oh, yeah, I also told my dealer if he was unwilling to resolve the issue by replacing all of the coils in one visit, my next visit was to the IL State's Attnys office. Bottom line - just gotta push 'em in the right direction...Don't bother with VW "Customer Care"...it should be renamed..."VW Customer? We Care-Less"