2002 Volkswagen Beetle GLS 2.0 from North America
Fun to drive, but a lemon on reliability
I agree wholeheartedly that the 2002 VW Beetle is a lemon. Worst car my wife and I ever owned. Bought it with 28,000 miles. Always something new going wrong with this car:
- Rear wheel bearing bad at only 30,000 miles.
- Head light bulbs burning out all the time. First change on each side took me all day because the retaining bracket is plastic and gets sand in it, so it will not move and breaks. This was just to get it apart. I ended up removing and throwing the plastic brackets in the garbage. I drilled some holes and made my own brackets, resulting in an easy 2 minute bulb change thereafter.
- Check engine light constantly on.
- Went thru 4 coolant temperature sensors. Not an expensive part, but something is faulty with the electrical system to need this many replacements
- Misfire on cylinder 2 at 40,000 miles due to a faulty factory ignition coil ($200 just for the aftermarket part that lasted the rest of the life of the car). Not just me, this is a common problem with this car as well as the Jetta that shares the same power train. Look up on the Internet.
- Catalytic converter efficiency below threshold at 50,000 miles. Yes the faulty factory ignition coil burned up the catalytic converter and the exhaust system. Luckily, this was a problem the dealer took care of due to federal law if car is less than 10 years old and has less than 100,000 miles. They tried to sell me a new exhaust system for $600, but I cut out the bad section and welded a piece of pipe in myself for a lot less. Again a very common problem for this car and the Jetta - just check the Internet.
- At 55,000 miles the check engine light came on for restricted inflow of air. I checked the air filter, and all the ones I had replaced previously were clean. This made no sense. In every other car I've owned I changed air filters with at least some dirt, bugs, leaves, etc. Then I started taking the intake apart and found a snorkel that went into the driver's side fender compartment that lead to a prefilter box that had quarter inch of dust and debris blocking air flow. Seemed like engineered failure to me. I cut everything of the intake out for the fender compartment to the prefilter box and threw it away. I removed a plastic flow restricter on the air filter compartment. What a better sounding engine and what an increase of power. Even my wife noticed it without me telling her I had done anything. The check engine light went off for a while, at least for the air flow issue.
- Water accumulation at 35,000 miles in the trunk due to faulty brake light seal on the hatch lid. Mold and mustiness. I fixed it myself by removing the plastic cover on the hatch and caulking around the brake light with clear caulk, but there was mold before I could figure out where it was leaking from.
- Air bag system light on at 60,000 miles due to a faulty driver's side seat belt switch. $200 to replace and reprogram. I didn't bother, a piece of tape over the light fixed that, but know that the air bag system probably would not work if it has faults. You could fix by tying 2 wires together to trick the computer into thinking the seatbelt is clipped on all the time, but you still have to spend money getting the fault removed either at the dealer or spend about the same to buy a VW programmer for one time use. Again a common problem - just check the Internet.
- Sunroof drainage system leak at 70,000 miles. Recall due to class action suit. Back of the car flooded several times and mold grew on the backseats. Dealer fixed for free, but I still had a musty car. Manufacturer was supposed to pay for cleaning, but I would have to show the bill. I had cleaned it myself with my steam cleaner and mold killer spray. Who is going to pay for my materials and time? Again, a common problem - just check the Internet.
- Emblems front and back were covered in a plastic film that pealed away and the black faded. All emblems on the wheels discolored.
- Engine overheating at 84,000 miles. The plastic impeller on the water pump broke apart (yes plastic - I've never seen a cheaper water pump design on any other car). Not that expensive for a new one at the auto parts store, $40 (I guess because it's plastic), but not easy to replace. The water pump is on the timing belt pulley system. I could have just replaced the pump, but since I had my puzzle apart, I decided to change the timing belt and had to remove the engine from the engine mount to do this (a nice puzzle of a design). I can't imagine paying someone this many hours to fix this. I got an excellent replacement belt and idler pulley system from AC Delco for a reasonable price. I flushed the cooling system and refilled with Prestone DEX COOL for $16 a gallon (about 1 gallon to fill). Lasted nice for the rest of the car's life. Better than spending $33 a quart on Pentosin coolant (would need a little over 4 of them. Check the Internet for price). Why is the same chemical compound (ethylene glycol) so much more just because it's from Germany? You can put whatever coolant you want in any car, as long as you flush all of the old one that's in the engine out (due to corrosion inhibitors are not compatible between different types of coolant -ex. OAT vs. HOAT chemistry).
- Alternator went out at 92,000 miles. This is the only excusable thing to happen to this car. On any car an alternator will last only around 100,000 miles before the brushes wear out. I got a good replacement at the auto parts store, but had to have someone else replace it because we were on a road trip and I didn't have the tools I needed to replace it myself. The only easy thing to replace on this car is the alternator.
- Passenger side interior door light switch was faulty at 110,000 miles, causing interior lights to turn on and off at any time, even when the car is locked or while driving, causing the alarm system to trip even in the middle of the night. I could never find it to fix it. Another puzzle. Common problem - check the Internet.
- Severe violent shaking/jolting at high speed due to engine cut out at 128,000 miles. Faulty crank shaft position sensor. After this my wife had had it with this car. We traded it in for a Buick LaCrosse and have been happy ever since.
I have to say the good as well:
The 2002 Beetle was a fun car to drive when it did work, and has a unique design. Good corrosion resistance on the body.
Lots of electrical issues.
But I will never buy another VW, nor will I ever recommend it to anyone due to all the issues I had with this car.
Even the aftermarket auto parts store parts are overpriced just because it's for a foreign car. Even for someone that knows how to fix cars, everything is a puzzle to get to in this car. Not easy to fix and too many problems.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 10th September, 2015