- Trunk release motor quit after two years with infrequent use.
- Trunk lock hard to turn, causing the key to eventually break.
- Interior finish layers bubble and peel.
- Plastic glove box mechanism broke with rare and gentle use.
- Window regulators failed.
- Replaced window regulator failed with light use
- Innumerable plastic clips, pieces, and parts crumbled.
- Perpetual tail light problems.
- Almost inaccessible (inexpensive part, expensive to replace) coolant component failed.
- AM frequencies on the radio never worked.
- Gear shift knob metal decoration peeled, causing pain handling it.
- Cheap wrap of the gearshift knob disintegrated.
- Wheel well plastic failure.
- Plastic spoiler below front bumper too low, causing snags.
- Serpentine belt pulley and tensioner failed.
- Cylinder 5 low compression (a recent development at 150,000 miles).
I have been generally content with this car, but after listing things that have gone wrong, I realize that I am able to put up with things more than what most people might. I have been pleased that there really have been no major problems and I expected to continue with this car for a few more years, but now there is low compression in one cylinder, which caused my mechanic to say "it's time to let it go and move on".
I am fairly gentle on vehicles; front brakes lasted me 106,000 miles. I still haven't had to replace the clutch at 150,000. I haven't had to replace struts or any suspension parts. The paint still looks great. The seats and interior in general are still nice except for the peeling and bubbling of a rubbery finish coat over much of the plastic on doors and console. I did most minor work myself, and when I would call my mechanic for an appointment, he had assumed I'd sold the car or found a new mechanic.
It was the little stuff that was annoying, such as the tail lights and the trunk latch motor and all the little plastic pieces that fail; these parts were outrageously expensive through the dealer, and junk yards didn't have them because they were all broken on their cars as well. The engine seems shoe-horned into its compartment, making it very difficult for a mechanically-inclined person to work on and expensive to pay a mechanic to get in there.
I've owned two Jettas, which have lasted me a combined 30 years. I was so pleased with the 1985 version that I bought the 2000 when the 1985 one hit 300,000 miles. I will not be looking at another Jetta.