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Volkswagen GTI Reliability Problems

Despite VW's best efforts, a timing chain lawsuit will continue in a New Jersey court after the judge denied the automaker's motion to dismiss

. The case is a combination of twoother lawsuits in the state, both of which allege VW is concealing known timing chain defects that lead to premature engine failure.

You know that stack of papers they have you sign when you buy a car? Volkswagen's argument for dismissing the case was a hidden clause that says all problems must be taken into arbitration and not in front of jury. Which, let's be honest, is a shady thing to throw into a purchase contract. Luckily the judge ruled those agreements are between the consumer and the dealership, not the automaker.

While a few of the lawsuit claims were thrown own, this is overall good news for consumers who have dealt with (or are worried about) timing chain failure.

keep reading article "NJ Timing Chain Lawsuit Will Continue After VW Was Denied a Motion to Dismiss"
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Common Problems with the Volkswagen MK7 GTI

With the price of used MK7 Volkswagen GTI’s dropping you may be considering adding one to your stable.  The Volkswagen MK7 GTI covers model years 2015-2020.  If you are looking at the older MK6 GTI you may want to go read our article on the issues related to the MK6 GTI.

As any good consumer you want to know what you are getting into and what potential issues you may be facing under your ownership.  The good news is that for the most part these have been pretty reliable cars over their production run.  However, there are a few issues you should be aware of when doing your car shopping.  If you want background on what is new with the engine on these cars our MQB article is a good read.

Turbo Failure

The MK7 saw Volkswagen go to an IHI turbocharger, specifically the IS20 in the GTI (IS12 in 1.8T Golf and IS38 in Golf R), compared to the tried and true Borg Warner.  Why?  One can only assume cost was the reason, because reliability certainly was not the prime deciding factor.  The turbocharger on the early model year MK7’s was especially prone to failure. These turbos have been known to explode causing shrapnel to fly into the exhaust and intercooler. 

Fortunately, there have been a significant number of part revisions on the turbo from Volkswagen to address the high failure rate.  It is easy enough during your pre-purchase inspection to inspect the turbo and get the part number off of it.  Part number 06K 145 702N was super notorious for failing, but really you should be aware of any with part numbers ending in 702.  Ideally any with the 722 part number revision have been ok.

With all this being said, the bonus of early turbo failure is the ability to upgrade your turbo.  The IS38 turbo from the Golf R is the most popular conversion.  Let’s make lemonade out of the lemons that VW gave us with the early iterations of the IHI IS20 turbo and make big power with a bigger turbo.

Leaking Water Pump/Thermostat Housing

MK7 Water Pump Leaking

The next most common issue we have seen is leaks from the water pump and thermostat housing.  There have often been complaints of coolant smells coming from the engine bay of these cars, but no visible leaks.  The majority of the time we have seen that these smells are originating from the leaking housing.  Typically, the leaks are small enough that people don’t notice the leak and just have to top off their coolant every so often.  This is annoying and shouldn’t be necessary.  The plastic housing starts to deteriorate and leak, but the VW/Audi Pink Coolant has a coagulating agent in it that helps it from becoming a huge running leak immediately.

Sunroof Issues

The sunroof issues on these cars can be just annoying.  We will have complaints about creaking sounds coming from the panoramic sunroof when closed; especially on rougher roads.  This is due to the flex movement between the glass panel seal and the body.  There are service bulletins from VW that specify adding a film to insulate the glass from the body better to help eliminate the sound.  You may be able to get this repaired at the dealer for free, but it will depend on your VIN number range to see if it is covered.

This poor seal has also led to leaking as well.  Most notably under very heavy rains and high-pressure car washes.

With these known issues it is good to take the vehicle on a rough road on a test drive and make sure it is nice and quiet.  You would also want to pay particular attention to any signs of water intrusion.

Suction Pump in Fuel Tank

This next one is a known issue, but fortunately it is covered under a safety recall.  What happens here is fuel will leak into the evaporate emission system and get through the charcoal canister filter element which could be a potential fire danger.  This is covered under a safety recall and you can call VW and reference NHTSA Campaign Number 16V647000.  So, while this is a known issue it shouldn’t prevent you from purchasing a car as it is a freebie to get fixed.


The final issue isn’t necessarily a defect on a stock car, but it is if you plan to tune your car in any way.  The stock clutch on these are just plain weak-sauce.  Anything beyond stock torque levels and it will start to slip.  So, if modifying your car (which of course we recommend) just make sure you budget for an upgraded clutch if you choose a manual transmission car over a DSG equipped vehicle.

And that folks is about the extent of common issues we have seen on these cars.  The MK7 GTI has been one of the most reliable iterations of the GTI that Volkswagen has put out.  They are reliable, quick, very receptive to tuning and just overall great vehicles.  If you are shopping and think you have found one you want to purchase don’t hesitate to give us a call at Alex’s Autohaus at (801) 566-6115 to schedule a pre-purchase inspection.  A properly maintained MK7 GTI should last you for many fun-filled driving years.

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Common Problems With the Volkswagen MK6 GTI

So, you are out car shopping and you have found yourself looking at hatchbacks and found that the Volkswagen MK6 GTI (model years 2010-2014) is appealing to you.  Being the good consumer that you are you ask yourself what are the common problems with the MK6 GTI that you should be aware of.  You are in luck!  Below is a list of what issues we have seen with these vehicles.

Don’t fret based on this list though.  These cars have been solid performers when taken care of.  As long as you go in with your eyes wide open you will be happy with your decision.

Timing Chain Tensioner

The timing chain tensioner fails resulting in the chain jumping teeth and causing engine damage

An updated part is available and was released in 2013.  You can verify if your vehicle has the old or new tensioner through an inspection port located on the lower timing cover.  Which you can see to the left of the crank pulley in the image below.

Carbon Buildup on Valves

This is a common issue with direct injection engines.  This will cause drivability issues, fuel economy and can lead to a check engine light.  Unfortunately, this buildup is inevitable but it can be remedied with a walnut shell blasting.  We have written about it in more detail here.

Intake Manifold

TSI Intake Manifold

The intake manifold runner flap will break or the position sensor will fail.  This will cause intake manifold runner flap position codes.  Entire intake manifold will need to be replaced if the runner flap breaks.  The sensor is available separately.

Ignition Coils

The ignition coils will fail causing an engine misfire.  If you find one coil is misfiring it is generally a good idea to replace all four of them instead of just the failed coil.

Coolant Temperature Sensor

The coolant temperature sensor will fail causing a performance malfunction in cooling system fault.  It is a cheap fix, but we recommend sourcing your sensor from the dealer.  For whatever reason, we have found these to be more durable than the ones sourced from aftermarket sources.

Wastegate Rattle

The rod on the wastegate can have excessive play causing a rattle noise.  If caught early enough VW does have a clip that can be installed to eliminate the rattle.  However, this is usually not very successful and turbo replacement is ultimately required.

High Pressure Fuel Pump

While not as common as the FSI engines, the high pressure fuel pump still can fail on the TSI engines found in the MK6 GTI.  Typically you will see fuel pressure faults indicating a potential failure.

PCV Valve


The diaphragm fails in the PCV valve which can cause a squealing noise and/or check engine light from an idle air control too high or a lean code.  This valve sits on top of the valve cover and is a relatively easy fix.  If left too long it can also causes premature failure of the rear main seal described below.

Rear Main Seal Failure

The rear main seal will start to leak oil and can also lead to misfire or lean codes causing a check engine light.  It seems that these primarily fail due to excessive crankcase pressure caused by failed PCV valves as described above.  It is required to remove the transmission to replace, so if you find it on a pre-purchase inspection keep this in mind.

Diverter Valve

TSI Diverter Valve

The diverter valve or air recirculation valve fails.  The early model version utilized a diaphragm that would tear and cause under-boost codes.  There is an updated piston-style diverter valve that does not tear.  Of course, there are always aftermarket options as well if you are so inclined.

Water Pump

Water pump fails with a higher than normal rate resulting in leaking coolant and overheating. 

Evap Purge Valve

The evap purge valve (N80 valve if you are looking at the VW description) is a solenoid valve that controls the amount of fuel vapor directed back to the engine to be burned.  The valve will stick open and cause a free flow of air.  When the car performs its tank pressurization test it will throw a code because it thinks there is a leak in the system due to the open valve.

Fuel Pump Control Module

The fuel pump control module sits underneath the rear seat above the fuel pump.  This module can overheat and cause the car to cut out.  They can actually get hot enough to actually melt the plastic casing causing a fire hazard.  Generally, not a good idea when it is so close to a tank of gasoline.  There is a revised part from VW to address the problem.

When you are in need of expert Volkswagen repair or performance tuning for your new GTI give Alex’s Autohaus a call at (801) 566-6115 and we would love to help you get the most out of your vehicle.

Buying a Mk7 GTI - Things To Know!

10 Most Common Problems of VW Golf MK7

In this article, we go over the most common problems that affect VW MK7.

What Does MK7 Mean?

MK7 for the uninitiated refers to mark 7 or the 7th generation on the legendary Volkswagen Golf. The Golf was released in 1974 and has long been considered the gold standard of hot hatchbacks, and in 2012 Volkswagen was not ready to give up that title. These cars were released in Europe in 2013 and 2015 in the North American market and were produced until 2020. 

The Golf received a facelift in 2016, which included minor cosmetic changes that are not compatible with the older models. These are known as MK7.2’s. This Generation Golf came in several different variants with many different engines. Volkswagen made two and four-door hatchbacks and even a station wagon with more ground clearance and all-wheel-drive known as the All Track.

Let's look at issues that you may have to deal with if you own a VW MK7. 

Powertrain Issues

The powertrains being referred to here are the gasoline-powered variants, as those are the most common ones you come across in the North American market. The BlueMotion diesel engine will be covered in a separate article.

1. Turbo Failure

Early 2015 GTI models had issues with turbo failing. Luckily, Volkswagen caught this problem early, and updates were made to the turbo to stop it from occurring. Most of the vehicles were repaired under warranty, so be sure to check your car's service records.

2. The Cooling System

The water pump and thermostat are one unit, and the housing is made of plastic. Heat cycling of the engine forces the plastic to expand when it is hot then contracts when it cools, causing the housing to warp or crack over time.

3. Oil Pan

The oil pan is made of plastic and has a plastic drain plug. This plug must be replaced after every service. Failure to do so can cause the plug to leak. Heat cycling of the pan is also an issue that can cause the pan to warp.

4. Clutch

If you own a manual Golf, GTI, or R and plan to upgrade the performance, be aware the stock clutch is very weak. Basic ECM tuning from companies like APR can cause the clutch to slip, so be sure an upgraded clutch is on your list.

5. Subframe

The subframe bolts are torque to yield and have stretching issues causing a clicking or clunk noise in the front end when going over bumps, braking, or hard cornering. If you encounter this noise, it is extremely common and easily remedied. 

Quality of life issues 

Quality-of-life issues are something you will come into contact with regularly, and they can make your life with a vehicle much harder. These are issues that range from minor inconvenience to downright unbearable conditions.

6. Hood Cable

The hood release cable breaking is a super common problem on the MK7. The hood release is actually two cables with a union above the driver headlamp. This union consists of a metal ball and a plastic cup. The cable with the plastic cup takes serious force to move and is well known for exploding. When this happens, you can no longer open the hood.

7. Hood Release Handle

On the other end of the hood release lies the handle, which has its own problem. The cable has a metal ball at the end that sits in a pocket inside the handle. Since the cable requires so much pressure to operate, the pocket in the handle can break. 

8. Washer Bottle Sensor

The fluid level sensor inside the window washer tank is known to collect contaminants and give a false reading on the dash saying to add washer fluid. This is easy to diagnose when the light is on and the tank is full; you know who’s the culprit.

9. Water Incursion

When the MK7 Golfs were first released, there was a serious issue with water incursion. The frame that contains the sunroof is made of plastic, and it acts as a rain gutter. When the assemblies were installed in the factory, the torque specs were too high, causing some to crack and let water enter the cabin.

10. Sunroof Drains

On all four corners of the sunroof, assembly is long drain tubes that funnel water out of the tracks and safely to the ground under the car. Over time, these tubes can get clogged with debris causing water to back up and enter the car. This can be avoided by periodically opening the sunroof and checking the drains for standing water. Never use compressed air to clean the drains if you find water. The pressure can cause the hose to detach, and the headliner must be removed to correct it.

Final Thoughts 

That being said, this should not discourage you if you are in the market for one of these wonderful cars. The MK7 Golf is well-made, reasonably priced, and reliable by almost any metric. In my eleven years of experience as a professional automotive technician, I have never come across a brand or model without issues from launch to final production. But what do I know? I’m just a registered Volkswagen technician who personally owns a 2015 GTI.


Gti problems golf

It’s rare for a single car to define a segment. However, the original Mk1 Volkswagen GTI, the first hot hatch, did so. Over the years, it inspired several European rivals, like the Peugeot 205 GTI, Renault Clio Williams, and Fiat 500 Abarth. Japanese and American automakers also got involved, with cars like the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R, Mazdaspeed3, and Ford Fiesta ST. However, the VW GTI also suffered reliability issues, making potential owners nervous. But, just as with the Subaru WRX and BMW 3-Series, there are still reliable examples out there.

As the average used car is 12 years old, this guide will focus on the Volkswagen GTI models made from 2008-2020. Which actually includes 3 generations of GTI: the Mk 5, Mk 6, and Mk 7.

Recommended Volkswagen GTI model years

The Mk 5, Autotrader reports, restored some of the GTI’s sporty nature lost by the more luxury-focused previous-gen. It was the first Volkswagen GTI to get an independent rear suspension, reports, and offer VW’s 6-speed DSG automated manual. And its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 197 hp and 207 lb-ft. The early 2006.5 and 2007 cars seem to be less reliable than the later ones, r/GolfGTI sub-Reddit users claim, which is why we recommend a 2008 or 2009 example.

2010 Mk6 Volkswagen GTI

2010 brought the Mk6 Volkswagen GTI, which was essentially a facelifted Mk5, Car and Driver reports. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine was boosted only slightly to 200 hp, and Car and Driver reports its anti-roll bar was stiffened slightly. CarBuyer reports the Mk6 overall is considered more reliable than the Mk5. But Consumer Reports recommends avoiding 2010-2012 GTIs. In fact, Car Complaints ranks the 2012 model as the worst Volkswagen GTI model year.

2010 Mk6 Volkswagen GTI interior

The 2013 and 2014 models, though, are more reliable. And they’re also more modern than the Mk5 ones, Motor Trend reports, with standard features like Bluetooth, heated front seats, and satellite radio.  

In 2015, Volkswagen introduced the Mk 7 GTI. Unlike the Mk6, this was a proper redesign. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder now makes 210 hp and 258 lb-ft. With the optional Performance Package, power jumps to 220 hp. This package also included a limited-slip differential and larger brakes, Car and Driver reports.

But 2015 is also one of the most unreliable model years for the GTI. CR recommends avoiding the 2016 model as well. Both were known to suffer turbo failure, r/GolfGTI sub-Reddit users, and Deutsche Auto Parts report. These issues were resolved by the 2017 model year, though. And if you need Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, the Mk7 is the one to get.

Volkswagen GTI issues to look out for

Although these listed Volkswagen GTI models are more reliable, they’re not necessarily bullet-proof.

A common failure point is the DSG transmission, Evo, PistonHeads, and report. The Mk7 GTI used a wet-clutch variant, while the earlier ones used dry clutches, but despite ‘lifetime’ claims, the DSG needs regular fluid changes, PistonHeads reports. In addition, its ECU is known to fail, causing jerky shifts.

The Volkswagen GTI’s 2.0-liter engine also has its own share of problems. It does use a timing chain, rather than a belt, which normally increases service intervals. However, DAP reports 2008-2012 engines to have a flawed timing chain tensioner design, which can fail and lead to engine damage. Also, some engines’ high-pressure fuel pumps were known to fail earlier than expected.

In addition, numerous r/GolfGTI sub-Reddit users and Micks Garage report the engine’s design can lead to carbon buildup in the valves. However, this is an issue with many similarly-designed turbocharged engines, Samarin reports, not a VW-only flaw. But it does mean the 2.0-liter regularly consumes oil.

Finally, the Volkswagen GTI’s PCV and diverter valves are known to fail, DAP reports. The PCV valve helps exhaust fumes recirculate within the engine, which burns off certain harmful emissions. When it fails, it leads to a rough, high, or surging idle. And if left alone, Alex’s Autohaus reports, it can lead to rear main seal leaks.

Are any of these problems deal-breakers?

Fortunately, most of these Volkswagen GTI issues are either repairable or avoidable. For the DSG problems, just get a manual car instead.

On the subject of the timing chain tensioner,eEuroParts reports Volkswagen installed an updated version in 2013 and later cars. This part is also available for 2008-2012 cars and should have been installed already. However, as with any used car, we recommend a pre-purchase inspection, to check for issues like this. And r/GolfGTI users report the fuel-pump issue was resolved via a technical service bulletin.

The carbon buildup can be remedied, Alex’s Autohaus reports, either with fuel additives or a special deep-clean process. However, as long as you regularly check and change the GTI’s oil, it’s not really a problem. Reportedly, VW did update the engine’s software to deal with the issue.

Finally, both the PCV and diverter valves are inexpensive, easily replaceable parts. In addition, Volkswagen redesigned the latter for later Mk6 GTIs, and the upgraded part is also available for the Mk5.

Overall, as long as the Volkswagen GTI was maintained and driven regularly, none of these issues are deal-breakers.


2008 and 2009 Mk5 Volkswagen GTIs are the most affordable. Autotrader lists numerous examples with less than 100,000 miles for $7000-$10,000. 2013 and 2014 Mk6 models are closer to $12,000-$15,000.

The most modern, 2017-2019 Mk7 Volkswagen GTIs are, predictably, the most expensive. However, if you want the most modern features, as well as the Performance Package goodies, they’re the ones to get. The Sport trim, Car and Driver reports, is perhaps the best value, as it came with the Performance Package included. These cars are in the $17,000-$20,000 range.

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Volkswagen GTI - How Reliable Are They Really?? Biggest Flaws...

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