Volkswagen Passat Forum banner
1 - 10 of 10 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,332 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought the below might be helpful as a Sticky; can anybody think of anything that should be added?

*******************

It is VERY common for new users to post here "I'm thinking of buying a [1998-2005] VW Passat..." This post is meant to answer a lot of the common questions:

Q: "What is a B5?"
A: "B5" refers to the VW/Audi Platform designation. The 1998-2005 Passat is a modified version of the 1994-2001 Audi A4. The rear suspension is different, but the basic running gear is pretty close.

Q: "What is a B5.5?"
A: This is a shorthand for the mid-cycle refresh that the Passat received part-way through the 2001 model year (referred to as the 2001.5 Passat.) There were a fair number of changes made to the 1.8T (namely variable valve timing), and other minor changes here and there.

Q: "What is the car I am looking at worth?"
A: It's hard to say. At the time of this writing the very newest B5 Passat is over ten years old. The "Book Value" is only a vague general guideline. The answer could be anywhere from "It's worth little more than scrap value" (for a non-running car, even one in otherwise good condition) to several thousand (low mileage, good condition, impeccable maintenance records, no major pending maintenance needed.)

Q: "What maintenance is needed?"
A: Beyond the recommendations in the owner's manual, it is generally recommended that the timing belt be done every 60k-80k (vs. the 105k in the manual) and that at that time the water pump, coolant, thermostat, and accessory belts be changed. (Most timing belt kits come with these parts, as they are most easily accessed during a t-belt job.) Transmission fluid and power steering fluid should probably be done also every 60k-80k. (Officially, coolant, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid are "lifetime" fluids. This is suspect, at best.)

Q: "Is the Passat reliable?"
A: Yes and no. If properly maintained, it's not really any more or less reliable than an average decade-plus car; it ain't a Camry, but with some exceptions, it isn't horrible. Speaking personally, in 12 years and 150k of B5.5 ownership, I've had emergency maintenance once (alternator), and urgent maintenance once (wheel bearing), so if your definition of "reliable" is "Cranks every morning so I can go to work", I'd say it does okay. If your definition of "reliable" is: "Will only rarely need repairs of any kind"... well, no. Most cars of this age will continually have something on the "to fix" list. If it is not well-maintained, all bets are off, reliability wise; the car is not forgiving of lackluster maintenance.

Q: "Is the B5 costly to work on?"
A: Not really. That said, you are generally not going to be able to have the average corner mechanic work on your car. German cars do things differently from their American or Asian counterparts, and there are many aspects of B5 maintenance that will be unfamiliar to him/her. You should find a local German Car specialist and use them for all maintenance work that you do not perform yourself. (This includes even "routine" work like oil changes.) You will have to go to the dealer or mail-order more parts than if you owned a Ford or Toyota.

Q: "Is the B5 difficult to repair?"
A: Not really. These cars have a decent population of enthusiasts, and DIY guides have been written for most common repair operations. That isn't to say that there aren't some things that are aggravating to fix, but neither are they impossible.

Q: "What should I look out for when buying a B5?"
A: Absolutely have a VW/Audi specialist perform a pre-purchase inspection. Beyond that, the more maintenance records the better. In fact, especially for cars with the 1.8T or W8 engines, I would not even consider purchasing a B5 without maintenance records. (FWIW, this means I would not consider buying my own car; I've maintained it well, but have not kept scrupulous records.)

Q: "Everybody is always posting about their problems! Are these really horrible cars?"
A: Well, this board used to have heavy traffic with people asking about mods, but given the age of the vehicles, it has shifted over more to questions about repair. You'll see plenty of repair questions on any message board dedicated to cars of this age.

Q: "Still, why should I buy one?"
A: At the time it was released in the US, the B5 Passat rightly scored all sorts of "Car of the Year" awards. Given it's Audi A4 heritage, it drives like a luxury car for the price of a family car. A well-maintained B5 is more than a match for most cars even produced today, as far as "feel" goes.

Q: "What's the story with the W8? It looks like a really great deal!"
A: The W8 was installed in the B5 as a "test platform" prior to putting "W" engines in the VW Phaeton and Bugatti Veyron. It doesn't really fit in the engine bay that well, and is a real pain to work on if anything goes wrong. (Many repair operations require removal of the engine.) It's not THAT unreliable, but if anything breaks, prepare to pay dearly for it (at the dealer; few independent mechanics will know how to work on one); this is why resale values are not high.

Q: "What are the common problems in the B5?"
A: That's kind of a tough question. Every car is likely to have something break and/or wear out, and that same something will likely have broken on a number of other B5's. But what will that be on your car? Impossible to say. There are certainly problems that are more likely than others, but none that are universal.

Q: "What's the story on sludge in the 1.8T?"
A: When the 1.8T was released in the longitudinal-mount B5, VW did not realize that the resulting reduced oil capacity and a clog-prone PCV system made the engine vulnerable to sludge. Around late '03, VW offered a free extended warranty for sludge (which has since expired for most cars), updated the maintenance requirements to require synthetic oil (0W or 5W-40 meeting the VW 502 00 specification), and increased the size of the oil filter (and new 1.8Ts got a revised PCV system.) As long as the oil is changed promptly every 5k throughout the life of the car, the upgraded filter size used, and the PCV system kept unclogged, sludge is unlikely, though not unheard of. When sludge strikes, it will most-often appear as an oil pressure warning (when sludge clogs the oil pan pickup.) It is not fatal to the engine if fixed promptly.

Q: "What can you tell me about available mods?"
A: This sounds trite, but the first "mod" you should make is to set aside $200-$300 for parts (if you DIY), or more if you don't, unless you don't care if your car is sidelined pending funds to fix it. If you DIY, the second "mod" is probably a copy of the factory service manual (often referred to as "The Bentley" (named after the publisher, not the car brand)). It's invaluable as a supplement to inconsistent and hard-to-find information here and on the internet. Okay, now to answer your actual question: If you have a 1.8T, the biggest bang for your buck is engine "chipping" and suspension upgrades. If you have a V6? Chips are available, but not nearly as dramatic. (P.S. If you ask about an aftermarket intake, be prepared to be laughed at. Seriously; that's exactly what will happen.)

Q: "I'm thinking of getting a TDI Passat; why haven't you said a thing about it?"
A: Because I'm in the US, there aren't that many US TDI Passats, and there's a huge amount of information available on the TDI on other websites.

Q: "Why does this FAQ talk so much about the 1.8T?"
A: I own one, and it was the most common engine made for the B5.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,658 Posts
That's pretty thorough.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,658 Posts
I was going to suggest, with all of the people coming here for advice on wether or not they should buy a Passat?
We also have a database of people with VAG-COM.
I would scan the car before buying it.

I did that with the '02 GLX I just bought my wife.
I was upfront about what I was doing with the PO though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,103 Posts
Since I had the production #s up today.

USA 1998 - 2005 Passat

2.7V6 = 000003
W8 = 004931
TDI = 013063
V6 = 164897
1.8T = 278245
Total = 461139 USA Only
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,332 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was going to suggest, with all of the people coming here for advice on wether or not they should buy a Passat?
We also have a database of people with VAG-COM.
I would scan the car before buying it.

I did that with the '02 GLX I just bought my wife.
I was upfront about what I was doing with the PO though.
I thought about suggesting a scan, but for somebody uninitiated, I figured just suggesting a PPI would be sufficient, as one would assume any PPI would include a scan.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,204 Posts
Good list. For common 1.8T repairs: Coolant Flange, coolant temperature sensor, engine speed sensor, clogged drain hole at brake booster, pollen filter leak, rear door window pins, CV boots.

Also it would be helpful to remind the newbies that just because they've slapped a set of brake pads on their mom's Malibu, does not mean they need no special tools or technique for doing a brake job on our B5/B5.5's - not harder per se, but need the caliper retraction tool.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
138 Posts
Also it would be helpful to remind the newbies that just because they've slapped a set of brake pads on their mom's Malibu, does not mean they need no special tools or technique for doing a brake job on our B5/B5.5's - not harder per se, but need the caliper retraction tool.
Damn Skippy. Took me three days to find the right tool. Now that I have, it seems like I see them everywhere.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I337 using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,332 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My intent was to keep things as general as possible; leaving specific repairs (like the trick to doing rear brakes) to Google and the Infobase. And I purposefully left out an itemized list of common repairs because it's really not that useful. For instance, of that list you provided mtech (and I'm not ragging on you), I've only had to do the CV boots (which I consider to be a wear item.) I can think of lots of repairs I've seen many people have to do, but it just doesn't provide that much predictive value for an individual potential B5 buyer. At the time of purchase, either the coolant is leaking or it isn't; the CV boots are intact or they aren't; etc. It doesn't tell a buyer how much life is left in, for instance, the coolant flange or exhaust flex.

A PPI from a knowledgeable mechanic, as with any used car, is the best (if not infallible) defense to surprises.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
877 Posts
You should add the ABS module to known problems. Just about every VW and Audi will have their ABS module fail during the lifetime of the car. This is almost guaranteed. Control arms will also have to be replaced, probably multiple times over the life of the car, particularly the uppers. Brake fluid should be flushed and replaced every two years. If the car still uses regular oil, it should probably be flushed and switched over to synthetic ASAP. Motor mounts are also a common failure item, but there's no set interval that I'm aware of that they should be replaced. It is also recommended to replace the braided vacuum hoses with silicon hoses. The braided lines are a common cause for CELs. Everything else is pretty much routine maintenance.

There are lots of other issues that have known to cause problems, but not necessarily problems that everyone will experience. Many of the problems listed in some of the previous posts I have never seen firsthand (knock on wood). My Passat is garage kept so I've never had any issues with the sunroof drains getting clogged or water infiltrating the CCM wiring.

As for my Passat's reliability, with the help of the information gleaned from this forum, I have been able to head off potentially major issues and kept my Passat in tip top running shape. It is hands down the best car I have ever owned. It can be as reliable as you want it to be if you keep it well maintained. This forum is the best resource I have ever found for any previous car I've owned. If every make and model of car had a forum with the experience and contributions this one has, every car on the road would easily last 250k miles or more and new car sales would plummet.

Great list, BTW. I propose that it be elevated to the Information Base.
 

·
Registered
2001 Passat wagon; 2016 Golf Sportwagen
Joined
·
5,507 Posts
Correction: The AUG 1.8T engine, used briefly in the last of the B5s, brought variable valve timing to the B5 before the B5.5 facelift.

The B5.5's 1.8T engine does have 20 hp more than the AUG.

Trouble spots were pretty well summarized above.

I fight oil coke ("sludge") on several fronts:

1. Mobil 1 0W-40 or any equally good synthetic oil
2. Mann-made Purolator L40316 oil filter, which takes a full quart on pre-fill
3. Keep oil level topped as necessary to top of hash on dipstick
4. 3K mi OCI for urban driving
5. scrupulous PCV system maintenance -- problems here can cause even a synthetic oil to sludge up
 
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
Top