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Rabbit/Golf Ice Damage because of Design Flaw: VW Won't Help

08hatch08hatch Posts: 4
edited March 2015 in Volkswagen

My 08 Rabbit car door was recently damaged due to ice build-up in the door jam. I'd never heard of this happening with a car, but I see now that there are several forums regarding the issue, and that VW issued multiple technical service bulletins about it. My dealer seemed very confident that VW America would acknowledge the issue and help me with the damage, but VW customer service told me there was nothing they could do after a few minutes on hold (no case opened, no consulting with dealer).

As I told VW, I was a happy customer to this point, but now I'll be looking at Mazda or Subaru hatchbacks for my next car. My car is one year out of warranty and has 50K miles on it. I frankly don't understand how VW can refuse to take responsibility for a known design flaw with car. (I've had two estimates for the damage, and both shops told me that they've never seen anything like this before.)


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490

    I've heard of doors freezing shut due to leakage down the door seam, but I've never seen this.

    Does this happen when you open and then close the door on the impacted ice?

  • 08hatch08hatch Posts: 4
    edited February 2014

    Yes, that's what happened apparently. The two body shops I went to for estimates had never seen anything like this before. But there are dozens of pictures of VWs of particular model years with nearly identical damage. It's a known design flaw—hence my feeling that they should take responsibility for the damage. VW issued multiple technical bulletins on the issue (available in online forums) but never made consumers aware of it.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490

    It's a tricky one, because the owner actually causes the damage (blamelessly, one could argue).

  • 08hatch08hatch Posts: 4
    edited March 2015
    Some will search around and note that I posted something similar to this last year. I'm posting again because the issue has recurred and I regard publicizing it and VW's response a public service. I won't be replying to any posts, unless there are specific questions. I have a VW Rabbit with door jambs that have bent due to ice build-up in the wheel wells. This is a known defect with many VW hatches. VW has issued a Technical Service Bulletin for this issue (#57-11-05). My local dealers were very sympathetic and expected VW National to help out, but VW National has been (surprisingly, I think) dismissive and hostile. It's clear that VW acknowledges the issue and some forum accounts indicate that they fix the cars if they are still under warranty. My problem began just after my warranty expired, probably because of the increased severity of the winters.

    If you have had this problem, please contact Ken Swaintech at VW (800-822-8987). He refused to speak to me--his subordinate told me there was no cause to escalate the case to a manager despite my polite requests to do so. (His name was provided to me by a local dealer, who thought he would be sympathetic to the problem, and I was told that he was present when I called customer service but that he was otherwise engaged.)

    Forums around the web suggest that this problem persists. If enough people respond, i would hold out some hope that VW would consider a recall or respond to a class action lawsuit. Their entire response to me is that a Technical Service Bulletin describing a known issue is not the same as a recall; I said that I of course appreciate that they make a distinction but that I was simply asking them do what I, and I think their dealerships, believed to be right. (If this issue sounds frivolous to you, please search around the web to see pictures of the damage this issue causes.)
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,257
    When you say the issue has recurred, do you mean that you had the door repaired previously and now you had ice build up again and damage the door a second time? The TSB describes the water flowing down from the cowl area as the cause. The water freezes (think icicle) at the bottom of the door opening and the rear of the fender. Then when you attempt to open the door, the ice is in the way and so you damage the door.

    The TSB has the technician re-work the inner fender and add some materials that direct any water flowing from the cowl to the back of the inner fender and away from the door opening. If this happened a second time, then the work to prevent the ice from forming either wasn't done, or wasn't done correctly. The TSB is specific that while under warranty this would be a covered repair but once out of warranty it is for informational use only. I don't think this is frivolous, and sadly a lot of the stuff that really is usually gets approved.

    Go down to the dealership and get the sales manager. Show him what is going on and let him know that any chance of him selling you your next car hinges on how this is handled. Be polite but firm.
  • 08hatch08hatch Posts: 4
    Thank you, cardoc3. The problem recurred because last year I was never informed that there was a fix, despite several conversations with my local dealer and VW National. The TSB printout I was given did not include the section describing the foam inserts. Although I cleared ice out of the jamb every day, it built up after a few hours at work and the door bent upon opening with no resistance.

    I again have had long conversations with the my local dealer (who gave me a new printout of the TSB with the fix) and VW National. My local dealer is sympathetic and was very confident that VW National would acknowledge the problem and provide help; but thus far they have offered nothing. VW National was shockingly rude and unprofessional. Their responses were to repeat, over and over again, that a TSB is not the same as a recall (not really material as far as I'm concerned), and to treat me like I was a complete nuisance. The CS rep took my info and promised me that I would get to speak with Ken Swantek, the regional CS contact, and then refused to escalate the case to him.

    As you suggested, this issue makes it impossible for me to consider buying another VW. My next and last step is to send the full file of documents to a Philadelphia class-action law firm to see if they might gain an ear where an individual customer has gotten nowhere.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,257
    This is the game that often gets played, pin the tail on the first person to step up and pay to fix this. Now the first one to blink get's to pay with no guarantee that it was a wise investment. One sage business owner points out that in the majority of cases if the dealer does dip into their pocket and make this right conventional wisdom suggests that they earn your future business, but that's not the way that it usually works out. For many people the thought turns around that they owe the dealer for stepping up and when they then go to buy the next car the dealer will make sure to get back what they are owed. That unbalanced leger actually costs the dealer customers instead of winning them. In some cases it is as simple as the customer being embarrassed because the left the dealer owing the dealer a debt and never made it right.
  • jcbucherjcbucher Posts: 1
    I have had the same problem this winter (2015). Seems like it's been a design flaw for several years. After a substantial snowfall and then a sunny day the amount of ice that built up in the space where the hinges are was enough to bend the door out almost an inch. I am not an overly strong person and simply opened the door and it bent. Car is a 2011 Jetta Sportwagon so is not under warranty. Dealer will take photos IN 6 WEEKS and submit for review to VW.
  • This also happened on my VW Golf Wagon 2013. Ice buildup damaged the driver side door in an identical fashion to what you reported. A significant amount of ice had built up inside the hinge area. The door was damaged simply by opening it. I noticed a piece of foam glued into the lower part of the door hinge area, it had come loose but was still in place. Likely the foam was a low cost "fix" to a known problem. Problem happened in spring of 2015. It was a very cold winter in Ottawa. I reported it to the dealer. They asked me to complete an on-line problem report which stated that they would get back to me shortly. I have been busy. It is August 2015 no response from VW. I am escalating the issue now. This is apparently a widely known problem by people in the body work business.
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