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Volkswagen Passat Sludge Issues

patpat Posts: 10,421
edited August 2014 in Volkswagen
Talk about Passat sludge issues here.


  • pjp9999pjp9999 Posts: 13
    I am the unlucky owner of a 2002 Passat, which I got almost new w/ 4,000 miles from a relative. I've kept up w/ most of the major tune ups (only at the dealership) but haven't had oil changes every 5k miles. Now I've been told at 37k miles I need a new engine ($8,500) because of oil sludge. This is incredible, if not maddening!!!!

    I've called VWoA and was told it is not under warranty because I cannot prove I had the oil changed EVERY 5k miles. Of course, the dealership will not help me at all!

    Has this happened to anyone and if yes, do you have any advice/recommendations as to how to best handle?? I've also been in contact w/ a mechanic who told me it's a engine malfunction because of the size of the engine is too small and the turbo causes it to run hot and create sludge. Half of me wants to seek legal action because there are owners who have changed their oil every 5k miles and STILL had sludge. VW has been open about the problem, extending the warranty to 8 years, but only if you can prove you've had oil changes every 5k, which I haven't. Also, up until a few years ago VW had been using non synthetic oil for service, possible unknowingly fueling the sludge problem themselves.

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    Sorry dude, this is your own fault IF the owners manual says change the oil every 5k and you didnt. Exactly how often DID you do oil changes/what does the owners manual say?

    I don't think you have any legal recourse, though I wish you good luck, as you will be needing it.

  • krzysskrzyss Posts: 848
    he needs $8500.00.
    What kind of interval have you used for oil changes?

    By the way it is not engine malfunction but malmaintenance.
    Using wrong oil with too long interval does not make engine design bad.

    Krzys using Mobil 1 0W40 from begining
  • jeffyscottjeffyscott Posts: 3,855
    Yikes, that's awful to have an $8500 repair bill on a 4 year old car. But I can't see how you can blame VW when you admit you did not follow the proper maintenance schedule. If you had the oil changed every 5000 miles and the dealer had put in the wrong oil, then they would be responsible.

    You might see if you can find someone to put a rebuilt or used engine in for less $$$.
  • goodegggoodegg Posts: 905
    It seems that car should go well over 5000 miles between oil changes, or any car for that matter. I doubt the sludge is from not changing the oil that frequently.
  • jaxs1jaxs1 Posts: 2,697
    He is not saying how often he changed the oil. Was it every 6,000 miles or every 16,000 miles? Maybe the oil was never changed at all.
    Maybe there is a defect since he said even some cars that had the oil changed on schedule had the same problem. However, he needed to not exceed the maximum oil change interval if he was interested in keeping the warranty in effect.
  • altair4altair4 Posts: 1,469
    You wrote:

    I am the unlucky owner of a 2002 Passat, which I got almost new w/ 4,000 miles from a relative. I've kept up w/ most of the major tune ups (only at the dealership) but haven't had oil changes every 5k miles. Now I've been told at 37k miles I need a new engine ($8,500) because of oil sludge. This is incredible, if not maddening!!!!

    I've called VWoA and was told it is not under warranty because I cannot prove I had the oil changed EVERY 5k miles. Of course, the dealership will not help me at all!

    It would be helpful if you posted the following information:
    How many oil changes can you document? At what mileages? What oil did you use (synth or dino)?
  • w9cww9cw Posts: 888
    This is one thing I don't understand, but it's something that I consistently see with a number of car owners. Some owners simply do not adhere to recommended fluid change intervals. This may not be the case here, but it seems to be quite typical.

    Change your oil every 3K or 3 months, drain and refill coolant at least every 24K or 2 years, and change your ATF every 24K or 2 years. If you follow this schedule, or something similar for your vehicle, you generally won't have any mechanical engine or transmission failures. Fluids are the life-blood of your engine!
  • gumby7gumby7 Posts: 3
    I have 75,000 miles on my 2002 Passat and the same problem. VW said they would replaced the engine if I could prove that the oil was changed every 5000 miles, they will not accept oil receipts if you changed the oil yourself. When I picked up my car, another Passat owner with the 1.8T engine had the same problem and it had only 60,000 miles. The owner did have proof of oil change for every 5,000 miles. VW has a design issue with the 1.8T engine. The engine is junk and does not last even with the recommended maintenance. I'm soory to hear that you only got 37,000 miles on your Passat. Are you seeking legal action?
  • gumby7gumby7 Posts: 3
    I have 75,000 miles on my 2002 Passat and have been told by VW that there is sludge in the engine and that it needs to be replaced. At 62,000 miles they cleaned the engine of a small amount of sludge buildup, replaced the oil pump and changed the oil. The said that there was no engine damage and is should be OK and that the engine was warranted till 100,000 miles. When the oill light came on at 75,000 miles, VW said they would replaced the engine if I could prove that the oil was changed every 5000 miles, they will not accept oil receipts if you changed the oil yourself. When I picked up my car, another Passat owner with the 1.8T engine had the same problem and it had only 60,000 miles. The owner did have proof of oil change for every 5,000 miles. VW has a design issue with the 1.8T engine. The engine is junk and does not last even with the recommended maintenance.
  • alman08alman08 Posts: 282
    that's BS! the law and VW don't require oil change to be done by the dealer as long as it's done within the recommended interval to not void the warranty. so if you have receipts of buying the oil, it'd be your word against theirs and let the judge decide.
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    It seems to me that you are trying to find a way that will get you out of a bad situation that you are in. Also by saying that there are owners who have reported sludge forming even if they changed the oil every 5K miles you seem to want to say that this somehow makes VW liable for designing engines that cannot withstand going without the oil changes for very long periods of time, and you want to sue them for this? WHY? Why should a manufacturer be liable for damages incured during consumers' negligant use and maintanace. If VW said that they will not warrant the car that has a problem without proof of maintanace what is the problem with this? If someone maintanins their car per manufacturers recomended schedjule and the engine still brakes, than manufacturer should be liable, and as far as I understand they pay for the damages if this was the case. In your case, the best thing you can do is to change the engine with your own money...
    I sugesst that you don't buy a new engine and I sugesst that you call as many junkyards as you can, and find a low mileage engine from a wreck. You should be able to buy a used engine for less than $1K. You should be able to get the engine installed for less than $800 at any smaller shop. PLEASE NOTE tell the shop to install turbo from the swapped engine. Do not keep your old turbo, because chances are it is gone as well. When a junkyard sells you your engine turbo should be included. A new turbo can cost as much as a used engine. If you can afford I actually sugesst you buy a new turbo from garrett that will fit on your junkyard supplied engine, ask garrett what you should buy and than try to find this new on either e-bay or froogle or whatever. Try to buy turbos that are ball bearing and have both water and oil cooling, and when the shop installs it make sure that they know that you want both water and oil cooling for the turbo. Why? Because turbine is the one that distroyed your oil and cooked it to a sludge. Any turbo engine requires good oil. If you are cheap and don't want to spend extra money on the new turbo and don't really care for performance you can keep your old turbo (from the junkyard not your engine) and make sure you install an aftermarket turbotimer ($100-250) in your car. Turbo timers are used to keep the car running even as you exit the car and lock it so that turbo has enough time to cool down by having oil circulating through it, this also slows the process of oil from boiling and turning into sludge.
    Speaking of oil, I think you will remember from now on that it is STUPID to try to save on high-quality oil. With that in mind keep buying good oil. Who makes good oil? Almost everyone. Mobil1 is most common, but it is no better than many others, it really doesen't matter who makes it, what it matters is what SAE/ACEA and API requrenments it passes. Since your car is 2002, AND turboed, I suggest you use either oil that satisfies ACEA E5 or if you cannot find ACEA ratings than use API SL or even better API SM. Now the oil thikness. This is important. The number that stands next to the W tell you how well the oil is suited for WINTER therefore W. So my advice to you is to change oil during the winter and summer times regardless of whether you have or have not went 5k miles in between. For winter I would use 5W-40, so change to 5w-40 before winter like in November or so. And during summer you should really get oil that is like 5w-50, but since this does not exist, you should use any oil that has the second number 50. 15w-50 would be a great choice. So you know why I tell you these things, I'll try to put the stuff in terms almost everyone should understand. The first number tells you how easy it is for oil to move through the engine the first number tells you how well it is suited for winter driving. Oil should flow with a lot less resistance (low viscosity) when it is cold so a low frist number is good for winter, and the high second number after the w should be high for summer. The second number tells you the propensity of oil to thin out at higher temperatures, that is it tells you that the higher the number the higher the weight of it. This is good for hot summer days when idling. If you chage your oil with full synthetics and with the schedjule I told you your engine will last over 150,000 miles with most certanty, all the while it is saving you on gas. I am sorry for your misfortune, but there is really nothing you can do.
  • jeffyscottjeffyscott Posts: 3,855
    According to VW, should use a synthetic 5W-40 meeting their specific VW standard (502). See:

    Volkswagen Approved Engine Oil (gasoline engines), and
    Choosing the Right Oil—gasoline engines


    (I would guess that using 15W-50 in summer would not cause a problem...just thought it was worth pointing out exacty what VW requirements and recommendations are)
  • fish8fish8 Posts: 2,282
    Thats good info, but that still doesn't answer the question as to how often you changed your oil.
  • 600kgolfgt600kgolfgt Posts: 690
    Couldn't have said it better myself... :shades:
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    Yes, synthetic 5w-40 would be good even in summer, but for added protection when it is hot outside say above freezing, than 15w-50 is superior. Actually I'd run the highest weight oil i could on a high-performing turbocharged engine I could without the oil freezing or having a too-high a viscosity. The easiest oil to make is 20w-50, but with new synthetics you can do 15w-50 which is, of course better than 20w-50. Engineers don't want people to mess up their engines, so they try to give you the best oil that is trying to work at almost all conditions. I say that you aren't as dumb and that you would know better what conditions you drive your car in. If engineers knew that your car would never leave say Florida, I don't think that they would suggest you use 5w-40, actually they would tell you to use 10w-40 or 15w-40 depending on what would be the c oldest day in Florida.
    Obviously the 1.8l has some sludge problems, even if people are following manufacturers recommended schedule. This means that the car needs more protection than it already has. VW cannot ,for I assume marketing reasons, make its customers change oil for cold and hot conditions, so it tries to make people use oil that is can-all, do-all, which is impossible. To counteract the marketing and fix the problem with VW you can either A buy something else (VW wouldn't want this) or B use oil that protects your engine in a best way possible, regardless of what manufacturer tells you. You could use 5w-40, in the summer, but you have a sludge problem in your engine from it being cooked by turbo charger, and what will you do, still listen to VW or spend 1 hour or 2 researching why the sludge happens, and doing the right thing about it or have a 8,500 damage? I choose the former. You can do whatever you like, its your nerves and your money.
  • pjp9999pjp9999 Posts: 13
    I missed three oil changes where I went over the 5k miles recommended service (all service done at dealership). I do take responsibility for that, but that should not warrant a NEW ENGINE at 37k miles????? Not to mention I've had headlight problems from day one, front grill kept popping off, glove compartment broke early on, in addition to the back cup holder. While I think european cars have the sleekest interiors, VWs are very cheaply put together!!! Amazingly poor quality!

    Toyota had a similar Sludge problem w/ their cars and stepped up to the plate for their customers and provided service as long as owners could prove they changed their oil once every year.

    And, there are cases where VW owners did follow the recommended service of every 5k and STILL experienced sludge, which makes me feel it is the engine that is defective and not the owner. Also, VW was not using non-synthetic oil for many years, possibly contributing to the problem. Owners that got the new engine, still experience problems because... well.... it is the same defective engine!

    If this were an isolated incident, I would just chalk it up to "live and learn" and cut my losses and move on, but it seems this is not unique to this make/model.

    And, I talked to a mechanic who has a friend that works for the VW dealership and he told him it is a known problem w/ Passats/Audis and once there is sludge there will always be problems.

    Yes, I do take partial blame for my actions, but, I also feel the manufacturer needs to be accountable for their actions as well. And the dealerships needs to support their customers and not just wish they would go away, which is the kind of service I've received!
  • w9cww9cw Posts: 888
    There is a cautionary factor to consider when using motor oils with a wide viscosity range. The wider the range of a motor oil, greater amounts of V.I. (Viscosity Indexers) are required. A number of years ago, a research chemical/petroleum engineer professor-type here at the University of Illinois wrote a paper on V.I.'s in motor oil. When greater amounts of V.I.'s are added to extend an oil's operational viscosity to a wide range, for example 5W-40 or 10W-50, this is the cause of varnish build-up over time and eventual sludging. Viscosity Indexers are the culprit, not the loss normal oiling properties or detergent action.

    I don't know if this is a proven fact or not, but he's personally a great believer in 10W-30 weight synthetic oil, thereby minimizing the overall viscosity range, and minimizing the required amounts of V.I.'s used. Mobil 1 10W-30, for example, is generally good down into the minus degree F operational range, and certainly good enough for the high temperature ranges subjected by turbochargers.

    Engines with turbos are "oil critical." And, turbos really should be given a cool-down, or at least a spin-down time, before shutting down the engine. Otherwise, the heat of the turbo will "coke" the oil, i.e. cook it off, and cause carbon build up. This alone can lead to sludge problems.

    I've owned two Classic SAAB 900 Turbo's and never experienced an engine or turbo failure out to 175K miles using Mobil 1 10W-30 with changes every 3K or 3 months, whichever came first.
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    Legally manufacturer does not have a right to ask for receipts if they are a supplier of the warranty. You can, by law, change your own oil or fix your car at ANY shop of your choosing. Manufacturers would LOVE that you fix the car only at their dealerships, which would mean you buy their parts. Whatever... If you have your warranty from manufacturer and they refuse to honnor it because you changed your own oil (you should have receipts that you bought it), than sue them, and you'll win even without an attorney.
  • pjp9999pjp9999 Posts: 13
    Thanks for all your replies....... gosh, this is sooooooooooo NOT a warm and fuzzy site. I feel like I'm back at the dealership again! Oh well, will probably just cut my losses and go back to japanese cars, which were soooooooooo much easier to maintain. Maybe the passat was just too sophisticated for me????
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    Folks are just trying to give you their honest feedback - no one's trying to gaslight you, nor are they trying to tell you things that aren't true such as VW should/will take care of this. That would be of no use to you at all.
  • pjp9999pjp9999 Posts: 13
    Yes, I know and I do appreciate the feedback. I guess I'm still in shock over the "new engine" verdict at 37k miles.
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    I am glad your professor's research is in line with what I said before, for a second there I thought that you were trying to say that using 2 types of oil, one for summer with a high weight, high viscosity and one for winter, low viscosity high weight would be bad. I agree with prof.'s research study, and this was preciscly why I said that for WINTER 5w-40 would be good, I don't know where this person lives so I don't know how cold it gets. I don't want to suggest to use 10w-30 if he lives somewhere where temps drop below say -20f. Even in champaign it got below -20 this winter a few days in January. No oil lubrication (below -20 for 10W) the worst thing you can do to the engine, much worse than the risk of sludge forming form NON FOSSIL based oils. Plus this is in the winter when temperatures are low so the risk of turbo making the oil coke is much lower. So it would be worse for this person to use 10W-30 than 5w-40 in the winter because bearings like to have oil. In the summer 10w-30 has too low a weight, stands no chance to an inneficient journal bearing turbo that is about 5 inches away from the high temperature catalytic converter on an engine that is trying to run as lean as possible to conserve fuel. Add summer heat and 10w-30 is just inadequate for the summer as well, this is why you should use 15w-50 as I have previously stated, and not 10w-50 as you suggest I did. Actually 10w-50 does not exist as far as I know. This was my point. I even added that the easiest oil to make is 20w50. Than I added that with synthetics 15w50 is great as well, not 10w50, which does not exist. The V.I agents you talk about are also determental in a 4 ball test not just a heat test. But we are talking about sludge here and not an abrasive tests. Sludge forms due to extreme heats that are better handled with higher weight oils thus my advise to use 15w50 in the summer since I doubt the temperatures would drop below say -15 celsius. Even 20w50 would be good. Actually what I said was that if I had the engine like he did I'd use the highest weight that is allowed for the season he will be driving his car in. If it were my car I'd use 5w-40 winter (I moved from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago) because risk of sludge is low during cold times, and I would use 20w50 in the summer time, say from march on. Moreover I suggested that they guy buys garrett turbo that is the only one that is dual-ball bearing, and the one with both water and oil cooling capabilities, and to toss his pathetic KKK, which has ball bearing on turbine side only, and not on the compressor (might not even have a ball bering at all, not completly sure). I also suggested what you said later on that he should run a car for 2-3 minutes after he stops driving, I said this when I suggested he gets a turbo timer, a few posts up form the one you replied to.
    Again, I am glad we are in agreement...
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    I am sorry if I sounded as if I didn't give you a worm and fuzzy feeling. Yes toyota had about 3500 cases of their engines with sludge, and actually I don't think that Toyota should have payed for those, but Toyota has a reputation to hold of the most reliable car manufacturer, and the one who takes care of their customers. Just look at their JD power and associates ratings for Lexus and you'd think all Toyota cared for was their customers and nothing else.
    VW on the other hand doesn't have this problem. Everyone thinks their cars aren't close to Toyota for reliability so when poop hits the fan people go, oh well its VW what did you expect? The fact remains Toyota will take care of you VW doesn't care nearly as much. Of interesting note, EVERYONE on my wedding here in the US owned ONLY TOYOTAS. It's not like there were people who owned toyotas and something else as well. NO. PEOPLE who where at my wedding ONLY had Toyotas, from both sides of the family. Why? When they asked me (I pretend to know a thing or two about cars) what car should I get, I want fuel economy, reliability, good resale value and I want it to ride great. I cannot in all honesty say anything else but Toyota. If anyone had asked for anything else, like all the above but said I want it to handle great I would have said Mazda or Honda. So yes, if you care about reliability, you picked a wrong brand. A VERY wrong brand.
    And one more thing. There is nothing sophisticated about small turbo engine like the one in passat. There are a lot of things VW could have done to improve the powerplant. Don't blame yourself. If I worked for VW I would have insisted on a more efficient turbine. I would have installed an huge oil cooler upstream of the turbo, and if nothing else I would have circulated the oil even after the engine was shut of with an electrically controlled oil pump. Even at the risk of a higher turbo lag I would have moved the turbo much closer to the firewall, and I would have put a thick wide insulated pipe form the turbo to the cat, which I would put under the car. Yes the car would loose some lag due to the longer piping from the compressor, but I would be able to use a much bigger down pipe and a cat farther downstream from the turbo which would more than compensate. VW engineers were too lazy to be bothered to do all of this. I cannot explain my horror when I saw a turbo, header and Cat all located in the engine bay within inches of one another just sitting there worming up the air under the hood, messing up all the wiring (wires hate hot air), pipes, and air going into the engine. When I saw that I said WTH? What were they thinking. To top it off they use that small pathetic turbo. It's a good thing the cars last as long as they do with the set up they have.
    I know that for emmision purposes they wanted cat to be close so that it can be wormed up, this is why I said they should have used insulation after the turbine, maybe even before and on the turbine as well. But no, they had to put it right there next to the wheel-well. Go figure. Trust me nothing sophisticated about that engine. All the technology in it has been used for a long time now. Go by a V6 camry, you'll be happier.
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    I know I have written a lot in this forum but just one more thing. I am sorry that all of this has happened to you and I wish you best of luck. I have a friend at the university who owns (well its his wife's but that is not the point here) vw Passat. He went against my advice and bought it. When his engine was a goner 64K (also didn't change oil, but here I think it was for over 1 year and 20k miles) he didn't know what to do. So he asked me. I told him the same thing I told you. He god the engine from a junkyard, a new turbo from garrett GT 28R , with different manifold, much more efficient and larger intercooler, cat was moved about 3' downstream from turbine down a 3" pipe (well insulated per my insistance) and the car has LESS lag and more power.
    To make a long story short, the car now has more than 130K miles, he changes oil every 3K and it has less lag and more power. To have been initially designed and made like this would have cost VW not much more than they did for this design. Still new camry V6 is a better car for people who don't care to modify their cars to last longer or perform better it already does that.
  • pjp9999pjp9999 Posts: 13
    Thank you for your very in-depth reply, but, I'm afraid you are confusing me w/ someone who has extensive, or any knowledge of the way an automobile works. I'm from the school of: put gas, then go, and do occasional maintenance here and there... which I know you're probably thinking is why I am now in the predicament that I am in (which you are probably right!). But, in my defense, have only owned japanese cars in the past and have never put in oil every 5k and NEVER needed a new engine. In comparison, Japanese cars are very user friendly! Probably why they rank the best in terms of dependability. While I still think european cars are the best in interior design, you don't one for dependability!
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    Regarding a couple of recent messages, here's a suggestion from someone who reads tons of posts :P ...

    Paragraphs are your friend. They make your posts far more readable and then all of your observations and comments can/will be absorbed way better by the readers. One continuous paragraph for more than three or four or six or eight sentences is difficult to absorb - trust me.

    If your post is longer than than three or so column-inches, you need to make some spaces between your thoughts if you want folks to be able to "hear" you.

  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    Noted, and now that I look back at how everything looks as I have said it, you are absolutely right.

    From now on I will try to remember to separate my thoughts by different paragraphs for each new idea. Just like I learned in high-school, but seem to have forgotten since I took ESL. I am sorry to anyone who might have had a hard time reading my drible.

    Oh and how does one enter car icons into text?
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    They are located just underneath the post box. Just click on the one you want.

    If you hover over one with your cursor, you should see text for the emotion that is intended to be conveyed. Or just pick whichever one's looks appeal to you. ;)
  • ibudic1ibudic1 Posts: 30
    They are [japanise cars] more "User Friendly". They are also built to a high standard. Engineering is not bad either, although I'd like to see more research and less improving-the-known-technology-to-the-point-of-making-it-and-art-form.

    Regarding your lack of knowledge for modification... You could go to the shop that will install your engine and tell them to install new parts that you have bought along with the new engine ( when I say new engine I don't mean new I just mean the one form another car in a junkyard). If you go to you will see that they have a turbo kit for your car. YOU DON'T need to buy this but your car will have much more power (almost like a V8 engine in it) with about the same fuel economy and better reliability than your VW now. This will void your warranty, but since you don't have it it doesen't really matter, at least you will have a car you like. Mechanic will know what to do with the parts. This is their job.

    Before you buy the engine from the junkyard make sure they compression test it. You don't need to know what this means, what you need to find out from your VW dealer is what is acceptable lowest compression on COLD 1.8l and what is the minimum difference between the cylinders. Than ask the junkyard to tell you the numbers. If they are not up to spec (either pressure too different form one cylidner to another or too low a pressure) don't buy it. Just as you install this engine and run it, you should buy flush the engine (Called oil flush) and change the oil immediately. You should do this regardless. Again I am sorry for your loss ( I know I know...).
This discussion has been closed.