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Home » Volkswagen Passat [B5/B5.5](1996-2005) Problems, Review, Faults and Information

Volkswagen Passat [B5/B5.5](1996-2005) Problems, Review, Faults and Information

Volkswagen Passat B5 (fifth generation of the model) came in 1996 when it replaced the previous Volkswagen Passat B4. In 2001 there was a restyling which brought changes to the design and some modernizations on the technical level and in the interior. Additionally, restyling changed the model name to Volkswagen Passat B5.5 (some call it B5+). Production ended in 2005 when the car was replaced by the new Volkswagen Passat B6. Let’s see the Volkswagen Passat B5 review with the most important information, faults and common problems.

Table of Contents

Review of the Volkswagen Passat B5 with all the information, defects, issues, faults, weaknesses, problems and maintenance costs.
Volkswagen Passat B5 (pre-restyling)

Impressions, Interior and Comfort

Volkswagen Passats have always been very successful and appreciated by their owners. Thanks to this, the model achieved the leading role in the industry (similar situation with the Volkswagen Golf). Volkswagen Passats have always had good technical characteristics, a nice interior, good equipment and have resulted in a high quality feel while not being a premium car. In parallel, one of the most important characteristics was the great reliability.

With the fifth generation of this model, the German manufacturer decided to take another big leap forward and created a car which, compared to what was on the market in those years in the D segment, set a new benchmark both from technical point of view and in terms of general quality of the product. These sensations are also given by the fact that the Passat B5 is based on the Audi A4 B5.

However, as we will see later, Volkwagen Passat B5 was the model that at the end of the 90s ruined the reputation of “indestructible car” that Volkswagen had before. Reliability has worsened considerably, the front suspension was particularly problematic, but we will talk about it in more detail in the dedicated section.

Plus, as the years go by, the amount of problems doesn’t decrease. In this article we will see if the maintenance costs will not be exaggerated to use a similar car.

Platform and Body

The platform of the Volkswagen Passat B5 is based on that of the Audi A4 B5 (PL45 extended). This means that it is a typical Audi platform, with a longitudinally installed engine and basic front-wheel drive. Optionally you can have all-wheel drive.

The 4Motion all-wheel drive system is based on the fourth generation Audi Quattro system, therefore it features a Torsen T-2 center differential.

The Passat also inherited the sophisticated and refined front suspension system with high wishbone with virtual steering axis from the A4. On the rear axle, the suspension varies according to the type of traction: torsion beam for front-wheel drive cars and low quadrilateral with overlapping triangles (multilink) for cars with four-wheel drive.

The body design of the Volkswagen Passat B5 is serious and calm. There are no traces of brutality or aggression. The styling is softer than previous generations which were more boxy. Thanks to the rounded lines, the Volkswagen Passat B5 has good aerodynamics with a Cx of just 0.27 (both the sedan and the station wagon). Aesthetically, there are quite visible differences between the restyling and pre-restyling versions. First of all, the new light clusters (headlights and taillights) are noticeable, but the bumpers, bonnet, radiator grille and other small elements have also changed.

Review of the Volkswagen Passat B5 .5 Plus restyling facelift with all the information, defects, issues, faults, weaknesses, problems and maintenance costs.
Volkswagen Passat B5.5 (facelift)

Aesthetically, the car is attractive, both before and after the restyling, especially in the more equipped versions.

The fifth generation Volkswagen Passat is available in two body styles: sedan (4-door) and Variant (station wagon). The German car has a length of 4669 – 4704 mm, a width of 1740 mm and a height of 1460 – 1496 mm. The wheelbase is 2703 mm. The weight of the car varies from 1289 to 1665 kg depending on the version.

Comfort and Practicality

Volkswagen Passat B5 was one of the most spacious in the segment and still has a lot to offer today. Just think that even the latest generations of the model don’t have a much bigger wheelbase. The interior space is sufficient, on the front seats anyone will be able to position themselves comfortably, even the rear passengers will be comfortable if they are not particularly tall.

The trunk/boot has a volume of 475 l in the sedan and 495 l in the station wagon (by completely folding down the rear sofa, it can reach 800 l in the sedan and 1600 l in the station wagon).

Volkswagen Passat B5 has very good ride comfort. Thanks to the well-made suspension, driving pleasure is high. It manages to combine good stability with sufficient softness. Thanks to all this, even the longest journeys are not particularly tiring.

Interior and Equipment

in this photo you can see the interior compartment of the Volkswagen Passat B5 with the steering wheel, the stereo radio, the seats and the dashboard central panel cockpit

The interior is pleasant, the ergonomics are very good and the quality of the materials also does not disappoint. Everything is pleasant to the touch and resistance over time isn’t bad either. The build quality is at a high level and thanks to this even after many years there are not too many annoying noises in the cabin.

On some elements, serious signs of wear may appear at high mileage. First of all, of course, the most used elements wear out: the steering wheel trim and its buttons, the gear knob, the climate control buttons, multimedia buttons and more. At high mileages, wear and tear on the seat upholstery is also unavoidable.

The good part is that all traces of wear and tear present in the cabin can be eliminated if desired. Some pieces can be replaced, others can be repainted or restored.

Soundproofing is good, but not ideal. The interior in general remains silent, but in some situations various noises can penetrate.

Even in terms of equipment, the situation is quite good. In fact, many types of options could be mounted on the Volkswagen Passat B5 in order to satisfy all daily needs. Nowadays obviously one will not be surprised by the amount of systems, but we must not forget the period in which this model was produced. You can meet xenon headlights, satellite navigation, parking sensors, mobile phone, automatic climate control, leather seats with heating and much more.

The multimedia system can be of different types. Basically there is a rather scarce car radio, optionally you can have a more performing system, but by now practically obsolete. The audio quality is quite good, but that’s not great either.


In the EuroNCAP safety test, the Volkswagen Passat B5 got only 3 out of 5 stars. Safety in the event of an accident is not at its best and to reduce the risk it is good to have good tyres. Tires are almost the most important thing for safety on the road.

After restyling, Volkswagen Passat B5+ got 4 out of 5 stars. This result is already more acceptable.

Reliability and Issues

Gearbox and Transmission

On the Volkswagen Passat B5 there can be both manual and automatic gearboxes. The manual gearbox can be 5 or 6-speed, the automatic gearbox can be 4-speed or 5-speed.

Manual transmission

The manual gearbox can be 5-speed (012/01W) or 6-speed (01E/0A1). In general, both are reliable and long-lasting. Around 220 – 240,000 km (135 – 150 k miles), knocks may appear when shifting gears or when using the engine brake. These are caused by play between the inner constant velocity joint and the drive shaft. On cars with around 200 – 220,000 km (125 – 135 k miles) and diesel engine, the dual-mass flywheel is often found to be damaged. With petrol engines the flywheel also reaches 250 – 300,000 km (155 – 185 k miles).

After 300,000 km (185 k miles) it could be difficult to engage the gears due to wear on the bearings and the synchronizers will almost certainly be worn out.

4-Speed automatic gearbox

The 4-speed automatic transmission is generally encountered before restyling on cars with 8-valve petrol engines or diesel engines. It is a gearbox of the 01N series of Volkswagen production. Already in that period it was a fairly old gearbox, but of excellent construction. It has great reliability of both the mechanical parts and the management electronics. The only weaknesses are the durability of the torque converter locking system and the slow fouling of the gearbox with wear residues. After many years there may start to be oil leaks.

Inside the gearbox there are many plastic elements which can be destroyed over time. If you hear abnormal noises, it will be good to check if there are no plastic pieces in the gearbox pan. The life of the solenoids is also limited. The gearbox doesn’t like overheating. In the electrical part of the transmission, it is often necessary to replace the speed sensors.

In general, the 4-speed automatic gearbox, with oil change intervals of about 40 – 60,000 km, can live without major problems for at least 200 – 250,000 km (125 – 155 k miles). The only possible interventions to be done before 200,000 km (125 k miles) could be the overhaul of the torque converter lock-up system and a cleaning of the hydraulic block. Repairs to this gearbox are not very expensive if its state is not completely ruined.

ZF 5HP automatic gearbox

The 5-speed automatic transmissions ZF 5HP19FL (01V series) are most frequently found.

It’s a successful gearbox and it’s much more interesting than the 4-speed one. It manages to guarantee a fairly low consumption, has a fairly good operating speed and also a good resistance.

Also on this gearbox, wear appears on the torque converter locking system over time (around 150 – 180,000 km or 95 – 110 k miles) and dirt on the hydraulic block. Those affected by aggressive driving suffer the most.

You have to be very careful with the cooling system, otherwise you risk overheating. The latter can cause annoying problems. The oil here needs to be replaced regularly, it would be great to do this every 50,000 km. Spare parts and repairs will not have exaggerated costs given that the gearbox is very common (also used on Audi and BMW).

You have to pay attention to the oil pump around 250,000 km (155 k miles). If the pump fails there will be overheating and could fail the torque converter. The high oil temperature in the gearbox also causes problems with the management system and therefore there will be an rough operation of the gearbox.

If the gearbox doesn’t work as it should, one of the first things to do is clean the radiator. Changing the oil in the gearbox can also help (done very carefully and in a specialized center to avoid problems, especially if the oil hasn’t been changed for many miles).

Otherwise, these gearboxes should have no particular problems up to 200 – 300,000 km (125 – 185 k miles). Some specimens treated very well have even exceeded 500,000 km (310 k miles).

Drivetrain and Transmission System

The transmission system performs well on both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions. Problems usually come from either high mileage or poor maintenance.

Front-wheel drive Passat B5s should not have serious problems for at least 200 thousand km (125 k miles). You have to be careful of oil leaks and wear of the various protections.

On Passats with all-wheel drive, the cardan shaft (drive shaft) may need to be overhauled after around 150,000 km (95 k miles). It is usually enough to replace the bearing and then it will have no more problems up to 300 thousand km (185 k miles). The Torsen differential loves regular oil changes and quiet driving. At high mileage it can start to run worse, especially if it hasn’t been treated well. Even if it yields, however, you can find a used unit in good condition at a low price.

Suspensions, Steering and Brakes

The suspension of the Volkswagen Passat B5 with front-wheel drive has a multi-link structure in front and a torsion beam behind. On those with all-wheel drive there are multilink suspensions also behind. This choice offers good driving sensations, but has proved to be unreliable. Moreover, the repair prices are also quite high.

As we have already mentioned, the suspension is based on that fitted to the 1994 Audi A4 B5. On the pre-facelift Volkswagen Passat B5 they are almost identical to those on Audi, but then they were modernized on the B5+ facelift. In reality, the suspensions were continuously modernized during the production period, but the restyling brought more important changes: the arms, the ball bearings and the various supports were changed, the stabilizer and other things were changed.

The Passat B5 got its reputation as a car with unreliable suspension because people weren’t used to having problems like this. In fact, in the past the suspensions were very long-lived and resistant. Nowadays however, more and more often the suspensions are no longer indestructible and even those of the Passat seem to be normal. A complete kit of 8 front suspension links has an average cost. They will be high quality spare parts from the Lemforder brand. However, you can also opt for less expensive brands. The arms last about 200,000 km (125 k miles).

If there start to be problems with the front suspension, it will be best to replace everything together to avoid similar problems appearing at short intervals. A good quality new suspension should be no problem for another 150,000 km (95 k miles). Obviously the duration depends a lot on the quality of the roads travelled.

The rear suspension of front-wheel drive cars is almost immortal. The torsion beam is reliable and overall handling of the car on the road is still good. If, on the other hand, the car has four-wheel drive, there will be double wishbone suspension. These are more reliable than the front ones, but again the repair price is high.

The shock absorbers can already fail after 40 – 50,000 km (25 – 30 k miles), but if you drive on good quality roads you can even get to 180,000 km (110 k miles). Even the springs don’t last very long, especially the rear ones. The hub bearings are quite loaded and the front ones generally fail at about 100,000 km (60 k miles), but in some cases they even reach 200,000 km (125 k miles). The same goes for the constant velocity joints guards.

To have less problematic suspensions it will be better to opt for a car of the last years of production.

Steering system

The steering system should not give problems before 200,000 km (125 k miles). Beyond this figure, the rack can begin to leak. It won’t take a lot of money to fix it. Better to intervene as soon as possible, otherwise the rack will start to beat and from there the problem becomes more serious.

Even the power steering pump won’t keep you waiting too long. High pressure hoses tend to rust and are particularly sensitive near the radiator. If you see signs of leaks, it will be best to intervene immediately. If this is not done, there is a risk of breakage. Without power steering the steering wheel of the Volkswagen Passat B5 is very hard and there is a risk of an accident.

Brakes system

The brakes perform well, are reliable and effective. The problem is that there are more variations here. It can be difficult to find the right brake pads, even with brake calipers it is difficult since there can be at least 6 different versions.

On older cars it will be good practice to check the various brake hoses. There may be problems with the functioning of the ABS unit (may fail at around 200,000 km or 125 k miles). ABS sensors live approximately 100 – 140,000 km (60 – 85 k miles). Fortunately, the whole system can usually be repaired, rarely having to buy new parts.

The front pads will have to be changed approximately every 30 – 40,000 km (20 – 25 k miles) and the rear ones every 50 – 60,000 km (30 – 35 k miles). The front discs also live for 100 – 150,000 km (60 – 95 k miles).

Electronics and Electrical System

The Volkswagen Passat B5’s electronics are generally quite reliable and work well. The biggest problems usually come from third party factors such as intervention by unqualified people, water damage (penetration from outside or capsizes by passengers) or accidents.

However, it can also have some basic problems that do not depend on anything. Generally these arrive over the years and with broken cables (especially in the doors and under the hood), blown fuses, fan and air conditioner relays, oxidation of contacts and general aging of the system. The antenna, various heaters and some buttons can “die”. However, there are also well-kept cars that do not have any of these defects.

There have been cases of melting the fuse box. This happens due to a miscalculated air conditioning fuse which could under certain conditions cause it to melt. If this happens, in addition to the smoke and the annoying smell, there will be a lot of money to invest in the repair.

The breakdowns of some systems are rare, generally these simply have periodic irregularities in the functioning. There may be malfunctions of the central locking, climate control, immobilizer, comfort control unit, multimedia system and more. Nothing serious, but they can be annoying. Generally the reasons are loss of contact or breakage of some cable.

The repair costs are not high, but the tricky part is finding where the problem lies. In order to completely get rid of these nuisances, you need to find a very good electrician who will be able to find the exact reason and will not cause greater damage.

The starter lives about 250 – 300,000 km (155 – 185 k miles), the alternator about 260 – 280,000 km (160 – 185 k miles).


Corrosion resistance is very good. Even if the paint is damaged, the metal does not start to rust for a long time. Serious signs of rust can only be seen on examples that have been in accidents and then badly repaired.

The paint itself is also quite good. Nowadays however, since so many years have passed, it is difficult to find a car with the paint still in good condition. Scratches and a loss of initial shine can be seen on almost all cars. Chrome elements are almost always in bad condition.

Before buying a Volkswagen Passat B5 it would be useful to check if there are no signs of rust in the various welding points of the body. In fact, these proved to be less protected and more at risk. It would also be useful to check if there are no signs of rust on the suspensions as well. Rusty suspensions are less reliable and can be more problematic during maintenance.

Various water drains are another weak point of the Volkswagen Passat B5. These can get clogged and stop doing their job. The hood area is especially critical. In some places, even mold can appear due to the continuous accumulation of humidity. Cleaning these channels can often be difficult due to the awkward location. Furthermore, the accumulations of humidity, in addition to stimulating corrosion, can also cause problems with the electronics if they come into contact with the electrical system.

There can also be annoying penetration of water into the interior. These penetrations can be caused not only by clogged drains, but also by worn door seals (often the one on the trunk door). In the trunk, water can also enter due to worn taillight seals. In rare cases, the reason may be badly installed windshield. The windshield itself is easily scratched and could start to annoy the eyes.

The air conditioning is not very reliable. In addition to the electronics problems, it may also have problems with the radiator and the atomizer. In addition, coolant leaks (especially in the event of overheating) and freon leaks are frequent. A Volkswagen Passat B5 with a faulty air conditioner shouldn’t be surprising. The air conditioner compressor lives about 200,000 km (125 k miles), and the compressor relay about 260 – 280,000 km (160 – 185 k miles).

The headlights, front bumper and grille may have problems with the mounting points. This is due to the fact that when working on the engine or cooling system, the front of the car is often disassembled. Less attentive mechanics risk ruining some fixing points. Before buying a Volkswagen Passat B5 it is necessary to check the robustness of the front elements well. If they are unstable or crooked, it is necessary to understand if it is the fault of the fixing points or if the car has suffered accidents.

The headlights become dull over time. In some cases it can be resolved with polishing. To avoid this problem you can cover the headlights with protective film.

An interesting fact is that for the Volkswagen Passat B5 you can find cheap and good quality Chinese spare parts. The good quality is given by the fact that in China this model has been produced for many years and they have studied it well.

Problems occur with the power window mechanism (around 200 – 250,000 km or 125 – 155 k miles). Fortunately, the repairs are not too complex and are reasonably priced. Around 200,000 km (125 k miles) there may also be problems with the wiper mechanism.

Engines and their Problems

Diesel engines list :

Version Engine Power Top Speed Acceleration Fuel Consumption
1.9 TDI 1.9 l EA180 90 hp 183 km/h or 113 mph 13.5 s 6 l/100 km

US: 39,2 mpg

UK: 47 mpg

1.9 TDI 1.9 l EA188 100 hp 191 km/h or 118 mph 12.4 s 5 l/100 km

US: 47 mpg

UK: 56,4 mpg

1.9 TDI 1.9 l EA180 110 hp 196 km/h or 121 mph 11.3 s 6 l/100 km

US: 39,2 mpg

UK: 47 mpg

1.9 TDI 1.9 l EA188 115 hp 200 km/h or 124 mph 10.8 s 5 l/100 km

US: 47 mpg

UK: 56,4 mpg

1.9 TDI 1.9 l EA188 130 hp 208 km/h or 129 mph 9.9 s 6 l/100 km

US: 39,2 mpg

UK: 47 mpg

2.0 TDI 2.0 l EA188 136 hp 211 km/h or 131 mph 9.8 s 6 l/100 km

US: 39,2 mpg

UK: 47 mpg

2.5 TDI 2.5 l EA330 150 hp 220 km/h or 136 mph 9.6 s 7 l/100 km

US: 33,6 mpg

UK: 40,3 mpg

2.5 TDI 2.5 l EA330 163 hp 225 km/h or 139 mph 9.1 s 7 l/100 km

US: 33,6 mpg

UK: 40,3 mpg

2.5 TDI 2.5 l EA330 180 hp 226 km/h or 140 mph 9.6 s 9 l/100 km

US: 26,1 mpg

UK: 31,3 mpg

Petrol/Gasoline engines list :

Version Engine Power Top Speed Acceleration Fuel Consumption
1.6 8v 1.6 l EA827 / EA113 100 hp 191 km/h or 118 mph 12.5 s 8 l/100 km

US: 29,4 mpg

UK: 35,3 mpg

1.6 8v 1.6 l EA113 102 hp 192 km/h or 119 mph 12.7 s 8 l/100 km

US: 29,4 mpg

UK: 35,3 mpg

1.8 20v 1.8 l EA827 / EA113 125 hp 206 km/h or 128 mph 10.9 s 9 l/100 km

US: 26,1 mpg

UK: 31,3 mpg

1.8 20v turbo 1.8 l EA827 / EA113 150 hp 221 km/h or 137 mph 9.2 s 8 l/100 km

US: 29,4 mpg

UK: 35,3 mpg

2.0 8v 2.0 l EA113 115 hp 200 km/h or 124 mph 11.2 s 8 l/100 km

US: 29,4 mpg

UK: 35,3 mpg

2.0 20v 2.0 l EA113 130 hp 210 km/h or 130 mph 9.9 s 8 l/100 km

US: 29,4 mpg

UK: 35,3 mpg

2.3 10v 2.3 l EA395 150 hp 221 km/h or 137 mph 8.9 s 10 l/100 km

US: 23,5 mpg

UK: 28,2 mpg

2.3 20v 2.3 l EA395 170 hp 228 km/h or 141 mph 8.9 s 10 l/100 km

US: 23,5 mpg

UK: 28,2 mpg

2.8 V6 30v 2.8 l EA835 193 hp 238 km/h or 147 mph 7.8 s 11 l/100 km

US: 21,3 mpg

UK: 25,6 mpg

4.0 W8 32v 4.0 l EA398 275 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.5 s 13 l/100 km

US: 18,1 mpg

UK: 21,7 mpg

problems and issues with petrol, gasoline, LPG, CNG, methane and diesel engines mounted on Volkswagen Passat B5


The engines of the Volkswagen Passat B5 have become more complex than in previous generations, but they are still quite good in general terms. Less good is the position of the engines. These are positioned far forward and due to this the radiators sit very tightly together with the fan. The crankcase of the engine is also very low so there is always a risk of causing damage if you are not careful. In the event of an impact, this deforms or breaks completely.

Very narrow radiators get dirty easily. Furthermore, the awkward position of the engine often forces the disassembly of the entire front part of the car in case of work to replace the belt or various sensors. It is important to be very careful when reassembling the front elements. Even the slightest mistakes can lead to breakage of the radiator, fans, cables and various pipes in the affected area.

Diesel Engines

With diesel engines, everything is quite simple and clear. The smallest is the 1.9 l TDI which here can be from the EA180 family or from the EA188 family. The largest is the 2.5 l TDI from the EA330 family in various power versions.

1.9 l TDI diesel Engines

The 1.9 l TDI diesel engines are now legendary. Famous for their great reliability and good characteristics. There could have been two versions: with high pressure pump (EA180) before 2001 and with Unit Injectors (EA188) after 2001. The most recent and interesting ones are the 1.9 l TDI EA188 with pump injectors.

1.9 l TDI EA180 diesel Engines

The smallest and weakest diesel engine is the 1.9 l TDI. Initially the EA180 series was mounted which here offers a power of 90 hp or 110 hp.

The engines of the EA180 series are equipped with direct injection with a Bosch VP37 high-pressure pump. Furthermore, the engines are equipped with a flowmeter and in the more powerful versions you can find a variable geometry turbine. For the rest, they have a fairly classic structure with a cast iron block, an aluminum head with 8 valves and an intermediate shaft which drives the oil pump and the vacuum pump.

The 1.9 l TDI EA180 engine is very reliable and problems start to appear at high mileages. You can burn the valve seats and this leads to a loss of compression. A loss of power can be caused by a blocked turbine geometry control system or a dirty EGR valve.

Often the lower flange of the crankcase ventilation pipe cracks and oil leaks appear. It is important to keep the service belt under control which, in the event of breakage, can end up under the timing belt leading to bad consequences.

In general, these engines manage to live even more than 400 – 500 thousand km (250 – 310 k miles) without fatal failure.

1.9 l TDI PD EA188 diesel Engines

Later, the 1.9 l TDI in its latest generation EA188 was also installed in the Volkswagen Passat B5. These units here offer power ratings of 100 hp, 115 hp and 130 hp.

This has undergone some major changes. The injection system has become PD “Pumpe Düse” Unit Injectors, the intermediate shaft has been removed and a chain has been added to drive the oil pump.

Between the less powerful and the more powerful versions of this engine there are differences in injectors, turbines, crankcase (more resistant on the more powerful ones) and pistons (more resistant on the more powerful ones).

From the point of view of reliability and longevity, the latest generation of the legendary 1.9 l TDI has deteriorated slightly compared to the past, but still performs very well. This is due to the fact that it has become more modern and complex. You must use only high quality oil and not have too long service intervals. Bad oil contributes to wear of the hydraulic compensators (hydraulic pushers) and camshaft cams.

A loss of power or erratic operation can be caused by a blocked turbine geometry control system. This can happen around 150,000 km (95 k miles) and cleaning the valve could be enough to solve it. When the odometer passes over 200,000 km (125 k miles) there may be problems with the turbine itself, the dual-mass flywheel and fuel injectors. The single bolt fixing system of the unit injectors is not too reliable and over time could give way causing leaks.

In general, the duration of these aggregates depends a lot on the style of use. The cars used mostly on the highway and at constant speed can reach 300 – 400,000 km (185 – 250 k miles) without serious problems. Those used more urbanly or aggressively will need investment after 200,000 km (125 k miles), but generally still exceed 300,000 km (185 k miles) without fatal defects.

On 1.9 TDIs with high mileage, oil consumption may start to occur. There are also oil pressure leaks at the camshaft. The camshaft is unfortunately not very long-lived, on some unfortunate engines it can be worn out as early as 200 – 220,000 km (125 – 135 k miles). Symptoms of wear will be strange noises, knocking in the engine, loss of power and black smoke from the exhaust.

2.0 l TDI PD EA188 diesel Engine

The 2.0 l TDI engine mounted is the one with Unit Injectors of the EA188 family. It is one of the engines that most ruined the reputation of the VAG group.

In its initial version it was one of the worst mistakes of the German manufacturer VAG. It is an extremely problematic engine compared to its 1.9 TDI predecessor. The versions mounted here are with 8 valves, therefore the famous problems with cylinder head cracks are not there. The other defects, however, are all present.

The unit injectors turned out to be quite capricious, they do not like low-quality fuel and are expensive to repair if there is a problem. In good running condition, they shouldn’t cause major problems before 250,000 km (155 k miles).

It is not uncommon for the engine to start consuming oil, even up to 1 liter per 1000 km.

The drive mechanism of the oil pump has proved to be problematic and may be in bad shape as early as around 200,000 km or 125 k miles(in some cases even earlier). This is why you need to keep an eye on it and check it periodically (perhaps when replacing the timing belt). It is difficult to tell if a pump is in bad shape without disassembling. In fact, the pressure remains unchanged and there are no strange noises until complete failure.

The coolant pump can start whistling even before 100,000 km (60 k miles). A new pump will have an average price.

At high mileages, there are problems with the turbine, with the flywheel and also with the EGR valve. These are now typical for modern turbodiesels. Sometimes power losses are caused by blockage of the turbine management system.

Despite everything, these engines, if treated well, can go without fatal defects up to 280 – 300 thousand km or 175 – 185 k miles (and even more).

2.5 l TDI V6 EA330 diesel Engines

The largest and most powerful diesels fitted to the Volkswagen Passat B5 are the 2.5 l TDI V6 of the EA330 family. These are presented here in two generations: generation A (engine code starts with A, for example AFB, AKN) and generation B (engine code starts with B, for example BDG, BDH, BAU).

These are units with a cast iron cylinder block, two aluminum cylinder heads and a timing belt. Each of the cylinder heads has two camshafts, in total there are 24 valves and there are hydraulic compensators. The injection is direct with a Bosch VP44 high pressure pump.

EA330 generation A 2.5 l TDI engines may have problems with the camshafts (cams and rocker arms wear out too quickly). After 220 – 250,000 km (135 – 155 k miles) the high pressure pump may fail (even earlier if low quality diesel is used). These two weak points are the most famous and expensive ones to repair.

Among the less serious problems we have the crankcase ventilation system filter which becomes clogged and requires periodic cleaning. The flowmeter is not too long-lived. At high mileage, oil leaks may appear at the point of contact between the block and the sump or from under the valve cover.

Around 150 – 200 thousand km (95 – 125 k miles), the turbine geometry adjustment system can get dirty and block.

In 2003, generation B appeared and brought about important changes. First of all, the problematic timing mechanism has been updated: here the cam of the camshaft presses on a roller bearing. This choice has made it possible to increase the life of the rocker arms.

The BFC engine, while theoretically part of generation B, still has the old type of distribution, so in fact it can be seen as a generation A engine.

Otherwise the same weaknesses remained. However, there may be some cases when the modernized camshafts burst (even at mileage of 150 – 250 thousand km or 95 – 155 k miles).

All 2.5 l TDI engines love high-quality oil and its frequent replacement. Bad oil contributes to the wear of the hydraulic compensators and worsens the operating conditions of the camshafts.

Despite all the weaknesses, it must be said that engines treated well have a decent life. Generation A aggregates should live at least 250,000 km (155 k miles) without fatal defects, while those of generation B can even exceed 320,000 km (200 k miles) without major failures.

Petrol/Gasoline Engines

With petrol/gasoline engines it is easy to get confused. This especially applies to small petrol engines which were in the transition phase at the time of the appearance of the Volkswagen Passat B5. Initially the 1.6 l, 1.8 l and 1.8 l Turbo engines of the EA827 series were mounted, then they were gradually replaced with those of the EA113 series (the naturally aspirated 1.6 l and 1.8 l engines made the transition slowly during 1997, the 1.8 l Turbo engines made the transaction in 1999).

Basically, the newer EA113 series is based on the older EA827, so there are many similarities, but also some important differences. We will talk about these aspects in more detail a little later.

1.6 l EA827 Engine

The 1.6 l petrol engine of the EA827 family is very weak and will not be able to move the Passat B5 dynamically. Its strong points are simplicity and great reliability. Large defects are rarely encountered and usually at high mileage.

Among the most common problems is the frequent fouling of the crankcase ventilation system. Over time, severe vibrations may appear during engine operation, but cleaning the injectors and throttle valve is usually sufficient to resolve.

The thermostat and the coolant temperature sensor do not have a long life. At very large mileages there can be an increase in oil consumption and the hydraulic compensators can become noisy.

With correct use, these engines can live at least 350,000 km (215 k miles) without fatal breakdowns. There are cases when they even exceed 500 thousand km (310 k miles).

1.8 l EA827 Engines

Initially the 1.8 l of the EA827 family were mounted on the Volkswagen Passat B5. This is a very old family of engines and the engines fitted here are part of the latest generation of this series, which technically represent a transition from the old EA827 to the new EA113. They are available in the 125 HP naturally aspirated version and the 150 HP turbo (1.8 T) version.

On naturally aspirated version, the timing belt must be kept under control, if it breaks the valves will be damaged. The mechanics recommend replacing it every 60,000 km (35 k miles) as there have been cases where it failed to reach the declared 90,000 km (55 k miles). The hydraulic tensioner / phase shifter which ensures the correct functioning of the chain that connects the camshafts also often fails. Not even the oil pump can be defined as too long-lived.

The crankcase ventilation system can become clogged, the oil separator can freeze when temperatures are very low. There may be power losses due to dirty intake system. Rough running is often due to dirty injectors. There may be failures of the fan, the coolant pump and the flowmeter.

The 1.8 l petrol engine without turbine can only be of interest to someone who loves quiet driving and is never in a hurry. Even this engine is too weak to move the Passat B5 quickly.

The 1.8 l T turbo behaves better from the point of view of performance.

The life of the turbine is usually around 150,000 km (95 k miles). If treated well, however, it can even go 200,000 km (125 k miles). The short life of the turbine is often caused by the clogging of the channel that supplies it with oil. This can happen due to poor maintenance or the wrong style of use. In addition, the turbine can suffer greatly from a clogged catalytic converter.

Despite all the weaknesses, the 1.8 l engines are quite robust in principle and generally live more than 300,000 km (185 k miles) without fatal defects.

1.6 l EA113 Engine

The 1.6 l engines of the EA113 family replaced the previous ones of the EA827 family. The technical differences are actually quite significant: the intermediate shaft has been removed, the cast iron block has been replaced with an aluminum one with cast iron liners.

It can be said that the engine has remained very reliable, even if the amount of possible problems has increased compared to the past.

One of the most serious problems is the increase in oil consumption after 150 – 200,000 km (95 – 125 k miles), this usually happens due to wear on the valve stem seals and piston rings. In some cases, accumulations of dirt on these elements are to blame, so a good internal cleaning of the engine can help.

The main culprits of the unstable operation of this engine are dirty injectors, a defective fuel pump or failure of the fuel pressure regulator, cracks in the ignition coils, failure of the flow meter. After about 280,000 km (175 k miles), the injectors on some engines may become heavily worn.

Around 250,000 km (155 k miles) it may be necessary to replace the head gasket. The latter can crack in case of overheating. At the same mileage, the appearance of cracks on the intake manifold is possible. It can rarely crack the cylinder block in the area of the third and fourth cylinder. Oil entering the cooling system usually occurs due to a failed heat exchanger gasket.

Despite all the weaknesses, the engine still remained robust enough. The manufacturer declares a duration of around 200,000 km (125 k miles), but well-treated engines can even exceed 400,000 km (250 k miles) without fatal breakdowns.

1.8 l EA113 Engines

The 1.8 l EA113 engines, despite being from the same family as the 1.6 l, have proved to be more reliable and resistant. These retained the cast iron cylinder block, but were nevertheless heavily modernised. These too are available in the 125 HP naturally aspirated version and the 150 HP turbo (1.8 T) version.

These units are equipped with a relatively complex timing system with hydraulic tensioners (which begin to rumble at about 180 – 200,000 km or 110 – 125 k miles), chain drive of the second camshaft, and on some versions even of the phase shifter.

The oil pump lives for about 220 – 240,000 km (135 – 150 k miles). After around 200,000 km (125 k miles) these engines can begin to consume oil, in the worst case up to 1 – 1.5 l per 10,000 km. Around 260,000 km (160 k miles), the camshaft oil seal may leak. The injectors generally arrive without major problems even at 300,000 km (185 k miles).

The 1.8 T engines (equipped with a turbine) have a more complex management system and are generally more complicated/expensive to maintain and repair.

However, their reliability and longevity do not change much compared to naturally aspirated 1.8 engines. You just have to keep in mind that the greater strain on the engine requires more attention to the oil used. This must be of high quality and must be changed often (at least every 10,000 km or 6 k miles).

Problems with lubrication should not be underestimated. On this series of engines the problem of pressure loss when cornering may arise which can be solved by increasing the oil level in the crankcase by about 1-2 centimeters above the maximum limit (about 1 – 1.5 litres).

There are cases in which some oil channels are clogged (generally the one that goes to the turbine) due to dirt and this can be resolved with regular cleaning. Due to the clogged channel, the turbine can fail prematurely. With a lubrication system in good condition and with correct use, they live more than 200,000 km (125 k miles).

Ignition coils live about 140 – 160,000 km (85 – 100 k miles).

The new crankcase ventilation system can also cause problems and may require periodic replacement of the valve, otherwise it will increase oil consumption and erratic engine operation. Oil consumption on some engines can even reach 1.5 l every 1000 km. Replacing the valve stem seals also helps to reduce oil consumption.

To guarantee maximum life to the engine it is necessary to keep the fuel feed system in perfect condition (the pressure of the fuel pump must not be low), to keep the intercoolers clean which get dirty quickly, to keep the intake impermeable and to prevent oil from penetrating into this and you also need to have all the sensors in good working order.

2.0 l EA113 Engine

The 2.0 l engine is also from the EA113 family, so it has a lot in common with both the 1.6 l and 1.8 l, but there are also differences. This is present in two versions: 8-valve with 115 hp and 16-valve with 130 hp. The powers are not very great, but they are sufficient to move calmly.

The timing system with belt is very simple and reliable. It is better to anticipate the replacement of the belt and do it every 60,000 km (35 – 40 k miles). The price of the operation is not high and so you avoid risk.

If you keep an eye on the intake and lubrication systems, these engines manage to exceed 300,000 km (185 k miles) without particular problems (there are cases in which they even reach 500,000 km or 310 k miles). The two systems just mentioned are sore points. Due to the poorly designed crankcase, the car may indicate a lack of oil when cornering even with a regular level. If, on the other hand, the oil level is close to minimum, the more pronounced curves can cause the oil to move so as to cause insufficient lubrication and problems with the engine (it should not die completely, but there will be accelerated wear of some items).

The management system and intake can “kill” the engine slowly if you’re not careful. A not impermeable intake, problems with sensors and ignition coils can lead to increased wear on the piston group.

Even on the 2.0 l, oil consumption can increase after 200,000 km (125 k miles). Rough running of this engine can be caused by air entering the fuel pressure regulator hoses and upper crankcase ventilation hose. The intake manifold is also not immortal due to the variable geometry diaphragm. After 200 – 220,000 km (125 – 135 k miles) the hydraulic compensators and valve stem seals will need to be changed.

V6 and VR5 Engines

If you want a powerful petrol engine, but don’t want the turbine, you can opt for the V6 or VR5 engines. The 5-cylinder VR5 engine is the 2.3 l of the EA395 family, the 6-cylinder V6 engine is the 2.8 l of the EA835 family.

VR5 2.3 l EA395 Engines

As already mentioned, the 5-cylinder VR5 engine is the 2.3 l of the EA395 family. Here it is present in two versions: 10-valve and 20-valve. The 10-valve version has a power of 150 hp and was installed on the pre-facelift Passat B5. After the restyling, the version with 20 valves and 170 hp appeared on the Passat B5.5. The modernized version, in addition to the new cylinder head, got a more modern ignition system.

These are rare and relatively complex aggregates that will not be cheap to maintain. In addition to the large oil and fuel consumption, these engines have timing chain with a rather unpredictable life (usually less than 200 thousand km or 125 k miles). Generally the hydraulic chain tensioner gives way. When strange noises begin to be heard, it is better not to delay with the replacement, otherwise there is a risk of collision between pistons and valves.

The real problem is the awkward position of the chain, so replacing the timing kit is complex and expensive. This is on the gearbox side and therefore to carry out the work you have to remove either the gearbox or the engine. A distribution kit does not cost much, but the work could require a lot of money.

The cast iron cylinder block is heavy, the engine in general tends to overheat if not well cooled. The cooling system tends to get dirty and do its job worse.

After 200,000 km (125 k miles) it may be necessary to replace various plastic pipes and some sensors. On engines with the designation AGZ, there is an additional electric pump in the cooling system. Its service life is approximately 260,000 km (160 k miles). Instead of the original, a Bosch alternative pump can be mounted.

Despite everything, in general these are quite robust aggregates. If they are well maintained they can exceed 275,000 km (170 k miles) without fatal failures.

V6 2.8 l EA835 Engine

The 2.8 l V6 engines are quite good from the point of view of performance. They are very reliable units, and the main weak point is leaks of both oil and coolant. Generally, there are leaks from the cylinder head and spark plug wells. If the engine is overheated, losses increase dramatically.

We advise to pay attention to the combined distribution system. You have to keep an eye on the chain that joins the camshafts and you have to replace the timing belt in time, the life of which is not very high.

If low-quality oil is used or it is rarely replaced, there will be accelerated wear of the hydraulic compensators and chain tensioner. Around 200 – 240,000 km (125 – 150 k miles), in addition to the tensioner, the engine mounts will need to be replaced.

With high mileage, problems with the electrical part may appear: sensors, ignition coils and lambda sensors. Rough idling is often caused by a dirty throttle valve. Some engines have high oil consumption (they can reach 0.6 l every 1000 km).

Thanks to their great robustness, well-maintained engines live around 330,000 km (205 k miles) without fatal failures.

W8 4.0 l EA398 Engine

The 4.0 l engine from the EA398 family is very rare. It is the most powerful and largest engine that can be found on this model. Let’s say right away that it didn’t turn out to be very reliable.

It is sensitive to the quality of the petrol. Due to low-quality gasoline, there is a risk of detonation and piston breakage. You also need to pay close attention to the cooling system, the engine cannot handle overheating well. The coolant pump does not last forever, you have to keep an eye on it.

Overheating and bad quality oil often lead to the appearance of scratches on the cylinder walls. As a consequence there will be a considerable increase in oil consumption which in turn can lead to the failure of the rod bearings.

Around 200,000 km (125 k miles) the timing chains will need to be replaced and to do this the engine must be removed. The ignition coils also need to be replaced periodically. In general it is a fairly complex engine, difficult to repair and very expensive to maintain.

Conclusions and Advice & Tips for buying used

The Volkswagen Passat B5/B5+ has become more complex and sophisticated than previous generations, but if well maintained it is not that expensive to maintain. By choosing the right one, you can be relatively calm.

The main competitors of the Volkswagen Passat B5 are: cousins Audi A4 B6 and Skoda Superb, Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6, Honda Accord, Citroen C5, Renault Laguna 2 and other similar cars.

The most important thing is to find a car in good general condition.

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