2004 Jetta GLS 1.8t

Looking at this car for my son. Anyone know pros and cons about it?

IME the tranny is shit. The cost to repair it will be several thousand dollars.

Pros: It’s a German car, so he’ll impress people who like German cars
Cons: it’s a complete piece of shit, like most VWs of the era.

IMHO, you buy a used VW, you get what you deserve.

Based on Edmunds.com, the engine and drivetrain are above average in reliability, and the only knock against that model year is the weak base engine. The turbo is preferred.

Why I wouldn’t buy one:

>VW’s are notorious for triggering the Check Engine Light.

>The 1.8T is a good engine, but in an older car I would avoid a turbo.

(Companies like Volvo produced a lot of turbos in average sedans, too, and the older ones just kill the long-term prognosis. Used to be easy to find a rock-solid Volvo, now the landscaped is littered with older turbo models. Just avoid older turbo vehicles. ).

There are better used vehicles out there.


My mom’s had numerous Jettas as I’ve grown up–a 1998, 2002 and her current one is a a 2009. My dad’s got a 2003 now. Everything but the 1998 has been a station wagon. I’ve got a 2001 Golf which I love.

But each one of these has been a TDI (turbo diesel engine). The TDIs are known for running for ages (my golf currently has 150,800 miles on it, whereas my dad’s 2003 Jetta has over 225,000 on it). There’s an actual web group called “TDI Club” devoted to these engines.

I’m not so certain that the 1.8T engine of that era of Volkswagen has the same reputation. I will also say that the 2002 Jetta seemed to have some problem with it every few months towards the end of its time with us. Pretty car, and I would’ve ended up with it as my first vehicle, except that my mother got so fed up with taking it to the dealer so often. Her 2009 station wagon is running fine, for what it’s worth.

Not sure if this’ll help much–completely different engines, after all. I will add that I seem to see plenty of Jettas of that vintage and engine on the road around here, and this is a college town.

For what’s it worth I have just a bit of experience with Volvo turbos. Assuming the owner changed the oil the turbos on a Volvo ( and a VW) are as reliable as a crowbar. They don’t break.
Since the change to a water cooled turbo in the late 80s the turbo is expected to last the life of the car.
Since then I have maybe seen one or two that had issues not related to a lack of maintenance.
With that said an 02 VW would not be my first choice in a used car. If you do decide to go ahead with the purchase make sure to ask for maintenance records and open the oil cap and look inside the engine. If it is nice and shinny, then proceed. If it has burnt on deposits and a overall dull flat appearance they probably have skipped oil changes Beware!

Q: Is it “chipped”? Was it “chipped”?

Its a turbo, and the amount of stress that has been run on the engine is a factor. The official US computer “chip” was to promote higher mileage, but it sucked out a lot of the performance. The Euro “chip” bumped the power output up to the originally intended specs,
but allowed owners to beat the Hell out of it. A fully depreciated and well beaten turbo is rather touchy at best and a horrific nightmare at worse.

Look, I’m not judging. They’ll be somebody elses tickets, not mine. But a good driver should know the true shape their equipment is in every time they touch key to ignition (and especially when they buy it).
That turbo has been driven for 8 years; for the love of your son, I know you’ll want to check into ‘how’.

I’ve owned a Chrysler 2.2 turbo which blew up on me. Those engines should come with a fuse.

I own a 2001 straight-6 Jetta & I still love it.

Thank you all for your input!!! While I was quite hesitant to buy this car, my husband fell in love with it. We had a friend of ours who builds cars take a look at it, and he said it looks great. So we now own the car and guess what? the check engine light came on… hopefully it is nothing big, but we will see. Thanks again !!

My mom’s VW has a dashboard that looks like a Christmas tree. Every light stays lit up. It runs fine, however.

I have a 2002 GTI 1.8T (337 edition!) with 89,000 miles on it. The cons are:

  • must run premium fuel.
  • gas mileage isn’t great; I average 23.5mpg overall and about 27 on the highway.
  • It hasn’t been as trouble-free as my previous Acura and Honda were.
  • Parts are rather expensive for a small car.

I’ve had other issues, but they were either covered under warranty or specific to my model.

If you want good advice from real owners, head on over to the forums at www.vwvortex.com and see what sort of problems people are having.


Jz - did you know that rude people also get what they deserve? So get over yourself…Anyway it was a temperature sensor which has now been replaced…

Hi, I have an 04 jetta gls 1.8t, and ive had it since march 2012. This January my car started randomly dying on me at lights or stop signs. So I called and took it in for a tune up and an oil change, they gave me my car back and 2 days later my check engine light was on. I took it back and they said it was throwing a code they had no idea what it meant (P0012 camshaft timing over retarded bank 1) so I took it to the dealer ship they replaced the timing belt, the timing tensioner, hydraulic dampener, water pump, and my adjuster. Thinking hey I have half a rebuilt engine I shouldn’t have anymore problems haha! Right!!

Well it still dies on my when im sitting at lights, it resets my time and mileage, it locks itself randomly, Ive had the battery, alternator and checked to see if my car was throwing any codes, and all checked out fine.

Im at a loss! if anyone can help me figure this out I would greatly appreciate it!

I’ll stand by this suggestion.

This vintage of VW product were pretty notorious for their electrical gremlins. I’d agree with going over to a VW-specific forum. You might also want to try asking around to see if there’s an independent mechanic in your town who specializes in VW’s or European cars in general.

From my vicarious experiences of friends owning VWs, they are decent cars and fairly reliable, but expensive and in some cases overly complex to fix.