By Mike Cadorette
A room full of monkeys designed the W8 motor in our 2003 VW Passat W8 sedan. We bought the car in 2006 with 71,000 miles. We had immediate problems with heater control modules. There are two, one each controlling its own fan. Cost nearly $2000 to fix. First VW dealer messed up the repair after having the car for nearly one month. Apparently their mechanics also were monkeys trained by VW. They rewired part of the harness and left an open solder joint resting near the frame.
The second VW dealer got it right and restored the wiring to original. Two years later, at about 95,000 miles, another engine light warned of an issue. The VW dealer (second one mentioned above) determined that the thermostat control module was bad and estimated nearly $2000 to repair it. Apparently this is an electronic thermostat that can only be accessed by removing the intake manifold. Being no foolish monkey myself, I brought it to a general repair facility that has worked on my cars for decades. They solved it for just over $1000 and also changed the spark plugs which also are under the intake manifold. To be sure, they also replaced the two temperature sensors, one each side of the engine. Spark plugs and sensors were included in the $1000 invoice.
At 115,000 miles the engine light came on again with a stumbling action experienced while driving. The general repair facility determined engine code #P0021 - camshaft timing error. Having heard of this potential problem during our first year of owning the car, I immediately was horrified by this news. Seems there is a problem with the hydraulically actuated timing chain tensioning assembly. At some point, slight wear overcomes the device and causes it to start chipping metal. This collects in the oil and begins a complete self-destruction of the entire motor. The only repair is to replace the entire motor at a cost of over $25,000.
A day after learning the code, the engine light went out on its own. The oil filter is a canister that requires disassembly to replace just the filter element inside. I personally disassembled it, inspected the element and found a lot of glittering metal particles imbedded in it. I reassembled it and traded the car less than 24 hours later. After four years, $3000 in repairs, several oil changes requiring 10 quarts of synthetic oil only, a pile of tools required just for an oil change, and 44,000 miles, the car was nearly worthless. We consider ourselves lucky that I recognized and verified the problem and traded it quickly while the engine light was still off.
VW never admitted that monkeys designed a very expensive engine with a very serious design flaw. Variations of this motor are in Bentleys as a W12, and in the Bugatti Veyron as a W16. Lots of fun while they are running well!