VW Says, We Got Sludge, by Donald P. Ladew

What had been the other guy’s problem came home to roost in the author’s driveway the other day. I read this headline at Autoweek.com. “VW to cover maintenance costs for sludge damaged engines.” As you may have guessed, I am the owner of a VW Passat Wagon, and yes, it has the 1.8T Turbo engine. Unfortunately I cannot take advantage of this news. I can, however, comment about it.

Under the proposed settlement VW and Audi were compelled to pay maintenance costs in a class-action lawsuit over sludge-damaged engines in 479,768 VW and Audi models. According to court documents, the settlement affects 1997-2004 Audi A4 models and 1998-2004 VW Passat models with 1.8-liter turbocharged engines.

In 2002 I purchased a used 1998 VW Passat wagon. It had about 30K miles at the time. At 40K miles the engine coughed up a lung and stumbled to the side of the freeway wheezing like a dying carp. When I took it to the VW dealers, the technician poked around, advised the Service Writer who promptly told me it was my fault for using sub-standard oil. A year before my turbo died, I joined Norman Taylor and Associates. At the time, I was doing some research for Mr. Taylor’s second book Lemon Law The Standard Reference Guide.

I then suggested that the Service Writer was “less than accurate in his assessment of the defect”. If you read well between the lines, you probably understand I spoke firmly and colorfully allowing him to correctly understand what I thought of his assessment, personal habits and lineage. I also noted to him that I was an engineer and that I would be grateful if he would stop the baloney. While doing this I had my Lemon Law materials in my hand. The service writer, in an attempt to placate me, said he would discuss the situation with the Manager. This person came out to speak with me and said, because I was such a good customer—I wasn’t any such thing— he would speak to the District Representative from VW on my behalf. Ten minutes later he came out of his office all smiles to tell me that VW had agreed to replace my “sludged” turbo and pay all costs.

I knew from my California Lemon Law research that this is what we call a “Secret Warranty”. Better for VW to pay for the repairs than have me writing letters to NHTSA – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If enough people did this, a recall for the defective Turbos and associated parts might have been issued and then VW would have known serious financial pain.

What can we learn from this? Dealers aren’t always forthcoming about the real cause of defects. The threat of the Lemon Law isn’t always a deterrent to sleazy behavior from the manufacturers or dealerships. However, it does teach us to question what we are told and not hesitate to get advice from California lemon law attorney.

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