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Old 12-19-2017, 11:40 AM   #1
GroceryGTIer
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Let's talk reliability

For years I've heard the words "German engineering" and I've always liked the look of the GTI, so ultimately, I bought one. At 46k there's no major issues (or many that were not because of modding).

There are the questions, however, such as "why are there always new revisions for so many parts on these cars, cant they get it right"?, "why do many of their Japanese counterparts seem to last so much longer without major issues"? "What about the waterpumps, carbon build up, manifolds, timing chain tensioners, etc?"

In fairness, my response is typically along the lines of just agreeing that some cars just cause more issues than others. Thus, they must be maintained and small parts prone to failure need to be replaced.

One could argue that though our cars expense is lower at initial cost, you end up paying a lot more in the long run, and may as well just spend more to begin with though.

German cars overall seem to be plagued with high failure rates from what research I've done (this is as a whole, there are obviously exceptions). While the A4 seems to have moved into the to 10 most reliable cars. What parts are they using that we dont get?

Just thought I'd start a discussion on this to get opinions.
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Old 12-19-2017, 11:59 AM   #2
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Germans are great at engineering. They arenít great at execution. The cost cutting happens on the manufacturing side. Usually at the suppliers. The Germans have always been at the forefront of dynamics and technology. The Japanese then perfect it years later.
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Old 12-19-2017, 12:14 PM   #3
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It's pretty hit or miss as to whether or not you'll have problems too. The only issue I've had is the intake manifold, but other than that my car has been really good to me. You'll have other people with similar mileage as me saying they've replaced 3 water pumps and 1 or 2 manifolds.
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Old 12-19-2017, 12:20 PM   #4
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Define "high failure rate". What leads to a high failure rate? Generally when you talk about German cars and them being unreliable time after time i see one constant, and that is the failure to properly maintain and service the car. German cars have to be maintained regularly and with quality parts. A relative of mine has a repair facility and you would be surprised the amount of people who bring in their BMW/Mercedes/Audi's with parts they bought online because they found a great deal. Well, sorry to break it to you the $40 china water pump you bought instead of the $180 OE/OEM pump won't last long. Eventually we started turning away customers who supply their own parts. Simply because its not worth the head ache.

The other problem when it comes to maintaining them is the general public finding a good mechanic. The average joe gets a check engine on their German car and they take it to a dealer whos pushing almost $200/hour for labor and throwing a 25% mark up on list price parts.

Unfortunately revisions due happen to initial cost cutting. Manufacturers need to be able to advertise the lowest sticker price to be competitive. Personally i would pay the extra 2k for a more reliable car/parts but i don't think the average person would, or understand.

Personally my GTI has 88k miles the only things that have actually failed were the throttle body (replaced by dealer under warranty), and recently i had to change the upper timing cover gasket and cam magnet gaskets because they leaked. My car is a 2010 model pushing 8 years old. Over 8 years of being on the road the only thing failing are throttle body and (2) gaskets? I call that pretty reliable.
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Old 12-19-2017, 12:30 PM   #5
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99,743 miles. My only issue has been the Intake Manifold.

I replaced the timing chain tensioner at 85,000 for peace of mind (however timing had skipped 1 tooth, chain was very stretched, and tensioner had signs of upcoming failure) but it was a non-issue because I got in there and did it.

5,000 miles oil changes and 40,000 DSG services and she's been great!
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:03 PM   #6
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In my professional experience with the American auto industry, American cars fail just as much.
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:25 PM   #7
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In my professional experience with the American auto industry, American cars fail just as much.


But American cars have been crap dynamically and fit and finish wise until just recently. And even then itís still been about average for most models.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:04 PM   #8
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But American cars have been crap dynamically and fit and finish wise until just recently. And even then itís still been about average for most models.
I hear that, but everyone I know that owns a Ford, or Chevy visited the dealer for less issues than I did under warranty. Hell, some of them have the most problematic of domestics and they still have had less serviced on theirs than I have on my 2011. I think the roles are reversing steadily.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:15 PM   #9
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I hear that, but everyone I know that owns a Ford, or Chevy visited the dealer for less issues than I did under warranty. Hell, some of them have the most problematic of domestics and they still have had less serviced on theirs than I have on my 2011. I think the roles are reversing steadily.
I really don't know the stats on American cars... I owned a 93 mustang a nd 94 ranger (Mazda but same thing), and never had a problem with either, truck had 80k on it when sold. Mustang I didn't have a super long time, but it never had any issues.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:20 PM   #10
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I just crossed 130,000 miles today and here is a brief overview:

Issues
- Waterpump (pre-recall) at 45k miles (warranty)
- Waterpump (recall) at 85k miles (warranty)
- HPFP at 42k miles (warranty)

Issues of My Own Doing
- Front Sway Bar End Link at 80k because of pothole
- Rear Wheel Bearing at 85k due to driving on bent wheel for about 50 miles

My GTI has been exponentially more reliable than my '03 Honda Element and it all comes down to the quality of parts used by VW versus Honda. The VW has little suspension rust at 130k driving in NYC and Upstate NY compared to the Honda which was complete trash past 100k miles. I believe VWs can be hit or miss depending on when certain parts have been updated, for example, the timing tensioner issue and intake manifold issue.

However, I do believe proper maintenance and proper driving goes a long way. Meaning, not driving off upon startup and letting the revs drop to idle first...keeping the revs below 2.5k or 3k until the oil is fully warm...using a 0w-40 oil in winter/summer...changing oil at 5k max compared to 10k intervals...DSG service every 35k-40k max.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:21 PM   #11
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This is a bit speculative, but I'm not sure that German cars break more often, I do think that fixing them is more difficult. The average Joe can easily replace a broken alternator in a Honda, but the same job is more difficult and expensive in a VW. Because of this more people are likely to be "forced" to take their car to a professional every time something goes wrong. A failed alternator (just a random example) in a honda is a quick trip to the parts store, a $100 part, and 30 minutes of installation in your garage. The same job in a VW is a lot more work (for many people), requires more specialized tools (torx), and the parts themselves are more expensive. As we know, most of the time people only bother speaking up with things go wrong, so when they spend $400 to fix an alternator in a VW, they let people know about all of their disatisfaction, whereas the guy with the Honda replaces it in an hour, and goes about his business relatively unbothered. The VW owner makes a fuss (also partially because the VW owner is likely older and more picky to begin with than the Honda owner) but the Honda owner knows that parts break and need replacing from time to time.

This is my hope, at least. I'm hoping that my mechanical skills will result in my GTI being at least close to as reliable as my Impreza. Yes, things broke on the Subaru, but parts were cheap, and easy to replace. I expect to pay more for VW parts, and I expect more tear down to replace them, which is fun for me, so it's not an issue. For others, however, broken parts will result in complaints about reliability, and repair costs.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:31 PM   #12
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I hear that, but everyone I know that owns a Ford, or Chevy visited the dealer for less issues than I did under warranty. Hell, some of them have the most problematic of domestics and they still have had less serviced on theirs than I have on my 2011. I think the roles are reversing steadily.


Thereís plenty on here that donít have issues though. I have 115k miles on my car and itís been heavily modified since 60k Miles. Driven hard all itís life. All Iíve had go wrong was an intake manifold flapper motor and it was covered.

Itís all about sample size. You may be the outlier. Check consumer reports. Theyíll have stats on the most reliable brands. I donít think the roles are reversing. You just were unlucky. American cars brands are in the news all the time for recalls, some which cause safety issues and catastrophic failure, like fires.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:36 PM   #13
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This is a bit speculative, but I'm not sure that German cars break more often, I do think that fixing them is more difficult. The average Joe can easily replace a broken alternator in a Honda, but the same job is more difficult and expensive in a VW. Because of this more people are likely to be "forced" to take their car to a professional every time something goes wrong. A failed alternator (just a random example) in a honda is a quick trip to the parts store, a $100 part, and 30 minutes of installation in your garage. The same job in a VW is a lot more work (for many people), requires more specialized tools (torx), and the parts themselves are more expensive. As we know, most of the time people only bother speaking up with things go wrong, so when they spend $400 to fix an alternator in a VW, they let people know about all of their disatisfaction, whereas the guy with the Honda replaces it in an hour, and goes about his business relatively unbothered. The VW owner makes a fuss (also partially because the VW owner is likely older and more picky to begin with than the Honda owner) but the Honda owner knows that parts break and need replacing from time to time.

This is my hope, at least. I'm hoping that my mechanical skills will result in my GTI being at least close to as reliable as my Impreza. Yes, things broke on the Subaru, but parts were cheap, and easy to replace. I expect to pay more for VW parts, and I expect more tear down to replace them, which is fun for me, so it's not an issue. For others, however, broken parts will result in complaints about reliability, and repair costs.


I think people just think theyíre difficult. Iíve owned many different cars, European and Japanese. Neither were harder or easier to work on based on manufacture origin. The European Parts can be more expensive, but if you know where to look they arenít that much more. You buy European for the design, dynamics and fit and finish. I equate most Asian cars to driving a blender. Itís an appliance. It does its job, and does it very well, but thereís no soul, no enjoyment.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:50 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by gijoewoz View Post
This is a bit speculative, but I'm not sure that German cars break more often, I do think that fixing them is more difficult. The average Joe can easily replace a broken alternator in a Honda, but the same job is more difficult and expensive in a VW. Because of this more people are likely to be "forced" to take their car to a professional every time something goes wrong. A failed alternator (just a random example) in a honda is a quick trip to the parts store, a $100 part, and 30 minutes of installation in your garage. The same job in a VW is a lot more work (for many people), requires more specialized tools (torx), and the parts themselves are more expensive. As we know, most of the time people only bother speaking up with things go wrong, so when they spend $400 to fix an alternator in a VW, they let people know about all of their disatisfaction, whereas the guy with the Honda replaces it in an hour, and goes about his business relatively unbothered. The VW owner makes a fuss (also partially because the VW owner is likely older and more picky to begin with than the Honda owner) but the Honda owner knows that parts break and need replacing from time to time.

This is my hope, at least. I'm hoping that my mechanical skills will result in my GTI being at least close to as reliable as my Impreza. Yes, things broke on the Subaru, but parts were cheap, and easy to replace. I expect to pay more for VW parts, and I expect more tear down to replace them, which is fun for me, so it's not an issue. For others, however, broken parts will result in complaints about reliability, and repair costs.
Based on reliability ratings... vw is low, BMW is low, Audi is low (not all models of course) etc. If you look at highest and lowest rating our cars aren't up there too high.
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