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Drive train & engine light

I own a 2003 Passat VW station wagon with 73,000+ miles on it. I have had the same agency service it every 5000. Now I have a problem, I think. Agency has new ownership and I don’t know how much to trust the service people; I was very comfortable with the others. Engine light came on last week; went to agency and they put in two quarts oil; car okay for a few days but now engine light is on again. Service agent checked oil (okay) and for leaks (none). I’m using car until next week when I’ll take it in to be fixed, hopefully. In this ongoing ‘discussion’, the service guy said I should be thinking about replacing the drive train at 80,000 to 85,000 miles because even though VW recommends doing this at 90,000 to 95,000, VW’s occasionally have problems (die?) if the replacement is left that long. Service guy says I’m staring $1200 just for the drive train (+ labor?, and I don’t have any idea what the search for the cause of engine oil light going on is going to cost. I’m a widow on a very fixed income, so I really would like some input, please.

I’m I reading this correctly? Your shop is telling you that it is normal in VWs to replace the engine and transmission (drive train) at 90k miles? That qualifies as asinine if true. It may be time to find a new “agency” for you auto repair needs.

Odd advice on the power train replacement interval,what I question is you driving any distance at all,even feet,with the engine oil light illuminated.If you did operate the car for any lenght of time with the “oil” light on you have damaged your engine.

The story sounds incomplete since if you had the Dealer put a new engine in I would expect $4000.00 just for the engine. What this $1200.00 figure represents I have no idea.

I assume you mean the timing belt, not the drive train?

He recommends this 10K miles from now so I don’t think that he implies that this has anything to do with the check engine light now.

Before you take it in next week, it would be a good idea to go to an Autozone and have the error codes read from your car for FREE, write them down and post them here. There are smart people on this forum (I am not one of them) who can interpret these codes and tell you in advance what to expect. Then before you authorize any repairs you can come back here and run a quick BS check with the experts here.

He is talking about the timing belt and it is a very big MUST DO at the appointed time. Yea they are expensive. If you fail to replace them and they break, they can cause very serious damage to the engine. Much more expensive. Have them do the tensioners and water pump at the same time, if they don’t do it automatically.

So far I don’t see any reason to be concerned about the new management.

However you may want to consider finding a good INDEPENDENT mechanic, (NOT A QUICK OIL CHANGE PLACE. Independent mechanics are not better than dealers or worse, but they do tend to charge less, often a lot less with no loss of quality, although they don’t often have a nice clean waiting area with fresh coffee.

You mentioned that the CEL (Check Engine Light) was on twice, but you did not tell us why. When there is a light it means the car is saying something is wrong and is trying to get your attention to read the error code(s) stored in the computer to tell you exactly why the light is on. You should find out what exactly the error way (normally it will be in the format [P0123]. If you bring that code back here we can help figure out what is going on.

Last: If you oil was two quarts low, that is more than a little bad. You, the owner, should be checking the oil regularly. For now that should be once a week, later if you don’t spot a problem, then at every fill up. That IS YOUR job. Oil two quarts low can cause damage.


I think that you need to start paying closer attention to your car. If the motor oil was “down” by 2 qts. that indicates either that you don’t regularly check your dipstick or that the engine is begining to burn oil, or both.

As oldschool stated, you could already have caused damage to the engine by allowing the level to drop that much. For future reference, when the oil warning light comes on, you need to IMMEDIATELY pull the car to the side of the road and shut down the engine. Driving with the oil light illuminated is a situation of driving with inadequate lubrication for your engine, and this is potentially a very expensive thing to do.

You really need to monitor the engine’s oil level on a regular basis in order to prevent VERY expensive damage, and if the engine is beginning to burn oil, that makes the need to regularly check the oil level all the more critical.

As Mr. Meehan suggested, the technician was undoubtedly referring to the timing belt when he recommended major service at 80k-85k. And, since that part is prone to early failure on VWs, and since failure of the timing belt can cause severe engine damage, this service should be done on the schedule that was recommended.

Since “the drive train” consists of your entire engine, transmission, and drive axles, I sincerely hope that you don’t tell them to “replace the drive train” when you return to that place!