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Whole slew of problems with 04 Jetta

My partner’s 2004 Jetta has about 40,000 miles. We live in the city, so he doesn’t get to drive it often–probably no more than once or twice a week.

Recently, he was in an accident downtown, and the passenger side of his car got scraped up. The car drove fine for a few months, but he eventually decided to get the body fixed. The insurance company directed him to a body shop and he took the car in.

Since then (about three months ago), the car has been nothing but catastrophe. First, the body shop said it wouldn’t start. So we jumped it and took it over to Firestone, and they said he needed a new alternator. Fine. They also noticed that the check engine light was on, and they said it came up as a transmission code. Also, the radio was broken. None of these things were problems before we got to the body shop.

We drove the car home and tried to start it the next day, and it wouldn’t start. So we had it towed BACK to Firestone, and they said it was a battery. So that was replaced. But the check engine light remained on, and the radio broken.

That night, I decided we should take it for a nice long drive. On the freeway, with the check engine light on, the car wouldn’t shift into top gear. We were stuck going about 60 with 4000 RPM, and it wouldn’t go any higher.

So we took it in to a different local mechanic and he couldn’t figure out the problem (German computers are funny, he said). Then we took it to the VW dealership, and after two days of inspection, they figured out it was the Transmission Control and Brake Pumps. Another thousand down the toilet.

I guess I’ve got a couple questions.

First, is it remotely possible that all of these things could have broken so quickly on a car that’s not that old and has so few miles? Is this just bad luck?

Second, is it possible that this is all a consequence of something the body shop did? And if so, is there anything we can do about it? (In my heart of hearts, I know this is the case, but I don’t see how I can do anything about it.)

Third, is this car just a lemon, and we should get rid of it?

Thanks for any help you can offer.


I’m sorry, that’s a brake vacuum pump.

I would not call it a lemon. Part of the problem could be the accident. The inability of the none VW mechanics to read the codes was likely do to the lack of a VAGCOM (the special VW error code reader, regular readers can’t read all the VW codes).

I suspect part of the problem was the fact that it does not get used enough. Likely it is not driven enough to keep the battery fully charged and now it is at the age that it was just ready to go soon anyway. It is possible the new alternator was not needed.

The accident could well have caused a problem with the radio, depending on where the accident was.

Right, the only problem is there were no issues with car for three months after the accident until we took it to the body shop. I agree the car is underused. We don’t need two and should get rid of one.

Ask the body shop if they disconnected the battery or had to work near any wiring harness.

Yes to both.

So maybe it’s damaged wiring.