By on May 26, 2021

It’s time once again for an update in the Golf Sportwagen’s precipitation issue. Last we spoke, I’d noticed an initial musty smell in the Golf, and considerable headliner staining shortly thereafter.

After some delays in the service appointment process, my local VW dealer has a solution for me.

I’d booked an appointment via the dealer’s website for the morning of May 14th, but never received any sort of confirmation. To be safe I phoned them up on the 13th to verify my appointment, but was told they wouldn’t have a car for me as specified on my request. No one called to tell me this, I’d just have found out when I went to drop off the car. Surefire way to get me irritated, but I digress.

The associate relayed the next day loaners were available was Monday the 24th. So I pushed the appointment back another nine days. Meantime, a particularly soaking storm that following Monday revealed a drenched headliner at the rear driver’s side of the Golf, and water running down from the D-pillar into the cargo area. Not good, but not much I could do.

Upon return to the dealer on the 24th for my 10:00 AM appointment, I showed the service advisor the issues, made more extensive by the recent rain. By then the staining had made its way forward to the C-pillar. I was informed there were no loaner cars available, but they’d get a car from Enterprise for me if I’d wait a moment. Sure, fine. Meantime, another customer brought back a loaner which they quickly cleaned, and sent me on my way. It’s on expired tags since March, and you’ll be seeing a review of it shortly. Can you guess what it is?

Tuesday evening the service advisor called me with the prognosis: The rear valve flaps on the sunroof drains had become stuck, which backed up water into the headliner. Water also flowed onto the sunroof glass at some point, which also ruined the sun shade. There are four drains on the Golf, two at front and two at the rear, and each has a drain flap. There’s a TSB for the repair, and the fix is to remove not very necessary flaps altogether. They can apparently become stuck via dirt and debris, or just generally stop functioning. The service advisor said they were stuck, but did not mention the cause was debris. The car is not parked under any trees, by the way.

The fix is not a quick one since the headliner has to be replaced once more. Parts won’t arrive until Thursday, then there’s a long weekend with the Memorial Day holiday. I know from my last experience that the service department has exactly one technician who works on headliners, and once he gets to it it’s a two-day job. Current ETA is midway through the first week of June.

As I type this story it’s pouring rain in Cincinnati, but at least I know the roof drains are clear and that fresh rainwater is flowing freely onto the dealer’s service lot.

[Images: Corey Lewis / The Truth About Cars, VW]

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50 Comments on “Where Your Author Learns More About Volkswagen Golf Water Leakage...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I left Volkswagen because of terrible product; I left Honda because of terrible service on a lemon car – 1 vehicle each.

    Too often, mfrs and dealers seem to figure there is always another customer instead of you, so your concerns don’t really matter. It’s much easier to do oil changes and 65-point inspections than to solve real, actual problems, so they can keep a customer.

    • 0 avatar

      Here is where I kind of blame the consumer. In my experience the difference between two dealers for the same manufacturer can be like night and day. If you find a good dealer stick with them. Did you e-mail 5 dealers and one of them is 50 miles away and $300 cheaper? Maybe that’s not the best option.

      Its sort of like having a good plumber or a good dentist or a good vet. Are there cheaper options? Sure. But if you find a good one you should stick with them.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        My cars were brand new – under warranty – nightmares. Both were serviced by the dealers I bought them from, trying to address the myriad issues which began on day one of ownership.

        Thankfully, it cost me nothing but years (3 + 2, respectively) of headaches, dozens of phone calls and visits, free rentals, and depreciation when I finally got rid of them way earlier than I ever expected.

  • avatar

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

    not sure why plug is there in the first place. Noise? It appears to be on the exit end of the hose (not the ‘entrance end’ in the sunroof opening).

    And they add cost! Why are they there? You should ask, you’re a reporter.

    To remove the headliner, they have to remove the trim underneath it first. And you need two people to handle the headliner. For a light part, it is a big pain, and harder with windshield and rear hatch in.

    It’s a nice car–is it manual?

    Good luck, please keep us posted on progress!

    • 0 avatar

      Automatic, 1.4T 8AT, front-drive. Written about it several times, which you can find here:

  • avatar

    AHA! these do have the same “spider traps” that caused issues on the Tiguans as well. The story I got is these are put on the vehicles to prevent spiders and other creepy crawlies from getting into the sunroof drains during transit and plugging them. These may or may not have been supposed to be removed during PDI.

    I had the exact same issue with the drains plugging in our 2019 Tiguan. In my case the headliner did not get wet, but the carpet and padding on the passenger rear was wet. The dealer determined mildew had started, and replaced all the carpet and padding as well as the clogged drain, requiring removal of the entire interior of my vehicle. I was in a loaner for a month…

    All that said, I have had no further issues with the sunroof drains since the repair a year and a half ago.

  • avatar

    @Corey – During all of the service visits with the failed wiper saga, Huffman VW down in Louisville set me up with brand new Tiguans (none of them over 1,000 miles and one was literally brand new with 8 or so miles on it), and Bachman VW gave me a loaded, top of the line Arteon.

    I’m betting you’re driving a Tiguan, although Bachman is handing out Atlases as loaners as well.

    It was pouring rain not too long as well. Hopefully it stops by the time the drive home starts…it’s pretty sad when one has to dread rain because you never know when the wipers might fail again… It’s sad they’ll have to tear your car up to fix something that shouldn’t be an issue – I’m sure a bunch of us here have owned vehicles with sunroofs that had zero issues, even after hundreds of thousands of miles.

    Also, does your VW service dept (Fairfield?) have zero Saturday hours? Both of the ones down here have signs up stating “Due to Covid…” and they’ve dropped all weekend hours. Which means time taken off of work during the week just to take advantage of the free scheduled maintenance included. Not cool…

    • 0 avatar

      I never liked sunroofs. Perhaps because Consumer Reports noted ” one-two inches less headroom” when I was a teen.

      The seams in the hole in the roof can rust. The sunroof can leak if it doesn’t close well. If it does, it can leak if the drain hoses get clogged.

      If the mechanism fails in the open position, it’s gotta be fixed ASAP

      • 0 avatar

        @tomLU86 – that’s the biggest reason why I didn’t get the Autobahn package in my VW. It includes an (almost) panoramic sunroof, but with a deduction in headroom (an issue) and a mesh-like sunshade that still let what seemed like more than half of the light through. They are nice on those low humidity evenings when you want the extra air, but on a hot July drive home after work when the skyline is barely visible through the haze and the a/c is at full crank trying to keep up, the extra cost and potential issues with the sunroof just isn’t worth it..

      • 0 avatar
        Mike Beranek

        I’m with ya buddy. While I like having the extra light in the cabin (especially in a drab-black interior), it’s not worth the hassle.
        I advise anyone who buys an old beater with a sunroof to never open it. If it’s closed tight and doesn’t leak, leave well enough alone. One broken plastic clip could make the car unusable until you tear the roof apart and get it fixed.

      • 0 avatar

        Sunroofs are lifesavers here in the Pacific Land of Darkness. Keeping the shades open in the winter helps with sanity.

        I’ve had 8 cars with sunroof in my life, and only two issues (a slight leak on the ’89 Taurus SHO that only manifested under high cornering loads, and a trim piece that somehow bent on the G8 and kept the sunroof from closing without assistance until I bent it back). But two other things are true: (1) I’ve never had to park under trees and (2) I’ve never owned a VW product.

        • 0 avatar

          When I lived in Orange County, CA in the ’90s, I recall a VW dealer (in San Clemente, maybe?) whose newspaper ads boasted of their having 10 or 12 loaner cars on-hand. I felt that was not exactly a ringing endorsement for the reliability of the brand.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed. I was able to buy a BMW with sunroof delete once….they double checked but built the car….I tried to get Benz to, but since all have at least the small roof, I was stuck…the Panoramic roof has issues, but the little one at least….
        I do lots of highway work, a sunroof isn’t a convertible, it’s effing useless.

    • 0 avatar

      No weekend hours for the service department at all. 730-500 during the week.

      My loaner is a ’21 but actually has over 5,000 miles on it!

      • 0 avatar

        Silver Tiguan? I’m going to say my wife and I probably put in the majority of those miles on that loaner Tiguan at Fairfield, while our 21 Atlas has been in the shop over there. And I can verify that there’s like 1 guy that seems to work on various things at that dealership. So here are the things that went wrong in the last 6 months that we’ve been owners:
        1) Bad fuel injector – took 5 days for that one to be replaced

        a few weeks after the bad fuel injector, I noticed a coolant smell and low coolant levels and then also a clunking sound when going over bumps which brings me to issues 2 & 3
        2) Bad cylinder head – smelled coolant, this one took a couple months for the part to arrive from Germany
        3) Front sway bar replaced due to clunking on the roadway

        4) Tire needing replaced – this wasn’t VW’s issue, but par for the course for this car

        so while we were waiting for the cylinder head to arrive from Germany, we continued to drive and add coolant as needed, then as our appointment approached to get the cylinder and sway bar work done, we get a Massive fuel leak from the initial Fuel injector replacement. Car had to be towed and I had to clean up leaking gas from my garage, driveway and street. Did I mention fire from said leak? So the car is then towed to Fairfield and it would stay there for weeks.

        5) Fuel injector is replaced again along with the seal? Not sure why the seal wasn’t done or done correctly back on 1)

        Issue number 7) coolant issues after the Cylinder replacement.

        Finally pick up the car, Next day, coolant light goes off. Take the car back to Fairfield to have the coolant system checked out again from the cylinder head replacement

        In the meantime, I initiated a buyback with VW. Just heard back this morning. Best offer is an additional year/ 12,000 mile warranty. no buyback for me. this is my 7th VW and most likely last VW.

        If your doing a review of the loaner cars, we had the same Tiguan 2 times and then also a Jetta

        Problem with VW service in Cincinnati is that 1 dealer group owns 3 of the 5 dealers in the area.

  • avatar

    That loaner’s gotta be a Tiguan. License plate opening doesn’t look like any other 2021 VW.

  • avatar

    This is hilarious. I had an ’04 Passat Wagon, and while I didn’t have this problem, plenty of my fellow B5 pilots had this *exact* same issue. And the remedy? Cut the one-way valves off the end of the sunroof drain “nipples”.

    You’d think they’d have figured it out in the intervening two decades that you do not, in fact, need to protect the sunroof drains from things magically appearing inside.

  • avatar

    With the high resale values of today have you thought about selling either of your cars?

    • 0 avatar

      I drive so little now I really only need one car. But I like owning two, and if I sold one I’d end up getting something else.

      However, there’s not much I find compelling right now that’s not high-dollar unaffordable.

      So overall, nope no selling.

  • avatar

    I never had these problems since my ’02 Passat and ’10 TDI Sportwagen didn’t have sunroofs. Since we can no longer get Sportwagens my next ride will be a Subaru Outback Limited trim. It is my hope to buy one without the sunroof. I thought my ’10 Sportwagen was unusual because it had upgraded wheels and navigation but no sunroof.

  • avatar

    Wherein your correspondent relays the information that the last VW Empire product he owned or leased was a new ’94 Audi 90 Quattro Sport. The rattle in the right front door was a spare screw I eventually found in the hard plastic lower half of the armrest, where there was no reason whatsover for its presence. Starting the V6 engine usually involved a burst of electronic revs, after which it might return to idle or just keep going down all the way to a dead stop. Very smoothly. Wonderful. I suppose I should be thankful that the second or third start always “worked”. They never figured that one out. It rode like a concrete mixer truck; who’d have guessed that the deal on the Sport meant that you got a lousy ride compared to the standard one I test drove? The handling was then unexpectedly numb and rolly-polly. Understeer? That’s all it did! In rain, both front side windows had about an 8 x 8 inch patch of quivering water in the slipstream, through which nothing could be seen. A completely useless car, in my opinion. My previous square 4000 Quattro had none of these quirks, and a molding in the windshield rubber to channel rain over the roof. Couldn’t do that with those new glued-in jobs, I guess.

    Two years was all I could stand of that lump of lard, the length of the promotional lease. Thank god it was that short. Went Nippon and never looked back. Oh, I get the German “feel” bit when I test drove an A3 and a GTI, twice each, but found the front egress on both awful for my old bones due to a too forward placement of the B-pillar. And then I remember back to over 20 years of Audis and the Hans, the shop foreman at the dealer, an utter dolt, and I’m glad I changed. VW doesn’t sweat the details that matter except by luck and whimsy, never has and likely never will.

    Americans in general have the company sussed out, which is why unlike the rest of the world, VW is but a bit player in the market instead of #1 or #2. The rest of the world awards it the “Magic German Engineering and Asssembly” moniker, and never tries anything else, putting up with complete nonsense over and over again. Sure, probably half are OK, a quarter have a few problems, and the rest are a nightmare or a disappointment. Just enough in the plus column to keep the whole fandango going.

    My pal, who religiously leased a new Golf every four years finally decided after the wackmobile that was the 2010 diesel Sportwagen, to go Mazda3 in 2014. All manuals. Not one problem and he liked the way the Mazda drove. So a new one in 2018, no problems whatsoever since, he’s going to buy out the lease on this one. You can try to avoid reality but in the end it catches up with you: that’s VW. Where Quality Assurance never got a start, they’re too smart for that Japanese stuff, just like Fraud, er, Henrymobiles Inc. I could tell you about another friend’s year-old 2017 Fusion that quit on a small spiral on-ramp, blocking traffic for four hours, and which the dealer hadn’t got to run again over two weeks later! He got that lease broken, who can blame him?

    There’s more to life than wondering if your thousands of bucks schlockmobile is constantly nagging at your mind. No wonder Toyota is so popular.

  • avatar

    One of the reasons why I bought the base Alltrack model was it didn’t have the sunroof. If you read the VW forums one of, if not the biggest problem with the car is the sunroof.

  • avatar

    I have/had 3 Subarus; 2 Foresters and 1WRX with total over 300,000 miles since 2004 and not one of them leaked, except the time I left the big sunroof in the Forester open over night during a downpour…

  • avatar

    I never had problems with cars bought new. I wonder if Ford and GM give loaners or free rentals for repairs under warranty. I have impression that not. Why?Because they are domestic and will try to do take advantage, deny problems (Buick comes to mind) and screw customers in many other ways. And I know that Japanese are very customer oriented.

    • 0 avatar

      My local Toyota dealer will not do loaners unless the problem is one that will take many days in the shop to fix. I had to bike home from the pebble-removal surgery my Highlander had right after I bought it. (“Customer states loud rattle from undercarriage when engine is at 2000 rpm under acceleration.”)

    • 0 avatar

      Inside Looking Out, my experience has been the opposite. No one ever gave loaner cars for warranty work. I got a loaner Encore for my 4-year old Regal in 2018 (warranty item, rear wheel bearings on a car I bought used–“certified”), and a loaner Equinox this year for a new Colorado which made a brake noise and had an off-location cover on the driver seat controls. They didn’t find (or fix) the noise, but perhaps it’s a winter thing or went away.

      This year, I think it’s due to pandemic, since Chevy dealer suspended their shuttle service due to pandemic.

      I figure it’s improved “service” for new car buyers. First the shuttle to take you to and from work, now the loaner.

    • 0 avatar

      I have had loaners from all of the domestic brands for warranty work.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s unusual for a non-luxury make to give free loaners. This is one big reason I like luxury brands and feel its worth the premium, getting a car serviced and getting a loaner makes life so much easier.

      The Japanese luxury brands like Lexus made the European car companies start this practice (easy to do since they almost never break). I remember for ages even Mercedes wouldn’t give you a loaner.

  • avatar

    I want to learn more about automobiles so that I can make better choices and enjoy experiences like this. (Life is really unfair to those of us who aren’t automotive journalists.)

    Oh and I want to move to Ohio.

    I don’t spend much time at new car dealerships (since I have failed at life), but I am told that the grandeur of the customer waiting area defies description and that the coffee is beyond compare. [Is it true? I so want it to be true.]

    • 0 avatar

      Corey, thanks for the link to the technical service bulletin. Observations:

      A) The sunroof drains on this vehicle don’t go all the way to the wheelwells, they dump out higher in the engine compartment (just below base of A pillar). This seems smart (serious comment) – shorter path, less susceptible to crud. In the wheelwell right behind the front tire (in the path of all kinds of kicked-up gunk) seems like a kind of silly place to put a fiddly part, but that’s what most everyone does [which tells us something about oligopolistic OEMs].

      B) The overengineered VAS6620 “Cleaning and insertion aid” can get jammed in the sunroof drain tube, so page 7 of the technical service bulletin includes instructions (and a picture) for disassembling the tool so it can be removed. [Go VW!]

    • 0 avatar

      Things I eventually learned about my daily driver:

      – The sunroof works perfectly and always has, the fact that it ‘wasn’t working’ was a defect in my brain and not in the vehicle. After battery disconnection the sunroof (and the “one–touch open and close” front windows) require a “Re-Initialization” process [to show the stepper motors where the travel limits are]. (After learning this, I forgot again because humans are unreliable – but re-learned because humans can be resilient.)

      – My 16-year-old car has remote start which works perfectly if the human understands instructions (sticker on the window was a clue I missed for months).

  • avatar

    I think I have had 8-10 cars with sunroofs. The first two leaked but one was for sure a cheap aftermarket one and the 2nd I’m pretty sure was dealer installed(not many Toyota pickups with hand crank windows had sunroofs). The only modern factory sunroof I had an issue with was a clogged drain on my 01 outback LL bean which caused water to pour thru the rear cargo lamp. I forget if i snaked the drains or blew them out but it never happened again.

  • avatar

    A lot to unpack here…

    -Lack of available loaners

    Not really surprised given VW’s track record. If you could secure a Turo contract with a VW dealer you could probably retire in three years.

    -Dealer car expired tags

    Do you think dealers are held to the same laws you are? Silly goose. Even if an officer of the law gave a damn, its as simple as “we forgot to put the sticker on”. Besides, all they do is run the plate and unless it comes back as stolen/lost they are not doing jack. Surprisingly and to its credit, PENNDOT eliminated the stickers because they were an expense and meaningless in a world where the officer can just run the plate. Hopefully ODOT will realize they are a relic of the past and do the same.

    -Debris in drain holes/remove flaps

    Wow a poor design from modern VW, whose surprised?

    -Only one tech is a specialist, two day book job

    After the recent fun with my C70, I’m not surprised on only tech being specialized but holy billable hours Batman on replacing a cardboard headliner. The RWD Volvo sedans are a b!tch to change the headliner in part because book called for the rear windshield to be removed to get it out, but the wagons are relatively easy because of the hatch door. This is a Golf wagon with a hatch door… why is this so hard? I would think four book hours, tops… but up to sixteen?

    I’ll also point out this apparently happens enough to justify training a specialist, I’d say up to (or beyond) a dozen times a year. So twelve times per Golf wagon, per dealer, per year… and Wolfsburg doesn’t think “wow maybe we should not put chimps in charge of drain hole design”?

    -ETA through mid June

    Hopefully this is code for “early July” and not “August”.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    A coworker had a Jetta – really nice car but it had electrical issues the dealer could not diagnose. At times it would not start, other times the wipers and headlights would turn on after it was parked for a couple hours. Horn would honk for no reason. We named it Chriistine. They finally figured it out – water entering through the sunroof because the drains were blocked. They told him it was the owners responsibility to clean the drains though there was no mention of it in the owner’s manual. He had already started the lemon law process. VW bought it back and he used the proceeds to buy an Accord. I really like VWs but can’t pull the trigger because of the horror stories I hear and read about.

  • avatar

    VW simply makes junk and it’s a shame because they would otherwise make vehicles I like. Most of their US exports are from Mexico, ever since most US bound VW’s came from Puebla, quality has been abysmal.

    There really is no excuse for a modern car having an issue like this, carmakers had sunroofs figured out like 70 years ago.

  • avatar

    Adding on to, defective water pumps on MY15 and up VAG products:

    “According to the VW water pump lawsuit, Volkswagen dealers allegedly refuse to repair the the water pumps under warranty. The class action also says VW’s warranties are “unconscionable and unenforceable” because the pumps fail shortly after the warranties expire.”

    Shades of the Phoebus Cartel:

  • avatar

    I’ve had sunroofs on a total of nine different cars since 1988: a 1988 Toyota Corolla GT-S, a 1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, a 1995 Ford Explorer, a 2000 Ford Expedition, a 2000 VW Jetta, a 2005 Infiniti G35, a 2006 Dodge Durango, a 2007 Jeep Liberty, and a 2020 Ford Escape. The only sunroof that ever leaked or gave me any problems whatsoever was the one on the Jetta.

    My daughter had a thing for Volkswagens. Her first VW, an old used Jetta, caught fire in the street in front of our house about a month after I had to replace a battery that literally exploded. The second, a Golf that was a blast to drive (and kept me very busy chasing problems with check engine lights) was totaled in a deer avoidance accident. The third and last, a 2000 Jetta VR6, was also a blast to drive but had ongoing check engine light problems that occupied a ridiculous amount of my time to correct–and of course, it had that leaky sunroof. I told my daughter that if she ever bought another VW that I would refuse to maintain it for her. Once bitten, twice shy. Thrice bitten, run screaming if a Volkswagen darkens my driveway.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    I have found that different departments (new car sales, used car sales, service, finance) in the same dealership can have vastly different levels of customer care. I have had a good experience in one dealer purchasing the car but their service department was awful. I get the impression the service departments don’t care where you bought the car – warranty or not.

    I have yet to hear of a good service experience at a VW dealer (myself included).

  • avatar

    I had the same issue with my 2nd gen Caddy CTS. It was bought used, so no “fun with dealers” story…. One day, I find water spots on the A pillars, and, oh, two inches of slushing water in the passenger side footwell. WTF ? To the Forums, Robin !!!! Turns out it’s Sunroof drains, which makes sense since I park outside and we’d had a gully washer.

    GM runs the drains to the wheel wells…and terminates the hose in a fitting like yours, but instead the flap doesn’t move, it’s cut with a cross shape, so water can leak out but nothing can get in. Think a large phillips head.

    I removed the end bits and cleaned them. There was a very small amount of road grit (the stuff at the bottom of your car wash bucket when you dump it out) in each one, but enought to cause a clog. I cut two of the flaps out and never had a problem again.

  • avatar

    Also, to be fair, the only VW I owned that was a POS was the one I thought would be best…my 2012 TDi, of infamous bought back fame…the diesel particulate filter cracked, there was a TSB, VW was running it hot to avoid adblue, and I was 2000 miles out of warranty. They paid half….subsequent events, however, made me whole so I’m not bitter. My base Jetta S with the 1.4 and a manual, is truly an Ace of Base, especially with some uprated tires and wheels…also, two prior Golf Diesels, a GTi,etc have all been OK, no stories…now, my Cadillac…what a horror…

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