WV Passat with 287,000 miles and a cracked radiator - repair or donate it?


Asked by Nov 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM about the 1998 Volkswagen Passat 4 Dr GLS 1.8T Turbo Sedan

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Hello, My WV Passat suffered a cracked radiator on a hot Friday afternoon in stop and
go traffic on the road to and from "hell" otherwise known as I-66 in a rare driving trip to
and then outbound from Washington, DC.  The Passat has been very religiously
serviced by very good independent shops and I have always told them "..look the car
over and tell what needs to be done?" and it typically has been the oil change, brake
pad and other items; plus new Michelins and some front end suspension work and
other parts at times.  Its body is in good shape and it still gets in the mid-30s MPG and
even up to 37 MPG or so.   My household has two humans and one black Lab and we
have three vehicles counting the Passat - a Lexus LS400 and Honda Pilot (both in
good condition).  The Passat is the extra vehicle that I own solely; its driving behavior
is typically on rural highways and superhighways and small towns and not regular day
to day commutes in big city stop and go traffic.  The VW dealer looked it over and
recommended the timing belt change as part of the front end package with an estimate
of about $2,000; an independent garage thought the package would be about $1,700.  
The options are: spend the money and see how long the Passat holds out or else
donate it my local public radio station.  If I could keep it another two more years with
probably another 30,000 miles that would be nice, but not necessary.  What does the
CarGurus community think about this - advice and recommendations most welcome!   
"creekrapids" in the southern Piedmont of Virginia

8 Answers


Well here is what i can recommend. Ill ask a few questions and this will give me an idea of what you can do. First When was the timing belt last serviced? typically a timing belt can be done for 800$ at a privately owned garage. And this includes the water pump, pulleys, belt tension-er, hardware, thermostat, belt and seals. Second is How did the vehicle run after you noticed the heat go up on your car? depending on how long you drove the car while it was over heating will be the big division maker here as a over heated car can cause a lot of new issues if you drove it for say 30-60 minutes this way and only commonly if the heat is over 120c during this time it could possibly crack the heads or break a head cover or block. An alternator can be done easily enough as well but i would either get one from a online shop or scrap yard to save money or have your old one rebuilt if it can be saved. Other wise you would best to get one from the vw dealer. A rad can cost you any where from 100-500$ depending where you shop for it. A rad job is very easy in the vw so if you got some one who can do the work just find a youtube video to help show you how its done, google is your friend.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

A couple ideas for you here i am posting my favorite parts websites for yea. http://www.autopartsway.ca/PartList.cfm?Audi/1998/A4-Quattro/Base/2.8L-V6/allB/Cooling/Radiators,-Coolers-and-Related-Components/Radiator/pagenum1/tabS

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Best Timing parts website cheapest prices best kits http://www.blauparts.com/proddetail.asp?prod=GH21617-1-C

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Hello, And thank you very much for your good advice. The temperature gauge came on just after I stopped for gasoline in Charlottesville and it was late by then on a Friday evening and US Route 29 southward to Lynchburg runs through a very rural area with only two small towns along the way. I stopped frequently and turned the engine off to let it cool down. I just had to get home and had to press onward and that was another 60 minutes of driving, so there is the risk of further collateral damage. I need to have a further diagnosis by an independent garage. Overall the Passat has been a good and reliable machine and with the 286,000 miles I have driven it, I think I have gotten a very good ride for the money I spent on its purchase and its upkeep over the years. I am long- term owner unless something truly serious changes the equation. Thank you again very much for your thoughtful and informative suggestions. George


Well sounds like a good car and i would have to say i would like to see you keep the car or fix it and sell it. But as the garage said you would be best to do a timing belt since the water pump and thermostat may have gotten damaged from an over heat but you can probably do without it if the car had previously had the timing belt and such done not to long ago. I would suggest getting the kit for the timing belt online for the decent price and a rad from one of the other many websites and have a audi and vw specialist handle this job. The timing belt requires special tools to keep it aligned while the work is don if its a 4 cylinder modal it does not really require any special tools. If you buy the parts your self you can expect up to about 400$ in parts and maybe 8-10 hrs of work at a garage. which may run you close to $1400 and if the car is in as good a shape as you say you can probly turn your money back out of it again by selling it for 4000-8000$ which is much better then scrap rate.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.
Theodore Popee

if you did not run the car hot fix only the radiator and thermostate, on the road again till it breaks down again

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Hello, The end result is that I did the 1998 VW Passat fixed with a new radiator and some minor items for abou $1,100 at Lou's Auto Repair on US Route 522 north of Lynchburg, VA - Lou and fellows did a great job. And with corrected air pressure in the tires for the winter I have gotten up 37 MPG. I am happy and thank you to everyone for your advice and apologize the long delay in relaying upshot on this story. George

Chris Van Kleeck

Just thought I'd comment for others in a similar predicament in the future, that the original recommendation to do the timing belt work along with the radiator would make sense in the case of the Passat, if there were enough miles on the current belt to justify it. The bumper and cover and related parts have to be removed from this car to do the radiator or timing belt, so there would be some labor time savings in combining the repairs. If this car has been maintained properly, no reason not to run it for the next 100K, with another new belt.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

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