Common Problems with the Volkswagen Polo

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 months ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • carproblems
  • Vauxhall
A red VW Polo from 2018 parked in front of some trees.

WhoCanFixMyCar covers the most common Volkswagen Polo faults, discussing overall reliability and repair costs

The Volkswagen Polo isn’t the most exciting small family car, spending much of its life in the shadow of its sibling, the ever-popular Golf. Although it’s more expensive than a Fabia and less refined than an Audi A1, the Polo is hard to beat in terms of comfort and space. And after the latest update, it’s better than ever.

Whether you own a Polo or want to buy one, this guide has all the answers you need about reliability and common problems.

Known pain points for the Volkswagen Polo include:


What’s wrong with the Volkswagen Polo?

Drivers frequently search for the following problems.

Volkswagen Polo air conditioning problem

As with any car, if the Polo’s air conditioning system isn’t maintained correctly, it can stop working. This guide covers all the possible reasons why your aircon isn’t cold and how to fix it.

Close up of an aircon dial

Common causes of A/C failure include:

  • A faulty compressor

  • Wiring issues

  • Leaks

  • A bad fuse

  • A broken aircon switch 

  • Low refrigerant

Aircon issues are caused mainly by leaking refrigerant. That’s why booking an aircon regas isn’t necessarily the right thing to do; if there’s a leak and you don’t fix it, the same thing will happen again, making the regas a waste of money.

Instead, an aircon service is the best way to determine what’s wrong with your AC. On average, you can expect to pay £75.54.

Volkswagen Polo clutch problems

The Volkswagen Polo is a popular first car for new drivers, which means when you’re buying one second-hand, it’s a good idea to check for clutch problems. Worn clutches tend to slip and judder, making them easy to identify.

Clutch

Some Polo owners have also reported problems relating to the clutch pressure plate, a heavy metal plate controlled by a lever and springs. It is responsible for applying pressure to the clutch disc, holding it against the flywheel.

When the pressure plate starts to fail, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty pressing the clutch pedal

  • A spongy clutch pedal

  • Slipping gears

  • A grinding sound when changing gears

This guide provides more information about how to tell when your car needs a new clutch.

The average price of a Volkswagen Polo clutch replacement booked through WhoCanFixMyCar is £504.12.

Volkswagen Polo door lock problems

Door locking issues with the Volkswagen Polo are usually caused by a faulty actuator, door lock switch or key fob.

Central locking system

If the lock only works in one direction, it is probably because of a problem with the actuator, an electronic device that operates power locks. If the locks work with the switch but not the key fob, the battery is either dead or the key needs reprogramming to get it working again. And finally, if only one door lock isn’t working, the problem is likely within the door - the switch, latch or actuator is faulty.

On average, central locking repairs cost £98.95 for a Volkswagen Polo.

Volkswagen Polo gearbox problems

The direct shift gearbox (DSG) used by several models in the Volkswagen Group is notoriously problematic, mainly when it hasn’t been serviced at the correct intervals. Known issues include failed solenoids, electric motor failure, mechatronic leaks, electrical faults and pump failure.

iStock-changing-gear

These symptoms indicate there is a problem with the gearbox:

A DSG should be serviced every 40,000 miles. Sticking to this schedule is the best way to prevent problems and keep your gearbox in good shape. The average DSG oil service price for a Polo is £234.25, according to WhoCanFixMyCar’s data.

Volkswagen Polo injector problems

Failing injectors are unfortunately common in some generations of the Polo. They can develop issues for several reasons, including poor quality fuel and solenoid failure. 

A hand holding a fuel injector.

Typically, fuel injectors last between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. However, with the Polo, they develop cracks and leaks prematurely.

Watch out for the following signs of injector failure:

On average, you can expect to pay £103.42 for an injector repair when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Volkswagen Polo 1994 to 2002 problems

The Polo went on sale in 1975, and the second generation was released in 1981. Since few cars of that age are still on the road, we’re starting with the Mk3 Polo, which has a reputation for excellent reliability.

A 51 plate silver Mk3 Volkswagen Polo.

1. Head gasket failure

Major faults are generally rare in this generation of the Polo, but you should look out for signs of head gasket failure before making a purchase. The best way to do this is to look for any sludge under the oil filler cap and leaking coolant.

Head gasket image

Find out whether you can continue driving with a blown head gasket in this guide.

The head gasket seals the engine’s combustion chamber; when it breaks, it’s often an expensive repair, costing £563.42 on average for a VW Polo when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

2. Worn suspension

Suspension is one of the most common types of warranty claim for the Mk3 Polo, with components wearing out faster than expected. Symptoms to look out for include:

The ball joints, control arms, struts and springs often need replacing. You can learn more about how suspension systems work here.

The shock absorber struts from a car's suspension.

The average price of a suspension repair for a VW Polo is £107.07 on WhoCanFixMyCar.

3. Electrical faults

Electrical issues are another common type of warranty claim. Keep an eye out for any signs of unusual behaviour from the electrical systems, which could indicate wiring problems, a blown fuse, a faulty alternator or a short circuit. 

An auto electrician carrying out wiring repair

An auto electrician can diagnose the fault for you, costing £59.08 on average for a Polo. The average price of an electrical repair booked through WhoCanFixMyCar for this make and model is £65.91.

4. Brake issues

Volkswagen has issued two brake-related recalls for this generation of the Polo relating to the brake pipes and brake vacuum supply pipe. Fortunately, since the manufacturer has recognised these issues, affected models should have already been repaired, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re buying a second-hand Polo.

Close up of mechanic repairing car brakes.

Here are five brake problems you should never ignore.

Brake repairs cost £373.66 on average for a VW Polo when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Volkswagen Polo 1994 to 2002 recalls

Recall DateReason
18-Dec-96Loss of tyre pressure
06-July-02Brake vacuum supply pipe concern

Volkswagen Polo 2003 to 2009 problems

A silver Mk4 VW Polo

1. Timing chain failure

Pre-facelift Mk4 Polos, manufactured between 2002 and 2005, are prone to timing chain issues. The timing chain determines the timing and synchronicity of the camshaft and crankshaft. Unfortunately, on these models, it is known to stretch and occasionally snap, which can be disastrous for your engine if it happens while driving.

This is how to tell if your car has a timing chain or belt.

Common signs of timing chain problems include:

  • A rattling noise when you start the car and when idling

  • Contaminated engine oil

  • Inability to start the engine

  • Check engine light

  • Engine misfires

Timing chains are usually hard-wearing, lasting between 80,000 and 120,000 miles. However, you should check yours regularly for signs of wear and slackness. Although replacing the chain can be expensive, it isn’t as expensive as the engine repair that will be needed if it snaps.

A timing chain replacement for a Volkswagen Polo costs £530.11 on average when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

2. Blocked EGR valve

Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves are fitted on diesel cars and can cause problems when carbon deposits build up, preventing them from opening or closing. The diesel particulate filter (DPF), designed to capture and remove soot, impacts the EGR's functionality. 

When the DPF doesn’t get hot enough to clean itself due to too many short journeys, it becomes clogged, often leading to EGR valve problems. Signs of valve failure include:

  • Rough idling

  • Poor acceleration

  • Increased fuel consumption

  • Stalling

There are two options when the EGR valve becomes blocked or gets stuck open or closed. It can either be cleaned or replaced if the part is old and cleaning isn’t likely to work. Your DPF may also need cleaning at the same time - this guide explains how much it’s likely to cost.

EGR valves are relatively expensive. Fitting a new one on a Volkswagen Polo costs £404.09 on average, according to WhoCanFixMyCar’s data. 

That’s why, if you drive a diesel, you should take it on a long motorway journey every so often. Doing so allows the DPF to regenerate, preventing issues with the EGR.

3. ECU faults

The engine control unit (ECU) is a small onboard computer responsible for controlling a car's ignition, fuel injection and various other systems. This guide lets you learn more about what it is and how it works.

Sometimes, ECUs fail due to a faulty sensor sending incorrect information, leading to poor engine performance. In rare cases, a bad sensor can short-circuit the control unit. Corrosion, vibrations and heat can also cause problems with the ECU. 

In the Mk4 Polo, a common ECU fault causes random warning lights to appear on the dashboard. You should never ignore warning lights, but be aware that the issue might not be what is indicated on the dashboard.

A mechanic may plug an OBD reader into the car to identify the fault since numerous issues could be at play.

The average Volkswagen Polo ECU repair price on WhoCanFixMyCar is £118.53.

4. Leaking rear shock absorbers

Shock absorbers are hydraulic devices that control the impact when you drive over a bump. They are part of the suspension system.

When they start to leak, you’ll notice your car feels bouncy and uncomfortable. The solution is to book a replacement.

Fixing suspension issues on a VW Polo costs £107.07 on average when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

Volkswagen Polo 2003 to 2009 recalls

Recall DateReason
11-Feb-05Tension cracks may appear on the vacuum pipe to the servo
03-Mar-05Bolts of the tandem fuel pump cover may break
30-April-07Seat may catch fire

Volkswagen Polo 2010 to 2018 problems

You’ll be pleased to hear that most of the issues with the Mk5 Polo are reasonably easy to fix.

A blue VW Polo from late 2014.

1. Oil leaks

The 1.4-litre TDI engine is known to develop an oil leak where the gearbox and engine meet. Find out how to identify & fix car fluid leaks here.

Topping up your engine oil may provide a temporary fix, but the leak will progressively worsen, and driving with low engine oil can do severe damage. A repair is inevitable if you want to keep your car going.

The good news is that the average leak repair price for a Volkswagen Polo is just £140.89.

2. Faulty timing belt tensioner

The timing belt tensioner is used to adjust and maintain the timing belt's tension. It is made of a base, tensioner arm, pulley and spring.

A car's timing belt.

If the tensioner belt fails, this can be disastrous for the timing belt, messing up the engine's timing and potentially causing it to snap. Signs of a faulty tensioner include:

When you suspect your tensioner is failing, don’t put off a repair, or you could end up with a damaged engine.

The average VW Polo timing belt repair price on WhoCanFixMyCar is £375.79.

3. Noisy brakes

The front brakes of the Mk5 Polo have caused some problems due to unusual creaking and clicking noises. These sounds indicate the brake pads and calliper carriers are faulty, requiring a replacement.

Brake disc diagram

The other signs to look out for are:

In this guide, find out everything you need to know about how brakes work.

Brake repairs cost £373.66 on average for a VW Polo when you book through WhoCanFixMyCar.

4. Parking sensor failure

The parking sensors on some Polos of this generation fail due to corroded connections. Again, this is an easy problem to resolve. All you have to do is contact an auto electrician who can get you back on the road in no time.

The average price of a VW Polo parking sensor repair on WhoCanFixMyCar is £148.13.

5. Faulty sun visor vanity light

Electrical issues, including malfunctioning interior lights and noises from the dashboard, sometimes occur in the Mk5 Polo. However, the problem isn’t in the dashboard; a faulty sun visor vanity light causes these symptoms.

If you plug in an OBD reader and see the fault code B1314, the vanity light is to blame. To fix it, disconnect the battery, remove the sun visor, check the connections and repair as needed. Alternatively, an auto electrician can do this for you.

Volkswagen Polo 2010 to 2018 recalls

Recall DateReason
05-Dec-14Fuel may leak
15-Feb-15Unintentional airbag deployment
04-Aug-15Backrest may not perform correctly in a collision
23-Jun-16Child lock may disengage
21-Dec-17Towing eye in the vehicle tool kit may detach during use
26-Nov-18The left rear seatbelt double buckle may unfasten involuntarily

Volkswagen Polo 2019 to present problems

Since the Mk6 Polo is still relatively new, just two common issues have emerged.

VW Polo

1. Oil in the brake servo

In some Mk6 Polos, oil may get into the brake servo through the vacuum lines. The servo - also known as a brake booster - makes it easier to brake by reducing the force required when you press the brake pedal.

When oil enters the servo, it condenses there and perishes the diaphragm, eventually causing total servo failure. A VW technician should inspect models produced between October 2019 and February 2020 to check whether they are affected by this fault.

The average price of a brake servo repair for a VW Polo is £109.11 on WhoCanFixMyCar.

2. Faulty seat belts

Some Mk6 Polos are fitted with faulty seat belts that can unlatch themselves. Volkswagen issued a recall for this problem, so most affected vehicles should have been repaired, but it’s worth checking if you’re buying one second-hand.

Seatbelt repair

Seat belt repairs cost £107.98 on average for a VW Polo, according to WhoCanFixMyCar’s data.

Volkswagen Polo 2019 to present recalls

Recall DateReason
16-Mar-20Oil may get into the brake servo through the vacuum lines of the tandem pump
19-Oct-21A faulty installed net for the design breakage point for the discharge of the passenger airbag has been fitted
27-Dec-21The sun roof frame may not have been bonded to the body roof
20-April-22The roof spoiler may not have been bonded to the rear lid with the specified process materials

Is the Volkswagen Polo reliable?

The Polo has a reputation for reliability, and as you can see from the data above, its common problems and recalls are minimal. The Car Expert gave the Mk6 Polo a reliability score of 60%, which is neither impressive nor terrible.

A red VW Polo from 2018 parked in front of some trees.

However, in the latest WhatCar? Reliability Survey, the Polo finished in 27th place out of 28 vehicles in the small car class - an undoubtedly disappointing result. Volkswagen didn’t fare much better, coming 22nd out of 32 manufacturers.


If you’re having trouble with your Volkswagen Polo, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price, whatever you need.

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