VW Passat: Warning shot

  • Volkswagen Passat implores instant service
  • Car remains inactive in order to protect warranty
  • Lesson learned: never ignore warning lights

Warning lights on cars scare me, and I'll tell you why.

Years ago, I owned an Austin Allegro - it was my first car, before you ask - and two weeks after I bought it the oil warning light went on. I topped up, but the light stayed on.

This was a problem.

Two weeks later, on a trip to the Stevenage ice skating rink, the Allegro lost power (if that's possible), there was lot of smoke and it ground to a halt. Instantly, I became a reluctant AA member.

On another occasion, when I was working for a rival motoring website, I was running a Saab 9-3 Sport Wagon for six months and two weeks into the test as I was making my way home on the fast lane of the M3, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. The engine expired and I was left with no power steering and no power-assisted brakes. It was terrifying and through fear and brute force I managed to get the car on to the hard shoulder unscathed. I consoled myself that it could have been a lot worse.

That incident still haunts me, so when warning lights come on when I am at speed, it brings up ghosts - terrible ghosts.

Three weeks ago when I was travelling along the A1(M) in the VW Passat, I heard a bleep. I looked at the dashboard and there, right in front of me, were the words, complete with exclamation mark, 'Service now!'

What, like... now?

The Passat has a Germanic edge to it. It is, after all, a German car, but it was the lack of understanding that really got to me. The insensitivity.

Couldn't we just, like, talk about it.

No. Service NOW!

Sorry, you'll have to wait - I have a curry to eat.

The Passat has form in this area. In November Parkers Road Test Editor Simon McBride was on the receiving end of the 'Pause recommended' warning light that would not let up. If you read my report in November you'll see that he chose to ignore it... at his peril, in my view.

So, after the weekend came to a close I phoned up Cook's VW dealership in Peterborough in order to get the job done, and also to appease my militant warning light.

Cook's were great. I managed to get a booking in less than a day. Stupidly, I forgot to deliver the car on the agreed date and, unfortunately, the next availble date was ten days away. The schedule meant I had get the car booked in within 2,000 miles of the 18,000-mile service and since I travel 300 miles a day to and from work, the Passat had to remain idle for a week in order to protect the warranty.

It had been a schoolboy error and I was kicking myself. I realised that I had been stupid not to note down the date of the first booking, which meant my Passat had become somewhat redundant until the next one.

Current mileage: 19,100 miles

Average mpg: 44.64mpg

Parkers top tip:

So the lesson here is for all you VW owners: a) never disobey the warnings, and b) never buy an Austin Allegro...