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The Volkswagen Atlas, also referred to as the Volkswagen Teramont outside of the US, was first introduced in 2016 at the LA Auto show and was produced in 2017. The Atlas is the largest vehicle to be produced on Volkswagen’s MQB platform. At the Chicago Auto show in 2020, Volkswagen released a facelift version for the 2021 model year. Also in 2020, the Cross Sport version was released with many different trims: S, SE, SEL, R-Line, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line.
The Atlas features two engine options: the 2.0 TSI EA888 engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission or a 3.6 Vr6 FSI engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission. For those interested, the 2.0 TSI puts down 235hp and 258lb-ft of torque, while the 3.6 Vr6 puts down 276hp and 266lb-ft of torque. The Atlas has gotten a bad rep ever since it came out in 2017. Consumer Reports has given the 2018 model a 1/5 for reliability, the 2019 model a 2/5 for reliability, and the 2021 model a 1/5 for reliability.
Before getting into the common problems of an Atlas, make sure any of the replacement parts linked below fit your vehicle.
Common VW Atlas Problems
- Faulty fuel injectors
- Engine noise on shutdown
- Unexpected coolant loss
- Fuel pump failure
- Faulty clockspring
1. Faulty fuel injectors – VW Atlas Problems
Proper functioning fuel injectors are crucial in all direct injection engines. Fuel injectors inject fuel to the intake manifold in order to create combustion. The fuel injectors that came out of the factory on the Atlas have been prone to cracking and leaking. When this occurs, the air to fuel ratios will be thrown off which could cause minor to major engine damage. When fuel injectors fail, they are either stuck open or stuck closed, which will need to be fully replaced, or the seals have gone bad, which you can just replace the seals.
Unlike ignition coils or spark plugs, when a fuel injector starts failing you shouldn’t have to replace all of them. The only issue would be finding which one is faulty. Typically a CEL will be thrown with a specific cylinder misfire code, for example, P0302 – second cylinder misfire. We would advise changing the ignition coils and spark plugs first to see if that is the issue as those are cheaper than brand new fuel injectors.
Symptoms of Faulty Injectors:
- Engine misfires
- Engine starting issues
- Rough engine performance/Poor idle
- Reduced fuel economy
- Gas dripping from the engine
Fuel Injector Replacement Options:
As stated above, fuel injectors will have to be fully replaced if they are failing unless it is a seal. Getting to fuel injectors in the engine bay is quite difficult unless you know your way around an engine. More than likely, the Atlas will be under warranty and there shouldn’t be any cost out of hand, but the average cost of a fuel injector repair or replacement is $500.
Buy Here: Replacement Atlas Fuel Injector (For the lower cylinders 2, 4, & 6)
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
2. Engine noise on shutdown
This problem is not the biggest deal when it comes to engine performance or reliability, it is more so annoying on a vehicle that is only 3 years old. Many customers have reported a grinding noise while the engine is shutting down. Obviously, this is a concern, as no vehicle should be making a grinding noise coming from the engine while it is being turned off. Apparently many Atlas’ owners have heard this noise and brought it up as a concern. Volkswagen has addressed this issue saying that it is “normal/ok” to hear this noise.
It turns out that there is an issue with the springs in the torque converter, but it doesn’t need to be replaced because it shouldn’t affect the overall health of the vehicle’s engine. Just as an example of what we are referencing, see the video embedded below.
3. Unexpected coolant loss – VW Atlas Problems
Another issue that has been reported by many Atlas owners is the unexpected coolant loss. Engine coolant, otherwise known as antifreeze, is a crucial component of an engine as it protects the engine from overheating and lubricates many important moving parts in the engine.
When a vehicle is losing coolant at a rapid pace, this is never good because the engine could overheat or, even worse, cause major engine damage. What many customers have been seeing is the leak is so small that there aren’t any puddles on the ground while the vehicle is in park on or off. So many are questioning where the coolant is going if it is not a coolant tank leak.
Symptoms of a Coolant Leak:
- Low coolant light illuminating
- Engine overheating
- A sweet smell coming from outside the vehicle
- Puddles under the car of coolant
VW Atlas Coolant Loss Possible Causes:
- Improperly torqued head bolts causing a head gasket leak (Main cause)
- Faulty coolant tank
- Leaking water pump
- Faulty head gasket
If an Atlas is experiencing these symptoms, make sure to take it into the dealership ASAP. There have been many cases with this issue and the fix is under warranty, whatever it may be. The mechanic may say that losing coolant at a rapid pace is normal, it’s not. Keep pushing them on it. One thing that could be asked specifically is to have them perform a pressure test to see if the coolant tank is leaking.
4. Fuel pump failure
This problem is not as common in Atlas’, but it is common enough to include it in this guide. A fuel pump takes fuel from the fuel tank and pumps it into the engine so the vehicle can run. Without a functioning fuel pump, the vehicle may not start or is hard to start.
Some of the fuel pumps on the Atlas’ out of the factory were faulty which lead to many unsatisfied customers. A fuel pump should not fail at all during the vehicle’s life cycle.
Symptoms of a Failing Fuel Pump:
- Engine stalls
- Engine sputtering
- Power loss
- Engine difficult to start or not start at all
- Decreased fuel economy
Fuel Pump Replacement Options:
This replacement should be covered under warranty, but in the case someone wants to DIY it, it isn’t the easiest. If taken to a shop, the cost for this service would be around $700 not under warranty.
Buy Here: VW Atlas Fuel Pump Replacement Part
DIY Difficulty: Difficult
5. Faulty clockspring
Some customers listed this as a complaint, but it is like the #2 problem on this list. It doesn’t affect performance or reliability of the engine, it is just more so annoying. When the steering is turned in either direction, there is a creaking noise that occurs like the example below. Many customers have explained that Volkswagen techs claim this is “normal”. Again, noises like these are not normal, so push them to check the clockspring if they give any pushback.
A clockspring is a special electrical rotary in the vehicle’s steering system that allows a vehicle’s steering wheel to turn. When the whole clockspring fails, most of the electrical components located on the steering wheel will not function, including the airbag. So if you notice the clicking noise below or any of the buttons on the steering wheel not working, take your vehicle in for service ASAP.
Clockspring Replacement Options:
If you are like us and like to do repairs on your own, this is doable, but difficult. This repair should be covered under warranty, but in the case it isn’t you’ll be looking at a cost of $600.
Buy Here: Replacement Atlas clockspring
DIY Difficulty: Difficult
VW Atlas Reliability
How reliable is the Volkswagen Atlas? As you can probably tell with the list of problems on a fairly new vehicle, the Atlas is not the most reliable. To date, it is hard finding an Atlas that has lasted over 100,000 miles with no problems. If you decide to go with a new Atlas, we would tell you to avoid the older model years (2018 & 2019) and go with 2021. In the newel model years, Volkswagen SHOULD be ironing out all the kinks from previous model years. The engines are fairly reliable, however, the small details seem to be overlooked such as the electrical issues and random noises that are not “normal”.
Also, if you want to check out more similar content, here is our write-up on the common problems for an Audi Q5.
Cyrille Vittecoq says
I had every one of the above mentioned problems with my 2021 Atlas. This one replaced a 2018 Atlas that has had many other problems.
1) To Volks techs, all problems are normal it is part of the pleasure of owning a Volks and pay regular visits to your dealer.
2) they absolutely never have the parts available to fix known problems so you can come back to visit them.
3) I drove 17k of the first 18k Kms of my new Volks with the check engine light on. How is that normal???