2019 Volkswagen Atlas Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Brakes, Electrical and Engine issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

When it comes to finding a seven-passenger midsize family SUV, many VW enthusiasts were excited to get behind the wheel of an Atlas. Considering the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas was marketed by the company as “I spy something big,” it made sense that growing families would look at this model. While the cargo space and passenger room might be large, so are the problems that come with it. From faulty brakes to a defective powertrain, there’s no end in sight to the malfunctions.

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Problems with the Brakes

While the service brakes are important on any vehicle, there’s something unspoken about how they should perform when kids are in the car. After all, the automaker must take the lives of these innocent children seriously. With the VW Atlas, there are numerous complaints about trouble with the braking system.

Read this one review on Edmunds. “I would definitely NOT purchase this car again. I have about 9000 miles on my 2019 Atlas. About 1000 miles in, the brakes began squealing when backing out of the driveway. Dealer said it was due to cold weather. Then it was described as a “feature”. Metallic brakes that “clean themselves off”. Contacted VW America and only one solution was offered…”drive fast on a country road and slam on the brakes.” Unreal. Make sure you search for owner reviews online before purchasing.”

Despite having more than 150 communications, the automaker doesn’t address these special brake features anywhere. It’s also missing from the list of standard features – self-cleaning metallic brakes that squeak during operation. Frankly, it would be the first time that would be considered a perk in any vehicle. Furthermore, if it is such a benefit, why did the dealer advise her to fix it? It sounds like they are hoping the family gets neck injuries instead.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Air Bags
Service Brakes
Electrical System
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Unknown Or Other
Power Train
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Fuel/propulsion System

Problems with the Transmission

Underneath this large family vehicle, there must be a functional and durable powertrain. Otherwise, it becomes challenging to haul all of the children to soccer practice. Sadly, many owners are disappointed in the powertrain performance of the Atlas. Not only does it come across as a poorly constructed system, but it also appears to be defective.

Just read this NHTSA review, “This is a consistent issue and I’m worried powertrain damage is occurring. When accelerating from stopped or at low speed there is a very loud screeching/grinding sound coming from the powertrain/transmission – possibly the torque converter. It happens frequently and is very noticeable, usually when the vehicle starts to accelerate or increases acceleration at low speed then it usually goes away. I described the trouble to two VW dealership service departments and both said they hadn’t heard of that one. I was in for other service and was told they could not replicate the sound. However, it screeched when leaving the dealerships! The VW Atlas forums have many posts on this issue. And lots of folks like myself are not getting any information and are concerned about safety. I did not get any meaningful help from VW or their dealer service departments.”

Would it be surprising to find out that there are also no significant powertrain communications from VW? Again, they have taken the route of silence in hopes that customers will just stop complaining. This plan is backfiring in their faces as more people take to the internet to inform others. Talk about spying something big – how about a massive cover-up?

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Problems with the Engine

When popping the hood of a 2019 Volkswagen Atlas, customers quickly see what appears to be a functional engine. Once driving this SUV, they notice something entirely different. Just look at this brief and to the point NHTSA review. “Engine light came on. Strong gas smell inside car.Took to dealership. Has multiple gas leaks and dealership is replacing the gas tank and lines.”

This is the last thing any family wants to deal with, yet there was a recall related to this situation. NHTSA Campaign Number 19V614000 discusses how an improper weld causes a fuel leak. Not only can that lead to a fire, but the lack of fuel also causes the engine to stall. Hopefully, this doesn’t occur while on a busy road with the kids in the vehicle. It’s interesting that the company didn’t attempt to tell customers that leaking fuel is another feature. It can be called the self-cleaning fuel tank.

Other Problems

Of course, mechanical problems aren’t the only issues this vehicle faces. Online complaint boards reveal a long list of other concerns from owners.

Just read this review on the NHTSA website, “On the tenth day of owning our brand new vehicle, we were driving down highway 74 at 70 miles per hour. It was the first time this vehicle was driven at highway speeds for more than an hour. The weather was sunny and in the low 90s. All of a sudden we heard a loud explosion sound and the front panel of our panoramic sunroof had exploded. The shade was open and the tempered glass fell on our entire family including two children aged 7 and 4. There was no impact from an outside object.”

Again, the VW camp is eerily quiet about any structural issues that would have caused this. Still, we see that the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas simply isn’t safe. Among the fuel line trouble, they have already encountered four other safety concerns that prompted a nationwide recall. One is related to headlights that aren’t adequately adjusted for visibility while another talks about how they installed the wrong side airbags into the SUV. There’s also the chance that the rear coil springs can fracture and damage a tire, leading to an out of control situation. Finally, the company recalled this vehicle for an electrical system malfunction that allows owners to leave the key in the ignition without warning. Maybe they are hoping someone will steal this big headache from the driveway? One thing is for sure – we all spy something big and it’s called a lemon.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes VW pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.


Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Dana C

    We have a 2019 Atlas and it’s been to the dealership many times, unfortunately. From steering issues/noises in the steering column (3 trips to the dealer to fix) airbag sensors going off requiring immediate trip to the dealer leaving it for 2 weeks awaiting parts to arrive, along with many issues with the infotainment system, a blown speaker in the passenger side door and many times zero power on the screen, it’s been chock-full of ‘adventures’ with this 2019 Atlas. Not to mention the horrible gas mileage. We will never buy this model again. Our friends and family are telling us we probably have a lemon. It’s now at 46K miles we recently had new brakes/tires installed. It is good in the snow, which I was happy with but the rest is not good.

  • Michelle C

    I have a 2019 VW Atlas. Was driving 15 mph came to a stop at stop sign . 2nd row drivers side seat slammed forward pinning my toddler in his car seat to the back of drivers side seat. Could not get seat to release had to climb in passenger side and release seat belt then into 3rd row to detach tether just to release my child and get him out of car.

  • Dave

    Gas mileage is terrible.
    Look. I know its an SUV and its heavy and blah blah blah. But this is 2021 and you mean to tell me one of the best German automakers cant make a fuel efficient SUV???
    I owned a Passat R-Line (2.0t TSI) before I got my Atlas and my Passat would do excellent in mileage. Mixed driving would get 450-600+ miles to a tank of gas.
    So one day as I’m driving and cruising my “ecm” light comes on. I take right then to the dealer to have the code read and its some sort of ecm wiring plug pr harness. I have the part ordered only to have the salesperson forget and now I have to wait 3 more weeks. Finally get the part installed and I notice my trip mileage was getting short and shorter over time. The only thing I could trace it to was the ecm wiring harness being installed.
    I did a vin check on my Atlas and wouldnt you know it, same thing happened. This ecm wiring plug, harness, I think is a major contributing factor for these low Atlas gas mileage numbers.

  • Gracie

    We are having problem with the back sensor and it keeps beeping and apparently its not covered with the warranty. The vehicle is 10 months old!!! Apparently its because of the mud. We go to the car wash at least twice a week. I guess we cant drive this vehicle in place where there is dirt or mid!!! Furious!

  • Robert

    I have a 2020 Cross Sport. The first gear will frequently take a very long time to shift to 2nd causing excessive RPMs . The vehicles driver seat doesn’t go back far enough to fit people with longer than average legged people and wont rise up high enough for shorter people. My wife is 4’7 and cant drive it comfortably. The remote starter will have to be reset if the ECM throws a code and some codes wont show on the dash,,,, like the fuel cap being lose !

  • Nero

    I must be lucky because I have 40k on my Atlas and not one issue yet. I do however hear the transmission noise and yes it’s annoying but not a defect. Plenty of info on forums around this subject and is a gas saving feature of the tranny shifting. Designed that way.

    However you can avoid the noise altogether if you manually shift, which is kind of fun to launch the Atlas from 1st.

  • Marcella

    Bought a 2019 VW Atlas R-Line in November 2019.
    We had to suffer a 110 degree Summer with no A/C.
    The system was not charged and it took the dealership 3 months to get their faulty machine to work.
    Now just weeks after A/C issue has been resolved we have to replace the entire front drivers side strut tower. We can hear rattling coming from that side.
    VW customer service isn’t awful. They need to fire the lead rep. She has zero compassion and doesn’t even own a car.
    They are full of excuses.

  • Kyle M

    Where to start 5 am driving all lights just shut off. Cruise controll picks an chooses when to work. Rpms while driving down interstate at speed limit rpm jump 2-3rpms constantly. Radio works some times others it kicks the blue tooth off dealer cant replicate any. Asked them to check for coolant leak they leave off ticket. Heat didn’t work they had for a month to change a sensor took the tech 10 mins to change. Its been issue after issue

  • jackieh@yahoo.com

    I have a 2019 Volkswagen R line atlas. It has been nightmare since day one.
    1. All of my front shocks needed replaced within 2mths they were all leaking air
    2. my computer system will not work with an android phone without constan issues
    3. My GPS will not work, it always says I’m in a field but I’m on a road. They replaced my antenna said that was the issue but it still doesn’t work. Going back in again.
    4. The gas mileage is not what the sticker says I am sitting around 20-25 km per liter which is costing me a fortune to run …
    5. The car has major fault. When a code shows on your dash and goes away the code will NOT clear from the system. This prevents the automatic car starter to work. So I have had to lose a day for my car again to have the code cleared because my starter failed to turn on. Spoke to VW they told me there is no fix for this. If a code doesn’t clear the car considers it a safe issue and reuses to allow the starter to work. Once your out of warranty you will pay regularly to have the codes clear.

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