2020 Volkswagen Atlas Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Forward collision avoidance, electrical system, and steering issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas is a family SUV that’s designed to provide maximum space. The automaker tells customers to “bring everyone along for the ride,” but some owners are scared to take the SUV anywhere. The most common complaints relate to faulty door wiring harnesses and major steering problems.. 

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2021   2022   2023

Common Problems Overview

In terms of volume, forward collision avoidance is recorded as the biggest problem 2020 VW Atlas owners are experiencing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But forward collision avoidance complaints are combined with other component problems including steering, electrical system, and brakes. In some instances, it is simply the owner’s perception of what is wrong with the SUV.

For example, some owners see door wiring harness issues as being an electrical system problem, while others identify it as a forward collision avoidance issue. Several report it to be an airbag problem because the issue with the door wiring harness results in an airbag warning light coming on. This connection is explained in recalls listed as being airbag problems.

Apart from the components and systems mentioned above, some problems relate to the engine, service brakes, lane departure, powertrain, and vehicle speed control.

There are also four recalls and one investigation on record.

Recalls

There are two recalls due to airbag malfunctions. Both blame wiring faults for these malfunctions.

NHTSA Campaign Number 22V152000 was issued for 222,892 Volkswagen Atlas MY 2019-2023 vehicles. It states that the door wiring harness electrical contacts may corrode, disrupting the electrical connection and delaying the deployment of the driver or passenger front side airbag during a side impact crash.

NHTSA Campaign Number 23V215000 affects 143,053 2018-2020 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport vehicles. This warns that the passenger occupant detection system (PODS) may experience a fault in the wiring and deactivate the front passenger airbag when the seat is occupied — increasing the risk of injury if there is a crash.

An even larger number of VW vehicles (224,704) are implicated in a tire-related recall. It warns that the “tire pressure monitoring system may not detect an air pressure loss in adequate time when deflating occurs among all four tires simultaneously.” This, too, can result in a crash.

The fourth recall warns that the reduced gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) label, which reflects the additional weight of the side steps, was not installed in 3,648 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport 2018-2021 vehicles. This could result in the vehicle being overloaded, which, in turn, could lead to a loss of control and the risk of a crash.

Investigation

The investigation, which has since been closed, was due to an alleged fuel injector leak in 2018-2020 VW Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport vehicles. Even though no fires were connected to the issue, the concern of the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigations (ODI) was that leaking fuel in the engine was a dangerous fire risk.

Volkswagen’s stance was that these “internal” leaks posed no unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety. However, when the ODI closed the investigation, they stressed that this “does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist.”

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
34
34
Service Brakes
18
18
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
15
15
Unknown Or Other
15
15
Air Bags
13
13
Steering
9
9
Engine
7
7
Vehicle Speed Control
5
5
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
3
3
Electronic Stability Control
2
2

Forward Collision Avoidance

As mentioned above, some owners relate problems with the faulty door wiring harness to the electrical system or steering. Others see it as a distinct forward collision avoidance issue.

An owner from Texas states that the driver door harness malfunction causes many errors to display on the dash. It also causes (the) emergency brake to engage before coming to a complete stop, basically slamming on the brake. This has become a daily occurrence, the complaint states.

Another owner experienced front collision alerts and braking when the path ahead was clear. “This might have caused an accident as the braking would be similar to a driver stopping short.” Additionally, the forward collision light illuminated when this happened.

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Steering

All the owners complaining about steering problems also have forward collision avoidance issues.

An owner from Virginia states in an NHTSA complaint that his 2020 Volkswagen Atlas “has grossly failed to meet reliability expectations.” While he has experienced several problems, “the repeated failure of the vehicle’s electric power steering rack” concerns him the most. By January 2023, this component had been replaced three times. Each failure was “accompanied by a creak in the front suspension and a clunk in the steering movement.” These were replaced under warranty, but VW refused to extend the warranty despite the owner’s conviction that the very same issue was likely to happen again.

An owner from South Carolina experienced steering wheel shake and vibration after the steering gear felt loose and was making a noise. At first, there were no warning lights, but a few hours later, when the vibration was severe, the front-end collision warning light with cruise control light came on. The dealer said the system needed to be recalibrated and the steering gear needed to be replaced. Even though he confirmed it was a “common” complaint, VW hadn’t (and by February 2024 still hadn’t) issued a recall. It cost the owner $3,000 to repair.

Rattling from the steering wheel when turning it was the first indication an owner from Texas had that something was wrong. Even though the dealer replaced the electro-mechanical steering and the ACF filter, the issue persisted. Two months later, the dealer replaced the sway bars, which they said were causing the rattling. At that stage, “the rattling noise subsided.”

Electrical System

The most common electrical system problem relates to the defective door wiring harness mentioned in the airbag recalls.

An owner from Colorado writes in an NHTSA complaint that issues with the electronic parking brake engaging while the car was moving and the driver’s window rolling down when attempting to roll it up led to the defective door wiring harness diagnosis. It took two months for the dealer to install “the redesigned replacement wiring harness.” Within a couple of weeks, the brake and window problems recurred. Additionally, blindside warning lights were staying on and flashing even though there were no cars to trigger this.

“We suspect there are issues with the newly engineered replacement wire harness. The dealership has been slow to respond as well making the issue more frustrating.”

An owner from Georgia issued a similar complaint adding that they had been waiting for the replaced harness for six weeks, because of the high demand.

Although not filed as electrical system problems, two of the complainants in the previous section also had issues with faulty door harness wiring. The owner from Virginia complained that this “dangerous issue” had caused the vehicle’s autonomous emergency braking to engage in traffic — which, of course, also relates to forward collision avoidance.

Do you have a Lemon?

If you think your 2020 Volkswagen Atlas is a lemon, you don’t have to live with it. Lemberg Law will assess your problems free of charge. The law makes Volkswagen pay legal fees, and every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners.

Call our Helpline or fill out a contact form and we’ll see how we can help 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
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