2021 Volkswagen Jetta Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Brakes, engine, airbag, and fuel-related issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta provides some luxury touches at an affordable price. The automaker claims this popular model, like previous Jetta models, “can help you stay out of trouble.” But what if the vehicle itself is in trouble? Owners are complaining about faulty airbags that have resulted in deaths, rear brake pads that wear down prematurely, evaporative emission control system problems, and engines that malfunction.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019    2020    2023

Most Common Problems

Complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta are varied. In terms of numbers, complaints about brakes top the list. Most of these relate to rear brake pads wearing down to a dangerous level in an unacceptably short space of time. Several 2021 Jetta owners have complained directly to Lemberg Law about rear brake pad problems as well.

Other components and systems with multiple complaints include the electrical system, engine, forward collision-avoidance, and fuel/propulsion system. Additionally, lane departure, powertrain, seat and seat belt, steering, suspension, and visibility issues also feature.

There are four recalls that affect the 2021 Jetta, two of which relate to faulty rear view cameras. There is also a recall due to faulty airbags.

NHTSA Campaign Number 21V492000 warns that potentially 379 2020-2021 Jetta and Jetta GLI vehicles may have airbag modules that are welded in the incorrect position. This can cause the airbags to deploy “improperly” if the vehicle crashes. This will increase the risk of injury. There is also a risk that the airbags may deploy unintentionally, which increases the risk of a crash.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Complaint Summary

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

Airbag Problems

There are two NHTSA complaints, one from Alabama and the other from North Carolina, that indicate airbag malfunctions caused accidents in which people died. No details are supplied in either complaint.

A complaint from an owner in Maryland states that the airbag warning light was illuminated when the Jetta had only 60 miles on the clock. The dealer diagnosed that the airbag module needed to be replaced.

An owner from Washington who received the airbag recall notification stated that the part required to fix the problem wasn’t available. So, the recall repair wasn’t done.

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Brake Problems

Most of the brake-related problems from 2021 VW Jetta owners describe how the rear brake pads wear down rapidly for no obvious reason. Volkswagen refuses to replace them under warranty. There are other problems too.

An owner from New York describes how, while driving, the brake pedal sunk to the floor. There were “no brakes at all.” There is no indication in the complaint as to what caused this. Furthermore, there were no warnings or prior indication of any type of brake problem.

In a complaint regarded as an electrical system and lane departure issue, an owner from Ohio describes problems with the emergency brakes and electric parking brake. The parking brake kept engaging while traveling at 10 mph. To disengage the brake, he had to turn the Jetta off and then switch it back on.

An owner from North Carolina states that the Jetta displayed a front collision warning and would auto brake on a clear road where there were no obstructions.

Rear Brake Pad Issues

After having the rear brake pads replaced at about 30,000 miles, an owner from New Jersey complained to the NHTSA that this was after driving in “normal conditions.” Specifically, “no towing or any driving behavior that would accelerate excessive/irregular wear.” Significantly, the dealer had noted at the 20,000 mile oil change that the “rear pads and rotors pads (are) down to 2 on inner.” Volkswagen customer service said the brakes were not covered under warranty.

An owner from Colorado states that within 18 months and 24,000 miles, the Jetta made “recurring loud squeaking brake noise when reversing the car after a cold start.” The noise seemed to be coming from the rear brakes. The dealership stated they were aware of the issue but there wasn’t a fix available yet. On inspection, they discovered that the front brake pads still had 12 mm on the pads. On the other hand, the rear brakes were down to only 4 mm. “The car is fully covered under a bumper to bumper warranty yet the dealership doesn’t want to investigate further, and insists the rear pads need to be replaced as it’s normal. There is nothing normal about the rear brakes being 3x more worn than the front brakes, on a FWD car that only has 24k miles on it.”

Problems with the rear brakes on a 2021 Jetta with only 15,300 miles started when the vehicle was 30 months old. An owner from New York states that they suddenly started making an unusual scraping sound. They also lost brake power. The dealer found that the rear brake pads were “completely worn out with calipers scraping and damaging the rotors.” Once agin, VW refused to fix the problem under warranty.

Fuel-Related Problems

The most common fuel-related problem relates to the evaporative emission control system (EVAP) that prevents gasoline fuels from leaking into the air.

An owner from North Carolina reports having issues with the EVAP system. Since about 12,000 miles it had been in the shop at least 7 times. “They have replaced all parts and upgraded the software several times and it is still an issue. My check engine light comes on and off all the time. It is just over a year old with almost 50K miles and they say that they are waiting on an update from VW and until then there is nothing they can do.”

An owner from another part of North Carolina also reports issues with the EVAP system. From the start, the check engine light has indicated that this is a problem. The Jetta has been with the dealer about 6 times. “They have replaced everything associated with this system at least once and have done a software update. During my last visit, they reported that they had a conversation with VW and said ‘VW does not have a fix for this. We will let you know when they do.’ I owned a diesel VW involved in (the) Dieselgate scandal. This is the same, but different. Instead of hiding the problem, they are ignoring the problem.”

Engine Problems

Complaints about the 2021 VW Jetta engine are varied. For instance, an owner from Maryland experienced a loss of motive power. This happened after the check engine light illuminated. An owner from Ohio experienced a “soft stall” while stationary in traffic. This happened twice after owning the Jetta for only 3 weeks and driving it 10 times. Another owner states that the car wouldn’t turn on using the start/stop feature.

The Hill Assist system creates “dangerous situations” for an owner in Tennessee. It is categorized with the NHTSA as being a powertrain, brake, and unknown or other problem. But the complaint states that the engine is unpowered.

The issue is that the system prevents the Jetta from moving right away while pulling out in traffic. The same problem is evident at traffic lights and stop signs, and when pulling out of parking garages. Additionally, the “Hill Assist system often stalls the engine due to holding brakes engaged for an extended period of time even on a slight hill. With a manual transmission this makes it even worse because (the) engine dies in these situations frequently.” But, the dealer “dismisses the issue because ‘there are no fault codes.’ But if it was manufactured incorrectly and/or calibrated improperly, no error/fault codes will come on. I have been driving manual transmissions all my life (from motorcycles to semi trucks) for over 40 years and it’s clear to me that this vehicle is a safety concern with (an) underpowered engine that cannot overcome Hill Assist.”

What Should You Do If Your 2021 Jetta is in the Shop Often?

If your 2021 VW Jetta has problems that recur and affect your use of the vehicle, you might have bought a lemon. Lemberg Law specializes in lemon law vehicle cases and will review your problems free of charge. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. And the law makes VW pay legal fees.

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

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
  • Jamal T

    My brakes on my 2021 VW Jetta GLI has been failing and this will be the third time having the brakes fixed I have 26,000 miles on my car and this is a problem throughout the line up of these vehicles what are my options?

  • Jennifer

    Our daughter has 34k miles on her 2021 Jetta and her rear brakes also need to be replaced! We were also quoted almost $500.00 to have them replaced. We have had several Toyota’s and did not have to replace breaks until over 70k miles and that is for a work truck that pulls trailers almost daily.

  • Lilly

    I’ve had my 2021 VW Jetta for a year now I bought it with 6 miles on it assuming it was brand new and there would be no issues this is my first car.. when the car had about 10-12k mi on it my rear brakes were worn and needed to be replaced which was over a 500$ job but my front brake pads were fine I figured maybe something odd had happened or something but I had them replaced by a personally known shop and they did an awesome job except they’re still wearing rapidly my car has about 23k mi on it and they’re nearly ready to be replaced again. This is my every day car for work, appointments for my children, and other errands. I take care of my car so I’m not sure what could cause something like this. There’s also another issue that caused my master cylinder and brake booster to be replaced under warranty because there was an odd noise of liquid or something so I brought it to the dealership they claim to have fixed the problem and the night I picked it up as I’m going to the grocery store I hear the noise again and they’re keeping my car for further analysis because they can’t find the problem. I’m being run around and ignored it’s been there 24 hrs already and I’m not able to go to work tomorrow due to not having a car and then keeping it.

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