If you own a VW T5, you’ll know they’re a reliable camper van with plenty of appeal. Unfortunately, some common problems can arise with VW T5 Transporters. Understanding what they are and how to solve them could avoid a costly fix further down the road. Fortunately, plenty of new or used VW Transporter parts are available, so you or a mechanic can fix almost any problem. Here’s what to look out for.
Table of contents:
- EGR valve
- Water pump
- Leaking windows
- Steering column
- Timing belt/cambelt
- ABS warning light
- T5 recalls
- How much does a T5 cost?
- Are VW T5’s reliable
So what are the common faults found with the VW Transporter T5?
Problem: If you hear a rattling or knocking sound when idling or experience juddering when raising the clutch in first gear, your flywheel probably needs to be replaced. Losing grease, scoring on the direction surface and visible damage to the ring gear are also visual signs that the flywheel may be failing.
Solution: You’ll need to replace the flywheel, as repairs aren’t possible in this situation. At the first signs of a faulty flywheel, take your T5 to a professional for a replacement, as components can become loose and enter the transmission, causing more damage to your motor.
Problem: Knocking noises coming from the engine, reduced acceleration and engine performance, and noticeably reduced fuel economy are signs of a problem with your EGR valve. Your engine management warning light is also likely to come on.
Solution: It’s possible to prevent problems with the EGR valve by ensuring you take your T5 on regular long-distance drives, as this helps the valve to get hot and avoid clogging. You can also spray an EGR valve cleaner onto the carbon deposits that have built up and use a scraper or brush to remove them. However, EGR valves are prone to clogging; sometimes, a replacement is the only option.
Problem: If you’ve noticed puddles of liquid under your engine or leaking around the water pump, the pump is likely damaged. You may also notice a groaning sound from the motor or a build-up of rust on the pump itself.
Solution: Preventative measures, such as using the correct engine coolant at the recommended intervals, and flushing the system when you change the fluid, can help to prevent problems with water pumps. If you’re an experienced home mechanic, you could replace the water pump yourself. If not, take your VW T5 to your local mechanic for an inspection and replacement.
Problem: If you notice water accumulating in your van in bad weather, your windows are probably leaking. It’s a common issue with T5s. Also, look out for a build-up of rust, mould, or a damp, musty smell.
Solution: T5 sliding windows are known to leak. In fact, many T5 owners go the extra step of replacing the original windows in their T5s, to prevent problems from arising in the first place. However, if that seems too costly or drastic, and if you don’t plan on opening the windows, you can simply pop some sealant around them to stop water from entering on a rainy day.
Problem: Build-up of rust on the wheel arches and around the door posts.
Solution: Although the T5 isn’t prone to rust, it’s worth checking your vehicle regularly for signs. The wheel arches may be more susceptible, so give them a clean with a scrubbing brush to prevent rust from building up. If the rust is bad, ask your mechanic to grind the rust off and re-spray the arch.
Problem: A clunking sound when you lift the clutch could indicate a problem with the driveshaft. Sheered splines on the gearbox are also a common problem with T5s.
Solution: Have your driveshaft inspected by a qualified mechanic and replace it if necessary.
Problem: A knocking or clunking as you turn the wheel may indicate a problem with the steering column.
Solution: This is a known problem with T5s. You may need to replace the lower part or even all of the steering column. If your van is under warranty, contact VW, or take it to your local mechanic for an inspection.
Timing belt/cam belt
Problem: Wear and tear can loosen the cam belt, causing a squealing or hissing noise and problems starting your engine.
How often should you change a Cambelt on a VW T5? VW recommends changing the cambelt once every four years if your van is registered before September 2009 and every five years for vans registered after. If you clock up many miles, you may have to replace it sooner.
ABS warning light
Problem: Your ABS warning light is on, indicating a problem with your T5’s anti-lock braking system.
Solution: The T5 is known for having an issue that causes the ABS warning light to come on. It could be a faulty ABS sensor or a problem with the wiring. If you’re unsure how to fix the problem yourself (there are plenty of guides online), take it to your local mechanic for an inspection.
Given all these possible problems that can crop up with your beloved T5, you may wonder, ‘So, how long does a VW T5 engine last?’ Despite these issues the T5 can be expected to reach at least 250k miles before you need an engine overhaul if it’s well-driven and adequately serviced. So you should get at least 15 good years out of yours.
There have been six recall actions in the UK related to the VW T5. In 2007 a fault with the front right tyre resulted in 526 T5s recalled, while 486 vehicles were affected in 2008 after a problem with a leak in the fuel supply and return pipe.
In 2009, 152 vehicles were recalled due to a problem with the bonnet flying open, and a risk of a fuel leak resulted in 33,719 vehicles recalled in 2011.
178 vehicles were recalled in 2012 after a problem with the cooling fan caused a fire risk. In 2018, 24 T5s were recalled after a problem with kitchen gas connections.
How much does a T5 cost?
For an early model, prices start at around £3.5k, but you can probably expect a vehicle at this price to be in poor condition or have a very high mileage.
If you push your budget to £5k, you’re more likely to get a decent model that’s been well looked after, although you may be unlikely to find one that’s been converted to a camper.
Combi T5s that feature second-row seating and convert to sleeping accommodation are at the highest end of the market, regularly selling for £30k and upwards.
Are Volkswagen T5 Transporters reliable?
If you ensure your van has a good service history, you should rest assured that your T5 is robust. A great previous owner(s) can make all the difference to the reliability of your van.
Is the VW Transporter a good investment? Transporters often enjoy an excellent residual value, making them a sound investment if you expect to sell yours in the future.
If you’re looking at vans and wondering, ‘What is high mileage for a T5?’, it’s worth knowing these vans can go the distance. Many will clock up well over 250k miles, with reports of some getting to 500k. However, if you want to get as much use out of your T5 as possible, aim for something with under 100k on the clock.