Volkswagen T5 California (2010–2015)

What's good

An iconic and hugely desirable vehicle.

Will hold its value well and always be easy to sell.

Huge following in the UK with plenty of owners clubs and a strong community.

Great quality throughout.

2.0 TDI engine is strong and reasonably economical.

Plenty of extras available allowing you to customise your van however you want.

Compact enough to use as an everyday vehicle.


What's bad

Not cheap to buy new and still pricey used.

Cabin starting to show its age now.

29-11-2012: Seems to be a fault with RHD steering that defies any dealer attempt to put it right.

26-8-2014: Repeated clogging of Diesel Particulate Filter on 2012 T5 Caravelle California camper reported.

13-12-2015: Report of driveshaft failure on 2010 T5 Transporter at 48,400 miles.

(Lost date): Report of smoking and excessive oil consumption from 2011 Volkswagen Transporter with 2.0 BITDI engine at 62,000 miles due to "excessive wear of the cylinder walls". First thought to be an injector problem with injectors dribbling too much diesel down the bores; later found to be an EGR cooler fault (25-11-2016). Volkswagen quoted £6,060 to complete the work. Volkswagen Customer Care offered £1000 off the final price but after paying £560 for the dealer to diagnose the problem so really only £440 off.

18-10-2016: Report of DPF and turbo failure on a 73k mile Caravelle 2.0 BiTDI. Engine then started burning 5-6 litres of oil a week and diagnosis read: "Your heavy oil loss is due to the valve guides and valves in the cylinder head worn along with the piston rings.Also a valve in the oil filer housing is seized which could have been giving a lot of back pressure and contributing to oil loss.For us do to the complete rebuild and fitting with all parts required is £4136.34 + VAT with a 1 year warranty." 

25-11-2016: Catastrophic problem reported with 180PS 2.0 BiTD engine of T5 Caravelle DSG that explains 26-8-2014, (Lost date) and 18-10-2016. Problem relates to "TPI 2039830/5." Appears that the EGR cooler corrodes internally, producing aluminium oxides, and these then pass via the inlet valves into the combustion chamber. They then sit in the piston rings causing cylinder bore wear. VW is aware of the fault and has now issued a new EGR cooler: 03L 115 512 D. Owner has been in contact with other owners who have had the same problem. Some have received 100% back; others only 70%. In 2015 the owner highlighted the problem to Volkswagen at 70k miles. His T5 has now been off the road for over 8 weeks. Aggrieved at a potential bill of £10k because of an inherent defect in the vehicle.

23-9-2017: Explanation for the high rate of failure of failure of 2.0 180 BiTDI engines in T6 Transporters and Amaroks. "Oil light came on at end of lease. No leaks, so the engine must be burning the oil. Owner had an oil sample tested by Millers Oils and this showed the oil to have critical amounts of Al and Fe. The Al came from the corroding EGR cooler, the Fe is the cylinder bores being worn by the Al particles that have got into the engine. In short a new engine and ancillaries is required at a cost of £8,000. There is a Facebook page with over 1,000 Members devoted to the failings of the 180 BiTDI engine - it is only this engine that suffers. One chap in Norway runs a fleet of 30 ambulances and every one has needed a new engine. The EGR cooler is poorly designed - hot air condenses on unprotected aluminium, causing it to corrode. VW has brought out a revised cooler but it is too early to say if it is successful. And once an engine starts to burn oil through worn cylinder bores, the damage has been done." 

4-1-2018: Report of severe galvanic corrosion between the aluminium front roof panel and the steel structure of a December 2010 California. This was first noticed as blisters appearing at 2 years old and it was registered and reported to the dealer in November 2013, prior to the end of the paint warranty. In 2014 owner received 2 letters stating that a repair was being devised that would 'fully resolve' the corrosion issue. This was confirmed to be a replacement panel insulated from the steel bodywork preventing the galvanic corrosion. Over three years, emails, phone calls and letters ensued with list references, further photographs being required, delays at body shops etc. Finally on 20 November 2017 the van was taken to the body shop to be repaired, just over 4 years from the issue first being raised. The body shop promptly informed owner it was the worst case they had seen. The latest 'fix' from VW was to remove paint and put a patch cover on the roof panel. They had decided to ditch the original panel replacement to save money. Conscientious body shop informed owner they were concerned about doing this. It would just hide the issue and they weren't sure how long it would last. Volkswagen has told them to proceed with the patch. Owner has written to Volkswagen Customer Care (commercial vehicles as the California is regarded as a van) stating that he does not accept this and want the repair originally promised that dealt with the corrosion issue,and not a patch over it. The current T6 now has an aluminium roof panel fully insulated from the body. He has full records of all emails, letters and photographs taken. 

9-1-2018: Valves hit pistons of 2012 Volkswagen California 2.0 TDI 180 DSG, purchased new, at 40,000 miles. The dealer said that the cylinder heads had hit the valves, destroying the engine, but the cam-belt is intact and all the timing was correct on the camshaft. They told owner that they had seen a problem once before where the cam lobes had "slipped" on the shaft causing the same problem. Apparently the cam lobes are separate pieces of metal which are a tight fit on the shaft. Car has a full service history (I think the last service was May/June 2017. The cam-belt was replaced after 5 years as recommended.

26-3-2018: Roof corrosion of 2010 California (4-1-2018) not successfully resolved. Volkswagen fitted a "Cheap plastic cover. It is truly awful and causes wind noise, reduced fuel economy as well as looking poor. The old roof panel continues to corrode beneath this and has silicon sealant poorly applied in various places. In addition my precious van has been returned with significant damage which I am trying to get rectified.I have a damage report which shows one stone chip when it was received. It is now covered in scratches and scrapes."

30-5-2018: Unclear posting in Ask (attempting to clarify): "I have had a new, very expensive, replacement engine in my vw California (2.0 tdi) the new engine Huddersfield when coming to a halt (with the clutch depressed) produces blue smoke when pulling away, has excessive fuel consumption and the dpf warning light has come on 3 times since the engine has been fitted. Vw have plugged it in to their computer but with no defect detected. Do you have any idea what the fault could be or where I can go with VW?"

3-6-2018: Report of 2015 VW T5 using oil at 20k miles and "may need a new engine".

What does a Volkswagen T5 California (2010 – 2015) cost?