Question: I'm considering buying a 1990-1993 VW Cabriolet. I was wondering if you have any advice / caution about this model?
Are they generally reliable?
Do they make a good buy? Do they age well?
What kinds of mechanical problems are they likely to have? Are there any questions that I should make sure to ask the seller?
Thanks for your time!
Answer: Good questions. My girlfriend and I bought a 1991 Cabrio. It is a great car, and has aged pretty well. She drives the car every day and loves it. Her 1991 is still the Rabbit body style, although it seems to have the later Digifant EFI (electronic fuel injection). I think the body style is early
because Karmen makes these cars and doesn't get the new styles until they have been out for a few years. My 1989 Golf is the later body style, but has very similar EFI to the 1991 Cabrio.
Most problems are small, but I'm going to have to completely disassemble the dashboard. That will be time consuming. I
think a new wiper/washer switch is about $50. I don't know what other parts will be required, but I'm not expecting too
much. I may have to get a used heater control unit from the junkyard. This is the thing that controls the vacuum that opens and closes the various vents.
- It has some typical small VW electrical problems. The instrument lights keep going out probably due to a short under the dashboard, and the windshield washer switch isn't
- The vacuum controlled heater/ac vents don't all work.
- There is a water leak under the dashboard.
- We replaced the door vapor barriers because they were leaking (there are photos of this procedure on my web site).
- These cars have more engine vibration than the later Golf/Jetta/Cabrio. My 1989 is the later type is has less vibration.
- If the roof is in good shape, it works well. It can have air leak (a kind of roaring noise over 50 mph which comes from the joint between the roof and the top of the windshild). This can be cured to a great extent by making the roof latches tighter.
- The front door windows will leak if left open even a tiny bit.
- The passenger window catches at the rear about 2 inches from being closed. It helps to gently push out on the top rear corner of the window while closing it.
- The upper strut bearings often need replacement. Our car has some play here, which makes the front end clunk. The parts were inexpensive, and although I haven't replaced them yet, it looks like a pretty easy job. Some play at the top of the strut is normal
- Perhaps due to the engine mount system, the 1991 Cabrio has more engine vibration transmitted to the passenger compartment than my 1989 Golf. I know that the front mount on the Cabrio is broken, and that may be a factor.
- Older VWs often need a radiator, maybe around 100K miles.
- These cars have quite a bit of belt noise, but everything works fine.
- Check the transmission in all gears. My Golf is great still at over 160K miles, however the Cabrio is on it's second transmission.
For a long checklist that I wrote about the BMW 2002 and which applies to most cars see:
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