Long term report: Volkswagen California

Earlier this month we reported that the roof on our beloved VW California had spectacularly given up the ghost on a trip to Devon. In fact, it pretty much self-destructed as we attempted to bed down for the night in a windy and darkened campsite.
Following the incident, the Cali' has was collected by Volkswagen specialists and thoroughly investigated to attempt to reveal the cause of the massive failure of the electrically operated hydraulic roof system.

Early theories from those in the know included the idea that an excess amount of weight had been placed on the fibreglass roof panel itself. But as a frequent user of said roof and roof bars, I know it requires a stepladder to sling a couple of lightweight surfboards on the Cali's incredibly tall top, let alone anything with any real bulk.

A second, and far more likely theory, involved general misuse of the electronic roof by a previous customer/journalist/numpty (delete where appropriate). Although it's easy to blame someone else, we will admit that the roof can be at best fiddly, and at worst temperamental.

The electronic panel inside the Cali' doesn't inform the user if the roof is closed properly – which is easily done, considering the interior canvas lining has a tendency to blow into the hydraulics on a windy day – and requires a physical check all around the vehicle to ensure the operation has been a success.

Regardless, the California spent around three weeks with a Volkswagen specialist, who spotted signs of previous 'improper operation' - including a bowed roof panel – and further damage to wiring looms and plastics caused by the explosive Devon incident.

The roof headlining had to be removed and the roof bellows, roof wiring loom, the nearside hydraulic ram, nearside guide rails, linkages and rods all had to be replaced.

This great deal of work seemed to do the trick but upon further inspection VW engineers decided to replace the hydraulic pump, as it was 'a little bit noisy'.

So what was the damage to the wallet? The parts cost just £547, which is a lot cheaper than we initially thought, but the labour was the real stinger.

Volkswagen took care of this issue but had we gone to our local VW Commercial Vehicle Centre, we would have been charged £75 per hour + VAT, sending the total bill up to £1,447.

Luckily the hydraulic pump was covered under warranty; otherwise we'd be grovelling to our bank manager right now.

The knowledge

Model: Volkswagen California SE 2-litre TDI
Price: £56,440 (as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre BlueMotion diesel
Power: 138bhp
Max speed: 104mph
0-60mph: 16.6 seconds
Emissions: 206 g/km CO2
Mileage this month: 750
Costs this month: £1,447 to fix roof
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