Members of the VW California Club will have been following the voluminous pages of forum chatter on the topic of the dreaded ‘roof rot’ for several years now – and the issue shows no sign of going away.

For the unitiated, there’s a design flaw in the manufacture of the aluminium elevating roof in the VW California campervan.  At least, all of the owners who have experienced bubbling paintwork along the perimeter of the roof and on the front panel between the roof and the windscreen are absolutely certain it’s a design fault.  Only VW themselves are refusing to admit this and instead, have offered to repair affected T5 vans up to six years old at no cost to their owners “as a gesture of goodwill“.

I’ve recently updated my Key Facts document which summarises the 150+ pages of forum posts on the issue affecting T5 vans.  This has become a central point of reference to help bring owners up to speed on the issues, possible causes and remedies.



But over the last year the roof rot has been spreading …

The significant development is that not only are many (most?) T5 Californias produced during 2005-15 are affected, but now some new T6 Californias also have bubbling paintwork.

Let’s just take a step back to consider this for one moment.  We know VW had to introduce three different methods to repair the front panel VW here in the UK and presumably used this knowledge to change the design of the front panel for the T6.  But despite many, many thousands of T5 Californias across Europe receiving repairs to the paint bubbling around the roof perimeter paid for by VW, they still didn’t know how to rectify the manufacturing process for the T6.  This is just staggering.

So where does this leave owners of T6 Californias ?

Well at present, VW Commercial Vehicles don’t officially recognise the issue – although half of the T6s completing a California Club forum survey have reported bubbling paintwork.  The existing “goodwill” offer by VW to repair affected roof panels beyond the standard three years to six years currently only relates to T5s.  And last but certainly not least, VW don’t appear to know what’s causing the issue let alone how to repair it.

It’s all a bit of a mess really.  And it does VW’s already-tarnished reputation no good at all.

Fortunately, behind the scenes the VW California Club are talking to VWCV and putting a strong case to get this whole saga cleared up once and for all.  It’s VW’s issue and they need to take responsibility for clearing it up.

In the meantime, the best advice I can give is to check your van thoroughly and take it to your local VW dealer to get any roof corrosion registered and ‘in the queue’ for repairs.  But please don’t let it stop you from getting out and enjoying your Cali.

15 Comments on “VW California Roof Corrosion Update

  1. Hi there,
    I own a 2013 California and following repeated attempts to get the bubbling paintwork issue acknowledged I sent an email to the head of VW in Germany. This resulted in a call from VW UK customer services and my van was taken to Twickenham (I live in Scotland) for repair. It should be back with me on 13th Feb. The lack of customer care has been upsetting to say the least and no one wanted to deal with the issue, hence my action. Fingers crossed it comes back sorted. Thank you for an excellent blog site. Ian L

    • I hope you’re happy with the repair when you get your van back. But I’m surprised you had trouble getting the bubbling paintwork acknowledged- I’ve not heard this before. Was it a VW van centre you went to?

      • Hi. Just saw your response. No one at Ingram VW could deal with it because they’re not a commercial dealer, apparently. Called Edinburgh Van Cantre, Bilston where we purchased it. They palmed me off with the excuse that only Newcastle could deal with it! I called Newcastle and the chap there told me I was being lied to. Tried Edinburgh again…no joy. Eventually, I called Specialist Cars, Kirkcaldy who accepted the photos and sent them to VW. When they said VW hadn’t even acknowledged the fault and said it could be up to a year for a repair I sent my email. This has been going on since May 2016 and there was a great deal more to-ing and fro-ing than described here, hence my absolute frustration. Keep up the good work.

      • Ah, now I understand. Unfortunately you pretty much followed the same route as I did but without any information from the dealers that might have actually been helpful.

        The Edinburgh Van Centre doesn’t have a body shop which is why they say they can’t help. (But surely they can take photos and send them to VWCC …??!). Specialist Cars is the nearest body shop to Edinburgh and they were the ones who dealt with my claim too (and not very well … long story …). But it’s beyond belief that Edinburgh didn’t refer you to Kirkcaldy directly – they’re both owned by the John Clark group !!

        I had great service from Benfield in Newcastle so I hope you’re pleased with the final result from Twickenham. I don’t want to make you paranoid but just check the quality of the work over the next few months … there’s a recent horror story of a van having been poorly repaired where the paint is peeling off after only a short time.

        All of this simply demonstrates that owners need to understand the process for getting repairs done, since in VW’s world the customer clearly doesn’t come first !

    • Good to know you can now hire a California in Iceland ! I haven’t heard that the issue has been fixed in new T6s unfortunately. There are a number in the UK less than a year old with bubbling paintwork 😦

      • This is shocking that they have not sorted this massive problem out !!
        This should be spread across every news paper in the world to kick VWs arse into gear ,
        These repairs aren’t good enough , a repaired T6 California under the 3yrs manufacturer warenty should be REPLACED not repaired ! No repair is good enough to last a life span of the vehicle, which it should on something that costs £50000 +
        They would soon sort the problem out if they had to refund or replace all calis that started to rot within the 3 yrs manufacturers warenty, I am sure!!!
        So how many times are we saying that a repair should or could take place ??
        Lets say a Cali of 10 yrs old could of had 2 repairs under warranty and then possibly another 2 or many more once the vehicle is out of warranty (and it is going to rot more as it gets older) and the repairs will carry on until its not worth doing any more , WE ARE EXPECTED TO PAY FOR THE REPAIRS BECAUSE ITS NOT THERE FAULT . That cant be right .
        What a bunch of low life’s , grow some and hold your hands up.
        This makes me so angry 😡

      • I agree, it is a total disgrace. Without the power of the courts in Europe (as in the US) to effectively force VW to take action – as we’ve seen in the emissions scandal – they can afford to drag their heels. A cynic would say they’re doing the minimum to keep customers happy and buying themselves time to find to find a permanent fix. But in the long run it’s the owners that will take the hit. A calculated move, knowing that vans will change owners every 5-10 years. Ultimately though it’s VWs reputation that is now being tarnished.

  2. Further update. Our 2013 Cali was back from Twickenham and in the driveway when we returned from Lanzarote. All traces of bubbling has gone. The cowling above the windscreen has been replaced, so hopefully all will be good now. Incidentally, we saw a 2008 Cali in Lanzarote with the bubbling issue all over. What a mess, so check yours!

  3. I have a T6 on order, the question now is do I cancel this and order a Merc Marco Polo. My van will be on PCP so at the end of the day I can simply return the vehicle at the end of the contract. The big question is why don’t they just make the roof out of fiberglass, or given the price, carbon-fiber?

      • Hi there
        My 2016 Cali T6 was taken in by Carrs VW Van Centre Exeter on 8th November for repairs to paint that I found bubbling under the sealer strip around the roof. Photos had been submitted to VWCS after a visit to Carrs on 27th July, and the vehicle was picked up from Exeter in January after nearly 3 months (I was given a Caddy and then a T6 LWB van to replace the California). Last week I checked the work and found the tell-tale bubbles again – and no sign of any covering plastic strip that I had assumed had been fitted. The work was done in Tonbridge and I gather the number of bodyshops doing this work has reduced yet again. Next step is to go through the process yet again when the vehicle goes to Carrs for a service. Frustrating is not really a strong enough word.
        Any thoughts welcome!

      • That’s dreadful. Assuming the bubbling that’s reappeared is on the same part of the roof that was supposedly repaired, I would definitely ask them to re-do the repair. The work clearly hasn’t been done properly. Take lots of photos as evidence.

        When my roof was done it was covered by a 12 month guarantee of workmanship quality. I would claim against that (and also request the plastic strip to be fitted) – and also claim compensation for the time you’re unable to enjoy using your van.

        I don’t know anything about the Tonbridge bodyshop but I would also call VW Customer Services and alert them to the defective workmanship. I wonder what other people’s experiences of Tonbridge have been on the Cali forum? This is just appalling.

  4. Waited 18 months for VW Cali Beach roof repair.
    Went to Claridges in Southport with paint bubbling under roof seal.
    Returned back but a plastic cap had been bonded over front cap. The roof clamp on one side was now so tight I had to pull hard on the roof to get it to engage. Sent it back and when returned it was now lifting at the rear corner of the roof about 1.5 inches. Sent back the third time – adjusted but still not as tight as before. Anyone had the same issues? I feel that the larger bonded front cap has to interfere with the Original fit of the roof but was told it’s all in tolerance! All work done at Claridges in Southport who were very polite throughout apart from saying they adjusted it but never touched these areas when it first went in!

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