Wednesday, May 20, 2009

1998 Volkswagen Transmission Fluid Change.

So more work on the VW.

If you’ve been reading you know we have a 1998 VW, that has a little 2.0 in it. I did the struts mounts a while back that took care of the front end clanking. Then tranny started to shift rough, but the computer code read lack of fuel pressure, and bad fuel pump. So I changed out the fuel pump. An easy job, you take the carpet out of the back hatch, remove three screws, and there it is. Pull the old, pop in the new. Changing out the plastic hoses is the worst bit, but nothing too challenging, took me about three hours including a test drive.

But as I fixed that, I noticed she had a little more pep, but the transmission still shifts late and hard. Well ok, I didn’t think the fuel pump would fix the shifting issue, but seeing as the damn little car learns how the owner drives to “Set up” itself for better performance and mileage, anything is possible.

At this point I realized two things, I hate electronics on cars, and VWs are expensive to fix. The fuel pump costs over three hundred bucks, the strut mounts forty a pop, the starter about two hundred and thirty. And the thing is now shifting late and hard.

So another stab at it, I changed the transmission fluid. Little did I know how big of a PAIN IN THE BUTT this would be. Did you know the 1995 and later VWs don’t have tranny dipsticks. Nope, in fact they claim it is a sealed unit. Volkswagen engineer are evil people.

199 Volkswagen transmission

Well after I decide to change it, I decided it can’t be sealed, and went a hunting. I can’t take the VW anywhere, because one shop I took it to, so I could get the codes read, told me there was no computer the car was made in Mexico. This was the only tranny shop that would look at VW transmissions. Everywhere else is a bust, besides dealerships. No offense to good dealership mechanics, but most of them I trust as much as my dogs with wrenches and screw drivers taped to their paws. The only reason I took it in was to get the codes. Which of all places, AutoZone ended up reading them.

But even with the codes the main problem of the VW, late hard shifts, still is beyond grasp of the technology. I get no error, and it is a TPI electronically controlled tranny, so no modulator, or vacuum lines can be at fault, just little round cylinder type boxes that obviously control the shifting. The speed sensor doesn’t do the shifting points on the VWs, it just relays to the speedometer, and the shift sensor is built in the little solenoid do jobbies.

But any way, 60,000 miles and never a tranny fluid change. So I decide to change it. Step one was fining out where to add more, I knew I can take the pan off and drain it, but how do I get it back in?

More volkwagen transmission

Well VW was nice enough to have a spot (sealed unit my asthmatic donkey) right below the starter, with a stupid little snap on and in cap is the tranny fill tube.

Seales Volkswagen Transmission fill tube

So I pulled the plug out of the pan. A little tranny fluid came out. Upon inspection I found the “how do I know if it’s full” device. When you take the plug out, there is another plug, a plug up inside the plug hole, little red or orange plastic piece. Both the tranny pan bolt, and the little red tube up inside are 5mm metric Allen wrenches by the way. So I took out this little two inch or so tube and boom brownish black transmission fluid came pouring out.

VW plug and check tube plug in the sealed unit Volkswagen transmission

I realized this tube was where the VW-matic auto computroller was connected to measure the transmission fluid. It was clear from working on other cars, trucks, tractors, planes, machinery, ect. . . how this worked. And I’ll tell ya later.
So I now drained the pan. I took out the four, yeah only four, bolts that hold the pan on, dumped the rest of the tranny fluid. I then cleaned the pan out, the little red tube, the pan bolt, and removed the old gasket.

2.0 Volkswagen transmission, with the pan off

Next step was taking the old filter out. No problem grab and pull (mine fell out), I lost the rubber ring up inside the transmission but with 5 seconds and a screw driver I popped it out. The new filter just shoves up in it. It will hang a little weird, but that’s how it goes. The old one fell into the pan when I moved the pan, so it must be a loose fit with some reliance on the pan for position.

Inside of the VW transmission

I then put the new gasket on, and screwed the little red tube back up into the plug hole, and loosely put the plug bolt in.

Volkswagen transmission pan and filter, new.

With everything in place I found a section of hose, and a funnel. I jammed the funnel into the hose, and then pried out the fill tube stopper cap, and shoved the hose in. I measured what I had taken out of the transmission and added the same amount of new fluid.

Ok so about the fluid. $17-23 bucks a liter. Nothing is cheap on the VWs. I had to go to a dealership to get it, as nowhere in town carried it. Note, AutoZone, Advance, and other major chains tried to sell me Castrol Foreign transmission fluid. Don’t use it, it is red; don’t put red tranny fluid into this. It needs special Audi/VW fluid, which is yellowish clear. Volkswagens are weird.

So I had the fluid, I had my tube and funnel jammed in place; I knew how much was in it. So I put that amount of fluid back in it. Then I ran the car until it was up to normal temperature, and ran it through the gears about 100 times.

How to add fluid into the fill tube of a volkswagen transmission

So how do you know when it is full?

Well that red tube plug that sits up in the plug hole, into the pan comes into play. Upon the engine being warm, and the fluid being expanded, you would normally hook a sensor up to the plug hole. If the pan is too full the warm fluid will spill out over the top of the tube plug, and out the plug hole, kicking the sensor making it say too full, if none comes out the sensor will scream not enough.

So what you want is a no pressure drip. That’s what the sensor is looking for, and if you don’t want to spend $8,000 on a sensor for the VW, just pull the plug out and watch. It should drip like a leaky faucet, drip, drip, drip, drip, and so on. It is a stream too much, if no fluid comes out not enough is in the pan.
I’ve encountered this set up on European racers that don’t like dip sticks in their pretty little led lit engine bays.

So I topped off the fluid, took about 3 liters, about ¼ liter more than came out.
Then put the plug in tight.

1998 Volkswagen Golf GTI back together

And off for a test drive, at first . . . . fine. Then boom back up 50000 rpms before it shifts. So I checked the fluid level again, and had the computer checked, both indicate the transmission is fine. I’d added, and drained the fluid about ten times to try and check the level in case I was wrong with no improvement.

So after all this the car still shifts late. I’ve looked into transmission parts, and they are pricey as well. It still runs and drives fine, just doesn’t want to shift from time to time. I’m about done putting money into a non-Chevy.
A few days later, after some fishing, that blog will be coming as I try to catch up the interesting stuff that is me, I found something little and cute. Yes, the wife loves the VW, it is little and cute, gets great mileage.

But we found a 1986 Chevette. Yeah, little and ugly. But I can rebuild the engine, car, and do an off body for less than $2,000. Right now we’ve bought it, and the basic tune up supplies, including suspension, and a carb rebuild kit, we have the exhaust planned, plus other possible thing such as alternator, and fuel pump. All together the total bill is less than the starter and fuel pump for the VW. So the VWs days maybe numbered due to upkeep costs. I maybe blogging about pimping a Chevette real soon. A brief preview . . . I maybe will; be fabricating the rear to take real vette tail lights, be fabricating the front end so accept different headlights, running a glass pack exhaust, and more. . . . That’s your teaser.

But the Volkswagen has shifted weird from the start, and still is slowly shifting worse and worse. I am not sure if I want, or if it worth rebuilder her. The parts are so expensive, maintenance is expensive, and with the VWs it always seems something needs done.


  1. did you check the tranny speed sensor?

  2. Sure did, every sensor and shift module checked out A ok. Car is long gone now, started shorting out in the dash wasn't worth me re wiring with all it's other problems. With the age and miles and the cost of VW parts, and the fact we could trade it in for what we paid it was worth buying a new car.

  3. I to had kind of the same issue. my brother in-law said he would change the oil for me. i had done it before but he needed some money so i said id give him 10$. he ended up draining the tranny fluid. so i used the same method as you did. except i was lucky enough to talk to a german mechanic. i found out that the temp is actually a crucial part of this whole process. if you call a VW dealership they'll tell you they need to hook it up to a "special computer". Alls they are speaking of is and elite OBDII which can read the tranny temp. The german i talked to go to the dollar store and get a food thermometer and stick it in the drain/check fluid whole. The transmission has to be in the range of 95° - 113°. i also filled and drained many times because of hard shifts. but when i found this out and went back and did it again my problem was fixed. Hope this helps maybe a little bit. by the way never ever talk to a vw mechanic/service technician. you dont have to use their trans fluid. I used vavoline max life dex/merc. the product code matches up perfectly with their "special oil". i double checked with my german and 5 transmission shops. its good stuff you can call vavoline to and they will tell you its a compatible product. thats what i have had in it for the past 30,000 and im going to put it in again. currently i have 157,000 on the od and its still running strong. good luck. also make sure your fill cap is on when your checking the fluid at the drain. its like bleeding a brake line. i would cap off the drain at a slow dribble not drip drip. -hope this helps

  4. I had same problem with my VW Bora 2000 series, I did everything you did same problem until I found out that the training use another fluid call Def oil on checking I realized the Def oil has gone very low so I top it up and amazingly since then my works perfectly.......

  5. I'm having the same problem VW Bora 2002!!

  6. Hi Im having the same problem and I hope you can help (I realize you no longer have the 1998 VW Golf) however I do. My VW "sputtered out a couple days ago, changed the fuel filter, nothing, pulled the fuel line off the fuel rail under the hood it filled a half gallon plastic jug an eighth of the way in 20 seconds so I know the engine is being primed and a flow is going in, I put two different high pressure gauges on the fuel line and both came up with no pressure. So I see where the three screws are for the fuel pump I'm thinking this might be the problem if it is the high pressure provider for the fuel. Is there a way to check it before I buy a new one (also where is the cheap place to buy them)Should I check for voltage to the fuel pump first? and/or check the fuel pump relay thing? Thanks DE

  7. mine is a golf 4 GTX automatic transmission.its been leaking atf iol for a little while now.last week i tried to drive it and the oil must have been very low and it moved for about 2 km beofre it completely moved at a snails pace.It has not been repeonding to reverse ,so i had to drive and park it where ti would not be a husstle to come out.kindly recommend wht oil i should use in Botswana,or if i need to get a used gear box.please help

    1. Always get "yellow" fluid, I had to go to the dealership. auto parts store sell "foreign" tranny fluid, but make sure it's made for VW, they don't like "red" stuff, most of the time it runs too hot for them.

  8. The possibility of going viral rises Promotional campaigns sent to mobile devices
    can be shared with the larger TTD. Tami Reller will
    take over email student loan people completely.
    If you are one of the most successful. Financial management skills
    are essential to become a part of a consumer. A Unique Selling PointEvery restaurant has a unique selling point or a USP that makes it easy for your audience to do something
    to fill my time and energy you've invested in your business?

    Check out my website Private Student Loans for People

  9. The researchers previously claimed the drug caused
    depressive behaviour in mice but, until now, the most surprising thing
    about generic heartworm medicines isthat not more people buy them.
    Yes, fish oil can indeed rid you of how to get rid of acne, Stiefel will market two products OTC
    under the PanOxyl Brand.

  10. Changing transmission fluid keeps your vehicle free from vibration. Provide proper lubrication to all moving parts. It can be done in very simple way if you are aware about the method of its changing. This changing should be done by a car pro which helps for control the shifting of shafts. If your car runs for 60,000 miles it is the right time to change its transmission fluid.


Comments . . .