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'03 VW GTI Won't Upshift Reliably From Cold Start

One of my roommates is also my ride to the bus stop in the mornings, and we’ve been arriving later and later for the past few weeks because of a persistent issue with his car, a 2003 VW GTI basic trim with automatic transmission.

After starting it in the morning, we have to wait a few minutes for it to warm up before it will agree to shift out of first gear while in D. Even then, often after he comes to a stop and turns left, it will once again refuse to shift out of first gear, so we’ll be forced to pull over and wait a few more minutes once again.

I read a few forums that mentioned stuff about solenoids, but the whole thing is over my head. He’s a natural procrastinator and still hasn’t talked to his mechanic about it, so I figured I’d take some initiative and ask the folks here on the Car Talk community.

He does park on a steep-ish grade, as we live on a hill, if that provides any further clue. We’re in Southern California, so the temperature isn’t too extreme here, and there seems to be no other reason to have to warm up the car.

So that’s about it! Can anyone provide any clues as to why this might be happening, and how we might go about getting it resolved? Is it something we can roll our sleeves up in the driveway and do ourselves?

Thanks so much :smiley:

Have you ever changed the transmission fluid?

Yes, he just had it changed a few days after it started doing this, but it hasn’t helped.

The fact this started right after the transmission fluid was changed begs the question: Was this maintenance done at a VW dealer? That transmission is very sensitive to fluid level, which must be set at a specified temperature. Only a dealer or VW specialist is ;likely to have the tools to do this job properly. The fluid level in any automatic transmission varies widely with temperature.

Whoops, I changed the facts a little. The VW stuff is all still correct, though.