Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

99 VW Jetta with 01m automatic

Shifting from 2 to 3rd seems to hold too long (surging) in many instances. 1st to 2nd is always perfect and smooth. Also it seems to engine brake (rather than gliding) at times when I take my foot off the gas. This is not desirable.

I plan to change the ATF and filter soon. I don’t expect this to help but it is a good to do it since it has not been done. VW says it is a life time fill. YA right.

I am not getting a check engine light.

Is this something that can be modified with software using a VAG Com diagnostic system or similar ? Is this indicative of some other issue?

You’ve had the same fluid since 1999? A proper maintenance servicing – pan drop and filter change – is the thing to try first. Make sure to install the correct type and amount of fluid per VW’s specs for your car. There’s a good chance that will fix it.

You can change the fluid then do a converter stall test and pray.

To do the test, set the park brake. Shift into various drive positions (Drive, Low, etc), rev the engine quickly while holding the foot brake and noting the RPMs at which the engine bogs and will not rev higher. That is your converter stall.

Offhand I don’t know what the stall is on your particular car but figure on 2200 or so. If the engine revs to 3000 or 3500 that means slippage in the clutches and the trans is on the way out.

If you do this test:
Do it one time only.
Rev the engine quickly and let off. Do NOT rev and hold it.
Between various shift positions allow the engine to idle a minute before moving to the next one.
Knock on wood.

VW says there is no maintenance on this transmission. I guess they figured it will make it through the warrantee period ok and then you are on your own. They really look out for their customers. (sarcasm) Luckily there is only 51k of original miles on it. From reading several VW boards people recommend changing it every 50k. So based on that I am not in too bad a shape. This is an adaptive electronically controlled transmission and the shift points are suppose to automatically change based on your driving style. Trust me I don’t drive it hard. The best advice I have so far is to change the fluid and get to a good VW shop who has the VAG COM software to see if there are any transmission codes.

Your sarcasm about VW is off base. All vehicle manufactured have a warranty period . You have a 17 year old vehicle and time is a factor just as miles are.

VW automatics are not the most rugged and the age adds to the wear. I would recommend several pan drops and filter changes to bring the unit up to snuff. Do the second one a thousand miles after the first one if the car runs OK after the first one. If not, you have a more serious problem, and a visit to a good transmission shop is in order.

The one I patronize is an independent and they do transmission work for a local VW DEALER!

Docnick, where is the tranny shop you patronize?

Volvo…i am not trying to get in to an argument but you totally missed my point. I am not suggesting this should be under warrantee. VW made an automatic transmission that is sealed which they say never requires any service for the life of the car. It is sealed for life. They put a red break away seal on the fill port so they can tell if you opened it. It has no dip stick to check the fluid level! You have to go through a crazy procedure where you need to bring the ATF temperature to an internal temperature of about 105 deg F. To measure the ATF internal temperature you need to have the VW VAG Com software (at around $450). Trust me this is not something you can do in your drive way on ramps. You need to take it to a dealer just to measure the ATF level.

The warrantee for the power train is 10 yrs or 100k miles. Not bad if you expect to throw the car away after this period. They do a great job on most everything else…rust proofing etc. I am suggesting they designed a car to have expensive problems right after the warrantee expires. On most cars if you follow the maintenance schedule to the letter you will get many more years and miles out of it.


You are absolutely misinformed, I have to point out

Any high level scan tool . . . NOT the $100 code readers, I’m talking about the tools the pros use . . . should be able to read the ATF temperature. I’m talking Snap on, OTC, Bosch, Mastertech, etc.

There are lots of tools for checking and filling transmissions without a dipstick and tube

Please don’t believe all the propaganda that VW and others are trying to sell you

Yes, you can service your transmission in your driveway. But not with the tools YOU currently have, I would presume

As far as your comment about VW and their lifetime transmission fluid I should point out that all car manufacturers make recommendations like that. It could be trans fluid change intervals (or lack of, engine oil change regimen, valve lash intervals on solid lifter engines, or whatever.
Those recommendations are great for the marketing and sales department; not so great from a mechanical longevity standpoint.

I would imagine VW put a seal on the filler opening in the event someone drags a VW in with a failed transmission. That broken seal can tell them if someone has been in there and possibly replaced the fluid with whatever was lying around instead of the correct fluid.
SAAB did this many years ago with their adjustable wastegate turbochargers. This let the dealer know if someone has been in there and cranked the boost up from 7 to 20; and which could explain the cylinder head being blown loose as the customer asked for warranty service…

And db4690 is correct as usual.

Absent symptoms, how frequently to change the transmission fluid on a new car depends on how long you want to keep the car. If you only want it for 100 K miles then sell it, there’s probably no reason to change the fluid at all. If you want to keep the car for 200K miles, then changing the transmission fluid and filter out every 30 to 50K miles is probably a better bet.


those Saabs you mentioned . . .

When you said the cylinder head was blown loose, do you mean the head bolts tore out of the block . . . ?!

Was that an aluminum head, aluminum block, or both?


I guess if you want to spend some significant money you can do it yourself at home. How much does Snap on, OTC, Bosch, Mastertech code reader cost. Will they read all of the VW transmission codes? Can they adjust parameters as the VAG COM can?

I wonder if the VW dealers actually go through the formal temperature procedure or do they just warm the car up for a minute or two and take it from there?

I’m sure the dealer hooks up their scan tool and does the service at the proper temperature

Maybe they don’t even need the scan tool . . . Toyota has some transmissions without a dipstick, there is a procedure for verifying proper temperature, and it doesn’t involve a scan

If you follow the instructions, a certain light will blink, but ONLY if you are within the correct temperature range

Maybe VW has a similar way to get around using the scan tool

But you’d still need to have a tool to fill the fluid

Iron block, aluminum head. The failure method varied. The worst case was blowing the head loose by pulling all of the head bolts out of the block and in some cases piston and cylinder wall damage. Lesser damage was minor head gasket failure clean up to having hunks of it blown out onto the roadway.

It didn’t help that Chiltons had a pictorial DIY in their manuals about how to adjust the wastegate.
Chiltons being what it is, they did not caution that a slight turn in the wastegate hex bumped the boost up a lot. So some people would cut the lead, stamped seal (similar to one on a home electric meter) and crank it around a full turn or so instead of 1/8 of a turn. A full round would bump the boost from 7 up to who knows what and soon after engine failure would occur.

This was followed by SAAB owners feigning ignorance as to why the engine blew up; at least until the missing seal was pointed out. That tamper seal requires a dealer only tool to pinch and mark it as secure so no individual could get away with wastegate tampering.

Some years later SAAB went to an overboost module which cut power to the fuel pump in cases of excess boost pressure.

“Maybe VW has a similar way to get around using the scan tool”

If they do it is not in the Bentley manual. I saw a shop with a You Tube video on changing the fluid and filter and he did not even mention the temp. or was show doing it in the video. It was done in a professional shop. This was not a shade tree setting. I have also read on a VW forum that some just feel the oil pan and when it starts to feel warm they measure it at that time. Very subjective but this guy says it has always worked for him. I am just sharing.

That flashing light Toyota uses is a good idea. VW may have that light on newer models but not on the one I have.