DIY transmission swap

I am contemplating trying to swap out a transmission in an 03 jetta 2.0 auto with a used scrapyard model.

I have done the timing belt and water pump before, various radiators, starters, alternators before but never anything this big.

Am I crazy to consider it ?

I know that buying a used part is risky, but the alternative is to buy a cheap used car so I’m not sure how much worse it would be.

what is working car worth vs your non-working car? is a used trans 800 vs an overhaul for 2k? do you have the space? ramps. engine support bar? trans jack? floor jack?

Hmm, all good questions.

What is a 03 jetta with 130k average at best condition with transmission on the way out worth ? I don’t know.

Working, it is worth ( to us ) quite a bit as we wouldn’t need to replace it ( how much does reasonable used car cost, 5k ? Does that make sense ? it’s not worth 5k in money but that is what a new car would cost approx.

I do have the space, but not all of the tools, would need to look at begging, borrowing or stealing.

I bet you are resourceful enough to pull and reinstall a tranny. The part that is worrysome is the tinkering that is needed in the process. This is not a parts replacement like an alternator/car battery/ect.

You also want to be able to eye the replacement part to ensure everything looks good or good enough before going thru the labor of installing used part.

Too much risk for me, but if you do…certainly report back what you learn.

Last time I did this, I wound up replacing a cv-joint half shaft, the rear main seal, two axle shaft seals and two cracked motor mounts. And I had to wait for some of those parts to be delivered. Your Jetta is 12 years old, so the are bound to be other worn items as you take things apart. So, be prepared.

There are 42 steps in removing the transmission. And one of these steps is to remove some of the suspension components. Once these suspension components are removed the bolts can’t be reused as they’re known as stretch bolts or torque-to-yield bolts. So the bolts must be replaced.

There’s also specialty tools required in removing the transmission. So unless you know someone who has these tools removal is almost impossible.

And finally. Where are you going to find a good used automatic transmission for a vehicle that’s 12 years old?


Get a Bentley VW manual, not cheap but lots of good info. Maybe research all the steps, see if you can handle them. Lots more involved than anything you you’ve done so far.

Good advice from all posters. A repair manual will help you decide if this is a reasonable job for you. When a buddy of mine wanted to replace the rear brake pads on his Jag, he opened the Bently manual and the first instruction to replace the rear pads was; 1) Remove the rear axle assembly - See pages x-xx. (it had disk brakes mounted inboard on the differential rather than at the wheels)

He sold the car.

Another big issue is getting a compatible replacement. With all the computer controls it can be tricky to find the right one.

a big issue is whether the car has a subframe that needs to come out first. some smaller cars like hondas allow you to drop the trans thru the frame horns. that makes the huge job of trans drop about 30% easier. its still a huge job for the first time mechanic. there is a reason why trans shop mechanics never smile.