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Help! The VW dealer says that my transmission is ruined!

My husband accidentally drained all the transmission fluid out of my 2002 VW Jetta VR6 when he was trying to change the oil. He then started up the car and did drive it for a total of maybe ten feet, before realizing that there was a problem! We eventually had the car towed to the dealer where they “serviced the transmission.” We picked up the car and drove it home (about 5-7 miles). The car drove beautifully-but the next morning when we went to leave on a trip-the car would not stay in gear or accelerate! By stopping every little bit, we were able to get the car to the dealer. On Monday, they told us that the transmission was ruined, and that we needed a new one (by the way the car has only 86K on it, and was not having any problems prior to this). My question is-would the car have been able to be driven home if the transmission was already ruined? Or did the dealer do/not do something? Someone wondered if the dealer had changed the transmission filter-if not, would this account for the car being able to be driven home, but not drive after sitting overnight? This is an awfully expensive repair-and my “economic stimulus check” doesn’t cover the whole thing! So has my husband ruined my car’s transmission, or did the dealer do something wrong?

Driving even a short distance with very low fluid (actually, there would have still been at least 1/2 of the fluid left) can damge the clutches, seals, and pump. But in ten feet? I find that a little hard to swallow. Your limping back to the dealer the second time may have been what did the major damage. It should have been towed in.

You should get a second opinion at an independent transmission shop. Avoid places like AAMCO.

Well first off, I’m not sure how he drained the transmission fluid instead of the oil…In any case this is an expensive learning lesson. The dealer is certainly not to blame here if they topped the tranmission off with the correct amount of fluid. The solution? Instead of getting a new transmission just get a used one from a salvage yard. This wasn’t a new car anyway. You’ll save some major cash, but you’ll just have to pretend stimulus checks never existed.

It’s probaby ruined. An automatic transmission without fluid can be ruined in minutes or even seconds. Yes, it is entirely possible to have a trans problem caused by what your hubby did and it could be an on again/off again thing.
Your hubby caused all of this and by continuing to limp the car along with the transmission acting up you can safely figure you’ve finished it off for good and the filter has nothing to do with it.

Your best bet is to try and find a good used unit. Some salvage yards will even install what they sell for a nominal fee and guarantee it. EBay or Craigslist is also an option for a used transmission.
Don’t even blame the dealer on this one.

It may or may not be ruined. 10 feet shouldn’t damage it I wouldn’t think. Some friends of mine had a 70’s GM car with a bad transmission leak. It would routinely run out of fluid and start slipping until it eventually wouldn’t move. Adding fluid brought it back to life–it lasted until they junked the car. I’d check the fluid. It’s possible the dealer either didn’t add enough or something is leaking the fluid out still. Possibly the drain plug is still loose. I’d at least check the fluid level and look for leaks before trusting the dealer’s analysis.

I should add that it’s likely 70’s transmissions were a little more robust than most units seen today…

The OP is probably repeating what the husband told her. The thing is that none of us, or possibly even the OP, know how long that engine was running before he even attempted to move it 10 feet.
Clutches can get wiped or badly glazed PDQ when there is little or no fluid pressure to squash them down.
A running automatic with little or no fluid is going to destroy or cook seals, O-rings, and whatnot.

The fact the car would not accelerate and had to be coazed for 5-7 miles back to the dealer tells me it’s fried. The OP states that it drove beautifully after picking it up from the dealer so either some of this story is missing or the trans had a pre-existing fault that surfaced after sitting all night.

I’d like to think the story is a bit incomplete here. JMHO anyway.