How far can you drive in first gear

My wife just learned that the automatic transmission on her 2002(?) VW GTI is shot. Apparently it is “losing pressure” and won’t shift. We were told that it would cost $4,000 to fix (essentially rebuilding the transmission) and since we were thinking of getting a new car anyway, we aren’t fixing it.

The question is we need to get the car approximately 5 miles from the service station to our driveway while we work on either using it as a trade-in (we were told by a dealer that we could probably get something for it), or while we work on donating it (probably to Car Talk). Assuming I have a good deal of patience, can I drive it in first gear for that distance? Will I be risking doing further damage to other parts of the car that would further reduce what will likely already be a minimal trade-in value?

Thanks in advance.

As long as you keep the engine speed below the ‘red line’ on the tachometer, you will not damage anything else, except for potential additional damage to the transmission.

If the roads are secondary roads you should be able to. Attached you’ll find a chart that tells you what speeds your vehicle will go in each gear.

Bring earplugs. It’ll be noisy.

$4000 sounds a little high.
How about a second opinion on the cost to fix.
Find an independent, non-chain transmission shop.

Let me guess you have the VW “lifetime” transmission fluid and it has never been changed? Now you know what lifetime means and it isn’t forever. It is until the trans fails.

You can drive in 1st without more damage to the transmission. You should keep the engine speed to around 3,000 rpm or less which is close to the normal operating speed of the motor. It will take about 1/2 hour to go the 5 miles but you will get the car home.

It depends. As long as you are careful with it, you should be fine, just keep the RPM’s down. If you don’t have a tachometer, you’ll have to do it by ear, and if you haven’t driven this car yourself recently, you’ll have no idea what you’re listening to, making it risky.

Since this is your wife’s car, I suspect you haven’t driven it in some time. That alone could make the whole operation much more challenging.

See how fast it will go in first and then back off 10 mph and you will get home just fine.

Just curious, but were there any symptoms leading up to this bad transmission diagnosis?

You refer to a service station and which I assume to mean a facility selling gasoline and with a few service bays. This is generally not an ideal place to have a transmission diagnosed.
That 4 grand is a bit much (way much) and if the car is solid and runs good you might consider pricing a transmission (reman or used) before throwing in the towel on the car.

If you drive the car, try to do it during an off-peak period when traffic is not bad, stay to the back roads, and hold the speed down. If someone doesn’t like that rate of speed, tough.
You might also consider driving it to an independent transmission shop for another opinion and without saying anything about what you were previously told.

I would call the moderator clean up that this thread went through a smidge on the hyper-sensitive side.

The last time I rented an automatic while my car was in the body shop, I got so fed up with the transmission’s delayed engine braking, and lack thereof, I drove it in 1st on the freeway for 15 miles in stop and go traffic. I admit that I tried, but I couldn’t destroy it.

cigroller, I hear what you’re saying, and we’ve talked about it before. My colleague in moderation pointed it out to me, and let me know she edited it. I looked over what was said, and I agree that the comments that were removed or edited were inappropriate. I’m a bit of a grammar and usage enthusiast, too, but too often the feedback given to posters who make grammar or spelling errors ventures into needling territory. We’re trying to make this place hospitable to new folks, and yes, sometimes we act more conservatively. We do listen, though, so keep it coming. I do wish I’d seen it more quickly, because I’d have piped in. Sorry for that.