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Jetta transmission failure after just 30,000 miles?

I am hoping I am not getting ripped off…my 2002 Jetta with only 30,000 miles stopped shifting from Park to Reverse. I could get there from Park to Drive to Reverse, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I took it to get checked out. Next thing I know, the local Cottman Dealer says he has to open up the transmission for $450 to decide what it is as it isn’t external. Now he says I need the whole transmission rebuilt because the gears are damaged…to the tune of $3500. How does that happen to a car with 30,000 miles on it? I feel stuck though because he has the transmission in pieces and even points out the damage…I wonder if anyone can advise me?

My best advice is, unfortunately, not timely at this point. Those who frequent this board know that we advise that people AVOID transmission chains like AAMCO, Lee Myles, and Cottman. The chains are known for exaggerating the extent of repair that is necessary, doing substandard work, and overcharging for the work that they do.

Since the transmission has already been disassembled, it will be very difficult to do this, but if there is any way that you can have the car towed to an independent transmission shop, you are much more likely to get a fair shake. An independent shop may be willing to pay for the tow, but unfortunately, you will still be stuck for the current diagnosis and labor charges at Cottman.

Good luck!

Agreed with VDCdriver. When it comes to the transmission chains, a transmission problem often means a transmission overhaul whether it needed it or not.

Unfortunately, at this point you are stuck.
About all I could advise you to do is walk in unannounced and ask to see these “damaged gears”.
Another possibility is to find an independent transmission guy and do the same thing with a twist. Offer the ind. guy a fee to walk in with you unannounced so as to give you a “second opinion”.

If the evidence is not available for some reason or they get mad over this “second opinion” then it’s likely you’re being had.

VW builds good transmissions so it’s difficult to imagine what these damaged gears could be.

Offer the ind. guy a fee to walk in with you unannounced so as to give you a “second opinion”.

OK–I LIKE that idea!

Jettagirl–I think that OK’s suggestion is the best of all possibilities. Go to an independent shop and tell the manager that you don’t trust Cottman. Trust me–he will have heard this countless times previously when he had to re-do Cottman’s crappy, overpriced repair work.

Yes, you will have to pay for his time to go with you to Cottman, but this could be really valuable. If he confirms our suspicions that Cottman is trying to steal your wallet, tell them that you are turning the job over to the independent guy, and let him make the arrangements with Cottman for the transfer of your car to the other facility.

Incidentally, ok4450 is one of our master mechanics, certified on aircraft engines as well as automotive engines. He has given you very good advice.

I would only reiterate that Cottmans should not even get mad if someone is brought in to give a second opinion. If they’re honest, they should welcome it IMHO.

Funny story. About 20 years ago while working for a multi-line dealer the service manager came out in the shop one day and asked me to go to a long established transmission shop that was located a few miles away. On the clock, no problem.

Apparently someone had taken their Subaru in for transmission problem in which the car would not move at all. This was an 80s era Subaru with a Dual Range 4WD.
When the transaxle was disassembled this shop could not find a problem with it at all.

The transaxle was in a million pieces on the workbench and after about 5 minutes of going over things I could not find anything wrong with it.
At this point I reinstalled the mainshaft in the transaxle left side case to check something.

These transaxles had a HIGH/LOW range on them that was controlled by an adjustable rod on the side of the transaxle. If out of adjustment this would essentially “split” the mainshaft and cause the car to not move at all.
With the mainshaft in place I discovered the adjuster was about a turn out of whack and this slight amount was the cause of the entire problem.

The trans shop was a bit flustered over this and I have no idea what the final outcome was in regards to the person who owned the car. The shop was well-established and very reputable and one would hope they did not charge the car owner for a trans overhaul, but…

Guess this could be used as an analogy to show that sometimes things aren’t as bad they might appear to be.

Here are a couple more resources for you to check with:

  1. Go to, Forums, Technical and under that is an Automatic Transmission Forum. Sign up and post questions.

  2. Go to for their phone number to see what they know and they do encourage that. My 2008 hard copy Catalog S from them says that they had 871 VW manual and automatic transmissions in stock at the time of the catalog printing.

Too late for you, sorry, but they say in their catalog to not permit a transmission shop to dismantle (inspect) your trans as you are helpless then. They say to get a firm quote, if you can get one I suppose, and then call them.

Their catalog goes on to say quote: “Did your automatic trans in your “NEW” Golf/Jetta/New Beetle fail? These transmissions go bad and the ring and pinion gets destroyed and destroys other stuff. We have new, not rebuilt.”

They need the code number from your old transmission.

I would ask if they can assure you that the transmission will not fail again.

Thanks so much to all for your help. We did talk to our very trusted mechanic who had sent us to this guy and he talked to the Cottman mechanic and we were shown (on a visit with no notice to the guy)the damage…a small bearing housing had “exploded” and the 'hard parts" needed to be replaced…anyway, we seem to be in this for $3000. Next time I will never let someone open a transmission without a lot of preparation and discussion with people like you guys!! Of course I sure hope there is not a next time. Live and learn. Thanks again.