Manual Transmission Shifting Problems

Hey guys new the community,
so I went on vacation for a week and left my car at my parents house. I came back and now it has become extremely difficult to shift between gears. It’s nearly impossible to get the car into reverse, extremely difficult to get it into first, makes a thud when pulling it out of first, is semi difficult to get into 2nd, but only a mild nuisance to get into 3rd through 6th.

For more information, the car is a 2012 Volkswagen GLI with just shy of 40,000 miles. The car ran just fine before I went on vacation and the car was not moved while I was on vacation. I did notice that a little ticking kind of sound when I had the car in neutral with no clutch. So the throw out bearing was starting to wear, but it was a very slight. But I haven’t had any other problems.

Thanks, Josh S

Try double pumping the clutch pedal before shifting, if that helps, the hydraulic clutch system needs to be bled. Bleeding is an easy fix.

If not, the throwout bearing may need replacement. I’ve also experienced a broken pressure plate spring that acted similarly. Either way, the transmission needs to come out. If the bearing and the pressure plate look good, the problem is inside the transmission. None of these things in this paragraph should be happening in only 40,000 miles. You don’t rest your left foot on the clutch pedal do you?

If these were my parents, I would say because they let my brother practice driving on the car:)
Did anybody else drive the car?

Is there any oil leaks under/around the car?

Check the fluid level in the clutch master cylinder.

If no one else has been using the car the next step is to check clutch operation. This means for the amount of free play in the pedal before it engages as depressed, how far the pedal rises from the floor before the clutch engages and the car moves, etc.

If when following Rod’s advice your clutch MC fluid is low, you need to find the leak. A 2012 should not be doing this. One way to find the leak is to add a UV sensitive dye and watch the leak light up under a blacklight.

NOTE: if this is still under warranty, let the dealer fix it. A clutch assembly is normal wear and won’t be covered, but a leak in the clutches hydraulic release system should be.

Ok so all the Fluids are fine. The Brake Fluid is full completely. No leak. I haven’t had a chance to visually inspect the the Clutch MC or the SC yet. The Clutch itself operates and feels just like normal. There isn’t any noticeable difference to me. I also noticed in reading aobut them there is a sensor that connects to the Clutch MC and SC, so if the MC did go bad wouldn’t I pull a code?

The shifter itself though does seem to have an unusual play from left to right while in gear. The shifter doesn’t seem to be as sure, but more loose than normal while in neutral.

I tried pumping it, a mechanic friend recommended I pump it a dozen or so times before shifting. No luck.

So I’m thinking it’s either a stretched/damaged cable linkage, or a throwout bearing, because I know its time is coming soon. Any objections?

I once had a car that after it sat unused, the clutch disc rusted to the transmission shaft and would not move away from the flywheel when the clutch pedal was depressed. In other words, even when released, the clutch would drag enough to make shifting difficult…An old pro mechanic who had seen this happen before suggested that I remove the bell-housing dust cover and using a long spray wand spray a little penetrating oil on the clutch disc - transmission shaft splines. Problem solved. Today, most cars have enough clearance between these parts so this seldom happens but on fine-spline shafts and hubs, it’s still a possibility…

If shifting into reverse is difficult or impossible and results in severe gear grinding, the CLUTCH is dragging for one reason or another…

One way to check for a dragging clutch is try shifting with the engine off.
If it shifts easy then it’s clutch dragging.
A failing master cylinder is my first suspect, since the fluid level is good.
I would try changing it before opening up the clutch proper.

It’s possible the car sitting for a long time let the piston seal partially "weld to the cylinder wall.
When you came back and drove it some of the seal broke free; and now it doesn’t hold pressure.

Ok Circutsmith, let’s play with your theory. The morning before I left I had to make a quick run to the bank, and I pushed the car a little hard. On the last turn before I pulled into my parents neighborhood I noticed a little brake fade. Could that have caused something?

I’m also noticing that my E brake lever pulls a little easier and goes a little farther than normal. Does suggest anything?

I was talking about the piston seal in the clutch master cylinder, not the brake.

Oh ok. A lot of reading has suggested that the Clutch MC and the Brake MC are linked somehow. So I wasn’t sure if the hot brakes (and ultimately hot brake fluid) could have lended to the issue.

Anyways, after fooling around with it for awhile the clutch is definitely dragging. I don’t think the Clutch MC is the problem, the pedal feels just fine and operates normally. However whenever I put the car in gear and engage the clutch I can hear the clutch still semi engaged and rubbing up against the gear.

Thanks for all the input. I think I know where to go from here.

“Clutch MC and the Brake MC are linked somehow”

They likely share the same fluid reservoir.
A failing clutch MC might feel fine at the pedal, yet not deliver enough pressure to move the pressure plate fully.

Continuing to drive with the clutch dragging will seriously damage the transmission and repair/replacement is not cheap. The old expression “a stitch in time saves nine” comes to mind.