Now it's the transmission?

Listen to this story:

My '97 VW Cabrio was sitting outside my house when it was sideswiped by a hit and run. Some body damage, so I brought it to an autobody place, and they fixed it up.

While they were waiting for me to pick up the car, they left it outside the shop. BANG. Gets hit again. So I left it at the autobody place for them to repair again.

When I came to pick it up again, they said that they couldn’t get it into gear… that the clutch was bad… and that since it happened while under their care, they would replace the clutch. So I left it there again.

When I picked up the car, I noticed that the clutch was slipping and that it would pop out of gear completely when going in reverse. So I brought it back to them.

They fixed the slipping, but when I got the car back, I noticed that it still popped out of gear in reverse.

I brought it back again, and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They took it to a transmission guy, who now tells me that my transmission is gone and I need a new one. He says he can get me a used one, which labor and parts, will come to $2,400. Ouch!

Am I being taken for a ride?

Could the transmission have been damaged from either the accidents or the autobody shop’s replacing the clutch?

Is this a reasonable price for a used transmission?


That is some bad luck.

Maybe the linkage just got out of adjustment?

There’s more info needs to be known but some of this sounds odd to me. Not going into gear could point to a faulty clutch but that clutch would have to be near gone and I certainly don’t see a body impact causing this. An impact could affect the shift linkage though, or in a real severe case - could damage a shift rail or fork depending on how the vehicle was hit, what gear it was in, how hard it was hit, etc.

It also sounds odd that a body shop would change a clutch. Did they farm this alleged clutch job out or what?
Were there any shifting or clutch problems before the car was originally hit?

The first shop changed the clutch themselves. They’re primarily an autobody place, but not exclusively so. When it continued to pop out of reverse, they checked the linkage and said it wasn’t the problem.
There were no shifting problems before any of this started.

I guess the main question now is, have other people experienced problems with the transmissions of '97 Cabrios? The trannie guy says that this is a common problem, and web research seems to confirm that.

If so, does it make sense to rebuild the transmission I’ve got, or should I replace it with a new (used) transmission?

I’ve read a few of those internet posts about this alleged chronic problem and there’s a lot of BS in there. Some mention that a chipped gear tooth, worn reverse idler gear, or reverse synchronizer going bad will cause this problem. This is all bunk and especially the reverse synchronizer theory because reverse does not even HAVE a synchronizer.
Even if it did, which it does not, a bad synchronizer is not going to cause a transmission to jump out of gear.

Something that can happen is that a dragging clutch may lead to someone constantly pounding the shift lever into reverse since a faulty clutch will affect reverse more than any other gear. This could cause some problems such as a bent or prematurely worn shift fork or rail, BUT since you did not have any problems with before the accidents(s) none of this should be an issue.

I suggest you have a VW dealer or independent shop that specializes in VWs take a look at the gearshift linkage rather than spend a small fortune rebuilding or replacing the transmission only to discover you have the same problem.