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RPM goes up without acceleration


I have a 1998 Volkswagen Golf. I used to be able to accelerate to highway speeds (65-70 mph) with the RPM going up to 3000.

Since the past few months though, the speed reaches ~50 mph, with RPM up at 4000-5000. After 4-5 minutes, either on its own or if I take my foot off the gas pedal slightly, the RPM falls back to 3000, speed increases to 65 mph and the car runs fine. This (no acceleration even with RPM increasing) happens when starting from a stop as well, and on uphills.

My mechanic asked me to take it to the dealer. I bought the car used and have never been to a dealer before. Would appreciate if anyone has any idea what could be wrong, so I can read up a bit on it before taking it to the dealer.


Does this have an automatic or manual transmission? That sounds an awful lot like a major transmission or clutch problem. Did your mechanic drive it? Check anything? Say anything about what s/he thought?

If you have a manual it means that your clutch is slipping and needs to be replaced. Have you ever gotten any nasty burning smells?

If you have an automatic it means that it is either slipping (which is also a clutch issue, but those are inside the transmission) and/or not shifting. If it is an automatic, check the transmission fluid. It should be at the proper level and pink to red. If it is low get it to the proper level & then have it evaluated for leaks. If it is very dark and smells really bad get it to a transmission shop right away but be prepared for the worst.

You don’t need a dealer. You can ask & look around for a local, independent mechanic with a good rep. Some specialize and if you found a VW specialist that would be good. Same applies if you need a transmission shop - local & independent means no corporate chain shops (such as AAMCO)

Thanks for the reply cigroller. It is an automatic transmission. Sounds like I should have it checked out soon.
Thanks for the advice.

Check the fluid today - before driving it again rather than “soon.” Its possible that you may have started leaking recently, run low, and now things aren’t working quite right. If that’s the only problem then you can prevent further damage by not driving it while low on fluid.

If you do find it low, note that trans fluids are not generic or interchangeable - you need to find the fluid recommended for your car. You can call a dealer’s service dept to ask if you don’t have the manual.

If you do happen to check it and the fluid seems ok, then “oh shhhhiiooot” would probably be the best immediate response.