I bought a 95 Jetta automatic about 18 months ago. It has a separate heat exchanger which cools the transmission fluid using the radiator water – it is a small box that sits on top of the trans. There has been a leak in the exchanger for several months and transmission fluid is in the radiator water, and possibly coolant has gotten into the trans. The trans fluid level is so low now that it is barely driveable. I thought I could get away without fixing it and it would last longer. Now I am curious if it is worth fixing the leaky cooler and putting new trans fluid in – the only place in town gave me an estimate of $600 for the repair. Should I risk it?
Why have you let the fluid level run down instead of adding it?
Take your $600 out onto the market and ask what kind of car you could get. Now ask whether or not you’d buy that Jetta with a repaired cooler for $600.
But also ask yourself a couple of other things. First, what can the place that gave you the estimate tell you about the health of the transmission? Then ask what is next. Basic wear & tear items? (Tires, brakes, suspension). Does the engine show any serious signs of wear? Smoke? Burning oil? Stuff like that.
If you can reasonably expect the transmission to keep rolling and the rest of the car is in reasonable shape, then I’ll bet you’d pay $600. If you get a year out of it its $50/mo.
Sounds like you may have successfully driven this car into the ground. Sell it for $400 and move on…
Engine coolant in the transmission, no matter how much will kill an automatic. If you have any coolant in the trans it HAS to come out and be rebuilt/replaced. Coolant destroys friction elements (Clutches and bands). It causes the clutch material to break off of the metal plate its on and drop to the pan. You have an expensive decision to make.