Transmission glitches

I am helping my sister inlaw with a 1998 Jetta she just inherited from her brother. It was sitting in the Arizona sun for the last year, and I have no idea how much maintenance he did prior to that.

The problem is the transmission often pops into first when the car is cold. The engine will rev and then jump as the transmission engages. In drive and the break on it will also hiccup on occasion. Shifting into higher gears has no problems.

So, my question is this. Is it a sticking valve or something that might be fixed by flushing the transmission, or should I start interviewing scrapyards for the memorial service.

Has the transmission fluid been checked? Is it at the right level? Nice and red? Smell like transmission fluid rather than a burnt marshmallow? How many miles are on it? Do you know anything about its service history?

Take it to a local, independent transmission shop. Have them put it on a scanner and check for codes. When they find some you can post them back here. But I wouldn’t hold up really high hopes. Maybe somebody is out there combing craigslist for a used Jetta motor.

How many miles on this?

Sorry I should have mentioned that. It has just under 120k. The a/c also doesn’t work, and it sounds like it has a small exhaust leak, but I doubt those are related to the transmission.

Ok - and has the transmission fluid been checked…and…(see above)…