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Fluid Recommendations

Engine oil: Mobil 1 0W-40 Synthetic (datasheet)

Power Steering Fluid: Pentosin CHF-11s (datasheet)

The Pentosin fluid is a mineral power steering fluid - using anything else is a pretty good way to ruin the steering rack.

Brake Fluid: Valvoline DOT 4 (datasheet)

Pretty much any DOT 4 brake fluid is fine for normal uses (if you're the track type, this entire website probably isn't for you :). The Valvoline fluid is widely available and has a wet boiling point of 343° F (dry boiling point 503° F).

Transmission Fluid:

Automatic transmission: OEM fluid, Valvoline MERCON V, Quaker State/Pennzoil Multi-Vehicle ATF (datasheet)

The OEM ATF is Esso LT 71141 - you can find more information at the ATF/filter replacement page. The Quaker State/Pennzoil is a confirmed suitable replacement, and inexpensive (around 1/5 the price of Esso LT 71141). ZF transmission owners, rejoice! :)

Update - Valvoline MERCON V has also been confirmed as a suitable replacement. (manufacturer statement)

Note that Redline claims that their D4 ATF is also compatible with the ZF transmission, but also note that Redline has made recommendations in the past that led directly to transmission problems.

Manual transmission: OEM fluid, Redline MT-90

The Redline fluid works fine for the manual transmission, but a common complaint is harder shifting in cold weather where the VW fluid was fine.

Coolant: Pentosin G12 (OEM), Prestone Extended Life

There's been quite a bit of discussion over the suitability of coolants other than G12. The main point of contention is the idea that G12 is the only coolant that will prevent corrosion in VAG's aluminum engines and not put unnatural wear on the water pump impeller. VAG's position has always been that G12 is the only specified coolant for their engines, which has been a major point of support for sticking with it. But there's more to the story...

The various OEM's, including VAG, have always made very specific recommendations for their cars, creating a "manufacturer knows best" mentality among owners. It's important to remember, however, that VAG has held and still holds some rather questionable positions on their cars.

For several years, VAG's oil recommendation for the 1.8t engine included both conventional and synthetic oils, despite the tendency of conventional oils to break down earlier than synthetics in engines with a turbocharger. Combined with long service intervals and owners stretching even those intervals, it's little surprise that there are sludge problems showing up recently (of course, VAG isn't alone in this - Toyota has been having a problem with sludging as well).

VAG has also specified that their automatic transmissions are sealed and contain a lifetime fluid. This is an interesting position, as the manufacturer of the fluid gives a service life of only 75,000 miles. Past experiences with automatic transmissions (that changing atf at 30-60k intervals significantly extends transmission life) were thrown out the window, based on the lifetime recommendation. Aside from taking a common sense view (that VAG probably doesn't perform magic on their transmissions and fluids), anecdotal evidence has shown several instances where the transmission was exhibiting unusual problems that were fixed with a fluid change. Eventually VAG redefined lifetime to mean ~100,000 miles.

VAG's previous coolant, G11, was also specified as lifetime - at a time when other conventional coolants (dyed that wonderful radioactive green) had a two year service interval. It was a recommendation that led directly to problems with corrosion and head gasket leaks.

VAG switched to a coolant with an organic acid additive package when they released G12 (also given a lifetime rating). Several other organic acid coolants were showing up as well - the most controversial being DEX-COOL. For a long time, DEX-COOL was widely regarded as a death sentence to radiators everywhere, creating sludge in some models. Ultimately, however, the problem wasn't DEX-COOL itself, just poor implementation in several models, low coolant levels, and mixing DEX-COOL with conventional coolant - essentially negating any corrosion protection the coolants were supposed to provide.

Cool Profit$ Magazine - GM & Texaco "Bare All" About DEX-COOL

Aside from an overly optimistic lifetime rating (most OAT coolants specify a 5 year/150,000 mile interval), G12 is similar to other OAT coolants (excluding hybrid OAT coolants). While each of the coolants has a slightly different additive package, it's unlikely that the differences are anywhere near the magnitude required to cause problems between different cooling systems. The Texaco-Havoline Extended Life coolant data sheet is interesting, as it specifically states that the coolant meets Volkswagen/Audi G12 specifications.

There is only one critical issue with the OAT coolants - they should not be mixed with each other, or with conventional coolants. If you need to top off, it's important to use the same coolant currently in the system. When switching to a different coolant, the system needs to be flushed before adding the new coolant. Fortunately flushing a system is rather easy - coolant flush procedure.

So why all the fuss over which coolants can be used? The price difference is negligible - the reason why I've switched to a different coolant (Prestone Extended Life) is because of it's wide availability (and partially simply because I can). I often take roadtrips, and in case of trouble, the prospect of having to hunt down a VW dealership in the middle of nowhere isn't appealing. (Adding just water works fine for the short term, but the entire system would need to be flushed and refilled to restore the 1:1 ratio later on). In the four years that I've run the coolant (over two cars), there has never been any hint of corrosion.

For a quick overview of coolants in general:

Motor Magazine - Keeping It Cool (08/1999)


  • Just an FYI to everyone with an 2000-2004 Passat. I had my oil light come on this past January after taking meticulus care of my car and engine. The engine completely seized up and I was unable to go anywhere. Just had the timing belt changed, new rollers, new turbo and new alternator put in. I almost abandoned the poor car as I was about to give up on her. This is my 3rd Passat and I am a lifer as I love the way they handle.
    But I am very careful about mainetenance and a friend suggested I look online to make sure that there wasn't anything legally going on. Here there is a class action lawsuit for oil sludge issues. So if you are having issues with the oil/engine in your Passat and cannot seem to find the culprit this could be it. I am lucky that I keep good records and have the same two shops change the oil and keep the receipts and use the correct oil, what the manual recomends. They are also changing the spects for what oil they are recomending b/c of this lawsuit. The warranty on certain cars will be good for 10 yrs or 120,000 I was lucky as I not reached either yet. But barely! So, make sure if you are having ANY issues with fuel plugs, turbo or oil lights that you get it in to a dealership or shop and have them see that you have oil sludge in your oil pan so you can get covered under the class action lawsuit. You can get up to 100% of the maintenance costs covered if you kept accurate records. I stood my ground and the dealership here was great and put a new engine in for free. But not until I showed them my maintenance records.

    Charity - USA - May 13, 2011 @ 3:33 pm
  • \'03 passat been sitting in garage for over a wk after long trip. Today noticed coolant on garage floor and coolant reservoir empty. If I fill reservoir with G12, should I assume there is a leak somewhere that needs to be dealt with ASAP or can I safely buy time?
    Estelle - Jul 14, 2010 @ 1:46 pm
  • Hey there,
    I just bought a 2002 VW Passat GLS. If I put it in neutral and come to a stop say from 40 clicks when I put it in first Gear to get moving again, there is a sligt jirking I notice, Any ideas??


    Besi - May 26, 2010 @ 7:03 pm
  • This entire website has been of great help. I have a 98 B5 (155kms) with all the problems. I recently got it going after 1 year doing nothing. I sent the ABS to the US via ebay to fix. It worked wonderfully. Cleaned the ABS sensors on the front wheel. I also sprayed a whole can of carby/throttle body cleaner via the intake and she idles nicely now. This was one of the best and easiest thing to do. Even cleaned the purge valvle in hope for better economy. The last thing was it started developing a jerk/shudder when shifting 2-3-4 gear. So I decided to do the ATF fluid change. Unfortunately the range of ATF fluid in Aust is limited so I went for the cheaper Castrol Dexron III over the synthetic Transmax Z. She now shifts so nicely. Long term I am unsure. But this car has not been this good in a while.
    kv1973 Australia - May 23, 2010 @ 8:10 pm
  • How do you change oil in 2004 Passat GLS, 1.8 L I4. just bought this car for my daughter. Now owner\'s manual. I would like to see guide with pictures if available.
    Ski, Lancaster, Pennsylvania - Apr 4, 2010 @ 7:04 pm
  • I have a 99 vw passat 5 spd. The hydraulic mineral oil is low. i asked everywhere but no one seems to know what im talking about can anyone help me. I think it has something to do with the clutch
    Mark - Jul 9, 2008 @ 6:29 pm
  • My power steering pump went out. The dealership says that brake fluid and not power steering fluid is in the reservoir. Any ideas on how this could happen if no one has popped the hood since the dealership changed the oil two months ago?
    Brad - Mar 28, 2008 @ 5:20 pm
  • I just replaced the ATF in my Passat with Merc V, it seems to work fine. It seems to shift just fine except the occasional 2-3 shift. I of course can\'t figure out whether it shifted that way before I changed it or if I\'m just hyper-sensetive to it now. This would at 33 be my first auto tranny, so go easy on me. Also I used the Low-Tox anti-freeze for my rad drain & fill. I believe its Prestone, will that work Okay or should I try to track down thatb red stuff. I also have an A4, go figure, this one has a more familiar manual tranny. I did use the same coolant though in this car.
    D. Bowman USA - Jun 7, 2007 @ 9:42 pm
  • I own a 06\' Passat. After the 20k service , VW manual and dealer rec suggest next oil change not required for another 10k. Seems far to long to go even with synthetic. I would appreciate views and opinions. Thanks.
    karl- US - Nov 20, 2006 @ 11:02 am
  • I just picked up 9 quarts of Pennzoil (same as QS) ATF at K-Mart.
    Brian (NC) - May 25, 2006 @ 6:09 am
  • Here\'s a link to Quaker State\'s data sheet showing full compatibility with all VW trannies:
    Brian (NC, US) - May 19, 2006 @ 8:15 am
  • i agree with walter where are you supposed to find this quaker state/ pennzoil atf?

    michael - Apr 29, 2006 @ 9:10 am
  • How do you change the oil. Will you guys be adding those pics or docs.
    Davon - Jun 16, 2005 @ 6:26 pm
  • I disagree regarding Dex-Cool. My GM vehicle (an Astro) was properly maintained by GM dealers and reputable independent shops. The only reason coolant levels ever were low was when Dex-Cool began leaking through holes it created in the intake gaskets through corrosion. Don\'t expect me to believe that Dex-Cool is any good in an automotive application!
    Michael - May 19, 2005 @ 2:15 pm
  • i bought the quakerstate/pennzoil (they are the same thing) multivehicle atf at pepboys. i have also seen it at k-mart.

    and the hydraulic fluid is the same as the power steering fluid (unless you mean the clutch, use dot-4 brake fluid for the clutch). another fine writeup, thanks!
    dave - May 3, 2005 @ 1:19 pm
  • It would also be nice if you could tell us the capacities of those fluids. I bought some valvoline DOT 4 brake fluid - but don\'t know if its enough or too little. Also WHERE IN THE WORLD can you buy the Quaker State Multi-Vehicle ATF?

    Walter - Apr 23, 2005 @ 4:49 pm
  • no mention of hydraulic fluid.... booo :(
    Bud - Feb 6, 2005 @ 11:44 am

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