Volkswagen and Audi consider the transmission to be filled for life - considering how many folks
sell/total a car before 100k miles, this may well be true. But for the rest of us who enjoy keeping a multikilo buck
expenditure around for a while, keeping the transmission happy should be a top priority - diluting fluid which has broken down
due to heat, removing wear-in metal particles from the pan magnets, etc. For the most part, just changing the fluid every 30k
miles should ensure a long life, with a proper filter change and fluid flush every now and then. Of course, at this point the
issue of the "sealed" transmission pops up and ruins everyone's day. We should be worried about overfilling the tranny,
As per the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Don't Panic.
While VW makes a fuss about checking the fluid level between 95-113° F, there's a reasonable bit of allowance in this
specification for a properly operating transmission. During my fluid drain, I started by checking the existing fluid level
with the transmission at ambient temperature (around 60°F at the time), theoretically resulting in zero fluid flowing from
the level cutout. In reality, about a quart of highly darkened fluid poured out of the transmission. In total, I drained
3.7 quarts of ATF and completely filled the transmission after the specified 2.7 quarts. The main cause of this points to a
factory mistake - the factory overfilled the transmission by a full quart, and the car's been operating like this for the
past 4 years/60,000 miles. The other possibility is that fluid from the torque converter drained back into the transmission
pan - however, a fluid level check some weeks later showed the transmission to be properly filled.
Considering the state of the fluid that was drained, a complete flush, filter change, and installation of a transmission
fluid cooler is slated for the near future...stay tuned.
Part Information & Sources:
Note - always confirm part numbers by looking at the actual part mounted in the car! Mistakes will happen sometime,
|Transmission fluid||G 052 162 A2|
|Check/fill plug seal||01V 321 379|
|Drain plug & seal||01V 321 377|
Note - unfortunately, the seal and drain plug are available together only, around $10 or so.
|Pan gasket||01V 321 371|
|Filter||01V 325 429|
|Filter seal||01V 325 443|
OEM Pricing: ~$15/liter
Quaker State/Pennzoil Multi-Vehicle ATF: $3/quart
Valvoline MERCON V ATF: $3/quart
You'll need 6 quarts, or 4 quarts if you're not dropping the pan and changing the filter.
- 8mm socketed hex (Allen) driver
- 17mm socketed hex (Allen) driver
- Torque wrench, low range up to 20 ft-lbs or so. Only needed if dropping the pan and replacing the ATF filter.
- Torque wrench, capable up to 60 ft-lbs
The 17mm driver can be found at your local AutoZone in a nice multipack, less than $10. It also includes a 14mm driver
that can be used to remove the driveshaft to wheel hub bolts if you need to do work on the halfshaft (CV boots/joints).
- Start by raising the car on jackstands (no one is considering working under the car with just a tire jack, right?).
Use four jackstands, as the transmission must be level during the fluid check. (illustration)
- Keeping a pan nearby, open the check/fill plug with the 17mm hex driver. Some fluid should pour out - with the engine
off, the fluid level in the pan will be higher than it is during operation. However, far more fluid came out of my
transmission than should have. (illustration)
- Move the pan under the drain plug and open it with the 8mm hex driver. There should be a nice flow of black fluid.
- Allow the fluid to drain for a while.
- Install a new drain plug and tighten to 30 ft-lbs / 40 Nm.
- Compare new fluid to old fluid - yes...definitely in need of a flush. (illustration)
- If you're not changing out the ATF filter and cleaning the magnets (recommended), skip down to ATF refill.
ATF Filter Change:
- Remove the ATF pan - there are many bolts securing the pan. Note that there will still be some fluid in the pan, so take
- With the pan off, you'll see the valve body and ATF filter. Remove the two bolts securing the filter, and gently pull off
- Lubricate the new filter's seal with some ATF, and install. Tighten the two bolts to 54 inch-lbs / 6 N-m.
- Clean off the pan with a lint-free cloth - especially the magnets. If the transmission is in good condition, there
should only be some fuzz on the magnets. If you see bits of metal and large particles, start digging deep into your
- Replace the pan. The bolts should be tightened in a star pattern, making several passes until all bolts are installed
and ready for final tightening (don't install and fully tighten a bolt in one step). This ensures that the pan doesn't
warp, preventing a good seal. Tighten to 84 in-lbs / 10 Nm.
- Add fresh fluid through the check/fill tube until it begins to overflow. A plastic cap covers the fill tube, with a
square cutout to the side - this
allows fluid to be added and excess fluid to overflow. To get fluid into the hole, I used a length of vinyl tubing - one
end inserted through the cap's cutout, the other attached to a funnel several feet from the ground. Pour fluid in the
funnel, transmission gets filled. By the way, VAG's special tool does the same gravity feed, by hanging from a raised
hood. A fluid pump should also work well. (illustration)
- After the fluid slows to a dropwise overflow, leave the filling apparatus in place and start the engine. With the
engine idling, the transmission oil pump will run, dropping the fluid level.
- Add fluid until it overflows again.
- With the engine still idling, press on the brakes and move the gear selector through all gears, pausing at each gear
for a few seconds. This will circulate fluid through the valve body and may drop the level a bit.
- Add fluid until overflow.
- By now, the fluid should be warm, and at the correct level. Reinstall the check/fill plug with the new seal and
tighten to 59 ft-lbs / 80 Nm. After the seal is in place, shut down the engine.
- You should check the fluid level again after a few days - reusing the check/fill plug seal won't pose a problem, but
the seal is inexpensive if you feel like replacing it for every check. Before doing this final check, start with the
engine cold and drive around for a mile or two - this should get the transmission up to the specified temperature range
(95-113° F) - Haynes' seat of the pants method is to feel the transmission pan. If it feels warm but not hot to the
touch, the fluid should be in the correct range. Considering the amount of factory overfill in my transmission, this
methodology is more than accurate enough.
July 13, 2003 - It's also easy enough to use the shareware version of VAG-COM
to monitor the ATF temperature, if you're not interested in VAG-COM's other abilities - an interface cable can be built
from commonly available electronic components for around $10 or so. More information on this to be added.
That's pretty much all there is to it. Enjoy!
Additional note from Geri:
OK, I will try to explain but beware of my bad English:
My Tranny was shifting very rough, when shifting from "D" to "R" I had a ugly noise and a rumble in the car.
I was told from our local VW Dealer that I do not have to change the Fluid, its "Lifetime" filled. I can`t believe that.
So I asked a lot of People, only one Person told me I must change caused by my heavy Tuning with NOS
Then we had this Threads in the German and the US Forums, in both Forums People were asking if it would make sense to change.
OK, I bought the Material (6 Liters ATF needed) and after one Hour the Filter and the Oil was changed.
Driving home felt so smooth, quick shifting without a rough noise. But when parking the Car I was impressed: Shifting
from "D" to "R" did not make any noise.
Last thing I have to say: I had much dirt in the old Fluid, the magnetics were full with metall++++
I can really advice you to do that Oilchange.