Lately I've been noticing a grinding/resisting force and sound when I shift from first to second gear in my 2003 Jetta GLI. It is ruining driving for me because every time I shift from first to second I feel this grinding force pushing the stick away from second gear.

One time, I shifted lightly, (this was when I was first noticing the problem) and the stick flew out of second and into neutral.

I originally asked some of my more mechanically inclined friends (I know nothing about cars) and they said that either my foot wasn't depressing the clutch all the way or some chain/link/doodad was too short. I made sure that I was fully depressing the clutch, and it still happened.

I took it into an auto shop that I trust and they couldn't find one thing wrong with it. They even took it for a drive and said that they didn't experience what I was experiencing.

That's strange I thought. So I had some relatives drive it around and they experienced it maybe 5% of the time compared to my 90% of the time.

So it is definitely me. I think. I'm not sure. I just want it to stop. Lastly, a relative declared that I was shifting too fast for some syncro-or-another-something to catch up. So I slowed down my shifting, but that didn't stop the problem. It dropped to maybe 80% of the time, but no real change.

Please help.

  • +1 for the word doodad. That's a great symptomatic word: somebody didn't explain what they meant very clearly....
    – Bob Cross
    Dec 6, 2011 at 13:52
  • Im having same prolem with my 2004 passat. Parents think clutch is burning out. :(
    – user13069
    Nov 5, 2015 at 17:40
  • Is the driver's leg too short, or wearing shoes that do not allow for fully pressing the clutch pedal to the floor?
    – user41779
    Sep 22, 2018 at 7:41

5 Answers 5


When was the last time the transmission's gear oil was changed?

If it has been a while (or never), get it changed.

Check your manual for the recommended interval, this is one of the fluids that is often overlooked.

If it has never been done on a 2003, it needs to be done.


There might be a couple of issues at play here:

  • The gearbox oil wants changing as ManiacZX suggested
  • You're "ripping" through the gears too quickly and not give the synchros enough time to work. Try changing gears a little slower.
  • Your clutch might not be disengaging properly. If it's a cable clutch it might need adjusting, if it's a hydraulic one it might want fresh fluid and/or a slave cylinder.

This sounds to me like the first stages of a worn synchromesh in second. I take it you are not having any problems changing into the other gears?

I'd be surprised to see that occur on a car that new, but if, as others have suggested, the gear oil has not been changed, it could have worn prematurely.

One way to test if this is the case is to try "double-declutching". When you are changing from first to second, press the clutch and move the gearstick to neutral. Then release the clutch, press it again, and move the stick into second. This forcibly slows down your gearchange, and the act of letting the clutch up again in the middle helps slow down the input side of the gearbox to make it easier to engage the gear.

  • I do not believe that double clutching will work on that transmission with an upshift into 2nd.
    – mongo
    Jun 6, 2017 at 22:26
  • @mongo for any particular reason?
    – Nick C
    Jun 7, 2017 at 8:32
  • I checked with my source on that, and it turns out that he had a misunderstanding on that transmission. So my statement is incorrect. However, we discussed it a bit more, and one problem with double clutching is that if that car has a dual mass flywheel, it may be harder to "blip" the engine RPM for a match.
    – mongo
    Jun 12, 2017 at 0:58

I agree with @ManiacZX and @Timo Geusch. As this is a 2003, there's a good chance that the gear oil is old, if not the original fluid. Unless the shop recommends that you do not change the fluid, I would have it replaced. The oil is reasonably cheap and it's not a whole lot of labor.

There's also a good chance that your clutch is out of adjustment, worn, or slipping.

I tried very hard to think of a way to work the word doodad into that sentence....

Here are a set of questions and answers that are relevant to problems of this nature. Note: some of them are from me - I've seen similar situations with my car and I was very satisfied after a gear oil change.

Clutch testing: https://mechanics.stackexchange.com/a/1169/57

Clutch symptoms: hydraulic clutch fails to fully disengage

Gear oil: Is Redline Lightweight Shockproof appropriate for an aging 2004 Subaru Impreza manual gearbox?

Gear grinding: Why does my 3rd gear grind on shifting when RPMs are high on 2002 Audi TT?


Have you found the fix?

If not, I would suggest that you look at the engine mount on the left, for the transmission. Perhaps it is completely worn.

You may also wish to realign the shifter. VWvortex has a procedure for that.

Recently a group of us has had similar problems on similar vintage cars, most are TDI, though. And we found that the shifter alignment procedure helped about 2 out of 5. Two had worn upper transmission mounts which helped. One we changed the fluid on, and it is still grinding. The killer was that the fluid we drained was pretty clear!

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