I have a 2002 Skoda Octavia. Recently I've noticed that when it's cold, the gearbox is very recalcitrant, particularly in the lower gears. The feeling is of "stodginess" with a slight audible squeak.

Does this mean the gearbox oil needs refreshing? Is this easy to do at home? In the Hayne's manual, it suggest that to do this you need to jack the car up at both the front and the back, so that it is completely level. I'd have to get extra tools to do that right?

Is there anything else that could cause this (worn linkages/bushes?)?

  • This is common on many many cars like my 76 l/cruiser;particularly going from 1st to 2nd I just double declutch until things warm up as opposed to forcing the issue
    – mike
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 11:00

4 Answers 4


My first try would be changing the oil. Fresh fluid is never a bad thing :) and it's fairly inexpensive (parts and labor). I've change mine last summer and it improve the ride.

As for the way to do it, refer to your manual since it's more vehicle specific. In my case, it was just a case of removing the oil pan drain plug, wait, put back drain plug and fill with fresh oil.

  • 2
    This is one operation that I always take to a shop with a lift. On my cars it specifies that the vehicle must be level in order for the measuring hole to leak at the correct level. I don't have a good way to keep my cars flat when lifted high enough to access everything. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 18:58
  • In my case, it's a Toyota Land Cruiser, so I have enough room to crawl underneath. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 19:19
  • There's a slight incline in front of my garage - perhaps I could just jack the front up there and use a spirit level to make sure?
    – tdc
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 8:21

I'd like to add to the discussion about the cause of your issue, as this page is indexed highly in google:

If your problem is only when the engine and gearbox are cold, and the 'box performs fine in all other respects then it may be that the synchromesh's in the gearbox are starting to wear.

The reason this causes poor cold gear changes is thus: when the gearbox oil is cold, the increased viscosity of the oil, combined with the worn frictional surfaces of the synchromesh will prevent the generation of enough frictional force for the syncro's to do their job; that is to match the speed of the input and output shafts (which then allows the selector forks to slide the gears effortlessly together).

Warmer oil is thinner and allows the frictional surfaces of the syncro's to perform properly.

To rectify this you could look at changing to an oil of the same type, but with enhanced viscosity additives that help reduce the viscosity of the oil at lower temperatures.

Simply replacing the oil may not help as the high performance synthetic oils used in modern car gearboxes (and engines) are less prone to wear (hence most gearboxes are sealed for life).

Accordingly, you may be able to find an additive to add to the original spec oil that may improve cold performance.


I used to have this with my 89 Acura Integra. It was exactly the same as you described and it definitely got stiffer in the cold weather. One day I decided to get the transmission out, open it up and figure out what's causing it. I followed all steps of disconnecting everything from the transmission before removing it and that included the shifter.

When the shifter was disconnected, I tugged on the lever that ran under the car from the shifter and into the gear box and found that its movement was as smooth as butter. Turned out that the stiff shifting was caused entirely in the pivot point between the shifter and the lever. I greased up that joint, bolted everything up and it started shifting as if it was new.

Definitely check oil. Since transmission is a completely closed system, if everything is ok, the oil should look almost new (at least it did in my car after 40k miles)

  • Interesting ... though I think I'll have a look a the oil before I start removing any interior trim!
    – tdc
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 8:23

You will need to warm it up for at least 5 minutes in the winter. I have the same problem with my 1997 jaguar xj6.

It's called wear and tear and old age. In other words to fix it you will need to rebuild the transmission or replace it. No cutting corners.

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