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After unrelated repair in the shop, my car began to have difficulties going into 5th gear. Gradually over the next couple of days, it was noticeable that the car refused to engage into 3rd, and now into 1st gear. The clutch was changed 2 months ago. I need your advise and elaboration on this problem. What is the most likely reason for this?

  • But 2nd and 4th are OK? – dlu Oct 25 '16 at 6:15
  • My first thought is that an engine or transmission mount might be going, or since the clutch was just replaced, perhaps part of the shift linkage is slipping. I've never done a VW clutch, so I don't know off hand if any of the linkage would get disconnected or moved during clutch work. – dlu Oct 25 '16 at 6:18
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    I'd suggest @dlu is correct and there is an issue with the shift linkage. IIRC, the Jetta has bushings in the linkage which can go bad, causing it to not want to shift correctly. Could be it has just been slowly wearing out over time, with the worse it got, the more the issue became pronounced. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 25 '16 at 11:01
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    Especially since all of the affected gears are at the "Top" or "Forward" position of the tree, I would certainly think shift linkage before anything else. – Zshoulders Oct 25 '16 at 21:29
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    Guys, I truly appreciate your comments and input. Today I took my car to the mechanic today and he found the same problem as you suggested: a bushing has slipped off and it was preventing the gears to engage. He said that he "positioned, put the pin back" and driving back home my car was behaving well! – user23350 Oct 27 '16 at 21:40
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VW standard transmissions use only a few bushings, and some of those parts have remained the same over the last 40 years (at least since the A1 Rabbit to the present Jetta and Golfs).

When faced with hard shifting, normally from worn bushings, I tend to get "two of each" from the dealer. That gives me spares for the next time. They are a wear item, and often overlooked until shifting is hard. Replacing the bushings should be done prior to adjusting linkages.

Continuing to use worn bushings can affect wear in the transmission as it can affect engagement.

Do not lube the bushings, as they are intended to run dry.

Replacing all the bushings will cost you under $20 in parts. The hardest part of the job is getting the car off the ground to work on it.

  • One other remark, since writing the above. There are aftermarket bushings available for your car, which use aluminum bushings, rather than plastic. They cost more ($33) vs about $8 to 20 for all the plastic bushings. But they last longer. My preference, however, is plastic / nylon bushings. – mongo Apr 16 '17 at 2:49
  • After thinking about your problem, my guess is that one of the bushings on the two cables needs adjustment. There are videos on youtube describing the adjustment process. You will need a nail or a 5mm drill to align the shifter in the car. – mongo Jul 8 '17 at 16:23
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From the comments:

My first thought is that an engine or transmission mount might be going, or since the clutch was just replaced, perhaps part of the shift linkage is slipping. I've never done a VW clutch, so I don't know off hand if any of the linkage would get disconnected or moved during clutch work.

I'd suggest @dlu is correct and there is an issue with the shift linkage. IIRC, the Jetta has bushings in the linkage which can go bad, causing it to not want to shift correctly. Could be it has just been slowly wearing out over time, with the worse it got, the more the issue became pronounced.

Especially since all of the affected gears are at the "Top" or "Forward" position of the tree, I would certainly think shift linkage before anything else.

And finally:

Guys, I truly appreciate your comments and input. Today I took my car to the mechanic today and he found the same problem as you suggested: a bushing has slipped off and it was preventing the gears to engage. He said that he "positioned, put the pin back" and driving back home my car was behaving well!

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