I have a 2003 VW golf with the 2.0L petrol engine and a manual transmission.

I recently had the transmission fluid changed as part of a regular maintenance. Ever since shifting into 2nd gear has been sticky and a bit crunchy. The tricky part is that this problem only exists for the first 10 mins or so of driving the car. After that everything is fine.

I took it to two mechanics but of course it took 10 mins to drive there so the problem was not showing its self when they tested it.

I took it to the dealer and the checked that the fluid level was correct and confirmed that it was. They also confirmed that the correct fluid was used by calling the mechanic that did the work.

  • You've never had shifting problems before? What have the transmission oil change intervals been? Did they flush the old oil or just drain it?
    – jscs
    Apr 16 '14 at 19:19
  • Never had shifting problems before. The shifting was close to perfect before.
    – bhspencer
    Apr 16 '14 at 19:28
  • To my knowledge the transmission oil had never been changed before. The car has 110k miles on it. I got it 2nd hand a year ago. I am afraid I don't know if they flushed or drained. I simply asked them to replace the transmission fluid.
    – bhspencer
    Apr 16 '14 at 19:29
  • It sounds to me that the clutch is not fully disengaging when you press the pedal. Is it this way in reverse as well? If not, I also wonder if the previous owner might have been a little over zealous on their 1st to 2nd shifts ... Apr 16 '14 at 21:52
  • The clutch is quite high so it is probably on the way out. And I don't see how the clutch being worn would cause the problem to resolve after 10 mins of driving. The "its only a problem for the first 10 mins" thing is completely reproducible. I have seen this behavior every day for 2 weeks. Could the problem I am seeing be caused by the transmission fluid being too viscous or the fluid level being too low. I could imagine that driving for 10 mins might heat up the fluid or cause it to circulate fully if too low.
    – bhspencer
    Apr 17 '14 at 12:59

The problem has gradually improved over the last year. The mechanic seems to think that as newer fluid breaks down it is less sticky. Its still pretty bad on a cold morning but unnoticeable on a warm summers day.

  • 1
    You have the wrong fluid in your transmission. The fact that it wont work on cold days is evidence enough. One year of usage means that you have been grinding away service life. Take it to another mechanic and have them use the correct fluid outlined in the owners manual. Pay attention to the fluid weight relative to ambient temperature. Your car might also require additional additives.
    – race fever
    Jan 5 '16 at 16:30
  • The mechanic assures me that he contacted VW to find find out what the correct fluid was before he changed the fluid. I suppose he might not be being honest. I will get the fluid replaced again making sure to use the correct type and report back.
    – bhspencer
    Jan 5 '16 at 16:48
  • Here is the correct fluid: idparts.com/oem-070-manual-transmission-fluid-p-1438.html Buy it yourself and have them put it in. Just go to the local VW parts store and buy some. Only way to make sure its the right one.
    – race fever
    Jan 5 '16 at 17:21

That sounds like the gearbox was refilled with a grade of oil that's too heavy or was formulated for a hotter climate than where you live. The oil will reduce in viscosity as it 'wears' which explains the gradual improvement. You can either ignore it and let the oil 'wear' in or try a different brand/grade/etc. Be sure that the grade of oil that's used meets the standards/grades that VW recommended for this vehicle.


After living with the sticky shift into 2nd for a couple of years, I finally got the clutch replaced. It was well past time for being replaced. Much to my surprise replacing the clutch also fixed the sticky shift into 2nd. I do not know how this has fixed the issue, but it has.

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