Shift Bang

Since the day I got my Beetle, it had a quirk. When cold, it would 'slam' from first to second gear.

Every time I visited a dealer for maintenance (there have been three that have serviced my car), I brought the issue up, explaining it only does it when cold. Several times, I left my car overnight to ensure it was cold when the mechanic would take the car out through the paces. Every time, "failure to duplicate problem" would show up on my repair invoice.

Until my car went out of warranty, that is.

I've been less than thrilled with the dealership service departments locally. You can say I was spoiled by the VW dealers I went to in Maryland, but I think it may just be dealers in general nowadays. It's more about seeing how much money is on the 'payment due' line than forging a lifetime partnership with a customer. At least that's how it has felt, which is why I only go to a dealer when the mechanic a friend suggested tells me he can't do something.

So, about 6-8 months ago, that engine slam got worse. Instead of just a slight buck, it became more of a whiplash quality slam, and it'd last past the point that the cold engine light went out, which is what it used to do. Finally, the finances and time situation are working in my favor, my very busy (awesome) mechanic is available and my car is sitting outside his shop tonight.

What I like about my mechanic is that he does his research. Ed went to him with the van last month and gave him the heads up about this issue, and his comment was "not the Beetle, she LOVES that car." He gets it, he knows that for many of his customers, we learn to appreciate our cars quirks. We can describe exactly what they're doing that just is not right, and he takes the time to listen.

We get each other, so tonight, I went and did some research to hand off with my car. What I found is that many other VW Beetle owners (from 2003 to 2007, apparently) also had this transmission fault. VW has had many reports, but refuses to issue a recall around the Tiptronic transmission that is in my 2.0 automatic engine. As a result, many other owners have experienced the run around with VW of America, some spending more on a new transmission than the Edmunds or KBB price for their cars.

However, the jury is out on whether it is the transmission itself. Several reports indicated that people replaced their entire transmission, only to have the same exact problem after their dealer return the car to them as repaired. It may be the valve body, it may be a transmission cable.

All I know is, the response reported from VWoA is strangely similar to the one I got at three dealerships, almost as if they're being told by the parent company to brush off any complaints of this problem so that they don't have to deal with the NHTSA imposing a safety recall on five model years of VW Beetles. Thankfully, I have a mechanic who is not beholden to the party line at VWoA. If I'm telling him there's a problem, he will figure it out.

The sad thing in this situation is that since 1988 (except for 6 months), I have owned a VW. The lack of integrity they've displayed over this and another service issue with another known defect have lead me to the sad realization that when I do go to buy another car after I finish all this schooling, it won't be a Volkswagen.


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