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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
How-To by Porkchop
How To Change Auto Transmission Fluid

Hi all:

There have been a few threads on automatic transmission fluid changes. However, the link to the great PDF document how-to has been broken for a while, so I thought I would share my recent experience.

My car is a 2000 with 2.0L engine - however, I believe all automatics are the same 01M transmission from 1998 to recently (2003 maybe?). If yours is a 4 speed automatic, then this is the transmission you have.

First off, get the car up in the air. You can't just use ramps because you need the car level to get an accurate fluid level when you refill it.
 

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Next, remove the skid plate that is on the bottom of the transmission.

Here is a picture of the plate removed with the four bolts that hold it.
 

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Here is a picture of the drainplug on the back end of the transmission pan. Remove the outer drain plug bolt using an allen wrench (I want to say it's 5mm, but don't quote me on that)

Have a pan ready because you will have a small amount of fluid come out.
 

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Now you will remove the inner plastic drainplug using the same size allen wrench. Be sure the wrench is fully seated up in the plug/sleeve to prevent breaking it. It will take a small amount of muscle for it to break free.

Here is a picture of the orange sleeve/plug that you're trying to remove (this is obviously with the pan already removed)
 

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Once you remove the orange sleeve, you definitely want a drain pan handy because then about 3 liters of fluid will come out.

Here is a picture of my incredibly filthy so-called "lifetime" transmissions fluid.

BTW, this fluid starts out "honey colored" - even lighter colored than motor oil. After 70,000 miles, it's completely black with lots of debris on the pan magnet.
 

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Next, use a 10mm socket to remove the 4 bolts holding the transmission pan to the transmission. It's not a bad idea to install the drain plug back so when you lower the pan, you don't dribble everywhere.

You will probably find the rubber gasket to be perfectly reusable. I recently did the transmission fluid on my sister's '93 Eurovan and had to reuse the gasket because the one in the kit was the wrong shape (right filter though). Incidentally, the one that came in her kit is for the 01M transmission so I have a spare for the Beetle now.

Once you remove the pan, put your drain pan back under the transmission because it will drip for a while. The filter removes just by pullling it off (a rubber seal holds it to the transmission... no bolts).

Here is my dirty pan after removing it.
 

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Notice, it's a little nasty. (Especially in light of VW having no recommendation for servicing this transmission because they claim the fluid is lifetime).
 

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Remove the rubber gasket and thoroughly clean the pan. If you didn't earlier, reinstall the plastic sleeve and drain plug to the pan. Be sure you get the magnet clean - it keeps the big stuff from clogging up the filter.

Here is what it will look like once it's ready to be reinstalled.
 

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Here is a better picture from the bottom side of the pan of the orange sleeve installed without the drain plug installed:
 

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Now that you have a clean pan, reinstall the gasket (or install a new one). I installed a new one since it came with the kit. I will probably change the fluid again in about 10,000 miles since I don't have a way to flush the torque converter, therefore I'll save some money and buy just a filter and reuse this new gasket next time.

I know its kind of old school, but I always put a thin film of grease on each side of the gasket to be sure there is a good seal. Opinions of this technique will vary.

Your filter should come with a new rubber o-gasket - just push the new filter on. It will hang just slightly at an angle (this is really crappily designed).

Then reinstall the pan, tighting the bolts evenly. I always do a cross tightening sequence. Since the gasket has the metal sleeves in it that prevent over tightening, a torque wrench really isn't necessary.

Here is my pan reinstalled:
 

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So far, this procedure is pretty much the same as any other transmission you change the fluid for. But here is where VW decides to make things overly complicated for no reason I can see.

This transmission has no dipstick. Instead it has a little stubby fill tube with a red child safety lock (note: this is an attempt at humor) on it that is located on the side of the transmission closest to the front of the car. It is just above the lip where the pan is at.

Here is an incredibly lousy picture of what you will see from below:
 

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t is possible (although not likely) that you can remove this red safety cap without breaking it. I ordered a new one when I ordered my fluid and filter kit to be on the safe side. Pry the red cap off and then just pull out the stopper. It is held in with two o-rings. There are no threads. I used two small screwdrivers (like jewelers screwdrivers) to pry up the tabs on the top of the stopper.

Here is a close up pic of these pieces removed.

Notice my favorite tool in the whole wide world snuck into the picture too (the cotter pin puller). I found a couple of A/C o-rings I had sitting around and used them to replace the ones on the stopper cap.
 

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Now, you need to use a 3 or 4 foot length of 3/4" heater hose to make your own fill tube. Thread it down from the middle of the engine compartment, under the battery box, over to the fill hole on the transmission. You'll need a funnel on the other end to pour the fluid in with.

Fill the transmission with 3 liters of Pentosin synthetic fluid. Yes, I know its $9+ per liter, but do not use any other fluid, you cheap bastitch.

Here is what this setup looks like:
 

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Leave your homemade heater hose fill system in place, and be sure there are no stray tools in the engine compartment.

Hook your handy dandy laptop with VAG-COM interface up to the OBD-II port under the dash of the car. Start car. Go to the transmission module and then measuring block group 005 to find the transmission temperature. Let the car run until the transmission temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees celsius.

Here is a picture of the VAG-COM hooked up:
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Once the vehicle achieves the correct temperature, do NOT turn the engine off.

Crawl underneath and remove the metal drain plug. If fluid comes out, then there is either the right amount of fluid or too much. I put in 3 liters and some came out when I opened the drain plug. I let it drain out a bit until it slowed to a drip and then replaced the drain plug. I would say about a shot glass worth came out.

If no fluid comes out, you need to add some until it does come out of the drain hole (which, in case you haven't figured out by now, means the fluid is level with the top of that orange sleeve shown earlier). Now, how convoluted is this procedure for checking the transmission fluid level?

Once you're satisfied with the fluid level, replace the drain plug and tighten snug (don't forget, this thing is screwed into a bit of plastic, so don't overdo it, Rambo). Then, remove your homemade fill system and put the stopper back on the fill hole. Attach a new red safety sleeve thingy around the stopper.

Finally reinstall the metal skid plate (and then the plastic one too, unless you're changing the engine oil too like I did next).

Hope everyone enjoyed the how-to. And I really hope people aren't waiting as long as I did to do this maintenance item. Ignore VW - replace the fluid and filter every 30K-40K miles.
 

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I didn't change the final drive fluid and here is why: I can actually believe it is lifetime. First off, I don't think the final drive unit is vented like the transmission is - so it's a sealed unit. Secondly, there are no clutches.. just metal gears on metal gears so debris in the fluid from wear should be minimal. I might change it eventually, but it's not a high priority.

I had considered just measuring the fluid that was removed.... and it seems like this could work. But you'd be trusting that it had the correct level to start with.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Cadenza_7o
I think the engine must be left running while checking the fluid level. You can leave the shifter in P or N, and with the ATF at appropriate temp, check the ATF level. If the trans is not running, there will be more fluid in the pan as it's not being circulated.
Porkchop

Ah.. I was waiting for our resident auto-tran guru to post.

Dang it... I didn't even think about keeping the car running... I'll need to double check the level again. Thanks for catching that!
 
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