Help! Suddenly can't shift. What to check?

shoebear

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
I drove my car early this morning and noticed that it was hard to get the transmission to go into gear (5 speed manual). I just got in and tried to drive again. This time, it wouldn't go into 1st. I was able to get it into 5th, but I can't get it back out. What's going on? What do I check first?

I changed the gear oil a couple of years ago. Otherwise,, I have not messed with transmission or clutch in the last 180K miles.

Thanks in advance!
 
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burpod

teh stallionz!!1
Joined
Nov 27, 2004
Location
cape cod, ma
TDI
82 rabbit vnt ahu, 98 jetta vnt ahu, 05 parts car, 88 scirocco.. :/
shift linkage of course :) try manually moving it by hand at the shift tower to see if you can operate the gears. could also perhaps use a wood block to push the clutch in while you do that
 

shoebear

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
shift linkage of course :) try manually moving it by hand at the shift tower to see if you can operate the gears. could also perhaps use a wood block to push the clutch in while you do that
Thanks, burpod. I'll try that this afternoon when I get home from church (taking wife's car).
 

Moparmax

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Oct 7, 2022
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Iowa
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2000 Jetta, .260s, gtb1756vk, pd intake, Burpod tuned. 2001 Jetta 5 speed, stock except for a Burpod tune. 2012 Jetta DSG
Sounds like a possibility the clutch isn't disengaging fully.
 

Bradm

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2019
Location
Wisconsin
TDI
02,03,05, Jetta 99.5 Golf
When i had this problem it was the shift tower bushing. If its shift cable/bushing/tower its all easy to check out. Dieselgeek has a good videos on it all too if you get stuck or need to re adjust everything. A 5mm drill bit works the same if you dont have the pin to lock the stick in place (in car) to adjust
 

Tdijarhead

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Nov 10, 2013
Location
Lawrenceville PA
TDI
2003 TDI Jetta Daughters Car, 2001 TDI Beetle, Wife’s car, 2005 Golf TDI Mine, all 5 spds
So I had this problem with my Golf. It had not gotten bad enough so I couldn’t get it in or out of gear but first was getting especially hard to engage. I had already installed the complete dieselgeek bushing kit including the first gear getter. That kit helped tremendously but overtime it became hard to shift again.

I checked the linkages under the hood and all looked good so I popped the shift boot up and I found this screw I am pointing to had come loose. I tightened it up and first gear became easy to find again. However after a couple of months the shifting was back to being difficult. Once again I popped off the boot and the little bolt had again backed off and allowed the linkage to become sloppy.

This time when I tightened the little bolt I put some blue lock tite on the bolt and so far so good. I think that little bolt tends to work loose as these cars age. Maybe the threads are becoming worn, if the blue lock tite doesn’t keep it in place I’ll try red next.



 

shoebear

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
So I had this problem with my Golf. It had not gotten bad enough so I couldn’t get it in or out of gear but first was getting especially hard to engage. I had already installed the complete dieselgeek bushing kit including the first gear getter. That kit helped tremendously but overtime it became hard to shift again.

I checked the linkages under the hood and all looked good so I popped the shift boot up and I found this screw I am pointing to had come loose. I tightened it up and first gear became easy to find again. However after a couple of months the shifting was back to being difficult. Once again I popped off the boot and the little bolt had again backed off and allowed the linkage to become sloppy.

This time when I tightened the little bolt I put some blue lock tite on the bolt and so far so good. I think that little bolt tends to work loose as these cars age. Maybe the threads are becoming worn, if the blue lock tite doesn’t keep it in place I’ll try red next.
Thanks! I'll be sure to check that this afternoon when I can look at it.
 

shoebear

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Update: I messed with the shift stick some more, and (with clutch pressed) all of a sudden it came out of 5th. Then all the gears were back to normal.

Tdijarhead, I checked the screw you pointed out, and without removing the center console, it appeared to be tight. The head wasn't protruding, and it didn't move when I tried to wiggle it with my finger.

With a quick exam, I didn't see anything amiss about the shifter bushings or shift tower. However, I ordered a deluxe bushing kit from dieselgeek, and I'll install it as soon as I can.

The problem felt like something hard - a pebble or screw - got where it should not go, and blocked the shifter from working. Then it got loose and fell out, and all is back to normal now.

I'll report back when I get the bushing kit installed. Thank you ever so much for the comments and advice. You guys are great!

PS: I drove the car around town a fair amount Sunday afternoon and evening. It's still intermittently hard to shift and occasionally tries to get stuck in 5th gear. So the problem is not some hard object that got in the mechanism. I'm adding the Super Slider to my Dieselgeek deluxe shifter bushing kit order, and I look forward to getting the kit and installing it.
 
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shoebear

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Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
OK, the symptoms are getting worse again, and it looks like Moparmax was right after all. The clutch isn't quite disengaging fully, even with the pedal pressed into the floor. What does this mean, and how do I fix it? I'm pretty sure that's the root cause of my hard shifting.

PS-The shift linkage kit should be here tomorrow. But at this point, I'm not sure that's the issue.
 

shoebear

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Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Did some research. I will check the clutch slave cylinder and line for leaks, check the master cylinder brake fluid level. If leaks found, bleed clutch.

Another possibility is a cracked fork, normally something you have to inspect by dropping the transmission. But I have a borescope that might work.
 

KrashDH

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
Did some research. I will check the clutch slave cylinder and line for leaks, check the master cylinder brake fluid level. If leaks found, bleed clutch.

Another possibility is a cracked fork, normally something you have to inspect by dropping the transmission. But I have a borescope that might work.
If your fork was cracked, it would be pretty easy to feel. You wouldn't feel hardly any resistance and your slave wouldn't return.

I would find it odd for a fork to be cracked and just "bending" but still returning to position.

Your previous post, stating that the function is "fluctuating" would indicate to me that air has gotten into the system
 
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shoebear

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Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
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1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Your previous post, stating that the function is "fluctuating" would indicate to me that air has gotten into the system
Thanks! I agree with your suspicion. I checked my brake fluid reservoir, and it was low. I added fluid and pumped the clutch a lot, but the problem remained. I'll bleed the slave cylinder as soon as I can line up a helper during daylight. Hopefully that'll fix it.
 

KrashDH

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
Thanks! I agree with your suspicion. I checked my brake fluid reservoir, and it was low. I added fluid and pumped the clutch a lot, but the problem remained. I'll bleed the slave cylinder as soon as I can line up a helper during daylight. Hopefully that'll fix it.
Yeah if you ran the fluid below where the slave "T's" into the reservoir, that's surely your issue. Just remember when you're tightening the bleed screw at the slave, do not over tighten because it can crack that plastic body easily.
 

BobnOH

not-a-mechanic
Joined
May 29, 2004
Location
central Ohio
TDI
New Beetle 2003 manual
Clutches do wear out. But you're smart to check all the other stuff first. When it sticks in 5th, turn the car off and try again. If it's still stuck, I would check the shifter stuff in the cabin, then the linkage in the engine compartment.
 

shoebear

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Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
... and if the fluid was that low and did not trigger a warning on the cluster, that's another issue.
Yes, I've been thinking the same thing. I'm about to go out and bleed the clutch slave cylinder; while I'm out there, I'll check the level float switch.
 

KrashDH

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
Clutches do wear out. But you're smart to check all the other stuff first. When it sticks in 5th, turn the car off and try again. If it's still stuck, I would check the shifter stuff in the cabin, then the linkage in the engine compartment.
Majority of the time when the clutch is starting to wear, the engagement point gets noticeably closer to the floor before it becomes hard to get in gear
 

shoebear

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Colorado Springs, CO
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1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
I remembered that I have a Motive Products power bleeder. Bled the clutch cylinder twice. No bubbles in the output, and no improvement. What now?

Krash, I trust your expertise. I thought a worn clutch would show the opposite way - engagement getting higher until you couldn't get the clutch to hold without slipping. If you're correct, however, my clutch is probably worn out. Oh, joy. Thanks, burpod! 😉😄
 

Bradm

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Jan 26, 2019
Location
Wisconsin
TDI
02,03,05, Jetta 99.5 Golf
Take the cables off the shift tower and see if you can cycle through the gears relatively easy using the “golf club”
With the cables off you will also be able to feel any play in the tower, this may also narrow it down to something in stick/cables or trans/clutch
 

shoebear

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Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Take the cables off the shift tower and see if you can cycle through the gears relatively easy using the “golf club”
With the cables off you will also be able to feel any play in the tower, this may also narrow it down to something in stick/cables or trans/clutch
Good idea... but since the gears shift easily when the engine isn't running, I doubt the issue is with the shifter bushings/linkages. Right now, anytime the engine is running and the car is in gear, there is thrust being applied to the wheels, even with the clutch down to the floor. So my helper would need to be in the car with both clutch down and brakes applied while I messed with the tower weight. I'll give that some thought and decide whether to try it.

PS -- I see you're in Wisconsin. I just delivered my 2005 New Beetle TDI to her while she's in seminary in Nashotah, about 15 miles west of Milwaukee. I fixed many issues on that car as I had time to work on it -- took several years.
 

shoebear

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Aug 1, 2002
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Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Could it be a DMF coming apart?
I have a Luk SMF DMF clutch installed 190K miles ago. So no yes, the DMF could be a problem.

EDIT: I looked it up, and I have the Luk 17-050 with DMF. Dang! So yes, could be a DMF problem.
 
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Bradm

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Jan 26, 2019
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Wisconsin
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02,03,05, Jetta 99.5 Golf
Good idea... but since the gears shift easily when the engine isn't running, I doubt the issue is with the shifter bushings/linkages. Right now, anytime the engine is running and the car is in gear, there is thrust being applied to the wheels, even with the clutch down to the floor. So my helper would need to be in the car with both clutch down and brakes applied while I messed with the tower weight. I'll give that some thought and decide whether to try it.

PS -- I see you're in Wisconsin. I just delivered my 2005 New Beetle TDI to her while she's in seminary in Nashotah, about 15 miles west of Milwaukee. I fixed many issues on that car as I had time to work on it -- took several years.
Ah got it. I missed the part about it working properly with the engine not running. Sounds like its internal then.

I grew up near that area, its become quite different with Milwaukee kind of swallowing that area up into a suburb so to say. But still a nice area and beautiful part of the kettle moraine. Is the beetle going back home when shes done? A tdi beetle is the only thing missing from my stable🤣
 

shoebear

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Aug 1, 2002
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Colorado Springs, CO
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1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Ah got it. I missed the part about it working properly with the engine not running. Sounds like its internal then.

I grew up near that area, its become quite different with Milwaukee kind of swallowing that area up into a suburb so to say. But still a nice area and beautiful part of the kettle moraine. Is the beetle going back home when shes done? A tdi beetle is the only thing missing from my stable🤣
The Beetle will stay with her and her husband until they don't want it anymore (maybe when they start having kids?). I'm giving it to them -- transferring the title -- so they can decide what to do with it once they're done with it. However, I expect they'll offer to give it back to me unless it's wrecked. By that time, there's a good chance they will be in another state. I'll try to remember to let you know if it becomes available, but that may be years away.
 

shoebear

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Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
Still not sure what the problem is. Possibilities include:
  • Bad clutch slave cylinder (unlikely)
  • Bent/cracked fork
  • DMF disintegration
  • Just worn out
All of these except the slave cylinder require dropping the transmission to check, and my current Luk 17-050 DMF has 180K miles and is probably about done anyway. This is my daily driver, and I need it back in working order ASAP, and shipping will be delayed by holidays. So I went ahead and ordered a South Bend stage 2 Endurance kit from idparts (with an idparts SMF - saves money over SBC flywheel). I called them after ordering, and they were able to ship it yet today. That's good customer service!

While I wait for delivery, I'll remove and test the slave cylinder. If that's the problem, I'll replace it and put the clutch on the shelf. I'm sure I'll need it before long.

 
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burpod

teh stallionz!!1
Joined
Nov 27, 2004
Location
cape cod, ma
TDI
82 rabbit vnt ahu, 98 jetta vnt ahu, 05 parts car, 88 scirocco.. :/
Still not sure what the problem is. Possibilities include:
  • Bad clutch slave cylinder (unlikely)
  • Bent/cracked fork
  • DMF disintegration
  • Just worn out
All of these except the slave cylinder require dropping the transmission to check, and my current Luk 17-050 DMF has 180K miles and is probably about done anyway. This is my daily driver, and I need it back in working order ASAP, and shipping will be delayed by holidays. So I went ahead and ordered a South Bend stage 2 Endurance kit from idparts (with an idparts SMF - saves money over SBC flywheel). I called them after ordering, and they were able to ship it yet today. That's good customer service!

While I wait for delivery, I'll remove and test the slave cylinder. If that's the problem, I'll replace it and put the clutch on the shelf. I'm sure I'll need it before long.

idparts is great that way. hard to beat their customer service. it does not hurt to get the new flywheel with the package deal. save your old one, bring it to machine shop at your convenience and get it resurfaced to have "just in case".

make sure to compare your LUK flywheel with the one idparts sent. get the dimensions etc for the benefit of others :) namely, depth and diameters of clutch surface area
 

shoebear

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
TDI
1998 Jetta, 2003 Jetta Wagon, 2005 New Beetle, 2013 Sportwagen
idparts is great that way. hard to beat their customer service. it does not hurt to get the new flywheel with the package deal. save your old one, bring it to machine shop at your convenience and get it resurfaced to have "just in case".

make sure to compare your LUK flywheel with the one idparts sent. get the dimensions etc for the benefit of others :) namely, depth and diameters of clutch surface area
The Luk flywheel is dual mass, so I will probably just pitch it.
 
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