I bought a bunch of junk cars for my loved ones. What better way to show your children that you care then buying them vehicles that don’t run? For my youngest son I bought a 2005 Colorado with a fried electrical system and for my daughter I bought a 2006 VW Beetle Convertible with ruined transmission (but Dad it’s like sooooo cute).
The Colorado turned out to be the deal of the century–a junkyard ECU and a bunch of trial and error programming and voila–a running driving quad cab 4wd pickup for a total of $1200. ABS remains a problem but I have a plan for that.
The Beetle is another story. The 09G transmission used in those models is known for valve body problems. I bought a Trans-Go rebuild kit off of my good friend eBay, strapped up my big boy pants, and went in.
My father is the wisest man I know (wisest? or most wise? See, he’d know the correct answer to that, that’s how wise he is). He restored antique cars my whole life. Lately he’s been doing everything himself except paint and transmissions. “Son”, he’d say, “Your mother wants you to eat your vegetables. Oh yes, also never tear into a transmission.” Words to live by.
Dear Dad–you were right. Transmissions are scary places that designed by sadists who are into small valves, springs that all look alike, tiny check balls, sticking round thingamabobs, and fear. All of these items are carefully designed to appear to be installed firmly and then fall out when you are not paying attention. Aisin Warner, the designer and manufacturer of the VW 09G transmission valve body must be haven for these sick and twisted individuals. Mission accomplished, gentlemen.
Props to Trans-Go because their directions were exceptional. They document the length and wire gauge of every spring, show detailed photographs of every check ball, stack-ups of every valve, and even notes on which side of the separator plate to hold to minimize the amount of parts falling down and rolling under your toolbox. Thank you so much Trans-Go. With their directions I rebuilt all eight solenoids on the valve body, cleaned every valve, drilled the separator plates, and replaced a valve as per the directions. I got the valve body reinstalled with a minimum of fuss.
The transmission sadists weren’t quite done with me yet though. The New Beetle has a ‘lifetime fill’ in their transmissions. As such, there is no need to provide a dipstick or even a method to fill the transmission. I had to wait a few days for a special tool to arrive from Amazon to be able to fill the transmission. It screws in to the drain plug. Yes, you fill the transmission by screwing a tube into the drain plug and then have to pump fluid into the bottom of the pan. After you get two quarts in it starts to leak out, so you have to fire the car up and let it pull the fluid into the trans, then get pumping again to get the additional four quarts in.
The sadists will be happy to know that after clearing the codes on the car it immediately set a check engine light for a transmission sensor. Adversity had struck so it was time to quit for a week.
During the week I did a bit of Googling and located the sensor in question. It exists above the valve body but plugs in below the valve body. I distinctly remembered unplugging a wire to reroute and couldn’t remember plugging it back in again. I decided to hope really, really hard that it was just that wire and that I did’t need to pull the valve body back off again.
Fast forward a week, I drain the pan, drop the pan, and sure enough the wire is not fully seated in the connector. I had planned on reusing the fluid but it was already brown, presumably from mixing with whatever 130K mile fluid was left elsewhere in the trans. Feeling confident, I ponied up another $80 for fully synthetic Castrol Transmax (acceptable for use in Aisin Warner transmissions as used by Volkswagen).
After refilling the trans (I pressed my daughter’s boyfriend into helping pump the six quarts of fluid into the drain hole) we hopped in for a drive around the parking lot. Everything seemed smashing. We ran down the road and filled up with gas. We buzzed down to visit my daughter at work. As we were buzzing back to the shop, the car hopped out of 3rd gear again (which was it’s problem in the first place). I slowed down and eased up through the gears a second time and was able to repeat the problem. It only flares in 3rd and 4th gears, only when warm, and only if you are babying the car. If you are 3/4 throttle and above it shifts into those gears properly. I suspect not enough line pressure so maybe the pump? I suspect it, but am too pissed off at the car to care. Dejected, I parked the car.
For sale–creampuff 2006 VW Beetle Cabriolet, 130K miles, shifts like a dream when cold, just don’t let it warm up. Make me an offer.