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Old 05-13-2013, 01:49 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2012
Fairfax, VA, USA
Car: '03 Vert GLX 1.8t 6 speed Tip
Default Auto trans level check and fill info.

Not really a DIY, however, I am pasting together some info I had previously offered that was buried deep in another post.

Hopefully this info will be helpful to anyone that has issue with their auto trans and wants to check the level, drop the pan and refill or top off the auto trans fluid level.

So here goes some hopefully useful info.

I am also not an expert on all the NB auto transmission, but my understanding there were at least 3 different auto trans over the years depending on the engine and model of the car. There was a 4, 5 and 6 speed automatic. There may be some differences between the transmissions, I only have hands on experience with the 09G 6 speed Tiptronic trans that came in my 2003 NBC GLX 1.8t.

That being said, I believe?? that all of these transmission can be checked and filled from the bottom drain plug??? I know that many of the transmissions do have a top fill, which was phased out in later years, but I can tell you it is best NOT to use this top fill as the plastic becomes very brittle over the years and can easily break and replacement parts are bit hard to find.

This may be a bit disjointed, if I have time and the tread will still allow me to edit it, I may clean this info up a bit??

The bottom fill method is for trans pans with the drain plug in them. I do not know the full Beetle Auto trans line up very well, so I do not know if "all" Beetle auto trans have the drain plug/bottom pan fill option. I know that some trans had both a bottom fill and a very hard to reach upper fill port, then later years the upper fill port was eliminated. The problem with the upper fill port is it can be hard to access and easy to break.

Once you figure out how easy the bottom fill can be to use, it is actually a very slick way to fill and check the trans. You have to use the bottom fill/drain to check the proper level anyway.

You need a $5 hand pump from the local auto parts store or Amazon and a cheap Home Depot/Harbor Freight blow gun, some electrical tape or duct tape and 1 small hose clamp. The blowgun extension is just something I happened to fall onto while trying to figure out how to come up with a hollow adapter to fit the bottom fill/drain of the transmission. It was this or purchase some over priced & hard to find special tool. I just happened to have a EUREKA moment standing in my garage looking around for ideas while thinking about what might work. I just happened to look at my blowgun and a light bulb went on in my head. I thought I would be grinding and threading, but unlike my usual luck, the blow gun extension was the right size and thread and screwed right into the trans pan fill/drain hole!

Again, I do not know if all the VW trans pans have the fill/drain plug and it they are all the same size, but the pan fill is stupid easy once you have all the correct pieces in hand, probably less than $15 in parts, vs some $40+ special fill adapter that is hard to find and you still do not have a pump.

I will do the best I can to explain the auto transmission fluid fill procedure and tools I used.

First you need to have an auto trans pan with the drain plug in the bottom. Mine had like a 6 or 7 mm hex wrench/tool on the bottom of the plug. What ever the hex size is to remove the trans drain plug is the same hex size to unscrew the plastic stub tube/fill tube that is recessed inside the trans drain hole. The plastic stub/fill pipe should only be removed if you plan on draining the transmission, otherwise the plastic stub/fill tube stays in the trans for proper level checking. The plug has an aluminum crush washer like a spark plug washer that does not like to be reused without dripping, so you should get a few of these aluminum crush washers.

The VW/Audi trans pan that has the drain typically has the ability to both drain and fill the trans from the bottom of the pan. Up inside the trans drain hole, once you remove the drain plug is a plastic stub/fill tube that treads in that is about 1 1/2" long. To drain the pan, this plastic stub can be un-threaded using the same hex size hex tool that was for the drain plug.

This stub tube extends it the trans pan to allow the proper fluid level to be set. The trans needs to be warm, not hot, to set the proper fluid level, I believe it is about 100-120F?? If you do not know the history of the trans, you may need to make sure the plastic stub tube is in the drain/fill hole. Without the stub tube you cannot properly set the fluid level. The stub tube just need to be finger snug.

To check the trans level, the fluid needs to be warm, the vehicle needs to be level, the fluid needs to be approximately 120F and the engine MUST be running. Start the engine with your foot on the brake, shift the trans through all the gears then put the trans back in part. Then while the engine is still running, you can remove the drain plug and see if the fluid will lightly stream out. Note the fluid will be warm, so be careful not to burn yourself. Also when first removing the drain plug you may get about 1 tablespoon of fluid to leak out initially. What you want is a small, steady stream of fluid, smaller than diameter than a toothpick to come out and is almost ready to start to break into a drip rather than a stream, if this is what you are seeing, the fluid level is likely very close to proper. If you do not get any fluid lightly streaming out, you will need to add fluid a bit at a time and then continue to remove the fill adapter from the fill plug until you have a very small steady stream close to converting to a drip of fluid coming out. This may take some trial and error. No worries if you over fill, you can just let the excess drain out until you are almost to a broken stream of fluid, then you know the level is very close to accurate.

As for fluid options, use a synthetic ATF. You can shop around a bit and suppliers like have the proper fluid, however, I have read that many shops use Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF for most of their European auto transmission repairs and rebuilds.

The most difficult part of this entire exercise is locating some form of suitable adapter and a pump for the fluid. Once you find an adapter and pump to fill the trans, then it is VERY easy to fill and set the proper level. You can also easily catch overflow fluid for reuse if needed.

You screw an adapter into the trans pan drain hole, connect up a hand pump and pump away. You do not need to worry about air as this will purge automatically via the trans vent.

If the trans fluid was changed, depending on the trans type, you will need likely at least 3 to either 4-5 Liters of fluid. Start with 3 liters if the pan was off. Fill the trans using the pump then you can disconnect the hose (with engine running) and see if fluid pours back out the fill tube.

Keep filling and removing the hose with the engine running and make sure you shift the trans though all the gears with your foot on the brake. Then put the trans back in park and keep topping off the fluid until you have a small/steady stream that just starts to drip, then the level should be very close or correctly set.

I do not worry too much about the first attempt to get the level 100% as you may get the fluid temp too high during the initial fill. I like to drive the car a few days then recheck the level at the proper temp. Once you have the fluid close, final top off is very quick. I reused the original crush washer on the fill plug until I was happy the level was correct, then I put the new crush washer on the fill plug.

Attached are some links from Amazon with pictures of the type of blow gun and pump I used. I think my blow gun was from Home Depot and the pump I picked up at my local Advance Auto parts. Almost all local parts stores have 1 quart hand pumps for around $5.

Air Blow Gun Kit with Interchangeable Nozzles :

Custom Accessories 36670 Pennzoil Fluid Transfer Pump - Quart :

The key to this is the blow gun adapter piece, this happened to be the same thread as the trans drain threads. You likely will need to drill the adapter center hole slightly larger, with like a 3/16" drill or slightly larger as this adapter is really a safety restrictor, I think the hole is less that 1/8" and will restrict the fluid volume and it may take longer to fill.

The blow gun extension is smaller than the pump tube, so I just wrapped some duct tape around the tube to increase the circumference and put a small hose clamp on the tube to keep it from leaking fluid while pumping and so it wound not slip off. Electrical tape would also likely work, I think I just happened to have the duct tape and fist reach as I was in a hurry to get the trans filled and I was not worried about aesthetics!

The drain and fill from the bottom of the pan is really a pretty slick set up once you understand how it works and have a pump and adapter.

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To remove the original drain plug even if the center hex is stripped, you should be able use use Vice Grips to grab the outside of the plug and remove it from the pan. Once the drain plug is removed, you will need to remove the 1 1/2" plastic stub tube to properly drain the rest of the fluid out of the trans pan. A 6 or 7mm hex driver or Allen wrench is all that is needed, the plastic stub tube is not very tight, maybe finger tight, and will un-thread very easily.

I really suggest getting at least 2 aluminum crush washers as you may want to recheck the fluid after a few days and these aluminum crush washers are one time use.

See attached PDF's below that will give you somewhat of an idea of what the pan and stub tube look like and the crazy VW fluid fill set up, which you do not need if you use the blow gun extension tube and a hand pump.

The transmission pan assembly is made up of the following parts:

1. Transmission pan
2. Transmission drain/fill plug
3. Transmission drain/fill plug washer - consumable item
4. Transmission drain/fill stub tube - plastic tube about 1 1/2 long.
5. 2 magnets for metal partial collection.

The stub tube is CRITICAL, if you do not have this installed in the trans pan, you cannot properly fill the transmission. This stub tube treads into the drain/fill hole, THEN the drain fill plug with the crush washer go on to seal the drain/fill hole.

To properly drain the transmission you have to unscrew or remove the stub tube, otherwise you will have 1-2 liters of fluid still captured in the transmission pan.

Try to look closely at this diagram, it is the best I have. The tube that comes up from the bottom of the transmission drain/fill hole is the stub tube, it thread inside the drain/fill hole. It is only finger tight and has I think a 7mm hex opening in the end so you can use a hex driver or Allen key to remove the tube ONLY when you need to drain the trans fluid from the pan, otherwise the tube is ALWAYS installed into the trans pan.

VW Trans Pan.pdf

I was also able to locate pictures of the drain plug & washer, the stub tube removed and still on a hex driver with the fluid draining from the pan and a picture of the fill tube in the trans drain opening and a picture of trans magnets, not from a Beetle, but what you DON'T want them to look like.

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Some other useful documents below:

VW 09G Trans Drain & Fill.pdf

VW 09G Trans fill procedure.pdf

VW 09G Trans Pan.pdf

VW Trans Pan.pdf

Last edited by jfoj; 05-17-2013 at 02:20 PM..
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 05-17-2013, 02:19 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2012
Fairfax, VA, USA
Car: '03 Vert GLX 1.8t 6 speed Tip

One of the reasons I have put together this post is to help people figure out how to check and fill their automatic transmissions and to be able to pull the trans pan in case of valve body problems. Almost all the New Beetle automatic transmissions had valve bodies that ate themselves usually by 75k miles for city cars or by around 100k miles for highway cars. This was due to the valve body being made of aluminum and the spool valves in the valve body were hard anodized and the spool valves ate the inside bores of the valve bodies. Usually valves for the lower gears were the most problematic as they tend to get more use. 2-3 & 3-4 up and downshifts were very common problems along with delayed upshifts. In addition to the valve body wear, the solenoids would wear prematurely. The valve body wiring hardness would also get chaffed and damaged and the tiny solenoid connectors would fail to make proper connection after many years heating and cooling in the transmission fluid. One note, premature valve body and solenoid wear could not really have been avoided by changing the transmission fluid every 30-50k miles. This problem was really a design and materials issue and not a lack of lubrication or an issue of contaminated lubrication. Sure changing the trans fluid may have delayed the valve body and solenoid problem, but you would still be reading this post regardless!

VW actually extended the warranty coverage on many automatic transmission for 7 years/100k miles due to all these problems, however, everyone here is likely outside of the extended coverage window. The good news if you catch the valve body problem early and to not keep driving the car, usually you can pull the valve body and have it repaired or install and exchange valve body. To overhaul a valve body or get an exchange unit is around $550 at this time depending on where you get your work performed and if the trans is a 4, 5 or 6 speed automatic. This is the price just for the valve body, then add synthetic ATF fluid and possibly a trans pan gasket and filter with shipping you are probably close to the $700 range just in parts, this assume you swap the valve body yourself, which is actually pretty easy of you can change you own engine oil and perform basic maintenance on your car.

The key here is what do the magnets in the trans pan look like and how much debris is in the trans pan?? All 50-75k mile automatic transmissions will have some minor metal on the magnets and the bottom of the trans pan will be slightly discolored with a film that you can wipe off with a rag. This is "normal". You need to decide if you want to invest $700 in a valve body repair and will you likely be able to get your money out of the valve body repair before something else goes wrong with the transmission or the car!

It is somewhat of a calculated gamble, if you have not replaced the timing belt and water pump, this is another major failure point. Also automatic transmissions are notoriously complex and you can have other failures at higher mileage.

A word of caution, do not take your car to a transmission shop for a valve body repair. AAMCO and many other transmission shops are FAMOUS for playing games. They say things like, we can drop the trans pan and inspect the transmission and we will credit the cost of dropping the trans pan back to any repairs. This is honest and straight forward, but what happens in reality is they drop the trans pan, disabling your ability to drive the car, then start with all the "you have metal shavings in the trans pan, you need your trans overhauled and your torque converter is bad"!! All higher mileage transmissions will have metal in the trans pan, but to what degree is acceptable. Well as long as you do not have magnets that look like Chia Pets, pictured below, then you are likely fine. If there is metal on the magnets and in the trans pan, this is kind of a good thing as this is where any metal belongs. But again, how much is acceptable for a higher mileage transmission?? This is hard to explain without seeing the trans pan & magnets.

Once the car is up in the air, trans pan off, car disabled, well then what do you do?? Oh, then they drop a $4-$5k estimate on you for a trans overhaul, but they will credit the cost of the inspection to your overhaul, well thanks. Well we ALL know the car is not worth this amount of money and you would be foolish to spend this kind of money on a 8+ year old car. The problem is most shops do not understand the valve body is the primary problem with these transmission and think some software update will solve a mechanical wear problem and it will not! Many shops do not touch the valve body, then you have problems after the overhaul, bring the car back then they say, oh you need to spend another $1500 for a valve body!!! And yes, they will not eat the valve body because they claim they never repaired/overhauled/replaced the valve body, but their transmission work is all fine.
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Old 04-12-2014, 10:57 PM
mike03 2.0 vert
Join Date: Nov 2012
Memphis, TN, USA
Car: 03 GLS

Thanks so much for this Thread.
Our Beetle was rear ended (stop sign and ice) and I think it will be totaled.
Meanwhile, Myra has been stranded with the transmission stuck in first. So, there was alot of drip showing and we pumped in a quart and a half, Yes, I do feel flush.
Any way we bought a hand pump from Autozone that fit the neck of a quart bottle of transimmion fluid. And for the adaptor to match the drain plug threads, we bought a grease gun hose (cut one end off) and slide the pump tubing over the new hose fitting.. Again....many thanks, it apears to shift as it should.

Last edited by mike03; 04-14-2014 at 04:51 PM.. Reason: clarify
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Old 07-25-2014, 04:35 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2014
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Thanks for the many helpful posts JFOJ. I just ordered a rebuilt valve body from PCT for my daughter's 2004 Beetle GLS turbo convertible with 93,000. I've been reading through hundreds of posts and think I have it down as to what to expect and do. My daughter's car was doing exactly what many others described; hard shifting 3-4 and sometimes 4-5 after warm. It wasn't going into gear, just revving and then eventually going into 4/5.
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Old 08-10-2014, 09:55 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Car: 03 New Beetle Convertible

Do you need a new crush washer if you are just going to open the drain to check the level / top off... or only if you are dropping the pan?
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Old 08-11-2014, 12:36 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2012
Fairfax, VA, USA
Car: '03 Vert GLX 1.8t 6 speed Tip

Originally Posted by SteelCity View Post
Do you need a new crush washer if you are just going to open the drain to check the level / top off... or only if you are dropping the pan?
Yes, also suggest if you plan on checking the level a few times, use the original crush washer, the replace it once you know the level is set properly. These are clearly onetime use washers.
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Old 10-09-2015, 07:32 PM
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Join Date: May 2015
Car: 2003 NBC

Nice write up, thanks. I just picked up a Beetle convertible a few months ago, and it's been slowly leaking transmission fluid. Turns out, whoever was in there last didn't even put a crush washer on. After topping off and putting on a crush washer, the rough shifting was gone.
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Old 10-10-2015, 03:20 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2012
Fairfax, VA, USA
Car: '03 Vert GLX 1.8t 6 speed Tip

Yea, the crush washer is CRITICAL, otherwise the plug will drip.

There should be no pan leaks on the 6 speeds if properly installed.

Be careful, you may not be out of the woods, if the valve body has not been overhauled, GET READY, it will need it.
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