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Gentlemen,

At the advice of Urlik the Moderator Extraordinaire, I have cut and copied my original Noob post here complete with several responses in hopes of a wider range of exposure to your brain trust. Here goes;
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I am a '2 post completed' newbie to this forum and have little to no experience with VWs. Years ago, I owned a 74 super bettle. Did a little work on it - oil changes, plugs, etc. Since then, I bought a 02 TDI and and trying to learn about it - great little car.

My next lesson to learn in life:

My neighbors daughter just came home from out west for years and brought her 02 Passat GLX V6 4Motion with her. Last week the car decided not to be driven above 3 mphs - limp mode? She is not available for more history of car. Father is going to junk it but has offered it to me if I want it. Here's what I know with the following disclaimer: I know nothing about things in depth VW I am a beginning student here to learn.

Car has 202K miles
Near flawless cosmetic condition.
Starts and runs and drives*** normal - multiple times over multiple days. ***I was not able to drive it out of neighborhood, so I could not really get above 30 mph. Drops into reverse, neutral, drive, and park immediately and smoothly. Driving in neighborhood, it shifts from first to second smoothly and normally. Started and stopped it removing the key 5 times over several days.

No abnormal/warning lights/CEL on instument cluster at all. I was told to check for CEL illumination at start up - all good - on then off right after start.
Absolutely everything works correctly - every switch, button, functionality, etc. -no lights in dash at all. Don't know about any codes since I don't have a reader yet. Hope to have a mechanic connect 'VW specific' advanced code reader today. Says its a german one.
Recent oil change by jiffy lube with 4K and 3 months to go (sticker) - the full under body, engine oil and transmission pans are dry and clean but not 'detailed perfect'. No rust or dried grease build up. I can find no active 'wet' leaks anywhere.
Same one woman owner since new. This was her baby. No accidents.
Car was taken to selling dealer in 2012 for scheduled service. Don't know what was done. Clueless about timing belt age of course.
engine oil clean and proper amount. coolant tank show orange/red (I think) transparent fluid and proper amount.
have no idea when trans oil and filter were changed. ditto for rear differential.

Was told by another local mechanic this is not a transmission Control module - TCM -failure that if so, would be an all or nothing failure. Any knowledge of TCM Intermittant failures?

Searched internet and talked to one used part vendor selling TCMs. He seemed to say that "I'm selling you this part but I want you to know your issue might be bad shift solenoids in the transmission itself that the TCM is sensing and triggering the protection mode. I'm selling you a used part that is good but don't complain or bring it back to me for refund if it doesn't solve your issue". Obviously suspect of his 'used' parts quality. He went on to say that the TCM had to be electronically calibrated to the transmission?

Don't know if any of this was correct but decided to include that information here.

Am I dreaming and crazy to think that this great car could be saved without major expense? Sure do hate to see this beautiful girl get raped and destroyed in the junkyard.

Thank you, WunderBug

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Here's a helpful response I got from Noob thread:

Yesterday, 10:10 AM #2
Doriangr3y
Doriangr3y is offline
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My Passat has 240k and runs like a dream. They are really great cars!
You're problem could be many reasons. First I would check the transmission fluid, could be low, causing it to go into "limp" mode.
It could also be the speed senor. The engine and transmission is not communicating correctly.
Or, it could be your MAF sensor (which do cause a lot of issues)
In my own opinion, I'd say buy it. If the price is right. Sounds to me she a keeper
These passat are a pain in the you-know-where to fix. But its alll worth it!
Also another thing is that if you are going to buy it, I would steer away from "experience" mechanics that say they know how to fix them. They probably don't. And are going to start wanting to replace the working part (like the TCM)
As always; check EVERYTHING before buying (unless you're getting it dirt cheap) than by all means buy it.
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my response:

Thank you Doriangr3y -
See you're from AZ. Great state. Lived there as a kid and learned to ride western. great memories. Dad was in AF based at Luke AFB.
I agree with your advice. Seems like I should buy it. Think I can get it for $900. Crazy? Fool?

Since my post this morning, I've done some more reading and talked with one VW mechanic. He refuted the comment from the parts reseller. Says the TCM is a plug and play module and does not have to be 'set or calibrated' to the car. Sound right? He could not give any reason for the intermittent nature of the issue. Says if the TCM was toasted, it would stay in limp mode and would not be operating normally now. All or nothing?
Although he was highly recommended by another mechanic as his "go to" VW guy, sounds like he does a lot of tuning and mod work. Did say his experience with Passats was inheriting one from his family.

I'm stunned to read that this is a no dip stick transmission. I have some general experience with late eighties MBs and this is surprising to me. Oh well.
Going to run and drive car again today and update this post. I'm very curious to find out what servicing the transmission will reveal. I can only hope this is the problem. Trying to talk with the daughter to see if she can relay the maintenance history (or lack thereof).

My paradox is that from what initial research I've done, once the car has a limp mode problem, it sticks. I'm VERY NEW and trying to learn from you guys - but I've yet to read any post that says limp mode comes and goes. And OBTW, the battery is 9 months old, has not been disconnected to clear anything, and car came limping home at 3 mph two weeks ago but now is not in limp mode. Again? Yet? Don't have a clue - I'm depending on you guys and your generous brain trust/patience with a Noob Wunderbug.

I'd really be great to think that servicing the transmission - doing standard maintenance - would bring this girl to life reliably....or am I about to crash onto the jagged reef chasing a beautiful siren?

I will post more as soon as I can get the codes read today.....

Stay tuned and thank you again.

WunderBug

That's all I know.
 

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What you want to do is get it hooked up to VCDS/VAGCOM. If you don't have that yet, you should for your other car.

My thoughts: These cars are in demand, esp. in snowy lands (the land of the Hyperboreans, for you Herodotus fans), so you should be able to offload it profitably in the worst case. It doesn't sound like it would be major tranny work ie. it's a component you can replace. At $900 I would take the chance if I had the room to store and work on it. Haggle down if you're a cheap bastard, but beware of what it may do to your friendship too.
 

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I would go a head and assume you won't be able to get any tangible service records from the dealer if the car has not been there in 6 plus months. Dealerships purge their systems of any records after that time if the car is not a regular customer. Unless you have paper records in hand; whatever someone tells you has been done is only hearsay.

I recently picked up an 04 Passat that I pretty much stole for $300.00. After putting a new battery in it I noticed it was going into limp mode weekly. I could turn the car off than back on and it would run like it should. I'm hoping it's simply an inexpensive sensor that's on it's way out or I need to service the fluid/filter because it's limp mode is so sporadic. Actually hasn't done it in a week or 2 :thumbup:

I have never bought a used car and found it flawless. It's being sold for a reason and it's usually more than 1 reason! I bought an 01 Passat back in Sept 05. It was not taken care of and I should have walked away and not bought it BUT!!!! I have loved this forum and learning about VW's. I had never owned one before and now I have 2 ;) I have quickly gone from needing a lot of advice to actually being able to offer it because of the people here. I still seek a lot of answers though lol

I felt the neglected 01 was still a very solid car after spending some time and $ in the suspension and other areas. More solid than any other car I've owned. My Nissan Maxima was a close second. Since getting my 04 (that was in so much better condition) has totally convinced me that these Passat's are solid cars if they are properly maintained and cared for.

I would seriously consider some of the following that will need to be replaced if it hasn't already due to the mileage and yr and use this in negotiating the asking price down.
Call a few junk yards and get the going price for them to come pick it up. Here in NC. they were going to give $400 so I got it below what the seller could have gotten.

Shocks, control arms, ball joints and outer tie rods
These tend to wear out and make the steering and suspension sloppy and will wear your tires prematurely.

CV joints
Check the rubber boots for any tearing/ listen for any clicking when making tight turns in motion

Entire PVC system
This system becomes clogged over time and will cause the valve cover gaskets and a few other gaskets to leak. The related hoses become very brittle

Vacuum lines
The become very brittle

Timing belt and related parts
If this breaks it will do serious damage to your motor

Brakes
You need the for stopping :poke:

Get yourself a Vagcom cable off Ebay and download the Ross Tech lite version to read your codes. The first time you have to use it you'll be glad you have it!!!!

Good luck if you decide to get it and welcome to the group.

I'm sure others will chime in but those are a few off the top of my head. You are looking at a high mileage car that's 14 yrs old so be prepared to have extra $ set aside for unexpected repairs.
 

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Arizona, born and raised!
It's such a nice, beautiful sate. Especially during the fall time. Nice to hear your father was in the Air Force! Salutes :salute: I've always been fond of the Air Force. Especially since I grew up very close to Luke Air Force Base (I live in Casa Grande, AZ)

$900 is a steal!

So when it comes to the TCM, when they break, the whole transmission will be stuck in limp mode and cause all sorts of bad symptoms. Now the reason why this happens is, because the TCM is located underneath the passenger floor board (it's a bad spot, I know) For one reason only; the Passat has a bad reputation with the inside carpets being wet. They get wet because the drain hoes that are located in the firewall under the hood gets clogged from debris and dirt. The water has no where else to go, but under the carpet. Leaving it soaking wet. There is a 2-3 inch (I think) gap between the the carpet and the frame of the car. So it will take some time for it to start to feel wet. People have said to take buckets of water from out under the carpet. Sounds crazy. So because of this, the TCM gets soaked in water and damages the whole unit, rendering it useless. Causing it to Stay in limp mode.

Now this may not be your issue here, but I want you to know that's an issue with these cars (especially mine own! Although it's only wet in the rear passenger and not the passenger in the front )

hirnbeiss and jjpark are right about getting a VAGCOM, but that can/will be expensive. These vw do support OBD II scanners, but its better to have a VAGCOM. It will tell you everything there is to know! Something I also need, But for now I make an educational guess when I have any issues :wrench:

These ZF (the manufacturers) transmission Are a pain in the butt. Plus onces you're underneath them, you can't see anything. I swear VW does on purpose so we can't fix it ourselves. Also when it comes to the transmission fluid they say we can only use OEM fluid and spend 90-100$ on a gallon of it. (that's why many people don't drive European car) they think its "expensive" to maintain. When only you just have to know to buy the cheaper one. With the same viscosity and that sort of things. BTW I use Valvoline Max Life ATF. Works great! 6-7 dollars a liter.

There is a way to "reset" your TCM. I've tried it, becuase I was having issues with my transmission as well. The torque converter inside the transmission broke off from wear and all my fluid came out along side the highway (scary stuff, smoke was everywhere!) Had that replaced, and the mechanic left the transmission acting weird. Did this and made it better.
Steps are:
1. Put your key in the ignition and turn ignition to the on position (the position right before you start the car)
2. Hold down the gas pedal pressing the button under the pedal for at least 20 seconds.
3. Let foot off pedal and start car. Be sure that you do no turn ignition off because that will void the reset

This will reset your TCM.

Now when you say that the car is no longer in limp mode and then comes back. Does it come back when the car temp gets to normal and been driving it for awhile?
If so, maybe you do have low fluid and with the transmission fluid gets to its normal temp, the viscosity of the fluid expands and slips gear and sticking to one gear, and not having enough pressure in the clutch pack to shift the gears?

Before you get under the car and touch the transmissions "blood" try removing the negative(-) battery for 20 seconds and putting it back on. See if that's gets it out of limp mode. If it does then the problem could be electrical.

If the problem still persist then start checking the fluid. Look for leaks. Check in the Coolant reservoir tank. The transmission fluid and antifreeze/coolant mix together and makes a huge mess and starts to really ruin the inside on the transmission.

But most likely it's just lack of maintenance and the car is crying for a new owner to look after her ;)
Maybe something simple as changing transmission filter and fluid.

The problems I've notice with these cars are the following;
1. All the one jjpark have listed are correct. (all the problems he's listed is what wrong with my car :lol: )
2. TCM unit gets wet from water entering from firewall and/or drain hose from sunroof.
3. valve gasket leaks (usually from the PVC being clogged, but also from heat-related)
4. ABS failing. Causing the ABS to light up in the dash and the red break light to beep every time you take her for a spin. Such an eyesore if you tell me.
5. MAF sensor failing. Causing too lean mixtures or too much air in the combustion chambers.
6. Torque converter seal blows off and all your transmission fluid spills out while you drive (First it starts as a leak then, boom... Well it's actually "pop" sound. Then fluid sprays everywhere with white smoke to add excitement)
7. Last, but not least You lose all the screws for the engine cover! My goodness, every time i take off the plastic cover for the engine I lose one screw. They're tiny back plastic screw that fall out and my vision not that sharp. So now i have it holding down by my last screw. (I never let that one out my sight)

I recommend buying the repair maunel from eBay. If you' are going to to buy the Passat. It's around 100 dollars, but worth it. So if ever come across a problem you wont have to come here and wait a few weeks for a reply. Instead you'll have the knowledge and be the one answering everyone's questions ;)

Oh and one last tip before buying the Passat; take off the oil cap, where you fill it it. Check to see that there's no sludge or dirty. Also put for hand over the hole ( be careful, could be hott) and check to see that you're getting a little suction. If you feel that air is being pushed out, from the hole, that may mean the system is clogged badly. Run for the hills. It may not be worth it. That's something that I normally check before buying, and also get you will get an idea of what the engine looks like from the inside.

Also...
Welcome to PassatWorld!
Doriangr3y
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Gentlemen, thank you very much for your generosity of time and sharing your wisdom with me.

My intended mechanic was unable to show today to connect his code reader to the passat. Maybe tomorrow at lunch or Tuesday.

Following your suggestion, I went onto the Ross Tech site and ebay and will get a cable. Since I've never delved this deep before, let me just check with you all and ask a few basic questions to increase my understanding;;;
The VAGCOM is really two things?;
1. a cable that connects a laptop (via USB port) to the Vehicle diagnostic connection (via the VAGCOM connector)
2. the software that reads and displays the code on the laptop screen.
Correct?
I see many versions of VAGCOMs for sale and just wanted to clarify. some with monitors, cases, etc.

Q: what is the difference between the Ross Tech lite and regular software? will the lite software limit me from doing certain things such as electrically calibrating the timing after a timing belt change? I know that's a long ways off experience building wise, but I was just curious.

In my earlier posts, I neglected to mention that I did no less than two 'blowby' tests with the oil filler cap removed. I did see some brownish yellow staining on the internal metal but nothing black or sludge/pudding like in color or substance. I did feel the suction you mentioned and did also notice that the idle speed changed when the cap was removed. It immediately returned to normal when the cap was replaced. I removed the main engine cover vis a vis the four plastic screw connectors and stored it in the trunk for now. I looked at the both valve covers and gasket seals - they were dry and no signs of previous leaks or staining. I removed the plastic cover over the air filter area just to see what I could see and found nothing loose or broken. I did take the cap off of the coolant tank and looked down into the fluid itself. Coolant is clear, tank bottom, sides, and coolant 'fluid line' are clean with no staining or mineral placque.

On cold start up (80 degrees F OAT), I do hear a short, faint whine like a power steering pump noise, but that shortly goes away and no noise is heard as the wheel is turned left and right. Maybe a pulley.

I did take several videos of the engine running and the starting of the engine with close ups of the instrument cluster as the gear shift lever is moved. I will try to upload to You Tube and post tomorrow.

Thank you again for all of your generous help.

WunderBug

I crawled around on the sides of the car in front of and behind the front wheels and behind the front bumper to view the underside of the car. All metal parts and connection bolts were rust free and it even looked as if the lower front control arms to the ball joints were brighter 'new metal'. I could not find and signs of leaks or dried on old grease/oil stain build ups. The oil pan and transmission pans were clean.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Oh. Forgot to add - the coolant fluid did have a tint to it. I think it was a light orange red color. Looked good and clear like I said.
 

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There is a way to "reset" your TCM. I've tried it
Steps are:
1. Put your key in the ignition and turn ignition to the on position (the position right before you start the car)
2. Hold down the gas pedal pressing the button under the pedal for at least 20 seconds.
3. Let foot off pedal and start car. Be sure that you do no turn ignition off because that will void the reset

This will reset your TCM.
Would this work on my 04 V6 auto with Triptonic?

Are you pushing on a separate button under the gas pedal or is the pedal pressing the button?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
As an update, two days ago I drove the car for about 15 minutes at 60 miles an hour. I stopped in a parking lot and locked the wheel to the left and the right and hurt no front end noise or strep noise at all. Everything seemed normal. As I started to drive away I felt the transmission slip from 1st to 2nd I believe for just a brief second or two still no lights on the dash or instrument cluster. I returned the car and parked. Everything seemed normal the transmission overslept again. About three hours later I drove the car home. The check engine light came on about two minutes after about two minutes and stayed on the entire time. The car shifted normally. I shutdown the car and started it again about an hour later. Check engine light stayed off. Card shifted normal.

I did notice a side issue, that being the center red LED display that displays fasten seatbelt and outside air temperature was dim and almost completely faded out. Is this a modular component to the instrument cluster and can it be replaced?

I have a mechanic coming on Saturday morning to plug in the back, reader and do a diagnostic. I'll know more then I guess.

In a worst-case scenario, how much would it cost to have the slipping solenoid/s replaced or the transmission overhauled?

Thank you.

Wunderbug
 

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Replacing a shift solenoid is about a 3.5 hour shop job, plus maybe $130 per solenoid. Guessing they would hit you for $450, but it is a DIY if you are comfortable removing the valve body.
Do you think it needs a new TB soon too?
 

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I don't know about the shift solenoid, but I do know that the faded red led screen is a common problem. There's a write up somewhere on how to fix it, but requires expert soldering skills. Also, there used to be places that you could pull the cluster and send it to that could fix it. The fading led usually comes and goes with ambient temperature changing from colder to hotter.
 

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Yes, the fading/intermittent LCD was a design feature from Wolfsburg :) - probably saved $.02 per car when negotiating with the supplier. We should all have experienced the issue in summers by now. There was even a Wheeler Dealer episode with an Audi TT where he had to take the instrument panel to a surprisingly nice little repair shop in London to get a new LCD screen soldered in.
 

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I would strongly suggest sending your cluster out for repair and not try to DIY. I still don't see a reason going to a junk yard for a cluster. It's going to need to be programed, the odometer is going to have to be reset to your cars mileage and you have no idea when that display is going to start fading. That to me is more $ spent than sending it out for repair.

As far as the TCM reset. Try it and see what happens. I finally did it and it seemed to work for now.
 
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