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Reverse Seal (long)

> From: jefj@lightspd.wa.com (Jef Johnstone)

> Anyone have any experience with not being able to get their car into reverse?
> Or at least it seems kinda hard/sticky. Seems to go right in if you get the car
> to move just a little. Al Powell had mentioned something about it being the
> "reverse seal". I told the dealer about it when I was in last and of course he
> said "feels fine to us." Dealer also suggested running synthetic trans. fluid.
> I was just wondering what exactly I should tell them to check (so it sounds
> like I know what I'm talking about..). I would like to get it fixed while its
> still under warranty. E-mail me direct or just point me in the right
> direction.

OK.....if you're developing problems with the reverse seal, the cause 
is excessive wear, primarily in the 84-90 (maybe 91...not sure when 
they ended this tranny) 5-cylinder automatics.  The wear is due to 
the tranny not being heavy enough for the application, but Audi will 
never admit this.  The transmission has a hydraulic pump which can be 
visualized as a flat base with a center stem extending forward into 
the gear "shell"area.  The shell has a center passage, and the pump 
seals against the walls of the passage with seals which look like HD 
piston rings.  The ring lands start to wear and the system starts to 
leak.  Audi retail for the pump is $600.

1)  The first warning sign is usually hesitation when shifting into 
reverse from park...like when you back out of the garage in the AM.

2)  As the tranny gets warmer, the delay between the time you move 
the shift lever and the time the tranny engages becomes longer - 
makes sense, because the fluid is warm and therefore thins slightly, 
leaking past the seal more readily.

3)  As the problem gets worse, the delay increases - up to and beyond 
30 seconds before reverse will engage.

4)  In the final stages, the transmission may not engage third gear 
when hot - I had to "limp home" 90 miles in second gear one day.

The Audi dealer cannot sell you a transmission along; they only list 
the trans and transaxle as a UNIT, which means over $3000.  BUT - any 
competent VW tranny mechanic can fix it for much less.

If you have a possible warranty problem developing, I STRONGLY 
recommend you take the car to the dealer and have them write up 
*this specific complaint* and inspect the transmission for it.  This is 
VERY important because taking this action gets you on record as 
having the problem before the warranty expires.  So MAKE SURE they 
put the words "transmission will not engage reverse" or something 
like it on the work order, and SAVE your copy.  This problem may 
not become actionable until after the warranty, and you REALLY do 
need to establish a complaint under the warranty.

If your symptoms don't match these, you probably have some other 

I frankly don't know how they'd test for this - it either shifts or 
it doesn't.  If it doesn't, it's a BIG bill and there is no 
adjustment in the tranny - so insist they fix it by replacing the
transmission (and transaxle if necessary - Audi no longer lists the 
transmission alone as a replacement part.  Dumb!).

As for running synthetic transmission fluid, YES....but if you have 
a problem developing now, do you really want to take a chance on 
masking it or slowing down its development until you're out of 
warranty?  You could do yourself a big DISservice here.  Make sure 
the dealer's not just trying to delay the problem's development until 
they can blow it off as out of warranty.  I'd probably make darn sure 
there was no problem before converting, but if so, by all means get 
synthetic ATF into that tranny.  It is your best insurance for long 
transmission life!

Al Powell                           Voice:  409/845-2807
Ag Communications                   Fax:    409/862-1202
107 Reed McDonald Bldg.             Email:  a-powell1@tamu.edu 
College Station, TX  77843-2112
W3 page - http://agcomwww.tamu.edu/agcom/satellit/rpe/alpage.htm