DSG woes

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Help! -

Please can you give ad­vice on a prob­lem with my Skoda Oc­tavia 2.0-litre diesel (PD en­gine, code BKD) reg­is­tered in March 2009. It has the di­rect shift au­to­matic gear­box.

For­ward gears are not usu­ally a prob­lem, but when re­verse is then se­lected, the car re­fuses to re­spond and does not move. Oc­ca­sion­ally, re­verse will en­gage, but the car moves only at a snail’s pace no mat­ter how much throt­tle is ap­plied, then it jerks af­ter a few inches and stops. If Park is now se­lected, the ig­ni­tion turned off and the en­gine restarted, and then put straight into re­verse, (mostly) it will re­verse nor­mally. Dur­ing this prob­lem pe­riod, the dash­board gear in­di­ca­tor flashes ‘R’ where nor­mally all in­di­cated gears are steady or non-flash­ing.

When stop­ping at a junc­tion or long hold-up and se­lect­ing Neu­tral (as ad­vised by hand­book), the trans­mis­sion thumps three times, as if try­ing to drive the car, then set­tles in Neu­tral with­out fur­ther is­sue. Select Drive again and you move away with­out any prob­lems. The en­gine has a smooth idle and seems ab­so­lutely fine oth­er­wise. There is a whin­ing/dron­ing noise when driv­ing, but I’ve been told this may be due to feather-edged tyres. It’s not worth do­ing any other jobs un­til the gear­box is­sue is re­solved, though.

Mileage to date is 90,000 and the car has a full Skoda ser­vice his­tory, for the first 7000 miles by the sup­ply­ing dealer (it was an ex-demo/em­ployee car), there­after by a sec­ond Skoda dealer.

At the 80,000-mile ser­vice with the sec­ond dealer, I asked them to look at the re­vers­ing prob­lem and vi­bra­tion while driv­ing. The ver­dict was that a “new clutch may be needed at about £850.” On an au­to­matic? There was no other ver­bal in­for­ma­tion or writ­ten re­port/es­ti­mate, and no ad­vi­sory of con­se­quen­tial dam­age.

Re­cently, a third Skoda dealer in an­other part of the UK in­spected the car with a view to quot­ing for a cam­belt change and to in­ves­ti­gate the wors­en­ing DSG gear­box. This dealer said the gear­box was fin­ished and quoted £5000 (yes, you read that right!) for a fac­tory ex­change gear­box plus a re­place­ment drive­shaft.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the third dealer re­ported that, al­though it had a Skoda ser­vice his­tory, the DSG gear­box oil and fil­ter should have been changed at 40,000 miles and again at 80,000. The ser­vice his­tory and in­voices re­veal this was never per­formed. The for­mer owner was never in­formed that this un­usual gear­box ser­vice was re­quired.

An in­de­pen­dent VW, Audi and Skoda spe­cial­ist has, over the tele­phone, con­sid­ered just re­plac­ing the Mul­titronic unit (on the end of the ’box?) at a cost of about £2000, but we both agree that this gam­ble is not guar­an­teed to work and that a new gear­box would still be re­quired.

Please can you give any ad­vice or opin­ion on what you think the gear­box prob­lem(s) may be and how best to sort it all out. We cur­rently have a near-mint car that is worth just scrap value! Keith King

The DSG gear­box is not strictly an au­to­matic. It is a com­bi­na­tion of two man­ual gear­boxes with two clutch sys­tems and all op­er­a­tions con­trolled by a com­bined hy­draulic and elec­tronic con­trol sys­tem. Each clutch con­trols al­ter­nate gear changes, mak­ing this a very com­plex unit. I can only as­sume that when the dealer men­tioned re­plac­ing the clutch that they were re­fer­ring to the two clutch mech­a­nisms within the gear­box.

Un­for­tu­nately, there is no cheap an­swer to your prob­lem. Miss­ing the oil and fil­ter change may or may not have con­trib­uted to the demise of the gear­box, but it could also be a faulty elec­tronic con­trol that has dam­aged one or both of the clutch units. Re­built gear­boxes are avail­able from spe­cial­ists for around £2800, which is more rea­son­able than the £5000 you have been quoted and not too far away from the risky op­tion of only re­plac­ing the Mul­titronic unit, which I would not rec­om­mend as, from your de­scrip­tion, I would imag­ine that clutch dam­age or wear has taken place. The fi­nal op­tion would be to source a sec­ond­hand unit – this would be the cheap­est op­tion, with sec­ond­hand DSG gear­boxes go­ing for around £1250, but, of course, the guar­an­tee will be lim­ited.

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