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Jared D
Jared D, ASE Certified Technician
Category: VW
Satisfied Customers: 1656
Experience:  Shop Supervisor at County Fleet
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2001 Bug with 102,000 miles running perfectly normal. Was

Customer Question

2001 Bug with 102,000 miles running perfectly normal. Was driving and the oil light and check engine light came on and the air conditioner stopped working, put in oil but didn't really need it. Took to mechanic in town and he said the code was for a cooling pipe, he didn't have time to fix today but to bring it back the next week. I asked if it was ok to drive since I had to go 25 miles and up a 1000ft hill. He said yes. I drive it about 3 miles and I'm at the top of the hill and I lose acceleration. I'm able to go across 4 lane of traffic to get to an off ramp. The car is billowing smoke-I think from the radiator. The mechanic puts in new cooling pipe but says the car is misfiring. 2 weeks later he says he hasn't been able to fix it because it has a blown head gasket and it is cheaper to put a new motor with 55,000 (about $3,300 total). He puts the motor in and I pick it up and get on freeway the car downshifts as I accelerate. I slow down and speed up it does it again so I immediately take the car back. I duplicate the problem several times for the mechanic, no check engine light on. He can't figure it out, changes transmission fluid and filter and it seems better. I mostly drive in town, but about once a week have to go on the freeway. Car starts downshifting again and the check engine light comes on. Error code is for a shift ? code, torque converter clutch engagement code. Would need to replace the whole valve body, can't just replace the valve, it'll be $1100. AHHHHH! Did driving the car cause the head gasket to blow? The transmission did not have issue prior to the new engine but immediately after?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: VW
Expert:  Jared D replied 1 year ago.

Everything you describe sounds to me like it overheated, badly.

I think the initial problem was because it overheated, possibly because of a coolant leak. The mechanic probably correctly diagnosed the coolant leak, but didn't check the coolant level properly. He may have just checked the coolant level in the reservoir, and the radiator was still low. These cooling systems are hard to check correctly since the reservoir does not always purge over to the radiator correctly.

Continuing to drive the car with low coolant caused it to overheat even more and damaged the headgasket.

This engine is cheaper to replace than to fix the headgasket.

The transmission was possibly badly overheated also when the headgasket was damaged. This could have caused the valve body to sludge up or warp.

Or the wrong fluid/not enough fluid was put back in after the engine replacement.

I'm not trying to badmouth the mechanic, it just seems a little odd that it would overheat right after he gave you the all clear to drive it. Overheating on a Volkswagen is bad news.

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