DSG Transmission Problems: The Ultimate Guide to Common Faults

DSG Transmission Problems: Whether you call it a DSG, a PDK, a DCT, the PowerShift, the S-Tronic or any other commercial name, the technology and consequently the problems they have are the same. DSG stands for direct-shift gearbox but you might also hear them being called the dual-clutch transmission. DSG transmissions are not such a novelty as we might think, they were developed in the 1980s but it is true that they have gained commercial traction from 2000 and onwards. The main benefit of owning a car with a DSG transmission is not only the automatic shifting, it is the increased fuel efficiency that you get with the optimal shifting and no power loss in between the gear shifts themselves. Both of these benefits are derived directly from the construction of the DSG gearbox but we will not go deeper into details in this article. DSG transmission problems are much less common with owners who stick to the maintenance schedule. Some owners even recommend more frequent service intervals than those prescribed by the manufacturer.

What we want to cover in this article are the numerous DSG transmission problems you can face or are facing with a direct shift transmission. Let’s dive in!

DSG Gearbox juddering

Your DSG transmission should be completely smooth. Any kind of vibrating and shaking is not something you should accept as normal. Most owners report that their DSG gearbox tends to judder when accelerating and shifting from the 1st gear into a higher gear. This is most common on the 7 speed DSG transmission.

The solution to DSG gearbox juddering

After talking to three VW technicians and reading several forum threads on the problem, the solution is to replace the clutch packs of the DSG transmission. As they wear out, they start to vibrate or judder when they are under the most pressure. That is why the initial juddering appears when the transmission shifts up from the 1st gear.

We also recommend that you do not wait on things to get worse, eventually, the fault codes for a worn clutch pack will start appearing on the diagnostics but ignoring the issue can lead to further transmission damage (mainly to the flywheel).

DSG Mechatronics leaking

Leaks on the mechatronic unit are common. The mechatronic unit is placed in a metal housing that is attached to the DSG transmission with 5 Torx screws and a gasket that keeps that seal tight. Most leaks appear at the gasket. The gasket itself is under constant heat and it will eventually start seeping oil. Another problem could be the metal housing which some owners of higher-mileage vehicles report that it did crack or rust through. 

Solution for a leaky DSG Mechatronics unit

If it is determined that the origin of the leak is at the gasket of the mechatronic unit, then a new gasket is needed. The price of the gasket is low, it comes in at around 15$. But keep in mind that all the DSG transmission fluid will need to be drained and most likely replaced or topped off. The transmission fluid alone is expensive and if you count in the price of labor at the dealership you are looking at a 400$ expense to replace a simple gasket. Some people do this replacement alone, but most do note that it is not a simple job, especially because of the location of 2 Torx screws that hold the metal housing of the mechatronics unit.

If the mechatronics unit housing is damaged and needs replacement you are looking at a much bigger problem. Hopefully, you can get the exact same housing in good condition on eBay so you avoid the insane price of a new part at the dealership.

In any case, do not ignore any leaks you might suspect are coming from the DSG transmission. If your leak is serious it can cause the transmission fluid level to reach below minimal levels which can lead to a complete DSG transmission failure.

DSG Solenoid failure

Failed DSG solenoid valves are amongst the most common DSG and S-Tronic problems. Solenoid valves mainly fail due to internal electrical issues and because of oil contamination which occurs as transmission components break down. That is why it is all the more important that you replace your DSG transmission fluid regularly. 

DSG solenoid failure symptoms

Failed DSG transmission solenoids can cause a number of symptoms with the gearbox, such as delayed engagement, juddering and so on. A qualified diagnostician will have no problem finding this issue.

DSG solenoid repair

Years ago, dealerships loved to replace the entire mechatronics units when these solenoids failed. It was good business for them. Nowadays, you can take your DSG transmission to specialized repair centers where they can fix faulty mechatronics components without having to replace the entire unit. This is the best approach for repairing faulty DSG solenoid valves.

DSG Transmission slipping

Reasons, why a DSG transmission can slip, are multiple. The most common fault is worn clutch packs which are also at fault when a regular manual transmission slips (but you only have one clutch there). Transmission slips can be observed when you accelerate, the car builds up RPMs but the engagement of the clutch is late and you feel like the transmission is well, slipping. The reason why your DSG transmission is slipping can also lie within the electronics of the gearbox. The Transmission Contol Unit can be faulty, the mechatronics unit can send incorrect signals and so on. It is hard to pinpoint the issue without having the car diagnosed and examined. 

How to fix a slipping DSG transmission

The most important thing is to have the transmission diagnosed by a professional, if there is an electric issue, it should come up on the diagnostic tools as one of the error codes. The second thing is to first try and replace the DSG transmission fluid, especially if it has not been changed in a while. You would be surprised how many owners solve the issue of a slipping DSG transmission by just replacing the transmission fluid and filter. The third and most common repair that you are looking at is to replace the clutch packs. 

DSG Mechatronic failure

There is nothing like a simple “mechatronic failure”, the mechatronic unit consists of several sub-components which can all fail, and what is most important, they can be fixed as separate units. Very rarely is a whole new mechatronic unit needed if you visit the right service center. Of course, the dealerships will pressure you into having the entire mechatronic unit replaced, they do not want to spend time diagnosing your car in detail, if you are paying, replacing the entire unit is much much easier. 

Most common DSG mechatronic unit failures

High-pressure valve body leaks

High-pressure leaks are most common on the accumulator mounting that screws into the valve body. The main problem here is a design flaw in the accumulator where the wall of the unit is too thin to withstand the pressure. As the crack happens, there is a loss of pressure which is needed for the clutch packs and the gears to operate properly. The car is most likely left unable to drive or it does drive with some heavy jerking and rough gear changes. Your dashboard is going to let you know that something is not right with the transmission. A replacement accumulator with a better design can be fitted but in some cases, a new mechatronic unit is needed.

Electric (IC) motor and high-pressure pump failure

Any kind of high-pressure leaks that we described above will cause the high-pressure pump to work even harder in order to maintain the needed operating pressure. In doing so, it overheats the pump and the electric motor. Consequently, they both eventually malfunction and need replacing. Before you replace them, make sure there aren’t any leaks that caused them to malfunction. Otherwise, you will need to replace both of these parts fairly regularly and trust is, it is not something you want to be doing.

Solenoid valve failure

We have already covered solenoid valve failures extensively if you scroll up a bit. This is one of the most common problems with the mechatronic unit but luckily it is also fairly easy to fix. 

Other electric issues and failures

The truth is that defining all potential issues with the mechatronic unit of the DSG gearbox would be nearly impossible. The unit itself is filled with modules, and sensors and in order to diagnose the issue and fix the issue, an expert must carry out a professional diagnosis. Another common problem we should mention is the mechatronic control module fault which can result in not being able to shift from neutral into drive or reverse. At first, this issue appears just at certain times but it will start appearing more often if left untreated.

Mechatronic unit failure symptoms

There are a lot of symptoms that can indicate a faulty mechatronic unit, here are the most common:

  • Rough gear shifts
  • Delayed gear shifting
  • Juddering and shuddering of the transmission
  • Flashing “PRNDS” lights
  • Inability to select gear
  • Limp mode activation
  • Gearbox jumps to neutral on its own

DSG Gearbox hesitation and delayed engagement

Even though it is not one of the common DSG transmission problems still This one is tough to diagnose, there are many owners reporting that their DSG transmissions suffer from a delayed engagement when starting from a full stop. Delayed engagement is generally short, a second between the time when you shift into gear and the moment you actually drive off is described as a delayed engagement. A healthy DSG transmission should take less than a fraction of a second to engage and pull away after you shift into gear.

How to fix a DSG transmission delayed engagement

As we said, fixing this issue remains a mystery because there are so many possible causes for a delayed engagement. As you can see in this VWvortex forum thread, many owners faced this issue and their solutions varied greatly. Some of them replaced the clutch packs, some only replaced the transmission fluid, others replaced entire valve bodies, while others only had to replace a brake light sensor.

If you are experiencing this, our advice would be to take your car to the most experienced DSG repair center in your area. This issue seems to be quite common so someone with plenty of experience is your best bet for resolving this issue without throwing away too much money.

dsg gear sets
Gear sets of the DSG transmission.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Image by Albogex on Wikimedia Commons.

DSG Gearbox oil leaks

Oil leaks on the DSG transmission are common and they are certainly not to be ignored. Slow weeping of oil can accumulate to the point where you are running on low transmission fluid which can cause catastrophic damage to the gearbox. Be on the lookout for any oil leaks below your car, especially in places where your stands overnight. Have these leaks taken care of as soon as possible! We cannot stress this enough.

How to distinguish engine oil leaks from DSG gearbox oil leaks

If you replace your transmission fluid regularly, it should be yellow/clear while your engine oil tends to be a bit darker and not as translucent. So if you notice a more clear fluid staining your driveway, there is a big chance that what you are leaking is in fact DSG transmission fluid. The position of the leaks is also a bit further at the back of the engine and not directly under the engine.

Most common DSG oil leak locations

  • Oil filter housing O-ring leaks
  • Bevel (transfer box) leaks
  • Mechatronic unit gasket leaks
  • Mechatronic breather cap leak
  • DSG oil cooler leak

Worn out or bad clutch packs on a DSG transmission

The dual-Clutch transmission, as you might have guessed, uses two clutches. They also use two driveshafts and two gearboxes. While one gearbox keeps the current gear engaged, the other gearbox already has the next gear prepared and ready to go. In order for this process to go smoothly, you also need two clutches. Clutch packs, as they are called are an essential part of a DSG transmission which explains why so many things go wrong once they become worn out. If your DSG transmissions clutch is slipping, continue reading.

Worn out DSG clutch packs symptoms

The most common symptoms of worn or bad clutch packs in dual-clutch transmission are shuddering or juddering when accelerating in first gear, the second common symptom is the slipping in between gears that we have mentioned before and lastly, a worn-out clutch pack will signal the wear and tear with a fault code once its tolerances are reached.

Clutch packs that are completely worn out might also cause heavy banging which can bring the car to a stop. This can also damage the dual mass flywheel of the car.

How to fix worn bad clutch packs on a DSG transmission

Problems with worn-out clutch packs on a direct-shift transmission can only be solved by replacing the entire clutch pack assembly. Be careful though, make sure an experienced mechanic is doing this job! This has to be executed without any mistakes otherwise you might experience premature wear of clutch packs in the future.

DSG Gearbox overheating

Excessive overheating can be catastrophic for a DSG transmission. This is exactly why every car with a DSG transmission comes with a dashboard warning light that ignites once the temperature of the DSG gearbox reaches a certain level. A dashboard message might also pop up demanding that you stop the car and let it cool off. 

Should you continue driving with an overheated DSG gearbox?

Absolutely not, never! Driving around with an overheated gearbox might land you in big trouble. As soon as you see that warning light turn on, exit the road in a safe manner and let your transmission cool off. If you decide to continue driving, you are risking a complete transmission failure which will run you 1000$ in repairs.

Why does a DSG transmission overheat?

Sometimes it might just be the situation that contributes to overheating of the transmission. Extreme outside temperatures combined with stop-and-go traffic can overheat the DSG gearbox on certain occasions. You should keep in mind that constantly engaging the clutch by applying slight pressure to the gas pedal is also extremely bad. 

A DSG transmission can also overheat if there is not enough transmission fluid inside the gearbox to keep all the moving parts cool and lubricated. In rare cases, there might also be problems with the DSGs cooling system.

In any case, if the problem of overheating remains consistent, do not wait on it to get better on its own, visit a service center as soon as possible.

DSG Transmission dual mass flywheel problems

The dual-mass flywheel in a DSG transmission has the same job as a dual-mass flywheel in a car with a manual gearbox. A flywheel of any kind provides the direct connection between the engine and in the case of a DSG the clutch pack assembly. A dual mass flywheel in a DSG transmission protects the transmission from too much torque at once. As it does that, it also minimizes the vibrations when gear changes do take place.

How long does a dual mass flywheel last in a DSG transmission?

Based on our research and talks with VW technicians they have seen dual-mass flywheels last from 60,000 to 250,000 miles. It greatly varies between cars and the way they are driven. If a vehicle is constantly pushed to the limit, or if it hauls heavy loads, you can expect the dual-mass flywheel to fail sooner.

What are the symptoms of a failing Dual-Mass Flywheen on a DSG transmission?

Symptoms of a failing DSG dual mass flywheel include: ticking and clacking sounds at idle, vibrations during idle, and even more during acceleration and driving. Owners also report extremely hard shifting.

You might also see the ticking and clacking sounds disappear as you increase engine RPMs while idling, this causes the flywheel to rotate faster and the sounds disappear. If you continue driving with a bad dual mass flywheel it can actually fall apart and cause major damage, so do not ignore these symptoms!

DSG dual mass flywheel replacement cost

To have the dual mass flywheel replaced, you can expect a bill ranging anywhere from 2000-4000$. It depends on the type of transmission and the cost of labor. Many owners recommend going to an independent DSG mechanic as you can lower the cost significantly.

DSG Gearbox clunking noise

If you are looking at easy solutions for the clunking noise in your DSG transmission, let us disappoint you right away, there is no simple solution. After reading literally 100s of forum threads about weird clunking sounds of the DSG transmission we have yet to determine what would be the most common culprit of such noises. 

If the clunking is not that noticeable, most owners simply accept that their DSG transmission makes a slight clunking noise when it is downshifting, and to a certain extent and in certain conditions even VW technicians that we talked to said that an occasional “clunk” is normal. When the clunking noise is followed by any kind of jerking or thudding, then it is a bigger concern.

DSG Gearbox clunking noise solution

One of the solutions is to inspect and replace the gearbox mounts, other owners report that simply changing the transmission fluid solved the problem. There is no universal solution and while some people resolve the issue with simple solutions like replacing the transmission fluid or updating the gearbox software, others replace entire clutch packs in order to solve the annoying clunking noise.

DSG Worn out bearings

Worn-out bearings on DSG transmissions are never a common thing as one of the VW technicians we talked to promptly noted. If it does happen, however, replacing them is an extremely tough job that requires a technician that seriously knows his way around a DSG transmission.

DSG worn out bearings symptoms

Just like worn-out wheel bearings, worn-out DSG bearings start producing annoying high-pitched noises at certain speeds. The initial high-pitched noise can become permanent and develop into loud howling that becomes unbearable. These audible whining noises can also appear on just selected transmission shafts, which explains why the noises can only be heard in certain gears.

Replacing worn out DSG bearing

Replacing worn-out DSG bearing is a difficult job, so difficult in fact that many dealership service centers simply refuse to perform this job. And for the most part, they rather install new or rebuilt transmissions. The best option on the market to get this done is by finding a reliable independent service center that has prior experience with bearing replacements.

DSG Low transmission fluid

Driving around with your DSG transmission with low transmission fluid levels is easily the most devastating thing you can do to your DSG transmission. Transmission fluid has a number of jobs; it is responsible for the lubrication of all moving parts, at the same time it cools off the entire gearbox and powers the entire operation inside the direct-shift transmission. When you have an insufficient amount of transmission fluid, all of those functions are impaired which can lead to catastrophic damage to the transmission.

DSG low transmission fluid problems

While it sounds like we are joking, trust us, having a low transmission fluid level on a DSG gearbox can result in just about every problem that we have described before. It causes delayed transmission engagement, it causes overheating of the entire gearbox (including the sensitive mechatronics), it causes heightened mechanical wear on the interior components, and so on. If left untreated, low transmission fluid can destroy your DSG transmission completely.

DSG low transmission fluid symptoms

  • Transmission overheating (dashboard warning light ignition)
  • Clunking, grinding noises when shifting
  • Jerking, juddering of the transmission
  • Excessive vibration of the transmission
  • Limp mode engagement

Your car can run mostly fine for a certain amount of time, even with low DSG transmission fluid, symptoms will occur once the damage has already been done due to a subpar amount o transmission problems. This can result either in electronic problems, worn-down clutch packs, bearings and so on. Symptoms are dependent on the area of damage or the amount of damage that has been caused by the lack of transmission fluid.

That is why it is really important to monitor your DSG transmission for any kind of leaks, or symptoms that we described above. You can check the level of the DSG transmission fluid at home or simply ask your mechanic to regularly check the level of the transmission fluid in between the transmission service interval.

How to Check DSG Oil Level of Modern Automatic Transmission Top Up ATF Fluid Audi TT S Tronic

DSG Transmission Reliability: Are DSG transmissions reliable?

Yes, the DSG transmissions of the latest generations have proven to be just as reliable, if not more than conventional hydraulic automatic transmission. They have suffered some major problems when they first arrived on the market, but most of those faults have been taken care of.

We do want to note that, DSG transmissions are only reliable when they are properly serviced. Neglecting their maintenance schedule will quickly lead to undesirable problems which can result in big repair bills. DSG transmissions also get a bad reputation because people tend to buy used cars with poor or no service history. Used cars with neglected DSG transmissions are most likely to experience transmission problems while many first-owner vehicles will easily pass the 200,000-mile mark with their DSG gearbox intact.

DSG selector lever assembly error or failure

Another common failure on DSG transmissions is the selector lever assembly error or failure. The primary function of the selector lever which registers the position of the transmission and in return make it available to the mechatronic unit which engages the shifting process.

Based on the signals from the selector lever assembly the transmission then engages the right gear for the desired outcome (forward, reverse, neutral, manual…).

If the control unit of the transmission does not detect the selector lever position because of a malfunction of the senders or the solenoid, then both of the clutches remain open. The cause for this has been attributed to the gear shifting wiring harness in the selector lever assembly. The issue is diagnosed as a transmission warning code “B116229”. The primary solution to this common problem has been to repair the wiring harness or a complete replacement of the selector lever assembly.

dsg transmission problems with the mechatronic unit
The mechatronic unit of a DSG gearbox.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Image by Albogex on Wikimedia Commons.

Frequently asked questions about DSG transmission problems

How to avoid DSG transmission problems?

The 4 most important things to look out for if you want to avoid DSG transmission problems are: adjusting your driving technique, changing the transmission fluid ON TIME, taking care of your car cooling system (it is shared with the transmission), and being observant of any transmission problems which need to take care of as soon as possible.

Common problems with DSG gearbox?

DSG transmission problems that are the most common include:

  • Oil leaks
  • Worn out clutch packs
  • Gear selector assembly issues
  • Mechatronic unit issues
  • Solenoid failures
  • Overheating issues

How long do DSG transmissions last?

A DSG transmission will easily last 100,000 miles or 160,000 kilometers if maintained properly, if driven correctly it should easily last 150,000 miles or 240,000 kilometers before needing replacement clutch packs or other parts.

When is DSG service due?

Despite what the official service interval might be, based on our research, previous ownership and talks with other owners, you should replace your transmission fluid every 40,000 miles or 65,000 km. Some owners choose to replace it even more frequently.

Who makes DSG gearboxes?

Direct-shift gearboxes under the commercial name DSG are made by Volkswagen themselves.

Which DSG gearbox to avoid?

We recommend avoiding any 7-speed dry clutch gearboxes that were made before 2010. Those were the DSG gearboxes with the most problems.

Which DSG gearbox is best?

The 02E DQ250 (6-speed wet clutch model) and the DQ500 (7-speed dry clutch model) are both considered to be one of the more robust and reliable DSG gearboxes on the market today.

Why is DSG transmission good?

A DSG transmission is good because it is much quicker than any other manual or automatic transmission, it is more fuel-efficient and more versatile because you still have the option to shift gears manually or enjoy automatic shifting.

Why is DSG transmission bad?

Compared to a manual transmission it is less reliable in the long term, more expensive to purchase and requires more regular maintenance. Compared to a standard hydraulic automatic transmission it is equally as good.

What are common problems with 7 speed DSG transmission?

It depends on the type of the 7 speed DSG transmission. The dreaded pre-2010 7 speed DSG dry clutch transmission had common problems with failing mechatronics, failing clutch packs and failing gear shaft bearings. Newer wet clutch 7 speed DSG transmissions are much more reliable.

Is DSG transmission better than a manual gearbox?

In many aspects yes, it is. Gear changes on a DSG transmission are much quicker, the fuel efficiency is much better due to a perfect shift pattern and the automatic shifting makes driving much easier and more comfortable.

Can you expect DSG problems after a remap?

Even though DSG transmissions were initially developed for racing, your DSG transmission is not necessarily ready to take on the additional engine power and torque. Increasing horsepower and torque with a remap can lead to DSG problems.

Conclusion on DSG transmission problems

If you are in the market for a vehicle with a DSG, the number one thing to be aware of is maintenance history. If there are no records of proper maintenance, do yourself a favor and leave. It is not worth your time and money. We would also not recommend buying early models of the DSG gearbox, before 2010. Those were much more prone to issues than the DSGs of today as Volkswagen realized many of their construction faults and issues. We also recommend learning how to actually drive a car with DSG transmission with our 13 MUST know tips.

On the other hand, if you are buying a new vehicle, by all means, do not be afraid of the DSG transmission or any other kind of dual-clutch direct-shift gearboxes by other manufacturers. This is now considered to be proven technology and in new cars especially you should not have any worries if you follow the maintenance schedule to the point.

If we missed some crucial information or you have a story to share about your DSG experience, please let us know in the comments! If you have an ordinary hydraulic automatic transmission we recommend seeing our article on 14 signs of transmission problems.