2003 Jetta GLS Automatic stays in 1st gear


Asked by Apr 12, 2015 at 01:04 PM about the 2003 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 2.0

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

What was happening rarely has increased to almost every time. Start car, put in drive, get 1st gear only. Shut down car, disconnect battery for about 20 seconds, reconnect and shifts fine.

7 Answers


It's probably staying in third gear, not first. Look at the shift selector in the dash cluster. After you have reset the car next time, look at the letters and background for Park, Reverse etc. After driving it do the background and letter colors reverse? This and staying in third indicate a transmission fault code is present. The transmission has to be scanned for fault codes to diagnose.

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Chris I really appreciate your answering however being not unfamiliar with the limp mode I've discovered that the car whines out @3 grand and barely is moving 15-20 miles an hour so I'm convinced it's really not third but first. but I appreciate your answer

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Israel, what about the shift quadrant display, is it reversed? This way you know that there's a transmission fault code.

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Chris, no...no obverse of display...in fact I got stuck today trying to leave the city for home and was compelled to drop it at the dealer. Their diagnostic said, in part "ABS controller failing to communicate" and that without that...all sorts of other issues could be attributable. They were kind enough to tell me to replace that would be 2,200$...with no guarantee of a fix, just an ability to continue a diagnostic.I declined the work, ended up owing them nothing for their time...and am presently on the hunt for parts at the local boneyard. I will replace, if feasible, every sensor, every module, that could be distantly related to the issue, including the TCM, the speed sensor, the ABS module, etc. Thankfully we have a "UPick" yard nearby, and their prices are exquisitely reasonable. I did get the tranny to shift, after many attempts at disconnecting the battery and reconnecting, so I got the car home. I appreciate your time and thoughtfulness, and if anything I have written sparks a bulb...please, be free to encourage me in whatever direction you would consider helpful. Thanks, again


Try disconnecting the plug on the ABS controller. The brakes will still operate anyway, just no ABS. I don't recall there being a link between the ABS and transmission operation though. As for the TCM, I'm familiar with failures usually due to water intrusion in the A4s, A6s, and Passats(in those, the module is under the floor). I think the module is behind the firewall in the Jetta(near wiper motor etc). Check for connections there and let me know what you find.

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Chris, Thanks for hanging in there with me, man. Went to the boneyard and pulled a TCM from another Jetta, got some info from a service manager that let me know the suffix letters (mine) MG, junker JF, only related to software releases and would not cause increase in my breast tissue or damage the vehicle. (I was prepared for catastrophic results if, as often warned "Make sure all lettrs/numbers match!") Anyway, installed my "new" (older) TCM, and vehicle has not replicated problem. Shifts fine, downshifts fine. Obviously I will know in time, as problem, though getting quite regular, still remained intermittent. You're a good man to know. Thanks for your help.

Glad to help Israel. You're quite welcome.

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