Common Faults in the 6-Speed DSG Automatic Transmission

Updated on September 19, 2017
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John is a fervent writer, avid gamer, and guitar lover. He earns his sandwiches fixing automatic transmissions.

The DSG Automatic Transmission combines elements from both automatic and manual transmissions.
The DSG Automatic Transmission combines elements from both automatic and manual transmissions. | Source

The transverse 6 speed DSG transmission, also known as DQ250, is a dual clutch automatic transmission that is found in vehicles by a number of manufacturers. These manufacturers include Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, and Seat. Like the Powershift transmission I recently wrote about, the DQ250 is a dual clutch transmission that employs a combination of manual transmission gears and automatic transmission clutches in order to gain the benefits of both.

This particular transmission is old news, having been replaced by newer versions, but it has been used in so many vehicles that are still on the road today that it is most definitely still relevant.

So, what happens when this very popular transmission goes bad?

How the DSG Transmission Works

To defeat your enemy, you must understand your enemy. So it is with transmission faults.

Before we get into the faults, we’ll briefly touch on how the DSG transmission works, and how it’s different from other transmissions.

A traditional automatic transmission uses a number of clutch packs to produce the desired output ratio. This works fine, but it has drawbacks, one of the biggest being fuel efficiency. Conversely, manual transmissions use solid metal gears and a single manually operated clutch. This setup creates less resistance and better fuel efficiency, but it means the driver has to deal with pesky clutch pedals and gear levers.

DSG 6 Speed Demonstration

DSG stands for Direct-Shift Gearbox, and it incorporates the best of both worlds into its design. Using an advanced electro-hydraulic control module to control clutch application and gear shifting, the DSG is able to bring the driving comfort of a full automatic to the table while still getting the greater efficiency of the manual-style gears. Furthermore, it makes use of a dual clutch assembly, where one clutch is responsible for even numbered gears and the other for odd numbered gears, improving shifting quality further.

It’s important to note that this article is concerned specifically with the DQ250 variant of DSG transmission. There are other variants, such as the 7 speed DQ200, and the inline 0B5 transmission.

DSG (DQ250) Common Faults

The most common faults I have experienced with this particular transmission.

Juddering/Shuddering

Before we get into the transmission fault here, there is another cause of juddering which is far more common, and it is outside of the transmission itself. If you experience the juddering mainly when you start the engine and when the car is idling, often accompanied by a loud clattering noise, the problem is likely in the dual mass flywheel which sits between the transmission and the engine. The flywheel consists of two plates that can move a small amount in relation to each other. This provides a cushioning effect when torque is transferred from the engine to the transmission. When that flywheel wears down and the amount of movement is too great, you get a juddering/shuddering sensation.

It’s important not to leave this fault for too long. If the two flywheel plates sheer off from each other, your vehicle will lose drive entirely.

Dual mass flywheels are the source of many juddering problems incorrectly attributed to a DSG transmission.
Dual mass flywheels are the source of many juddering problems incorrectly attributed to a DSG transmission. | Source

If your flywheel is fine, however, and the juddering sensation is most noticeable on gearshifts—particularly at lower speeds—the problem likely lies in the dual clutch assembly. Unfortunately it’s a simple matter of wear and tear, and there’s not much to be done for it other than replace it.

There are kits available that allow for the replacement of many of the components of the clutch assembly, and oftentimes that will cure the fault. However sometimes the wear and tear is in the non-replaceable components, and a new assembly is needed. In my experience it’s much more practical to just replace the whole assembly. You might save money by getting a repair kit rather than a clutch, but if the damage ends up being in the non-replaceable components, you’ll still need to buy a complete assembly and that money saved becomes money wasted.

Mechatronic Failure

Default Mode—also known as limp mode and failsafe mode—is a failure state of the transmission where it detects a fault and limits itself to one gear (typically third) to limit damage to the transmission. This will often be accompanied by an indicator on the dashboard, such as flashing “PRNDS” lights. If your transmission has gone into default, there will be trouble codes in there to explain why it’s done this. You’ll need to get your vehicle scanned with a good diagnostic machine to find out what those codes are.

If the codes mention “clutch limits reached” (or something similar), there’s a good chance the problem is your clutch. Typically (though not always) this won’t occur until after the aforementioned juddering/shuddering fault. If the codes mention “adaptations”, it’s possible that your problem may be fixed with an adaptation reset. You’ll need to find someone with a good VAG diagnostic tool for this.

The mechatronic is by far the most common cause of DSG transmission woes.
The mechatronic is by far the most common cause of DSG transmission woes. | Source

If the codes mention any sensors, gear ratios, or unexpected mechanical disengagements, the problem is almost certainly your mechatronic. The mechatronic is the name given to the electro-hydraulic control unit that is responsible for controlling the gearbox, and it’s a very expensive lump. Fortunately, there are many companies that can repair this fault, and a quick search of “DSG Mechatronic Repair” should yield plenty of results. It should be noted, however, that these companies are limited in what they can test for and repair in these mechatronic units. I have been involved in a number of situations where the mechatronic was tested by the repair company and found to be “ok”, yet the fault was eventually cured with a replacement mechatronic. Bear in mind, with these repair companies, “tested ok” means they couldn’t find a fault. Not that there’s nothing wrong with it.

One particularly common symptom of a faulty DQ250 mechatronic is a partial or total loss of reverse, so be on the lookout for that as a strong indicator that the mechatronic is failing.

Noisy Bearings

The mechanical workings of the DSG—the physical gears and syncros—don’t tend to fail very often in my experience. I have seen a number of instances of bearings wearing down, however. This typically results in a metallic noise when driving.

I have known DSG transmissions with this symptom to be driven for quite some time with no ill-effects other than quite irritating driving noise, however I most definitely wouldn’t recommend you leave this problem unattended. If the mechanical components of the DSG did fail, it would be pretty catastrophic for the transmission.

The fix is a bearing kit, assuming the problem is dealt with promptly and no other damage has been caused.

Also...

One or two other useful bits of information about DSG transmission faults.

Five Things You Shouldn't Do With a Dual Clutch Transmission

It’s also worth noting that, on occasion, a simple adaptation reset can fix a number of minor issues, such as poor shifting quality. Adaptations are little adjustments that your mechatronic makes to things like how much pressure it applies to the clutches to compensate for wear and tear or driving style. Sometimes things can get a little out of whack, and in those cases a reset of the adaptation values—followed by a proper drive cycle—can sometimes be enough to clear the issues up.

One fault I have seen a few times in DSG vehicles is the loss of ability to start the vehicle, accompanied by a fault code relating to the park/neutral switch. The problem is that the mechatronic is getting bad information regarding the position of the gear selector, and won’t let you start the car because it can’t be sure you are in park or neutral. The affected part here is actually in the gear selector itself, rather than the transmission. Though it could also be a wiring or communication fault.

And that’s the end of my 6 speed DSG faults hub. I hope you found this information helpful, and if you have anything to ask—or add!—please drop a comment below.

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      EdB 2 days ago

      Hi

      Great post- thanks for your expert help. I have a 2012 Jetta GLI with 160,000km - well serviced DSG fluid changes etc but now has just started juddering between up-shifts on acceleration. I took it to my local tranny shop - they say nothing is wrong no codes found. Any advice? EdB

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      Robert 2 weeks ago

      Hi John!

      Very interesting reading this post, thank you for sharing!

      I'm currently having a lot of issues with my Passat TDI with DSG from 2015.

      I bought it used from a dealer in 2017 and I said from day one there was something wrong with the DSG. They kept denying it. Until now when the car started loosing reverse partially. SOMETIMES with uneven periods in between, sometimes with just a day interval sometimes 2-3 weeks the car just died when trying to reverse from parked. rolled about 0,5 meters then "chopped" and died. Then it got worse and started to happen in D1 gear aswell.. But still mainly noticed when car was really cold after a nights standstill. There has been 1 or two occations with strange sound but this is out of maybe 20-30 occations.

      The thing is the mechatronic has been factory reset once. This shortly fixed the issue of the "choppy" working of he gearbox, but at that time we hadn't started experiencing the issues with R gear. This time the repair shop was unable to get the problem resolved by resetting it so they are quite sure it's the mechatronic that has failed.

      I'm just thinking how do I know it's the mechatronic and not the dual mass flywheel, because some of the symptoms I think could add up for any of the 2 faults.

      Do you have any good tip of symptoms that could turn our eyes more against one of the two?

      Just reading this post makes me more certain my repair shop is on the right track with replacing the mechatronic unit, since you mention partial or total loss of R gear is a common symptom!

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      Tracy Wright 5 weeks ago

      Hi John

      It is with great interest I read your detailed information related to Common faults with VW DSG gearboxes. In particular I reference your comments regarding "worn bearings" which I can relate to on my VW Tiguan.

      The noise emanating from the DSG on my VW Tiguan was noted at 300 miles and has continued in my opinion to get worse (Presently 2,700 miles)

      Please read a brief account of my plight -;

      My £44k 2017 Mk2 Tiguan 190ps 4 Motion R-Line has a horrendous metallic grating noise emanating from the drive train, which has been evident from new. It appears to be prevalent at low speeds up to 20 mph in slow moving traffic when down shifting. Also it is noticeable when driving at steady speeds of 30 - 40 mph in 4th gear.

      After lengthy investigations lasting several months both VW and the selling dealer they have described the aforementioned ‘noise’ as a ‘characteristic’ and ‘normal DSG operation noise’ However, are refusing to declare why the noise is evident on some cars but not on others, and also which component the noise is emanating from!

      Unfortunately and due to VW’s reluctance to resolve my conerns with my Tiguan I have been left with no alternative but to appoint a independent DEKRA automotive engineer who has contrary to VW and the selling dealers opinion of the noise being ‘normal operation’ and a ‘characteristic’ has concluded that the noise is unacceptable!

      I have test driven 4 Tiguan's for comparison purposes and out of 4, three exhibited varying degrees of noise so there is no consistency but apparently quite a few cars affected, some customers have contacted me from as far a field as Singapore, Australia, Portugal, UK and Iceland!

      At my wits end and with the Motor Ombudsman apparently siding with VW I have now reluctantly sought legal advice to conclude this debacle!

      I have uploaded a sound video recording of the noise to YouTube so have a listen. I would welcome your valuable comments.

      Apologies as the sound was taken using my iPhone so you may have to turn the volume up on your PC.........Listen at 5 seconds, 35 seconds, 49 - 55 seconds, 1 m 5 seconds - 1 m 12 seconds, 1 m 25 seconds - 1 m 40 seconds, 1 m 45 seconds - 1 m 52 seconds and 2 m - 2 m 20 seconds

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O96j_x9M3fk

      Regards

      Tracy

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      Dave Wright 5 weeks ago

      Hi John

      It is with great interest that I read your most informative article on the VAG DQ250, in particular referencing "noisy bearings"

      Not only did I have the misfortune of a replacement DSG (DQ250) in my 2014 VW Golf GTD but my wife has an issue with the DQ500 DSG gearbox on her 2017 VW Tiguan.

      My wife's £44k 2017 Mk2 Tiguan 190ps 4 Motion R-Line has a horrendous metallic grating noise emanating from the drive train, which has been evident from new. At this present time it has 2,700 miles recorded and she will not drive the car due to poor refinement.

      After lengthy investigations lasting several months both VW and the selling dealer have described the aforementioned ‘noise’ as a ‘characteristic’ and ‘normal DSG operation noise’ However, are refusing to declare why the noise is evident on some cars but not on others, and also which component the noise is emanating from!

      Unfortunately, and due to VW’s reluctance to resolve my wife’s concerns with her Tiguan I have been left with no alternative but to appoint a independent DEKRA automotive engineer who has contrary to VW and the selling dealers opinion of the noise being ‘normal operation’ and a ‘characteristic’ has concluded that the noise is unacceptable! VW are standing by their comments which has resulted in a stalemate.

      I have test driven 4 Tiguan's for comparison purposes and out of 4, three exhibited varying degrees of noise so there is no consistency but apparently quite a few cars affected, some customers have contacted me from as far a field as Singapore, Portugal, Australia and Iceland.

      At her wits end my wife has now instructed legal representation to conclude this debacle!

      I have uploaded a video to you tube so have a listen see if you think it is worn bearings as noted in your article. Your comment would be very much appreciated.........https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O96j_x9M3fk

    • beagrie profile image
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      John Bullock 7 weeks ago from Yorkshire, England

      Hello Robert,

      Sorry to hear about your Octavia. I'm not sure what the exchange rate is where you are but 2500 doesn't sound wildly over the average for this particular job.

      If it's a 6 speed, you *can* source a second hand unit as they are not coded to the vehicle. However there are two things you need to make sure. The first is the box code. This is a three letter code and can often be found on a sticker in the boot where the spare wheel is kept. If you purchase a box with a different box code, the transmission physically will not work with your car. Second, the number on the mechatronic unit itself. This is a long number that should start with "02E" If that number is different, the mechatronic will not work with your transmission. Unfortunately, I don't know for certain that a matching box code guarantees a matching mechatronic. If possible, you should try and find out the mechatronic numbers before buying.

      And it's worth pointing out that any purchase of a second hand part carries a risk. You might be buying a mechatronic that's a few thousand miles away from failing itself. It's a gamble.

    • profile image

      Robert 7 weeks ago

      Hi

      My 06 plate Octavia 2.0 TDI DSG has developed a mechatronics fault. I had it scanned and I have been told that a solenoid is faulty and they suggested a new unit for 2500 including workmanship and VAT.. wow. I was thinking of sourcing a whole used DSG gearbox from a low mileage car. Would any 6 speed DSG gearbox (I.e from a Passat) fit?

      Thanks for taking time to answer my question!

      Rob

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      John Bullock 8 weeks ago from Yorkshire, England

      Hello Leon. The code you mentioned is an unexpected mechanical disengagement fault. This is usually either because the clutches are over worn or the mechatronic is faulty. There are ways to try and check the mechatronic but they involve plugging the car into specialist software (like VCDS). You might need to take it to a diagnostic specialists with the right hardware.

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      Leon 8 weeks ago

      I have a 2007 Audi A3 with 133,000 miles. Runs great but when I stop to go reverse, there a clunking noise, PRNDS flashes and no reverse with an error code of P2711. Also when I hit 70 mph, there's a slow whining noise....please help, don't know whether to replace the clutch pack or mechatronics....all clutches looked fine when trans was opened up.

    • beagrie profile image
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      John Bullock 2 months ago from Yorkshire, England

      Hello Sam,

      I'm assuming your DSG is a 6 speed (it should be on a 2007 model). It sounds like the clutch packs are slipping once the transmission fluid has warmed up. It's possible that the valve body could have worn but I've never heard of that happening in a DSG. The mechatronic could also cause this kind of issue but it would be very unusual for that to happen without fault codes.

      Obviously I can't diagnose your fault definitively over the Internet, but I do suspect your dual wet clutch needs replacing.

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      Sam 2 months ago

      Hello.

      I have a 2007 Audi A3 automatic (DSG and Tiptronic).

      My car jerks on 1st gear after 15-20 town driving. When the car is left cold over night and i take out to drive. It doesn't give me that jerking problem. Only when it's warmed up after 15-20min of driving.

      Current mileage: 75000 miles

      I have got the gearbox diagnosed but that did not display any errors.

      I bought this 4 months ago. I don't see receipts for gearbox oil change or any work done on the gearbox.

      Any help will be much appreciated.

    • beagrie profile image
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      John Bullock 3 months ago from Yorkshire, England

      Hi Thembela. If the only fault code is clutch overheating then it may just be the clutch that is overly worn and slipping.

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      Thembela 3 months ago

      I have a 2010 audi s3 s tronic sportback. Car is dealer maintained. After driving for about 100km non stop the car cuts off power. It flashes gear indicator. Then it displays- clutch overheating,switch off engine

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