Audi Transmissions: How They Work, and Common Problems

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Audi Transmission

Audi is a German automobile company that engineers, produces, markets, and distributes luxury cars. As a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, the cars are produced in nine production facilities worldwide. Despite being owned by VW now, the company started back in the early 20th century. The original enterprises were Horch and Audiwerke, and it was founded by engineer August Horch. This led to the formation of the Auto Union in the 1930s. 

What we know of Audi today began in the 1960s. The Auto Union was acquired by Volkswagen from Daimler-Benz (or Mercedes).  In 1965, the Audi F103 series was released, and then in 1969, Volkswagen merged Auto Union with NSU Motorenwerke. This led to what we know today as Audi. 

What Does a Transmission do? 

The car transmission is an essential component of any car. It moves the power from the engine to the wheels and ensures that the car gets you to where you need to be. There are many different types of car transmissions. The most common type of transmission that is found is the automatic transmission, but there are also manual transmissions found in stick-shift cars. 

How Does a Transmission Work? 

The process of how a transmission works will vary based on the type of transmission you have. Regardless, the transmission allows the gear ratio to move between the drive wheels and engine to adjust. It will do so as the car accelerates and decelerates. 

When a vehicle stops, the transmission needs to disconnect from the wheels. This is essential so that the engine can keep idling even while not in motion. There is also the ability to accelerate quickly from a stop, and also stop wear on the vehicle while driving. 

Manual Transmissions 

Manual transmissions have both a clutch pedal and a shifter that the driver is required to use to change the gears. These transmissions work with the gears set along with a pair of shafts. While driving a manual transmission, the driver must select the right gear and work the clutch. This involves engaging and disengaging the clutch. 

Using a flywheel, pressure plate, and clutch, the driver must engage and disengage the engine from the transmission. The flywheel and pressure plate are connected to the engine, and then the clutch is between them. While driving a manual the driver must “push the clutch” which actually means to release the pressure plate. This disengages the clutch from the engine and is done with the clutch pedal. Every time you shift, you need to push in the clutch first. 

Types of Manual Transmissions 

  • Dual-Clutch: This transmission uses two clutches. They can be either wet or dry, and operate on opposite gears. One is for gears 2,4 and 6 while the other is for 1, 3, and 5, as well as reverse. Dual-clutch transmissions are common in older cars and sometimes found in race cars. 
  • Today, there are dual-clutch automated manual transmissions. Known as a double-clutch transmission or a twin-clutch transmission. In this case, a computer controls the clutch engagement and shifting. This makes it somewhat of a combination of a manual and automatic transmission. 
  • Unsynchronized: The first manual transmissions were called unsynchronized, also known as “non-synchro.” Also known as rock crushers, drivers would grind the gears in order to have the mesh. Trucks used this type of transmission until the 1960s because they were extremely strong. 
  • Synchronized/Constant Mesh: Synchronized/constant-mesh transmissions are able to keep the cluster gear, as well as drive gear and main shaft gears moving at all times. These types of transmission use pads in order to slow the gears down. This eliminates the need for double-clutching action. 
  • Automated: An automated transmission, it’s usually referred to as an AMT. This is a type of manual transmission that has a computer controlling the shifting and clutch. These are typically used in big trucks. 
  • Single-Clutch: The single-clutch is a manual transmission that has a  computer controlling the shifting and clutch. Shifting and clutch control can be electric, hydraulic or electrohydraulic. These are less popular now that dual-clutches are able to handle increased torque. 
  • Preselector: The preselector is a manual transmission with a vacuum or hydraulic shift control. It was used until the early 1950s. They typically used bands and planetary gears. 

Automatic Transmissions 

The main difference between an automatic transmission and manual transmissions is that the process that powers a manual transmission happens within the transmission. Automatic transmission most often does not have a clutch, but instead, have a torque converter to change gears. 

The first automatic transmission was semi-automatic because it continued to have a clutch. The first automatic production car was the Hydro-Matic. It was a 1939 Oldsmobile for the 1940 model year. Most cars nowadays have automatic transmissions, but it is good to understand how they work.  

  • Direct-shift gearbox: The direct-shift gearbox is also called a DSG. It has two clutches that work alternately in changing gears. They provide smooth acceleration and fast shifting. 
  • Tiptronic: The Tiptronic gearbox allows an automatic transmission to shift manually. Sometimes it can be on the steering wheel, but can also be through the shifter. The drawback is that the computer will override and not allow manual mode if the transmission is outside the typical parameter.  
  • Hydraulic: Hydraulic is the pressure inside an automatic transmission. 

CVT Transmissions 

Continuously variable transmissions are also called CVTs. They are pulley-based transmissions that are typically used in small vehicles with small engines. CVTs have been used for years. Typically they are used in ATVs or snow machines. They are also used in hybrid vehicles. 

Similar to a small drive and large driven clutch, they also contain a chain to connect them together. In this case, the belt or chain will sit low in the primary drive. It might sit high while stopped.  

When acceleration happens in a CVT the primary drive will contract. This causes the belt or chain to walk up, and at the same time, the secondary will expand. This can sometimes cause the belt or chain to walk down. 

Symptoms of a Bad Audi Transmission

Signs of Bad Transmission | Audi Transmission
  • Transmission unable to shift 
  • Transmission stuck in limp mode 
  • Transmission bangs into gear  
  • Tiptronic unable to engage 
  • Audi won't go in reverse 
  • Won't shift out of the park  
  • Won't go in gear 
  • Goes in gear but won't move 

Judder and Loud Noise When Moving into Gear 

If you happen to hear a judder and loud noise when you attempt to move into gear, then you may have an issue. This Common problem occurs in mainly Audi cars from the mid-2000s with a Tiptronic transmission. This can show itself as an obvious bang when moving from Neutral into Reverse or Drive. 

In many cases, the check engine light may go on. You will notice that there is a P0706 code stored. One possible cause of this is that the connector for the transmission range sensor was not sealed properly. This might allow water or dirt to get into the transmission. This eventually causes corrosion and can affect the signals. You should clean off any traces of corrosion as well as make sure the connector is sealed. 

The transmission range sensor may have an internal fault. This is not a serviceable item, so replacing it is the only option. It is located underneath the car, at the driver's side of the gearbox. 

Clutch Slip and RPM Oscillations 

This can be noticed when on the highway going at high speeds, specifically in 4th or 5th gear. When an Audi has a Tiptronic transmission it means that it can experience something like slipping. When this occurs, the engine will go up and down by several 100 RPMs. In some cases, you may see a check engine light, and there will be a P0741 code stored.  

Possible causes may be a damaged torque converter, or even a clutch solenoid valve, wiring, or connector.  It could also be a clogged torque converter clutch solenoid valve. If this is the case you should replace it. The last case is that it may be a worn-out torque converter clutch. 

Grinding or Rattling Noise 

Audi cars that have Tiptronic transmissions sometimes grind while in the drive. This is common when the weather is cold, and it can go away as the car gets warmer. In other cases, this might happen at all times. The frequency of the noise follows the engine speed. Possible causes of this might include a torque converter that has several needle bearings. This might wear out or be damaged in the case of poor maintenance.  

This problem can cause vibrations during accelerations and the best way to deal with this is to check the transmission fluid level. Be sure to top it off if needed or replace it as well as the filter. 

PRNDS Symbol Flashing 

Audis with a Multitronic transmission might experience a range of odd issues. Because this is a continuous variable transmission, it will use a specific internal system. Every symptom can mean something different. This includes not engaging in gears. 

In many cases, there will be a flashing PRNDS symbol on the dashboard. Restarting the car can sometimes solve the issue. Some causes for this might include: 

  • Low transmission fluid level 
  • Degraded fluid 
  • Clogged oil filter 
  • Check the fluid condition and replace if necessary 

It might also be a faulty transmission oil pump that causes low oil pressure, but could also be a Faulty Transmission Control Unit (TCU). This is very common and can typically easily be prepared. 


If you experience a hesitation when setting off and hunting during acceleration. Many Audi cars with Multitronic transmission that were made before 2005 suffer from a lack of response. This can be when sitting from a standstill or when trying to accelerate. You might also experience a feeling of gear-hunting and slippage. When it first starts, the problem will be present only when driving more aggressively, but as it continues it will get worse.  

This problem often occurs due to inadequate TCU software. In some cases, you can try updating the software. Another reason this occurs is worn-out clutch packs. Clutch discs wear out and eventually result in metal shavings being in the oil filter. Replacing the clutch pack is the only thing you can do. 

DSG Transmission Goes into Limp Mode 

DSG transmissions in Audi cars are complex and have a lot of trouble. Often they can go into limp mode. When this occurs, they may get stuck in third gear. You will notice the PRNDS symbol on the dashboard, and the stored code will track the problem. 

Causes for this include the clutch simply being worn, but you may also try resetting the gearbox. Another reason may be due to a sensor failure. These can often be temperature sensors.  

Another reason may be a mechatronic unit failure. This might trigger various codes, but the issue is that they cannot be serviced. Therefore they must be replaced or repaired by a specialist. 

Fixing Audi Transmission Problems 

Reset Transmission Adaptation 

In order to reset the transmission adaption, you should turn the car on but not start the engine. Then press the accelerator and hold it for 10 seconds. After this, you should turn off the ignition and release the accelerator. Finally, take the key out of the ignition and then press the accelerator again. Keep it pressed for 10 seconds, then release the accelerator, turn off the ignitions and start the engine once again. 

Check Transmission Fluid Level 

One common issue with Audis is no shifting, delayed shifts, erratic shifting, and shifting at high RPMs. The cause of this is low transmission fluid level. Be sure to check your transmission fluid levels to ensure that there is not a leak. 

Check Recalls  

It is essential to often check if there are recalls for your Audi. This can allow you to be aware of anything that you should check out before it goes bad. 

Read Transmission Fault Codes 

It is essential to read the fault codes from the Transmission Control Module. This can only be done by an Audi VW Transmission Scanner.  

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