(1996 – 2003+)
Volkswagen Group — longitudinal engine, transaxle permanent four-wheel drive
Input Torque Rating: 400 nm (295 ft-lbs)
Final Drive: 3.89
Weight: 110kg (242 lbs)
Fluid Capacity: 9.4 L (10 quarts)
Torque Converter Clutch/Seal Failure
D-Drum Failure (Reverse)
Pressure Regulator Valve Failure
Premature Wear/Failure of Clutches
Overview: The OEM torque converter has an inherent weakness within the Lockup Clutch Assembly. An internal seal is prone to failure, causing internal pressure within the lockup clutch assembly to be decreased. This causes slipping of the lockup clutch and will throw the following code: P0741 – Check Engine Light.
Once this code is thrown, the car is still drive able. What will happen is that when the torque converter clutch engages (Gear 4 & 5) depending on load and throttle, it will slip and unlock. You can notice this if you are in 4th or 5th gear, load increasing and all of a sudden your RPM jumps ~ 200 rpm.
If you continue to drive your car with this code, you “may” reduce the life of your transmission. You do not need the torque converter lockup clutch to function in order to safely drive your vehicle. Although fuel economy will suffer. The rationale for addressing this issue is related to heat and particulates infiltrating the transmission fluid. If your lockup clutch is slipping, unnecessary heat is being generated. This will take its toll on your automatic transmission fluid, eventually turning it jet black, it will also smell horrible. Having burnt fluid will impact your transmissions ability to adequately create line pressure during engagement and disengagement of each clutch pack. A secondary concern is that particulates of the lockup clutch will be passed through the torque converter and into the transmission fluid. These particulates will cause issues with regards to the valve body and can cause premature wear of the transmission due to lower line pressure. Although, this secondary issue is often mitigated by the transmission filter which does a pretty good job.
When and how to address the problem:
Unfortunately, to address the problem completely, you must do one of two things. One would be to remove the transmission and torque converter and replace the torque converter with a revised OEM unit, or upgraded unit. A second option is to have your TCU tuned to have the torque converter never attempt to lock. The ladder option is cheaper and will result in worse fuel economy than a replacement converter that will successfully lock, although if you are already used to a slipping converter in 4th and 5th gear you will not notice a drop in fuel economy as you are already seeing that drop. A new torque converter + removal of transmission and installation will cost between $1200 – 2000. A TCU tune to remove the lockup function ~ $300
New OEM and Upgraded Converters:
There are plenty of upgrades available.
Advanced Automotion: (OEM)
Streetsauce (Aftermarket Increased Stall Speed)
517 Transmission: (Aftermarket Increased Stall Speed)
Level 10 Transmission: (Aftermarket Increased Stall Speed)
IPT Transmission: (Aftermarket Increased Stall Speed)
Revmax Torque Converters: (OEM+)
Revmax Torque Converters: (Aftermarket Increased Stall Speed)
(I am sure there’s other companies, I linked to the most popular)
I will try to separate facts and opinion within this thread. The following is purely opinion. I have personal experience with Level 10 and 517 Transmissions. I currently have a 517 Transmission and Torque Converter installed in one of my vehicles and it works well. I would recommend 517 purely based on my experience. Although, if I were to personally buy another Torque Converter for a 5HP19FLA I would 100% buy a Revmax Converter. Rational: Revmax is very upfront and straightforward with their modifications to the OEM Converter. If you call them directly, they will walk you through exactly what is done t each of their products. They are a company known for building strong Torque Converters for Diesel Trucks with high torque and towing applications.
D-Drum Failure/Pressure Regulator Valve:
Changing of gears inside of the transmission is done by engaging or releasing a series of clutches packs. The clutches are controlled by the valve body which is a hydraulic unit in which transmission fluid is pressurized by the oil pump.
Built into the valve body are 6 actuator valves that are controlled by the TCU to vary pressure to engage and disengage each clutch pack module. (We are not going to get into this function, all you need to know is these actuators can vary pressure to individual clutches based on what the TCU requests)
The pressure provided by the transmission fluid pump is controlled by a Pressure Regulator Valve. This valve is constantly regulating the pressure to the valve body from the pump. This valve is responsible for maintaining a certain amount of line pressure to the valve body to be used by the 6 actuators to modulate line pressure to engage and disengage each clutch pack.
This valve is a wear item, it is constantly regulating pressure and can/will fail. By itself, it will not throw a code. If you are experiences, harsh shifts, slow shifts, delayed shifts, banging shifts, slippage with code or slippage with no codes, over revving, or shift flare. Most likely this regulator valve is failing. There are many options to replace and upgrade this valve.
Transgo Shift Kit:
Whenever you are performing maintenance on your transmission. EX: dropping the pan to drain fluid/replace the filter I would check and replace this valve. It is not expensive and can be a “silent killer” of your transmission. Also, if you are planning on running a TCU tune or upgrading your vehicle to make more power, I would highly recommend replacing this valve. A TCU tune can be used to increase line pressure to each of the actuators within the valve body, although a TCU tune cannot adjust for a failed regulator valve. A TCU tune can increase requested line pressure, to subsequently increase clamping pressure, but if the regulator valve has failed and there isn’t enough pressure to match that requested by the TCU tune, the tune itself is useless. You will still have a potentially slipping transmission that will prematurely fail.
D-Drum: (Reverse Failure)
A cracked or damaged reverse drum is quite common for this line of transmissions. There is a number of reasons for this failure. First you must consider that each drum within the transmission is aluminum, they aren’t inherently that strong. When the pressure regulator valve behinds failing it can cause low or high pressure situations. Enough high pressure situations on a small clutch module/drum such as the D-Drum can cause eventual fatigue of the drum. This fatigue can cause cracking/splitting of the drum and cause failure of your reverse gear.
Also, understand that when the engine and transmission of your vehicle is cold both oil and transmission fluid operate at a higher line pressure to prevent unnecessary wear on components. Cold aluminum and high line pressure in the transmission can result in high stress on the reverse D-Drum. Drivers should also be aware that prior to forward gears being selected the reverse drum must stop spinning. In a scenario in which you are reversing and coming to a stop, you should ALWAYS come to a complete stop prior to shifting from reverse to drive/Tiptronic. Failure to do so will result in a high line pressure situation on the D-Drum and the TCU is going to try to get that Drum to stop moving as quickly as possible.
The worst thing you can possible do to your reverse drum is to start the car cold, on a winters morning, throw the car in reverse, aggressively reverse and throw the car in drive which continuing to roll backwards. Do this enough times and you will break the reverse drum and you will lose reverse. Recommendation: Let your car warm up a little before driving (since you are a b5 s4 owner and you’re neurotic about oil temps… be the same in regards to your automatic transmission. As the transmission temp rises, line pressures decrease, same as engine oil/pressure. When reversing be easy on that little clutch! And ALWAYS, come to a complete stop in reverse before selecting Drive/Tiptronic.
Premature Transmission Failure:
Premature failure of the 5HP19 quite often has little to do with power. Clutches fail due to heat and slippage. Slippage occurs due to low line pressure or fouled transmission fluid. This could be caused by a failed or failing Pressure Regulator Valve or slipping Torque Converter Clutch over a significant amount of time. On OEM TCU software you can slip the clutches with enough power, especially in between shifts. A TCU tune and a healthy Pressure Regulator Valve will cure this issue. But, let’s be realistic… if you have a built 2.7T… Meaning you built you’re engine to make more power than what the stock block can handle… you’re going to fry your transmission. I am sure you can get it to hold up for a little bit, but if you’re purposefully going for power beyond the limits of the stock engine, don’t play with the tiptronic it won’t be able to handle the power even with a tune.
The truth is that there are no companies that currently offer upgraded clutches for the 5HP19FLA. Each of the following manufacturers offer OEM+ clutch solutions. There is no magic here, anyone who suggests that there is a magic clutch option is lying. Any company that suggests they rebuild 5HP19’s with high performance clutches is also lying. It is possible to run an additional clutch in the A and E drum, most “high performance” shops do this… But the clutches themselves aren’t any more aggressive than those listed. In fact, most used the clutches listed.
I have personal experience with ALTO HEG Clutches, they seem to do the job well at basic Stage 3 Power Levels. Although, all the listed clutch options seem to be about the same. OEM+
There are many companies that offer a full rebuild kit for the 5HP19FLA. Below is listed a reasonably priced kit from Phoenix Transmissions. The kit is reasonably priced and come with Raybestos Clutches, a new Filter and a full Toledo Transmission Rebuild Kit with all necessary seals and accessories. This company will also swap the clutch module provided “Raybestos” with ALTO or EXEDY for the same price.
Level 10 Rebuild Kit:
Level 10 in New Jersey also offers their rebuild kit, their kit comes with: Clutches, Seals, and Steels. Level 10 claims that this kit is the same rebuild kit that they use when building their “bullet proof” 5HP19FLA transmission which they price at over $6,000.
I personally have zero experience with the Level 10 rebuild kit. There have been members who have used this kit. Personally, regardless of how good the kit might be, the price is quite high. I personally would rather buy the kit listed from Phoenix Transmission and add on top of that a “Steel Kit” and spend half the money of the Level 10 Kit.
I have personal experience with ALTO’s clutch kit. They seem to hold up well to typical Stage 3 power. Although, pretty much all of the kits listed and shown are the same, adding an additional clutch will help. I have not heard of anyone using the Borg Warner clutch module, this is the most expensive option. Raybestos is the cheapest.
I have approached a number of these manufacturers about making a high performance clutch option for the 5HP19, none are interest, too low of volume. I am sure that as an example is ALTO was willing to use their famous… RED EAGLE clutch material on a set for the 5HP19, 500+ wtq would be possible.
Interesting Side Notes:
When you remove the MAF sensor, your Tiptronic Transmission will not be able to regulate line pressure from the ‘Pressure Regulator Valve’ based on load signals from the ECU. Your TCU therefore requests the maximum safe amount of line pressure. This is to protect your clutches from loads that the TCU is not able to recognize from the ECU.
If for some reason you are having issues with your transmission. EX: Slipping and throwing codes, but the transmission has not fallen into limp… pull the MAF. You will most likely be able to drive home safely due to the increased line pressure.
When your transmission falls into limp mode, all actuators within the valve body are disengaged and the Pressure Regulator Valve does not modulate line pressure based on load. (Very similar to removing the MAF) In fact, limp mode and a car that is running with no MAF Signal run nearly the same line pressure. The difference is that in Limp Mode you will be locked into 4th gear only. Removing the MAF will still allow you to change gears to get home.
When you turn your AC on, the ECU sends different load signals to the TCU. The TCU therefore increases line pressure to accommodate for additional load. Using the AC to diagnose issues with your transmission can help validate possible causes of problems such as the Pressure Regulator Valve. If your car seems to be slipping in a certain gear with the AC Off but doesn’t with the AC on, most likely the Pressure Regulator Valve.
Question 1: “Is the friction material of the clutches the current limiting factor of the transmission?”
Answer: Lets make the assumption you have a brand new rebuilt 5HP19FLA, with a Sonnax upgrade Pressure Regulator, ALTO HEG Clutches with an extra clutch in both the A and E drum. You have an upgraded Torque Converter: (Revmax as an example) and a TCU tune to run maximum line pressure… the failure of the transmission will be due to either the Forward Drum Cracking OR the Clutches Slipping.
There has been a story circulated. I cannot confirm the story as I was not there at the time. (Although I have heard this from multiple sources) That a built transmission was placed on a Dyno with a GT Kit and pushed to the limit of its failure. The failure (slippage of the clutches) occurred with maximum line pressure in 3rd gear in an excess of 500wtq… slippage occurred in 4th gear around 450wtq. So at that point, I would say yes, the limit of the clutches were found.
Side Answer: You have to understand how this transmission functions. Gear 1-3 use the same clutch (larger clutch) and gears 4-5 use the E Clutch (much smaller) … within theory a transmission can be built to hold much more power in gear 1-3, the 4-5 clutch will never be able to hold as much power.
Solution: If you want the fastest car possible… it would benefit an owner/builder/tuner to limit torque based on each gear. Limiting torque in gears 4-5 to save the E Clutch is a smart idea. Also limiting torque while revving out the 2.7T is a better option to make more peak power while keeping the transmission within the safe limits of the current clutch options available. (I have not seen this done, although I do have a tune on one of my car in which requested boost is limited by each gear)
I will continue to add information in the future.
FYI ( I’m William Rob on the FB groups