Automatic Transmission Noises and Troubleshooting
By Dommi3 of Audiworld and Paul Waterloo
Symptoms of Noise
Two problems have been reported by A8 owners regarding their transmission.
One is a high pitched squeal, normally heard right after start up, and it can go away within 2-10 seconds, but sometimes it doesn't go away. If it does not go away, it usually gets barely audible once the transmission is at normal operating temperature.
If you have experienced this high pitched squeal from the transmission (it's usually very hard to determine if it's coming from the transmission, it almost sounds like a high pitched metallic noise), HAVE YOUR TRANSMISSION OIL AND FILTER CHANGED IMMEDIATELY! Do not drive the car any further than you have to. This could save you a huge expense.
Do not use anything but transmission oil from the Audi dealer. Part numbers for the oil, filter and pan gasket for a 1997 are as follows. Make sure you verify your car's year with the dealer for the correct parts, the transmission changed after 1997, and during 1997, three versions were supplied.
01L-325-443 Drain plug gasket o-ring
01L-321-371 Pan Gasket
G-052-162-A2 ATF Fluid (6-7 quarts required)
Here is the kit you will need. Buy it from Wendy Hager by emailing her. She use to be a parts manager at an Audi dealer, now on her own. Very knowledgeable person!
She sells it for $23.95 plus shipping for the filter, pan gasket and drain plug o-ring. Dealer list price (what I paid when I had it done): $80.64.
Symptoms of Thump
Prior to the transmission squealing, you will most likely notice a change in the transmission operation. This can happen for months before the noise.
The transmission produces a "thump" in the drive train, normally most noticeable on flat ground when at very low throttle positions in 5th gear (around 65 MPH). Once the driver lifts off the gas for traffic, the engine RPM's lower approximately 500-1000 RPM, followed by an increase in RPM, causing the transmission to "thump" the drive train.
Essentially, the torque converter is dropping out of lock out, then picking up again. It will continue to do this two or three times if the gas is not pressed after lifting.
If your car starts experiencing this, have the transmission serviced as above IMMEDIATELY!
The following is a very informative post from Dommi3 of Audiworld. He had all of the above symptoms and thought he had to have his transmission replaced. Please read carefully. Have the service completed if you have any of the symptoms.
The follow is regarding a 1997 A8. In 1997, Audi supplied cars with three separate transmissions. The type of transmission can be determined by the date code of the car:
This transmission was of the DSM type.
Dommi3's Problems and Solutions
Today I picked up my car after getting a major transmission flush using the factory Audi mineral based transmission fluid and changing the transmission filter, pan gasket and O-ring. I was very close to having to replace the transmission or should I say junk the car. Instead, doing a good transmission flush and filter replacement using the proper fluid does seem to have at least temporarily, solved my problem. I'm grateful for that. Here's what I learned.
I feel the people that know these transmissions best are the few companies I spoke with (thanks to your responses) that rebuild the ZF transmission piece by piece. That is something that Audi does not do. Hands down, those companies are in agreement that the transmission on these vehicles take one type of fluid and one type only. It's very easy to hear a different story from the fluid manufacturers themselves. Swepco will tell you that their 714 fluid is as good or has even better properties and will easily work in your transmission and do it no harm. In many ZF transmissions that's quite possibly the case however the A8 transmission, is very unique and even very few authorized ZF Transmission rebuilders don't and won't get near them because of their unique design and characteristics.
I say no way don't do it!!!
I saw and heard what had happened only 3K miles after I had my system flushed and replaced with the Swepco 714 fluid, also quite an expensive fluid. Red Line apparently also makes a product that is compliant with the A8 transmission needs and specs. I personally would be really afraid to use it. The transmission is too damn expensive of an item to take a chance in my opinion and believe me, I'm all for saving a buck.
Next is the other important information I got from the ZF A8 transmission rebuilders and that is; although Audi makes the claim that it is a life time fluid, the rebuilders say they highly disagree with that idea of any fluid being life time fluid. They highly recommend at 50K mile intervals to drop the pan and replace the filter and the fluid even though it is very expensive fluid. They both agreed that doing this, it will prolong the life of this apparently bullet proof transmission. I will be following that program from now on religiously. One of the rebuilders for A8 Transmissions said by accident he discovered that the Audi mineral based fluid is in fact exactly the same product as the Esso product # LT 71141. Unfortunately, I think it's possible it's even more scarce than the Audi Fluid and even quite possibly more expensive. Audi right now is selling the fluid retail for approximately $14 per qt. Not cheap but in my opinion after what I just went through, well worth it.
Also, I found anyone that is authorized as a ZF transmission rebuilder for the Audi A8 transmission were willing to sell me what ever part I needed such as the pump if that was in fact my problem part. That part sold for approximately $250. Audi will not do that, they won't sell you just that part. Needless to say $250 beats the hell out of $7500 for a new transmission, that is your only option by having Audi trying to solve it. Unfortunately if it is the pump, it's just as labor intensive to get that one part replaced as replacing the entire transmission so labor won't be cheap. Both Audi ZF rebuilders made the claim that there are countless transmissions that have been replaced unnecessarily on these cars because of dirty filters causing further issues.
I hope this information comes in handy.
If anyone hears that transmission pump making a hydraulic squeal on cold starts, bring it in immediately and get this service, you'll more than likely save yourself somewhere between $9-11K replacing your transmission. Even if you don't hear that squeal, and have 50K miles or more on the car, I think it's an excellent idea to have the above mentioned service done, it can't hurt.
Once again, thanks to all of you for all of your input, the information you gave me on this forum helped immensely. Thanks!! Thanks!!! Thanks!!! I'm smiling again thanks to you.