VW Golf Mk3 096 Automatic Transmission Fluid and Filter Change Procedure - With Massive Detail

This "how to" assumes you have some basic tools, and safety gear. Safety glasses should be worn at all times when working with tools and automotive fluids. Always use a hydraulic jack and safety stands when lifting or getting under a vehicle. If you are unsure on where to safety lift your vehicle, refer to its owners guide. The writer of this how to assumes zero liability in how to use this guide, or any damages that may come from it to you, your property, or others and others property. If you are uncertain at any point, refer to a qualified automotive technician.

The fantastic 096 automatic transmission was used on the Golf Mk3 (and others) from its arrival to mid 1995, where it was then swapped for the 01m unit (which is a little more complicated to change the ATF), you can tell if you have an 096 as it will have a dipstick. This transmission needs its oil changes just like the engine does, I would recommend at 20k mile intervals for total peace of mind, less if the car does low mileage!

Signs that indicate a change should be done:

- If the car feels like it has gone into neutral momentarily then bangs into gear, this could be caused by a lowering level, check ATF level and top up before damage occurs!

- If you feel a noticeable lurch when it goes into 4th, that is another sign the fluid is bad.

- If when downshifting from 4th to 3rd under load, it feels like it was in "neutral" for a bit too long (revs jump above what they should be in 3rd gear momentarily ), this is also a sign the fluid is bad.

- The fluid smells of burn

- The fluid is brown or black - this does not necessarily mean it should be changed as the VW fluid is yellow, and colours can differ, if the fluid looks like it was originally red, though has lost almost of its tint and looks dirty, that is a sign to change.

There is much talk in the online VW community that getting these transmissions flushed using a machine often damages them - this DIY illustrates the safe way of "flushing" the transmission that is almost guaranteed not to disturb things inside it, which in summary basically means changing the fluid twice.

Parts needed:

3-4 litres, or 7-8 litres for a flush, of a DEXRON spec ATF (Warning: If you have an 01m transmission it does NOT use DEXRON, and this DIY is not written about the 01m, see link at bottom for 01m guide!). The special ATF used for the 01m transmission and later is compatible with the 096, exceeds the requirements, and available from your dealer.

Oil strainer/filter (095325429D) - optional, but highly recommended (see end of step 6).

If you order an OEM strainer, there is a good chance it will already come with the strainer gasket (not to be confused with the pan gasket), however if not you need the additional gasket - part number (095325443A)


Pan gasket (096321370) - optional, I changed the fluid on my '94 096 and the gasket was in fine condition, you may be fine too.

RTV gasket sealer wouldn't go a miss if you decide to replace the gasket.


I got my parts from vwspares.co.uk, worldimpex and GAP supply these kits for USA people.


Tools needed:


3/8" ratchet

Accurate torque wrench (optional)

10mm socket

17mm socket

Something to catch the ATF

Jack for lowering the pan (optional)

Fluid extractor (optional - recommended, you will need this to extract fluid if you overfill, as well as make things easier at the start)

VAG-COM, VAG1551, or an Infra-Red Thermometer (to check ATF level)


Before we start, it is important to note that the transmission is a very sensitive piece of equipment, you don't want any speckles of dust, leaves, etc on the pan when you reinstall it, be very careful. Secondly, apologies for the extreme detail, I wrote this for people who may have never done an oil change before (might be better practicing on the engine oil first) just read the bold bits if you don't need the detail, obviously.

The steps for changing the transmission fluid:

1) Warm car up

2) Raise front of vehicle securely.

3) Extract fluid - If you have a fluid extractor, shove it down the dipstick and suck out as much stuff as you can into a suitable container, this will make things a little easier when lowering the pan.

4) Remove protective plate - The sump pan protective plate (357399291) is held in by 4 17mm bolts (N 10257501), take your 3/8" ratchet with 17mm socket and undo these four bolts, "righty tighty lefty loosey". A note, this protective plate is heavier than it looks.

5) Remove sump pan - With the protective plate down, here you see the trans oil sump (096321359C), this is held in by four small 10mm hexagon bolts (N 90533002), it might be wise to spray a little penetrating lubricant around these four bolts before removal, as there are stories of them being over tightened and cracking off.

(click on any pictures to enlarge)


Here is the clever bit, you don't want any of that ATF spilling out when you are undoing the bolts, as it is red hot, grab your secondary hydraulic vehicle jack and put a piece of wood onto the jack so it balances nicely, raise the jack up to the centre of the pan but DO NOT touch the pan with the jack, leave a tiny gap or so. The piece of wood is not actually touching the pan in the picture below:

If you didn't have an extractor, fluid will pour out of the pan anyhow, if this is the case, I recommend undoing the farthest bolts slightly, to allow the fluid to drip out, just leave it and catch it in a suitable container for 15 mins or something, don't let the pan hang from just two bolts too much.

After doing this I still used the jack, you can do it without, you just may spill a little as you try and lower it.

Don't lower the pan at an angle, there is a delicate electrical ribbon as well as connectors inside the pan which could easily be damaged if you lower the pan at an angle.

(additional pictures: DSCF0751.JPG,DSCF0754.JPG)

With the jack in place loosen the 4 bolts halfway each, and then in turn fully.

If you did things right, the oil sump should now have lowered and be resting on the jack, if you didn't, you better clean up your jack. Retain the 4 bolts, go to the jack and lower it slowly, if you have done it right you should have something like below:

(additional picture: DSCF0756.JPG) - note the red electrical ribbon!

Clever, eh?

ATF will continue dripping out of the strainer now for some time, while the jack is lowered and the pan is resting securely on it, take time to go and clean the protective plate for a minute or two, it may have some leaves and other crap stuck underneath it.

6) Remover strainer - ignore this step if you are doing a flush. - Move the jack and pan out the way and put something else there to catch the ATF where it is dripping, undo the one of the two 10mm bolts holding the strainer in (N 90440701) slightly and allow the fluid to pour out the middle, then do the other, and then undo them both and lower the oil strainer, and put it aside for correct disposal.

For some reason the residual fluid that comes out the strainer is "different", it forms droplets as it runs into the container and floats above the ATF, weird, I'm guessing it might be condensation that must collect in the strainer, anyway, I think that's a good reason to change your strainer!

7) Clean pan and magnet - Forget about that for now and leave it dripping ATF and focus your attention to the oil pan, pour the ATF into your suitable oil catch bottle or equivalent, you should see a magnet (097321368), nasty eh? this magnet can be removed by pinching the two metal prongs that hold it in and pull it off - wear gloves here, there could be sharp metal fillings! Clean the pan and magnet while the magnet is off using brake clean, put magnet back on and push clips back open.

Don't go pulling that gasket off if you don't plan on replacing it!

After cleaning:


On the second time I did this I did install a new gasket, I used some RTV gasket sealer around the edge of the pan, but this is probably not necessary at all, I applied this much:

8) Install new strainer - Okay, we have now cleaned the pan, and most of the fluid should have dripped out, put the strainer gasket onto the strainer if it has not already been done so, and then install the new strainer, just snug these bolts down, you don't want them stripping at all. The official specification is 8Nm.

9) Install pan - Install the clean pan, the official specification is 12Nm, less may be fine. Don't install the protective shield just yet as it is wise to check that there are no leaks.

10) Lower car - DO NOT START UP.

10) Fill with ATF through the dipstick - Next is the tricky bit, try and add as much ATF that you lost, I used a funnel attached to a peice of garden hose to reach the dipstick

- VW specify "approx 3.0 litres", but it was much less for mine when not removing the strainer, maybe 2.3 litres. I would start by adding 2.2 litres of ATF.

- If you have removed the strainer: I would say approx. 2.6 litres.

Ensure no leakages.

11) Start car up and check level immediately - With selector lever in Park, pull the dipstick out, wipe it, and reinsert, and pull back out, the dipstick should have fluid up to the 20C marking shown in this diagram here:

If there is no oil on the dipstick, stop engine immediately, and fill with 0.25L of ATF, wait a little while, start the engine back up, and recheck.

Get into vehicle and shift through P R N D 3 2 1 with brake applied, then go back to Park, using VAG-COM, or the IR thermometer aimed at the pan, wait until temperature is up to 60C, cycle through P R N D 3 2 1, go back to Park, and check the fluid level, it must be between the min and the max mark, if it is too high, use a fluid extractor to remove some ATF, if too low, add small amounts of ATF, keep checking till it is between the markings. Vehicle must be approx 60C throughout to check accurately.

12) Go for a short drive

13) Check underneath for leaks, check level again to make sure it hasn't dropped (it may be over the max now, that's OK, the fluid temp has raised).

14) Reinstall protective plate - ignore if doing a flush - snug the bolts down, I didn't use a torque wrench, afaik there is no torque specification.

To flush the transmission:

Flushing the transmission basically means doing the change twice, run the vehicle in all gears for a couple of minutes, or go for a drive, then repeat steps above except do the ones I told you to ignore, you will work it out, note as mentioned that when you have replaced the strainer you will need to add more fluid you did than for just a fluid change

15) Done - have fun!!


Dan J Reed's guide for the 01m transmission: http://faculty.ccp.edu/faculty/dreed/Campingart/jettatech/atf01m.htm


Special thanks to Dan J Reed for letting me borrow his disclaimer, as well as the legendary support and information he has brought to Mk3 owners.

Thanks to VWSpares for ordering these parts in for me.