Does "Sealed for Life" Really Mean It?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 04, 2018

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2006 Volkswagen Touareg with a "sealed for life" transmission. I bought it used with 136,000 miles, and now it has 150,000. As far as I can tell, the transmission has never been serviced. VW keeps saying the transmission is sealed for life, but 150,000 miles with the original fluid makes me nervous.

I'm also not sure about opening it for service, as it could end up causing more problems. The transmission isn't giving me any issues yet. Should I just leave it alone until it dies? What do you suggest? -- Peter

You can change the transmission fluid if you want to, Peter, but I wouldn't. The transmission was not one of the major trouble spots for this car. I can't remember replacing any Touareg transmissions. Of course, we've seen only nine of these in the shop over the past two decades. They didn't sell a ton of them. And all the guys at the garage run and hide in the bathroom whenever they see one of these driving in.

There is a way to change the transmission fluid if you want to, even though it's "sealed for life." A mechanic has to have a way to drain and replace the fluid in case a repair is needed. How else would you fix a leak, or refill the transmission after fixing a blown seal? Even if you don't go to the VW dealer, your mechanic can find the instructions in one of the major service reference guides, like Mitchell or All-Data.

So if you're willing to spend a few hundred bucks, and it would make you sleep better, I'm sure you can have the transmission fluid drained and replaced. But if it were my Touareg, I think I'd save my money for repairs on the fuel system, the exhaust, the electronics and the power window motors. Good luck, Peter.

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