Transmission Range Sensor (Switch) Replacement Hamilton

Causes

Problems related to the Volkswagen transmission range sensor include:

  • The range sensor itself can fail
  • Corrosion at connector
  • Damaged wire harness from ECU / TCM to transmission
  • Defective or damaged park/neutral position switch
  • Improperly adjusted park/neutral position switch.
  • Defective, shorted, or damaged wiring to the transmission range sensor
  • Misaligned shifter linkage
  • Misadjusted park/neutral position switch
  • Park/neutral position switch harness is open or shorted
  • Park/neutral position switch circuit has a poor electrical connection

Even though the transmission range sensor on a Volkswagen often fails, as you can see, the problem may not always be the transmission range sensor itself.

In some cases, even low transmission fluid levels can develop similar symptoms, such as transmission not shifting gears or limp (failsafe) mode. 

Video

Signs of a faulty transmission range switch:

  • Car not starting – When the transmission range switch is not working correctly, it can prevent your car from starting. The sensor will not be able to tell the control module if your car is set to park/neutral or not. The control module will prevent your car from starting as it cannot determine what gear the car is in. Sometimes, you will still be able to start your car by wiggling or adjusting the automatic gear selector and turning the keys.
  • Car operating in incorrect gear – An incorrect reading from the transmission range switch can lead to your car staying in lower gears. This will lead to higher revs when trying to accelerate. Driving in incorrect gears can also affect the safety of your vehicle and lead to potentially unsafe driving conditions.
  • Engine warning lights – Problems with the transmission position switch can cause your car to show dashboard warnings such as the check engine light.
  • Limp mode – Limp mode occurs in some vehicles when a problem is detected in the transmission, engine or another area. When your car is in limp mode, it may be locked into one gear with limited acceleration.

2. Transmission goes into different gear than selected

There could potentially be a mismatch between the gear selector lever and the sensor input signal. This would cause the transmission to be in a different gear (controlled by the PCM) than the one selected by the driver using the shift lever. This could lead to unsafe operation of the vehicle and could likely become a traffic hazard.

Troubleshooting Transmission Range Sensor Problems

Check Fluid Level

If you have problems with your VW transmission going in limp mode or fail-safe mode, the first thing you need to do is check the transmission fluid level. Many of the symptoms you may think are caused by a faulty transmission range sensor can also be due to low transmission fluid levels. 

Read Codes

Use a Volkswagen Audi OBD-II scanner to read fault codes from both the engine control module and transmission control module. Pay attention to all codes that show as CURRENT / PRESENT or ACTIVE. These codes will tell you what is wrong with your VW.

Fault codes that show as PASSIVE can also give you a hint, but don’t worry too much about passive codes until you fix the ACTIVE codes first. Fix then clear the ACTIVE codes, then address the PASSIVE codes if they return. 

Keep in mind that generic OBD-II scanners will read engine control module codes but can not read codes from the transmission control module. If your check engine light is not on, a generic OBD-II scanner may not show any codes at all, even if fault codes exist in the transmission control module. 

Check voltage

Next, use a digital multimeter to check the battery and alternator voltage. If your VW has a below 12 volts voltage with the engine running, you may have an electrical problem that is putting the transmission in limp mode. 

Transmission range sensor connector

The next step is to check the connector that goes to the transmission range sensor. The connector can be loose or corroded, causing communicating problems between the transmission range sensor and PCM. 

Check TCM

Next, check the Transmission Control Module (TCM) for water damage. The TCM is mounted in the passenger footwell on some VW models, and water can potentially get to the module and destroy it. 

Once you checked the basics and ensured there is no corrosion or water damage, then replace the transmission range sensor. The transmission range switch is also called a neutral safety switch because it prevents the engine start if the transmission is NOT in the park and neutral position. The PCM sends voltage reference to the sensor, while the sensor sends a different voltage back to the PCM, depending on which gear the shifter is in.

Since VW and Audi share many parts, including transmissions, these steps and problems are particularly applicable to many Audi vehicles. 

This guide covered problems with transmission range season on Volkwagen, but since the same symptoms, causes and functions can be applied to other vehicles with automatic transmission such as Acura,  BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Volvo, Ford, Dodge, GMC, Chevrolet, etc. 

Next Step

Schedule Vehicle Drivetrain Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Vehicle Drivetrain Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews… LEARN MORESEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

Testing The Transmission Range Switch

Testing the transmission range switch simply involves checking the continuity between certain terminals of the switch with a multimeter.

Using the illustration below, I'll give you an example. Let's say that you want to test the reverse light circuit of the transmission range switch. You would:

  1. Take the following safety precautions:
    1. Place chocks behind and in front of the wheels.
    2. Activate the parking brake.
    3. NOTE: All continuity tests are done with the Key On Engine Off (KOEO).
  2. Unplug the transmission range switch from the engine wiring harness' connector.
  3. Turn the key to the ON position (but don't crank the engine) and place the shift lever in reverse.
  4. Using the illustration below:
    1. Check the continuity between the transmission range switch connector's terminal #3 and #9.
  5. Your multimeter should register continuity.
    1. Between the transmission range switch connector's terminal #3 and #9.
  6. Your multimeter SHOULD NOT register continuity between:
    1. Terminal #3 and any other terminal (that isn't #9).
    2. Terminal #9 and any other terminal (that isn't #3).
    If your multimeter does register continuity between these and any other terminals, then the switch is defective and needs to be replaced.

Interpreting the results: If your multimeter registers continuity in the circuits, then the transmission range switch is good. If the multimeter DOES NOT register continuity, then the transmission range switch is bad and needs to be replaced.

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