Viano - Auto Gearbox slippage when Cold

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Sep 22, 2009
W639 Viano v6 CDI ELWB
Can anyone tell me if I have an auto gearbox problem.

I've got a 2006 Viano 3.0 V6 CDI and after overnight parking, everything is cold on startup.

When I move off, its almost as if the clutch is slipping and it needs higher than normal revs to get going and before changing up through the gears. As the car gets warmer, there is less slippage. Its been like this ever since I got it but I think it has got worse recently.

My driveway has the very slightest of incline and when attempting to reverse up it with a cold engine and box, it struggles to move even at 2000 rpm virtually nearly 50% of the full rev band of 4500 ish. The problem still goes away when the engine is warm - it just seems to be worst when cold. This has happened twice now in teh last week. It was 5 degs C when I did this. However, the car was recently behaving OK at up to -15 deg C in the Alps so I am a bit stumped..

I thought of checking the auto box level but how do you do this on this Viano. There are no dipsticks that I can see and no instructions in the booklets. And tis car does not drop any oil as my driveway is clean.

Has anyone heard of this problem ? or can help advise ?
Hello BTB_500. Mine has done 45k miles. Seems like we are both having the same occasional symptoms. It also did it on the way forward too - once only a few days ago.

Having read your post too, some other things are similar too with 'jadefox' and 'csx355' posts. Mine is more resistant to movement under full lock and did do a single clonk on full lock. Replacing the anti-roll bar links got rid of the clonk.

I do use my parking brake because I don't like the clonk from the auto box when releasing from P. I have got in the habit of putting in N after D, apply the Parking Brake, let the van roll a smidge to take up the slack in the parking shoes then put it into P. These brakes are known to stick on my car as I can't even push the vehicle in Neutral sometimes after releasing the Parking Brake - only possible after the van has been driven a bit. But given you have experienced this and you don't use the P brake then it can't be my brakes.

Anyway - I have some mechanical/engineering and electronic experience. I now think its a combination of the ECU maps for a cold engine and cold gearbox and mechanical viscous drag. The maps might be influenced by what's going on in the gearbox or its the other way round. I will probably leave this until the next scheduled transmission oil change and suggest a different oil after some more research. If I was informed correctly, the auto box is electronically controlled and therefore can be programmed / remapped. Similary - I have been informed by a someone I consider to be an ECU expert that during an up or down change, the electronics control the power and torque during the change to give the smoother change that we experience. This leads me to think that on the rare occasion, engine and box conditions are such that it behaves in this odd unexpected (probably untested) way. Its only a theory though !

Out of interest, my van has always taken from quarter to half a mile to sufficiently warm up the transmission before it changes at lower revs. After overnight parking, it always wants to change around 2000 revs going up the gears, even on very light pull away throttle. When warm, it will change much lower from 1200 onwards. Does yours do this - out of curiosity ?

Anyone else with any ideas ?
Hi Bogcaster. I also have the V6 3.0 in a Vito and its does exactly the same, it seems strange when cold it will not change up until around 2000rpm, I drive most of the way up our road in the morning in 1st gear, as I dont like revving to 2000rpm when the engine is cold, as you say 50% of max revs, but after about half a mile it seems ok. I have been told its programmed to do this to warm the engine up quicker.
The 5-speed box is specifically programmed to hold the lower gears for longer when the engine is cold, to help it warm up quicker. My SL (basically the same gearbox) does it too.

My reversing thing is weird, it really is quite rare. Last time it happened I played around with applying and releasing the brakes to see if that made any difference ... it didn't. It was only when I went into D (forwards) that it went back to normal.

It's never happened to me when setting off forwards, and is definitely not related to turning as I've had it happen when reversing in a dead straight line ... but up a very slight incline (maybe it's to do with that in some way?). My van is on 38k miles, IIRC.
My 115 auto is the same
So definitely a 'feature' of the auto gearbox then. Weird.
Yeap - I think I have concluded I don't have a serious problem. We're all experiencing the same thing and so far I don't think anyone has had a catrastrophic failure related to this yet! Given its an extremely rare occurence, I'll see how it goes.

It did cross my mind whether the 2.2cdi has the same thing and zenman63 has confirmed this. So like BTB_500, I conclude its a Vito/Viano auto thing too.

Come to think of it, on my van, very few of the recent auto changes have not quite been as smooth as I recall them to be and on the odd occasion, the car drops down a gear from 5th to 4th on the motorway when coasting then back up again, almost as if it got itself confused. Anyway - a transmission oil change is due in 10k miles. I'll see how it goes after that. Thanks all!
As an aside, I unintentionally went 'green laning' in ours today. We were following directions to a place out in the country to try two of our collies out on sheep, and ended up on a heavily rutted 200 yard track that was about the same width as the van and mostly mud. Got in OK, and after the session the guy said "you should be able to get out as you're front wheel drive". "Er no, rear wheel drive". "Ah, in that case you have a problem"! We did get stuck twice but both times I managed to 'rock' it free by alternating forward and reverse. Even on the 'better' bits we weren't going in the same direction we were facing a lot of the time :D

Very glad the gearbox didn't decide to play up, and that I'd had new tyres fitted a month ago ...

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