VW DSG – Why it’s more than just an automatic gearbox – TopAuto
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Wednesday / 17 August 2022
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VW DSG – Why it’s more than just an automatic gearbox

The VW direct shift gearbox – or DSG – is one of the most popular automatic gearboxes on the market.

It debuted on the VW Golf R32 in 2003, and has enabled owners to shift gears “faster than any driver could manage manually” ever since, said the company.

Today, models ranging from the Polo to the Tiguan are fitted with these dual-clutch automatic transmissions – with different gearbox configurations used for different purposes.

Automatic transmission

VW calls its DSG gearbox the “automatic transmission for the modern age”, as it was said to be the sportiest and most economical six-speed automatic transmission when it launched.

The company said it shifted gears fast and was 20% more efficient than conventional automatic transmissions fitted with hydraulic torque converters.

This was due to a revolutionary dual “partial transmission” concept.

Each partial transmission received a clutch of its own, with one side handling even-numbered gears and the other side taking care of the odd-numbered gears.

Both gearboxes worked at the same output, meaning if a vehicle was running in fourth gear, the third and fifth gears would automatically be pre-set by the partial transmissions.

“The result is a shift procedure within a few hundredths of a second,” said VW.

In 2021, the DSG transmission is available in both six-speed and seven-speed configurations.

Despite both being called DSG, they operate quite uniquely – and are used for different tasks.

“The gearboxes designed for low torque values feature two dry clutches, while the units designed for higher torque values are equipped with wet clutches running in a sump,” said VW.

Dry clutches are ideal for low torque vehicles. These cause a higher transmission efficiency and less power loss, as there is more friction between the clutch plates than when compared to a wet clutch.

Due to the lack of lubrication, however, wear and tear, maintenance costs, and noise levels are generally higher in this application.

Wet clutches offer longer life spans and higher torque applications due to the additional lubrication.

These are less efficient, though, due to less friction between the clutch plates – thus causing more power loss during operation.

VW rates the maximum torque for their six-speed gearboxes at 400Nm, while the seven-speed transmissions are rated at 250Nm, 420Nm, and 550Nm.

Well-known vehicles in the current VW line-up that are fitted with the six-speed gearbox include:

Those offering the seven-speed transmissions include:

Common problems

No piece of engineering is perfect and after such a long time in the industry, complaints are bound to appear for any automatic transmission.

Luckily, for both the DSG transmission types there are not many complaints of serious problems.

According to a report by Eco Torque, the seven-speed automatic transmissions fitted to VWs with 2.0-litre engines and smaller, such as the Golf and T-Roc, have the following common long-term issues:

  • TCU failure
  • High-pressure internal leaks
  • Low-pressure external leaks

Commonly reported long-term issues on the six-speed gearboxes are:

  • Noisy bearings
  • Shuddering when starting
  • Electro-hydraulic control unit failure
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