Poor First Gear Selection – Manual Gearbox Problem W639 Vito – Cure

Having read all the horror stories regarding Mercedes Vito gearbox problems I was intent of getting to the bottom of this problem as all I had read on the internet about ‘suggestion A’ and ‘suggestion B’ etc. all seemed contradictory and to be honest there was little to substantiate any of the writing.

So here we go….

Mercedes Vito 111, W639 2008 Model, 6 speed gearbox, 90k miles.

The problem I had, as do many it seems – is that from a standing start, engine running, first gear is hard to select, and on some occasions requires some extreme force to shift the lever into position 1. The get-a-round was to lift the clutch in neutral and re-depress to try and align the box somehow to allow this selection but this only sometimes worked. To be honest it makes driving in town a real chore. Add to that a poor second gear selection, almost like a worn synchro issues from my old banger days – I was beginning to worry!

‘Check the gear selector cable adjustments’ seems everyone’s first comment, (Gear Selector cable adjustment details here) however my view was that if you could easily select all gears when stationary with the engine off this is not a plausible reason for the issue. Secondly it is often reported on the internet that ‘ Vito gearboxes suffer from synchro wear on second and third gear. I found this, although possible hard to swallow as the same manual gearbox is used in similar guises in other MB makes that do not report a problem – how could this be? Maybe Mercedes vans are abused by their drivers who always crash change through the box for the speediest getaway. One owner driver / vans with dealer history show the same problems on the forums so an appallingly weak gearbox? I don’t think so…

The gear selector arm that is mounted to the gearbox does wear on high mile/use vehicles, but the resultant is second gear and reverse cannot be selected – even when the engine is off!  If you wish to check this fault out – look for play in the pivot bushing as indicated on the photo below and rectify this first.

Mercedes Gearbox Wear Point W639

So what is it….?  What causes this problem? ‘The clutch dragging’ is a popular comment, ‘gearbox input splines sticking on the friction plate’ – again discounted by me as the clutch functions fine with no drag, judder or other malaise people seem too quick to associate to problems with the dual-mass flywheel set up.

Concluding that a small cross section of people have had isolated problems of differing types and reported them via forums etc, everyone reads into them as being the definitive cure and then becomes somewhat of a ‘shade tree’ expert to coin an Americanism – Re-reporting exactly what they have read and not really understanding the true nature of the OP’s problem from all perspectives.

I focussed on the oil in the transmission as my saviour and as it turns out – it was a great call! Selecting the alternative gearbox oil has totally eradicated the issues mentioned at the beginning of this post and the van has been transformed into a vehicle that is a pleasure to drive once more. This may not work for you depending on the exact nature of your gearbox issue, but if you are living with the same set of problems I had then its well worth the small investment before following other pathways (all of which are mostly inordinately expensive!).

Mercedes Benz specifies a very expensive synthetic single grade manual gearbox oil of SAE 75w. It took my main dealer a few tries to even establish this fact so it’s not common knowledge. It is supplied as MB part number 0019892603/11 or you can get a single grade 75w Synthetic alternative from Titan as Titan Sintofluid. (For information purposes it may be useful to know the Vito differential hypoid oil is a SAE 75w-85w synthetic – Alternate supply for this would be Titan Sintopoid.)

What I wanted was to use a slightly thinner performance oil, one that would allow more adequate slowing of the gear train on an up-shift, allowing the synchros to do their job with more ease. Thicker oil would tend to drag the gears round and make the synchros work harder to mesh a faster spinning gear set. When you are choosing a weight of oil it is interesting to know that gear oils have a different ‘W’ rating from those used in engine only applications. For example a gear oil of 75w -90 is almost the same viscosity as a 10w-40 engine oil ! Armed with this information I began my research…

I required a performance synthetic gear oil of less than 75w – ATF was the way forward. Synthetic ATF has a w rating around the w50 / w60 mark on the gearbox scale so fitted the requirement perfectly. The only downside (if there is one!) is that its grade performance peeled off ever so slightly lower in sustained operating temperatures than a fully fledged hypoid synthetic oil. Due to the fact this is not a racing car, its operating in the UK where average ambient rarely squeaks above 10 degrees C and the Vito is rarely fully loaded pulling a max weight trailer at 80 mph down an Autobahn! I choose to ignore this paper spec detail. Just as I chose to accept that the vehicle was now out of warranty and that from a MB dealer warranty point of view it didn’t really matter anymore – apart from the important fact it was time the driving experience was improved and that I technically understood what I needed to regarding the protection offered by the oil I was about to use vs. my driving style and vehicle use.

On this footing I proceeded to choose my oil. It was to be a Synthetic ATF sold by GSF Car parts. They sell it as ATF-U.  You will need the best part of  two x 1L bottles.

Carlube ATF-U Synthetic Gearbox Oil

Installation was straight forward taking no longer than half an hour to complete the process.

Mercedes Vito Manual Gearbox Level and Drain Plug

Jack up the Vito on the front driver side jacking point enough to crawl underneath easily. Remove both the fill and drain plugs using the correct Hex tools (GSF or any good motor factor / tool shop sell these cheaply in a set similar to this – before you buy make sure it contains the required 17mm tool as some kits do not) Note the drain plug is a larger hex tool than the fill plug and a pair of the correct tools will be needed. Remove the fill plug completely, then place a bucket beneath the drain and remove that plug. Let the oil drain for a few minutes to empty the contents as best you can. While draining take the opportunity to clean the magnetic drain plug of metallic bits, it will have a quantity of iron filings on it – don’t worry they all look like this and that’s what it is designed to do !

Mercedes Vito Magnetic Gearbox Drain Plug

Once cleaned refit – don’t over tighten either plugs as they are a tapered thread and overzealous tightening could crack the gear casing. Fill with the chosen oil until it dribbles from the fill plug. At this point the level  is correct and refit the fill plug. Clean up any mess and lower the vehicle and road test. I had a look at the deposits in the old gear oil at the bottom of the bucket and found there was only the slightest traces of brass/bronze flecks, a very good sign – as past experience tells that if it looks like a ‘gold panners bowl’ there’s trouble ahead !. Heavy deposits of bronze particles is a good indication you most probably have some heavy synchro wear and maybe an oil swap will not cure your problem.

Mercedes Vito Gearbox Drain Plug Clean

On the road test I noticed immediately the poor selection to first issue had completely gone and the first to second up-shift was near perfect. What a difference this has made in continued driving and in my opinion is a very worthwhile result considering the research I had put in. Perhaps I now changed the oil as part of my service regime instead of the almost ‘leave-in for life’ recommendation for the standard lubricant. I hope this modification helps you out as much as it helped me.  Whats to lose?  It may even work for you…


233 thoughts on “Poor First Gear Selection – Manual Gearbox Problem W639 Vito – Cure

    1. Hi Lee, It’s been about six weeks now and about 1500 miles without issue. I suppose in real terms it’s not such a long time BUT…

      The fact remains the gearbox must have some fault in the first place (most probably some synchro wear 90k) to not operate correctly with the specified oil and the only permanent fix would be to rebuild / replace the gearbox. What this oil grade swap offers is a way to continue to drive the Vito in a manner that befits the vehicle, nice changes and importantly no baulking first gear engagement which to be honest was nothing short of dangerous at times !

      I have no issue with running the box with ATF synthetic as it is used as standard in many manual transmissions (ford have used it for years) as well as auto’s. It’s a strong and protective oil that is often used with an oil cooler in an auto box situation, if you don’t do a lot of everyday towing or ‘fully laden work’ this is never going to be an issue as in the UK ambient’s are way low anyway. If you are working the Vito hard to its extremes the gearbox really needs to be fixed/replaced at a cost of £1000 + . Personally I prefer £20 and am able to enjoy driving the vehicle again until one day eventually (who knows when!) the mechanical fix is required. I will probably mark this time when the replacement of the clutch is due as it makes most financial and practical sense. This could be a few years down the line from now; I will just wait and see. Who knows it could stay this way, remaining unchanged throughout my ownership and maybe the next!

      1. Hi there David,
        Its more likely if you have lost reverse (its probably become increasingly difficult to engage, although if you just bought the van you would not know this) it is the selector mechanism arm that is worn on its pivot on the side of the gearbox. If you can engage reverse easily with the engine off then it could be another internal gearbox problem.

        As the pivot wears it does not allow sufficient ‘pull’ on the lever to actuate the selectors correctly on the gearbox, the extreme left gears – first and reverse – are the ones that suffer poor engagement and indicate such pivot wear. The best bet is to get underneath with a torch and grasp hold of the upper L shaped lever that connects one of the cables to the selector mechanism, if it wobbles considerably on the pivot shaft it should be replaced, this is common wear also seen on sprinters. The gear change cage can be replaced as an assembly without taking out the gearbox. These should be available both used and new, but do check a used one is not as bad as the one you have ! Good luck. Steve

      2. Thanks Steve , think I’m going to try it my second is hard to get,
        Is your gearbox still running good with it in
        Thank you

      3. Sure Mark, Absolutely no problems at all – 6k miles plus since the swap out and it responds just like when I had first done the job.
        Do report back when you have changed the oil. Remember if you keep the oil you drain out you could always swap it back if you desired but I think the results will surprise you!
        All the best Steve

  1. Hi, I have for ages had a gear selection problem with my 109cdi and every morning from cold it is almost impossible to select 1st gear or reverse. Pulling away and then trying to get second is the same. Once the van warms up the gears are much better but not great.. I have read your article with interest and have taken the step of changing the gear oil with carlube atf-u as you have. Immediately the gear change is smooth. Miracle in my eyes.. Are you a technician or have knowledge as to the suitability of this lubricant. Does your van still run ok using it..
    Would hate to destroy gearbox…I only do lowish mileage as i work around local area as a gas fitter so van doesnt get hammered..Interested in your updates on your experiences of using this oil..Regards

    1. Hi there Stu,
      I am so pleased the oil swap worked for you, to answer your question my own van is still running fine with no ill effects.( I am 99% sure that it will continue that way too!)

      I have a lifetime in engineering background, both automotive and industrial and my own research on oil types has shown that what manufacturers do is select an oil that is good for all uses no matter where their vehicle is in the world. A perfect example is: A van could be sold to a customer in Saudi Arabia who uses his vehicle fully loaded and always tows a laden trailer – the oil must offer the best protection for his type of use. For my use and I would imagine yours, an oil that is almost of the same specification but would probably require an oil cooler in the Saudi case above, will be just fine in the UK – especially if you rarely work the van to its limits.

      Its for this reason that I chose to try the oil swap. In both our cases the gearboxes we have, most certainly are exhibiting a degree of wear and in selecting alternative oils we can continue to use the vehicle without troublesome gear selection problems. In truth our gearboxes may need mechanical repair to rectify the selection problems and return them to factory new condition, all I am suggesting is why not delay this repair (maybe indefinately) by finding a work-round to the problem. My wallet agrees and I would imagine yours does too! Thanks for your comment.

  2. hi tried gear oil in box is a lot smoother still not perfect but is now more drivable fanx for post is worth changing many fanx lee

  3. OK, more driving, still no better, I read about cable adjustment everywhere, not nowhere do I see a guide, any tips?

    1. Hi Mark,
      I have all the gear cable alignment data at home I will post it up for you after 6.00pm today. Sorry there is no difference in your case, must be some other issue. If you saved the gear oil you took out, you can always put it back in as you say there was no brass, which is a good sign at least.!
      All the best

      1. Hi Mark,
        As promised here you will find all the data you need to install and adjust the gear selector cables correctly on the W639 Vito. You will also notice the W638 data is listed there also if you or anyone else should need it. Click here http://tinyurl.com/o5pbvox
        All the best

      2. Thanks Steve

        24 hours later, the second gear crunch on up shift is still there, unless I change very slowly or do a little wiggle back towards 1st and down, but the rest of the box does feel smoother, so all was not lost at all.

      3. Hi Mark, Sounds like synchro wear. Try letting the revs die down while dipping the clutch (foot fully off throttle, and not back on the power until fully engaged into second) Almost add a ‘small pause’ into the neutral part of the gear shift.
        All the best

  4. Changed gearbox oil for UTF-U and this has made a dramatic difference for the better.
    Thank you, it’s now a joy to drive.

    1. Hi Bill,
      The clutch operation on the 2008 Vito (W639) is hydraulic and self adjusting. The Master cylinder shares the same fluid reservoir as the brake circuit so no separate fluid reserve. The master cylinder is a plastic affair see here This lives above the clutch pedal, this then feeds a rigid pipe that descends to the slave cylinder. The salve cylinder is a concentric type that lives inside the gearbox. The input shaft of the gearbox passes through the centre bore of the cylinder and the unit itself is unable to be replaced unless the engine-gearbox is split See picture. The clutch is none adjustable, however if air gets into the system its virtually impossible to bleed the circuit by normal means. Reverse bleeding is the only sure way to carry this out. Use a Gunsons EZeeBleed pressure bleeder to force fluid from the bleed nipple on the gearbox (slave cylinder) back through the system up into the master cylinder reserve. Its common for the clutch pedal to stick in a down position if there is a quantity of air in the circuit.
      I hope this helps.

      All the best

  5. I have the same issues with 1st 2nd and reverse gear hard to select, but cannot find this thinner gear oil in New Zealand.

    1. Hi there,

      This ATF is supplied in the UK through GSF Ltd, If you look here you will be able to find your local store.

      I would imagine your C class is a face-lift model and if this is the case the manual transmission selector mechanism 04-on was modified and no adjustment is needed. However you might just check the mechanism (ball and socket) for wear beneath the gear stick. Selector system post face-lift 04-on. It seems strange that 1st and Reverse are difficult to engage as they both lie at the far upper left of the gate. Maybe there is some problem here with the selector mechanism and the issue does not lie internally to the gearbox. Well worth a look.

      All the best

      1. Hi Steve,

        Yes my C-Class is a faceplate model. However, the gears shift fine when the engine is a bit warmer, it is only from a cold start that I experience problems shifting into first, second or reverse. It just won’t go in and requires excessive force. I have read some owners having luck by removing a quantity of gearbox oil. I may try this also as well as changing for a synthetic gearbox oil.

      2. Hi There,
        Good luck with your experimentation. I guess the lay shaft for the First and Second gears and also maybe reverse, is possibly physically higher up the gear box. In dropping the oil level maybe the upper gear sets could get less splash-lube at low revs and ‘drag’ a little on the shafts, thus assisting in meshing the gears (allowing them to get up to speed) and select a little easier. Worth a try!
        All the Best

  6. Hey Steve just stumbled on your article and thank god there’s people like you about.
    In the last week or so I have had lots of problems getting into reverse and first. Today it’s got worse to the point of I want to set fire to the damn thing.
    Clutch is not slipping and bites fine.
    As you can imagine its a nightmare as I’m do lots of town driving all day and just hate the fact that I’m going to be told that it’s a new gearbox ect from the usual con merchants.
    From reading the posts I’m thinking it’s the selector mech, any thoughts ?

    Also just a little advise to you and anyone else regarding prop shafts.
    Don’t whatever you do buy a brand new prop from mercedes.
    They say that the UJ joints can’t be changed and will only sell you a complete prop for just over a grand.
    Not the case as I’ve had 2 separate UJ’S go in two years and have had both replaced for £ 150 a time, bit better than £1000 from mercs.
    Regards Sean

    1. Hi Sean,
      Thanks for the comment on the prop-shaft, like many other items they are sold as an assembly so its fully understandable what you say. Its a profitable business for motor companies in spare parts. Lets face it if Mercedes ever bought out a car that was as reliable and as simple to fix as the W123 series in this day and age they would probably go bust or we as punters could not afford to buy the car in the first place !

      I would first off take a look at the gear cables and check the adjustment as per the guidance in these documents listed on the Mercedes Gen In site. If that proves to be unsuccessful, then suspect the gear selection cage mechanism that lies on top of the gear box. Reverse and first are the first to show signs of wear in this mechanism. I think if it is this part that is worn, you will have to buy a complete cage unit from MB even if you just use the yoke out of it to simplify the replacement.

      So inspect the cables first then the mechanism on the gearbox.

      Good luck and do report back.
      All the best Steve

    1. Just thought – its also worth looking at the gear stick ball and socket that make up the shift lever in the cab, this can wear/break up preventing the correct push/pull on the selector cables in that far left gate. You can have a check of this when you inspect the gear cable adjustment.

      1. Thanks Steve for your quick response.
        Had a mechanic friend look at her tonight, he thinks it’s the clutch.
        Going to see another chap tomorrow but won’t tell him what my friend said, that way I’ll get an honest answer.
        Will show him your thoughts and who knows, I may get lucky.
        Will report in when I know.
        Thanks again and kindest regards

      2. I suppose if you can easily select first and reverse gears with the engine off and not running then maybe he is correct!
        Let me know.
        All the best Steve

  7. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the write up mate, took my Vito 111cdi 2006 in to the garage, Not liking 1st, 2nd and reverse, they suggested a rebuild costing about £1000 to £1500 +.. but your idea seems like a plan i can not pass up..BUT, my wife use’s the motor a lot (We have a full load most times, 5 kids :-).. would your oil be ok ?

    Any advice would be great..

    Thanks again Steve..


    1. Hi Mark,

      All will be fine I am sure, lets face it the gearbox currently requires a rebuild to fully rectify it so how bad could get. 😉 It will be fine, Auto Gearbox oil is sealed for life in some Mercedes gearbox/transmissions and most Ford manual transmissions use Dexron ATF as standard. I hope it works out for you as it has done for others and makes some improvement.

      All the best

  8. Hi Steve,

    I saw this article for the first time about 1.5 weeks ago, However here in South-Africa I could not find the exact oil you shown, so i also changed my manual gearbox oil to 100% pure synthetic Castrol 75w which was the closest and was not cheap, but i was willing to pay the price.
    However i still have the following symptoms:
    1) When the engine is cold i.e. below operating temparature , i strugle to get 1’st and reverse, but only these to gears.
    2) The clutch pedal is a bit “sticky” if can use that word.
    3) When i drive the car (cold or hot) gear changes from 1’st to 2’nd onwards is ok.(obviousely better when hot).
    4) So far ther is NO clutch slippage, even when accelerating flat out.
    5) When engine is cold AND the engine is NOT running, i can easily select ALL gears incl 1’st and reverse, no issues.
    6) When i selected for example, 1’st while engine is switched off, then depress the clutch, then start the engin, the car starts normally and does not move. And then when i release the clutch, it pulls away as normal.

    Can you please give me advice?


    1. Hi Philip,

      1) When the engine is cold i.e. below operating temparature , i strugle to get 1′st and reverse, but only these to gears. (Could be slight clutch drag)
      2) The clutch pedal is a bit “sticky” if can use that word. (Usually a sign of clutch pressure plate problems, Slave cylinder at end of stroke)
      3) When i drive the car (cold or hot) gear changes from 1′st to 2′nd onwards is ok.(obviousely better when hot).
      4) So far ther is NO clutch slippage, even when accelerating flat out. (But maybe clutch drag, not totally clearing flywheel when pedal depressed)
      5) When engine is cold AND the engine is NOT running, i can easily select ALL gears incl 1′st and reverse, no issues. (That is an indicator that the select cable adjustment is correct)
      6) When i selected for example, 1′st while engine is switched off, then depress the clutch, then start the engin, the car starts normally and does not move. And then when i release the clutch, it pulls away as normal. (You would probably not notice the amount of drag causing the problem, for sure it would not move the van. Try depressing the clutch in neutral with engine running and then waiting a few moments before trying to engage gear, see if that engages better)

      All the best

  9. Hi Steve and thanks for your great article!
    I have same issues with my W638 vito 1999 (manual gearbox) : 3rd is difficult to engage from the day I bought the van, and since I refilled the gearbox with W75 oil, the 5ft jump when the temperature increases.
    Do you know what type of oil I could use (considering the high temperatures here, around 25/35°C) and find here in Australia, to make some improvements?

  10. Update on my vito Steve.

    Changed gearbox oil, unsuccessful.

    Gear linkage cleaned up and lubricated as full of muck, unsuccessful .

    Finally it seemed that the clutch was the culprit, was changed and fly wheel was fine. Cost of £775 all in.

    Now here’s the problem, although I can now get reverse and first the gear change is still very notchy.
    Getting from 4th to 2nd is near impossible and as im in and out of my gears all day its getting a right pain in the arse.

    So today i went back to see the boys who look after my vehicles and after looking at it again they think it may be the gear selector bushes which do seem very loose. They also said that the cables could be stretch due to me forcing it in gear before the clutch change.

    When they priced up the bushes they were told that you could only buy the whole part which includes the metal bracket ect at around £100 plus vat.

    Strange thing is that apparently they have sold hundreds of these parts in the last year which seems to me that its a big problem.

    I am going to change it before i go down the cable root and just hope that this will be the fix as im getting very pissed off spending money and ot getting the fix.

    Thanks again Steve and will keep you informed

    Regards Sean

    1. Hi Zac,
      Good luck with the oil, I have had another reader of Gen-In try it on a C180 (Iffy 22nd of December) If your C220 is a pre-04 model then the gear selection is by cable and these could need adjustment. If its post-04 then a redesigned mechanism operated directly into the gearbox without any adjustment, although wear to the plastic ball at the base of the selector lever has been reported to give problems with gear selection. Maybe worth a look!
      Please report back and let me know how you get on.
      Best regards

  11. Hi steve
    no luck really maybe a bit better, must be internal because when the engine is not running i can get 1st and reverse fine.

    1. Hi Zac,
      I have been reading some input regarding the C220 manual gearbox and related 2nd gear issues. Have a read here: Obviously its clutching at straws a little but you may wish to check out the route of dropping the oil level in the gearbox to 10-15mm below the filler – it has been reported that this can return some benefit. Have a read see what you think (I always adopt a cautionary open minded approach to information read in user group posts, however ‘reading in-between the lines’ it does seem to hold some water) One interesting point is the number of 2nd gear synchro’s reported being sold by MB for this type of gearbox!
      Let me know if you have any success.
      All the best

  12. Thanks for writing the post.

    I have a 2007 Vito 111 W638 6-speed. The gear change between first and second is really, really ‘clunky’ whilst mobile. I’ve noticed that there is almost a small ‘jump’ out of 1st and 2nd gears as well. The workaround is to take gear changes really slowly which is a bit frustrating on hills. Whilst parked the gear changes are consistent through the gearbox though I wouldn’t say they were smooth.

    I changed the oil as suggested in this post however unfortunately I’ve noticed no change at all. The garage is my next port of call though I have a bit of a trust problem as I’m not really motor savvy.

    I did buy the hex tools in the link, however the set came short of a 17mm tool which was required for the drain plug.

    Thanks anyway.

    1. Hi Tyrone,
      Sorry the tool link didn’t work out, they must have changed the pack contents or original link I posted to Laser tools. I will amend that now. I realise you say you can select gears while stationary OK but I wonder if you have looked at the selector cable alignment/adjustment, you will find the MB details on setting this on my website here. This is well worth a look before moving on. The garage will likely tell you the vehicle will need a clutch as spinning clearances of plate and flywheel do reduce as wear takes place. This drag can cause the issue you are seeing – from experience and the reports of posters on here, this is not a definite cure. A few people have had the clutch replaced on recommendation, only to find the synchros internal to the gearbox were worn and needed further work.
      Before ‘signing on the dotted’ line just be aware that this could be the outcome even if the clutch is replaced then make an informed decision.
      Please let me know how you get on.
      All the best

      1. Hi Steve,

        No problems with regards to the link.

        I’ve got a bill for a clutch replacement for back in 2010 so I’d be disappointed if that was the issue. I’ll try the selector cable adjustment before taking it into the garage. Just to display my ignorance, what measuring tool would I use to ensure adjustments are correct. I’m going to feel pretty stupid if you say a ruler! The recommended measurements are in millimetres so I would have thought the tolerance is quite low.

        How big a job to resolve is a problem with the synchros? I’m just wondering if the adjustment doesn’t work maybe I should jump straight to the synchros as the clutch has been done fairly recently.


      2. Hi Tyrone,
        I you could make a plastic measure of the correct dimensions, like a slip gauge.
        I have just dug this out of the web for you and its worth a read, the problem could reside in the selector cage on the gearbox itself. There are some informative suggestions here that could just help you out before biting down on the expensive exchange gearbox route (unless advanced in repair of gearboxes I would not attempt the synchro repair myself – my own view is get a service exchange box if you require one. It will have a warranty and have had all worn parts replaced, not just the offending synchro hubs.) My 2 cents worth, but its up to you.
        Let me know how you get on.
        All the best

      3. Hi All,

        I’m only putting the info below now because i wanted to monitor my solution first.
        Also it’s not a permament fix at all, but it can buy you precious time

        One thing i noticed on my Vito 115 CDi (W639) is that there must be some slow leak of clutch hydraulic fluid / or the master / slave cylinder orings have worn. What i did to prove that it was not wear of presure or clutch plate on my car was the folloiwng:
        1) I took an old hand oil lubrating can which has that “thumb pump” action on it. Normally used eg. for lubricating pistons & rings during block assemby .
        2) filled the oil lub can with breakfluid (not oil)
        3) Removed the TIP of the hose attached to the oilcan
        4) The pip snugly fits over the bleed nipple for the clutch
        5) then i loosen the bleed nipple slightly
        6) then i pump break fluid back up the bleed nipple until it starts leaking out the side threads of the nipple then i immediately close the nipple.

        Result of my actions was immediately my clutch pedal was sitting a bit higher, and the clutch travel was better and the gear selection was better too.

        This solution lasted for more than a month and half and quite a lot of miles before i have to top up the fluid again.


      4. Interesting stuff Phillip, this goes to underline that poor engagement of gears can be due to a dragging clutch, this being one cause of such a problem. Thanks for the info and do report back.
        All the best

  13. hi steve
    I am from india, i am facing same hard to push gear problem in my new force one suv, my diesel suv gear oil grade is xp 80w90, can i use your specified w50/w60 regular oil in my new suv. please repply me.

    1. Hi there Vikrant,
      I am not familiar with this vehicle so can only presume. If the vehicle is almost new you should look to letting the dealer sort it out as maybe it is to do with the selector mechanism. If the vehicle is old, but new to you! then you can try a thinner oil. If you save the oil that you take out you can always put it back in if there is no improvement. I would look to using a single grade fully synthetic oil that holds its viscosity through a wide temperature range. My advice is to give it a go and see what improvements result. Please report back and let me know.
      All the best

  14. Great post.
    I have an extremely grinding change into third and living and working in Devon I’m up and down the gears all day.
    Mine is a ’98 638 so I’m going to try the oil change first to see if that improves. It is an old van but I’m willing to give it a go.
    Great post, good detail and very helpful.

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Glad you found the text useful, does the gear change improve when the unit is warm or is this worse from cold? Can you live with pausing a little in the gate between gears, this is a bit of a get-by but does save your teeth jarring until you get sorted!
      Let me know how you get on
      All the best

  15. How long do you think this oil will last as just bought a 55 plate vito 109cdi minibus and Def a problem changing from 1st to 2nd although feelsa bit better if I start off in 2nd sometimes

    1. Hi there,
      If you have problems with the gearbox internals currently, then you could really ask the same question of the existing oil and current mechanical condition – so that really is a bit of a mute point. The thing is, if you can improve the situation then all well and good, the oil is gearbox rated and fully synthetic so should be at least on par as what is installed currently. I have now done appx 20,000 miles now and no ill effects. Its worth a shot. If you save the old oil you can always put it back in if there is no improvement and you feel more comfortable by doing that.
      Give it a go!
      All the best Steve

  16. Hi Steve. thanks for your time and effort making this post and hopefully your still around to read this. i bought a vito 109 cdi 06 plate a few months ago (it has 80k on clock atm), thought i would do an all around oil change. Before i changed the oil in gearbox i only had the slight problem with 1st and 2nd now and again, and when changing into 6th the feel of the van was a little different to 5th etc. Anyways i checked with opie oils and was recommended fuchs titan sinto fluid FE SAE 75w synthetic manual transmission oil. i have since put this in and now have a problem with all gears being a little bit harder to get in. i am a carpenter so have a fair amount of tools on the van daily and can travel an hour each way to work (motorway driving) so i was wondering if your oil recommendation would be a good solution for my situation. hopefully youll get the chance too read this and if so many thanks for taking the time.

    1. Hi Mat,
      The ATF-U has an approximate gearbox grade of 50w-60w ish, almost like engine oil weight. If the new 75w oil you have in has changed the way the van feels on a change its worth a go. I would suspect maybe that the original oil in the box was probably not the recommended 75w as things have changed so dramatically. Synthetic oils are good at maintaining their grade in both age and temperature so I would not have expected a great change replacing with new 75w. So chances are it may have not been that grade to start with. If you save the oil you take out it can always go back in if you feel its better than the ATF-U. Personally I think this could improve things for you and for the small financial investment and a little of your time well worth a shot.
      Do let me know how you get on.
      All the best

      1. Hi Steve. Thanks for making such a fast reply, it’s much appreciated. This is the first time i have decided to take it upon myself to work on a vehicle i usually tend to stick with wood! haha. Anyways the oil that came out did not seem to match the oil the new oil but as it was black and not knowing enough about it i did not think to much of it so i think your right. I was awaiting your reply before going ahead with the swap so once again thanks for taking the time, i shall pick up some up from the local GSF tomorrow and change it over and i hopefully shall be looking forward to letting you know that it worked 🙂

    1. Hi Paul,
      No it shouldn’t be. Is yours a w638 front wheel drive of w639 rear wheel drive? In either case I would get the tracking checked as soon as possible, if this proves to be OK, have a look at the lower arm bushes if tyres are wearing on the inner edge.
      Regards Steve

      1. Hi Steve. Sorry for such a late reply but things been a little hectic as of late. Anyways I changed the oil to your suggestion and what would you know! The gearbox is back to the way it was previously! Second is still a pain now and again which I now realise is a problem that oil change was never going to fix. So I thank you once again but also my wallet thanks you too! Hehe. Cheers Mat

      2. Good news at least Mat, there is a way to adapt your driving to make the best of a bad situation (if you don’t do it already!) Just dip the clutch well in advance of shifting the lever and let the throttle completely, then SLOWLY shift and feed back in the power and clutch. Its a purposeful slow change that traffic and road situations don’t always allow, but it does work.
        All the best

  17. Hi Steve, had the tracking checked and they said it was only 2mm out, didnt have it done, the tyres were wearing out on the outside of tyre only. They check the lower arm bushes and they were ok. Any further ideas? cheers for your help, Paul

    1. Hi there Paul,
      Tracking that is just 0.8mm out of factory specified alignment per wheel will result in each tyre on a 15″ wheel being forced to scrub sideways 3 1/2 feet per mile! I would suggest insisting on the correct wheel alignment before looking for another cause. It seems you have 2mm ‘toe-out’ wearing the outside edges of both front tyres. Here is an interesting article that explains all about steering geometry. (It is also in the tyre depots interest that you continue to wear out your tyres, so they can then sell you a couple more… – if you are at all cynical !) http://www.anewtoronto.com/wheel%20alignment.html

      all the best Steve

      1. Hi steve,please could you help.I have a vito 109 and it keeps jumping out of 1st gear,its been like this for the last 2 years so I have been using 2nd all the time to pull away now the clutch is slipping,i know I have probably burned it out,do you think I would need a new gearbox to sort the problem or is there a cheaper solution,many thanks Terry

      2. Hi Terry,
        I would check that the shift mechanism is actually allowing the gear to fully select, you can do this by getting under and watching the frame while someone operates the shifter. If it is not, then adjust the cable length to allow correct movement range. There is a chance that the gearbox is worn, maybe a selector fork or hub. This can only be fixed by correcting the mechanical issues inside the box. The clutch and gearbox will be costly but the fact of doing both at the same time will at least off set some labour cost. Look for a good service exchange gearbox with a warranty.
        All the best Steve

  18. Hi I have just got a 60plate sprinter and struggling to select 1st and reverse especially when running it has 140k on the clock . Would your oil work? I have 2months warranty left on the van is that worth pursuing .? 1st to 2nd is also clunky

    1. Hi Jason,
      Difficulty with first and reverse is a classic cable adjustment or wear on selector frame. I would be very tempted to try the warranty to get this work done fist off as if it turns out to be a gearbox issue then any financial help is a bonus. I would not swap the oil yet, just in case they claim the problem is caused, or warranty invalidated by incorrect gearbox oil fitment. Err on the side of caution for the sake of a couple of months – then by all means try it. It sounds however cable adjustment or frame replacement may be all you need.
      Good luck and do report back.

  19. Hi Steve,I have a 56 plate merc sprinter,there is a lot of play in the gear stick,and I have poor first gear selection.would be greatfull for any advice.

    1. Hi Craig,
      Poor gear selection and sloppy shifter usually points to a worn selector cage on the gearbox. This the frame that controls the motion of the shaft in the top of the gearbox that physically selects the gears. You can get underneath and have a good look see if any of the pivots are worn. There is little to do but to swap the complete cage assembly as individual parts are not available for the assembly. Before condemning the cage make double sure the cable adjustments are correct and investigate too see if the selector ball under the gear knob itself has not started or has broken up. These are all possible causes.
      Let me know how you get on.
      All the best

      1. Hi Steve,
        Thanks for the reply to my post,and sharing your knowledge,I had the gear selector cage checked out and your thoughts on this turned out to be correct.there was excessive play as a result of wear/tear,so all should be good when I get this changed.i will definitely come to you for advice in the future before going to the garage.much appreciated,keep up the good work.
        Many thanks.Craig

  20. I own a 2012 vito with an ecogear 360 manual gearbox. I bought this car new. From the beginning i’am complaining off poor shift from first to second. The dealer can’t do anything they say all those gearboxes has the same problem. Is maybe the solution to change the oil? Can I use carlube ATF-U??
    Please Help.
    The vito now has 55000 km on it.

    1. Hi there,
      What I have suggested on many occasions is to drain the oil from the gearbox and keep it. If you try the ATF-U and find its no better, then you can drain it out and replace the original oil. The Ecogear box is just a fancy name for the 6 speed gearbox, the running components are the same as even the DSG unit. Give it a try, whats to lose!

  21. Hi, Steve
    I’m from South Africa I bought a second hand 94 Vito 115 cdi with 200 000km
    on the clock
    since i bought it the vehicle the vehicle used to jump out of 1st gear on occasions. the 2ndand reverse are slghtly tight. recently i’ts been jumping out more often. the agents say it’s not a common problem and to book the vehicle in. I’m have night mares. Can you shed some light.
    kind regards

    1. Hi Sed,
      It could be as simple as the correct adjustment of the gear selector operating cables. I would get this checked out first before looking for more serious problems.
      All the best

  22. I’ve just changed the oil in my 109 gearbox thinking maintenance is a good thing to do….it’s hideous now ! Really annoying because there was absolutely nothing wrong with it…got some atf on order.. how many miles have you done with the atf In now ?

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Isn’t that always the way! From previous posts I have found people who have done similar, finding that the gearbox oil removed was not as originally fitted and had been changed to something lighter somewhere along the line. So go for the ATF-U, I am almost to 20k now with the ATF-U and no ill effects.
      Good luck,


  23. Hi
    My vito 115 2005 model 2.2 diesel has a problem
    when a select 1st gear it jumps out so I took out the box and startto strip it but can not split the box can anyone giv me some advice


    1. Hi Ben,
      You will have to remove the blanking plug from the bell housing end and undo the torx head bolt on the end of the lay shaft, you can then split the box.
      You wil find either the plastic tips are broken on the selector forks or the syncro hubs (2 on each gear) have collapsed. Have a look here at my post on Sprinter source: http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=36069

      You will find the plastic tips are not available as an individual part and come with the complete selector assembly !! As the selector assembly is almost the price of a recon box with warranty I am in the process of having some made from bronze by a local engineer.

      Other gearbox parts available from:
      Matthew Cummings – contactus@pantritrading.com

      Regards Steve

    1. That is great news Stephen,
      It seems the oil had already been re-graded before your service oil change and you correctly added the original OEM grade. Changing it back to slightly lighter oil put things back as they were.
      All the best

  24. hi steve found your artical a few days ago found it very intresting so i ordered some atf u oil came today did oil change this afternoon and wow what a change so so much better to get into gear cables feel stiff so ordered a set of them along with shift ball and socket that all comes friday so will do that and should be good as new well better as it has always been rubbish thanks again steve

  25. Good day all, I have a 2004 Cdi 115 Vito. just over 7 years with me. I tow a caravan. fitted 3rd gearbox 6 months ago. s speed manual. I want to do an oil change to ATF U. how much oil does it take? I presume about 2 litres. I am from South Africa.

    1. I am from South Africa. I solved a similar 2nd gear problem by using fully synthetic gear oil manufactured by Castrol, called BOT402. It is thinner than normal gear oil

      1. Hi Danie,
        The Castrol BOT 402 is a fully synthetic SAE 75W-85 manual transmission fluid. This is about the same viscosity as the OEM single w75 grade transmission oil (Also fully synthetic) Here is the Castrol spec sheet. http://www.salube.co.za/downloads/tds/bot-402.pdf

        I chose a lighter w50-w60 grade on the gearbox scale with the ATF-U. Never the less if you have had good results maybe the transmission had been filled previously with a heavier hypoid oil and you have just taken it back to standard or perhaps the oil was just past its best.

        Thanks for the heads up on the oil type available for South Africa, I am pleased it worked out for you.

        Many thanks, all the best

  26. Hi I’ve got a 54 plate vito with a gear box that will go up the gears no problem and go down until I get to second. It will go in but I have to nearly snap the gear lever to get it. I’m going to try the ATF-U. Do you think the oil is my only problem ?. Hope to hear from you soon.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      My first port of call would be to inspect the selector lever in the cab for wear in the ball and socket (Making sure it is not cracked) then look very carefully and see if any side to side play exists in the control cables. Adjusting the cables just slightly to compensate for any wear left to right could make all the difference in targeting the gear selector to the correct gate – especially 2nd. (reverse can usually be difficult too)

      There is a chance however that synchro wear is your problem, 3rd to 2nd specifically. You will only be able to fully decide this when you have checked the cable adjustment and perhaps changed the oil to ATF-U (not a complex or expensive job in either case). Hopefully one or the other will sort the problem.

      Could be worth a crawl under and inspect the selector cage pivots on the gearbox, checking the hinge on the right for wear and lack of lubrication.

      Let me know how you get on,
      All the best

  27. Hi Steve just got vito 111 cdi compact first to second gear notches slightly and hard to get at times what is the oil again so I can get some and try it regards Paul

  28. Hi Steve, I have got a Vito 639, 116 CDi, I seem to have coolant loss from the passenger side of engine and it seems to be coming from the top of the radiator hose, any ideas what this could be? Cheers, Paul

    1. Hi Paul,
      I seem to remember the thermostat housing is plastic and well with a look. There is an O ring seal between the base seam and this may be weeping. The best way to tackle this is dry everything off and look wit a torch while the engine is running. You could use some talc to powder the area and make leaks more noticeable. Without actually looking myself its difficult to say what it is or where it could be from.

  29. Thanks again Steve, will have a look at the weekend, dpf short journeys all the time should i be using a low ash oil or using dpf cleaner or should I remove the filter?

    Thanks again for your help. It is much appreciated.


  30. I have recently bought a vito compact 109cdi with about 120k. Its mainly been 2nd that has been noticeably bad, crunching into gear on occasions when cold but not being too bad when warm, just heavy at times. I decided to do an oil change and after much deliberation replaced with 75w-90 as per spec. The hope was that if it sorted things it would mean I didnt have to deviate from spec.

    Unfortunately, despite the old oil looking pretty old, it hasnt worked, so perhaps I should have replaced it with ATF as you suggested. I am considering dropping the oil level to see if that has a positive effect, may try it tomorrow. I have checked the linkages and they are all sound so I am guessing replacing syncro rings is my next plan. Where is the best place to purchase replacement gear box parts in the uk? How difficult are the synchro rings to replace? I have replaced bearings in gearboxes in the past but never components of the drive chain.

    Thanks, any advice is greatly appreciated

    1. Hi Marcus,

      OEM spec Mercedes oil for the 6 speed W639 is single grade fully synthetic 75w – not the multigrade you mention with upper limit of 90w. If you ring a dealer even they will not be able to tell you the weight of oil as its just bottled for them (mega expensive) Mercedes with a part number associated! Most auto-factors will recommend the wrong stuff!

      There was another reader who had similar problems while servicing and replacing with OEM spec oil. It was obvious from what he described (as you have) that the oil had already been changed to thinner oil in the vans lifetime and reverting to a heavier weight lubricant simply ‘made things worse’ – so what you took out, may have already been ‘less viscous’ that the oem spec oil you then put in. Change to ATF-U, as he did to get things back to where they were at least, with a chance of improvement.

      For a little insight into what the gearbox looks like internally and what to expect re synchro hubs etc. have a look here: You may need to register/join to view the photographs but well worth it. This was a W639 box I stripped and eventually rebuilt from two scrap gearboxes with dissimilar faults.

      Majorly one of the problems is with the plastic fingers that push pull the synchro hubs. These wear / break by rough shifting and only partially engage the gear-train. In time because of partial gear engagement, it wears the edge of the gears and eventually the syncho hub just keeps dropping out or ‘popping’ the gear. This wear is a vicious circle, it starts with a worn/damaged selector finger, gears become difficult to select, more force is needed to select the gear, fingers get damaged more… etc etc. The plastic fingers are not available as a part, it is the whole selector assembly which from Mercedes is more than a second hand gearbox! I think you probably have your answers there, but I would drop the oil again and see how you go before making any snap decisions.

      Hope that helps

  31. Thank you Steve for your informative reply and continuing help. All does make sense. They had 75w80 on the shelf too which I almost picked up instead. I think my assumption is with 75w90 is that it should be as thin as a single grade 75 when ‘cold’ but I guess realisticly in the uk this time of the year it is never that cold and so is always thicker than the single grade 75 oil.

    I will pick some ATF-U up tomorrow, at least its an easy job to swap it and relatively low cost.

    The underlying problem is likley to be that my synchro is worn on second though I assume. Its fine when stationary so does this not suggest the shifting fingers are ok, or is the problem generally only prominant when under the greater load of shifting whilst moving where the synchro has to work?

    Fingers crossed for tomorrows oil change.

    1. Hi Marcus,
      Good news on the stationary selection of gears, that pretty much rules out selector frame and cable alignment problems. From what I have seen inside the gearbox its the ‘throw’ of the selector on the synchro that is slightly restricted by the finger issue, this stops short of full engagement (which is probably less than 10mm on the shaft anyway) and in time wears out the bronze selector cone gears, as unless fully engaged they do not align properly (run true). In this box there are two syncros on every gear except reverse. Have a look here. even though this is the VW shiftmatic it has the exact same gearbox internals to the 6 speed MB unit.
      Lets see what happens with the oil swap.
      All the best

      1. Thanks again for your help Steve. Ok so results in, much better now, its not like a new box but its much lighter from cold. More similar to the original when hot but lighter and smoother especially from cold. Thinking back, the 75w-90 was the worse. All supports what you say Steve. Curiously the parts shop I bought both lots of oil from quoted different spec oil both times I asked, strange.

        Through fast shifts it still catches at times so I guess I will settle for slow shifts until I get the chance to strip the box down or something else comes up. Much more drivable now though.

  32. Further on, where is the best place to buy gear box parts? I am struggling to source synchro rings. Also how many variations are there of the W639 box? Hoping to strip and rebuild in a month or so when I get the chance.

    1. Hi Marcus,
      I am also rebuilding the gearbox of my 639. My Vito had been persistently been popping out of first gear, and it was becoming quite dangerous at times.
      I visited my Mercedes dealer armed with my VIN number, and they were able to identify my build version from that.
      I ordered the first gear (& second, whilst I am in there) sync units. The part code on my boxes is; MA203 260 36 45, priced at £37.90ea.
      I also invested in the; MA203 260 30 45 selector unit, £54.50
      I have taken some pictures as I have been doing the work, so (if it works) I may post a thread on one of the Mercedes forums to assist others in future.

    2. Hi Marcus,
      Speak to Matthew Cummings at Pantri Trading – http://www.PantriTrading.com he should be able to help out. If you give him the gearbox details he will be able to email you over a parts diagram and you can then select the parts to price/order from him from them. A good alternative to Mercedes Dealer.

  33. Hi Steve,
    I have been following your site with (vested) interest for quite a while now.
    As I am now rebuilding my gearbox, obviously I wish to lubricate the internals as I proceed.
    Please can you tell me if you would suggest that I use your suggested ATF upgrade, or the Mercedes dealer’s oil .??
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi there StM,
      I would be tempted to use the 75w MB recommended oil if you have rebuilt the box, the thinner grade oil (ATF-U) is the fix in a bottle for making the best of wearing parts, you have gone one step further. Check the bearings in the bell-housing, especially the input shaft bearing (usually noisy if high miles) Use new input and output bearing seals as its a hugely frustrating job to cure an oil leak once its back in the van for the sake of a few quid. Use a smear of silicone sealer on the bell housing plug on the layshaft access hole.
      All the best

      1. Thank you very much indeed for the advice Steve.
        Along with the other parts I’ve brought a new plug for the end of the countershaft. I was going to smear a wipe of silicon grease on it to install, but I shall defer to your knowledge.
        The bearings & seals “seem” ok, from my (amateur) inspection. I hadn’t brought replacements, but will now re-check tomorrow before I start my rebuild.

      2. Hi StM,
        Good luck on the rebuild, don’t forget to post up the link to your chosen forum photos/description when you have completed the task.
        All the best

  34. Hi Steve,
    This is more a question for advice from you or anykne here who can help.

    What is the correct / easiest way to bleed the clutch on a 2006 Vito 115 W639?
    I have a presure bleeder which I used for all the break lines, since the clutch hydaulic resavoir is shared with the brakes, do I just connect it , put some pressure and open the nipple on the clutch slave?

    I can not shake the feeling that there is more to it.

    Can you help please?


    1. Hi Phil,
      The clutch slave cylinder on W639 has to be reverse bled. This means connecting your pressure bleeding device to the nipple on the gearbox and forcing fluid and the air into master cylinder backwards through the system. Remember to remove fluid from the master cylinder before you start! This is a factory procedure as air gets trapped in the radial cylinder and does not find its way out with conventional bleeding. Its a simple task so don’t worry. One chap used a pump oil can and piece of rubber hose on the tip to force brake fluid back through the nipple, it was reported to have worked well and I suppose was a little more controllable.
      Hope that helps.
      All the best

  35. Hi Steve,
    I thought I’d post a little update. Please feel free to delete it if you feel it is just spamming your blog.:
    I removed & split my gearbox, removed the selectors, main shaft & countershaft, & then carefully inspected the components.
    I was unable to identify any obvious signs of serious degradation damage. I dismantled the main shaft & discovered some slight wear on the 1st gear synchro unit, although nothing that I would have expected to be able to cause the disturbing “popping out of first gear” symptom.
    Nonetheless I decided to replace those items, rebuilt & re-installed the gearbox. (with FE SAE 75W oil)
    No improvement whatsoever.
    Very disappointed.
    Tomorrow I shall be removing it (again) & stripping it apart to try again.
    However, perhaps at least we can warn others what does NOT work to address this issue.?

    1. Hi StM,

      What an absolute bummer. I am sure in your last post you said you were replacing the sychro selector gear (The middle bit with the bronze hubs/springs housed in it) What were the detent springs and ball bearings like? When you slid the ring/comb over the gears did it seem to locate positively? What you did is exactly what should have taken care of the issue, its usually wear on this hub gear assy that causes the pop.(At least so in two cases of mine. W639 and VW Crafter 6spd box)

      Just a real ‘out there’ thought before you drop the box, is the selector frame allowing a full push of the selector arm that projects through the gear box back? Can you tell from underneath if the rod is pushed to the selector rod detent? Its at least worth a look as it could be a worn frame or cable adjustment not carrying the required throw.

      All the best – I feel your pain….

  36. Hi Steve,
    The detent springs & ball bearings all appeared intact, however I replaced them with new anyway.
    When the box is at standstill it selects all the gears perfectly.
    As the feel (when trying to engage 1st) is that it isn’t “pushing far enough” into gear I have even removed the cables with 1st selected & tried manually moving the actuator arm.: It moves no further than the cables would take it.
    Furthermore, the same movement is generated for 3rd & 5th, both of which engage perfectly.
    I shall report back when I have made further progress.

    1. Hi StM,

      All noted, worth a mention.

      Were the internal cage plastic ‘finger tips’ that locate in the Hub selector ring looking dimensionally the same as the others on the other hubs? Not worn edges/sides.

      It did actually surprise me a great deal how little linear movement was involved in a full gear hub selection (slide-to-latch) and I reckon any wear here could be detrimental.

      The plastic tips on one box I had (additionally a 3rd gear issue) had a very worn profile and a split in one, that only opened up when you selected or moved gear in one direction only.
      There is a strange way of locating the tips in the steel arm fingers, its almost like a swage. The tip has a circular base that is trapped in a pressed hat. I have seen looseness here that allows the tip to tilt over slightly and lose linear stroke on a selection. I have not been able to fathom how to tighten these up so that they still rotate slightly but don’t cant over when selection force is applied. The fixing is pretty robust. I thought at first they were fixed like a trim clip, with a locating peg in the centre that expanded the edges. No amount of prying proved this assumption so I ended up swapping the whole frame from another box.

      I do have a box in bits at the moment if you need me to check anything – this one has been a work in progress, and is currently on hold as other ‘money-earning’ jobs have jumped the queue. Oh’ to be a specialist in gearboxes – we would have all the answers!


      1. Hi StM,
        I totally agree with your findings and although on a different selector/gear-set, you can see the breakage of the plastic fingers in my gearbox. The sad thing is if the plastic wears or breaks and it is not attended to within a reasonable amount of time, the lack of proper engagement of the hubs wears the synchro hubs and the lead in/out of the selector gears causing a nice taper – then the gear starts to ‘Pop’ out.

        Broken Synchro Selector Finger

        I like you am pretty sure that if these plastic pieces were available then it would be a cheap fix (I had some bronze fingers made) however fitting the fingers is a little more difficult as they are swaged into the forks and have to be drilled out. Thanks for the input – makes interesting reading.

        All the best

      2. Hi there.
        Re gear selection on our beloved 639 Vitos.
        Firstly thanks for all the advice on which direction to look in, much appreciated.
        I had to bite the bullet & take advice from a mechanic who has worked on my Merc from day one.
        After close inspection of the gearbox mounted linkage & the gear shift assy under the gaiter he gave me the news…
        New gearshift assy reqd as old one completely stuffed after 700,000 miles, fair enough.
        New gear selector linkage astride gearbox reqd as old one completely stuffed after 700,000 miles, fair enough.
        Clutch removed & inspected. Flywheel found to be in very very good condition, no need to replace.
        Clutch friction plate found to have 90% of life still left on it, all ok but…the surface was very shiny & after doing 700,000 miles the clutch material had perhaps lost some of its tactile properties so was replaced.
        So all was replaced & I held my breath……
        The difference is enormous. All gears are like silk. Reverse is back…hello reverse nice to see you again!
        So parts replacement was my way forward I believe to having the Merc back to very close to when I drove it out of the showroom some 9+ years ago.
        Still curious though re the lighter oil for the gearbox which appears to have helped SB.
        B&Q have the ATF-U 1 ltr bottles of it for £7.99 each.
        Just need a little more advice on that one from the people in the know!
        Thanks again,

  37. Hi Steve

    Thank you for your post. I think I may have a similar issue and tried your solution. When my engine is on, I can not select the first or reverse gear. I have to literally put the engine off select and start again. It feels as if the clutch is not disengaged properly even while it is push it down completely. Also when the car is in neutral I feels like it is slowly propelled forward. I have asked a mechanic to change the gear oil like you suggested and had 2 days improved driving but then it came back. It could be that he didn’t put in the specified oil but not sure. I asked but never got a clear answer. This issue is not constant. To me it appears to come and go randomly?? not sure why and what to try next. I hope you can give me some advice… Thank you again. Tinny

    1. Hi Martin,
      I understand your problem. I have seen this on a couple of occasions and it is due to in part to clutch drag as you suspect. A few people on the forums comment that it could be due to some sticking of the friction plate on the splines of the input shaft.
      I have had similar situations (as also another poster on here) with air in the hydraulic clutch system. This prevents the full range of movement of the clutch plate. You will need to back-bleed the system from the slave cylinder on the gearbox to the master cylinder under the bonnet. Normal bleeding will not work!
      This is what I would try first before starting to blame perhaps a problematic clutch.
      I hope this is of some use.
      All the best

  38. Hi Steve
    just wonder if you’re aware what exact quantity of oil there is in vito 110 2012 manual

    1. Hi Tsanko,

      Vito 2012 Manual Gearbox quantities:
      Engine Code OM651.956,OM651DE22LA,OM651.955,OM651.957,OM651.940
      Mercedes Benz passenger vehicles & LCVs Trans/Diff Code 716.637 6/1,716.652 6/1
      Capacity 1.2l,1.5l BHP 95,136,163

      Drain and fill to level plug on level ground.

      Regards Steve

      1. Hi Steve
        the confusion was that I drained 2 L out of the gearbox and than filled in about 1.5 L bearing in mind some of the new oil went out as I was doing it on the street on front of my place.
        So if the capacity of my gearbox is 1.2 I should be ok but if it’s 1.5 need to top it up
        Thank you very much for your quick response

      2. Hi Tsanko

        Once you have added oil to the bottom edge of the fill plug opening (just running out) this is the correct level. I would guess that there are two specified quantities listed for the following reason, the first 1.2l is listed for an oil change where some old oil may remain and not fully drain out. Then the 1.5l for a ‘dry’ (no oil) fill as you would expect from a new or rebuilt gearbox with no oil at all.

        The true and correct level is one that fills the gearbox to the lower edge of the fill plug (until it dribbles out) If you took out 2l it sounds as if it was previously overfilled or refilled on an incline where it would be possible to fill beyond the base of the fill plug – because the gearbox would be tilted. Where possible fill the gearbox on level ground (or if jacked to gain access, lower the vehicle to the ground with the fill plug removed to drain to the correct level. Then re-jack and replace the fill plug)


  39. Hi mate

    I have just done the above to a W906 sprinter with very difficult gear selection as you had.
    It’s spot in now!!

    Many thanks for the tip

  40. Hi Steve,
    I have a 09 2.5 VW Crafter that suffers the 1st and reverse gear problem along with 2nd gear difficulties when cold. It’s been like it since I bought it last October. It had 43k on the clock and now has 75k. Do you think your oil/fluid change would solve the problem?

    1. Hi Tom,
      You may have a combination of things going on here. I would look at selector cable alignment for the 1st and reverse issue as they are often connected, as is wear to the large horseshoe mechanism that straddles the rear of the gearbox. It is a double-hinge affair and occasionally the pivots seize, so a good inspect and spray required. The second gear issue is probably a synchro problem, especially if it can be minimised with a long clutch depression and slow change, as I suspect it will. This is an area that may benefit from the ATF-U replacement, depending of course on the degree of wear present. For the cost and relative simple work involved its well worth a shot and at the very least should make some improvement.

      I would look at the gear selector cable alignment and while you are in the area inspect the nylon ball/socket at the base of the selector lever(gear stick) as they have been known to wear or crack allowing play and under travel of the lever, again all linked to the selector cable positions.

      I hope it works out for you, please do let me know how you get on.
      All the best

  41. Hi Steve.

    What can I say! you’re a God……

    I have never known such a thorough breakdown and application of knowledge on the Web, especially with such clear and concise instruction.

    Sooooo, now I have your attention, maybe you can help me with my Frankenstein Monster?

    I bought my first Merc this week. 2002 Vito 2.2 CDi W638, with supposedly 129,000 miles on (I’ll explain as I go) It’s the 110 model.

    OK. I’ll keep the details of the purchase for a later date. Let’s start with the most concerned and perplexing issues.

    Limp Mode. Snap On Solus Pro OBDII scanner showing a repeating code of P1622 Y75. First question! Is this the Vac Solenoid to operate the Turbo actuator under drive wing?

    Bear with me please I have a non exhaustive list to follow. However, i’m dying to try the new oil in gearbox. (though, I have a clutch issue that eases the symptoms of poor 2nd 4th selection if I pump the clutch a few times – 2nd has improved dramatically!) Later, i will move on to dash lights, ABS, EDC and ABS.

    For now though, fault code P1622. If I can get it out of LM that would be ace. It should be noted the previous owner told me he put a Sprinter Turbo on the car and the EGR has been completely removed. (though, not sure if it ever had one – Vac Sol still present atop of bulkhead engine center. It has been plugged so all connections are sealed.

    I should also hasten to add before we go over old ground, that i have already checked the vac pipes to actuator (Actuator arm pulls on engine start, but does not operate while revving. Turbo looks like new – power is going to vac sol. Suction also as evident in actuator arm pulling on initial start. 2nd unit vac sol has been used also with same effect.

    1. Hi there Paul,

      P1622 Y75 Electric switchover valve open or short circuit. This could be the fuel cut off valve wiring broken or loose or shorting, even just a bad connection. This is the long tower affair that sits on the triangular HP diesel pump off the front of the engine (well side if you get the meaning) The connector to this gets pulled and the cable trapped if someone has been doing work down there, check around the engine mount for nipped or crushed wires. I did read something on this a few weeks back as another poster had similar issues of damaged wiring when the gearbox was changed.

      Sounds like the vac circuit is working just not controlling. While you have this fault 1622 you will be unable to clear it unless the wiring fault is sorted so you have to do some detective work first.

      Its a start, let me know what you find.

      All the best

      1. An excellent start, Steve. now I can add this bit (providing that without a doubt you are sure it is nothing to do with the vac sol under driver wing)

        The Shut off Valve is not actually attached!!!!!!! It is strapped up with a cable tie, but still connected with wiring harness.

        However the code, as i understand it is Y75 (i’m now believing this to be specific to Switchover Valve i.e va sol and not as also assumed Shut off valve (though obviously not attached)

  42. Actually, Steve, the image, or more correctly, the unit’ that i am specifically referring to as the Shut Off Valve has two orifices in an L shape with two holes for fixing to the body/pump?

    I am familiar with the Bosch traingle shape High Pressure Fuel Pump as i have one on my Santa Fe. Though i don’t recall this piece being present on my Santa Fe.

    It doesn’t look like I can attach a pic here so maybe i can attach a hyperlink instead?

    Nope, i can’t attach the hyper link to the pic 🙁

    1. Hi Paul,
      I have just found that old posting on mercedesclub forum that I was reading.
      There are a couple of types of pump arrangement and to be honest I don’t know what you have there.

      It confirms what I thought and remember conversing on here about on here with another chap who’s name I forget at the moment, it could be Doug Lamont.?

      Email me if you need to with pics, the email address is always available to use through the about page or steve@mercedes.gen.in.
      All the best

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