Error: Workshop! Only leave vehicle in position P

Volkswagen taking the biscuit

Within weeks of buying my car, a four-year old 2015 Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI SE 5d DSG, I discovered that I would occasionally be presented with an error message while driving stating “Error: Workshop! Only leave vehicle in position P.

Although most of the time the audible tone and error message would disappear within five to ten seconds, it was disconcerting all the same, and a distraction while driving. For a long time I’ve been a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” convert, making use of iOS’s ability to silence notifications while I’m in the car. An alert that beeps and lights up your dashboard with a warning light is dangerous in its own right. If my car incorrectly thinks it’s in the workshop, or my gear shift should be somewhere else, that’s dangerous too.

Like any good millennial, I googled the error message and quickly found forum posts from other VW owners who’d seen the same message. The consensus was that it was caused by a faulty gear selector, and since it’s a known manufacturing fault, the forum posts informed me VW have a service bulletin out and their technicians should be able to identify and rectify the problem swiftly. Knowing I had one year’s warranty included with my purchase, I booked my car into the VW garage I’d bought the car from, who after a couple of hours told me they couldn’t find anything wrong. They said to see if it happens again and bring it back if it did. They left me their standard complimentary biscuit and I was sent on my way. Surprised by this, but trusting Volkswagen (and enjoying my sugar fix), I went away hoping the error, which had only occurred two or three times, would go away by itself.

Skip forward a few months and the error had reoccurred, and I’d also seen estimates that the cost of a new gear selector could run into the thousands. The error had kept happening every few weeks. At the same time I’d noticed my coolant kept dropping down below it’s expected level: I had a slow leak in my cooling system. When I booked this in to get fixed under warranty, I asked them to look at the “workshop!” error too. Again, they found nothing, but did replace my cooling system, over a thousand pounds worth of repairs. Surprising for a car that was only four years old, I was grateful for the warranty and another complimentary biscuit.

A month or two later, the message starting appearing more frequently. I booked it in again, keen to get it resolved before my one year warranty expired (even though as a manufacturing fault, VW should really cover it anyway). This time I told the them there were many forum posts stating it was probably the gear selector, and showed them a video I’d taken of the error (this was difficult to do without breaking the law, but thankfully on at least one occasion the error remained until I was parked off the road and able to take a photo).

After a having the car for a few hours, I was the told the error could be fixed by a software update to my infotainment system, and that as software isn’t covered under warranty I’d have to pay a £110 diagnostic fee. Even after explaining the forum posts saying it’s the gear selector, they insisted it was a software problem. Not happy about having to pay to fix a fault, I insisted I shouldn’t have to pay. The garage wouldn’t budge, stating that the warranty only covers mechanical and electrical faults. Even when I explained that software is powered by electricity and so is technically electrical, they refused to waive the fee. In the end I had to phone Volkswagen HQ, and after expressing my frustration and disappointment in Volkswagen in no uncertain terms, they were able to convince the garage to let me off the fee as a “goodwill gesture”.

While doubtful the software update would resolve the problem, I gave the technicals who work for Volkswagen the benefit of the doubt and hoped they had finally fixed this annoying and dangerous error message. I also got a another biscuit.

About a week after this, the alert showed again. In fact, it now started showing up more frequently. Sometimes multiple times in one journey, and sometimes not disappearing until I stopped the car and restarted the engine. I phoned Volkswagen again, this time in full “angry consumer” mode and, exacerbated by their inability to fix an issue that a simple web search returns a solution for.

For the fourth time, I dropped my car off. They had preordered a replacement gear selector this time, and so I was quietly confident it would be fixed. About six hours after handing over my car, I received a phone call informing that they had indeed found it was the gear selector and there was even a technical bulletin about this very fault. Thankfully there was no difference of opinion with warranty cover. 10 months into my 12 month warranty, I was reassured.

This was two days ago. I’ve not seen the message since. My fingers are crossed that this will indeed fix it, but after this experience, in all honesty, I’m not holding my breath. I think they’ve given up with the biscuits now. It’s disappointing but probably better for my health considering how many times I’ve had to go back.

If you experience this error, don’t give up. Mine got worse over time, so get it fixed- no matter how many times they push you away with free confectionary. It’s the gear selector!

19 responses to “Error: Workshop! Only leave vehicle in position P”

  1. I’m at the beginning of this issue, 2016 Octavia, out of warranty so taking to a local garage and sending them this link! I’ve seen a message pop up for 1 second three times now, only words i’ve seen are “workshop” and “only”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just starting the process now. Volkswagen Golf 2017, so now out of warranty. Beeped and flashed reversing out of the drive, and then just kept pinging at me. I stood outside the car with the key out of the ignition and it still carried on, and it only stopped when I zapped it to lock it. Drove it afterwards and it didn’t happen again – might be when it’s cold and first starting? Taking it for diagnostic check on Thursday for £60 – might as well give them the £1000 now!!


    • Hi Marjorie, thanks for leaving a comment! I thought it might be a cold start thing too at first, but then there were few occasions when happened while on the motorway, having had the engine running for at least 20 minutes. I sure hope you don’t have to pay the full amount!


  2. I have just started to receive this message today. “Error workshop! Only leave vehicle in position P.” It flashes up shortly after the car (Skoda Superb) starts to move and goes off shortly afterwards leaving just a warning triangle illuminated on the dashboard and that went off after about 5 miles. The message returned when I stopped so I could photograph it. My car is nearly 5 years old and out of warranty but has done just over 50,000 miles.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just purchased a preowned certified 2018 VW Tiguan and this message just started popping up and several times while driving. Of course the dealership has NO IDEA what I am talking about. The message pops up and disappears within seconds and you can’t take a picture to show. I looked up information and couldn’t find information until now Thank you, I will have this handled or have them take this vehicle back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Took mine to the garage and they found several error codes on it,one of they was serious and the others weren’t important. Corry I can’t remember what the error was , it was nothing gearbox related though and it cost me <£400 all in and not had the error again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have the same error on a vw tiguan sel 4 motion 66 reg, vw want to charge £1600 to repair it. Is there a recall or a cheaper fix for this problem.
    Thanks Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have exactly the same problem with my 2015 Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI (Automatic gearbox)!! I’m residing in South Africa. The message pops up and disappears most of the time, but the last week it stayed up for two or three days. Eventually it disappeared without doing anything about it, but yesterday it started to pop up again. The VW dealer also told me at the beginning when it all started they couldn’t find any problem and I should come back when it happens again (The first time it happened the car was still under warranty, but now the car is out of warranty. Still the exact same problem though.

    One question, did your VW also have an automatic gearbox?


    • Hi Stehan, thanks for stopping by. Yes mine was an automatic, sounds like we have pretty much the same car! Hopefully the fact you first reported it while under warranty act in your favour. Good luck getting it sorted.


    • Hi Stephan, I also have same problem in SA..did you manage to get it fixed and what was diagnosis and cost. Marc,Cape Town. marcthompson71@gmail


  6. Took my daughter’s vehicle in this morning as well with the same error. VW Polo Tsi DSG. Reported it last week and took the car in after which they ordered a part (don’t know what part). Received a call just now from the dealership asking what the error is?! and if I have a photograph of it?! Really!!!!!??? Thought they had identified the problem last week already!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have sKoda octavia 1.6 TD1 2015, I had this message Workshop error only leave the vehicle in position P, i went garage they couldnot find any problem but after i read this messate i ordered gear shift machanism which i hope i will get tommorow, i think this will fix it.

    thanks for your information, it is helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a VW Golf R 2015 automatic, I have had the exact same message and normally I can turn off the engine then restart and it goes away. Today it popped up, pulled over, turned engine off then on but still there. Doing an 18 mile round trip and never disappeared, interesting to see if happens in the morning. To me I thought I didn’t have it in P starting the car and it picked up on that, but no I was starting and stopping the engine correctly. The car is having a service and MOT in July, so will see what happens but it’s incredibly distracting and annoying!!


  9. I was seeing this message intermittently on a 2015 Golf Diesel with DSG (DQ200) transmission.
    The car has 47,000 miles on it in the UK.
    I took it to a Skoda dealer 2 weeks ago for a major service and a new cam belt (which is recommended after 5 years) and told them about the message issue. They said that there were no code faults recorded in the OBD.
    100 miles after having got the car back after it’s £700 service, the entire transmission and Mechatronic unit has failed and the car will not move into gear. It’s basically a 1,400 kg pile of junk.
    I have the dreaded ‘no ACC or forward sensor’ message, a yellow warning triangle and the ‘no reverse gear available’ message.
    Basically I’m looking at perhaps £2 – 3k to fix the car. A known issue that VW had addressed in some other countries (Australia/ New Zealand etc.) but they say the problem doesn’t exist in the UK and will do nothing to help.
    If you are seeing this ‘error workshop’ message I would take it as a sign that the transmission is about to fail soon. The dealers seem to know nothing.
    I once asked a VW service department (in Doncaster, UK) if I could somehow switch off the auto stop/start feature on the car and they said that it was not possible… even though there is a switch right by the gear shifter!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m just starting to see this too on a 106000 mile Golf 2.0TDI. I know that it has not had a gearbox oil &filter service in it’s life (mysteriously VW have not created a monetised earning on the dash for this) and they should be done every 40000 miles (I have the wet clutch 6-speed). Wonder if others experiencing the same have serviced gearboxes.


  11. I had the exact same problem with my 2015 Golf TSI, luckily my VW mechanic new what the issue was and said it wasnt urgent but would be good to fix I therefor have fixed it for $2176 AUD which did made the error disappear then later sold the car got a 2017 Golf TSI and now the same error is popping up! Taking it to the same mechanic to see if it actually needs fixing

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We had the message twice, in our 2016 VW Golf estate – ie, transient / hard to reproduce.

    Spoke to a very competent-sounding tech guy @ our local VW place, who said:

    He has seen this in quite a few VWs and yes, there is a VW Service Bulletin about this message, and it does say that the likely cause is a switch problem in the gear mechanism, eg the switches are saying it’s in two gears at the same time(!).

    But in practice our situation is that, unless it is a more permanent thing that the garage can reproduce, then they cannot say *for sure* what the problem is (by the way, the software does record the issue happening to us, but it records no clues as to why). It is just an educated guess that (as per the Bulletin) the likeliest thing is that they should replace the whole gear mechanism (£680) and cabling (£70) at over four hours work (£100s), so about £1000… BUT (he says) our Warranty company would then likely wriggle out of it, as they would not pay if the Garage could not *prove* the fault, i.e. reproduce it, diagnose it, apply the right fix, then show it was fixed. (They don’t pay up if you are just “taking a punt” on a likely cause of an unreproducible fault.) SO we could end up with a bill for £1000 if we try to go ahead “under warranty”.

    Our guy said that he has been dealing with warranty companies for years and they are always a nightmare.

    So the best thing is to ignore it, and see how we go.

    Usually, even in extreme cases, the error message goes away when you “cycle the ignition”. (Though not always…)

    So if, down the line, it becomes a really serious problem, then we might take it to a VW garage and they might replace the whole thing and it might cost us £1000 and it would, very likely, fix the problem (especially if they can then reproduce it first).

    And since our two occasions happened when braking as we hit a steep slope, it may well be that that is the only situation where we see it in our car, so (famous last words) it may not become a bigger problem for us. (It even went away quickly, the first time, after all.)

    By the way: they often find that quick movements of the selector, in and out of Park, can cause the message. This is not what we had (it happened twice during Drive, for us.)

    PS he says you CAN google this service bulletin. But you usually only find it after a million other matches 😉

    What a helpful Chap!


  13. Same problem on my seat leon 1200 tsi car had only covered 19000 mile went in garage new sensor on gear box £1100 it’s lasted 2 years and back to same problem £££££££*


  14. Same issue on my 2015 Golf TSi Blue Motion Estate Auto. Thought I would mention it as it used to happen more often than it does now. The main difference being that my new job location requires me sometimes to drive changing the gears up and down manually with the gear lever due to the road in certain areas (steep up and downs). Since I have been doing this I have barely had the message pop up at all in the last year.
    It’s a weak theory but my only thought was regularly moving the gear shifter around all areas as supposed to it only getting moved into P, D or R has actually helped clean out the gear selection buttons in the box (I read a earlier post relating to the gear selector buttons being the issue in the gearbox). Weak as I say but it seems to have worked for me and could be worth a try for others.


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