Manual Transmission problems


New member
Well, I talked to Daryll at the suggestion of John (in the linkage forum) about my shifting problems. He said, "Got 150,000 miles?" which I do and he said it is the slider hub breaking. Claims it is a design flaw and that the new part fixes the problem. So, if your tranny is suddenly getting stuck in gear and you have 150,000 miles, this may be it for you.

Capt. Mike

What year, model & transmission? Other readers need to know as they may not be able to connect with some previous post in another forum.

First, there is no part by that name in the VW parts book. Are you perhaps, refering to the synchronizer hub that the shift fork rides in? In that case, anyone abusing the transmission or having the linkage out of adjustment would be subjecting that hub to unnatural wear & strain, thus contributing to failure. They may be more common than other failures, partly because of the long & balky shift linkage, but I'm not sure I'd dismiss a design that's been around for 50+ years as "defective."

I'm always suspicious of unverified experts that automatically assume there is some factory defect causing a failure at some pre-determined mileage. I don't doubt this Darryl knows far more about transmissions than I, but the statement makes no sense. I can find no factory service bulletin or upgrade information. If there is one, could you find a copy & post or forward to me?

If this particular part is defective, why is it still in use? There has been no supercession, at least according to my last parts update, so changing parts does not "fix" the problem except in the context that a new part usually fixes anything that is out & out broken.

That Vanagon trannies are pre-scheduled to die at 150K is sure to be a surprise to the many, many with way over that mileage. Maybe those abused or not maintained will die within that 150K, but I'm sure most anything automotive that is abused or not maintained would. That doesn't imply any "defect."

When you pull your tranny and have it overhauled, we'd be interested to find out what all was actually worn, broken or out of adjustment. It's quite possible it's cumulative. If his diagnosis is correct and nothing except the hub is broken, that would also be informative to our readers.



New member
Sorry about that: It's an 87 Vanagon - non syncho 4 speed. The van has an excellent maintenance history. I'm not surprised if my word of mouth from Daryll doesn't make much sense. I know little to nothing about transmissions and I was just attempting to pass along some memories I had of a conversation with him. I believe that I remember him saying that he uses a replacement "hub" part designed to solve the problem of the original design flaw. Unfortunately I am headed out of the country shortly and won't have time to research or follow up on this issue. Daryll's phone number is 877-377-0773 if you want to ask him about my (Paul Grim's) transmission findings. He probably won't receive my transmission for a few days yet.

Capt. Mike

Doing some research on another post, I happened upon Supplement 11, February 1977, in the now out-of-print Repair Manual Type 2. It deals with a new 1st/2nd gear synchronizer hub change in Type II's of the '70s.

This may be the source of confusion by your tranny guy. However it applies to M/T Type 002. The part numbers are, in fact, actually Type I numbers. Part #113 311 243B was superceded by part #113 311 243C, The difference was the new hub was thicker than the old (longer collar) and this allowed a shim to be eliminated.

Since this post was about Vanagons, which never used the Type 002 transmission, that upgrade wouldn't apply. The upgrade was installed in all new transmissions after that date. Should that part have been used in Vanagon transmissions, rest assured it would have been in all of them at manufacture. Also, it wasn't a defect type upgrade (old stock was to be used up), just an update that allowed elimination of the extra shim part number.

[REF: VW 0.00.586.211.21; W42-02-6120-1]


New member
Blew me away when I saw the post about transmissions dieing at 150,000 miles. I have had my 87 vanagon since new. Right around 150,000 miles my manual transmission went bad. The hubs on the shifting levers went bad about 10,000 miles after.

Oops, I meant bushings, not hubs. I am amazed at how many people on here take these types of jobs on thereself. I wish had known of this site before.

Capt. Mike

Well, that's two unrealted part failures whos only connection is that they happened at about 150K. If I read your post right, your tranny died, was repaired and died again 10K later? Sounds like a mechanic problem, not mechanicAL problem.

Sorry you suffered that way but it still doesn't establish all Vanagon transmissions will all die at 150K. My folks, now past that, will surely be surprised. But then again, they are gentle in driving & shifting, and have religeously had the 30K transmission services. My next 30K will be the 150; should I order a reman to sit on the shelf?

Come on folks, let's deal with facts. Show me RESEARCH and statistics. Prove it was not driver errors or lack of maintenance. These unsupported conclusions just cause rumors and add to the "bad rap" reputation. If they were true, you'd see a whole lot more posts from the 400,000 site visitors, many of whom own Vanagons.


A member supplied the following link regarding for an independent VW Transaxle shop that has a page dedicated to alleged slider and hub problems. Long Enterprises


[Edited to update link & remove unrelated comments.]

Capt. Mike

Transferred from other posts to consolidate similar topics.

Shifting into first on incline/decline

Leslie Junior Member # 216 posted 07-26-2000 08:58 PM

Hi, I just got a seemingly great 87 westie (78k). I drove it home on the freeway and when I got off I was unable to get into first gear on a modest incline. Same situation on a decline. With the clutch depressed, I had to slip it into 2nd gear and only then could I get it into first gear. Any ideas what this is? Thanks, Leslie

PS: Hills are a serious issue since I live in San Francisco!

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 07-26-2000 09:23 PM

VW's syncromesh is notoriously balky at going into low gear from 2nd. It expects the vehicle to be almost stopped, probably due to the very low 1st gear ratio (syncronizers use friction to match gear speed). It is also the gear most effected by any misalignment of the shift plate (posted elsewhere on the site).

Also check your transmission and linkage mounts to be sure there is no damage or misalignment. Deteriorated tranny mounts will put the linkage alignment in a bind. Check your plate adjustment & linkage bushings.

If it is not clashing, there isn't a whole lot more you can do. (I'm presuming you DO have a fresh fill of the correct fluid!)

You can override the syncro action by double-clutching. Probably have to find a real old-timer or race driver to teach that these days, but it works. It was the technique used before syncromesh to shift gears, but still works today. I use it a lot to downshift into 1st on hills.

82 Diesel stick pops out of fourth

ajcam Junior Member # 298 posted 08-21-2000 04:43 AM

The stick on a 82 Diesel (first time VW) I am considering repeatedly pops out of fourth gear at anything over a slow speed. There is no grinding sound, and the stick seems to move first, before the tranny pops in to neutral. The seller says it may need a new "transmission mount", but reviewing these teriffic archives has me hoping it may be a simple misalignment of the shift plate. Any feedback as to how serious (expensive) this problem may be? Thanks alot, I have learned alot from these boards.

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 08-30-2000 07:48 AM

Popping out of gear can have several causes -- from cheap linkage adjustment through expensive worn innards. So there is no immediate pat answer.

In addition to shift plate adjustment, possible causes are worn bushing so the lever moves some of its distance taking out slack before moving the shift fork. Thus it doesn't get "home" in the tranny.

Ditto inside with the shift fork itself. Also if bent (from forcing shifts) the gears don't move their normal range of motion in one direction or the other.

And finally, the gears themselves can be worn so they teeth are no longer full or properly shaped.

Since it's a manual, and diesels in otherwise good condition are rather rare, it is worth a tranny overhaul. Ask your dealer for the flat-rate labor fee to get an idea of time; then you'd have to add parts. VW tranny overhauls take hot oil bath, presses and some special tools, so aren't a back-yard for the neophyte. Consider the factory reman for a fresh VW warranty.

Slips out of 4th into nutreal when accelerating.

schick1 Junior Member posted 08-28-2000 08:58 PM

Hi, I just purchased a 1989 vanagon Westy. A couple of problems came up.

First, it slips out of 4th into neutral (even when accelerating). I've had the gear shifting mechanism replaced because of excessive wear (I think 4th gear may have been "held" in place while driving by the previous owner).

Second, the transmission easly slips between "Reverse" and "1st" without properly taking it out of reverse. Is this a linkage problem or a gear problem? My mechanic is going to check the gears (again). He noted a normal amount of wear the last time he had it open. Should I get a new mechanic? I'm quickly running out of $...

Thank, D

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 09-21-2000 09:24 AM

Not exactly on "popping out of gear" but along similar vein is a link on the 091-1 tendency to break a 3-4 gear carrier. Go to .

Thanks to Tom Carrington for permission to link to his excellent tech boards.

Capt. Mike

Moved from another post to consolidate same topics.

Stuck in 2nd gear

79campmobile Junior Member # 1615 posted 07-17-2001 02:24 PM

After a regular driving day (no problems) I simply wanted to park out on the street and thus tried to reverse. After a small battle with the stick I found myself stuck in 2nd gear (where I remain now). I have tried all I know to 'pop' it out and into neutral, but have failed utterly. I would love to hear someone's advise! thanks

rgarrettjr Junior Member # 1561 posted 07-17-2001 02:41 PM

As Capt. Mike will undoubtedly suggest, you might refer to the Bentley book for your model year. Absent that, do you have a manual or automatic transmission? If it is a manual and similar to my 1971, under the floor mat at the base of the shifter is a flange fastened to the floor with a pair of bolts. The positioning of the flange can be adjusted by loosening the bolts. Doing so may allow you to get out of second gear. A word of caution, a seemingly subtle adjustment can result in a variety of shifting behaviors -- again, the Bentley book will be a good resource.

Capt. Mike

What year & model?

To narrow your problem down, you need to determine if it's a tranny or linkage problem. Disconnect the shift linkage from the transmission. If the transmission will now shift, it's in the linkage. If not, you have an internal tranny problem.

Linkage disconnect instructions are in the Bentley, usually around the R&R transmission section.

As an aside, you said you are parked on the street. On a hill? If you've put the transmission in gear and the weight is on it instead of the parking brake [Bad Practice!], you may just be bound. There, a broken clutch cable/hydraulics can prevent enough release to allow the tranny to get out of gear. Usually a slight "tow" uphill an inch or two will release the pressure.

I'd lean to a jammed or broken linkage.

Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate same topic.

Leaking transmission fluid

jensens4me Junior Member # 652 posted 10-15-2001 06:26 PM

Recently the manual transmission on my '87 has started to leak. At least I'm pretty sure its my transmission as it has that gear oil smell. The oil is leaking out between the engine/tranmission. Centrifigal force has some of the oil finding its way out of the flywheel plug hole at the top of the engine. After driving for 20-25 miles & parking it, there is now quite a bit of oil that is leaking onto the exhaust pipe & the ground, probably 2 tablespoons - 1/4 cup.
The transmission was rebuilt 31,000 miles ago (about 2.5 years). I put in a different motor in the van about 6 months ago.
Shifting has always been a little tight in 1st gear

Any ideas on what's leaking? Some kind of seal? How much problem is it too drop the transmission? I replaced the motor myself but have not had the "pleasure" of removing the tranny before. Have the Bentley manual.
Also, how serious is it to keep driving it for a while?


Capt. Mike

First, there isn't any particular "gear oil" smell. Companies add aromatics and additives with different smells that vary. Shell Rotella-T motor oil has a peculiar 'burnt' smell even new. Viscosity will be your biggest clue. Check the puddle on a drip pan. Transmission oil is thick and when the drips are cold, will be almost like molasses. It usually stays golden. Motor oil will stay thin and 'run', turning towards black in fairly short order.

However, in practicality, the cure is the same. You have a mainshaft seal on the clutch side of the transmission and a flywheel seal on the engine. Removing the transmission without engine is possible. Probably the hardest part is the bolt that runs through the starter as it will take two people -- one holding in the engine compartment, another underneath. And some creative use of ratchet wrench extensions, u-joint and wobble extensions. Follow the Bentley closely regarding clearing the shift linkage and supporting the engine. You can substitute for the engine support chain and transmission jack but it remains a two-person job with some muscle required.

When either the engine or transmission is out, I suggest one replace BOTH seals. The cost of the seal is negligible compared to the labor to pull one or the other. The engine seal can be replaced in the vehicle.

Driving with a leaking seal, assuming you keep the fluids topped up, isn't dangerous. Eventually, the seal will blow bad enough for a serious leak and even now, you've probably already oiled the clutch. Continued driving will soon have the clutch slipping and may take the pressure plate or flywheel with it, so replacing early will usually allow just clean-up on the pressure plate and flywheel. You should replace the disk now; if it's been oiled, it will deteriorate the material binder and can then 'explode' (not a bang, just a bell housing full of fiber as the plate material disintegrates).

Shifting, particular 1st, on a VW has always been a little 'stiff.' It can be from several causes. Linkage is one; VW's syncronizers seem to demand the vehicle be almost stopped to work smoothly; and finally there is the tendency to overfill the tranny. Specs call for 3/4" below the hole "to ease shifitng," not to full to the bottom.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

Syncro trans decision

syncrosteve Member # 253 posted 02-13-2002 07:57 AM

Hi all!

It's been a while since I've been on the site, but the necessity of seeking advice encourages me to do so. It seems my 86 Syncro Westy has a bum trans. While driving it the other day it got stuck in 3rd gear. The VW shop I towed it to examined it and said the linkage was OK but that the tranmission probabaly has a broken shift slider. They don't rebuild Syncro transmissions themselves. VW dealer rebuilt trans $2495. Labor $900. AA Transaxle $1800 + $150 UPS charge. Used - ? Haven't come across a used one yet. The Westy is in great shape otherwise.

Whadaya think?

Capt. Mike

The VW dealer I use (Southern State VW in Raleigh NC -- see post under MECHANCIS forum) does rebuild transmissions including the Syncro. The Syncro transmission is not that exotic, basically a variation of the old 4-speed with some add-ons so rebuilding is not necessarily that tough. However the add-ons are what drives up the investment and thus the cost of a factory reman.

$900 labor to R&R a transmission for a factory reman is ridiculous. That sounds more like the labor to rebuild one. My only experience was mid-90's when a bearing casting on my Syncro cracked (air-bubble defect in casting) and the rebuild (I R&R'ed the transmission) was $1,600. R&R is probably 3 hours or so in a shop. Obviously the parts will vary with what's wrong. We replaced, as a matter of caution, all the nylon caged bearings since they had been subject to overheating when the casting cracked. Also, they are more susceptible to particle damage if a part has broken inside.

Have you considered doing the R&R yourself (not all that difficult) and shipping the tranny off. A factory reman price includes shipping but any other aftermarket arrangement won't. And having done at a dealer comes with a VW warranty good at any dealership. One of the many things to consider when deciding on reman vs. rebuild.

There are independent (this is not a recommendation -- no experience with them) German Transaxle of America, Long Enterprises that service Syncro transmissions.

Syncros are becoming so scarce and valuable that a good condition one is probably worth the investment. I don't know anything about AA Transaxle and probably wouldn't consider a 'used' transmission unless I personally knew the vehicle history and owner. Many Syncros were abused and used off-road.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

Oil on the transmission housing

Ian Voparil Junior Member # 982 posted 02-18-2002 02:22 PM

Hello All (& Capt. Mike),

My 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia with standard tranmission has oil all over the transmission housing on both sides around the drive shafts. (It looks like its had this problem for a long time as there's a lot of gunk accumulation.) Reading through my Bentley's, it seems likely that both drive flange oil seals are the culprit (section 34.18). Bentley's recommends using VW391 tool for removing the drive flange. I don't have one. Is there something else I should use, or try, to get the flange off?

My "lock rings" (section 35.32) underneath the flange also look worn. Should these be replaced?

I'm likely going to pull the transmission for this work as I already have to pull the engine to fix a stud that I sheared off. While I'm underneath, is there anything else that I ought to take a look at / replace? I figure that it would be a good time to repack the CV joints. Any other suggestions?

Thank you for your advice!

Capt. Mike

The VW391 is basically a glorified 'harmonic balance puller.' You can get inexpensive harmonic balance kits at many of the discount auto supply stores or tool places like Northern Tool or Harbor freight. You will probably have to supply the correct 6mm bolts. Since the puller's usually have a three-way attachment plate, you may have to do some finagling or create a spacer. VW P/N 251 407 295 (CV joint spacer used on 4WD) will actually fill the countersink of the flange to prevent flange damage but that shouldn't be a problem removing -- more likely on reinsertion but a wooden block will work there. (This is to prevent distortion of the flange.)

I presume you are looking under the flange (since you don't have it off yet) at the lock ring for the adjusting ring. You may find it not as worn as you think because it is not a sharp-toothed gear type fitting like the books shows. The adjusting ring is to set lateral play and should not be moved. The "gear" is really just a fancy large spline socket for the special tool to install. Finally, the lock ring is just a retainer to keep the adjusting ring from turning. It's visible teeth are just the back side of the teeth that lock the adjusting ring. Thus they have no reason to be sharp, or even look like teeth -- that's just a side-effect of the original casting. If you are JUST replacing seals and the rest of the transmission is working fine, I wouldn't change the locking or adjusting rings -- adjustment is too critical.

Under the ENGINE forum, there is a topic on engine overhauls that discusses other considerations when you have already expended the labor of removing the tranny. Some of the items to consider are CV joints, flywheel & tranny seals, starter bushings and clutch parts. Consider the time, effort & expense of removing the transmission and decide if the remaining life of those parts justifies the lost time and repeat labor of doing it again.


New member
Capt'n Mike,

I did some additional checking about other reman engines and decided to go the dealer reman route. The local dealer had quoted me a few weeks ago $2300 and no core. When I went back last week to order it the price was $2500 with a $600 core. Well, since your post mentioned that your rebuild was around $1600, I went to the VW service manager and asked him what would it cost to rebuild a Syncro trans. He said they do the majority for around $1500-1700. When I breing it in they will spend anahour or so tearing it down to determine whether or not a reman would be cheaper and if the core was rebuildable. Sounds good. So thats my decision. I'll be doing the removal next weekend. I'll also replace the clutch, service the cv's, check engine seals and starter bushings. Anything else I should consider? Thanks for the previous info.

syncrosteve /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Capt. Mike

I presume you meant checking other transmissions.

In the ENGINE forum there is a topic about "Engine replacement -- considerations & procedures" that probably covers most of the things I'd recommend to inspect, replace or service while the tranny is out.

The Syncro tranny (and most others) have a number of needle bearings that have nylon cages. I'd replace them. If you've had a failure or are just showing excessive wear, there has been abrasive or metal floating around in there, or they have been subjected to some excessive heat. Small price to pay compared to R&R + overhaul labor. A similar consideration to the synchronizers, especially the 1st & 2nd gear that get the most wear.

I hope your shop remembers one tid-bit not in the manuals. On a Syncro, the locking differential servo will fit & work in two ways on the tranny, but will only fit one way reinstalled in the vehicle. The differential lock servo is shown in Bentley 35.94. The servo body can be changed with the tranny installed but NOT the shaft attachment to the differential shift fork inside! I have a personal note in my manual that says:
"Caution: Diff. lock shaft must have outside servo mount hole facing 'up' or away from axle. Mark before removing."
You will have to remove and reopen the tranny if you get it wrong!

Capt. Mike

To a query "How to open up a transmission?":

All in the Bentley. Requirement of the Bentley to participate in this forum is not arbitrary. Your questions are answered there. Is it easy?

Removing the transmission is relatively easy providing you have the appropriate jack-stands, jack, tools, etc.

Caution - - If you lack the skills, tools, or a clean workshop for transmission repairs, we suggest you leave such repairs to an Authroized VW Dealer or other qualified shop. -- VW shop manual Section 6.1
Don't take the above likely. If you open and disassemble the tranny and then get stuck, few shops will finish the jobs except at a premium. Basket cases aren't popular!

Opening the transmission is easy enough BUT actual repairs inside require special tools, measuring devices and experience. Unlike some transmissions where everything is slide fit & retaining clips, the VW tranny requires a hot oil-bath & press for some operations. Finally there are critical adjustments requiring special tools, shims, etc.

Changing transmissions for used, purchasing a 'rebuilt' or 'reman', and having your tranny rebuilt at one of the chain shops are all options. See the posts on reman vs. rebuild in ENGINES for guidance on the differences -- they apply to transmissions as well. Sending your tranny, even some distance, to a reputable shop for rebuild over some unknown can easily justify the freight charges. Most transmission chains have warranties and at least an established grivance procedure compared to some local independent.

Capt. Mike

More trannies are damaged than wear out. Most from abuse like lack of maintenance, poor quality fluid, and bad shifting or clutch techniques. The syncronizers are the primary 'wear items' and will be evidenced by increased clash on faster shifts over time. The later transmission such as your '87 have many plastic cage needle bearings which will not last as long as the older all steel. Sorry; fact of life. I don't count the seals as wearing out -- they are a service item. My only failures in over nearly ½-million miles on VW's has been one defective casting, the seals about every 100K and they syncros on an Mom's old Beetle that are beginning to clash but it was abused by not getting proper fluid changes most of its life.