Shift linkage problems

mike k

New member
Hello folks

I'm hoping someone can help me diagnose my problem... it seems I may have damaged my transmission... i'm not sure if this coincides with my problem but I kinda sorta slipped my bus into reverse while still rolling forward and STARTED to let the clutch out. Now she won't shift into third except rarely and sometimes forth. First and second work fine. Do I need to adjust my clutch or do I need a new tranny? Thanks for any help and please email me.

Oh yeah, it is a 78 westy, manual transmission
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Capt. Mike

The fact that, after shifting into these gears, the vehicle works indicates you probably haven't terminally damaged the gear section of the transmission. It's unlikely a clutch problem. Clutches work independent of what gear it's in, so if it works in one, it's not the clutch.

You have probably damaged either the shift linkage or the internal shifting forks within the transmission.

Start by putting the vehicle on jackstands, disconnect the shift linkage (Bentley Section 6-3.4; figure 3-13) and see if it shifts through the gears by hand with just the transmission input lever. That will tell you if it's internal or the linkage.

If linkage, repair & adjustment instructions are in the bentley, Section 6-3.4. Shift plate adjustment (fig. 3-18) is critical to the linkage. If internal, you are looking at a transmission overhaul.


New member
In all cases when I have manual trans questions I call 1-877-377-0773 AA Transaxle and talk to Daryl... he is the trans man for VW and Porche manual transmissions... he will give you the straight scoop and will rebuild your trans for you at a standard price and will guarantee it for 3 years...

mike k

New member
well fellas, it seems that i have found the solution to my problem (finally). with a little investigation of the shift rod (linkage) i have found a broken connector (also termed housing or coupling) near the rear of the shift rod (right before it goes into the transmission). I've ordered a new one, but have gotten this one to work by scoring it. The piece was rotating when its supposed to be a solid piece. You can see the piece that i'm talking about by going here . I hope that this helps someone out there find THIER problem. Peace.

Capt. Mike

Good homework!

If you look at the piece closely, you'll see it contains a threaded hole in the part of the "u-joint" collar that fits around the shaft. There was a pointed, set screw that went into a matching indent in the shaft. Of the couple I've seen, the set screw had a square head with a hole through it. The set screw was then 'wired' by running wire through the bolt hole and around the shaft to lock it.

Loss or loosening of the set screw would allow that connector to move on the shaft instead of transmitting the movement on into the transmission.

Capt. Mike

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Rebuilding shift linkage

miket, Junior Member, 11-14-2000 10:17 PM

Dear Capt Mike,

Being on a fix-it frenzy on my 88 syncro westy, I am undertaking a repair job on the manual transmission shift linkage.

As it's wintertime out here in the Great White North, my shifter is difficult to engage in second gear when it's cold. Once I've shifted gears a bit, it gets a little better but not great. So, I'm planning to change all the plastic bushings in the shift mechanism.

What other items should I replace or repair for this job? Thanks for the help!

Capt. Mike, Moderator, 11-16-2000 04:01 AM

I'd investigate the entire gearhsift lever bearing assembly. Some parts are rubber & steel, but may still have wear. Do relube everything. I'd suggest a polyethylene grease considering your temps, although 3M's new silicone paste should suffice.

I'd also check the "drop" part of the lever pattern. Since 2nd is also the granny gear first throw, are you sure you're clearing the detent that allows the lever to go over into the R/GG1 plane? If you've done the GG1st to regular 1st shift very often, you can see how the release from the drop plane is tricky at times.

Last, the shift lever itself -- the arm that enters the transmission, is a ball & socket assembly. Check it for wear and looseness of the tensioning pin (roll pin).

I would assume you are replacing all your boots while you've got everything apart.

Also check the rear "u-joint" as wear there, or looseness on the shaft, would give the assembly play and make shifting less precise.

Capt. Mike

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Shift bushing lubrication

zach b, Junior Member, 01-23-2001 10:41 AM

I plan on replacing the two shift shaft bushings on my 91 vanagon. I was wondering what kind of grease to use and where to buy it. One of the bushings is located in the middle of the underside and the other is located next to the transmision. I also plan on replacing all of the boots. Any tips would be appreciated.


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Capt. Mike

zach b: Suggest you change your profile to allow showing email -- I could have told you I was consolidating this post with others on the same subject.

To answer -- it's mostly a matter of personal preferences. Officially, VW says to use a MoS2 (moly) grease and not to mix it iwth the previous white (lithium) lubricants. The stuff of CV joints, it's fine, but messy! Black and gets all over everything.

Personally, I like the polyethylene grease that is a semi-transparent amber paste. Not to be confused with wheel bearing grease, it is compatible with the plastic, nylon and rubber in the shift linkage. This is the stuff you often find on seat rails and door strikers on new cars.

3M now makes a silicone paste in a brush applicator can. However I don't recommend the silicone spray as it will wash out, or the stick as it doesn't penetrate inside bushings.

3M and LubriMoly both make a sprayable grease that sprays and penetrates like WD-40, then dries to a more grease-like film. See the LubriMolly post under SUPPLIERS.

There are spray graphites that go on like WD-40 and then the carrier evaporates, leaving a dry film. These are most commonly sold for locks, but at least don't attract and hold grit. Good in theory, but not my first choice.

In a pinch, the white lithium will work.

Whatever your choice, be sure it is not a rust penetrating type lube like Liquid Wrench that could damage plastics or rubber. Also, not one that will not wash off.

Most auto parts stores have several greases to choose from.
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Capt. Mike

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Buzzy Shifter

Rocky Junior Member # 1150 posted 08-02-2001 10:38 AM

On my 1976 Westy Bus the shifter "buzzes"
not terribly loud, but just enough to be annoying. it may be in all gears, but i particularly notice it in 4th, travelling down the highway. the noise seems to be coming from where the shifter connects to the floor. bus runs fine, shifter has always been loose, but never pops out of gear.
what do i need to do to get the noise stopped? on the highway in 4th, if i just push it over a fraction of an inch it stops.
but who can do that for hours?
please advise

rgarrettjr Junior Member # 1561 posted 08-02-2001 03:47 PM

My '71 has had a vibration induced noise, too. It seems to vary according to temperature, speed and vehicle load -- there are so many other noises that its not annoying to me. You might refer to the Bentley manual and look at how the shifter attaches to the shift tube/mechanism at its base (under the floor mat you'll see a flange which is held in place by two bolts. A slight adjustment here might relieve or reduce the noise -- or might increase it, too! A word of caution, radical adjustments can leave you unable to shift into some gears -- you should outline the flange with a pencil before loosening the bolts so that you can always restore it to its present position.

87 Westy stuck in 3rd
pablow666 Member # 328 posted 09-01-2000 11:56 AM

This was a sudden failure. There were no symptoms leading up to the problem. The last shift I did was an upshift from 2nd to 3rd and since then it won't come out of 3rd. I read the archives and have checked everything in the linkage from front to back. I disconnected the shift rod at the coupling where it does a 90 turn into the tranny and tried to work the tranny lever by hand with no success. The lever is coming out of the tranny about one inch. I wasn't sure if it should move in or out to find neutral, but in any case it won't move either direction. I think I have eliminated the shift linkage as the problem? and am starting to think that the problem is inside of the transmission. Will this mean a rebuilt tranny? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 09-01-2000 09:40 PM

I'd sure get a second opinion before yanking the tranny & opening her up, but usually if the linkage is all working freely but not shifting manually at the control lever, it means a shift fork has jumped inside. Shift forks have two flat arms that rest between gears in a track on the gear shaft. They move the sliding gears backwards and forwards. Sounds like your's has bent or broke an arm.

Or a gear cluster has frozen to the shaft and will no longer slide. Either way, probably looking at a tranny overhaul. Consider a factory reman to get the warranty.

pablow666 Member # 328 posted 09-01-2000 09:53 PM

Please excuse the prior null reply. I'm still figuring out the new system.
I got it out of 3rd gear, by driving it forward and backward and double clutching and really cranking on the stick shift. This was after re-attaching the shift rod at the shift lever. When I reattached I noticed that the lever 'ball' was not sitting very deep into the rod 'socket'. I pushed up hard on the rod mount plate while reinstalling and got a bit of a tighter fit. I also spayed anti-sieze over the whole works. I'm guessing there has been a few hundreths of an inch of wear over time on the ball and socket. It's working smoothly now. I think I may invest in new coupling since I doubt there is much room left for error. I think this may be one of the reasons VW is adamant in telling drivers not to rest your hand on the stick shift while driving? Thanks for your thoughts.

[ 11-18-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

Capt. Mike

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Shift lever tensioning pin

KenS Junior Member # 1852 posted 11-01-2001 08:55 PM

I lost two gears in my 84 Westfalia the other day coming home from work. I made it home using only 2nd and 3rd gear. Good thing it seems people give you a little bit of latitude when they see you driving a Westphalia.

I have established that the problem is the shift lever at the end of the shift rod. I removed it from the transmission and shifted the transmission with my hand, it shifted fine. The problem I have is that I am not completely sure how to remove the tensioning pin from the shift lever so I can remove it from the shift rod.

I found the illustration in the Bentley, but could not see how to remove the pin.

I have a tendency to start persuading parts with the old ball peen, but thought I would ask here before I get that desperate.


Capt. Mike

The tensioning pin pg 34.7 is what is commonly referred to as a roll pin. It gets its tension from the split down the side and then being slightly larger than the hole so it must be compressed (made smaller diameter) as it goes in. To remove, you just need a pin punch of the appropriate diameter and that trusty ball peen. However, you will find the force to move it through is relatively slight.

When reinstalling (many recommend replacing as it may have lost some tension) one end will be beveled. This is the starting end that 'funnels' the oversize pin into the hole. You can then tap the other end without damage. Since the roll pin is hollow, it is imperative you have the correct size pin punch or else you will damage either the pin or the shift lever. Most pins are of such length that they go flush with the shift lever or very slightly inset so there is nothing to 'catch' left sticking out.


New member
Re: 1984 Volkswagen Westfalia

I got the shift lever and linkage put back together. I did a visual inspection of the rest of the linkage and it appeared to be fine. The same problem remained where the clutch would not disengage the transmission from the engine.

Rest of post moved to CLUTCH forum.

[ 11-17-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

Capt. Mike

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Shift rod bushings

misty alderman Junior Member # 1856 posted 02-04-2002 07:10 PM

I have an '81 Vanagon ... and am in need of shift rod bushings (mainly the center shift rod bushing, it's missing!) but haven't been able to find any, and they aren't made anymore. Someone told me recently that I could find what I needed at Home Depot. Has anyone out there had any luck 1)finding parts like this for an '81 2)constructing something that acts like a bushing. I got my van about 6 months ago and haven't been able to drive since it doesn't go into 2nd very easily! Please help!

76Heat Wagen Member # 3252 posted 02-07-2002 01:03 PM

Hi Mindy,

Here is some information I found out, regarding your shift-linkage. First, confirm what part is actually worn in the center, as I don't think they sell the bushing alone; rather the whole entire bracket.

Here we go:

Item Part# Price

- Shift bracket-center 251 711 219 $26.95
- Guide ring 251 711 227 $ 1.85
- Pin for shift-rod 251 711 181 $38.95
- Front bushing 251 711 207D $ 4.95

This is assuming you don't have a diesel! The part #'s are VW, the prices are from:
the bus depot: 1-888-219-DEPOT.

Don't rely too heavily on their "techs-pertise". They primarily take orders via part numbers, have great prices and are very friendly.

If you cannot identify exactly what item you need, let me know. I know of a website that you can match the part # to the picture.

Happy Shifting into Second!!!


76Heat Wagen Member # 3252 posted 02-08-2002 12:51 AM

Sorry Misty ---- please ignore "Mindy" my bad.

misty alderman Junior Member # 1856 posted 02-08-2002 12:12 PM

That's ok, no apology needed! I appreciate your help, although I don't think those are the right parts. The shop guy said that he looked everywhere for new parts, and that I would have to find them on my own (i.e. parted out buses, salvage, etc.) He said I might have to get something MADE!I don't know how to go about this. Anyone have any clues!?!?

I am missing the center shift rod bushing all together, and when I shift, the rod makes an awful metal-on-metal squeal. I would think that there might be something I could finagle that would allow the rod to be pushed up just a bit, to allow for a little angle deflection. The P.O. tried to remedy this problem by adding grease to the bracket that holds the front and center rods together, and he told me I just had to keep grease on it! I wish I wouldn't have trusted him! My cross-country trip in the near future is going to put a lot of stress on this thing if I can only shift to 3rd from 1st!! Please write if you have any ideas!!! Thanks A LOT!!!!!

Singletree Junior Member # 2591 posted 02-09-2002 10:33 AM

Misty, try They have OEM replacement parts for most of your van. They have treated me well and have a free catalog on CD. Good luck

camron Member # 728 posted 02-15-2002 02:28 AM

I just purchased a bushing replacement kit that comes with the polastic parts, the rubber bushing and the spring for about $23 from Van-Again. <>. I install it tomorrow, but seems to be just right and priced right.

Capt. Mike

From a post in the transmission forum . . .

Using both Haynes and Bentley Manuals, I have replaced my transmission, the respective bushings and even was able to purchase a new front selector rod, which connects to the shifter itself underneath. (the groove on mine was badly worn)

I am having a heck of a time shifting it from 2-3, and downshifting to 2. I have read all of the adjustment procedures and geometry of the shift-rod. I am certain it is not bent. It does go very nicely into gear when you can jiggle the shift rod in the 'sweet spot'.

I have noticed that the little spring-loaded pin on the bottom of the shift-lever has a groove in it as well from wear. However, I have not been able to locate such a part, nor find a satisfactory one from a salvage yard. I rechecked all of the linkage, and am confident it is correct, and all of the set-screws are set in the 'dimples'.

A) Could this be that grooved pin? If
so any suggestions where I can get/make

b) I purchased a 'quick shift' kit which looks like a plastic ball along with a plastic spacer the shape of the bottom of the gearshift mounting plate. Do these work? They didn't provide long screws nor directions, so I'm hesitant to try.

c) Could this problem be anything else?

As I told the reader in the Transmission forum, I doubted it was an internal transmission problem.

The apparent problem still lies in linkage, but is probably a combination of linkage adjustment AND wear on the shift assembly itself. If you look at Section 6-3.4, Fig 3-18, you can get an understanding of the complex fulcrum/pivot relationship of the whole mess. The pivot in the upper shell is what controls the movement of the lower part of the lever (item #7 -- Fig 3-14) left & right (plus some forward and aft) movement. This determines the upper pivot of moving through the 1-2 to 3-4 gate. If there is wear & slack, that must be taken up BEFORE the lower lever can begin its movement.

On the lower pivot point (and adjustment) the shift lever has a riding surface that rubs against the flanges on the stop plate (#9a). If that surface has worn, the lever no longer runs true to the designed left & right plane. Again, it will move to the stops, and now cause the lowest ball portion of the shift lever to be slightly out of the desired plane.

A weak or damaged spring can also cause the internal parts not to stay firm against their desired limits. Ditto a damaged or won bracket (#6a).

Check your two set screws, for the coupling (#13) and the Housing (#20). If the points are worn or the indents wallowed out, the provide a place for linkage slack. The same is true of the rolled pin (#18) or worn rubber inserts (#21) in the rear 'universal joint'.

The pin in the lower ball of the lever (#7) comes with the lever. Although I suspect a good machinist can replace the pin, considering the probabilty of other wear, replacement of the lever may be more prudent. You might consider a dab of a JB Weld type epoxy metal filler to fill the groove and a LOT of patience at filing & sanding back to original diameter AND smoothness.

Elsewhere on the site, there are comments on the 'short shift' kits. They basically attempt to move the fulcrum points and I don't recommend them as they also put extra pressure & wear on the rest of the lever mechanism and alignment. The can also transmit that pressure to the shift fork inside the transmission creating internal wear and eventual failure.
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New member
Without prior warning and while stopped at a stop light my 84 Westy manual transmission clutch pedal stopped about 1/2 of the way down to the floor and the shifter would not change the gears. I slipped it into neutral and called for a rollback. Unfortunately I stomped on the pedal several times to get it to shift.... and the result was that I had to have the clutch replaced to the tune of $370.00 for parts... don't talk about the labor. Works fine now though.

Judith Forrest
PO Box 51249
Fort Monroe, VA 23651

Capt. Mike

"Don't force it, get a bigger hammer" isn't always the solution. I hope you didn't damage either the clutch lever or the shifting forks.

Capt. Mike


New member
Last weekend I had the interesting experience of pulling on my shift lever and finding it no longer had the slightest influence over what gear the transmission was in.

I pulled my '89 2.1 waterboxer over, and found that the 2 bolts that hold the rearmost part of the shift rod to the arm coming out of the trans were missing. I walked to an auto parts store, bought a couple of bolts, nuts and lockwashers, installed, and was greasily on my way. (Are there really Westy oweners who don't carry tools??)

I have 2 questions: 1) do I need to have any kind of special fasteners on there, or are my parts store bolts OK for the duration? 2) has anyone heard of this happening without warning? It shifts better than before, possibly because the bolts were loose and so things were out of adjustment. But it really wasn't noticably hard to shift prior to complete disconnection.

Just wondering.

Capt. Mike

Check with a dealer's parts fiche for the exact N-number & DIN specs. I am assuming you are not talking about replacing the two special pin in the U-joint looking assembly with bolts. If talking about the single bolt that is the clamp bolt, It appears fairly generic except with a long unthreaded portion that runs through the clamp so threads don't catch on the upper part of the clamp.

If talking about the two that go through the support plate, you might consider a nylock locking nut, regardless of what VW originally called for.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same subject.

Chuck (CA) Member posted February 16, 2004 03:11 AM

I have an 89 Westy 2.1. What is the metal box that is mounted to the frame and ends up in the middle of the spare when in the up position? I wasn't sure where to post this. Thanks...Chuck...

Capt. Mike

I presume you're talking about the Shift Mechanism Housing as pictured in the Bentley 34.3 and several other pages. It protects the lower lever and front shift rod.