Vanagon syncro shift linkage – rear, and a glance at the front

I’ve been noticing that I sometimes have  a little difficulty shifting into 1st and 2nd. Spraying grease on the exposed wear points on linkage under the van makes the difficult shifting go away for a while, so even I got the message that it needed some attention This diagram shows the linkage, my van has neither the shift linkage protective tube, nor the rubber boots protecting the rear bushing.

Another difference is that as well as the roll pin that secures the horizontal linkage to the vertical link right at the transmission, my van also has a horizontal bolt and nut securing the two. The linkage at the rear comes off pretty easily, except that the skid rails on the syncro does restrict access to some nuts and bolts. The roll pin is tapped out with hammer and small drift from the inside of the vertical link, that link drops from the ball link which is attached  (13 mm nut) to the shaft coming out of the transmission.  On the bench, the manky, dirty bunch.

Then all cleaned up.

The brown ovoid shaped bushing was packed inside with a mixture of old grease and grit, took a few minutes to get that clean. The roll pin is worn, I think I should get a new one  ( have a spare bit of linkage so I can get the right size at the shop).

Then it’s grease them up and put it all back into the van, with a spritz of Fluid Film. Not really happy about the rubber boot that covers the transmission selector shaft. It does grab onto a ridge on transmission, but outboard end of it doesn’t seem to attach to anything. You can see a glint of exposed shaft in the pic below.

Shot of the linkage U-joint, which seems/feels pretty good, and the forward bushing which takes a bit more effort to get to.

No road test done to see if the shifting has improved, but parked, it goes into all gears nicely.

While I was in the mood, I had a look at the linkage/joint right under the gear shift lever. You know, hidden by that box above the spare tire. I had been reading this thread on the Samba and was curious.

The plastic ears are in place, and not too badly worn. Trust me, you can’t really see because to the grease.

Cleaned off the old grease and put new stuff on.

  1. #1 by famillysyncro on November 5, 2013 - 5:09 pm


    I was looking at your post to find answers to my problem (if there is one…). I am tracking vibration on our van (engine related) and looking under the van and playing with everything, I saw a lot of play on everything shifting related. I am concern especially about the parts on the transmission shaft (here is the link as I was not able to read the part # on the drawing:
    This part on the shaft is loose even with the nut tighten (both washers are there too).
    Did you notice or remember something like that on ours?


    • #2 by albell on November 5, 2013 - 6:51 pm


      I have installed a new, machined cup an ball assembly (can’t recall who made the machined cup assembly, perhaps it was from GW?). The ball is not a tight fit in the cup. But the ball part, where it joins the transmission is a good fit. No slop there.

      No slop on my old one either.

      The bushing in the next part forward, where I think you have a boot, is not a close fit on my van, but it works fine as is and does not rattle.

      Maybe I am not getting the picture of what you are seeing. Can you explain a bit more?




      • #3 by famillysyncro on November 5, 2013 - 7:37 pm

        Basically, everything is loose but I could get replacement.
        My concern is about the ball part where it joins the transmission. I am pretty sure it was tight in the past (like yours….).
        I am not sure if it is those splines on the ball part or on the transmission shaft (shifter shaft might be more appropriate…). I might need to make a spacer instead of the washer to see if I could get it tight again.

        For those bushings, I am planning on a “shim” on the shaft to compensate the wear, should work as I need to move the van and don’t want to wait for something coming from the state…


      • #4 by albell on November 5, 2013 - 9:10 pm

        Ok Jerome, I got it now. Fit on splines is loose. I can’t recall if there is any taper to the splines, but I doubt it.

        Oh, one way, and I admit it is quite crude, to perhaps make a tighter fit would be to hit the splined hole in the drop link with a ball pein hammer, mushrooming the slots a little to make them tighter.

        I know, not very good advice, but might be worth a try if you are planning on ordering a new one sometime.

        Good luck



      • #5 by famillysyncro on November 6, 2013 - 4:29 am

        I thought about it, might be an idea, may be a good clean and some Loctite with it.
        I am pretty sure the cause of all of this is vibration from the motor. I can feel the vibration in the trans when the engine is idling….. but not the engine carrier, means those Audi hydraulic mounts are working well.

        I am planning to send my trans for rebuilt one day (not sure when as usual, shipping bothers me and it is quite far to drive to Seattle for us….) so I’ll need to take a serious look at it before.

        BTW, no boots on my bushings but I was surprised by the composition (clear rubber from factory) as I thought those would be hard plastic, nylon…..

        I’ll find something to do this evening, not easy as it starts to get cold….

        Have a nice day Alistair.

      • #6 by albell on November 6, 2013 - 7:51 am

        Jerome, yes I can see how engine movement could put a strain on the linkage. Makes me think more about the tolerances of the first bushing forward. Perhaps it does need to be a little sloppy there to take up the movement from the engine tranny combo.

        Makes you cautious about aftermarket bushings made from harder plastic and with a closer fit.

        I’d hate to think that the splines on the selector shaft are worn. That would be a pain, something to fix during a trans rebuild. I’d lean towards the ball piece having worn out “star” pattern hole.

        Good luck



      • #7 by famillysyncro on November 6, 2013 - 12:19 pm

        Thanks for the advice Alistair, I didn’t think about that, my idea was to have it tight with grease. I am not use to this usually, in front wheel/engine, there are no bushing and usually the stick inside the car kinda move with the engine….

        I might not have enough play in that case to make something……


      • #8 by albell on November 6, 2013 - 7:35 pm


        Send me a dope slap. I’m crazy. The first bushing is held on the transmission so it moves with the engine/tranny combo. The universal joint further forward will take all the engine movement in stride.

        Sorry about is brain fart of mine.



      • #9 by famillysyncro on November 7, 2013 - 5:06 am

        No problem Alistair.

        I only had little time to work on it anyway. I made a small alu bushing for it (less than 1/2mm thick, that was hard…. and next time I’ll make a SS model if it works) and made a washer/spacer for the spline on the transmission shifter, used Loctite 620 and primer to glue it, it might work for a while.
        I’ll post all of that later when I am done.

        Start to get cold in the garage but we got snow, this weekend will be awesome!

        BTW, don’t hurt your back with your new project 😉


      • #10 by albell on November 8, 2013 - 7:14 am


        Yes, I would be interested in seeing pics of the fix.



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