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VW Vanagon Gear Shift Linkage

October 26, 2011

[apologies for no pictures. One-man spanning has its drawbacks sometimes plus it was raining and frankly I forgot]

Whatever you do, stay away from this fix. Knock down a sky scrapper and rebuild it, attempt to count the sugars in your sugar dish or do anything else but attempt this fix if you are doing it for recreational purposes. I had some difficulty changing into first gear and after some little research I discovered the problem might lie with the linkage. I had plans for Sunday afternoon so I thought a quick two hour fiddle before I left home would make for a wonderful 1st gear experience later that afternoon.

But lo and behold! At 8pm I was still under the car having gone through a whole range of problems like losing 1st and 2nd gear then gaining 2nd and losing reverse and 1st. My day was ruined, it was raining most of the time that afternoon and I was all alone.

So what the hell was I to do?

First thing: As much as possible, get a helper. You will have fewer trips to the box at the front and the alignment there will be spot-on

But if you are quite literally a one-man spanner like I am then am happy to say there is also a way.

  • Put the shifter in neutral
  • Loosen the pinch bolt midway to the back of the van. After the fuel tank in my case
  • Very important: Where the shifter meets the gearbox, ensure that the final linkage piece is pressed into the gearbox approximately halfway (or if you have good perception of parallels, ensure that the vertical, second last linkage piece is perpendicular to the ground). I made this possible by using a file secured against some suspension part at the back to do the pressing. Anything that will give you the correct alignment is fine. That was just a one-man spanning method
  • Go under where the box is in the front, make sure the right side of the protruding gear stick finger thing is about 20-23 mm from the right side bar thing that reverse goes under. This is observable when you are under the van, where the spare wheel goes, looking into the open side of the box and some form of lighting. I found setting the 20-23mm to be the most difficult bit because each time I left the front to go to the pinch bolt, it would go out of alignment. Solutions? After hours of trying and cursing, I discovered a ‘magic tunnel’. When you are under the van directly under the pinch bolt, raise your head and look towards the front of the van. There’s a ‘tunnel’ beside the fuel tank that gives a direct view of the box at the front and any fiddling at the pinch bolt is observable through it. So I set up light at the box, made an approximation of where 20-23mm was and I did the adjustment through the ‘magic tunnel’

Lighting the box is crucial for the 'magic tunnel' method and for diagnosing need for a nose job

  • Tighten the pinch bolt while making sure nothing goes out of alignment
  • Test drive
  • Favourite beverage
In truth its not such a difficult fix. It is so if just like me, you have no idea what you are doing.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. joe permalink
    October 27, 2011 11:06 am

    hhehehe mike you made my day……i wish i could have the same approach with my levin….kind of jealous of your relationship with the vanagon…:-)

  2. October 27, 2011 12:03 pm

    Hey Joe! Thanks for your comment. Its true this thing is a relationship. Once the Levin starts giving you problems and you discover most mechanics are idiots, you will inevitably develop a relationship! Nice to hear from you though

  3. October 27, 2011 5:19 pm

    One of those jobs where you really wish you had a lift eh?



  4. April 9, 2013 8:18 pm

    I opted to have a mechanic of known reputation take a look at my problem. I have a DK trani(4speed) with what looks like a 5 speed linkage. No reverse, hard to find first. I sell houses for a living, lets see who is going to look

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