Vanagon Front Shifter Removal and Replacement

By Ken Wilford

You can use this guide to remove your shifter if it is broken or you are just pulling it to install new bushings, etc.

  1. Drop your spare tire under the van. You will see a box directly below where the shifter is located.
  2. Remove the 4 10mm nuts holding it in place and remove it.
  3. Now you will see the bottom of the shaft. There is one bolt going through the bottom of it. Remove this. (10mm wrench and socket or 2 wrenches)
  4. Go back into the cab and pull the rubber boot back from the floor.  You will see the mounting plate where the shifter is mounted to the floor.  It has two holes in it.  Mark these with some white paint so you can put the shifter back exactly the same orientation as the old one.
  5. Now you can go up into the cab and pull the whole shifter up and out of the car as one unit.
  6. Put your new/used one back in the reverse of how you did this one. Be sure to line up the mounting plate holes with the paint marks you made and your shifter alignment should be the same as it was.

Manual Transmission Drive Flange Seal Replacement for Vanagon

By Jim Felder

Time: about four hours

Tools: nothing special in a modestly-equipped shop. Assumes you have a

small cheap inertial puller set.


Do one side and then the other. In both cases:


  1. Jack up the first side, chock the other. release the emergency brake

and then put in neutral. You’ll need to lock up either the wheel and

other times turn it (to remove and tighten the CV joint bolts) or the

flange itself (for circlip removal/refitting) at various stages of this



  1. remove the allen-head bolts holding the inner CV joint to the

transmission flange. Clean out first with a small pick, then tap in

allen wrench with a small hammer to ensure seating in the fastener.

Otherwise, you risk rounding out a bolt.


  1. Drop and bag the CV joint for cleanliness. Have some good moly

greasy on hand if it needs repacking.


  1. You’re looking at the flange. Talk a hammer and a sharp tool and

drive it into the plastic plug in the center of the flange and pry out.


  1. Remove the C-clip with two screwdrivers, better a screwdriver and a

hook tool like a spark plug boot remover.


  1. Use a 3-jaw puller to remove the flange.


  1. Remove the two phillips screws that hold the plastic dirt shield to

the transmission.


  1. Clean everything you removed by soaking in gasoline, be sure you get

the spring washer from inside the flange.


Now you can see the seal in it’s aluminum housing.


  1. Use a sharp-pointed tool east and west positions on the seal itself

and punch holes.


  1. Use the screw tool with the puller to screw into the holes you

punched in the seal. There’s a big old ball bearing behind the seal,

don’t worry about it. Keep turning the puller screw into the seal

housing until the pressure of the screw point against the bearing rides

the seal out of its home. When you tighten the puller screw with a

wrench, you’re stopping the screw point against the bearing and riding

the seal up the threads and out of its seat.


  1. Oil up a new seal with transmission grease and tap home with a

stick, dowel or rod about 1/2 inch diameter and about 8 inches long.


  1. Tap flush with seal housing, keeping tapping constant while moving

rod or dowel constantly around seal housing.


  1. Remove soaking parts from gasoline and clean.


  1. Refit plastic dust cover and screws and then refit flange. Protect

with section of 2 x 4 and wail away with hammer until seated.


  1. Refit spring washer cup out (center part the closest to you).


  1. Refit clip ring with two medium flat screwdrivers. The first time

you do this, it will take about ten minutes. The second time, about 30

seconds. There is a technique.


  1. After fitting clip on axle stub, tap clip into place with small

flat punch and hammer to make sure it is seated in the groove against

the pressure of the spring washer.


  1. Tap in new seal, smear joint with RTV adhesive.


  1. Refit CV joint, packing with grease if necessary.


  1. Repeat from step 1 for next side.


  1. Drop shift rod by removing upper and lower 13mm bolts and nuts.


  1. Remove transmission filler plug with 17mm internal socket.


  1. Fill transmission per Bentley.


  1. Replace filler plug.


  1. Lube shift cup and shift bushing with moly grease, replace bad

rubber as necessary.


  1. Rehang rear shift assembly as reverse of removal in step 21.


  1. It’s over

CV Joint Servicing all Vanagon

By Tom Carrington

Servicing the Constant Velocity (CV) joints is a maintenance task that should be performed at least every 50,000 miles or so. Why? Because the grease in the CV joints will harden and lose its lubricating properties over time. This will lead to premature failure of the joint. A properly maintained joint will easily outlast most street-driven vehicles. While not too terribly difficult, it is a messy and time consuming task. The purpose of this page is to guide you through the disassembly, cleaning and reassembly/repacking of the joint. While the context is VW Vanagon specific, the basic procedures can be used on later model VW Busses, Ghia’s, Type III’s and Bugs (68 and up), as well as several other types of vehicles.

Parts & Supplies Needed:

  • 6mm allen head wrench or “triple-square” tool (depending on the year of your van), socket version preferred
  • CV Joint grease (Approx 4oz per joint)
  • CV Joint boots (optional)
  • Plenty of rags or paper towels
  • Old clothing

    Step 1 – Removing the joints:
    CV joint boltsTo properly service the CV joints, they must be removed from the car. On VW Vanagons, they are bolted to a flange protruding from the transmission on one end, and to a similar flange on the back of the wheel hub on the other. The bolts (6 per joint) will either be a 6-point allen head or 12-point “triple-square” design cap head bolt.

    Before attempting to remove the bolts, spend some time with a small pick and clean out the accumulated crud from the heads of the bolts. Failure to do so may result in you “stripping” out the head of the bolt, making it even more difficult to remove. Once clean, use a 6mm allen head wrench to remove the screws from the joints on each end of the shaft. The driveshaft, complete with the joints can now be removed. Once on the ground, I like to mark the joints for reference. I use metal stamps and a hammer, imprinting PI (Passenger Inner), PO (Passenger Outer), DI (Driver Inner) or DO (Driver Outer) on the joint. This aids re-assembly later.

    CV joint in vise

    Now that the joint is out, place the driveshaft in a vise, or use a C-clamp to secure it to your workbench.

    Step 2 – Removal of the joints from the driveshaft:
    Retaining ringOnce the shaft is securely held, the disassembly can begin. Start by using your paper towel or rag to wipe the excess grease from the face of the joint. This will reveal a retaining ring on the shaft that keeps the joint from coming off. In the picture to the left, a pointer shows the retaining ring on the shaft. There are two different ways I have seen for removing this ring. The first is to use 2 screwdrivers to slide the ring off. While this does work, the ring tends to fly off and land somewhere in the neighbor’s yard. Just a bit dangerous and frustrating!

    Removing ret. ringThe second (recommended) method is to use a set of retaining ring pliers to remove the ring. These should cost no more than $10 or so from a parts house. Use the pliers to spread the ring, and slide it off the end of the shaft. The picture to the right shows the use of the pliers.

    Refer to the previous 2 pictures, and notice the construction of the joint. There is a inner race on the splined shaft, a bearing cage to house and guide the ball bearings, and an outer race the balls ride in. To remove the joint, you may be able to simply slide the entire assembly off. Most times, a little persuasion is necessary. Do not, at any time, use a hammer on the splined shaft or the outer race! This can damage either the splines or housing, and ruin your shaft or joint. If the joint appears to be stuck on the shaft, slide the boot open from the back side. Use a long punch and a hammer against the inner race to drive the entire joint off.

    Step 3 – Disassembly and cleaning of the CV Joint:
    disassembly of jointTo properly clean the joint, disassembly is necessary. Start by pushing down on one side of the bearing cage ring and inner race. Continue to rotate, and the inner race/bearing cage combination can be completely removed from the outer race. Once separated, the inner race, bearing cage and the ball bearings can be separated. While the location of the balls relative to the inner race is not incredibly important, you should not to mix components from one joint with another. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to only service on joint at a time.

    Once completely apart, wipe off as much of the old grease as possible with a rag or paper towels. Thoroughly clean the joint in your choice of solvent. Right now, I am using diesel fuel, since I have a bunch left over from my Vanagon’s tank. Kerosene works well, and I have also tried Simple Green.clean CV componentsBe sure to remove all traces of the old grease in the process. You may even need to use a fine wire brush to get the stubborn deposits off. If you used a petroleum-based solvent, dip the parts in hot, soapy water to remove the residue (This is because that some grease formulas will break down when left in contact with solvent). Then rinse the parts under hot water. Immediately dry using compressed air or a clean cloth to prevent corrosion.Place the now clean parts on a clean surface. I like to place a paper towel over my workbench for this part.

    Step 4 – Assembly of the CV Joint:
    front viewrear viewI like to assemble the joint “dry”, meaning that you have not yet applied any grease. This way, if you assemble it wrong, you won’t get all messy taking it back apart. There are a few things to watch out for when assembling the joint. The most critical issue is the alignment of the inner and outer race. On the left, you can see a front view of the joint. On the right is a view from the back of the joint. If you look closely, you can see the impact marks on the back of the inner race that were made from having to persuade the joint off the shaft with a punch and hammer.

    Here’s the really important part

    Notice how the grooves for the ball bearings in the outer race are not equally spaced. The inner race also has large and small spaces between the ball bearing grooves. To assemble the joint correctly, make sure to align the thin spaces of the inner race with the wide spaces of the outer race. Be careful – You can do this wrong! In fact, the joint goes together easier when you are doing it the wrong way. If you assemble it the wrong way, the joint will bind when it tries to flex.

    side view

    Now the joint is ready to be installed back on the splined shaft. If you are replacing the CV-Joint boots, slide those on first. You will want to push it down the shaft a ways, so you have easy access to the back of the joint. Slide the joint onto the shaft next, and secure it with the retaining ring. Notice the groove on the outside of the outer race – it is closest to the end of the shaft. Test the operation of the joint by swivelling the joint in various directions. You should not feel any binding of the joint.

    greasy joint

    Just be sure not to tilt the joint too far, or the ball bearings may fall out! Once you are convinced the joint works properly, it’s time to grease it. Start packing the grease in from the front, one finger-full at a time. Be sure to fill all the open areas, and keep pressing in more grease until it starts oozing out the back. The moly-based grease is really messy, so be sure to have plenty of paper towels around.

    CV assembly

    With the joint properly greased, slide the boot back down the shaft. When I have extra grease left over, I’ll stuff some into the boot, and smear a layer on the face of the joint. Now repeat steps 2-4 for the joint on the other end of the shaft.

    Step 5 – Reinstalling the CV Joints:
    Installed jointsStart by using brake cleaner to clean out the threads in the hubs on the transmission for the attaching bolts. Do the same for the end near the tire. Using the same solvent, clean all grease residue from the bolts. Apply Loctite to the threads, and use them to attach your freshly-serviced CV-joints. Use a torque wrench, and secure the bolts. Check your manual for the exact torque, but it should be about 35 Ft-lbs. Be sure to use the torque wrench! If you don’t, you run the risk of the bolts working loose and eventually shearing off. If that happens, you will end up “Pushing a rope” (getting towed) back home.

    Following the above steps will probably take you the better part of a day, so be sure to allocate the time needed. You should feel pretty good about yourself, as you have saved yourself a small pile of money and probably extended the life of your CV-Joints. Just be sure to take off your clothes before heading back inside…that moly-based grease is a real mess to clean up!


Vanagon Clutch Replacement

By Tom Carrington

The clutch is responsible for taking the power produced by the engine and relaying it to the transmission, which ultimately turns the wheels. Ever since the first night I drove my 1985 Crew Cab in late 1998, I knew the clutch needed work. I was on a long uphill stretch leaving Fredericton, NB (Canada) for when it started slipping. Easing up on the gas would allow the clutch to regain its grip. I also found that the clutch would slip under moderate acceleration or any time I carried a heavy load. Since I haven’t had much free time lately, I resigned myself to driving gently in order to extend what time the clutch had left. Finally, in December 1999, it got so bad that I had to stop driving the van at all. It’s now April 2000, and I am in the process of replacing the clutch. Follow along as I wrestle the tranny out of the van and replace the worn parts. That’s right, you can pull the transmission without removing the engine!

Parts & Supplies Needed:

  • 6, 8 and 10 mm allen head wrenches, socket version preferred
  • 12-point CV bolt tool (may not be needed on all vans)
  • Assorted metric sockets and wrenches
  • Hydraulic or scizzors floor jack and sturdy jack stands
  • Plastic baggies
  • blah
  • Plenty of rags or paper towels
  • Old clothing

    Step 1 – Prepare the Van:
    Disconnect the battery. Raise the van high enough so that you can both get under it as well as slide the transmission out from under it. Support the van on the jack stands.

    Note:Click on thumbnails for expanded images!

    Step 2 – Unbolt the CV joints:
    CV joint boltsThe CV joints are bolted to the drive flanges of the transmission, as seen in this picture to the left. The bolts (6 per joint) will either be a 6 or 12-point design allen head bolt. I had a mixture, with 12-point on the passenger side, and 6-point on the driver’s side. Before attempting to remove the bolts, spend some time with a small pick and clean out the accumulated crud from the bolt heads. Failure CV joint in a bagto do so may result in you “stripping” out the head of the bolt, making it even more difficult to remove. Once clean, use a the 12-point tool or a 6mm allen head wrench to remove the screws from the joints. Once the joint is disconnected, place a platic bag over the end of the joint. This will accomplish 2 things: First, the plastic bags will keep the cv grease from getting all over you as you work. Second, the bags will help keep dirt from getting in the joints. I also like to take some twine and tie the axle shafts up to the frame to get them out of my way.

    Step 3 – Remove the starter motor:
    StarterDisconnect the cables from the starter motor, if possible. The starter is secured by an easy to remove 17mm nut on a stud at the bottom, and a not so easy bolt that passes through the engine case on the top. To remove the top bolt, open up the engine compartment and find the 17mm nut hidden under/behind the throttle body. Put a box-end wrench on the nut, and have a helper hold it or (in my case) jam the wrench so that it won’t move. Then slide under the van, and remove the upper bolt with a 8mm hex-head socket on the end of a 6″ extension. Once both bolts are removed, the starter can be pulled off and placed out of the way.

    Step 4 – Disconnect the shift linkage:
    Shift linkageLinkage removedUsing a 13mm socket and wrench or pair of 13mm wrenches, remove the bolts that hold the shift linkage to the transmission. One thing I noticed on my Crew Cab is that it was missing the dust boots from the linkage. I’ll be sure to replace those! Once the nuts are removed, the entire shift rod & linkage can be swung out of the way. Don’t bother undoing the linkage anywhere else. On the left is a picture of the shift linkage, and on the right is a picture of what the transmission looks like with it removed.

    Step 5 – Support the engine:
    Supported EngineThe engine is normally held up by the crossbar at the rear, and the transmission nose mount in the front. Before the transmission is removed, you must find another way to support it. What I did was span the engine compartment with a 4×4″ that was laying round. A chain was hooked in a cast hole right at the case seam, ran up and around the 4×4″, and hooked back into itself. Leave enough slack so that the front of the engine can drop about 2-3 inches.

    Step 6 – Unbolt the nose mount:
    Nose mountSlide a jack under the center of the transmission, and raise it so that it just touches the tranny case. Remove the 4 bolts that secure the nose mount to the frame, as seen here to the left. Also disconnect the ground strap while you are there. You can now start lowering the jack, which will cause the whole engine/tansmission assembly to pivot. Continue to lower until all the slack in the chain is taken up.

    Step 7 – Unbolt the slave cylinder:
    Clutch slave cylinderNow that the transmission has pivoted down, it is easier to remove the 2 bolts that secure the clutch slave cylinder to the transmission. You will also need to remove a small bracket that secures the hydraulic line to the side of the transmission. By keeping the system sealed, you avoid having to bleed it later.

    Step 8 – Separate the engine and transmission:
    lower studRemove the nuts from the 2 lower engine studs, and the remaining nut/bolt combination from the top (The other upper bolt was removed with the starter). Lower the jack just slightly, and the transmission should start to separate from the engine. Now for the fun part – Push the transmission away transmission exposed!from the engine, without knocking it off the jack. You may have to lower the jack a little bit more as the transmission slides forward. Once you see the input shaft is clear of the clutch, go ahead and lower the trans all the way down to the ground. Drag that pig out from under the van!

    Step 9 – Remove clutch pressure plate:
    oily flywheelThe pressure plate is secured to the flywheel by 6 bolts with 13mm heads. Loosen each bolt evenly a few turns at a time until the tension is off the pressure plate. Once the tension is relieved, go ahead and finish removing them and pull off the pressure plate. The clutch disc is easily removed now as well. What you can now see is the surface of the flywheel that the clutch contacts. In my case, the reason for the slippage is pretty obvious…the surface of the flywheel is covered with engine oil. It looks like I will have to replace the crankshaft oil seal as well.

    Step 10 – Remove flywheel:
    Flyweel off!The flywheel is held on to the crankshaft by 6 large bolts with 10mm hex-heads. If you are going to remove them, either use an air impact gun or get a “flywheel lock” to prevent the engine from turning and use a 10mm allen head socket on a long breaker bar to loosen them. Once the flywheel is off, the seal can be seen. I’m now sending my flywheel out to a machine shop to have it resurfaced at a cost of $30.

    Step 11 – Remove oil seal and pilot bearing:
    Seal & pilot bearing removedI have a seal puller tool that works really well for prying out oil seals. You can also use a regular screwdriver to do the same thing. You want the tip of the puller/screwdriver just barely under the inside lip of the seal when you pry it out. This will help prevent engine case from getting scratched. When the seal comes out, make sure you don’t accidentally remove any of the shims that go on the crankshaft. To remove the pilot bearing, I use a simple tool that was made out of an old shaft. I ground the end of the shaft to form a hook that will catch on the inside lip of the bearing. I clamp Vise-grips onto the shaft, then whack the side of the Vise-grips to pull out the bearing. Simple and inexpensive, yet effective!

    Step 12 – Change tranny oil:
    Fill plugIt’s easiest to change the transmission lube while the unit is out of the van. No tranny lube running Drain plugdown you arm this way! A 17mm hex-head wrench is needed to get the drain and fill plugs out. If the tranny is still in the van, make sure you start by loosening the fill plug before you drain it. Because if you can’t get that plug out, you won’t be able to refill the transmission!The fill plug is on the side of the transmission case, near the shift linkage as seen on the left. The drain plug is located under the bellhousing, as seen on the right.

    GL-4 gear lubeOnce all the old oil has drained, it’s time to refill. The oil capacity of the tranny is about 4.5 US quarts. Be sure to use transmission oil that is rated GL-4 ONLY! Do not use GL-5 or combination GL-4/GL-5 rated oil! The difference is that GL-5 transmission oil has more “Extreme Pressure” or “EP” additives to help it lubricate all the gears and bearings. The problem is that the higher concentration of EP additives can corrode the brass synchronizers in the transmission. When filling the transmission, you want to add just enough oil so that it is up level with the bottom of the fill plug. There is a service bulletin from VW that recommends filling it until the oil level is 1/2″ below the fill plug to make it easier to shift. I have never had a hard time shifting any of my Vanagon transmissions, so I am staying with the “fill it level with the plug” spec.

    Step 13 – Install new oil seal and pilot bearing:
    Before installing the new seal, use some “zero residue” electronics cleaner to degrease where the seal will be installed as well as the threaded holes in the back of the crankshaft. While you are at it, use the same cleaner to remove any traces of dirt/oil from the flywheel bolts. I like to install the pilot bearing before the seal by simply tapping the bearing into place. Don’t tap on it directly, use a socket that has the same outside diameter. I use a small steel plate to install the seal evenly, which will get it flush with the surface. Then I take the same plate and turn it on it’s end, and tap several more times around the circumfrence to seat the seal in the bore. Now’s a good time to put some hi-temp wheel bearing grease in the bore of the pilot bearing and on the inside lip of the seal.

    Step 14 – Re-install flywheel:
    Once the flywheel is back from being resurfaced, give it a good cleaning to get any grit from the machine shop rinsed off. To help prevent oil leaks, remove the O-ring from the inside of the flywheel. The old O-ring in my flywheel was hard as a rock, and may have been the source of my oil leak! I have seen too many “mechanics” ignore the O-ring, and simply reuse it. I say replace it…it’s cheap insurance! Be sure to clean out the groove the O-ring sits in. All sorts of crud gets built up in that groove, which can prevent a good seal from being made. Install a new O-ring in it’s place, and wipe a thin film of grease over it.

    Another commonly neglected but important part is the small felt washer that sits between the flywheel and the pilot bearing. This washer acts as a seal, which both keeps the grease in the pilot bearing, and the abrasive clutch dust out. Leaving it out is an invitation to early pilot bearing failure. If you look closely at the inside of the flywheel, you will see the ridge that retains this washer. I tried to get a picture, but my digital camera would not take a shot up that close.

    To install the flywheel, line up the roll pin hole in the back of the crankshaft with the corresponding hole in the flywheel. Use a rubber mallet to tap the flywheel into place. Once the flywheel is on a little, thread the flywheel bolts into the Resurfaced flywheelcrankshaft and use them to evenly pull the flywheel in until it seats against the crank. In the picture to the left, you can see the resurfaced flywheel. Notice that both the clutch surface and the raised surface where the pressure plate bolts to have been cut. This is important! For any thickness of material that is removed from the clutch surface, the exact same amount must be removed from the pressure plate mounting surface. This ensures that the proper distance relationship between the clutch disc and pressure plate is maintained. If this is not done, the clutch will fail prematurely. Probably not right away, but it will happen sooner than if the flywheel was machined properly.

    Next up, time to install the flywheel.

    According to Bob Donalds of Boston Engine, “The flywheel has 2 torque specs depending on the how old the manual you are using. The newest Bentley lists a torque spec of 44 ft pds and a 1/4 turn and the older books have a spec of 80 ft pds. This applys to all type 2 and was the orignal spec for the Vanagons. 80 pds is the spec I use on all type 2 and Vanagon torque plates and flywheels and yes I do reuse the bolts with no loctite when they are not to beat up as some times happens when removed.”

    I took Bob’s advice with one slight change. Once the flywheel was seated, I removed the bolts, and applied Loctite® #271 (Red – high strength) to the threads. Then I re-installed them and torqued the bolts to 80 Ft-Lbs.

    Step 15 – Install new clutch disc and pressure plate:
    Clutch disc held in place with alignment toolThe clutch kit that I bought from the Bus Depot included a new clutch disc, pressure plate, throwout bearing, pilot bearing and a nifty clutch alignment tool. The purpose of the tool is to hold the clutch disc in the proper position while the pressure plate is installed. This makes it easier to mate the engine and transmission back together. Place the clutch disc against the flywheel, and simply insert the alignment tool to hold it in place, perfectly centered on the flywheel.

    Pressure plateNext up is the pressure plate. Line up the pins sticking out of the flywheel with the holes in the pressure plate, slide it on. The pins will hold it in place while you get the bolts started. Apply Loctite® #242 (blue – low strength) to the threads of each bolt. Snug down each bolt until they are all finger tight and just touching the pressure plate. The tighten them evenly a few turns at a time until they have fully seated the pressure plate. Torque the bolts to 20 Ft-Lbs. Once the plate is secured, go ahead and pull the alignment tool back out of the disc.