Guac Shifter Repair

Guacamole Bus Mechanicals

Ever since I got the bus, the shifter`s had a pretty serious clunk. Sloppy too. So I decided to redo the front half of the shifter mechanism. (The rear half requires dropping the engine and trans.)

Upon investigation I found the front bushing was completely missing.

I also found the boot over the front of the rear shift rod was pretty shot.

So I ordered some parts from Bus Depot:

  • $1.82 - 211 711 149 - Gear Shift Lever Stop Plate

  • $3.49 - 211 711 182 - Front Shift Rod Bushing

  • $7.95 - 211 711 183B - Boot

The stop plate was just in case mine was bad. Better to have the parts on hand than need them and not be able to get them for 2 weeks...

Front Shift Rod Bushing:

Gear Shift Lever Stop Plate:

Shift Rod Boot:

I first removed the splash pan under the nose of the bus. Then I undid the set screw between the rear shift rod and the front shift rod. Back inside the bus I lifted up the rubber mat and removed the two 13mm head bolts. Here`s what I found:

Ugh. Rust, dirt, etc etc etc. I never lifted that mat to clean. Oops.

The grease in the shift ball joint was completely gone. There was nothing to keep things moving smooth. Just rusty metal.

I then pulled the front shift rod. It, too, was rusty where it should have been well lubricated. I then cleaned up and lubed the front end of the rear shift rod, filled the boot with grease, and slid it in place.

I scrubbed everything with a toothbrush and Purple Power.

See that pin? We`ll be coming back to that...

Once everything was clean, I globbed lots and LOTS of grease on everything. I got it everywhere! I`d rather clean up too much grease than try to put more grease in after the fact.

I then put the front bushing in place with gobs of grease. (You don`t need to go through all this to put a replacement bushing in. It can be done with everything in place. I just wanted to tighten things up as much as possible. I`m glad I did judging by the lack of grease on moving parts.)

Is assembly the reverse of removal with the shifter? Not on your life.

I compared the new stop plate with the old one.

There is a design difference: The factory one has the ears on the sides to locate it with the plate that holds everything together. The aftermarket one has no ears. That appears to be the only difference between beetle and bus stop plates, and it would work fine without them. But I noticed another difference. The distance between the two bent up areas (where the shifter rubs during shifting) is actually shorter on the old one. By about a millimeter.

It`s not a lot, but considering there is some slight wear on the old one and it`s still tighter, I decided to clean up, grease, and reuse the old one.

When I pulled the shifter out there was a small pin through the shifter ball. It goes into a notch in the front shift rod and keeps the shifter from spinning. All exploded parts diagrams (like this one from http://www.ratwell.com), just show the pin sticking out of the ball. Nothing to show it`s not permanent.


Here`s how it`s supposed to work:

  • The shift ball is hollow, not solid steel.

  • Inside the shift ball is a spring.
  • The pin head is designed to fit all the way inside the ball, with the spring holding it against the side of the shift rod.

  • The pin end fits in the notch in the shift rod.

It would have been pretty straightforward if the spring hadn`t popped out of the ball. And it wouldn`t go all the way back in.

I wrestled with this for 2 hours, not realizing the spring was supposed to go all the way in. I decided to test assemble everything without any of the springs to see how it`s supposed to go. That`s when I discovered the hole in the ball is just big enough for the pin head to fit inside. Ah ha! That explains why the ball wouldn`t go all the way into the shift rod!

It took some doing to bend the spring just enough to resist popping back out of the ball, but not enough so I couldn`t get it inside the ball in the first place. But I did it. Everything went together smoothly after that.

Aligning the stop plate was another adventure.

The Bentley says to leave the shifter bolts a bit loose, put the bus in 2nd gear and then slide the stop plate against the shifter. It doesn`t say which side to slide it against.

I tried it both ways and couldn`t get the bus out of gear. It didn`t make sense. I followed the instructions precisely!

Oh. It`s backwards.

I took it all apart again to turn the stop plate around. Then when I followed the Bentley, I got the same results. Ugh.

I just kept tweaking it a little at a time until I found a "sweet spot". Now it shifts through all gears. A couple more tweaks got it as smooth as possible. Even reverse works smoothly.


It seems there`s more work to be done downstream. But I can`t do any more until I have the transmission out of the bus. Sigh. Yes, the shifter is much smoother, but there are definite clunks when going into gear and there is still way too much play. This won`t be tackled until I do another engine drop, which won`t be for a while.

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