Drive Shaft Replacement for Syncro: The Full Story

All Syncro Vanagons will need a drive shaft (a.k.a. prop shaft) replacement at some point in their life. The purpose of the drive shaft in a Syncro is to transmit torque from the transaxle, located in the rear of the vehicle, to the front differential, located up front. This part is unique to the Syncro model. Vanagon 2WD models are only rear wheel drive and don’t have one of these. At each end of the drive shaft there is a universal joint, or “U-joint." The drive flange on the transaxle at the rear is at a different angle than the drive flange on the front differential at the front. The drive shaft has U-joints at each end to make up for this. Additionally, the transaxle and front differential assembly are mounted to the body on rubber mounts. As the vehicle travels over irregular surfaces, and torque delivery varies from front to rear axles, the transaxle and front differential assembly tend to move around relative to each other. The U-joints at either end of the drive shaft allow for up and down and side to side (lateral) displacements. The rubber coupling and an internal bushing arrangement allow for slight drive shaft compression and elongation (axial) displacements. The rubber coupling also doubles as a vibration damper (rotational) of sorts.

When the U-joints or rubber coupling wears out, eccentricity is no longer maintained and the drive shaft vibrates and is impossible to balance. That, in and of itself, would not be a big deal; there are hundreds of drive shaft repair shops across the country capable of replacing U-joints and rubber couplings. Many shops and individuals think that is all that is required, and they go through great efforts to locate the unusual U-joint and required rubber coupling and replace them—only to end up with the same vibration.

The real rebuilding challenge is related to the internal precision shaft and bushing system. It is this system that creates a precise radial alignment between the two parts of the drive shaft while allowing axial movement. VW never offered rebuilt drive shafts, nor could you get parts to rebuild one completely. If any part of your drive shaft wore out and it started to vibrate, VW would sell you a new one to the tune of around $1200 (when they were still available back in 2006). VW no longer offers any drive shaft for the Syncro at any price. Thus, Syncro owners were basically screwed...

The exact design of the OEM VW driveshaft varied, and not all can be rebuilt. Here are some photos of the basic design they all employed:

The way to tell if yours is a candidate for rebuilding is this specific detail:

GoWesty has figured out how to rebuild these type of drive shafts. If you have one like this, we might be interested in buying it from you. Click here view our core buy-back page and check out all the items we are currently purchasing. 

Our rebuilt drive shafts are, for all intents and purposes, new. The internal bushings have been replaced and precision-honed to fit perfectly the re-ground shaft that mates with them—precisely. The rubber coupling and both U-joints are also replaced, and the whole thing is high-speed balanced.

We also offer an exclusive ALL NEW GoWesty reproduction of the DOKA-style drive shaft, identical to what VW fitted into this truck version of the Syncro Vanagon. VW made Syncro versions of the Vanagon in both single-cab ("SIKA") and double-cab ("DOKA") trucks. For these applications—with the exception of the most plush "TriStar" modelsVW dispensed with the rather elaborate two-piece/bushing drive shaft design altogether. Instead, they outfitted these vehicles with a simple, one-piece rubber-donut-less drive shaft with a U-joint at each end. I guess they figured the truck did not need to be as smooth, and they could save a few bucks, too. Indeed, if you had sensitive enough measuring equipment, you probably could measure the difference. But in practicemost people, us included, simply cannot tell the difference.

Either way, we've got you covered.