Shifter Adjustment Instructions: Vanagon Manual Transaxle

This handy instructional guide will help you adjust the shifter system on your 1983-91 watercooled Vanagon with manual transaxle. Does not apply to aircooled Vanagons.

Note: If you are trying to figure out if your shifting problem is the transaxle, shifter, or clutch, first read this article.


  1. Please carefully read this article before proceeding. This is not a straightforward procedure. That said, there is not much you can break if you get it wrong.

  2. Make sure the following components are in good shape. Any components that are worn out will make the job nearly impossible, and drive you absolutely bananas! We strongly recommend replacing everything with our Shifter System Overhaul Bundle, or selecting the individual new parts from the list below:

    • Shaft bushings - Shifter Bushings
    • Plastic ball on transaxle - Shifter Fix Kit
    • Aluminum sleeve over plastic ball - Selector Lever Elbow
    • Plastic bushings on front shaft ears at shift box - Shifter Tab Repair Kit
    • Pivot assembly at the base of shift lever - Front Gear Shifter Repair Kit

  1. Make sure transaxle is in NEUTRAL.

  2. Loosen bolt at coupler between front and rear shift shafts.

  3. Position shifter fore/aft such that:

    • Large, driver’s side ear on front shift shaft is halfway between the opening on the driver’s side shifter guide, front/rear, like this:


  • Shift knob is in neutral position for/aft, and all the way to the right (in the 3-4 shift gate)

  1. Tighten coupler bolt.

  2. Check shifting. Should go into 3rd/4th easily.

    • If not, repeat steps 3-6 above.
    • If yes, checking shifting into 1st/2nd.
    • If 1st/2nd is good, you nailed it and you're done.
    • If not, the ball on the transaxle axle is probably not moving in enough, and you will proceed as follows:

  3. Install a vise-grip plier on either side of the shaft coupler:

    • One on the front shaft, and one on the rear shaft
    • Position them about 2" away from the coupler
    • The handles of the pliers should be pointed down so that you can grab them both.

  4. Using a black marker (like a Sharpie):

    • Make a continuous, straight black mark on coupler and forward shaft.
    • It is important that the black mark be continuous so you can clearly see any movement between the front shaft and the coupler.

  5. Loosen coupler--BUT only loose enough to be able to move the front shaft in the coupler with some force using the vise-grip pliers.

  6. Adjust the front/rear shafts very, very slightly:

    • The amount of movement you are trying to achieve is about 1/2 the width of the black mark. The system is that sensitive.
    • Rotate the rear shaft relative to the front shaft clockwise (looking forward).
    • Hold the vise-grip on the rear shaft while pushing the vise-grip on the front shaft toward the passenger side of the vehicle.
    • This adjustment will move the plastic at the front closer to the gap in the shift gate.

  7. Tighten coupler.

  8. Remove pliers.

    Note: You must remove the pliers before you check the shifting; otherwise, their presence will affect the feel at the shifter.

  9. Check shifting.

  10. If shifting is still not right, take a deep, deep breath and: Repeat the steps above as needed.