Clutch Release Bearing Cross Shaft: The Full Story

There is a fork in the bell housing of all Vanagon transaxles that originally looked like this:

This part is what presses on the clutch release bearing (commonly referred to as the "throw-out" or "TO" bearing). The only part that wears out on these cross shafts is a small section of the prongs where it meets the throw-out bearing. The original shape is curved, like this:

The final shape after pushing on the release being a million times turns into this:

Our initial approach to this problem was to simply purchase a new aftermarket assembly that looks like this:

However, when we received our supply, it became apparent that the prong profile—where it contacts the throw-out bearing—was copied from a worn-out prong! It was totally flat. We did some digging around and, sure enough, that is exactly what happened. Whomever reproduced these things accidentally copied a worn-out shaft assembly. 

We decided to have new prongs made that were "full circle"—just like the aftermarket cross shafts (they got that part right!)—but with the correct prong profile where it contacts the throw-out bearing. We also made a jib that positions the prong fingers in the exact right spot and angle, perfectly parallel every single time. 

Since these cross shafts are welded by humans, we were concerned about the possibility of imperfect welds leading to premature failures, which is why our new prongs are "full circle" like the commonly available aftermarket shafts. This way, even if the welds are not perfect, there is just no way they can fail. The full-circle design means the welds are much longer. The fingers are perfectly parallel, which means the forces on the welds are now in pure shear (no bending), and the jig ensures both fingers are loaded evenly, so there is no chance one finger can be doing twice the work it was designed to do. 

In short, we took a holistic approach to fixing this issue, and every transaxle we build gets one!