Stinkage and Linkage

Today the weather looked quite promising, so I thought I’d have another go at tackling the gear-linkage to try and sort out Herman’s diabolical gearchange for once and for all. Although I’d improved it slightly with my previous efforts, I took him for a quick spin round the block on Sunday and changing gear was a fuckin’ ‘mare. So it really needs sorting out urgently.

Before I could even get to the rear end of the gearlinkage, I had to remove the engine and gearbox cover from the bottom of the van. This is a big plastic case lined with foam which bolts onto the bottom of the chassis and is presumably meant to lessen engine noise a bit. It was quite easy to remove. Just a few self-threading screws, but I’m sure it’ll be much more fun trying to put it back on as it’s quite big, unwieldy and heavy. So it’ll be one of those ‘Lying under the motor, holding something heavy above your head and trying to screw it into place while your eyes fill with grit from off the bottom of the van’ jobs.

The engine and gearbox cover was nicely filled with a glutinous mixture of mud, oil and diesel - with the odd loose screw and pebble thrown in for luck
The engine and gearbox cover was nicely filled with a glutinous mixture of mud, oil and diesel - with the odd loose screw and pebble thrown in for luck
Beginning the job of cleaning out the cover with a paint scraper
Beginning the job of cleaning out the cover with a paint scraper
When I removed the biggest piece of foam - which was soaked in oil and water - I found this insects' graveyard on the underside of the foam; a dead, cobweb-covered fly and a 'dead' wasp
When I removed the biggest piece of foam - which was soaked in oil and water - I found this insects' graveyard on the underside of the foam; a dead, cobweb-covered fly and a 'dead' wasp
Here's how much crap I scraped out of the inside of the cover. That should be good for a couple of pounds off Herman's weight
Here's how much crap I scraped out of the inside of the cover. That should be good for a couple of pounds off Herman's weight
Here's the cover after the removal of the abovepictured mound of skank
Here's the cover after the removal of the abovepictured mound of skank

I’d left the big piece of foam near a grid so the water could drain out of it and when I went to pick it up a few mins later I found that my mate the ‘dead’ wasp was walking about, yawning and stretching and cleaning himself off. For some insane reason, he’d obviously decided to hibernate in that oil and diesel soaked environment and my exposing him to the air, just as we had a few minutes of rare sunshine had brought him ‘back to life’ again.

Behold - he is risen
Behold - he is risen

Anyway, now that the dog could see the rabbit, it was time to get down to the main business of the day; inspecting the hitherto unseen rear end of the gear-linkage, where it actually connects into the gearbox.

The casual reader at home possessed of an ‘Armchair General’ disposition can follow along with the next moves in this thrilling campaign by consulting this handy exploded diagram of the LT35 gearlinkage, which I have shamelessly lifted from page 16 of that international blockbusting best-seller ‘The VW Workshop Manual. 5-Speed Gearbox 008 and Final Drive. April 1982 Edition.’

Gear linkage exploded diagram
Gear linkage exploded diagram

The first task was to remove the mounting bracket that holds the rear end of the shiftrod against the gearbox where the shiftrod fits over the inner shift lever. There is a plastic ball on the end of the inner shift lever which acts as a bearing and this ball is apparently prone to disintegrating and thus contributing to sloppy a gearchange. As you can see from the piccies below. This disnae seem to be the problem in Herman’s case.

Armchair Generals! -we’re looking at the area circled in red on your maps.

Rear bracket removed and shiftrod pulled off inner shift lever and moved aside. The inner shift lever is the thing with the orange ball on the end.
Rear bracket removed and shiftrod pulled off inner shift lever and moved aside. The inner shift lever is the thing with the orange ball on the end.
Closeup on the inner shift lever and its notoriously disintegration-prone ball. A bit dirty due to a cracked rubber boot, but definitely in one piece.
Closeup on the inner shift lever and its notoriously disintegration-prone ball. A bit dirty due to a cracked rubber boot, but definitely in one piece.
Rear end of shiftrod pulled away from gearbox and moved downwards slightly.
Rear end of shiftrod pulled away from gearbox and moved downwards slightly.

I then turned my attentions to the front end of the shiftrod.

If you consult your exploded diagrams again, you’ll notice an area circled in green. This is where the shiftrod connects to the shiftrod lever at the front of the van, just tucked up beside the radiator. ‘Loosen this bolt off’ advised the workshop manual casually and the shiftrod will just ‘slide out to the rear’.

Easier said that done. The nut and bolt holding the shiftrod into the shiftrod lever was about as inaccessible as you could wish for. One of those where you can get the end of a spanner and the tip of one or two fingers to it and move it about a millimetre at a time. After unsuccessfully trying to attack it from directly underneath I eventually hit on the ‘easier’ method [and I use the word strictly in the relative sense], of coming in from in front of the radiator, after moving a piece of cardboard panelling out of the way. It was still a major pain in the arse - especially since the bolt was not a captive one, so once I’d loosened the nut about a mm, the bolt just started turning round too. I had to get one hand up behind the radiator holding a spanner on the bolt and the other hand up in front of the radiator, undoing the nut with a socket on a long handle. but I got there in the end!

The reluctant nut. You cannae see the full extent of the tangle of girders, pipes, tubes and other bric-a-brac which I had to weave my arm through to even get the camera in to take this shot.
The reluctant nut. You cannae see the full extent of the tangle of girders, pipes, tubes and other bric-a-brac which I had to weave my arm through to even get the camera in to take this shot.

At this point I was confronted by another problem. The shiftrod didnae want to slide out after the nut was loosened off and who could blame it. It’s probably been wedged into the shiftrod lever, without anyone looking near it, for the past 16 years. I tried pulling the shiftrod from the back end, near the gearbox but, as I twisted it, pulled it and pushed it, I only succeeded in causing the gearstick to flop about inside the van. I therefore had to go and summons Mazza from the flat, so she could hold the gearstick from being able to move, while I wriggled the shiftrod out. To my delight and surprise, it came out really easily with a couple of twists.

Mazza took this artistically composed shot from inside the cab, down through the hole in the floor where the gearstick passes through, of me just checking out that the front shiftrod bolt was nice and loose before we wrestled the fecker out.

Portrait of the artist as a young grease-monkey
Portrait of the artist as a young grease-monkey

At this point, flushed with my success at getting the shiftrod out I thought ‘What the hell. Let’s take the whole fecking linkage out!’ and I started measuring up the amount of hassle that would be involved in removing the horizontal crossbar which goes from the shiftrod lever across to the bottom of the gearstick [not pictured in the diagram above. I presume it’s an addition for RHD versions of the LT, where the gearlever is on the opposite side of the gearbox to the LHD model].

Of course, no sooner had I decided to go for it than a huge black cloud poised itself happily overhead and I felt the joyous first drops that marked the end of my brief sunny interlude. Sadly, I wiped my tools down, packed them away and retired once more to the pavilion, feeling that, brief tho’ my innings had been today, I had at least got some useful work done.

Obviously ‘The Mystery of the Recalcitrant Gearchange’ is going to be a tale of more than a few episodes.

Meta TAGS: gear linkage
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE: 02 Mar 2009
AUTHOR: stíobhart matulevicz