Welcome to the BugShop FAQ

The text following is part of a series of articles written by John S. Henry on the restoration and maintenance of air-cooled Volkswagens. While his experience is exclusively with the Beetle, many of the techniques can be applied to other models.

This text is copyrighted and duplication, re-distribution or publication is prohibited without consent of the author.

Article: Shifter Bushing Replacement
Last updated: 11/7/01

Shifter Bushing Replacement

Symptom: You can move your shifter about 4-5 inches side to side while it is in gear; in neutral you can move it about a foot. At idle in neutral, there is rattle in the tunnel just below the shifter that is driving you crazy.

I figured out a few years ago what makes a car "feel" old when you drive it. It's when the shifter is sloppy, the brake pedal goes way down and has to be "pumped", there are all sorts of clunks and rattles in the front end and you can move the steering wheel about 2 inches without changing the direction you are traveling. If you fix these things one at a time, your car will still be old, it just won't "feel", as old. And the good news is that the shifter bushing is probably the biggest bang for the buck in this department. For some reason, to me anyway, a tight, rattle free shifter will take 10-15 years off your car (sort of like that "Wrinkle Cream"). Below I have outlined the quick procedure for doing this.

Remove the shifter

Pull the mat or carpet up and take out the two bolts on plate on top of tunnel. Underneath the main cover, there is a shift gate plate. Make note of how this thing is oriented as you take it off.  In case you didn't, the little "tab" that is bent up in the opening that the lever protrudes down through in the plate faces UP and is on the RIGHT side of the tunnel  It is possible to put it on backwards (spun 180 degrees on the shift lever). When you do this, you cannot get your car into reverse.

Remove the shift rod

The rod inside the tunnel that connects the shifter to the tranny nose under the back seat. Disconnect it under the back seat (remove the oval cover). IT SLIDES OUT OF THE FRONT OF THE CAR. You might go nuts if you didn't know that.  You will also have to take your front bumper off on some models.  One visitor e-mailed me and said that if you just loosened the bumper mounting brackets you could swing it up or down, out of the way.  There are two or three plates in the front you need to take off, depending on what year you have.

One is between the front beam tubes at the frame head (wide oval cover) and gives you access to the inside of the tunnel. You will have to crawl under the nose and look up to see it. The next one is in the back of the spare tire well, it is a round cover. If you have a '68 and newer non-Super, there is another round cover in the front apron just below the hood. You don't have to take the rod all the way out, just out of the bushing bracket behind the shifter hole, but you may want to take it all the way out to clean it up. If it has a lot of surface rust on it, it may be difficult to slide it back into the new bushing so you may want to wire brush it a bit. You especially want the rod to be very smooth in the area where it rests in the bushing. Use a wire brush and a fine emery cloth if necessary.

Install the new Bushing

Get a new bushing and circlip.  The circlip goes on the bushing first, then the bushing goes in the bracket in the tunnel.  Note that the end of the bushing with the larger flange AND the circlip go ahead of the bracket.  The part of the bushing that should be in the bracket is the ridge in the middle of the bushing.  Smear a little grease around the inside bore of the bushing, the cut in the bushing should face down according to some of my old manuals, but I don't think it matters too much..

Put the shift rod back in.

Smear a good lithium (white) grease all around it and on the end of the shift rod and start the rod through the bushing.  Since the shiftrod is tapered at the coupler end, it will line right up and fit in no problem.  It may be a snug fit and difficult with grease all over everything (I remember thinking "I bought the wrong size!"). Push it from the end sticking out of the front of the car if you have to and continue by using a piece of wood or broomstick as it goes in.  Keep the rod ahead of the bushing lightly greased as you go.  Line up the rod to the couple under the back seat as it gets close and re-connect.

And that is about it. The only problem you may have is an overly enlarged opening in the bracket if the car has been driven with a nonexistent bushing for years. In this case the shifter will be sloppy somewhat, but won't rattle until the new bushing wears out.

Now take a nice long drive where you will have to do lot of shifting. You will be amazed at how much "newer" you car feels.


Bill Turner posted this on the aircooled news group rec.autos.makers.vw.aircooled on 11/6/01:

"Finally got the shift rod guide and bushing replaced.  Most likely, you
will never have to replace the guide itself, only the bushing.  But if
you do, you should know it is spot welded on with six spot welds.  To
get it out, I finally cut an "inspection" hole in the side of the tunnel
just large enough to get a chisel in and remove the old one.  What a

The bolts which hold the shift lever down are actually fastened to the
guide, not to the tunnel as it might first appear.  So when you install
the new guide, you can temporarily bolt it in place without the shift
lever and then spot weld a couple of places to hold it.

The part number for the guide is 111 701 255B and is available from
Rocky Mountain Motor Works.  They even have a online picture of it.

Here's hoping you never need one...  :-)


Bill gave me permission to use this text here, I thought it might be a useful addition to this article.  Thanks Bill!!!

Copyright© 2001; John S. Henry 

[back to FAQ Index]