So on the commute home from work yesterday, in my 1989 VW Jetta GL (1.8L, 8V – my $600 beater), I was unable to shift into 5th gear after getting on the highway; what felt like 5th was actually 3rd. I soon realized that I was only able to use 3rd and 4th gears. With a little luck — and a couple carefully rolled stop signs — I made it home without abusing the clutch or endangering anyone.
After a quick google search last night made it seem like it was the end of the transmission, today I took a look and found that the problem was the plastic front shift rod lever/selector, one end of which had come apart; both of the plastic clip tabs had come off.
This was most likely caused by a shaft bushing that was entirely gone, causing excessive play in the linkage (which I had stupidly been ignoring) and wear on the former part.
The parts are cheap. Here are the autohausaz.com part numbers and prices:
- 171711067B – $1.56 – Shift rod selector lever
- 191711595A – $0.91 – Relay shaft bushing
However, I’d have to order them, and I need to use the car tomorrow. Kludge time! The shift rod/selector was easy: a couple zip ties and some grease should have it working fine again, until I can get a replacement.
I got a rough measurement of the kind of bushing I would need for the relay shaft — i.d. of approximately .525, and o.d. of .730, with a lip of 1/8″ or so at the end, in order to keep metal away from metal. For material, I cut off about an inch of 1/2″ PVC electrical conduit, which had a suitable inner diameter, and an outer diameter of .85 — perfect for the lip, but too large for the main part.
I was hoping my first time actually using a lathe would be for something cooler, but you have to start somewhere. After making a horrible mess of PVC “hair”, and melting my first attempt, I started over, and used the flat side of a tool bit rather than the point, which worked cleaner and quicker, cutting “ribbon” instead of “hair”.
It’s not beautiful, but it’s done, and better yet, it works! The car shifts smoothly and definitively now, and I once more have a working five-speed (plus reverse!) manual transmission.
In this photo you can see the installed bushing in the upper left corner, and the installed ty-wrapped selector rod/lever on the lower right.