Is the transmission on my Microbus kaput?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

Here's the story. 1971 VW van. On a cold, damp day in February, the manual transmission got stuck in Reverse. After much cajoling, swearing, and pushing it, it unsticks and seems to be fine. Now, in the hot, humid weather, I park it and leave it in First gear for a couple of days. It starts right up, drives away, but won't come out of first gear. Is it serious? Does it need a new transmission? A rebuild? Or should I just shoot it and put it out of its misery?
Holmes

RAY: It's not serious, Holmes. Even if it's dead, it's only a '71 VW Microbus, so how serious could it be?

TOM: It could be relatively simple. Here's the test. Have your mechanic put the van up on a lift. While an assistant steps on the clutch, have him disconnect the shifter from the transmission, and try shifting it by hand right at the transmission. If it shifts, that means it's simply a linkage problem--the ball and socket joint at the base of the shifter may be worn out--VW had lots of problems with those. If that's the case, you should get down on your hands and knees and thank God.

RAY: If it can't be shifted through the gears by hand at the transmission, then you should also get down on your hands and knees and thank God. Because that means your transmission is croaked, and you can finally send this heap to the crusher and go out and buy yourself a real car. Good luck, Holmes. And give our best to Watson, will you?

Get the Car Talk Newsletter