Mk1 Shift Linkage Troubleshooting Guide - MK1 by JonnyPhenomenon

Vehicle: MK1 Scirocco
By stevegolf
( 3 )

11 minute read

Mk1 Shift Linkage Troubleshooting Guide - MK1

Compliments of JonnyPhenomenon @

January 26, 2010

For this exercise would the class to please open your Bentley manuals to chapter 8: "Manual transmission and clutch" and turn to page 8-8. Please note the names of all of the parts indicated in the exploded diagram figure 4-2 as

there will be a quiz at the end of this lesson. 


Shift problems manifest in different ways. Most commonly, you may be unable to find a gear, find its not where it should be, or find yourself unable to get it to go into gear.(Binding)

Getting Reverse gear when you DO NOT press down is either caused by a Really bad linkage/engine alignment or more likely by a broken reverse lockout tab. read on.

sloppiness in the linkage might make it hard to find the right gear and will leave tons of play on the stick once in gear. this is 99% of the time due to blown shift bushings.

Alignment problems happen when you have either

A: been screwing with the shift linkage and misaligned it (most often)

B: one of your motor mounts goes bad (quite often)

C: when you have replaced bad mounts or had your motor out and didn't realign the engine correctly following the procedure in the Bentley, Chapter 3(Engine) pages 27-28

D: when the shift relay lever comes loose on the end of the main shift rod. (like never, unless; (see A))

Binding while shifting can be caused by obstructions to the shift linkage, old/low fluid, and wearing synchros (in that order). the first thing you should check is that there is nothing on your shift linkage that is causing it to bind. starting with the shift boot inside the car, then under the hood look for short shift kits, wires, hoses, leaves, dead rats, dead cats, small children, birds nest, etc. 

barring other obvious obstructions, lets move on.

Just 1st gear.

Cant get it into first without shifting into second... uh - first? Try this:

Drive normally, slow down on your way to a stop, try first gear, but if it doesnt seem to want to go, just hold it there for a second or two longer. be patient. it Should just pop into gear eventually. this is a common problem, not linkage related. Go buy yourself two bottles of Penzoil Synchromesh and replace your tranny fluid. then skip to page two of this thread and look for a post with a dedicated explanation for this.

(I accept thank-you's in the form of well wishes, kind words, and paypal to [email protected]) 

Reverse and 1st

If you can't get into first without pressing down and moving as if you are reaching for reverse, then the problem is probably a blown motor mount on the drivers side, (or shift linkage misalignment.)

if you are suddenly able to shift into reverse without pressing down on the shifter, then the issue is probably a broken reverse lockout tab on your shift lever. this is really easy to repair yourself for no money. see my howto here:

note: it is also really easy to tell if this is broken without actually taking anything apart. just look under the car at the rubber boot under your shifter.

this is what a broken one looks like (photos courtesy of BluDemon)

if this is your problem, follow that DIY and repair it yourself. (be sure to post your results in that thread for extra credit points!)

Binding in 5th.

note that short shift kits can cause binding. if you HAVE a short shift kit and you have to press forward quite hard to get into 5th, pop your hood and look at the "connecting link". (its the rod that has the two cotter pins in it) short shifters extend the length of the relay lever amplify the throw length. this means that the connecting link attaches to the selector shaft lever(on the tranny itself) at an extreme angle. have a helper put the car in fifth and watch as the rod stresses against the bushing. this can be resolved easily with a slight bend in the rod about an inch from the selector shaft lever like so:

(if you don't have a short shift kit and you still have trouble with fifth, just keep reading.)


if your shift linkage is sloppy, replace all your bushings, starting with the orange blob. you can check on the orange blob by grabbing the "selector lever" and wiggling it up and down, left and right. if there's any play in it, your orange bushing is shot. this part does not come with the rebuild kits, and the stock replacement is inferior anyway, so get a delrin one from from ebay from a guy named mark1vws (now mark1svc) who makes them for 25$.

I got one and it was the best 25$ I ever spent.

you may as well replace all the other bushings too while you are at it. 

for as much as I go on about this product, the guy should send me some for free. lol


if your shift linkage is NOT sloppy and you are finding gears are offset to one direction, (ie, 3rd is where 5th should be, reverse is where 1st should be) then the most likely issue is a blown motor mount on the passenger side. this causes the PS side of the motor (and tranny) to angle down, and misaligns the shift linkage.

an easy way to check for a bad mount is to rev the engine and watch for a side to side rocking motion. I find that if I have a bad mount and I cant get over far enough to get into fifth gear, I line up the shifter for fifth and rev the engine real quick to make it rock to the Drivers side enough to get it to pop into gear. - I used to do rallycross, and I have blown a LOT of mounts.

if your mounts are fine, then your alignment is off.

follow the bentley manual for instructions on shifter alignment, page 8-8 and 8-9, or use my shortcut:

find a helper and have them hold the stick in the neutral position with the transmission in neutral. Now attach the selector lever to the shift rod and snug it up enough that it doesn't slip. then with you under the car have your helper put the stick in the reverse position and listen for the telltale "cachunk" of reverse engagement. if you don't hear it then loosen up the relay lever, reach up over the trans and grab the shift selector lever on it and push as far as I can towards the front of the car, then over to the drivers side(listening for the click). Once you have the trans in reverse and the shifter in reverse, snug it up a little, and then have your helper run through all the gears to see if they are right.

generally speaking, once you have it so you can get into First WITHOUT pressing down on the shifter, and you can ONLY get into reverse if you DO press down on the shifter, then you pretty much nailed it. 

binding while shifting into first (and second):

when your car is moving along at speed, the output shaft is being driven by the wheels rotation, so the internals of the transmission will resist being put into such a low gear since the output and input shafts are spinning at much different speeds. the synchros are synchronizing the speeds of the two shafts before the shift collar and drop into position. if the speeds are grossly mismatched the shifter will bind and resist until the shafts match speeds. once the shafts synch, the thrust on the synch ring will relax and slip enough to allow the collar to engage.

Synchros Do play a part in this, but it doesn't mean these parts are failing. new transmission fluid may help dramatically here. I absolutely Love penzoil synchromesh. I spell that L O V E.

to test this theory, bring the car up to speed around 30mph. don't hit your brakes. get off the gas, push in the clutch and try to ease it in 1st or second. Hold easy pressure in the position for a few seconds and see if it eventually plops in. if so, then new tranny fluid will probably help. you will need a 17mm allen wrench (12$ at sears) to drain it, and I suggest filling it through the speedo hole with a funnel with a long hose on it. 2 bottles and your done.

if you have trouble finding first and second while braking, the problem could yet again be a blown motor mount(probably front or rear) that is allowing the engine to tip forward, changing the geometry of the shift linkage. this would make it so when you tried for first the shifter cant reach over far enough to find it, so you would be trying to put it in gear between first and 3rd.

Addendum #1:

second gear grind is very common in these. it happens when the second gear synchro starts to wear a bit and the transmission fluid is old, contaminated, or the wrong stuff. Replace the tranny fluid and the problem almost allways goes away. if it doesnt, then you can pull your tranny apart and replace a synchro. not hard to do if you follow brokes guide at

Addendum #2:

If your transmission pops out of fifth gear during highway driving and stuff, then its highly likely that your transmission fluid is low and you the fifth gear is not getting lubricated. the frictional forces alone can cause it to pop out of gear, so if you catch it early enough you can just top off the fluid and save the tranny from any real damage. If however its been doing this for a while then you might have serious problems with the needle bearing cage in the fifth gear melting out and causing all sorts of hell. So cross your fingers, drain the old fluid through a filter and inspect it for metal and plastic chips. add 2 bottles of Penzoil Synchromesh and take it for a highway drive. if it stays in fifth gear you are safe.

with one caveat: if your running low on fluid, your transmission has a leak. it will continue to leak if you don't fix it. so read Brokes page and learn about replacing the seals.

I once had an input shaft seal blow on my tranny while leaving on a 60 mile (round) trip. at first I was hearing a high pitched whistle coming from the engine bay and within the first 30 miles it started to pop out of fifth. on the way back it was popping out of fourth too. by the time I got home I was actually having to hold it in fourth gear... When I pulled the transmission apart I was lucky enough to find the bearings intact. replaced the seal and filled it up, good to go.

Please forgive me for being so wordy. I 'm just trying to be thorough.

Appendix A: