View original topic: Changing Winston's Gearbox/Transaxle Oil Page: 1, 2, 3  Next
msinabottle Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:15 pm

Dear Friends,

Well, as has been pointed out, there's still two of Winston's fluids--he being a manual 1.9 Gas Westy--that I haven't changed, those being the brake fluid and the gearbox/transaxle oil. I'm going to build one of those brake overpressure pumps for the former, a spare master cylinder cap just arrived today.

All right--I've had the devil's own time trying to find out HOW to change the transaxle oil. The Haynes at least tells me that there is a plug, and that I should fill to it, or just below it, and shows a picture... The Bentley gives the Spec for the oil, 80W Hypoid GL4, 3L capacity changing since you can't get out the last 1.5L... But the Haynes didn't tell me where the gearbox drain plug is, and it didn't even say where the picture they showed was taken!

There is this site:

And that's something... Mind you, when I crawled under Winston today to spray WD-40 on the drain plug and the fill plug pending the swap, I couldn't find either due to the THICK layer of oily greasy dirt all over the entire assembly. The P.O. seems to have taken Winston far over dirt roads. I'll drive him, spray those parts with engine cleaner, and take him down to the manual car wash for a thorough hosing.

Then maybe I'll find those plugs. I bought 4L of NAPA Premium Gear Oil, which I may have to take back... The Westfalia owner's site is QUITE emphatic on using GL-4 gear lubricant, NOT GL-5, which apparently does bad things to the bronze fittings inside the Vanagon transaxle. NAPA's specs said their Premium Gear Lubricant = Valvoline 80W gear oil would serve for Winston, 'services GL 3 4 5.' I admit to nervousness. They also had Sta-Lube, perhaps that was GL-4, I didn't find it at Wal-Mart or a very good local parts store.

Comments welcome, advice adored.


Miguel Arroyo Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:45 pm

Make sure you first locate the fill plug (on the side of the transmission) and you remove it before you remove the drain plug. The last thing you want to do is partially drain the fluid and not be able to fill it because the fill plug will not bulge.

I have gad great service with the synthetic gear oil. Specifically I use Mobil 1. Good luck.

Karl Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:55 pm

GL 3, 4, 5 is wrong. Take it back. You want GL 4 ONLY.
GL 5 does NOT and NEVER will replace GL 4. GL 5 w/MT1 is NOT a replacement either. MT1 additive is for NON synchronized transmissions.

NAPA carries GL 4 under the Sta-Lube brand.

Pennzoil makes GL 4 but is a little harder to find.

Dogpilot Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:33 pm

The filler is located convienently under the shifter mechanism on the side. The drain is just forward of the clutch housing. Definatly prove you can get the fill open before you drain. I sliced a small section off the 18mm giant allen wrench, so it fit in a socket. That way I could use the socket wrench. You will probably want one of the pump filler gizmos to do the filling with a bit of proper sized hose. You will most likely need some sort of pick to clean out the plugs prior to trying to insert the 18mm hex. Safety glasses are nice to keep the crud (pulverized road kill) out of your eyes.

I used Redline MTL (manual transmission lubricant). Great stuff, made shifting eaiser.


msinabottle Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:34 pm

All right... the NAPA goes back to NAPA, Pennzoil lists Pep Boys as a stocking dealer, and there are a few of those about... I'd love to use Amsoil or Red Line synthetic, but you can't, I'm told, often, mix synthetic oil and natural oil, and the Bentley says you can't drain the last 1.5L out of the transaxle. CAN you?

NAPA had the Sta-Lube, I suppose I'll end up with that...


Dogpilot Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:49 pm

I did, but I was putting on an unlocker, so I split the rear case.

When we change oil types in a turbine, we fill with the new oil, run, drain and fill again. This also does a nice clean out of the tranny to use the same technique. I did this on my old land rover gearboxes to get all the ancient lube out.


Miguel Arroyo Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:31 am

Dogpilot wrote: I did, but I was putting on an unlocker, so I split the rear case.

When we change oil types in a turbine, we fill with the new oil, run, drain and fill again. This also does a nice clean out of the tranny to use the same technique. I did this on my old land rover gearboxes to get all the ancient lube out.


LOL, I feel good I am not the only one that has done so.

levi Fri Nov 11, 2005 10:19 am's a 17mm hex, not 18, that you need.
I found a VERY steep location, nose up, and was able to drain the entire FOUR quarts, and replace with Redline mt-90.
The fill location is on the passenger side, and at any flaps you can get a manual quart-sized pump to get that stuff in there.
The drain plug has a magnet on it, so when unscrewing you can let it fall in the bucket and fish it out with a screwdriver.
Take a look at the magnet and see what has collected. A small amount a very fine particles is ok, bigger chunks not.
Take a look also at the oil that comes out. If it looks like a brassy color mixed in, you've got problems.

walrus Sat Nov 12, 2005 12:19 am

I used a section of garden hose just long enough to be outside the rear wheel to fill mine. I had my front up on ramps and seemed to get more drained than what is supposed to come out. You should also do this after driving it as the fluid is nice and warm.

msinabottle Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:37 am

There was also a fairly comprehensive post on the old 'Been There, Done That' board, which recommends jacking up the rear passenger side while cleaning and de-greasing the two plugs, then jacking up the front end, I might use ramps, pulling the drain plug, and waiting a lot... Like overnight. Then you can use a hose over the rear wheel to fill through the filler hole, they say it'll take 4+ quarts of lube. I guess I'll look for Amsoil or Redline Synthetic... BG also makes a product, but I don't think it's really GL-4.

Filler plug first! Further bulletins as events warrant, and my thanks for the information and help.

type3bandit Sat Nov 12, 2005 7:49 am

I bought a lube dispenser for a marine outdrive at WAL-MART ,in the boat section for 7 bucks. It just scews in the bottle of lube and in it goes. Also I always add a bottle of LUCUS oil stabilizer to my gearbox coctail.CASTROL AGRI MAX HD works very well for me. Good Luck!

Karl Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:31 am

Here is an interesting test of Lucas........

type3bandit Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:00 pm

Boy that WAS interesting! I am going to the parts store right now to get the supplies for my own experiment. I have never noticed any foam in any of my vehicles but you have got my interest so much I have to see for myself.

msinabottle Sun Nov 13, 2005 9:23 pm

Well, with great difficulty I got the old gear lubricant out of Winston... Had the devil's own time FINDING the fill plug, and then getting it out--the drain plug was easier--because yesterday we had a continuous strong, ICE COLD wind that blew anything lighter than a wrench out of my hands... Couldn't find a 17mm. hex key anywhere, so had to make a tool out of a bolt and two 17mm. nuts that kept slipping... Magnetic drain plug was a mess of filings, but all of them pretty fine, no sign of bronze in the fluid. I had to wedge an old pretzel can in place to keep the draining fluid from blowing all over Winston's underside.

He was drained by this morning! I got Winston up on ramps so he'd drain completely and bought Redline MTL synthetic to replace whatever had been in there. Got out about a gallon of thick, very black fluid. The MTL put up a horrible fight getting into him. Bought 4' of 1/2" tubing to gravity feed it in, got in about a quart and lost about a third of a quart when the hose fell out. Then I found an old suction pump of Dad's, probably never used... It shot the fluid into the filler hole with intense difficulty and with me having to crawl under Winston with a dripping hose each time. Had the gearbox filled and closed before I realized I still had him up on the ramps. I'd overfilled him!

I pushed Winston OFF of the ramps without starting him, then removed the fill plug and let it drain until it stopped drainining--you can let synthetic lube fill up to the bottom of the fill hole, or so I am told. As the MTL was about $9 a quart I wasn't too happy to have wasted so much of it, but I certainly got in at least 4 quarts!

I drove him after everything was put away, he shifted well enough! Once I had cinched in the fill plug again, I checked the antifreeze, which was down to 5 degrees freeze point. That wasn't good enough, so I siphoned the overflow tank empty and put in more neat Prestone, which should about finish THAT. I got horribly, horribly greasy and gunky and have just finished my bath.

Once again, I am very tired. Next mission--the brake fluid.

Miguel Arroyo Mon Nov 14, 2005 6:01 pm

Glad you were able to finish the job. Hopefully it will shift better too.

msinabottle Tue Nov 15, 2005 12:49 am

As always, thanks to everyone who offered advice. One of the reasons I've been writing things up in such detail is to help folk who, like myself, 'googled in.' We new guys have to start somewhere.

Weather forbids getting to the brake fluid purge just now--but, considering how I've been dropping things, spilling things, and generally having 'a time' of it, some time off won't hurt me.

I drove him for a nice little run to the Radio Shack and back for a watch battery--only killed him once at a stop sign trying to hurry. I am having a bit more trouble shifting with him, probably because I'm getting more confident and a bit less precise, accordingly. I need to practice on hills, etc. We did fill the LP tank on Saturday. Filler valve stuck, and they had to trip it with a screwdriver, that gets replaced as soon as the tank gets empty. Had some trouble lighting the stove, I'll check the connections and use a better lighter than I did. I did some maintenance and the GoWesty valve upgrade to the Dometic. I should see if I can get it to work, too.

I'm not as tired as I've been, but I'm going to bed.

Thanks again!

wyomingresident Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:02 pm

Getting ready to perform this myself. It has been ~4 years and ~25K on odometer.

My otherwise smooth as butter shifting has gotten jerky going into first and is sluggish overall. I did this before and it wasn't so bad. Even considering I never ran the tube out the wheel well. I clamped a tube right on the bottle tip and squeezed it in from below. It took forever.

I look forward to runnig a hose and doing it the easy way!

Should I hit the drain plugs with PB Blaster before starting the party?

Many thanks in advance to :

dhaavers Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:13 pm

Before the blaster, hit the plugs with a shot of brake cleaner.
You want to make sure all the gunk is out of the hole for your wrench;
plus the PB Blaster won't have to work it's way through all that extra crud.

PB Blaster is like the old joke about voting: "Do it early and often".
I usually spray the offending fastener several times, starting about
a week before any major wrenching like this. Couldn't hurt...

Git 'r done!

PS - That BTDT link was my bible for my first time at this. Good stuff!

Wildthings Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:58 pm

With 25K on the oil, why mess with it unless you have been fording streams and such. Quality oil will easily last many times that long.

Wiring brushing around the fill and drain plugs is a good idea.

Nuthin2It Sat Aug 24, 2013 3:02 pm

I have a 17 mm hex bit socket, but I can't get it to either transaxle plug on my 1985 1.9L. The shift linkage gets in the way of the fill plug and the drain plug is blocked by the exhaust pipe. To get the plugs off, I bought a 17 mm Allen wrench and cut about 3/4 off the end. This piece will fit into the plug with enough sticking out to get a 17 mm box end wrench on it (a ratcheting box end wrench would really be nice for this). The drain plug was so tight I couldn't get enough on it to get it loose. I put a small hydraulic bottle jack under the end of the wrench and jacked it up until it loosened the plug. Just be sure to check and double check to make sure you are turning it counterclockwise!

When I changed the fluid on our other car using a transfer pump, I spilled it all over the floor and myself. For this change I got a funnel and added a long piece of tubing to it so it goes above the rear tire and over to the transaxle fill hole. I mounted the funnel to a hole drilled into a piece of plywood and c-clamped the board to a ladder.

No spills!

The Bentley Manual says the fluid capacity for a 1985 model 4-speed manual transmission is 3.2 qt. This is less than the original capacity specified for the transaxle. The reason given for this is to reduce shifting effort (the decreased volume is somewhat controversial) . The fill hole was not moved when this change was made, however, so the new specification volume is actually 9/16 below the fill hole. To measure this level, I used a tip from the late Capt. Mike Soehnlein at I cut about 4 1/2 off a coat hanger wire and bent it at a 90 degree angle so one end is about 1 long. Then I measured this end 9/16 from the right angle and cut a notch with a file. To finish it off I bent a loop at the other end for a handle. To measure the level I put the end of the tool into the fill hole and hold it level. The fluid clings to the wire to show the level.

I tried to carefully measure the fluid I added to the transaxle. After adding 3.2 qts., I used the measuring tool; the fluid was barely on the end. I kept on adding fluid until the level was exactly 9/16 below the fill hole. It took 3.9 qts. I don't know why I had to add more than the spec, but since the only reason for adding less than originally specified by VW is to reduce shifting effort, I 'd rather have more than less in the transaxle.

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