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Full write-up on converting Vanagon from auto to manual
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D Clymer
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 9:47 pm    Post subject: Full write-up on converting Vanagon from auto to manual Reply with quote

I've done this conversion and since it seems like this topic comes up on here from time to time, I thought it would be worthwhile to do a write-up describing the conversion.

I'm hoping this thread can be a useful resource for those considering converting a Vanagon to a 4 speed and does not become a big debate about which transmission is better. They both have their pros and cons.


CONVERTING AN AUTO VANAGON TO MANUAL

This conversion is definitely not beyond the abilities of a mechanically inclined individual to perform this conversion. If you have enough mechanical aptitude to understand and conceptualize the full transmission and clutch system in your van, you probably will have no problem doing this swap.

Much has been said about this swap being not worth it, and that someone wanting a 4 speed van should just sell theirs and buy one that is already manual. If your van is in typical condition and is not a unique model, then this is probably true. However, if you really want an Orly Blue 4 speed Carat or Multivan and are tired of looking for the few that exist, the conversion is worth your while. Or maybe you want to convert “Old Betsy” the 1983 ASI camper that was Dad’s beloved van and has now been willed to you. That’s definitely worth it.

The conversion is not really that hard. However, it is very important to make sure you get all the parts that are needed. When I did this conversion, I was amazed to find out that I couldn’t use the drive axles from the auto van, since the differential is offset on the auto trans. If I’d known that at the time, I would have included the drive axles in the package deal when I negotiated the overall price.

What I’ve tried to provide here is a definitive list of all the needed parts. I also made a short list of the items that need to be attended to in order to make your engine work with the manual transmission. I have followed each section with some notes/remarks that should help to make the picture more clear.

I. Main components needed from donor van:

• 4 speed manual transmission w/ front mount and slave cylinder
• Flywheel and clutch assembly
• Starter
• Right and left side drive axles
• Shift linkage
• Shifter assembly
• Clutch hydraulic line
• Pedal cluster with clutch master cylinder
• Wiring harness for reverse light switch
• Front lower dash trim panel w/o cutout for auto shifter console
• Front carpet without cutout for auto shifter console
• Rear coolant supply and return hoses
• Throttle cable w/ clevis pin for throttle body

Notes:
When shopping for this conversion, it’s best to find a whole donor van for $500, or at least make a deal with a salvage yard for a given sum for “all the conversion parts.” You can use any wasserboxer van from 83.5-91 for this conversion, but there were a few shift linkage refinements made in 1985 that I think make at least using the later linkage a worthwhile choice. The transmissions from the 83.5-85 are considered to be stronger and don’t have the concern of the 3rd gear selector hub failure. Ratio wise, there are a few minor numerical differences between early and late, but nothing that changes the basic gearing. They’re all geared too low.

Fitment of the basic components is pretty easy. Everything slides into place nicely. Probably my least favorite part of the job is fitting the (used and already contorted) clutch hydraulic line. It’s goes in better with the gas tank removed, but can be done with it in place. If you remove the tank, it’s a good time to replace the grommets for the crossover pipe.

The van wiring also has to be modified. The automatic van has the starter tied into a 12V circuit at the shifter console. This makes the van impossible to start if the lever is in gear. This is also where the reverse lights for the auto van are switched. The wiring from the 4 speed van needs to be retrofitted to eliminate the starter cutout and wiring needs to be extended to the rear for the manual trans reverse light switch.

The dash needs to come out to swap the pedal clusters. The hydraulic clutch master cylinder gets its fluid from the main brake fluid reservoir. There is a nipple ready to be cut open and attached to on the automatic reservoir. Also, there is a rubber grommet in the floorboard plugging the hole meant for the hydraulic line to pass through. With the dash out, it would be a good time to think about replacing the vent fan.

The main coolant hoses from the manual van are needed to eliminate the coolant loop for the automatic trans fluid cooler on the auto transmission. Keep the old auto hoses to sell/give to someone with an auto van. They are expensive new.

II. Some necessary detail changes for your engine:

• Add input shaft pilot bearing to the crank flange
• Mount flywheel and clutch assy to the crank flange.
• Change bottom two bell housing mount studs on engine case.

Notes:
The first time I did this, I forgot to fit a pilot bearing to the end of the crank flange. It’s nice not to have to pull the transmission a second time.

The bottom two transmission mounting studs are different between the automatic and manual vans. They need to be switched. At the time I did this, I just bought new studs from the VW parts department. At this point it might be easier to get the manual trans studs from a core engine at a salvage yard.

That’s about it. Let me know if you think I left anything out. I did this conversion back in 1993, so it’s been a while, but I think I’ve covered pretty much everything.

All the best,

David
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a good write-up David, thanks!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats right on!

Thanks bro. I have wondered about that project more than once. The camper I'm in the grease with right now is the first automatic I've owned. It is steady rollin, but get out in the woods and I'd prefer a clutch on the floor. 4 or 5 speeds just has more in common with a mans' joy in his driving too. It goes all the way back to rollin the big wheels in the pre-school years.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

New entry for the Sticky thread.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:39 am    Post subject: Re: Full write-up on converting Vanagon from auto to manual Reply with quote

D Clymer wrote:


The dash needs to come out to swap the pedal clusters. The hydraulic clutch master cylinder gets its fluid from the main brake fluid reservoir. There is a nipple ready to be cut open and attached to on the automatic reservoir. Also, there is a rubber grommet in the floorboard plugging the hole meant for the hydraulic line to pass through. With the dash out, it would be a good time to think about replacing the vent fan.



Hey nicely written! I can appreciate how much time it takes to edit something like that.

I had read that the pedal cluster/booster on a *manual* Vanagon can come out w/o removing the dash. Albeit a little tricky.

Am I wrong on this?

And.....

Can one remove the pedal cluster on the auto w/o removing the dash?

Not being critical of the write up, (I fully appreciate how much time it can take, and it is a thoughtful thing to do) but if either auto or manual cluster could be removed w/o taking off dash, I thought I'd toss that in there as it would save time for the swap. Smile

Neil.
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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 7:03 am    Post subject: Re: Full write-up on converting Vanagon from auto to manual Reply with quote

D Clymer wrote:


• Wiring harness for reverse light switch


The van wiring also has to be modified. The automatic van has the starter tied into a 12V circuit at the shifter console. This makes the van impossible to start if the lever is in gear. This is also where the reverse lights for the auto van are switched. The wiring from the 4 speed van needs to be retrofitted to eliminate the starter cutout and wiring needs to be extended to the rear for the manual trans reverse light switch.



I am in the process of converting my van to manual. So far, I have installed the pedal cluster, shifter, and shift linkage.

Can you elaborate a bit on the wiring procedure? From what I understand, I will be cutting out a section of the harness from the manual harness and splicing it into the automatic harness. Where do I begin on this? Where does the necessary manual portion of the harness begin and get cut? The wiring from the auto shifter is currently hanging below the van. Is this where the wiring would meet up with the manual portion?

Thanks,
Brian
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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only two items need to be done.
The first and most important is that the Auto has a feature that keeps the bus from being started unless it is in "park" (or alledgedly "neutral" but that never worked). You could trace the wires back to the source, or you could just connect them under the bus--the two larger wires that were in the shifter box.

The second is the back-up lights--these were activated by shifting into reverse by the switch in the shifter box, and will now need to be activated by the switch way back on the new tranny. You will need to run new wires back to the tranny for this. (Or there may be an esoteric harness trick for this, but this is the easy way as long as you don't mind running new wires under the bus. If you're doing this kind of swap you shouldn't Rolling Eyes )

If you don't want to drop the gas tank, here is an easy fix to adding the shift rod bushing above the tank:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

at least if you are using the early style linkage. This is cut from a nylon breadboard and goes at the rear gas tank bulkhead. IMHO it provides crisper shifting than the stock set-up.
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D Clymer
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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 11:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Full write-up on converting Vanagon from auto to manual Reply with quote

Brian556 wrote:


I am in the process of converting my van to manual. So far, I have installed the pedal cluster, shifter, and shift linkage.

Can you elaborate a bit on the wiring procedure? From what I understand, I will be cutting out a section of the harness from the manual harness and splicing it into the automatic harness. Where do I begin on this? Where does the necessary manual portion of the harness begin and get cut? The wiring from the auto shifter is currently hanging below the van. Is this where the wiring would meet up with the manual portion?

Thanks,
Brian


Hi Brian,

Back when I did my conversion I actually did exactly what Dr. No describes in the post above. I soldered together the large gauge wires from the auto shift starter cutout, heat shrinked them, and then zip tied the lead up above the spare tire. Then I ran two wires to the back of the van to the reverse switch. These wiring modifications worked well and didn't take long to do.

Ideally I had wanted to interface the factory manual transmission wiring into my automatic van for a completely correct conversion, but long story short, the donor van I was using for parts at a nearby wrecking yard got taken to the crusher before I could pull the wiring harness.

Glad to hear your conversion is going well. Your van will be like a totally different vehicle with some new positive attributes.

David
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Brian556
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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you guys for your help! As for now, everything is going as smooth as butter. (knock on wood).
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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 4:46 pm    Post subject: is there a 4 speed automatic i can use? Reply with quote

i have already read through some posts about the transmissions and well it seems as though i would have to convert her over to a manual and read the very convenient post on doing so ...

however i have already put many new parts into this almost completely rebuilt bus (aside from looks ... but another day another dollar, or several)

but i was hoping that someone knew of a 4 speed auto that i could put in her or just tell me to stop looking all together...

oh and also if anyone had some safe suggestions for increasing horsepower with out reducing engine life... not too much but it does seem as though it is a grossly underpowered motor for its size and i don't know what this motor is capable of handeling safely (the motor currently has zero miles on it other than us running it to make adjustments)

also if there are any thoughts on my plans to rip out every fuel line in the bus and replace with 7mm hose from bus depot (have read about many a fire and do not wish to be the victom of a burning bus, nor do i want the bus to burn)


well this is really about the transmission ... just thinking of other things at the moment .... when all is said and done i will post some before and afters of her... however that will probably be 2-3 years beforei can do the body work to make the photos worth posting... i am in pretty deep on her now and could have bought a new one, every time i fix something i find another problem.... but mechanically the only thing i have not replaced has been the tranny, so if anything is going to break thats it... so i am in the market

... poor neglected girl had many a rig job on her
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D Clymer
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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 5:07 pm    Post subject: Re: is there a 4 speed automatic i can use? Reply with quote

jpeekstok wrote:


but i was hoping that someone knew of a 4 speed auto that i could put in her or just tell me to stop looking all together...

oh and also if anyone had some safe suggestions for increasing horsepower with out reducing engine life... not too much but it does seem as though it is a grossly underpowered motor for its size and i don't know what this motor is capable of handeling safely (the motor currently has zero miles on it other than us running it to make adjustments)


Unfortunately, there is no 4 speed automatic that can easily be adapted to the Vanagon. Even though the 3 speed auto is shared with Audis and VW cars from the same period, the later 4 speed automatics share no common lineage with the older 3 speed. They don't bolt up to the final drive housing, and they're computer controlled. The only 4 speed automatic that would fit a Vanagon is from a 1990-1994 Porsche 911 - the original Tiptronic box. But that's way too exotic in both the price and availability categories. It would also be impossible to make work with the standard Vanagon engines since it is also computer controlled. I would say, stop looking.

However, I would highly recommend the manual transmission swap. It would give improved performance in a 1.9 westy, and change the status of your van from a slug to just merely leisurely. Since your auto tranny is still good, you could advertise it on Craigslist and get some of your conversion outlay back. There is a market for used Vanagon auto trannies. They are tough, but the seals can go bad, and the intercooler can fail, and these both lead to trans failure if not attended to right away.

In terms of increasing engine power, there isn't much you can do to a 1.9 without tearing it down. I think you'd find that the improved gearing of a manual trans would be a big enough improvement for the moment.

David
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thank you very much david for your responce... the motor i have already upgraded to a 2.1, the one from bus depot (or who ever they sub contract to, can not remember at the moment) ... has any one else used this motor from them and had great responce or problems (just a general ingury)

yeah about the auto/manual.... wish i had read the posts or at least had the thoughts of a conversion before installing new axles into her... as the auto has two different sizes and, as far as i know, the manuals axles are the same size... or can i use these... i need to go back and read the conversion again.... am i using the same final drive... if so would the axle sizes matter or does the whole unit have to be moved, just thinking aloud here...

thank you
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello all,

For those that have done the auto to manual conversion ..... could you look at this photo and give me a heads up on which wires to mod/extend to the manual trans reverse light switch .......

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


B/W and Brown run through a couple lights that illuminated the auto shifter console

Blue/W (molex con.) ??????

Please forgive me before you respond ........ I'm a wiring GENIUS Embarassed [/img]

Chris
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm at this same point. Anyone know which wires go where?
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:11 am    Post subject: WTB: Auto Trans Reply with quote

WTB: Auto Trans
If any of you Auto to Manual Trans converters
end up with a good used late model Automatic Trans
you want to sell
please P-mail me.
Thanks,
John
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Full write-up on converting Vanagon from auto to manual Reply with quote

D Clymer wrote:
I've done this conversion and since it seems like this topic comes up on here from time to time, I thought it would be worthwhile to do a write-up describing the conversion.

I'm hoping this thread can be a useful resource for those considering converting a Vanagon to a 4 speed and does not become a big debate about which transmission is better. They both have their pros and cons.


CONVERTING AN AUTO VANAGON TO MANUAL

This conversion is definitely not beyond the abilities of a mechanically inclined individual to perform this conversion. If you have enough mechanical aptitude to understand and conceptualize the full transmission and clutch system in your van, you probably will have no problem doing this swap.

Much has been said about this swap being not worth it, and that someone wanting a 4 speed van should just sell theirs and buy one that is already manual. If your van is in typical condition and is not a unique model, then this is probably true. However, if you really want an Orly Blue 4 speed Carat or Multivan and are tired of looking for the few that exist, the conversion is worth your while. Or maybe you want to convert “Old Betsy” the 1983 ASI camper that was Dad’s beloved van and has now been willed to you. That’s definitely worth it.

The conversion is not really that hard. However, it is very important to make sure you get all the parts that are needed. When I did this conversion, I was amazed to find out that I couldn’t use the drive axles from the auto van, since the differential is offset on the auto trans. If I’d known that at the time, I would have included the drive axles in the package deal when I negotiated the overall price.

What I’ve tried to provide here is a definitive list of all the needed parts. I also made a short list of the items that need to be attended to in order to make your engine work with the manual transmission. I have followed each section with some notes/remarks that should help to make the picture more clear.

I. Main components needed from donor van:

• 4 speed manual transmission w/ front mount and slave cylinder
• Flywheel and clutch assembly
• Starter
• Right and left side drive axles
• Shift linkage
• Shifter assembly
• Clutch hydraulic line
• Pedal cluster with clutch master cylinder
• Wiring harness for reverse light switch
• Front lower dash trim panel w/o cutout for auto shifter console
• Front carpet without cutout for auto shifter console
• Rear coolant supply and return hoses
• Throttle cable w/ clevis pin for throttle body

Notes:
When shopping for this conversion, it’s best to find a whole donor van for $500, or at least make a deal with a salvage yard for a given sum for “all the conversion parts.” You can use any wasserboxer van from 83.5-91 for this conversion, but there were a few shift linkage refinements made in 1985 that I think make at least using the later linkage a worthwhile choice. The transmissions from the 83.5-85 are considered to be stronger and don’t have the concern of the 3rd gear selector hub failure. Ratio wise, there are a few minor numerical differences between early and late, but nothing that changes the basic gearing. They’re all geared too low.

Fitment of the basic components is pretty easy. Everything slides into place nicely. Probably my least favorite part of the job is fitting the (used and already contorted) clutch hydraulic line. It’s goes in better with the gas tank removed, but can be done with it in place. If you remove the tank, it’s a good time to replace the grommets for the crossover pipe.

The van wiring also has to be modified. The automatic van has the starter tied into a 12V circuit at the shifter console. This makes the van impossible to start if the lever is in gear. This is also where the reverse lights for the auto van are switched. The wiring from the 4 speed van needs to be retrofitted to eliminate the starter cutout and wiring needs to be extended to the rear for the manual trans reverse light switch.

The dash needs to come out to swap the pedal clusters. The hydraulic clutch master cylinder gets its fluid from the main brake fluid reservoir. There is a nipple ready to be cut open and attached to on the automatic reservoir. Also, there is a rubber grommet in the floorboard plugging the hole meant for the hydraulic line to pass through. With the dash out, it would be a good time to think about replacing the vent fan.

The main coolant hoses from the manual van are needed to eliminate the coolant loop for the automatic trans fluid cooler on the auto transmission. Keep the old auto hoses to sell/give to someone with an auto van. They are expensive new.

II. Some necessary detail changes for your engine:

• Add input shaft pilot bearing to the crank flange
• Mount flywheel and clutch assy to the crank flange.
• Change bottom two bell housing mount studs on engine case.

Notes:
The first time I did this, I forgot to fit a pilot bearing to the end of the crank flange. It’s nice not to have to pull the transmission a second time.

The bottom two transmission mounting studs are different between the automatic and manual vans. They need to be switched. At the time I did this, I just bought new studs from the VW parts department. At this point it might be easier to get the manual trans studs from a core engine at a salvage yard.

That’s about it. Let me know if you think I left anything out. I did this conversion back in 1993, so it’s been a while, but I think I’ve covered pretty much everything.

All the best,

David
Quote:
What is an input shaft pilot bearing?
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luvcara13
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 4:12 pm    Post subject: manual to auto Reply with quote

How hard is it to do just the oposite? I cannot seem to find an affordable auto and thought about switching a manual to auto?
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can thank a guy named Mark for finding this on an Indiana CL and posting to the Yahoo Vanagon list this morning:

Found this surfing craigslist, located in Northwest Indiana. Includes auto tranny:
http://tippecanoe.craigslist.org/pts/2531600757.html
Mark K.

Good luck!

Stephen
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:42 am    Post subject: Re: manual to auto Reply with quote

luvcara13 wrote:
How hard is it to do just the oposite? I cannot seem to find an affordable auto and thought about switching a manual to auto?


I have a freshly rebuilt auto that I'd swap you Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

im just wondering if a manual from a 1.9 will mount up to a 2.1 engine? donor is 85 want to put in my 87
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