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Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff?
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VanagonVentures
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:37 pm    Post subject: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Hello,

I figured I'd see what you all think these sounds are. I drove our 87 Syncro in tight turns to identify concerning noises. I've been trying to figure out if our VC is shot. We've been stuck in snow and sand with our rear wheels spinning and our front doing nothing... I tried doing the test by lifting the rear and blocking the front wheels with 2x4's but my jack is undersized for this and when I heard a little clicking, decided to abort.
Thinking that our VC is shot and probably leaked into the differential (I read that was a thing), our front diff might be shot too!
Here is a video of our van doing tight turns in each direction both forward and reverse.
There is a loud tin-like rattle when going forward with the steering wheel turned all the way to the right. As soon as I turn the steering wheel back a little, the rattle stops. This does not happen in reverse or when turning left.
We also have a grinding noise coming from the transmission when reversing as you can hear in the end of the video (and in the part where I back up turning right).
Thoughts?


Link


I should add that our muffler has cracked and could be rattling. However it is very tightly connected to its brace with stainless hose clamps and if it were to rattle, it's weird it would only rattle on tight right turns.

Other info: We bought the van 2 years ago and have put about 5,000 miles on it. No drivetrain issues that I can report on except a potentially bad VC (not CV).
No clue about when the last transmission oil change or differential oil changes were done but those are on my list to do ASAP. As I'm learning more and more about mechanics, I realize I should've done that first thing but here we go.
The van had a broken odometer stuck at 275,000 miles when we purchased it. No idea about the tranny history. The motor was already a Subaru EJ22 which needed headgaskets replaced. We ended up having it rebuilt completely. The odometer works again by the way.

UPDATE: The first rattle was the front left dust shield for the disk brakes. I could push it with my finger from inside the wheel, and it'd touch the disk. I just reached in there and pulled it as much as I could trying to bend the metal a little. It seemed to work and tight right turns don't rattle anymore.


Last edited by VanagonVentures on Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:50 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Steve M.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

I'm thinking a bad CV joint, hopefully an inner one.
But I really can't tell anything from the sounds in the video.
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Last edited by Steve M. on Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

The loud tinny rattle sound in the first part going forward turning right is no big deal. Sounds like a brake dust shield or something external to the drive train. Not a differential or VC sound or issue. I'm pretty solid on that but interested in other's takes.

The lower frequency growling sound when you back up and let off the gas definitely sounds like a gear issue in the transaxle at the rear. Not sure if its critical or just symptomatic of a 30 year old vehicle in reverse where a lot of trannies make noise. Whether its an issue or just normal would depend on a lot of things.

But I am fairly confident the tinny rattly sound is simply something small that can be fixed by tweaking a thin sheetmetal bit with pliers or securing it.

Any input on last time the transaxle fluid was changed, total miles or other useful stuff would help the experts here.
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VanagonVentures
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

Steve M. wrote:
I'm thinking a bad CV joint, hopefully an inner one.
But I really can't tell anything from the sounds in the video.


Thanks for the input. I'm pretty sure it's not a bad CV joint. We've had those checked a couple times and had all 4 rear CV joints replaced with 944's a little over 1000 miles ago. All CV boots look clean and uncracked and I haven't seen any sign of CV issues so far.
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VanagonVentures
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

IdahoDoug wrote:
The loud tinny rattle sound in the first part going forward turning right is no big deal. Sounds like a brake dust shield or something external to the drive train. Not a differential or VC sound or issue. I'm pretty solid on that but interested in other's takes.

The lower frequency growling sound when you back up and let off the gas definitely sounds like a gear issue in the transaxle at the rear. Not sure if its critical or just symptomatic of a 30 year old vehicle in reverse where a lot of trannies make noise. Whether its an issue or just normal would depend on a lot of things.

But I am fairly confident the tinny rattly sound is simply something small that can be fixed by tweaking a thin sheetmetal bit with pliers or securing it.

Any input on last time the transaxle fluid was changed, total miles or other useful stuff would help the experts here.


Thanks. That's encouraging and definitely something I hadn't thought about. I'll have to check tomorrow to see if any metal rattles in there. As far as reverse gear, I've heard people say that some older cars do whine in reverse. But yeah, I'm suspecting that our tranny will need a rebuild sooner than later.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:06 am    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

Syncro has helical cut reverse gears, they are quiet and don't whine like straight-cut reverse gears (of some other vehicles).....

Basically "reverse and granny" are "sort of identical" on a Syncro. So compare these two gears, they should sound similar. But the problem could make granny whine too. Your reverse gear sounds like a straight cut gear but it's helical, which should be quiet. That's probably because a bearing is way worn out and the gears have separated off their designed (quiet) tooth contact path. (sorry). I'm going to guess it's the shaft on the smaller gear that's loose. Which suggests the mainshaft bearing is loose (worn out).

It's time to check your drain magnet. Almost any problem that makes noise, will produce an afro on the magnet. Anything that generates an afro on the magnet is worrisome and is grounds to discuss whether that trans needs to be 'stopped' before significant future life is deleted from valuable "No Longer Available" NLA Syncro parts.

Front R&Ps last a long, long time. Front receives less than half of the engine power, PLUS they don't have to operate in the metal barf produced by the transmission (mostly from gear shifting) that rear transaxles run in for tens of thousands of miles (if the owner follows the VW's 'vehicle care' instructions as most people would). Consequently the front R&Ps last a long long time. Your rear could last that long too if run in clean lubricant like the front.

It sounds like your VC is dead though. If your lubricant has been degraded to "some fluid" by mixing with VC goop, it's lubricity has likely been compromised but at least its not a "grinding paste". If the VC is dead, it has not been putting any power through your 'poorly lubricated" front diff, a blessing of sorts. A front "fluid check" and "magnet check" will tell you "something".

Your van doesn't have a "decoupler", right?
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

Sodo wrote:
Syncro has helical cut reverse gears, they are quiet and don't whine like straight-cut reverse gears (of some other vehicles).....

Basically "reverse and granny" are "sort of identical" on a Syncro. So compare these two gears, they should sound similar. But the problem could make granny whine too. Your reverse gear sounds like a straight cut gear but it's helical, which should be quiet. That's probably because a bearing is way worn out and the gears have separated off their designed (quiet) tooth contact path. (sorry). I'm going to guess it's the shaft on the smaller gear that's loose. Which suggests the mainshaft bearing is loose (worn out).

It's time to check your drain magnet. Almost any problem that makes noise, will produce an afro on the magnet. Anything that generates an afro on the magnet is worrisome and is grounds to discuss whether that trans needs to be 'stopped' before significant future life is deleted from valuable "No Longer Available" NLA Syncro parts.

Front R&Ps last a long, long time. Front receives less than half of the engine power, PLUS they don't have to operate in the metal barf produced by the transmission (mostly from gear shifting) that rear transaxles run in for tens of thousands of miles (if the owner follows the VW's 'vehicle care' instructions as most people would). Consequently the front R&Ps last a long long time. Your rear could last that long too if run in clean lubricant like the front.

It sounds like your VC is dead though. If your lubricant has been degraded to "some fluid" by mixing with VC goop, it's lubricity has likely been compromised but at least its not a "grinding paste". If the VC is dead, it has not been putting any power through your 'poorly lubricated" front diff, a blessing of sorts. A front "fluid check" and "magnet check" will tell you "something".

Your van doesn't have a "decoupler", right?


Thanks for the info. We've been considering the option of dropping the transmission and bringing to Bend to German Transaxle. The oil change I'll try to do next week will make that decision easier I'm sure!

That's encouraging for the front diff. I have the opportunity to get a front diff + VC taken out of a running syncro for $600. There is no telling if the VC is shot or not (it might actually be locking), but from what I'm learning, it's safe to assume the front diff on that thing would be OK. I have no idea either if $600 is fair for that, or if I even need it!

Our van does NOT have a decoupler, though it might be the next upgrade... maybe. We do have rear locks.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

Very fair price for a front diff, even if the VC requires a rebuild. (German does most of the VC rebuilds you see advertised at various retailers.)
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro drivetrain rattle grinding noise. Bad VC & front diff? Reply with quote

gears wrote:
Very fair price for a front diff, even if the VC requires a rebuild. (German does most of the VC rebuilds you see advertised at various retailers.)


Thanks for the input. We might go ahead and jump on that. I wonder if it's $600 + core, I'll have to ask. I doubt it since it's not rebuilt.

Our front differential felt like it was good when both front wheels were up in the air. They spun easily in opposite directions. I could see the drive shaft coming from the back starting to turn but since the rear wheels were on the ground, the shaft stayed put, and I assume the VC too and therefore the other front wheel turned in opposite direction.

If our VC is shot but our front differential is good (though lubricant from both might be mixed), is it still worth it for a $600 unknown front diff?

IdahoDoug wrote:
The loud tinny rattle sound in the first part going forward turning right is no big deal. Sounds like a brake dust shield or something external to the drive train. Not a differential or VC sound or issue. I'm pretty solid on that but interested in other's takes.


On another note, I have some good news! The first rattle was the front left dust shield for the disk brakes. I could push it with my finger from inside the wheel, and it'd touch the disk. I just reached in there and pulled it as much as I could trying to bend the metal a little. It seemed to work and tight right turns don't rattle anymore. Thank you so much for the input!

However, while fishing under there, I noticed that the driver side boot of the steering rack was yawning quite a bit! Should I be worried about this and try to fix it ASAP? I have no idea how long it's been like that.

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


Now onto chasing the other noises.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

If you check your front diff fluid level and its over full, feels like honey but smells like rotten eggs your VC has dumped all its silicon fluid into the diff. You can change out the VC by itself, in the rig but understand that the gear oil has been compromised and you probably also have bearing issues. If you'd like some more info and options feel free to give us a call.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

gtainc wrote:
If you check your front diff fluid level and its over full, feels like honey but smells like rotten eggs your VC has dumped all its silicon fluid into the diff. You can change out the VC by itself, in the rig but understand that the gear oil has been compromised and you probably also have bearing issues. If you'd like some more info and options feel free to give us a call.


Hey, are you German Transaxle? Awesome.

We are definitely considering dropping our transmission before things get too nasty and bringing it over to you at some point. We're based in Portland so the road trip isn't too involved. I guess if you rebuild transmissions you also work on VC's and front differentials.

I had already planned on calling you once I got the chance to look at the oil in our transaxle.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:07 am    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Yes, this is German Transaxle. Give us a call anytime and we can go over options and pricing for both units. I will want to know your tire height in inches, what motor and a bunch more details to fine tune this transaxle to your specific needs and driving style. Hope to speak with you soon.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 5:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Well, I finally got around to draining the oil and I have no idea what to think about it.
The first thing that was odd was seeing how the drain plug was sticking out (notice the tool marks too). In the photo below, I had not tried loosening the plug yet (it was very tight).

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

The space between the exhaust manifold (of our EJ22) and the drain plug made it impossible to use a 17mm allen socket. After trying to weld an M10 nut to a piece of metal and findout out I'm no good at welding, I found a 7/16 rod coupling nut and cut it to 3/4". It fit perfectly inside the drain plug and removal was a breeze (I had already made sure I could remove the fill plug).

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

Once loosened, I pulled the drain plug out and found out that there is no long magnet on this drain plug as I expected from this syncro transmission. Is this normal?

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

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

Therefore I have no idea if we had metal chunks floating around in there. I didn't think about sifting through the oil until it was all drained. I might try to pour it through a strainer to see if anything obvious gets stuck. The oil poured out somewhat golden and shiny. It was hard to capture in a photo, but it looked like metallic paint.

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

I'm not too sure what to make of this. I have 5 quarts of Valvoline Synthetic 75W80 I'm getting ready to pour back in but I might want to chase a magnetic drain plug first. Ideally I'd put Swepco 210 but couldn't get any in time before this weekend (we have a short trip we're trying to make with the van).

Anyhow, here's another shot of the tool marks on the drain plug.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 6:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Looks like someone removed it with vice grips or a pipe wrench at one time in the past.

That gear oil is very nasty. Bad things have been happening in that trans... Sad
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 6:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Vice grips when someone did not have the correct tool. I see red silicone on the bell housing seam. That is not factory. Metal Dustin the oil is signs of something coming apart. I'd not drive it if you are home. Clean lube isn't going to save anything. These are very expensive transaxles to chance a big failure. A simple refresh might get you back on the road. The red silicone and a drain plug with no magnet make me suspect of the unit.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 6:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Have that trans rebuilt, do not pass go, don't collect $200. That fluid says something is quite wrong.
The tranny drain is supposed to sit proud like that but it is supposed to have a magnet and not have vise grip marks on it from a bad PO or bad mechanic.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

syncrodoka wrote:
Have that trans rebuilt, do not pass go, don't collect $200. That fluid says something is quite wrong.
The tranny drain is supposed to sit proud like that but it is supposed to have a magnet and not have vise grip marks on it from a bad PO or bad mechanic.


MarkWard wrote:
Vice grips when someone did not have the correct tool. I see red silicone on the bell housing seam. That is not factory. Metal Dustin the oil is signs of something coming apart. I'd not drive it if you are home. Clean lube isn't going to save anything. These are very expensive transaxles to chance a big failure. A simple refresh might get you back on the road. The red silicone and a drain plug with no magnet make me suspect of the unit.


dobryan wrote:
Looks like someone removed it with vice grips or a pipe wrench at one time in the past.

That gear oil is very nasty. Bad things have been happening in that trans... Sad


Dang... thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it! I'm no mechanic obviously but I've been suspecting all of this for a little while now.
This particular van has gone through quite a bit of customizations in its 300,000 miles +:
- Original engine -> EJ22
- Tintop -> Poptop
- EJ22 failure -> rebuilt EJ22 (failed/seized at the mechanics) -> another rebuilt EJ22!
- Rusty body -> full paint job

But I know nothing about the history of this transmission... I'm drafting an email to German Transaxle in Bend. Fortunately the van is home!
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:18 am    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

syncrodoka wrote:
The tranny drain is supposed to sit proud like that but it is supposed to have a magnet and not have vise grip marks on it from a bad PO or bad mechanic.


Prob has vise grip marks on it because of the EJ22 exhaust blocking hex access.

That someone elected to change trans lubricant even though they didn't have a special tool to fit a converted
van with exhaust blocking access, doesn't automatically mean they are bad PO/mechanic.
It could suggest they value clean lubricant ahead of an insulted drain plug.

At least they changed the oil.
Many Vanagon owners (prob 95% don't change their oil at all.
Vise grip marks could be a feather in his cap, actually putting this person in the upper echelon. Shocked

Perhaps over-optimism. More likely is what Syncrodoka wrote... Rolling Eyes

=================

OK now the pessimism.

This person put a drain plug back in that had the magnet broken off.
Or I wonder if that magnet broke off inside and is stuck somewhere inside that trans.
Or chewed up ----> and stuck ALL OVER inside that trans.

Maybe they needed to just get a plug in, get oil in, and intended to renew the plug (soon) and forgot.

Maybe the fluid was so full of metal they just decided to sell the van.

Maybe the plug was covered with shattered/chewed magnet.

Sorry for the doom and gloom.
If that magnet looked like everyone else's (completely covered with metal) I would still offer doom and gloom.
Only "clear space" on a magnet is good.
A fully covered magnet signifies this trans has been un-maintained for anywhere from 5,000 to 90,000 miles or more.
But yours doesn't even have a magnet to show if there was "clear space".

Your trans has to be rebuilt, for sure. But does it make any noise? If it happens to be "quiet", and your checkbook is not ready for a whippin'.....maybe give it one more chance. Fill it with $16 flaps oil. Put a new drain plug magnet in and drive it around, like 500 miles, getting it good and hot like an hour at freeway speeds. Then dump it out hot. This is a "flush" because that trans is certanily polluted. Then do $16 again as soon as you can tolerate. If the magnet comes out clean..... you can make some decisions to run it longer or get out the checkbook.

There is no lubricant that will heal your worn out bearings, but getting any abrasives out sooner will let it run some more miles. Be careful putting in $70 oil,
you're better off using 4 batches of clean FLAPS oil for $64.

Keep aware that the longer you run this old trans, the old parts are letting loose metal trash, polluting the lubricant, more and more all the time, and sooner all the time. Your oil change intervals need to be shorter each time. Oil with metal dust in it deletes future miles from very expensive parts. No rocket scientology here, this is all obvious (but not very popular).

If going under the van is not difficult (for you) this might be a doable option for this tranny's last gasp.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 12:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Bummer! Wish it was a question when me and kim walked by your place a few weeks ago. Would have been nice to hear it in person!
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Syncro rattle grinding whine noise. Bad VC, transaxle, diff? Reply with quote

Sodo wrote:
syncrodoka wrote:
The tranny drain is supposed to sit proud like that but it is supposed to have a magnet and not have vise grip marks on it from a bad PO or bad mechanic.


Prob has vise grip marks on it because of the EJ22 exhaust blocking hex access.

That someone elected to change trans lubricant even though they didn't have a special tool to fit a converted
van with exhaust blocking access, doesn't automatically mean they are bad PO/mechanic.
It could suggest they value clean lubricant ahead of an insulted drain plug.

At least they changed the oil.
Many Vanagon owners (prob 95% don't change their oil at all.
Vise grip marks could be a feather in his cap, actually putting this person in the upper echelon. Shocked

Perhaps over-optimism. More likely is what Syncrodoka wrote... Rolling Eyes

=================

OK now the pessimism.

This person put a drain plug back in that had the magnet broken off.
Or I wonder if that magnet broke off inside and is stuck somewhere inside that trans.
Or chewed up ----> and stuck ALL OVER inside that trans.

Maybe they needed to just get a plug in, get oil in, and intended to renew the plug (soon) and forgot.

Maybe the fluid was so full of metal they just decided to sell the van.

Maybe the plug was covered with shattered/chewed magnet.

Sorry for the doom and gloom.
If that magnet looked like everyone else's (completely covered with metal) I would still offer doom and gloom.
Only "clear space" on a magnet is good.
A fully covered magnet signifies this trans has been un-maintained for anywhere from 5,000 to 90,000 miles or more.
But yours doesn't even have a magnet to show if there was "clear space".

Your trans has to be rebuilt, for sure. But does it make any noise? If it happens to be "quiet", and your checkbook is not ready for a whippin'.....maybe give it one more chance. Fill it with $16 flaps oil. Put a new drain plug magnet in and drive it around, like 500 miles, getting it good and hot like an hour at freeway speeds. Then dump it out hot. This is a "flush" because that trans is certanily polluted. Then do $16 again as soon as you can tolerate. If the magnet comes out clean..... you can make some decisions to run it longer or get out the checkbook.

There is no lubricant that will heal your worn out bearings, but getting any abrasives out sooner will let it run some more miles. Be careful putting in $70 oil,
you're better off using 4 batches of clean FLAPS oil for $64.

Keep aware that the longer you run this old trans, the old parts are letting loose metal trash, polluting the lubricant, more and more all the time, and sooner all the time. Your oil change intervals need to be shorter each time. Oil with metal dust in it deletes future miles from very expensive parts. No rocket scientology here, this is all obvious (but not very popular).

If going under the van is not difficult (for you) this might be a doable option for this tranny's last gasp.


Thanks for the detailed tips! Honestly we were aware that we'd probably be due for a transmission rebuild sooner than later... we just wished it was a wee-bit more on the "later" side than the "sooner" one! At this point the van is home, the transmission was drained while it was still driving (more or less) fine, the drained oil shows signs of serious wear, our VC is shot and the weather is dreary... Even if we weren't planning for this $$$ expense to happen so soon, it might be worth just giving the van a break and dropping that transmission/front differential for some well deserved TLC.
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