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Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy
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joescoolcustoms
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 12:14 pm    Post subject: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

I see this question a lot on here and facebook, "how do you shorten a shift rod?"
Instead of adding this to my build thread, I decided to make a separate thread for just this topic. As I usually state, this is not the only way to do this task, there are several ways to do it. But like those favorite Tee Shirts, favorite old TV show, best Pizza Joint, this is the way I like to do it.

To start with, do you actually know how all this stuff works? The best place to start is at the beginning. Once you know the parts involved, no matter your method, it is easier to understand what ALL needs to be done.

The shifter bolts down to the tunnel, and everything below it is a mystery. I move the stick thing in some sort of a pattern and release the clutch and hopefully the buggy goes, if I can keep the engine running. Some buggies feel like it is a stick in a bucket of water I am stirring.

There is a shift rod that is hung in the tunnel right below the shifter and it runs to the rear and hooks up to the transaxle. This shift rod transfers the shifter movement in exactly the opposite direction you moved the shifter in, and pulls/pushes the shift forks inside the trans. Since the leverage thing changes the big movement of the shifter on top to subtle movements on the trans nose cone, this shift rod needs to be spot on for nice and pleasant shifting to happen.

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What you are looking at above is a shifter bolted to a shift rod hanger plate I pulled out of a tunnel I was scrapping. If you look closely at the photos, the items to note, and the proper position of installation. The shift rod should be apparent, as the shifter. The white badminton birdie looking thingy is a teflon style shift rod bushing. Notice on it is a spring clip that keeps it tight around the shift rod. Most people do not even see the spring clip, and they are usually buried in grease at the head of the shift rod, hidden from view. If yours feels like a stick in a bucket of water while shifting, this worn bushing is likely the cause. And if you are trying to diagnose a poorly shifting transaxle that may/may not be popping out of gear, this needs to be in good shape to properly find your other issues. And if you are reading this because you are shortening a chassis, replace this bushing anyway, they are cheap. Very early chassis did not use this shift rod bushing, it is metal-to-metal. VW added this to help quiet down the interior of the vehicle, and to help tighten the shifting.

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Next in line is the shift rod coupler. It is located at the front of the transaxle, inside the tunnel, under the oval looking access cover plate. This is where the Squirrels store their acorns before you bought this chassis form the PO. In the photo above, you can see three different items. Two different couplers, and a adjustable coupler device. To note about the couplers, both the round and the squarish looking ones are stock style VW. the round unit is the early version, and the square one is about a '66 and later version. I personally like the older version because it is easier to service in that small hole with my big man-hands. I advise to stay away from the red square units as I have seen them crumble like the red steering rag joints, (another topic), and then you are stuck. The round units do wear out, but you can still somewhat shift and get home/help.

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The adjustable coupler welds into the shift rod, and can adjust both in length, and radially, (twist). So it can be fine tuned to shift just right. If you just cut and reweld the shift rod, if you get just a smidge off, it can cause shifting issues like raking gears, popping out of gear, not engaging all gears. This adjustment piece will allow fine tuning to get that length and radial position just right.

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There is three parts to this adjuster. A lock nut, the "hub" and the adjuster/coupler. In the above photo you can see the three parts, but more notably is the three black sharpie marks on the threaded portion. Those three marks represent the position of the hub when fully shortened, (right most mark), when fully lengthened, and enough threads left in the hub to have strength, (left most mark), and then the center mark represents the middle position that allows for adjustment either way. When measuring to cut the shift rod, I mock up the adjuster in that center position, so if I am off, I can shorten/lengthen as needed.

Now that you know the players in this game, time to lay the cards on the table and get it done.

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Lay the shift rod on the top of the tunnel, center the "cup" in the shifter hole. This is neutral position.

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Install the coupler of your choice, (Adjusters are made for either the late square or the early round couplers) on the transaxle shift rod stub inside the access hole, and also the adjuster centered in it's travel, as described above. Put the transaxle in neutral position too.

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Then transfer the measurement from the adjuster up to the shift rod tube. This is your cut line on the shift rod tube.

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Before cutting the shift rod tube, I drill holes in it to rosette weld the adjuster in place.. Then cut the tube.

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Then weld the shift rod tube to the adjuster. Be careful of the heat you use, so you do not burn through and weld the threaded portion to the hub. I liberally use antiseize on the threaded portion to help stop any thread seize from welding. Also, the hub has two opposing flat "wrench" spots so after you adjust the shifter, you can hold it and tighten the lock nut. I orient those flat spots vertical so as to get a wrench on later.

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Since the shift rod has to feed rear first through that bushing on the shift rod hanger below the shifter, the welds need smoothed so they slip through.

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Paint the shift rod and it is ready to install and adjust for a perfect shift.
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stevemariott
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 1:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Thanks so much for posting this. My buggy is all blown apart for some updates, and a new bushing / adjustable coupler is on my to-do list.
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2020 8:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Great tech post. Thank you!
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Busted Knuckle Garage
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 5:41 am    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Great post Joe. Thank you for taking the time to educate us novice builders.
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 9:01 am    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Good thread.

I'd add that the dog leg in the rod is meant to clear the tubes under the emergency brake. So if the shifter location is relocated farther aft on the tunnel, the rod needs to be shortened the same distance at its forward end in order to keep the dogleg in the same relative location. So the cup needs to be cut off, the rod shortened the distance the shifter was moved, then the cup welded back on in the same vertical orientation. This is a thread I showed how to move the shifter 5" closer to the driver https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=520044


Also

For initial set up after the rod is shortened rod with the adjuster installed, first assemble the shift rod into the tunnel with the cup located directly under the center of the shifter mount hole. Install the shift lever straight up. With the trans in neutral, assemble/connect the coupler and snug the lock nut. You should be very close to getting all gears equally. If further adjustment is required, make necessary side to side or fore-aft adjustments by loosening lock nut and turning threaded adjuster (don't relocate the shift lever!) Use Red Locktite on the adjuster and lock nut threads when you make the final adjustments

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Last edited by BL3Manx on Mon May 11, 2020 9:15 am; edited 3 times in total
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Rockbound
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 9:04 am    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

nice! should be a sticky
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Dale M.
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 11:25 am    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Technically I do pretty much same thing... I measure distance from divot in transaxle shift rod (hockey stick) to center of shifter opening in tunnel and mock up all the rod, and adjuster and coupler to get same dimension... Always be sure when locating the insert in rod that the wrench flats are VERTICAL as mentioned above...

The hole in shift rod to weld adjust in is good, but I just cut a couple of "V" notches in end of rod and braze adjuster body in.... In the end it all does same thing....

The real trick is getting rod back in tunnel..... To achieve that I extend rod forward with a piece of PVC pipe with a notch cut in it to cradle "elbow" and a little masking tape and I can cut it loose as tape passes opening for shifter....

Dale
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 12:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Dale M. wrote:

The real trick is getting rod back in tunnel..... To achieve that I extend rod forward with a piece of PVC pipe with a notch cut in it to cradle "elbow" and a little masking tape and I can cut it loose as tape passes opening for shifter....

Dale


Ha Ha! This reminds me of my 4th buggy. I bought it show winning "Ready to go" so I could have a buggy for MOTB while I was still working on Number 3 buggy. Turned out to be one of those PO nightmares, that I rebuilt everything including the transaxle on after MOTB.

Anyway, it had a rattle I could not find while at MOTB, like to drove me crazy. After getting home, and starting the rebuild so I could sell it, it needed a shift rod bushing. So out comes the shift rod. I found the rattle. The PO welded a small front torsion beam leaf spring to the forward surface of the shifter cup, to use in helping guide the shift rod home. Then left it there. That thing would wiggle side to side and rattle inside the tunnel.

We need another thread of PO hacks.
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 10:18 am    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Don't know if I missed it here, but when cutting a shift rod do you just cut the length from the back end only to shorten it?
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 5:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

mcdragracer wrote:
Don't know if I missed it here, but when cutting a shift rod do you just cut the length from the back end only to shorten it?


If you are either installing an adjustable shift rod end or are shortening the shift rod to fit a shortened chassis(for a buggy), yes just shorten the shift rod at the rear end.

However, if you have moved the gear shift lever aft on the tunnel (often done on buggies and kit cars with lower and farther aft seating), then you must cut off the cup, shorten the shift rod just behind the cup the same dimension you moved the shift lever mount on the tunnel and then reweld the cup.

Doing this keeps the bends in the shift rod in the same location relative to the underside of the emergency brake lever and cables. The bend is there to clear the cables.

dlyle recently showed how he did this on his Vokaro thread. https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=749557&start=160


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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 5:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

I'm doing this for a friend of mine, it's an early shift rod, and what they have in there now it looks like they have a universal joint that was welded on the end but we're doing kind of a complete restoration on this buggy and building the motor, and I've done this before way in the past when I worked at a v w shop I just don't remember anymore how I did it, but we're getting the adjuster to weld on the end he did get a brand new shift rod from Wolfsburg West but I think I'm going to use the original shift rod that's in the buggy now cut the end off and weld the adjuster on the end, I just didn't remember if I had to cut a section out or if I could just cut the end of the shift rod and weld the adapter piece in
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 6:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

I used an aftermarket shift rod that is totally straight, it shifts fine
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Last edited by sailtexas186548 on Tue May 11, 2021 10:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 7:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

Good to know, I was hoping it wasn't too critical, I've done a few of these over 20 years ago, well I've got a new shift rod in case I screw the one that's inside the tunnel up LOL
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 8:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Shortening a shift rod for a Dune Buggy Reply with quote

If you use the newer style connector it will act like a universal joint and when you cut the back off the shift rod it will still align nicely.
You can angle the connection down slightly without putting it in a bind.
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