Volkswagen Transaxle

 

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Volkswagen Transaxle

 

 


The VW transaxle is/was an incredible invention.  It allows for independent suspension for all four wheels and works well with the the low output aircooled VW powerplants.  The stock VW transaxles are able to take a lot of abuse and can be built to withstand high horsepower and heavy off road abuse.  But for those that wish to run higher output engines, larger tires and/or plan on abusing their auto off road, there are transmission upgrades available and strong enough for these needs.

 

 

Synthetic Gear Oil

Run it!  There is really no drawback to using synthetic gear oil in your transmission.  It provides better lubrication, provides a slight increase in fuel efficiency, helps easy shifting and makes cold starts much easier.  If you have a new transmission, you should wait about 6000 miles before using synthetic oil to allow for a proper break in.

 

 

Stock VW Transmissions

Type I (Sedan (Beetle or Bug) or Karmann Ghia) & III

6v Swing Axle Trans

 

12v Swing Axle Trans

 

Early IRS Trans ('69 - 70)

4.12 R&P

Late IRS Trans ('71 - 72)

3.88 R&P; 72 is a transitional year, use with 38 tooth 1st gear; two side covers

Late IRS Trans ('73 - Later)

includes late 72, use with a 34 tooth 1st gear; one side cover; 002 Bus type gears

 

Type II (Transporter, Pick-up, Crew Cab, or Bus)

6v Swing Trans Early Bus

 

12v Swing Trans Early Bus

 
Early 68 002 IRS Bus 3 Rib; narrow case and early gearset design; easy to recognize because it has acorn nuts around the drive flanges; weak transmission; limited parts availability; prior to 11/68

'68 - 70 002 IRS Bus Trans

3 Rib; called a 113 type Bus trans; starting 11/68

'71 only 002 IRS Bus

3 Rib; later 1971+ transmissions use a guide around the impeller shaft to align the throw-out bearing and therefore require a different pressure plate than earlier 71 and before transmissions.

'72 - 74 002 IRS Bus

3 Rib
1973-75 automatic 4.45:1 final-drive ratio

'74-75 002 IRS Bus Trans

5 Rib; aka pyramid case

'76 - 79 091 IRS Bus Trans

6 Rib; 4.56 R&P; considered to be the strongest stock VW transmission

'80 - 82 091 Vanagon

Aircoolled engine; Side Shift Vanagons with the T4 engine; Essentially the same as the Bus 091 and can be converted to nose shift

'83 - Later Vanagon

Waterboxer engine; Mid Shift Vanagons; cannot be converted to nose shift
094 Synchro 4x4 Rare in USA

 

Three-Rib Transmission - Early style of Type II Bus transmission used from about 1968-’73 - 3 Rib; 5.38 (Also 5.42, but it is pretty rare) R&P; no mounting ears on top of the bellhousing

 

Five-Rib Transmission - Type II transmission made from 1974-’75 - 5-Ribs; 4.86 R&P

 

A Type I Trans uses the same gearset as the 3 rib and 5 rib Type II trans so they can be built to handle about 160/200HP however they only have a 6" ring gear (its weak link).  The Type II Trans is preferred because it has a 8" ring gear.

 

The Type II 6 rib transmission is said to be able to handle 300 horsepower.

 

The Type I Trans can be used for mid engine applications by flipping the ring gear and the Type II Trans cannot. You can flip the Type II  trans upside down for a mid engine configuration, but you will need to make a few modifications for this application to work.

 

Transmission Glossary

Term Definition

002 differential

The type of differential used in Three- and Five-rib Bus transmissions.

091 differential

Considered heavier and stronger than a 002, this differential is used in late style Type II transmissions from 1976.

Anti Shocker

Device used to slow the travel of the clutch arm/pressure plate and to take the shock off of a transmission in drag race type starts.

Ball Bearings

Round bearings used in various places in VW transmissions.

Cone Washer

Concave washer used on mainshaft on early Type I transmissions and Three-rib Type II transmissions.

Coupler

Gear that couples the input shaft and mainshaft together in all VW transmissions. Also has external teeth to drive the reverse idler shaft.

CV bells

Output final drive flanges for constant velocity joints

CV joint

Constant velocity joint (see sidebar)

Detent balls

Used to hold shift rails in position

End Gears

Sometimes called axle gears, these are the outer gears in the differential.

Five-Rib Transmission

Type II transmission made from 1974-’75

Flanges

See CV bells

Four-Bolt Housing

Early type of transmission case used in Type I transmissions.

Gear Carrier Housing

Sometimes called intermediate housing. This is the next section of a VW transmission behind the nose cone.

Gear Ratios

Driven gear divided by drive gear. Example: First gear is 10 tooth drive and 38 driven. Divide 38 by 10 to equal 3.80

Gear Selector

 The main shift fork some times called a “hockey stick.”

Guide Tube

Tube for the throw-out bearing to ride on. Used in various VW transmissions

Hydraulic Slave Cylinders

Clutch actuating cylinder used with a clutch master cylinder to release the clutch and pressure plate

Input Shaft

 Splined shaft that the center of the clutch disc rides on and is the first input shaft of a VW transmission

Input Shaft Coupler Gear

See Coupler Gear

Intermediate Housing

See Gear Carrier Housing

IRS

Independent Rear Suspension The type of suspension and transmission VW used from 1970 up. Before that VW used a Swingaxle suspension and transmission.

Mainshaft

Top shaft in a VW transmission. Contains half of the 1st-4th gearset.

Needle Bearings

Long small bearings used in various places in VW transmissions.

Nosecone

The front or first section of a VW transmission which contains the main shift fork, sometimes called a “hockey stick”

Operating Sleeves

Round rings with teeth on the inside and are what is shifted when you go into any forward gears.

One-Ringed Side Cover

A IRS transmission with one ring cast into the outside of the differential cover.

One-Sided Case

AIRS transmission case that only has one unboltable side cover. The early ones had two.

Output Flanges

See CV bells

Output Splines

The splines that the CV bells go onto.

Pinion

One half of a gearset. The “ring” gear is the other half. This is the final drive of a VW transmission.

Pinion Depth

Distance of the pinion into the ring gear in the final drive section.

Pinion Shaft

Bottom shaft in a VW transmission. Contains the other half of the gearset, plus the pinion gear for the final drive.

Pressure Plate

Mechanism that applies force to the clutch disc and flywheel to turn the input shaft of a transmission

Reduction Gearbox

Old-style Bus transmission that further reduced the final drive by having another set of gears next to the wheels. These outer sets of gears were in housings and called “gear reduction” boxes.

Reverse Gear Holder Setup

The fork that supports the reverse idler gear.

Rhino Case

Aftermarket braced Type I VW transmission case.

Ring and Pinion

Final drive set of gears used to lower the overall ratio of a transmission.

Six-Rib Transmission

Later style VW Type II transmission from 1976

Snap Rings

Used to keep bearings and gears from coming off of shafts

Spider Gears

The small set of gears in differential. They look somewhat like a spider, hence the name.

Swingaxle

Early type of suspension and transaxle VW used. Until about 1969

Three-Rib Transmission

Early style of Type II Bus transmission used from about 1968-’73

Throwout Bearing

Bearing that pushes in the pressure plate.

Transaxle

Term used for transmission and rear axle as one unit.

Two-Ringed Side Cover

IRS transmission side cover that has two rings cast into it.

Two-Sided Case

VW transmission Type I case that has two unboltable side covers. (all swingaxles and IRS up to 1973).

 

 

VW Transmission Codes

 

Type 1, 181 and 3w

Code Engine Mate Final Drive Model
AA 1200 4.375 From Chassis Number 0981810
AB 1300 4.375 Up to 1970
AC 1500 4.125 On some 1300 from 1971
AD 1200 4.375 Limited Slip Diff. (LSD)
AE 1300 4.375 With LSD
AF 1500 4.125 LSD to 1970
AG 1200 4.375 Used on Type 147
AH 1500 4.125 IRS from 1969
1600 4.125 1970-’71
AK 1500 3.875 Type 181 to 1970
1600 3.875 Type 181 from 1971
AL 1500 3.875 Type 181 with LSD to 1970
1600 3.875 Type 181 with IRS and LSD from 1971
AM 1300 4.375 Sedan and Vert from 1971
AN 1600 3.875 KG with IRS from 1971
AO 1300 3.875 KG from 1971
AP 1300 4.375 LSD from 1970-’71
AQ 1600 4.125 LSD from 1971-1972
AR 1600 3.875 KG with LSD from 1971
AS 1600 3.875 Type I from 1973
AT 1600 3.875 Type 1303 and Verts from 1973
AU 1600 3.875 Type 1303 with LSD from 1973
BA 1300/1500 4.375 Auto-stick from 1969-’70
BC 1300/1500 4.375 Auto-stick from 1969-’70 with LSD
BE 1600 4.125 Auto-stick from 1971-’72
BF 1600 4.125 Auto-stick from 1971-’72 with LSD
BG 1300 4.125 KG with auto-stick from 1971
BH 1300 4.125 KG with auto-stick from 1971 with LSD
BJ 1300 4.375 Auto-stick from 1971
BK 1300 4.375 Auto-stick from 1971 with LSD
DA 1500/1600 4.125 Type III SA to 1968
DB 1500/1600 4.125 Type III SA to 1968 with LSD
DC 1500/1600 4.125 Type III IRS from 1969
DD 1500/1600 4.125 Type III IRS from 1969 with LSD

 

 

Type 2

unless otherwise stated.

Codes

Model

Final Drive

Notes

AA 1200 4.375 From Chassis No 0 981 810  
AB 1300 4.375   Up to 8/70
AC 1500 4.125      also some 1300 from 8/70
AD 1200 4.375 Limited Slip Differential
AE 1300 4.375 Limited Slip Differential
AF 1500 4.125    Limited Slip Differential up to 8/70; also some 1300 from 8/70
AG 1200 4.375 Type 147 Fridolin
AH 1500 4.125      IRS from 8/68
  1600 4.125    8/69 – 8/72  
AK 1500 3.875 Type 181 up to 8/70
  1600 3.875 Type 181 from 8/70  
AL 1500 3.875 Type 181 with LSD up to 8/70  
AL 1600 3.875 Type 181 with LSD from 8/70  
AM 1300 4.375 Saloon and Cabrio from 8/70  
AN 1600 3.875 Karmann Ghia with IRS from 8/70  
AO 1600  4.125  Karmann Ghia from 8/70
AP 1300 4.375 LSD from 8/70  
AQ 1600 4.125 LSD 8/70 – 8/72  
AR 1600 3.875  Karmann Ghia with LSD from 8/70
AS 1600cc 3.875 From 3/72  
AT 1600 3.875 1303s and Cabrio from 3/72  
AU 1600 3.875 1303s and Cabrio from 3/72 with LSD  
BA 1300 / 1500 4.375 Semi Automatic from 8/68 – 8/70  
BC 1300 / 1500 4.375 Semi Automatic from 8/68 – 8/70 with LSD  
BE 1600 4.125    Semi Automatic from 8/70 – 8/71  
BF 1600 4.125    Semi Automatic from 8/70 – 8/71 with LSD  
BG 1600 4.125    Karmann Ghia Semi Automatic from 8/70  
BH 1300 4.125    Karmann Ghia Semi Automatic from 8/70 with LSD
BJ 1300 4.375 Semi Automatic from 8/70  
BK 1300 4.375 Semi Automatic from 8/70 with LSD  
BL 1600 4.125 Semi Auto
BK 1300 4.375 Semi Automatic from 8/70 with LSD  
DA 1500 /1600 4.125    Type 3 Swing-axle up to 8/68
DB 1500 /1600 4.125    Type 3 Swing-axle up to 8/68 with LSD  
DC 1500 /1600 4.125    Type 3 IRS from 8/68  
DD 1500 /1600 4.125    Type 3 IRS from 8/68 with IRS  

 

 

Common Transmission Modifications

Ring and Pinion - For optimal performance, it is very important to start with the correct Ring and Pinion ratio in your VW transmission. VW and Weddle ring and pinions are available for a variety of applications. While higher ratios are stronger than lower ratios and choosing a ring and pinion that is too high or too low will negatively impact optimal acceleration, power and speed.

 

Super Differential - The stock VW trans differential houses 2 spider gears. This design is suitable for low horsepower stock applications but it's easy to blow the spider gears when you add more horsepower. When a differential  grenades, it usually ruins the side gears as well as the ring and pinion, destroying your transmission in the process. A Superdif can be added to the transmission too allow it to house 4 spider gears, whcih dramatically increasing the differential's strength.

 

Mainshaft - This is cut from a single piece of steel and includes both 1st and 2nd gear. These gears are commonly modified to allow for a lower close ratio or high road gears.

 

3rd and 4th Gears - These gears are also commonly modified to allow for lower close ratio or high road gears.

 

Welded 3rd and 4th gears - This refers to welding the syncro cone to the gear.  The stock setup is only pressed on and will spin with greater horsepower applications.

 

 

Diagrams

Longenterprises

 

 

Aftermarket/Performance Transmissions

Rancho Performance Transaxles 1015 East Elm Avenue, Fullerton, California 92831

Mendeola

PBS Engineering

Albins Off Road Gear - Australia

Berg 5 Speed

Weddle Industries

 

Some of these are preferred over stock Type II transmissions as some are narrower and therefore allow for longer axles and improved CV angles.  They can also be made to handle a great deal more horsepower and abuse than a stock transmission.

 

 

References

The Samba - Bus 3-Rib Tranny into Bug

The Samba - Transmissions For Dummies

 

 

 


 

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