Autostick (Semi-Automatic) to Standard manual transmission conversion process.
Well, I knew it would happen
someday. I didn't really expect it a week after I finally got
everything working right on the Bug, however. It started innocently
enough. Occasional clutch slipping, nothing too serious. Then one day,
very close to my house fortunately, it just wouldn't go. I limped home
very slowly. The time had come. I had been preparing for this for a
The cost of autostick clutch
parts are very high, two or three times that of standard clutch parts.
I knew that if I needed anything more than a simple clutch disk, I was
probably going to make the conversion to a 4-speed manual transmission.
Needless to say, I did. Between trading, and careful buying and
swapping, I was able to make the conversion for $150. Even buying all
new or rebuilt parts, I could have done it for $500. The cost to simply
repair the autostick and keep it were going to be around $250. The
choice was simple....convert.
A primary factor in the decision
making process was the long term effects. Over time, the autostick
would be more expensive. Also, many parts like the clutch servo or
control valve are either very expensive, or unavailable. Come to find
out too, the torque converter seal leaks a lot of the time, and I kind
of got sick of that. The semi-automatic transmission, in my
opinion, takes away from the very simplicity of the Beetle too, but in
use, and maintenance.
Okay, enough babble. Here is my picture-less, blow by blow account of
the conversion. Before you continue however, be sure you do what I
did.....read the conversion article at THIS SITE....twice.
It would also help to view both the Haynes and Bentley manuals beforehand, becoming familiar with
both the standard and semi-automatic transmissions.
Pull the engine. Nothing fancy. Don't get in a hurry or do anything
stupid. Just pull the engine the normal way. You can visit my Engine Page for a refresher course.
Now that the engine is out, remove the control valve, ATF Tank, vacumn
tank, all related hoses, and the clutch servo off the transmission. Bag
all this stuff up, clean it later. If you aren't able to sell it or
trade it for something, then GIVE it to some other Veedubber that has
an autostick. If you just junk the stuff, the VW Gods will come down
and enact justice on your engine in someway.
Use sheet metal or any other creative process you choose to cover up
all the extra holes in the engine compartment that the autostick parts
left. You will have four. One for the ATF fluid hoses you removed, one
for the vacumn line to the servo that you removed, one for the vacumn
tank nozzle that went to the control valve, and one to the ATF fluid
tank. You must not leave the holes unattended or you will hamper the
cooling ability of your engine.
Remove the bolts on the CV joints that connect the axles to the
transmission. This is a special socket, available at most auto parts
stores. You don't need to take them off on the side of the wheels. The
CVs will rest on the support frame of the chassis that holds the
tranny. If your CV boots are all cracked or cut and the CV joint is all
dried up, then this is a good time to service them. I wasn't going to
mess with the CVs at this time, so I slipped a baggie over the exposed
Now go inside the car, under the back seat where the shift-rod connects
to the transmission. Unscrew the setscrew, it has a square head on it.
Don't lose it.
Once it's loose, move your shifter into L1 or L3 (pull it toward
the back of the car). The resulting motion should pull the shift
coupler clear of the transmission. If for some reason the little spring
has remained connected to the
shift coupler after all these years, you might need to remove it. I
looks like a brake return spring.
Now, use your floor jack and a small piece of wood or something and
support the transmission. The two very large bolts on the ends of the
support frame are 27mm, take them off. Later, you can separate this
piece from the transmission. Now remove the two nuts that hold the
front of the transmission to the frame. On my car, these were 17mm.
Take note of the transmission ground strap that will be hanging off the
tranny around there, it will need to come loose. Loosen whichever side
is easier to get to.
Remove all wire connections. On the semi-automatic tranny you will have
Eventually you can probably cut some of the wiring out, but for now
just band them all together or something.
Now pull the tranny out. It's kind of heavy, and you will be in an
awkward position, but it's not that hard.
Give everything a general clean-up, reorganize your tools. Double-check
the steps you have done so far, have a hamburger. Wash your hands
because now you're
going inside the car.
Remove the shift coupler from the shift rod. Remove the shifter
assembly (shifter, stop plate, spring, boot). Under the front of your
in the trunk and around the apron, will be various plates that need to
be removed. You will be sliding the shift rod out through the front of
the car. Consult your manual here if you need, under shift rod
Once you have removed all of the shift rod plates and covers, (3 on my
'69) slide out the shiftrod. Some cars may need a new shift rod, some
may not. Mine was the correct length. Bring your shiftrod to your
favorite VW Air-cooled parts supplier and have them take a look to be
sure. While you're there, pick up a new shift rod bushing, and a
coupler if yours looks worn.
Remove the pedal assembly. Take care not to damage the accelerator
cable. Now your car should be completely devoid of autostick parts.
If your car does not have the clutch tube in it, read on. If it does, skip to STEP 13.
Ah...so you need a clutch tube.....yippee. Then it's time to cut the
tunnel. Using the pictures and information you have see at Matt
Claydon's Website, your manuals, and no doubt some of John Henry's work
as well, you should have a chart, or at least a good idea of where to
cut the holes in the tunnel.
It's a good idea to remove the passenger seat now, as you will be
cutting the holes on the passenger side of the tunnel. By my best
estimate, the right hand side of the first hole should be about three
inches back from the edge of the pedal assembly hole. Imagine a
rectangle that begins there and goes back about six inches. Drill the
top two corners with a new, 1/2 inch drill bit. You can get by with
smaller, as long as the blade for your jigsaw fits in the holes. Once
you have the top two corners drilled, use your jigsaw to cut from hole
to hole, then from each hole down to the floor pan. About two inches of
uncut tunnel should remain before your jigsaw won't allow anymore
movement. Now you have a big flap of metal that you can just bend down.
Perform the same task in a spot at the back of the emergency brake.
Again, hopefully you have seen the websites I have mentioned and have
an idea what I'm talking about. Maybe someday I'll add some pics, but
Through the front hole you have cut in
the passenger side of the tunnel, you will be able to see the bracket
where your clutch tube will rest. In the hole behind the e-brake, you
won't see much of anything really. One thing is neat. With all the
stuff out of the tunnel, and all these holes, you get a real feel for
what goes on in there. You'll be able to see where the shift bushing
goes, you'll see the accelerator tube, and in general you'll uncover
the secret mysteries of the VW tunnel.
You will need to drill a hole at the back of the car for the clutch
tube. Again, use the pictures on those other web pages, but
essentiallly it's between the accelerator tube and the tranny access
hole. You can wait on this step if you want, and drill it after you
have fitted the clutch tube.
Find and fit a clutch tube. You need to find a steel tube with about a
3/8 inch outside diamter. It wouldn't hurt to go ahead and buy a clutch
cable at this point so you can see just exactly what is supposed to go
inside the steel tube. Somewhere out there, these tubes exist. You may
have to bend or curve it slightly. The idea is, you should be able to
feed it into the tunnel and it
will rest on the bracket at the front near the pedal assembly, and
out the back of the car at the appropriate position. You are also
supposed to fashion a brack of sorts at the spot behind the e-brake
(you were wondering why we cut there weren't you?). Once you have
positioned this clutch tube, you should now see where the hole at the
back of the car needs to be drilled. That 1/2 inch drill bit you used
earlier should still be plenty sharp enough for this task. Once the
tube is positioned correctly, you can tack weld it in there with a
stick welder or some other kind of welder.
BUT......before you do, put the shift rod back in and make sure the two
don't interfere with each other. Also, it's best not to cut the tube
too short at the back of the car yet because you don't know exactly how
far it will need to stick out. Once the tube is fitted correctly and
does not interfere with the shift rod, weld it in.
You'll need to
weld it at the front where it lays in the bracket. You'll need to weld
the bracket to the tube, and then the bracket either to the side of the
tunnel, or the bottom of the tunnel. Finally, there is a spot you
should be able to weld as the tube exits the car.
The following information can be damaging to VW purists or to anyone opposed to
If you happend to catch my earlier drift, I said that "somewhere" these
tubes exist, referring to the clutch tubes. I couldn't find one. I
wasn't about to drive all over town to every industrial metal company
and explain what I was doing and what I needed. Additionally, I wasn't
prepared to rent a welder, or wait for my neighbor to have time to do
it. He helped me patch my floor pans, and I had to wait around for him
to have time. I wasn't that patient this time.
I put the creative juices to work trying to find an alternative
solution. Here is what I came up with. REMEMBER, the holes in the
tunnel are cut. I can go in at any time and weld in a steel tube.
Instead, however, I picked up an eight foot piece of copper pipe. Not
copper tubing, copper pipe. Nice and rigid, but I could still put the
slight bend in I would need. Once I had positioned the pipe, I used
three metal clamps (heavy duty hose clamps) to secure it. In the big
area behind the e-brake, I used a stout metal hose clamp to secure the
tube to the existing accelerator tube. I also used one under the back
seat before the pipe exists the chassis, and in front by the
This baby is tight and will probably never let go. As mentioned, if it
gives me too much grief, I can always slide the copper out and weld in
note. I'm really not into just rigging whatever works. But this was a
practical solution to the problem that is invisible once everything is
put back together. Keep in mind I was doing the entire conversion on my
own and this was the only thing holding me back.
Once you have the clutch tube in, fold up the metal flap behind the
emergency brake. Wait until the clutch cable is in and the pedal
assembly is back together before folding up the other one, it's much
easier to put the cable in with access from the other side.
You can seal these area's with silicone or seam sealer later, and tack
weld them if you went with the welding route. They will be covered by
padding and carpet anyway.
For those of you with clutch tubes installed already, thanks for
At this point our cars have no autostick parts. Assuming you have
collected all the replacement parts....lets start re-assembly. First,
install your shift rod with its new bushing and coupler, use plenty of
grease. Don't forget to put all those cover plates back on at the front
of the car. Go ahead and fasten the shift coupler to the rod, if for no
other reason that to keep it from getting lost. Mount the new shifter
assembly, but only snug down those 13mm bolts. You'll probably need to
adjust them later. Grease up your new clutch cable and slide it into
the clutch tube through the hole the pedal assembly goes into. We'll be
bolting up the pedal assembly later, for now just keep it laying on the
Before we bolt up that tranny, lets talk about the engine modifications
that must be done. Only a few items. Number one, you must change the
oil pump to a standard (non-autostick) oil pump. You can take this
opportunity to put in a heavy duty oil pump or some external oil
cooling product, but a regular $20 oil pump at least must be put in.
You will also need to remove the autostick driveplate from the engine
and replace it with a real flywheel. You will need a new main oil
seal...'cause it makes sense since you have it apart, a new gland nut,
flywheel, and flywheel shims. You'll need to set the crank end play, or
at least have it done for you when bolting these items on.
Finally you will need to bolt up the new clutch disk, and clutch
cover (pressure plate). You need to use a clutch pilot tool to keep the
clutch disk aligned with the gland nut while you tighten down the
you must choose a clutch cover based on the kind of throwout bearing
your transmission uses. Be sure and have the correct pressure plate
installed while you are there. If you have not gotten a tranny yet, do
not bolt on a clutch cover.
You will also need to plug the extra vacumn holes on the carb and the
big one on the intake manifold. You will have at least one more hole in
your engine tin
where the ATF fluid line used to go that you need to plug. Now your
engine is ready, put it aside until you need it.
Special Note: Those of you that installed their own clutch tubes will
probably need to shorten the tube once the tranny is in, so you can
size it up for the Bowden tube. This is really hard to get to with a
hacksaw once the tranny is in. You will need a small tubing cutter. If
you don't have one. then just test fit the tranny so you can determine
the proper length of the clutch tube. Slide the tranny back out and cut
the tubing. Don't cut it too short!. More on the Bowden tube in step 16.
To mount your transmission, you will need new transmission mounts. A
large single piece for the front, and the two smaller pieces at the
rear. That support bracket that used the big 27mm bolts...remember
that? You should have taken it off the old autostick tranny and cleaned
it up. If for some reason those rubber transmission mounts were fairly
new you can use them, but otherwise just bolt on new ones. Bolt the new
front mount onto the tranny nosecone and tighten them up. Bolt the new
rear mounts onto the tranny and the support bracket, keep all the
tranny mount bolts kind of loose until the tranny is mounted.
If you are going to have reverse lights hooked up, locate the plug in
your wiring harness, and the appropriate place on your transmission.
Make a note to get those two together during assembly.
Now lift that heavy sucker up and slide it into position. You have to
get it over the frame forks, through the CV joints and mate it up with
the bolts on the chassis. While you are juggling this big heavy thing,
you also have to feed transaxle shaft into the hole in the body. It's
not has bad as it sounds. It should now be nearly in position. Tighten
the nosecone mount to the chassis first, but not quite all the way.
DON'T FORGET THE TRANSMISSION GROUND STRAP !!. Get those big 27mm
monsters going in their holes, then go ahead and tighten the front
bolts all the way. Now tighten the 27mm bolts all the way. TADA...the
tranny is in.
Before you do anything else, get inside the car and make sure you can
shift coupler onto the transxle shaft. You can even snug it down with
the little setscrew if you like. If that all lines up, you can go back
under the car and finish up. For starters, tighten up those
transmission mount bolts we left loose earlier. Now reattach those CV
joints that have been hanging around. You may need to put on the
emergency brake to keep them from turning while you tighten.
Now the fun part. For those whose cars had a clutch tube already, slip
the Bowden tube over the clutch cable and secure it to the
transmission. If you installed your own clutch tube then you will need
to cut the tube to fit. You need to have about a one inch bend in the
bowden tube...it must remain with a bend in it. Do not cut it too
short! Cut it down so that after slipping on the Bowden tube and
inserting the tube into the mount on the transmission, the Bowden tube
should have about a one inch bend in it. It will usually need to be cut
2 or 3 inches from the body/chassis. The only way you can get back
there is with a small tubing cutter.
I have a small tubing cutter and knew I could reach in there and cut it
so I went ahead and bolted the tranny right up. If the clutch tube you
have chosen is too large for the Bowden tube to fit over, then you may
have to use some sort of coupling piece....use your imagination....go
to Home Depot. Slide the Bowden tube over the cable and into the
bracket on the tranny. Do not put the wingnut on the clutch cable at
Now that the tranny is in, go ahead and tighten up that shift coupler
if you haven't already. It's also time to make sure the clutch cable is
attached to the
Pedal Assembly. Loop the clutch cable around the clutch arm on the
pedal assembly and mount the pedal assembly to the tunnel. Take care
not to allow the clutch pedal to flop backward and lose the loop on the
Just an added note here. On the floor board where the pedal assembly
goes, should be a bolt and some kind of bracket. If you find that after
you bolt up the pedal assembly your clutch pedal wants to keep falling
backwards, you will need to modify that bracket or create a new one.
NOW you can put that wingnut on the clutch cable and snug it up a bit.
Everything should be ready to go. Pedal assembly, clutch cable, shift
rod, coupler, transmission....all should be done. Time to put the
engine back in.
The only thing to bother talking about here is the engine bolts. Mine
were all the wrong size once I converted. Get a correct set of engine
bolts and put the engine back. I thought it was a little harder to put
the engine back in than on the autostick because you have to line up
the tranny shaft with the hole in the clutch cover. All it all though,
without all the extra hoses and wires the autostick had, it was kind of
nice. Bolt that sucker up. You may have put the starter on with the
tranny, if not, put it on now and hook up the wires.
Your autostick starter will work on your manual transmission, some say it's even better.
There is a whole wad of extra wires from the autostick, be sure they are bundled up and out of the way.
Put on the rear wheels, reattach the battery cable if you remembered to
disconnect it, lower the car, and roll it out of the garage, or at
least roll it
back a couple of feet to settle the car. Sit in the drivers seat and
push in the
clutch cable. Get a feel for the cable. You can reach the clutch cable
wingnut from under the car without jacking it up. It's probably too
early to make an adjustment at this time. Now, start the car. Your
shifter is probably not adjusted correctly yet, so be sure and push in
the clutch pedal. Since your battery is probably dead from sitting so
long, get out of the car and hook up
a charger or jumper cables. NOW start the car, clutch pedal in.
Even though your shifter may need adjusting, you'll wanted to get the
clutch pedal/cable adjusted first and get that out of the way. Slowly
let out the clutch to see if you are in a gear or not. If not, push the
clutch pedal in and move the shifter forward, you are bound to get into
either 1st or 3rd. Now, slowly let out the clutch cable until you
feel/hear the engine revs slow down and possible feel the car move a
little. Depending on how much movement you had in the pedal, you might
need to turn the wingnut in some more, or back it out.
Your goal here is to make sure that when the pedal is pushed in, it
disengages the clutch, while also maintaining that the wingnut isn't so
tight the clutch disk is partially disengaged at all times.
At this point, hopefully your engine is still running smoothly, and
that you made any wingnut adjustments before the engine got too hot. If
you can get into
all four gears, and reverse is locked out unless you push down, then
you are done. Go drive! For the rest of you, you will need to play with
the shifter adjustment until you can get all four gears, while still
having reverse be locked out. I won't even begin to try and tell you
what way the shift plate should go, I struggled with that, but I knew
that when I had to push down to get into 3rd, it was backwards. You
have to remember to think backwards when adjusting the shift plate.
Since the shifter works on the lever principle, any adjustement to the
right, will affect left movement, and vice-versa. It took me
about two hours. I kept the engine running and the clutch in. Loosen
the shifter, adjusted, try the gears, repeat. I finally made some
physical modification to the stop plate, allowing it to scoot over to
the right about
1/8 more and that fixed it.
ENJOY !! I've been driving mine now for nearly a year. I really love
Sometimes I miss the autostick. It really had a neat feel, but with the
standard I get better gas mileage, lower rpm's at top speed, and real
peace of mind that the
autostick just could not give me. I am glad I had the chance to drive
and own the autostick. But as the years go on, the numbers weigh
heavily against owning one, or at least maintaining one economically.
This blow-by-blow account is meant to relate my experiences, and suppliment what you have
seen/heard on other websites, and your manuals. I wouldn't use it as your only source of info,
though that applies to nearly everything. Because these cars have been around so long, there
is a vast amount of experience out there, as well as bogus info. Use as many sources as you
can find, and take the most common responses as your solution. Good luck.