SmallCar Bell Housing

For a Subaru-Powered Vanagon

SmallCar Bell housing to VW Transaxle Installation

Text & photographs by John Charlton

Once you have the transmission out, remove the throw out bearing and it should look like this:


      Remove the 6 bolts visible here and the 4 below the bellhousing – make sure you have drained all the transmission lube before removing the bellhousing – it really stinks.


      Once you have the VW bellhousing off, the transmission side of it looks like this:



      As mentioned, the “slinger” knocks out from the tranny side towards the clutch side. I used a small block of wood over it and a hammer to knock it flush, then:



 Clean up the slinger and install it in the new bellhousing from the clutch side – again, tapping it into place. 



     Similarly, install the oil seal that SmallCar provides into the new bellhousing. It should sit pretty close to flush with the bellhousing surface, but if you stick your finger in you should be able to feel a little gap between the end of the seal and the flange part of the slinger.

     Now back to the VW tranny for the interesting stuff:It seems that the VW mainshaft is about 10mm too short to work successfully to join the Subaru engine and VW tranny via the SmallCar bellhousing. SO – the SmallCar guys have figured out a low-tech way of lengthening the shaft.

     Since the VW mainshaft is in two parts, a rear part that comes out of the back of the transmission and a front part that is sticking out towards you, the process of removing the shaft involves taking the union between the two parts apart. 
     The VW mainshaft is coupled together by a sliding sleeve that fits over the splines of both front and rear halves of the shaft. There is a small threaded stud that joins the two halves as well and a circlip that prevents the sleeve from moving forward and exposing the joint between the two halves.

     So: Remove the circlip – (spare yourself a lot of grief and buy a pair of circlip pliers) – slide it off the end of the shaft towards you. Put it aside carefully.

     Now we get into the tricky part: - The sleeve, without the circlip in place, should now be able to slide out towards you along the shaft. Rotating the ring gear so that one of the oiling holes is adjacent to the end of the sleeve will give you a little bit more space. In any case, once the sleeve has moved forwards until it meets the ring gear, you should be able to reach in along the shaft and feel the joint between the two parts.
     I used a dental pick with a 90 deg. end on it to just reach in behind the sleeve and move it forward – it moved quite easily.  

     Once the sleeve is in this position, you should be able to rotate it counterclockwise, unscrewing it from the rear shaft.

     Once you have the mainshaft out, all the pieces make sense and look like this


     OK up to now --- the bellhousing that SmallCar sent me did not have the little bits needed to proceed. I called SmallCar and they said that they would send them right out.
     A week later the package arrived, but one of the crucial bits that I needed wasn’t there. Called SmallCar back, 2 weeks later the part arrived – I was stalled for the best part of a month.


     Once the parts were here:  Screw the spacer stud into the rear part of the mainshaft and spacer on the rear main shaft


     Thread it on then back it off about ½ turn until the splines line up; then slide the sleeve back over the rear part of the main shaft

     Slide the circlip on to secure the sleeve from moving back forward and de-coupling the two parts of the mainshaft

     Circlip spreading pliers are great!

     Checking the bellhousing against the engine for clearances etc before bolting it to the tranny, I found that the draining plug that was provided was either too long, or the hole
     (½” NPT – therefore a tapered thread) wasn’t drilled and tapped deep enough.   Real PITA  

     So I had to find a shorter plug, or have the plug hole tapped deeper. Since I had already buggered up the Allen key head (it wasn’t metric but 3/8 Allen instead) I opted for trying to find a shorter one. I was lucky – a hydraulic shop had one.

      The SmallCar guys say that they have changed  both the hole and plug in their latest offerings so this all may have been a PITA to me that won’t repeat. Nevertheless, the issue was resolved with the shorter plug. And the bellhousing was going to bolt up nicely.

     Fill the integrated throw out bearing/slave cylinder with brake fluid as per the SmallCar instructions and then bolt it up. With it in place you can bolt the bellhousing to the transmission as per the SmallCar instructions.

     Once that is done you are ready to mate the tranny to the engine. Much easier than I anticipated. I slid the tranny on the two lower studs then the two dowels then rotated the axle hubs slightly to rotate the mainshaft slightly to allow the splines of the mainshaft to fit into the clutch disk. It slid in place nicely and bolted up. As the internal slave compresses some brake fluid will squirt back out the attachment point for the clutch line.
     Insert the bleeder (I ran a tap down the provided hole to clean it out) and it’s ready.

     Well – almost.  

     The starter bolts can be a bit problematic. I didn’t have any as my engine came out of an automatic and I had to source the starter. The VW bolts have the wrong thread – the threads in the Suby block are 10mm X1.25. I couldn’t find any so I used 10mm X 1.25 threaded rod and nuts and lock washers to fabricate studs for the starter to slip onto.

                                                          Must say, it looks and works great!

                                       Hope folks have found this useful,   John Charlton, March 2009