A sloppy shift linkage is not only a P-I-A, it can get you and your Bug both killed...
First check out Glenn Ring's tech page:http://www.glenn-ring.com/tech/bushing_replace.htm
Get a piece of light-weight aluminum tubing an inch or inch-and-a-quarter diameter, about 5ft long. On one end split it lengthwise 3-4 inches and open it out a little, making a U-shape channel. Slip it in (split-end first) through the 3 access holes, (front apron, behind spare tire, frame head) until you get it to the front of the shift rod. Slip the front coupling of the shift rod into the U-shaped channel and tie-wrap it securely. You can then ease the shift rod completely out of the vehicle.
When you have the shift rod out, clean it thoroughly. Mine had some surface rust on it so I cleaned it up with some solvent and polished it up a little with a 00 Scotch-Brite pad and applied a light coating of grease the entire length. Also if have compressed air available, you might want to blow out the tunnel, from rear to front.
Replacing the bushing is no trick. My old one was non-existant so I just slipped the new one in. Be sure your bracket is not worn so bad the bushing just slips through (if the bracket is worn out, that's a whole 'nother story...). Mine was a little loose, but the bushing fit in OK and tightened up when I put the shift rod back through it. Be sure to grease it up pretty good.
Replacing the shift rod is pretty much the reverse of getting it out. With your aluminum tubing attached, feed the rod back through the access holes until you see the rear end through the shifter hole. Get the end started into the bushing. Be sure it's centered in the bushing. You can then go to the front of the car and bump then end of the alum tubing until it slides through. It will be a little tight at first, as the rod end expands the bushing as it goes through. Slip the rod in a little at a time.
Note of warning - there are several important pieces of tubing in the tunnel, the most important being the metal fuel line. If the rod meets resistance, pull it back out a little and try again. If the rod end is on the bottom of the tunnel it will bind on the cable and fuel tubings. The rod needs to be up off the floor of the tunnel and pointed at the transaxle shifter. You may have to reach in through the rear access hole and guide the rod through.
I used a new EMPI urethane coupling. I used the urethane bushings and the new screws but reused the OE bushing bracket. It was still tight on the shaft and just looked better than the new bracket. I also opted to install a new EMPI trigger shifter (short rod). Just stick the ball of the shifter into the coupling and bolt it down. I adjusted the shifter to about the middle of the adjustment range.
Worked great the first time and I am quite pleased with it. No more trying to leave a stop light in 3rd, no more grinding reverse to get into 2nd, and no more shifting back into 1st when you trying to get in 3rd...
Okay, mine definitely wasn't going to have a gap when done. Maybe they make them in different sizes?
no. there is one size and there should be a small gap when properly installed. the gap should face to the side.
i would highly recommend using a Genuine VW shift rod bushing. yes, they are still available from VW. they are expensive, but made of a very nice material. the aftermarket ones made of harder plastic are, to put it politely, poop and not worth the time to install.
i just did this job on a 65 beetle. the front bushing was completely gone, the rear coupler was broken. finding gears was a challenge to say the least. after the new bushing (Genuine VW of course) and coupler "pads" were installed, it shifted like a VW should. crisp, accurate, nice. the customer keeps thanking me for fixing it.
here are some pics i took while doing the job.
A rattling shift rod was cause for suspicion about the condition of the front shift bushing. The old bushing had completely disintegrated and was completely missing.
Coupler removed, showing worn and broken bushings.
Old, broken bushings (top), compared to new ones (bottom).
After removing the shifter, and front cover plates, the shift rod gets pushed forward through the frame tunnel in to the spare tire well. Thoroughly clean all the old grease off the ball socket end of the rod.
Original VW rear coupler, parts cleaned and new bushings. Also shown is a Genuine VW front shift rod bushing and retaining ring.
This is the orientation of the bushing when installed (front of vehicle being to the right). Slot in bushing faces the side. I like to put the overlap of the ring at the top.
Bushing installed in the bracket. Grease liberally before trying to push the shift rod through.
Make sure the end of the shift rod is thoroughly greased, as well as the inside of the new bushing. Getting that first "push" of the rod through the bushing is tight, but once the rod is started in the bushing, grease liberally along the entire length while pushing the rod.
Using pliers to move the rod rearward through the bushing.
After some minor adjustments, the end of the shift rod is in the proper position.
Put grease in the shift rod ball socket.
All shifter parts thoroughly cleaned, inspected, ready to be reinstalled.
The one, the only, the proper way to install the shift rod plate. Plate was greased after the pic was taken.
All parts of the shifter liberally greased, ready to be installed.
Shifter installed and adjusted. Smooth as butter.