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I had a problem changing gears on my Polo (1997, 1.4 petrol, 3 door, UK). It was hard to find the gears especially 1st and 2nd, and reverse would grind, and it was worse when the car was warmed up after a few miles. It had a new clutch cable (it snapped) and that fixed it for a week, and then a new clutch after that which help a little again.

But there's an intermittent problem with changing gear, it's not reliable and I can't tell if when I get to a junction whether I will be able to get into and out of first gear.

My mechanic says it is a problem with the gear linkage. Originally he thought it was the "connectors on the end of the selector cables" but now he says it's "the linkage between the selector and the linkage to the gearbox" and specifically related to "a 13mm pinch bail" that hold a rod that is part of this.

He says it is easily repairable but that he can't get the parts. I've tried to look myself, but I'm not mechanical at al so haven't been very successful.

Does this make any sort of sense, and if so are there any suggestions as to where to look for parts or instructions to give to a mechanic?

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What your mechanic is saying makes sense to me. The pinch ball is a wear item which, unfortunately, goes bad over a period of time. It is considered a "sacrificial" part (door pins are another type of sacrificial part). This is so wear is created in a predictable spot in the linkage chain. Instead of replacing the entire linkage, you replace the ball, which is by far a lot cheaper than the alternative.

I believe I was able to find the part in the UK (do not know your location, but assume Europe somewhere) at the following online location: ... although there are at least three variations of the 1.4l engine in the 1997 Polo, so this may not be the exact part. The web site seems very comprehensive, though, so it should be able to find the part you need.

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Thanks that's helpful! My car is the 6N1 chassis and although I'm not sure whether it's the 55 or 60 HP version, most of the spare part sites like this I try have few parts for these models. – user4167 Dec 16 '13 at 16:15
I would bet most parts are interchangable in this area of the vehicle ... sometimes you never know though. There is also a 100hp version of the 1.4l engine for the 6N1 ... the fun never stops. Also, look at Allan's post in this thread as well ... he has a valid "check" for you to look at. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 16 '13 at 16:50

If you were to look at the rear of your gearbox assembly, you will see a pressed metal 'nut'. This nut is usually coloured green and has VW stamped on it. Take this plate off, no parts will fly out or oil lost, and you will see a lever and piston arrangement. The lever can crack and its retainer let go, causing a partial rotation of the lever. This will be felt as a changing, better then worse-worse then better, feel to changing gear. It is an easy check to carry out and should be considered a basic check with the symptoms you have describe in your question.

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I call BS on 'can't get the parts'. Motor factors have a vast distribution network backed by a very detailed database. You'd have a hard time nominating any part for any model of car that's still on the road in any significant numbers that they don't have (or can't acquire), if you specify the one you want accurately. My father drives for a motor factors and he's adamant that his company can get anything. It is apparently something of a dark art coercing their database into telling you what you want to know, and the intricacies of this aren't normally exposed to the public; it's back-office use only. Sometimes needs an experienced storesperson to 'speak the magic words' to find the right part. Apparently.

I expect your mechanic either doesn't have a good relationship with local motor factors, or the local motor factors aren't any good, or he doesn't want to do the work because it's labour-intensive.

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