The Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro is unique in a number of engineering differences. No other vehicle we know of has a synchronized reverse gear. In fact the reverse gear and the granny gear (low gear) live in their own section of the transmission on a common synchromesh slider. One can rock a Syncro out of a hole by shifting into reverse while moving forward slowly, and vice versa.
The Syncros have about the same gamut of failure modes as the 2WD version. The difference is that one can find a 2WD transmission for a core to rebuild. We advise people to rebuild or repair a Vanagon Syncro transmission ASAP if any problem arises. All the parts are available, but when one has to buy a mainshaft, ring and pinion, all the synchros and sliders……. The sky is the limit. Rebuilding one of these units runs between $2000 to $6000, and can go higher if it completely turns into dust. Karmakanix uses a rebuilder who reinforces the guts in many ways and also adds the oiling system from the South African version of these transmissions. The result is perfect shifting and many many years of driving without issues.
Quick Clue: DO NOT ever push start a Vanagon Syncro in granny low or reverse. That will definitely break the transmission. We don’t even use first gear, as that is a bit much torque advantage. Second gear is fine, and be gentle with the clutch. NEVER ever tow a Syncro with the rear tires on the ground, a flat bed tow truck is definitely the answer! We have had a couple of busted transmissions that arrived with square rear tires and a bad smell from the trail of smoke. Call R&R Towing.