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There is no quick answer to your question. Automatic transmission are pretty simple, especially that one. The problem is that too many people work on their own car that probably should not be.

I would suggest that you study how automatic transmissions work then study how that transmission works. Once you grasp all the ins and outs on the principles how it works, then you can disassemble this transmission to find out what the cause is.

Sorry, there really is not any simple answer to your question. I'm certain, without a doubt, the problem is inside the transmission and you'll have to take it apart to find the root cause. The second problem you will have is finding parts. You could also find a used one, that's what most people do. Sadly, you'll never know what went wrong and you never know what you will get with a 30 year old used transmission.
 

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I was able to check it out last night. In the area of the engine, the gear selector cable has deteriorated and has 2” of the cable exposed. When I select gears, it appears to bundle up rather that slide. I think it may be an easy fix!
 

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Yes, you are right, 1 and R are connected. They use the same Cable to position the gears to the tranny.
You may want to verify that the shifter Cable isn't binding between gear selection or that the cable lock barrel bolt is loose or out of the mechanism.
 

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Ok...not as simple as I imagined. First of all, I recall there is a spring that attaches to the transmission shield. Thats gone, and I dont know what it is for.

Also, I removed the wheel to get to filler. I appears that there is a plug missing here. There are two plugs. One is up high, I believe to fill the ATF. The other is down close to the pan. This was missing.

I took the valve body cover off and there was a screw floating around in the pan. Not sure where it went yet.

The last thing is that what fluid was in there was black, and it appears to have also leaked over to the flywheel area and got spun around there.

Anyone know what that missing spring was for? Which hole to I fill ATF into? There isnt much to read on these!
 

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Pictures would work wonders.

If you got oil in the front, it could be differential oil or transmission. If it is transmission, could be the torque converter seal. If it is that, then the front bushing could be FUBAR.

Pictures would surely help.
 

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The missing plug is a hole for the mounting bracket. Although I may be wrong, I'm pretty certain I'm right. I believe there is a crash guard that gets mounted there. I will see if I can get a picture of mine.

As for the bolt, was it one of the filter mounting bolts?

With that much debris, I would try and find a used one to reseal. You could tear that apart but if there is any small/hard part that has failed, it may be difficult to find a used/new one.

The Vanagon uses a similar transmission and many of the parts are the same. Try looking at this tread. It has many pictures and was written up well. Lots of pages but when you get done, you will know if it's something you want to get into or now.
 
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