Tech Tips

Various authors
Various Issues

Oil Starvation Answer

The answer to an extremely vexing oil starvation problem involving VW motors has recently been found! The problem is as follows: Oil pressure disappears entirely after hard braking or cornering, especially when travelling downhill, but then reappears after switching off and waiting a moment. Pressure can disappear even when the car is travelling at high speed on level ground. When level is checked, the oil is frothy. Have you been frantically disassembling motors and then ripping your hair out when it just happens again? I personally know several people who have, and you wouldn’t believe what causes this problem.

Look at the oil pump area of your motor. Look even closer at the inlet port to the oil pump, on the right-hand case half. Notice the threads of the bottom right-hand stud, and look right into the bottom of the hole. Did you see that partway down the threaded hole actually communicates with the oil-pump inlet port? If the stud is not screwed all the way home, that hole is not sealed the oil pump picks up oil from the sump through that little hole, or, when the oil level drops for whatever reason, it picks up air instead! This little trap for the unwary has only been noticed on cases with large oil galleries so far (ie. twin relief-valve cases). The remedy? Screw the stud ALL THE WAY DOWN to cover that hole.

Preventing Cracked Heads

Ever wondered why twin-port cylinder heads suffer much more from cracking than single-port heads? One of Germany's top engine builders thinks he has found the answer. The tinware covering the head on twin-port motors usually has a V-shaped piece of metal in between the spark-plug holes; this is to prevent spark plugs from getting lost when they are screwed in. It also sits in the air stream to the inlet port area of the head and may prevent sufficient air from reaching this area, with the result that stresses are set up because of uneven cooling. Removing this piece of metal apparently cures the problem. Painting cylinder heads with matt-black high-temperature paint also seems a logical thing to do to help the heat to dissipate better.

Long-Lasting Tinware

When it comes time to recondition your Beetle motor, you will most certainly find that all the tinware will have an accumulation of crud (crap + mud) all over it, due to years of dust and stray oil. The fan housing is particularly affected, and you're going to be scrubbing with petrol and a toothbrush for several hours unless you hit it with a steam cleaner. When you've finally got it off, you'll find scratches in the paint, flaky paint, rust and cracks, and the only proper way of putting this right is to sand-blast it and weld where necessary. Then you're going to have to find some awfully good paint just for it to do as good a job as the factory finish, which is baked enamel. Believe me, spray-can enamel doesn't stay on for long, and after some months you'll wish you'd never tried it. There's got to be a better way, a permanent cure.

What I have done to the tin on my engines is to have it sandblasted and then zinc-dipped. The process is carried out electrolytically, so that all exposed surfaces are covered. Zinc prevents rust from forming, and no paint at all is necessary. A very attractive gold finish can be achieved with a special dip - this process is called ‘passivating’. The cost? All my Beetle tinware cost me $30 to have plated, which is less than the expense and trouble of painting, which wouldn't last anywhere near as long anyway.

Tight Space Spanner

Those of you with twin two-barrel carburettors fitted to your Beetle will undoubtedly be acquainted with this very vexing problem. Due to the forward offset of cylinders two and three, there is precious little room available at the front of the left-hand carburettor, and the nut holding the front of the manifold flange is not only next-to inaccessible, you can’t even get a visual on it! Moreover, you can’t fit a socket onto the nut, due to its proximity to the manifold casting, and the only way you can twist that damned nut is with an open-ended spanner between your fingers. I have spent long periods on my knees cursing this situation, especially after having to tighten the nut after it came loose because I could never really tighten it properly in the first place. It’s not made any better by the fact that the manifolds must be unbolted before engine removal. What is needed is an extended fitting that you can slip a socket onto, so that the manifold can conveniently be torqued down.

The cure comes in the shape of a small length of hex bar, which is turned down to be as slim as possible, preferably on a lathe, but mine was made on a bench grinder. One end is left hex-shaped, and the other end is threaded with an 8 x 1.25mm tap to screw onto the stud in the head. After I removed a small amount of metal from the left-hand manifold of my Weber 40 DCN installation, I could even get a socket over the new fitting. In practice the fitting can be whipped on and off in seconds. The only disadvantage being that it must be removed for the spark plug connector to be pulled off.

Type 3 Front Adjust

Does your Type 3 wander all over the road, clunk in the front end and overall have suspect handling? Then it is more than likely that it needs an adjustment carried out in the front end. This is more often than not ignored by most owners, though it should be checked every 10,000km.

The Type 3 front end looks a bit like the Beetle’s from the outside, but it’s a different story inside the two tubes. There are no torsion leaves; instead there are two solid bars in the bottom tube that go right across in X-fashion. In the top tube there is what amounts to a stabiliser bar, which at the same time locates the two top trailing arms. This system is unique to the Type 3. When wear takes place on the thrust rings, play is allowed to develop and the aforementioned symptoms can take place.

The cure is simple, and all Type 3 owners should become acquainted with it. The play is in the same plane as wheel bearing play and ball-joint play, so these should be checked first. The car is bounced to settle the suspension, then, with the car jacked up, the wheel is rocked in and out at the top while play is watched for between the top trailing arm and the end of the tube. If any is visible, or can be felt, an adjustment is necessary. The setscrew on the left upper torsion arm may be loose, so check that next. Then proceed to the right upper (driver’s) side. The lock nut is loosened, allowing the axial adjusting screw to be tightened until the lock plate underneath can just be moved, then the lock nut is retightened. Ideally you should replace the lock plate also. You won’t believe the difference this adjustment will make if it hasn’t been carried out for a while!

Exhaust Gaskets

If you have a high-performance VW with larger exhaust ports than stock, then the VW exhaust gaskets will be too small and will restrict the port. What’s needed is a larger gasket, and preferably one that is nice and thick and can be re-used. Just the part is available – Subaru exhaust port gaskets. These have a larger internal diameter, are thick so they can accommodate the typical American inaccurate headers, and can be used over and over again, unlike the standard part. Only a small amount of filing is necessary to get them on, as the Subaru stud spacing is wider, but that’s easy.

Valve Cover Seals

You've got an oil leak from the valve cover of your air-cooled VW. It started slowly, but then got a bit worse. You do the right thing right off and replace the gasket with a new one. On it goes, but the leak is still there. You pull the cover off again, clean everything scrupulously, scratch your head and put the cover back on - it has to seal, right, because there's nothing wrong here; but it leaks as soon as you start the engine up again. You pull the cover off again and, depending on the sort of person you are, you consider gooing it all up with Silastic and whacking it back on, but think better of it and start to apply some powers of reasoning.

You have replaced the gasket and there's no dirt there to prevent a good seal, so what else could be wrong? Perhaps the valve cover has somehow become warped. You scrounge an old valve cover from a wrecker's, under the house amongst the old parts or from a mate's garage, clean it up nicely and install it, thinking your worries are over. Next day a colleague at work tells you that there is an oil puddle on the concrete underneath the back of your VW. So much for reasoning!

What else could there be in the chain that isn't doing its job? You didn't think about the hold-down clip. Apparently, these hi-tech bits of wire lose some of their tension over the years and no longer clamp the cover on properly. The solution? 1. Buy a new clip from your local VW/Audi dealer. Not a satisfactory response for your enquiring, reasoning mind? 2. Bend the clip. Don't bend the clip just anywhere. There's only one place to do it easily. Just where the clip comes out of its anchoring spot in the head, it turns 90 degrees and goes straight out for a bit. It's right here that you have to put a C-shaped bend into the wire. This makes it shorter at this point and pulls the valve cover tighter onto the head. Use a vice to hold the clip and apply a bit of pressure and Bob's your uncle.

Lift To Close Doors

‘Lift to Close Doors’ is a problem we have all come across at some point in time. How many times have you gone to look over a Beetle offered For Sale? Body not bad. Paint work fair, Engine good, Chassis fair, but the door hinges, particularly the driver’s side, totally worn out. An examination of the door hinge pins normally confirms that no end of adjusting the striker plates is going to put that right. All this wear has taken place due to a lack of basic maint-enance; a little grease, that's all.

The door hinges on Beetles are supposed to be greased, not oiled. The hinge pin has a slot machined down its length to allow the passage of grease into the hinge. Volkswagen dealers have a tool that locks like a pair of mole grips, with two ball bearings stuck on the jaws, for greasing the hinges. These tools are a little difficult to get hold of. However, a solution is at hand. For about $4.00 you can make your own Door Greasing Tool.

This handy little tool is made from a G-clamp, made by Stanley (Ref no. 1-83-012), which is particularly well suited as it is made from a light metal alloy that cuts and files easily, so less work to convert it into our special tool. Firstly, cut out the end flange on the top jaw of the G-clamp, and file the surface flat. Mark the centre, punch and drill a 7/32” hole through the top jaw. Tap out the hole with a ¼” BSF tap. Screw into the hole a ¼” BSF grease nipple. Measure from the top jaw down the steel back piece a distance of 95 mm, and cut the back piece (the rest of the G-clamp) off at this point. It will now be possible to slide the bottom jaw off the back piece. Take the bottom jaw and clamp¬ing assembly and remove the wooden handle. Drill a 7/32” hole, 10 mm deep into the end of the threaded shaft, where the handle was attached. Tap out this hole to ¼” BSF, and screw into this hole a ¼” BSF bolt. Stick thick foam rubber onto top and bottom jaws to prevent them from damaging the paint on the door hinges. Make a small hole in the rubber on the top jaw to allow grease from the grease nipple to pass through it.

Greasing the door hinges is now very simple. Remove the plastic caps from the tops of your Beetle’s door hinges (if they are still there!), the fit the clamp tool as shown in the diagram. Make sure the clamp is tightened onto the hinge, using the ¼” BSF bolt on the bottom. It should be just tight enough to prevent grease from leaking out the top jaw. A normal pump-action grease gun can now be fitted to the grease nipple, and grease pumped into the hinge. No more lift to close doors!

Slow Starting

Have you ever encountered the problem when starting your car that you can turn the motor over and over on the starter but it won't catch, then when you let go of the key, if you're lucky, it takes hold and fires? This happened to me recently. I am told that this is a typical symptom of points closing up, so that's something to take note of, but I've got an electronic ignition on the car. I reasoned that if there was a significant voltage drop between the battery and the ignition, it would prevent a high enough spark-plug voltage while the battery was under load, ie. while the engine was cranking. Then, when the load comes off, but the engine is still turning, the spark plugs see something decent again and there is a chance of starting.

So I jury-rigged a jumper lead from the positive terminal of the alternator to the input wire of the electronic ignition. Instant starting! The permanent solution was a relay switched on by the ignition lead, which in turn shunted current from the alternator to the ignition. On older VWs, you would need to run a wire from the starter motor or the battery, making sure that it was sheathed and grommetted.

Steering Wheel Solution

Do you own a late-model Superbug or Type 3 with the four-spoke steering wheel? Well, you may have noticed that after a number of years of service, the horn pad becomes loose, or it simply won’t stay in place any more. A common remedy involves quantities of sticky tape or string, but there is a much more satisfactory solution.

Looking at the steering wheel with the horn pad removed, you will see a clip (or the remains of a clip) for each spoke of the wheel. These clips are secured with a brass screw through their centre and are easily removed. The replacements, which I obtained from Volksbahn Autos were for a Golf, which uses similar but stronger-looking clips for its horn pad. The early type has three barbs which hold the horn pad; the replacement uses the whole circumference and is much simpler and probably unbreakable. This is much more economical than replacing the whole steering wheel, and much preferable to fitting a non-standard wheel if the ‘factory’ look is important to you.

Boot Release Blues

If the glovebox-mounted boot release of your Bug is stiff, try squirting some graphite powder down the cable. Obviously, you will have to remove the glovebox first, but once it is out, work the powder down the cable by moving the operating lever up and down. Assuming the lock mechanism is adjusted correctly and not stiff in its operation, it should now be easier to open the boot.

Pre-1500 Wheel Bearings

Working on early Type 1 brakes brings up the subject of front wheel bearings, which you will meet eventually. To remove the drum, you must dismount the grease cap. On the passenger side you must first unpin the speedo cable. Each side has a double nut, locked with a tinplate tag, which first must be freed, preferably without damage. You will need two 27mm flat spanners. The thread is clockwise on the driver’s side, left hand thread on the passenger side.

The lesson here is the correct replacement and adjustment of early outer wheel bearings. Always remember to repack the bearings, using only high-temperature bearing grease in clean conditions, and ensuring that the cap has a generous helping.

The trick is the way you tighten the nuts. The adjustment is correct when you can just displace the thrust plate (which goes under the nuts) by levering against the edge with a large screwdriver. If you can’t move it it’s too tight, and if driven will soon destroy itself.

Green Condenser Wire

You know the wire that comes out of the side of the distributor on air-cooled VWs? It’s light green, connects the points to the negative of the coil and also attaches to the condenser. Well, it has the bad habit of snapping off at the base, just where it joins the square piece of plastic that is clamped into the hole in the side of the dizzy.

This is due to the phenomenon known as cable strain. The insulation gets stiff around the base, as the wire is free to move around under the influence of engine vibrations. Owners’/mechanics’ hands also tend to get wrapped around this wire and yank on it. Once the insulation is cracked, the wire strands let go one by one. I have seen a beetle whose owner was complaining of hard starting, where one strand only of the points wire was keeping the ignition system together.

This situation wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a matter of joining a wire break. When this wire lets go, there is no stub left to solder, or otherwise fix, a wire onto. This leaves little possibility of jury-rigging a repair on the side of the road. And since the condenser is part of the whole thing, one is forced to pay rather more at the VW dealer than one would think reasonable for the repair of a broken wire.

The cure for the cable strain problems is to anchor the wire further upstream in such a way that even hard tugging leaves everything safely intact. So on domestic appliances, where rather more is at stake than inconvenience if a live wire should come loose, a clamp is applied around the insulation, or the simple expedient of a knot tied in the wire where it passes into the appliance may be employed.

Solution 1: Tie a knot in the wire, adjacent to the distributor cap hold-down clamp, then slip the wire over it. Now the wire can’t move around as much, as the two stationary ends are effectively shorter, and if it is yanked on, the knot will hold and prevent strain at the distributor end.

Solution2 (better): Buy a Golf condenser and separate points wire for a Golf or Passat. The rectangular plastic bit contains a male terminal onto which the point lead clips. Seems the factory was aware of the problem.

Roof Gutter Repair

I’m going to concentrate on a common area of rust on Beetles, the roof gutters. Rust is caused here by body flexing, which cracks the sealing compound, allowing corrosion to start. This applies to Type 3s as well as Beetle gutters. Condition of this area can range from minor surface rust to holes you can put a screwdriver through.

The only way to effect a long-lasting repair for a badly corroded example is to peel back the edge that is pressed over the turret section. Use a flat head screwdriver that has been bent over on the end, to hook under the edge and lever back.

You can now repair and treat the area properly. Sand the area with a 24-grit sanding disk back to clean metal. Use a 100mm disk grinder for hard-to-reach curves. If you don’t have access to a sandblaster, clean out any remaining rust with an old broken 3mm drill bit held at an angle to the surface being cleaned. If you take your time, this method does a good job.

At this stage, weld up any small holes or fill the larger ones. Be sure to grind down any bulky welds that will end up under the lifted edge (if a MIG welder was used). Paint some anti-rust primer under the under the lifted edge and let it dry.

Place a heavy dolly under the lip and hammer down. Sight along the edge to make sure it is not wavy. Weld up any remaining holes on the gutter edge, then sand with a 24-grit disc. Fill any surface imperfections with body filler. Before the topcoat of paint is applied, make sure that the seam is filled with 3M Dripcheck Sealer. This compound is flexible and will revent future cracking and water entry.

While you’re at it, inspect the entire length of gutter and seal any remaining sections that need it. Don’t forget to fish oil behind the repaired area if you can get at it.

Replacing Vent Window Catches

An annoying occurrence with ’68 and later Beetles is broken vent window catches. The black knob and pivot usually break clean off their base, which is riveted to the vent window frame. Most owners and workshops usually choose to replace the entire vent window, which means dismantling at least half the door.

A quicker and cheaper way is to just replace the catch while the vent window is still on the door. Here’s how to do it. Before you start, saturate the section of rubber seal that is pressed between the glass and the old piece of catch with WD-40, and let sit for a while. Drill out the two rivets that hold the old piece in, with a 3mm drill bit. Make sure all traces of the old rivets are removed. Now find a flat head screwdriver, and hammer, then tap, rearwards on the old piece. If the rubber seal sticks to the old piece, break contact by pushing a dull single edge razor blade between it and the old piece of catch. Spray the new unit with WD-40 and push it in carefully until the holes line up. If it will not slide in easily, use your pop rivet or a nail to lever it in through the holes. Secure the new unit with two short pop rivets and you’re done.

Left and right vent window catches are available from Vintage Veedub Supplies.

Wheel Bearing Sense

When re-packing front wheel bearings it is important not to have any grease on the surface where the axle seal contacts the hub, because this will make the seal slippery and pop out of the hub, causing a leak. Also, a drop of Silastic on the end of the speedo cable (where it emerges from the grease cap) will stop water entering the left hand wheel bearings. This also brings to mind another mechanical "Old Wives Tale" (like extractors burning out valves). There is no need to fill the grease cap with grease, as this leaves no room for expansion when bearings are hot, and, when you think about it, how does grease manage to get from the hub into the bearings anyway. A light cover of grease is all that is necessary on the inside of the grease cap and on the stub axle to prevent corrosion.

Checking the Bumper Brackets

If your Beetle is ever involved in an accident, no matter how small, the majority of the impact is usually absorbed by the bumper bars and in turn the bracket location points. Even after a minor collision, creasing of the bodywork around the brackets will result. So if you car does suffer front or rear end collision, check these areas carefully for creasing particularly after repair work has been carried out. The same checks should also be done when buying a used vehicle.

Getting Full Throttle

Most Beetles with the 40-hp style of accelerator pedal and linkage suffer from a lack of full throttle. The accelerator rod, which runs through the centre of the pedal cluster, has bent towards the front of the car over the years. To remedy this, select a large shifter and put it around the rod just to the right of the brake pedal, with the handle in the vertical plane. Now put a large screwdriver or jack handle in the hole in the end of the shifter and twist it clockwise, slightly twisting the shaft back towards the rear of the car. This will counteract the bending forces built up over many years of trying to squeeze the very last from those 40 horses.

Safety in Stainless Steel

When VW fitted exhaust manifold nuts with a stainless steel Heli-Coil, they did so because the Heli-Coil acted as a nut lock, and being stainless steel, did not seize onto the exhuast stud. Their one fault was that the mild steel 13mm hexagonal outer section would rust away and would round off when being undone. There is a solution. I have been using stainless steel nuts called ‘Glen Locks’ available from most good Engineering suppliers like Component Engineering at Milperra. Being all-stainless they do not rust, and having a locking device in them. And, they do not undo, as is sometimes the case with plain stainless steel nuts.

Electrical Tape Tips

How many different ways can you think of for using plastic tape? (None! – R.Y.) Actually there are only two, the right way and the wrong way. Sure, electrical tape sticks together no matter how you use it at first, but there are ways of ensuring that it stays that way. For example, a wire harness should be made by using just three or four wraps of tape spaced no less than 10cm and no more than 30cm apart, depending on bundle thickness. Nick the tape with a knife so that the tear separates with no tension on it. This prevents the end of the tape puckering and unwrapping over a period of time. Complete the wraps so that the tape is snug, but not stretched. Nicks or bruises in wire can easily be repaired with a ‘cigarette’ tape wrap. Cut sufficient tape to cover the nick and wrap it lengthwise around the wire with your thumbs, as if you were rolling a cigarette. An ordinary wrap would eventually come loose and slide down the wire. Use just one layer of tape for wrapping hoses, handles and other appliances, with each wrap halfway over the previous one. Any more tape is wasted. Finally, always wrap a handle from the smaller diameter end up to the larger one; it keeps all the wraps neat and tight.

Fix that Allen Head Screw

In case you've rounded out the inside of an Allen-head screw (VW weren't too keen on these; you mostly find then on U.S. speed equipment) and the head doesn't protrude far enough for you to grab it with pliers, how do you get it out? Try this. Find a small screwdriver with a blade slightly smaller than the diameter of the head. Position the screwdriver blade against the Allen head and tap the handle with a hammer to push the screwdriver blade in. This creates a slot for the screwdriver blade, and if you're successful, it will allow you to remove the Allen head screw by unscrewing it with the screwdriver.

Check That Fan Belt

You’ve just replaced your VW's fan belt, adjusted it so there's 15 mm of deflection between pulleys, and tightened up the pulley nut. Finished, right? Not necessarily. There are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, start the motor and let it few minutes. Stop it to check the fanbelt again. Whoa, it’s out! A new belt will always settle and stretch a little at first, so you may find you’ll have to readjust the tension several times, at least for a week or two. Secondly, a new fan belt using different material was introduced in 1971. These are identified by either ‘D.A’ or  ‘X.D.A’ part numbers. Check carefully if you've bought one of these, as it is designed for a deflection of only 6 mm instead of 15 mm.

Colour That Spanner

If you're like most people, you won't have a wondrous multi-section tool chest, wall cabinet or shadow board to store your tools, but rather one big storage bin where everything gets thrown in. Isn't it a hassle ratting through the tool box looking for that elusive 13-mm ring spanner, particularly when there's a mixture of imperial and metric tools in there. You reach for a metric and pull out an imperial - or vice versa. To avoid this problem, paint or tape a stripe around each of your spanners, one colour for metric, another for imperials. You can do the same with sockets as well if yours float freely in the bottom of your tool box.

Insulation in a Bottle

If you come across a wiring break or splice in your VW's electrics that require insulating, usually good old electrical tape is used. But what if the break is in a hard-to-reach area where fitting tape is difficult or impossible? Ordinary fingernail polish makes a high-quality insulation in this instance, and can be done in as many different colours as your wife, mum or girlfriend will allow.

Remember the Brake Cylinders

Your brake shoes are worn and must be replaced, and of course you decide to do it yourself. You pull off the drum and remove the springs and shoes. The wheel cylinder isn't leaking, so you decide to leave it alone. Right? Wrong! When you install new brake shoes and adjust them for correct drum clearance, you alter the wheel cylinder's stroke (slightly). Abrasive grit forms at the bottom of the cylinder between the rubber cups during the life of your VW. Because the stroke has been changed, the cups nay now rub over the dirt, causing a leak. It is cheap insurance to remove the wheel cylinders, clean and rebuild them and change the brake fluid every time you replace the brake shoes.

Torch Tip

Have you found yourself trying to work on your car late at night out in the middle of nowhere, trying to juggle your tools and see with torchlight at the same time? If you haven't got someone to hold the torch for you, it can be a real hassle – you’ll wish you had three arms. Try gluing an ordinary cotton spool to the bottom of your torch. By holding the spool between your teeth you can see what you're doing and keep both hands free at the same.

Powder for Oil Leaks

Isn't it a pain trying to pinpoint the exact location of an oil leak? Every time you try cleaning off your engine, gearbox or whatever, sooner or later everything is smeared with oil again. Good old talcum powder to the rescue. Thoroughly clean the suspected area with solvent, dry it off with air, then liberally cover the problem region with powder. When you start your engine, the first signs of leaks will quickly show up.

Checking the Gearbox Oil Level

Checking the gearbox level on your VW can sometimes be a tricky job, especially with Beetles, as they have frame forks in the way of the access hole. According to the manual, the oil level should reach up to the bottom of this filler hole, but sometimes it's difficult to stick your finger in there to get an accurate reading. There is an easier way. Try using ordinary pipe cleaner with a 90° bend near the end. When you insert this into the filler hole, the exact level in your gearbox can be determined.

Lubing the Latches

All door and hatch locks become stiff with age, due to lack of lubrication. Don't try to use WD-40 or engine oil, as they will eventually become clogged up with dirt and grime. You must use graphite, which is powdered carbon - as used in lead pencils. This is readily available in puff bottles from auto shops. Heap a little graphite on your fingertip, place it near the key slot and blow gently to get the graphite in there. Alternatively, if the bottle comes with a nozzle, you can use that to squirt the powder into the lock. Finally, coat the door key with graphite, insert it into the lock and move it backwards and forwards a few times. It's amazing the difference it makes.

Reconditioning Your Pliers

From removing cotter pins to loosening nuts (bad practice!) pliers are one of the most versatile tools that you can put into your toolkit. However, after a few years they start to get a bit chewed up in the jaws, causing some loss in versatility and sometimes some badly skinned knuckles. If your favourite pliers have lost their grip because the jaws are worn, you can quickly restore their strength by placing the pliers in a vice and using a small triangular file, cleaning and resharpening the jaws.

Battery and Brake Fluid Tips

Brake fluid can be really horrid stuff if you ever spill any of it on your VW when topping up the reservoir or bleeding the brakes. There's almost nothing that attacks paint better. Keep a bucket of water and detergent with a sponge handy when you're pouring fluid. If you do spill any on your pride and joy, wash the area of the spillage immediately. This may not prevent damage - it depends how fast you are! The same can be said for battery caps. If you take them off the battery to check the electrolyte level, don't lay them on the floor of your VW (or on the mudguard of your modern VW). Remember to use distilled water to top up your battery - not tap water, which has lime, chlorine and fluoride dissolved in it which can hinder your battery's function. Supermarkets and garages all sell demineralised water, but one really clever alternative if you're strapped for cash is to use ‘defrost’ water from your refrigerator. Store it in a glass container and keep it covered to keep out impurities.

Use a Wheel Brace

If you ever get a flat tyre, searching for the right socket on a four-way wheel brace can be irritating. To speed things up a bit, mark the correct opening with coloured electrical tape. Simple but effective. It’s not good practice to use the factory socket and jack bar to regularly undo wheel nuts as it’s too easy to skin your knuckles and bend the socket out of shape trying to undo nuts seemingly welded on. Wheel braces are simple to carry and easy to kick - just make sure it has the necessary 19-mm socket.

Storing Gaskets

If you store paper, cork or plastic gaskets improperly over a long period of time, when you need one you may find it's gone a funny shape and will be useless. Never store gaskets standing up, as they will bend into useless shapes over time. Hanging them from a nail is a no-no as well - round gaskets become oval, and rectangular gaskets assume interesting diamond shapes. Gaskets should be stored where there is as little air circulation as possible, such as in closed packages, bins, drawers or cabinets.

Spanner Sense

Most U.S. custom exhausts are bolted together using old-fashioned, ugly imperial nuts and bolts that require a different set of spanners to work with than your trusty metrics. You will find that after a while, the exhaust nuts corrode and wear to the point where the AF sockets don't fit properly any more. You may end up burring or rounding these nuts further. If this happens, don't worry - reach for your metric spanners. For a loose 9/16-inch head, try a 14-mm socket, or for a loose 1/2-inch nut, try a 12-mm. This is more civilised than butchering the work with an adjustable spanner.

Don’t Forget Them Valves

Getting new tubeless tyres installed on your Pride And Joy? Make sure you ask the tyre shop to install new tyre valves as well. A valve deteriorates with age, just as a tyre does. If you don't replace them, they may start to leak, resulting in under-inflation, shorter tyre life, and perhaps a flat. Some shops replace valves as a matter of course, but others don't, so always inquire.

Change Them Brake Lines Too

Regardless of where you live or how old your VW is, you should inspect your brake lines once a year for signs of rust, corrosion, damage or wear. Corroded or damaged tubing should be replaced immediately, as should flexible lines which have gone stiff with age or which may perhaps rub on your front tyres on full lock (especially if you have installed fat wheels). The flexible lines not only go stiff, but also swell inside, making your car pull to one side. In older VWs this is even more important, since they have only a single-circuit brake system and a tubing failure can result in total brake loss.

Install That Spring

With the help of your service manual and some mechanical savvy, replacing worn brake shoes is usually a fairly easy task, except when you get ready to install the brake shoe retracting springs that stretch across from one shoe to the other. If you don’t have a proper tool, stretching the spring across to fit into the holes can be a knuckle-busting process. If you have an old pair of pliers, drill a hole near the tip of one of the jaws, install a flat-head nail and bend the end to lock in place. By hooking the end of the spring around this nail head and gripping the brake shoe with the pliers, you can more easily install that spring.

Check the Fuel Filter in the Petrol Tank

Here is a preventative maintenance tip about the petrol tank fuel filter. Some drivers may experience a lean condition even though all of the correct parts are used and working properly in the rest of the fuel system. This has been more noticeable with dual-carb higher HP engines than with stock single carb motors. Many people are unaware that the fuel tank has a filter screen, which should be changed periodically. The screen part number is VW 111 209 147A and the gasket is VW 111 209 139 – only a few dollars. Because it is out of sight, it is not the first place you would look. If the existing screen is all plugged up, replacing it will solve the lean condition that was caused by fuel starvation from the tank to the pump when the engine was being used under higher performance applications. Even stock VWs will benefit from a replacement of the fuel tank screen. It’s not something you would normally check.

Do I Need A Choke?

Please be clear that no car needs a choke to start or run in any type of weather. It is merely a convenience to keep your car idling when cold. Few dual throat carbs that come on factory cars have a choke, as they start and run fine in the coldest of weather. All it takes is a few pumps on the accelerator pedal to squirt petrol directly into the port, crank the engine and it will start. If it dies, repeat the procedure. Normally when the engine is tuned properly it will then idle and run. Chokes on the carbs cause far more fuel to be burned, can wash down the cylinder if left on too long and that could be an expensive convenience. I, personally, removed the stock choke plate(s) from my car's carbs for years. This left the fast idle cam without choking the engine.

Avgas and Cars Don’t Mix

Aircraft fuel is often considered as a high-octane fuel that may be used in a high performance car engine. When Gene Berg talked to the engineers at one of the major refineries he was rather shocked to find that they use a totally different octane rating system. Aircraft engines are rarely run over 2500 rpm. Because of the much slower engine speeds, Aviation fuel is designed to burn much more slowly than normal petrol. Also, the piston pressure is changed far less than that of the auto engine that has a wide rpm change. A higher performance car engine usually means even a higher rpm range. They also rate the octane according to the rich or lean mixture device on the dash of the airplane. The aircraft fuel’s octane rating was considerably lower compared to the automotive fuel rating system and should never be used for automotive applications. People who use heads with the proper parts and stay with the correct octane rating for their engine's compression ratio, the heads live a normal life and do not experience any cooling, cracking or overheating problems. Consider this - if it required 91 octane for the stock Beetle with 7.2 or 7.3 CR, it is obvious that 85 or 87 octane will require a CR in the area of 6.6 to 6.9. Gene Berg’s Mexican 1982 VW Beetle came stock, new from the VW factory with 6.6 and ran cool and fantastic.

Protect That Timing Light

If you're one of those strange people who enjoy timing their engine using a timing light, there's a change you can make to the light to protect the exposed lens. Clamp a short piece of radiator hose over the lens, perhaps 50 cm long, in case you drop it at some stage, bump it against something or touch the fanbelt. Paint the inside of the hose white and it will help to throw the light.

Dry Them Things Out

It's amazing how normal household appliances can be applied to working on your car. Take the humble electric hairdryer, for instance. This is excellent for drying out wet distributors, caps and condensers. Some after-market gauges collect condensation on the inside of the glass after heavy rain - hit then from behind with that hairdryer to dry them out (easier on a Beetle). It's also useful for drying carpeting and mats than become damp because you forgot to wind up the windows before that last thunderstorm.

Checking the Head Wear

The VW air-cooled engine requires periodical head work. Guides and springs wear, and exhaust valves erode. The stock VW engine, when driven normally, requires checking after the following recommendations: VW Sedan, 110,000 km; Type 3, 100,000 km, Type 2 65 to 70,000 km. Now if you have a higher lift, faster ramp camshaft you must check for guide wear sooner to prevent burned and/or broken valves. If the valve does not come down straight on the seat due to guide wear, it takes longer to cool. If bad enough it will try to bend the head of the valve when it hits the seat crooked. It rotates and hits in a new spot, bending it in a new direction. When bent back and forth enough it breaks. The guides may be checked with the engine together by moving the spring/retainer/valve up and down when in the adjusting position. Valves must be checked and set regularly, about every 5,000 km as recommended by VW. They get tighter, not looser, and will burn prematurely if this is not done.

Water Pump Must

If you’ve installed a new water pump in your Golf or Passat, remember to fill the cooling system before you start the engine. Operating the water pump dry for even a few seconds can damage the seal and cause early failure of the water pump. Traces of moisture, by the way, at the water pump vent should not be considered as seal failure unless you can determine that coolant is being lost from the cooling system.

Quick Wire Tester

A jumper wire with an alligator clip on each end can be a useful and timesaving device for electrical testing. When you use one, though, be sure that it is as heavy as the wire in the circuit you're hooking into. If the jumper wire is a lot smaller than the wire in the circuit you're testing, the jumper wire can heat up and melt away. This can cause electrical damage and may even be a fire hazard.

No Rings and Things

Never work on or around your VW's starter motor or solenoid with rings or other jewellery on.  Your wedding ring or wristwatch can easily cause an electrical short, with painful results! A ring will become red hot almost immediately and will severely burn your finger. It's a good idea to remove your rings whenever you work on any part of the car. They can easily become encrusted with dirt and oil, scratched, or caught in parts.

Tighten Those Brake Hoses

When installing or reconnecting brake lines or hoses, be sure to tighten them securely, rather than ‘snugging’ them up as you would a spark plug. If they are not tight, air can seep back through them into the brake system, causing problems like spongy pedal or even loss of brake power. The correct tool to use is a flare nut spanner, rather than an open-end spanner. It slips over the brake lines like an open-ender, but because it has a greater contact surface it is less likely to round off the edges of the connecting nuts. Sidchrome make metric sets and are well worth the investment.

Stop the Sliding Carpets

Are your Beetle’s carpets sliding around? Avoid gluing them down as you’ll always need to periodically remove them for cleaning, drying, etc. Try securing them with a strip of Velcro at each corner of the pattern. This will stick very securely and will still allow you to take the carpets out again. This system will also work well for fastening the cargo and floor areas of Kombis, though it may be necessary to use larger strips of Velcro to hold down larger strips of carpet.

Loosening that Stubborn Nut

If you’re struggling to loosen a nut on your VW’s exhaust system that seems welded on, and neither penetrating oil nor heat can loosen it, you may have to drill it off. Drill a 3 mm hole all the way through the side of the hex nut, being careful not to damage the stud. This will release the tension so the nut will unscrew.

Dodgy Voltmeter

If your voltmeter is reading erratically, it may be the result of static electricity on lens, which can occur when you wipe the lens with a clean rag. The cure? Spread a thin film of dishwashing liquid on the lens with your finger. This will reduce any static charge.

Stripped Thread Trick

Is a stripped thread keeping you from removing a nut from a screw, stud or bolt? Try this trick to get it off. Screw another identical nut down on top of the offending nut. If the bolt is free to spin, be sure to secure it from behind. Then clamp the two nuts together with multi-grip pliers and unscrew the two nuts; they should come off together. Discard the screw, bolt, stud and nuts to avoid any repeat of the problem.

Don’t Damage Your Paint

Drilling holes in your mudguard for a radio aerial? Protect the surrounding paint by covering your punch mark with a strip of masking tape. This keeps the drill bit from accidentally skating across the mudguard. To keep the chuck from scratching the paint if you should break through suddenly, slip a rubber grommet over the bit.

Check That Handbrake

When removing a rear wheel brake drum to service your brakes, be sure that the handbrake is completely off. Many a weekend mechanic (and occasionally a red-faced pro) has struggled to remove a stubborn rear brake drum, only to find out after much effort that all he had to do was release the handbrake. The car, of course, should be well chocked and supported with jackstands.

Is It Straight?

When in doubt about whether a pushrod, a piece of linkage, or any similar rod is really straight, one easy way to check is to use a mirror or flat piece of glass. Align your eyes along the same horizontal plane as the glass, then roll the suspect pushrod across the glass slowly, observing whether it makes full contact with the glass. If it doesn’t stay flat over a few revolutions – it seems to rise and dip – then it is bent. Never attempt to straighten or re-use bent pushrods. Replace them.

Points Tightening

Putting the last adjustment on a set of ignition points to get the gap exactly right, so that the ignition will be spot-on, can sometimes be difficult. You shift the points slightly, but when you re-tighten the hold-down screw you find they’re still slightly too loose or too tight. Here’s a way to make those fine adjustments. Use two screwdrivers, one to move the points (and hold them in position), and the other to tighten the screw.

Golf Clutch Reinforcement

A common problem with Golfs is the clutch cable conduit pulling through the bodywork where it enters the interior of the car. Volkswagen has since recognized this problem, and markets a strengthening kit. The kit comes supplied with a steel reinforcing plate and five rivets. All that is required to fit the plate is to remove the clutch cable, hold the plate over the existing cable hole and drill the holes for the rivets. Then hit the pins of the rivets in until they are flush, and replace the cable. ‘Special Plate Kit’, Part No 171 899 020, costs around $37 from any VW dealer.

Adjustable Cam Sprockets for Watercooled VWs

An adjustable cam sprocket allows you to vary the overall timing of the camshaft relative to the rotation of the crankshaft, and is a perfect example of compromise in high performance. By advancing the camshaft you move the torque peak lower in the rpm range and by retarding the camshaft you move the torque peak higher in the rpm range. You get about the same amount of horsepower, but the adjustable cam sprocket allows you to move it around. When you advance the camshaft, you will show a gain of 4 or 5 hp up to 4500 rpm (with a matching loss at the high end), and 5 hp or more from 4000 to 6500 rpm in the retard position (with a corresponding loss on the low end). In spite of the big hp numbers that are casually talked about on cars that need to be wound out to 8500 rpm to work, most people find that they drive their cars under 4500 rpm most of the time. Therefore, advancing the camshaft would provide a better feel and better drivability around town.

Pulsating Brakes

A pulsating brake pedal is an annoyance that may be caused by front or rear brakes. To determine which, apply your handbrake while your VW is moving. Hold the handbrake releaser button in with your thumb while you pull the level up. If there’s no pulsation, the front brakes are causing the problem. If the handbrake pulsates, check the back brakes.

Feel The Points Gap

When you're setting ignition contact point gap with a feeler gauge, ‘feel’ is all-important in judging the right gap. To improve your feel when using a multi-blade feeler gauge, remove the proper blade from the pack and grip it gently between your thumb and forefinger as you run it back and forth between the points. Then clean the points by sliding a clean piece of paper through them.

Brake Booster Check

If your Kombi’s power assisted brakes require excessively high effort and you suspect a defective vacuum booster, try checking it like this. Pump the brake pedal four or five times with the engine off, to remove any remaining vacuum from the booster. Depress the brake pedal and hold it down while you start the motor. If the pedal drops (about 3 cm) when the motor starts, the booster is OK and the problem lies elsewhere.

Welding on VWs

Planning to do some arc welding on your VW? Be certain to disconnect the battery cables. Arc welders will ground to the car body and can send tremendous amounts of electric current through your car's electrical system. One of the most vulnerable components is the battery, which can burn out if it's not disconnected. The delicate electronics found in many modern VWs could also be damaged by the powerful flow of current from the welder.

Vacuum Advance Check

If you suspect your distributor's vacuum advance is not working properly, try checking it this way. Remove the distributor and rotor, and the vacuum hose to the diaphragm at the carburettor end. Rotate the breaker plate as far as it will go with one hand and seal off the vacuum hose with your other thumb. Now let go of the breaker plate. If it moves before you remove your thumb from the vacuum line, the advance diaphragm is leaking.

Dead Spark Plugs

A timing light can be used for more than timing your VW' s ignition. To spot a non-firing spark plug, attach the timing light’s inductive clip to each plug wire in turn, and pull the trigger. When you connect to the dead plug, the light doesn't flash. Having located the dead cylinder, the next step is to determine why it's dead.

Troublesome Short

Do you have a problem with your battery down when your VW is parked for a while? This is caused by a short circuit somewhere in your electrical system, causing current to be gradually drained. This sounds like a nightmare and sometimes is. Try troubleshooting it this way. Connect your test light in series between the battery's positive terminal and the battery lead. All switches should be off! If the lamp is still lit, you have a short. To find it, remove one fuse at a time from the fuse block. When the fuse from the shorted circuit is removed, the lamp will go out. Troubleshoot this circuit to find the short.

Trouble Shifting Gears

Have you noticed a gradually increasing difficulty in shifting gears on your VW? Instead of jumping to expensive conclusions, firstly check the freeplay at the clutch pedal. It shouldn’t be any greater than 25 mm. If it is, crawl under the gearbox and tighten the adjusting nut or wing-nut until the pedal play is correct. Remember to tighten the locknut too, as the adjusting nut can gradually unscrew over time, increasing the freeplay and giving you crunching gearchanges.

Tracking That Tyre Leak

Trying to track down a slow tyre leak? Spray soapy water on the valve – both in and around it – and on both sides of the wheel where the tyre bead meets the rim. Soapy water is better than plain water, especially with slow leaks, because the appearance of pronounced bubbles will pinpoint the leak.

Spark Plug Leads

If you are replacing your spark plug leads (try to use genuine VW leads wherever possible), be sure that the new leads are placed in the holding clips in the same manner as the old ones. Route them slowly and carefully. Not only does this lessen the chances of you putting the leads onto the wrong cylinders, but if they’re routed improperly it can cause the plugs to crossfire. This is especially the case with air-cooled engines where the two engine sides fire consecutively, because voltage is induced from one cable to another even though the insulation may be good. Inspect the insulation for cracking periodically.

Is Your Coil The Right Way?

When replacing your VW’s ignition coil, be sure you connect the wires up correctly. Just because the ‘Bosch’ label faces you doesn’t mean it’s installed the right way round. To be sure, check that the wires from the fusebox and choke connect to the positive side of the coil (marked '15') and the green wire from the condenser is attached to the negative side (marked '1'). If you get them reversed by mistake the engine will still run but performance will drop. About 40% more voltage is now needed to fire the plugs.

Easy Bonnet Replacement

If you must remove the engine lid or front bonnet from your VW for any reason, scribe around the hinges where they bolt to the bonnet before you loosen anything. Now when you go to replace the bonnet you shouldn't have any problems getting it to realign properly. Just match the hinges to the scribe marks, then tighten.

Quick Ring Check

Suppose you're checking out that VW you saw the used car lot. Is the salesman telling the truth when he says the rings are in fine shape? Never believe him anyway. Here's one way to find out, if you can't perform a compression check there and then. Start the engine and let it reach operating temperature. Remove the engine oil filler cap, stand back and have your friend rev the motor. If heavy smoke comes out the oil hole, the rings are stuffed. This check can also be tried on your personal car, but of course follow it up with a proper compression check.

Vaseline Is Good

If you live in a coastal or otherwise high corrosion area, and you disconnect any of the male/female electrical terminals in your VW’s electrical system, it doesn't hurt to put a smear of Vaseline on the connectors before pushing them back into place. This protects against corrosion and doesn't interfere with good electrical contact.

Buzzing Speaker Fix

Ever had the annoying problem of your cheap Taiwanese stereo speakers developing a rattle deep in the innards when those big bass notes come booming out? And the units are sealed so you can't take them apart? Turn your stereo on so the speaker is buzzing or rattling, then grab the WD40 and spray the speaker cone thoroughly through the grille. As the speaker vibrates, it spreads the WD40 completely through the unit and will almost certainly cure the problem.

Rust Is Easily Prevented

When overhauling your VW motor, don't leave any freshly machined or otherwise new surfaces (cylinders, cranks, cams, heads, etc) exposed to the air for any length of time. Spray these surfaces with WD40, light oil or grease so that everything is protected by a film of oil. That way, when you go to assemble the pieces they won't be covered with rust. Any rust that does accumulate should be removed carefully before you assemble the engine.

Dealing With Potholes

Here's some advice for those who make the drive up to Nambucca Heads or Port Macquarie each year. What to do if you see a pothole and can't avoid it? Engineers at GM in the USA advise not to brake so hard that the wheel gets locked in one position. This concentrates the shock in one area, and more damage is likely to result. Allowing the wheel to rotate as it strikes a huge Pacific Highway pothole diffuses the shock somewhat, decreasing the likelihood of damage to wheels, steering, linkage and suspension. Clenching your teeth is commonly done, but it is not recommended to shut your eyes before impact.

Easy Brake Repair

Have you ever replaced a set of rear brake shoes? Removing the handbrake lever-retaining clip without a special tool and without destroying it with a screwdriver and mallet can be a problem. Try doing it this way - use an open-ended spanner with jaws that are just slightly narrower than the width of the clip. Place the spanner against the ends of the clip, and tap the spanner with a rubber or plastic hammer. It should come off easily.

Got Funny Steering?

If your Beetle's steering develops a strange vagueness and a ‘clunking’ as you go from lock to lock, check the tie rod ends. Lie under the car and have someone push the front wheels from lock to lock. You'll soon see if any tie rod is stuffed - it will have some slop or play in it. If they all look OK and you still have funny steering, check the tightness of the steering box retaining bolts. If they work loose, the steering box can move sideways on the torsion beam 10 mm or more. Position the steering box against the retaining lug, tighten the bolts to 25 ft/lbs and bend the retaining tabs over the bolt heads. Then realign the front end and feel the difference.

No More Rusty Nuts

Some people believe that using brass nuts when installing a new exhaust system is a good idea, because brass won't corrode and the nuts will be easier to remove next time. Don't do it. The brass nuts on the steel studs can set up an electrolytic couple. Electrolysis will hasten corrosion of the steel studs. And because the brass is softer then the corroded studs, the next time you go to remove the nuts you will almost surely strip or stuff the threads. The thing to do is use new steel nuts when you install the exhaust - or better still, stainless steel nuts.

Avoid Clogged Nozzles

Don't you hate it when the can of spray paint you go to use for a job has a clogged nozzle? One common way to stop this is to hold the can upside down and spray until the nozzle clears. Not a bad idea, but it wastes propellant - and when that's gone you throw the can away. Here's a better idea. Pull the nozzle off the can after each job and plonk it into a small jar of lacquer or paint thinner. Stored this way (with the lid on) it will always spray like new when you go to use it again.

A Cheap Plastic Funnel

A useful little thing to have around the garage is a small funnel, allowing neat pouring of everything from petrol, oil, brake fluid to water.  Aren't they always difficult to find when you need them most! Rat through your workshop rubbish bin for that old plastic fuel filter you replaced at the last tune-up. Simply cut the end off at the welded plastic end, remove the innards and you have one cheap plastic funnel.

No More Sagging Rear Ends

Do you find the rear of your air-cooled VW has sagged over the years? That low posture may look neat, especially with wide wheels, but it restricts suspension travel and may cause your tyres to rub on the mudguards. Don’t waste your money on new shock absorbers; the solution is to readjust the rear torsion bars. Jack the rear of the car up, remove the back wheels and slacken the handbrake cables. Unbolt the axles and shock from the spring plates and swing the axles rearward clear of the spring plate. Remove the torsion bar cover and rubber bushing. The torsion bars are fitted with 40 inner splines and 44 outers, so by turning the torsion bar 1 spline clockwise and the spring plate 1 spline anti-clockwise will have a vernier effect of 50 minutes (9 degrees minus 8 degrees 10 minutes). Mark the torsion bar and spring plate with liquid paper so you don't lose track of where you started, then lever the spring plate off the stop with a huge screwdriver. Rotate the torsion bar two splines in a backward direction, then replace the spring plate two splines forward over the torsion bar. This subtle change should be sufficient to correctly reset your VW’s ride height, but remember the change is purely an adjustment so you can put it back if necessary at no extra cost.

Keep Your Hand Off It

If you have a habit of resting your hand on your gearstick (the one in the car!) as you drive, particularly for extended periods in 3rd gear, you should be aware that this puts undue pressure on the shift forks in the gearbox and will drastically reduce their lifespan. Hands off!

Careful With Those CV Joints

One of VW owners’ more unpleasant tasks in life is the removal and repacking of rear axle CV joints. In addition to the dirt, grease and mess, those 12-point hex heads on the CV bolts are super easy to strip or chew out. Before you start taking things apart, jack up the rear, remove the wheels and clean all around the axles and gearbox with degreaser, soap and water. Hose all the rubbish away. If the inside of those bolts have dirt or grit in them, the 12-point drive key won't penetrate in all the way, making it much easier to strip the bolt. Give the ends of all bolts a slight tap with a ball hammer before you unscrew them, as this will aid greatly in loosening them up.

Upgrade Your Rocker Screws

Are you going to install a hot cam in your new VW motor? This means one with a profile giving more lift or duration, or both. If so, throw away your stock VW rocker screws and use swivel feet rocker screws. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it's likely that your stock screws will be worn, so it makes sense to replace them. Secondly, proper Gene Berg or Porsche 911 style swivel feet screws have a much larger contact area on the valve stem, and will not damage the contact area. Stock rocker screws will pound valve stems into crater shapes in less than 5,000 km with a high lift cam. Finally, they're a lot quieter, and that ‘tak tak tak’ valve train noise will disappear almost completely. Incidentally, you shouldn’t need lash caps if everything else is correct - they'll only protect valve stems from a component that shouldn't be there. However, you will need lash caps if your valves are made of stainless steel, whether or not they've been stellited.

High-Speed Points

If your hot VW tends to misfire at high engine speeds, you may be getting points float. The standard #044 points for Bosch 009 distributors do a great job in day-to-day work, but start to float at engine speeds above 5500rpm. This is simply because the spring tension is insufficient for such high RPM use. To fix this, order the special #092 Bosch points which have a greater spring tension. They are not easy to come by, but are well worth the investment if you spend a lot of your time in that part of the engine range. They're easy to recognise too - they have a black and white striped wire.

Improving The Earth

Over time, all VWs, both 6 volt and 12 volt, will develop the yellow headlight syndrome. This may be a sign that your VW wants new headlight bulbs, but try this trick before you rush off to spend your money on quartz halogen bulbs. Unscrew the ground wire to body connection for the headlights in the front luggage area each side of the petrol tank. Clean both surfaces with emery paper to achieve good metal-to-metal contact, then screw the earth wires back into place. By cleaning this earth point you are reducing electrical resistance and the difference could surprise you.

The Fan Has To Fit Properly

It’s always a relief when your motor rebuild is almost complete, but there are a few little things to be aware of if you've taken the generator/fan assembly apart. For a start, VW changed the dimensions of the fan hub several times over a long period, so you may find that up to nine shims may be required between the hub and pulley to set the correct gap. Arrange the distance between the fan and fan cover with these shims so that the gap is 2mm. This puts the fan in the correct position relative to the shroud when it's all bolted together. If you get it wrong, the fan will rub with a horrid scraping noise. Insert surplus shims between the spring washer and the fan. Also, 12-volt generator-equipped motors are fitted with a fan housing cover designed to direct cooling air to the generator. This item, bolted to the rear of the generator, must have the inlet slot pointing downward. If you overlook this detail, the generator will overheat and thus be damaged. Ensure the slot points down when you bolt the generator to the fan shroud.

Pushrod Tube Tips

One simple little item that often gets overlooked in an engine rebuild is the pushrod tubes. Remember how annoying it is when oil leaks out around pushrod tube ends? Before installing the pushrod tubes, give them a stretch in your hands so that they are 190-195 mm long (40hp motors will be 180-185 mm). Be careful, it's easy to crack them. Always use new oil seals, and make sure they are properly seated on the tubes. Centre them in the crankcase, slide on the cylinder head and ensure they fit into the holes snugly. One final point - turn all the tubes so that the seams face upwards. If you're careful you'll avoid those tiresome oil leaks.

One For The Old Brigade

Here's a factory tip for you owners of 36-hp and early 40-hp VWs. If your motor has cylinder heads with round rocker shaft bosses (i.e. where the rocker shaft bolts to the head), then be careful of overheating the head. In certain conditions the design allows thermal stresses sufficient for valve damage. If you'd rather not update to later cylinder heads (recognisable by rectangular rocker shaft bosses) then here's what VW suggests as a cure. Drill 3 10 mm holes in the ribs near the intake part next time you take the cy1inder heads off. This allows a change to the airflow and will lower the stresses particularly near the exhaust valve seats and guides. It should also reduce any pinking tendencies you may find. You could also fit a Transporter fanbelt and crank pulley, which, because of its slightly larger diameter, will increase the amount of cooling air your engine receives.

Easy CC’ing

To properly determine compression ratio, you'll need to measure the volume of your combustion chambers, or  ‘CC the heads’ as they say. Mysterious?  No way. Set your head up on the bench so that it's horizontal. Of course you've cleaned it thoroughly, and ensured that the spark plugs and valves seal properly. Make up a clear plastic or perspex disc the same size as your cylinders, with a 5 mm hole drilled through the centre. Thinly coat one side with grease and lay it in the cylinder head. Press it down to make a good seal. Borrow a burette or small measuring jar graduated in 1 mL increments. Fill it with water, and add some food colouring or cordial to make it easier to see. Carefully fill the combustion chamber through the 5 mm hole, making sure no air bubbles form. Tilt the head a little if necessary. Keep adding liquid until there is no air underneath the Perspex, and a tiny meniscus starts to climb the 5 mm hole. Record how much liquid it takes to fill the chamber. It should be about 45-50 mL, depending on your engine.

A Simple Factory Upgrade

Next time you change your VW’s oil, measure the diameter of the oil intake pipe in the bottom of the crankcase. If it's 14 mm, you can fit the later model oil strainer that has a spring-loaded valve in the centre. Why? This little item is designed to ensure positive oil flow at all times. Normally oil flows through the wire mesh, but if it gets blocked with sludge, ice, metal shards etc, the wire mesh is pulled away from the funnel shaped insert and the oil bypasses the blocked strainer on its way up the intake pipe. Dirty oil is better than no oil at all. An inexpensive and worthwhile modification.

Measuring Makes The Difference

Are you mystified by the apparent huge jump in your VW’s oil consumption? The level is down low yet the motor neither has a major leak nor an oil-burning problem? Relax - it's probably just the way you've measured the oil level. Before you tug that dipstick out, stop and think - is the car on a level surface? Even a slight angle, such as a service station driveway or hilly street, can cause measuring errors of more than 1 litre. Also, don't try to measure the oil level until the engine has been stationary for at least 5 minutes. It will take this long for the engine's vital fluid to trickle back to the sump from the cylinder heads, oil cooler and other remote nooks and crannies. On the other hand, if you do find an oil consumption of more than 1 1itre per 1,000 km, you might have a problem.

Some Oil Leaking Is Proper

Drip drip drip! Don't you hate it when the engine or gearbox leaks oil from their various seals? The engine must be removed to fix this rotten problem. However, just because some oil is leaking doesn't mean you must replace the seal in question. It should only be done if oil is getting on the clutch and making it slip, or so much oil has escaped that the bottom of the clutch housing is covered with it. It is unnecessary to replace the engine or gearbox seal if only slight amounts of oil are found on the seals or splashed around the clutch housing. A good oil seal must leak a small quantity of oil to lubricate the sealing lips and stop them from burning. Just because there's a slight amount of oil smeared everywhere doesn't mean the seal is bad. If you do replace the seal, smear some grease around the lip to lubricate it until engine oil gets to it later.

Check The Choke

If your stock VW has problems with excess smoke, richness and uneven running after start up, chances are your choke is out of adjustment, or perhaps unserviceable. Unbolt the air cleaner and check firstly that the choke butterfly shaft and cam move freely. If so, unscrew the element retaining ring and remove the heater element and spring. Is it broken? Check that the plastic insert is seated correctly, then re-install the element so that the spring engages on the operating lever. Rotate the element backwards and forwards; if it is correctly installed, the choke butterfly will move. Align the element mark with the casting lug on the carb and tighten the screws. Lightly oil the fast idle cam. By rotating the ceramic element forward by 5 mm, you can set the choke to disengage earlier, if your particular engine has this need.

Check and Detail Your Fuel Pump

The reasons for engines misfiring, coughing or otherwise misbehaving can be many and varied, particularly when you start modifying or tinkering with a basically sound design. Check the basics; ignition, fuel. Still stumped? Assuming the electrics are all OK, a few fuel problems can be traced to the fuel pump. Remove it, disassemble, clean, check and re-assemble it. Make sure the diaphragm is not torn. If all is still OK, pull the fuel pump pushrod out of the case and polish it. Rub it with fine wet and dry sandpaper until it gleams. The reason is that the pushrod can stick in one position after a while, stopping fuel flow to the motor. Put the pushrod back in, then turn the motor over until the rod sits lowest in the plastic base. Measure the height above the base (including gaskets); it should be 8mm. Turn the motor over until the pushrod sits at its highest position, then measure again. This time it should be 13 mm, thus giving a stroke of at least 4 mm. If all this checks out, put the pump back on and attach the output line to a bucket. Start the motor and rev it to at lease 3000 rpm. The pump should deliver at least 400 mL of fuel per minute to the bucket. If this is also OK, you should be able to say that at lease the fuel pump is not to blame for that big miss.

Use the Correct Clutch Cable

Does your 6-volt Beetle have an unreasonable appetite for clutch cables? Swapping them is one of the more unpleasant tasks, so here's something to watch that may reduce the likelihood of having to do it again. Beetles made from 1968 (i.e. assembled in Australia) have a difference clutch cable from earlier manufactured ones. The difference is the shank of the cable at the front where it hooks onto the pedal - later model cables have a shank 50 mm in length. This strengthens the cable, and VW shortened the guide tube in the chassis to compensate. On the other hand, earlier models have a longer guide tube, and the cable should have a shank only 39 mm long. Fine and good - but often you can only find the later model cable. If you fit it into an early Beetle it will work, but the cable shank will hit the end of the guide tube every time you use the clutch. You will actually hear it clicking. Eventually the shank will fatigue and – snap - time for another clutch cable. Make sure the cable you buy is the correct one for your car.

Whistling Karmann Ghia

Some VWs, particularly Karmann Ghias (for obscure reasons), have a peculiar whistle that comes from the flywheel. Air is being compressed and released over areas near the flywheel as it spins, creating that strange sound. If you can't live with it any more, pull the engine out and take off the clutch and flywheel. Remove any casting burrs from the crankcase around the clutch breather hole (under the cam plug), de-burr the inside edge of the aligning flange at the front of the crankcase, and round off any rough or sharp edges in the clutch housing. Pay attention to the lugs near the holes where the engine studs go through. Bolt the motor back in and have another listen. The sounds of silence?

Checking Your Points

Modern VWs are fitted with electronic ignition as they are generally more trouble free and require less maintenance than the older mechanical ignition systems. Most of us, though, still love the old ways. The contact points are really the weak link in the conventional system, because as they wear and erode, the spark quality is reduced and the timing of the ignition alters as well. If your old points are matt grey with only minor pitting they can be carefully filed clean and re-used. Clean them with petrol to remove all grease from the point surfaces. Badly pitted and burned points should be replaced, but clean the new ones with petrol for the same reason as before. If you have a multimeter, check the voltage drop across the points is less than 0.3 volts. If this is OK, it eliminates the need to physically remove and inspect the contact surfaces.

Is it Rich or Lean?

Tuning an engine is often a matter of using your eyes and ears as much as your feeler gauges and spanners. How can you tell a weak or rich mixture just by the way the engine runs? Firstly, if your engine is set too rich, look for a regular surge or ‘hunting’ in engine speed, especially at idle. There will be black smoke from the exhaust, which may smell of fuel slightly. As you lean the mixture at the carb, idle speed will increase. What about a lean mixture? Look for a lumpy or uneven idle, a flat spot on acceleration, excessively high temperatures, popping back of the carb due to the late burning charge igniting fresh mixture, and lack of power. If you richen the idle mixture, idle speed should increase. Spark plugs can tell you more as well.

Change Your Spark Plugs

Are you thinking of saving money by putting off changing your spark plugs? Don't do it! Spark plugs more than a year old or with 10,000 km on them can misfire once in every 20 firings - meaning that the small squirt of fuel is wasted because nothing fires it. The fuel goes out the exhaust! In 16,000 km (say a year's driving) this could amount to 50 litres of fuel. This will cost you a lot more than a new set of spark plugs, so don't put them off any longer.

Wash Time is Check Time

Giving your VW a good wash every week or two is a good way to give the body a once-over for any damage or possible sources of rust. Dents, chips and holes spotted early and fixed then could save you a lot of money later. Use plenty of water and some automotive shampoo - leave the Ajax under the kitchen sink where it belongs. Take your time, love what you do and enjoy yourself. Clean out your door drainage holes and remember to hose all the detergent away and chamois the paintwork down when you've finished. If you care about your VW you’ll avoid automatic car washes like the plague as their detergents are super-duper industrial strength and their rollers and brushes are abrasive. Finally, don't garage your freshly washed VW yet. Let it dry, preferably by a quick drive, as a wet VW and warm garage combine to create rust.

Cleaning Your Engine Is Good

VWs (old ones, anyway) are cooled by air flowing over the engine surfaces and oil cooler, and absorbing heat. Here's one simple way to maximise this effect after every tune-up. Firstly, spray WD-40 into the distributor cap and clamp it back on. Back the VW out of the garage and onto your driveway. Spray the engine liberally with degreaser or kerosene, both above and below, and let it soak. Grab your garden hose and spray away all traces of mud, grime, oil, sludge, gunk and other matter from your engine. Accumulated crap like this can severely affect the heat transfer process. Doing this simple cleaning job every 5000 km prevents it occurring again. It also makes it easier to track down oil leaks if they exist.

Door Lock Trick

Aren't old Beetles with inside door locks a hassle when you go to let your little lady in the car? You can’t unlock the passenger door from the outside, so around to your side you run, unlock the door, reach across then unlock her door from the inside. If it's really raining hard you can bet she'll complain about your ‘old car’. Solution – find another girl! (only kidding). Actually, a driver's side door handle and lock mechanism will fit. Go to your wrecker's yard and pick up a driver's door handle, lock and key, then remove your passenger door handle by removing the two screws in the jamb and sliding the handle forward. Take your new handle apart, and clean and grease the button track so it will operate smoothly. Peek into the door to be sure that the button operating pin will correctly meet with the latch behind it. Reassemble your handle, turn it upside down and install it. If everything has been done correctly, the interior will still operate the lock but you now have an external key lock as well. The only difference will be the key position to lock it - serrations upward to downward clockwise to lock the door. Feels strange but your lady friend may enjoy it!

Better After Washing

Have you ever noticed how your car has less groans after washing than before? I have, because my Superbug has particularly tough suspension. One way I was able to quieten some of these noises was to polish the inside of the door jamb, where the rubber seal fits, and then to Armor-all the rubber itself. This lets the door rubbers move in the door jamb without groaning. This should not be done when your car is coming up for a re-spray, because paint will not stick to a previously Armor-alled surface unless special precautions are taken.

Wobbling Pulley

Does the bottom pulley on your upright 1200 -1600 have the wobbles? Don't replace it ! It can be straightened. With motor running at idle carefully place two tyre levers behind it (one on each side) and pull them back evenly until they touch the pulley apply some pressure to the outer lip of the pulley and it will straighten up. You must do this with the motor running so be careful. I have done it many times and it really works. The pulley is made out of sheet metal so it will easily bend. CAUTION - do not try this with alloy pulleys.

Rusty bump-stop brackets

There is a problem afflicting the control arms of double-joint CV Beetles and Type 3s which can be difficult to treat - the metal protrusions holding on the rubber bump stops can rust at the base, probably due to moisture trapped against the metal by the rubber. One broke off on me recently and I found it nearly impossible to get in there with an oxy flame. The solution - find another good metal piece. Since I was doing a double-joint conversion, I found one on the bump-stop bracket from the old swing-axle set-up. Drill out the spot weld at the base of the new metal piece and the double-joint control arm, then attach with a 6-mm nut and bolt. Thoroughly rust-proof it, and it's as good as a brand-new one.

Aid to bleeding brakes

We all know the familiar ritual of bleeding those bleeding brakes. You, the operator, on your back on a cold concrete floor, twist the bleed screw back and forth while dangling a plastic tube into a jam jar and calling out,"In - out - in - out ...”, while your wife/girl friend/next-door-neighbour's kid that you've bribed, pumps on the brake pedal in unison with your laboured instructions. There has to be a better way to get the air out, all by yourself, without the bribe and without getting brake fluid all over yourself.

Get hold of a small check valve. I like to use VW parts, so I recommend the small plastic T-piece found on pre-68 Beetle windscreen washers, or the inline check valve between the windscreen washer pump and jets on some water-cooled models. Attach this to the plastic tube that you have customarily attached to the bleed screw, so that the waste brake fluid can pump out the bleed screw, through the check valve and into the glass container. Crack the bleed screw open a fraction, get into the car and in relative comfort, pump the brake pedal as much as you like. The fluid will spurt out the check valve and into the container, but no air will creep back in, because the check valve will stop it. If you're using silicone brake fluid (good move) it can be recycled, so dispense with the jam jar altogether and extend the plastic tube back up to the fluid reservoir. That way the reservoir will never run out of fluid, too. When you're sure there is no more air issuing from the tube, screw the bleed screw closed and move on to the next wheel.

Good location for speakers

Looking for somewhere good to put powerful speakers, but don't want to use the panel behind the back seat? The kick panels underneath the back seat are quite a good spot. Just re-fabricate the original panels in aluminium plate of generous thickness and cut holes for the speakers, as well as the hot air outlets. You'd be surprised how much room there is for a decent-sized speaker, but there is a limitation - the battery is close by and determines the depth of speaker you can squeeze in there. It sounds great - bass sounds can communicate through the area underneath the front seats.

Superbug Strut Brace

Superbugs, 1971-75, had a strut front-end and there is much debate over which is the ‘better’, strut or torsion bar front-end. In normal driving the more modern MacPherson struts are superior, but when pushed hard or driven over rough roads, the strut towers do flex and, in some cases, can bend inwards. This does have a detrimental effect on the handling. I've dealt with Superbugs that have had towers bent inwards up to 40 mm over stock. As a result, you are unable to adjust the camber to factory specifications. The welds on the camber adjuster brackets have to be unpicked or ground away and the brackets moved inwards towards the centre of the car. The amount of movement depends upon the maximum camber adjustment actually available, but is usually around 15 mm. The brackets are rewelded to the floorpan and the hole elongated.

Then I make and fit a strut tower support bar, which you have no doubt seen on rally or race cars. When fitted to Super Bugs, it does make a difference for the better and its well worth the effort involved.

The procedure is as follows. Undo the bolts that hold the strut to the body and allow the strut leg to come down. Then place the cardboard or paper over the hole left inside the boot and trace the hole underneath. Do this to make a template, which fits on top of the strut tower body inside the boot. Trace the template onto 15 x 45 cm flat steel at least 6 mm thick, and cut out a pair of shapes (oxy-acetylene makes it easy) Fit in to each side and refit each strut leg to the body.

I use 50 x 25 mm box-section to go between the two towers, cut to length and welded into place (onto the plates just made and fitted.) Consider the location of the brace, as it can be located in a forward position, the bar acting as a stop for articles in the boot. There will be many different ways to perform this task, but I hope this gives the general idea.

Brake-fluid-level warning light

You can install a combined brake fluid level and handbrake warning light into a Beetle or Type 3, using all VW-Audi parts. Get the warning light from a series-2 Kombi. It drops right into the hole on the dash on 1971 and later Beetles and Type 3s. Find a handbrake switch bracket from a series-2 Audi 100 or Audi 80. The Golf reservoir can easily replace the original Beetle one. It fits neatly in the bracket, and all you have to do is extend the holes where the hoses attach. The rest, I think, you can work out yourselves.

Golf Clutch and Firewall repairs

One problem appearing on early Golfs in recent years is fatiguing and cracking around the firewall hole where the clutch cable is attached. Excessive clutch free-play usually warns of the onset of this condition: however, this should not be confused with clutch cable problems. If the condition is left unattended for long enough, the end result will be a cable that pulls through the firewall when the clutch pedal is depressed. VW owners are not alone with this problem, as some of the mid- '70s domestic sedans suffered the same fate.

In the past, repairing the damage required the fabrication of a piece of sheet-metal to cover the uneven surface around the clutch cable hole, the plate being either welded or screwed in position. Now, under part number 171899020, there is a panel available for the job at a cost of approximately $40.00. This repair panel measures 110 mm by 75 mm and is slightly thicker than the original firewall, which makes it more than adequate to repair the most severely damaged firewall. The kit includes five aluminium rivets, used to attach the panel to the firewall and even the most talented craftsman would be envious of the precise fits of this repair panel.

Fitting the panel takes less than half an hour and is easy work for a novice mechanic. Firstly, disconnect the clutch cable from the clutch pedal and remove the cable from the firewall. Now place the repair panel in position - you will find that it practically locates itself. Drill a five thirty-seconds of an inch hole through the panel and firewall. Place the rivet in the hole and then tap the rivet centre pin in with a hammer to expand the rivet. Repeat this procedure with the remaining rivets. Refit the clutch cable to the firewall and clutch cable to the firewall and clutch pedal and then readjust the clutch free-play. It is not necessary to remove the carburettor to perform this task, but it would make the job a little easier.

Improving your exhaust life

For some reason best known to the people who designed them, Passats and Golfs tend to rust out their mufflers rather quickly. To improve the life of these units, you can add a grease nipple.

The idea is to keep a coat of rust inhibiting grease inside the muffler. To accomplish this, you need to drill a hole in the exhaust pipe, upstream from the muffler. That way, the grease, once injected, will be blown back into the muffler by the flow of the exhaust gas.

One method is to drill a hole in the exhaust pipe, then braze a 6mm nut over the hole. Fit a metric grease nipple (6x1mm thread) and grease. Or just drill a hole and fit a self tapping grease nipple. Greasing regularly (once every few months) is enough to double and in some cases treble muffler life.

That's the inside taken care off, now the out side, simply just paint it with Galvit E90, a cold galvanising primer. It will adhere very well on mufflers, may flake on engine pipes. Using the above method, I obtained 11 years’ service from a two-litre Kombi muffler.

Excellent Ignition

The ultimate electronic ignition system for a Beetle, as far as neatness of installation goes, has to be the factory system for 1900 water-cooled Transporters. The distributor drops right into the Beetle crankcase, and you get a Hall-effect trigger, the standard VW-Audi control module (same as Holden Camira, by the way), a rev-limiting rotor button and digital idle stabilisation, which is a very nice touch indeed. It all bolts in, looks good and works superbly. If you come across one for sale, I saw it first, just give me a ring, you can get the next one.

Modifying your Beetle toilet roll holder

Do you own a Beetle toilet roll holder? Did a relative who was unable to think of anything to buy you for your Birthday / Christmas give it to you, knowing you are a VW nut? While your relatives oohed and aahhed about how cute it is, you secretly wondered how anyone could make such a classic design look so ugly and unauthentic, and also get all the different model parts confused. Like the early bumpers teamed with L taillights and engine lid. Were you really teed off when you discovered that after removing the demonstration toilet roll (supplied by the State Rail Authority), a full size toilet tissue roll would keep jamming until the roll was partly used, by which time you had lacerated your hands on the serrated edge that was used to cut the supplied grease proof demonstration toilet roll? Do not despair. I have come up with two fiendishly clever ways to modify this unit.

1. Remove the serrated edge. You do not need it unless you steal your harsh, waxy toilet paper from the SRA or a public toilet.

2. Remove the plastic spool that the roll sits on, and just leave the thin chrome axle. This will allow the toilet roll to sit lower down, and even rotate when it's full.

Clean your Knobs

The ivory Bakelite knobs that come with Beetles up to '67 discolour easily and can be difficult to restore to a new appearance for show car quality. However, I have found that if you soak them for 3 or 4 days in a 75% solution of Domestos Bleach, it brings them back to new. Winder knobs are the biggest culprits, as they all seem to have a slight grimy crack from base to top. Just leave them for a week or more and it will either go completely or reduce to an acceptable level. I know that there are reproductions available from WCM but these are plastic or some such and are not quite the right colour. For a true quality resto job only the originals will do.

If you are replacing the window rubbers on a resto project, check first whether the brightware trim in your originals is aluminium or stainless steel. You can restore the steel ones back to their former glory with 1200 wet dry and Mothers Mag Wheel polish (it takes work however) and then replace them in the new rubbers. They are vastly superior to the aluminium ones, which eventually tarnish and cannot successfully be restored.

Easy Fog Lights

If your VW or Audi has rear fog lights fitted, you can hook up your fog lights to come on with the brake lights. The way to do this is to connect the power terminals for both the brake light and the rear fog lights with a wire containing a diode. The diode is needed so that your brake lights won’t come on when you have your rear fog lights on. You will need to orient the diode’s arrow in the right direction in the wiring. Try a 3 Amp/10000 Volt diode.

VW Rocker Shafts

As you've probably noticed, stock VW rockers have drilled oil passages. Unfortunately, the part of the rocker-arm shaft facing the crankshaft is starved for oil due to the constant pressure from the pushrod and valve spring. Poor lubrication results in rapid wear on that part of the shaft and on the contacting surface of the rocker.

To compensate for the asymmetric wear, you can possibly rotate the rocker arm shaft 180 degrees when you do a valve job, presenting the new, unworn face. If the rocker arms are not worn beyond spec (check with a snap gauge), they may be reused. But once both surfaces of the rocker-arm shaft have been used, it should be replaced. If you prowl the junkyards and check any rocker-arm shafts you see (they dismantle in less than a minute with only a screwdriver to pry off the hairpin clip), you'll often find shafts that are only worn on one side. If you install them with the unworn side down, they will make a suitable replacement.

To improve oiling, some mechanics deliberately groove the lower side of the shaft. I've found that this appears to accelerate wear in the rockers-arms. I don't know why anyone would want to bead-blast a rocker-arm shaft. It is a precision ground shaft. Bead blasting would destroy the polished surface. Unless rusted, they clean up fine in carb cleaner.

Every rocker-arm shaft comes with its own built-in gauge. The portion under the tower reflects the original dimension of the shaft. Make sure the stud hole does not have a lip - if it does, polish it away - and try a new rocker arm on that part of the shaft. The amount of play is what the rest of the shaft should feel like. Compare the unworn portion to the worn parts, and your old rocker arms to the feel of the new one. If the amount of wear does not appear excessive you can reuse the parts.

I keep a few unused, original VW parts as gauges, picking dimensions from them instead of looking them up. Trial fitting a known-good part is often the best way to determine if the part it is being fitted-to is worn beyond spec. Measurement by inspection, or trial fit, is a valid procedure often called ‘gauging’. Using a gauge is faster than using mikes or dial callipers and saves wear and tear on your precision tools.

Rear Vision Mirror

I was being driven crazy by a rear vision mirror that refused to stay in position. Instead of throwing it out and buying another I decided to have a go at fixing it. Firstly, unscrew the mirror stem from the windscreen frame. Carefully pry the aluminium rear cover away from the edges of the mirror. I used a small screwdriver, but better would be a piece of stiff plastic about 25 mm wide, tapered at the end like a chisel. A piece of ice cream tub might be good. The mirror will just come out, revealing a piece of cardboard backing, a mounting plate, and a nut over a shaft with a spring under the nut. This is what controls the tension of the adjusting ball at the rear of the mirror. Tighten the nut to the correct tension (so you can move the mirror mounting plate, but it doesn't move out of position when you shake it). Reassemble, using the plastic tool to re-mould the aluminium cover plate to the edge profile of the mirror. Easy!

Kombi Exhaust Manifold Tips

This is a tech tip for the heater boxes on the big Type 4 Type 2 engines, with the copper exhaust gasket used to seal the exhaust pipe to the head. There is very little space to work up inside the head, and the sealing can be a hit or miss process. This problem can lead to exhaust leaks, broken studs from over tightening, or worse a broken exhaust stud boss.

When I prep exhaust manifolds, I start by filing the manifold gasket surface flat with a long file, doing both surfaces at the same time. With any luck the gasket surfaces on the head for the copper gaskets is close to parallel. Next, find a drill bit in your drill index that fits in the exhaust stud opening in the manifold ends, and go up approximately two drill sizes. Use this larger drill bit to open all eight stud holes in both manifolds. This gives you the chance to move the manifold around against the head. This allows you to get the flanges as flat as possible against the cooper gasket without the studs pulling the manifold in four directions at once. I also check the head to pipe clearance so the manifold does not hang up or bind at the stud bosses or the lip of the gasket surface. I have even gone so far as to take a file and shaped the flanges and manifold ends to get the job done.

The gasket will leak and the engine will backfire unless the gasket makes a good even contact with the head and the manifold. When I am satisfied with the fit I use an exhaust paste on both sides of the cooper gaskets. Never use silicone to seal the exhaust pipes at the head, as it cannot take the heat. Then while holding the manifold against the head I install flat washers and new nuts. Tighten the nuts evenly so as not to preload the manifold to one side or the other. This can be hard to get right because the age of the parts. The manifolds must be sealed at the head first, and all the pipes and hoses, and the muffler, are fitted afterwards.

Glove Box Light

You can make a very professional looking automatic light for your VW's glove box to help you find things in the dark. Everything you need is available from your friendly local auto wrecker for next to nothing. A complete unit from any car will do. Make sure you match up a 6-V bulb if your VW is 6-volt, otherwise 12-volt is fine. Chances are you can get a light unit complete with mounting bracket. If you do, at the most you'll have to reshape the bracket a little and a hole to mount the unit with a self-tapping sheet metal screw. It is a good idea to wire the light so it will only operate with the ignition turned on. This way, if the switch should fail, you will not run down your battery and so be unable to get the car started.

Baby Knocker-Outer

If you ever have occasion to carry a baby or a small child in your VW, you have an ideal place to put him. As any old pro parent can tell you, children love small places that are just their size. The so-called luggage space behind the VW's back seat is just such a place. Put a couple of pillows in it, and put an infant on them, or allow a larger child to climb back there. The back of the rear seat will keep the child from being thrown forward if you have to brake suddenly. And you get an added bonus. The warmth and drone of the engine will almost certainly put the child to sleep in about one kilometre of driving.

Secret VW Compartment

Your standard VW contains a secret compartment that is a handy place to store small valuables like cameras, binoculars, or even expensive rally equipment where it will be both handy and completely safe. The toe board on the passenger's side of the car conceals this hiding place, but it is held in place with a small metal tab at the top edge only. To get at it, lift the floor mat and bend this tab so the toe board can be lifted out. Or you can simply lift up the bottom edge of the toe board to store items under it or remove them. Replace the floor mat to hold the toe board securely in place, and to conceal your valuables. While the compartment does not lock, no sneak thief would think of looking there, and if he did, in 99% of VWs he would find nothing.

Door Scuffing Cure

When the seats of my VW are in the most comfortable position, they leave only a very narrow opening for my feet when I get in and out of the car. My shoes bang the door and leave scuff marks or chip the paint. An easy, inexpensive cure is to cover the area with coloured or transparent contact paper. The kind I use was called ‘Stix’. It does not mark, is easily removed when worn, and doesn't harm the paint. The transparent kind does not change the interior decor.

Petrol Smell in Car

Immediately after filling the tank on your VW, do you notice a strong odour of petrol inside the car? Especially on hot days? For years I thought this was due to overfilling the tank, which then slopped over when the car was driven off. I tried to cure it by overflow tubes and new gaskets. Nothing seemed to help much.

Then I found the answer for my VW, and probably for yours too. One day I noticed the sun's rays being distorted by the fumes rising from the filler neck as I pumped fuel into the tank. Only then did I realise that the smell was caused by fuel that vaporised when the tank was being filled, and not by leakage after it was full and capped. The fumes rise and are trapped in the hollow pocket formed by the underside of the front bonnet. When you close it immediately after filling the tank, these fumes are caught in the front luggage space, and soon leak through various gaps in the dashboard when you drive off. The solution to this problem? Simple. After you screw the tank cap on, leave the bonnet up while you go to pay for the petrol. The time it takes to handle the credit card or hand over the cash is enough for the fumes to dissipate. Then you close the bonnet when you return to your VW. No more petrol smells!

Interior Appearance

You can jazz up the appearance of your VW by replacing the drab coloured material lining the radio speaker grille on your VW's dash with something brighter that matches the exterior paintwork. The radio and fuel gauge panels can easily be removed by straightening the metal tabs that hold it in place. Then it is easy to replace the grey cloth that came with the car with red, or any other brighter colour, replace the panel in the dash and rebend the tabs to hold it in place.

Smoky Rear Bumper

If your VW has a habit of blackening its rear bumper bar with soot from the exhaust pipes, there is an easy fix you can do yourself. If they are not completely rusted shut, loosen the retaining clamps and slide the tailpipe extensions a couple of centimetres to the rear. This does not affect the exhaust system, but it does move the ends of the pipes far enough beyond the bumper to prevent smoke stains. Moving the pipes further out may expose them to bumps if you reverse carelessly, but assuming that your retighten the clamps properly the pipes will not vibrate excessively or fall off, unless you bang them into something behind you.

Sunroof Trick

If your VW's factory sunroof binds or won't open smoothly, rub the tracks with wax from a candle.

Easy Door Closing

While VW owners and salesmen boast about the tightness of their cars and are happy to demonstrate how the trapped air makes it hard to slam a VW door without opening a window first, this can be a nuisance when you just want to slam the door and drive off. A simple solution that does not involve opening a window a crack is to pull the door nearly closed, then slam it gently. This allows the gush of trapped air to escape and the door closes easily and latches firmly every time.

Anti-Mar Device

Are you tired of rust streaks down the engine lid from the scratched spots where lower number plate frame screws protrude? An easy cure is to insert a section of flat rubber mat or even old inner tubing under the number plate when you put on your new plates. Cut the rubber to the same size as your number plate, and punch holes for the two screws that hold the top of the plate to the number plate bracket. Then mount it directly under the number plate as shown. The rubber will hang down under the plate and keep the lower screws from scratching the paint on the rear lid when (not if) the number plate gets pushed down on it.

Body Scratches

If you don't have touch-up paint handy (and who does?), a dab of fingernail polish will keep a minor body scratch from rusting and loosening the paint around it. You can get red and white that match VW colours pretty well, and sometimes some weirder shades too. Clear also works to keep the spot from rusting until you can touch it up with the right colour. A small nail polish bottle with its self-contained brush occupies very little space in the glove box, and makes immediate touch-up easy. A refinement on this system is to fill an empty nail polish bottle with the right colour of touch-up paint so you can do the job right the first time and forget it.

Brighter Interior Light

The interior dome light in VWs is adequate for most conditions, but when you want to read something at night the light is not bright enough. A 15 watt dome light bulb is available to replace the original 10 watt bulb. You may not be aware of these, but you can get them at most good parts shops. This larger bulb gives off a much brighter light and makes reading maps at night much easier. Another way to increase brightness is to stick some aluminium foil into the recess behind the light. You must remove the light assembly first, of course.

Light up your Superbug L's dash

If you own a Superbug L (VW 1303), with a Hazard switch marked VW90 on its top face, then you are able to connect it to the Instrument dimmer light circuit, by simply connecting a wire from the vacant 58b terminal at the rear of the Hazard switch to the reciprocal terminal on your headlight switch. Whenever your parking or headlights are switched on, the hazard switch will have a faint light, which will allow easy recognition of the switch at night, and not interfere with the normal operation of the switch, i.e. bright flashing light when Hazard switch has been engaged. This wiring circuit only appears on U.S. specification wiring diagrams, but not on German or Australian specs.

Clean Front Boot Tip

Located in the front boot of your Beetle, behind the spare tyre, are three inspection plates that lead to the steering column and other parts. In wet weather, water thrown up under the car by the wheels will leak in around these plates. Also, dust can enter in dry weather.

These plates can be sealed by fitting a gasket behind them. Remove the plates and cut a gasket from cork or rubber (an old inner tube is a good source), the same size and shape as the plates. Then reinstall them, and they will be weather-tight. Your front boot will stay cleaner.

Oil cooler fan switch

Vintage VeeDub Supplies have a new product that deserves some further description. It's an oil temperature operated fan switch. It consists of an aluminium block to which are attached oil line fittings. Oil is passed through the aluminium block on its way to an external oil cooler, and heat is sensed by a thermatic fan switch from a VW Golf, Passat or Audi which is bolted to aluminium block. When the oil temperature reaches the thermatic fan switch’s activation point, a cooling fan is actuated and stays on until the oil temperatures reaches the switch’s turn off point. This is a much better idea than using a manually operated toggle switch, which could be fraught with danger - someone unfamiliar could be driving your car or you might not be paying attention to your oil temperature gauge. This switch would also allow faster warm ups than just leaving fan on all the time. A warning light could also be hooked up to the thermatic fan switch, making you aware that your oil is getting hot.

For longer switch life it is suggested that a relay is used to switch the fan on. The block with fittings is available for $73.00 including GST, and the fan switch varies in price depending on the temperature range selected and is about $20.00. Of course you will need to supply an electric cooling fan. Vintage VeeDub can also supply an inline oil thermostat for $120 + GST, which will ensure your oil reaches the correct operating temperature quickly, very important with winter approaching. Your motor oil needs to reach operating temperature so that condensation in the oil can be boiled away.

Easy headlight minder circuit

Most late-model air-cooled VWs headlights turn off when the ignition is off, which can be a dual-edged sword. Yes, it reduces the chance of flattening the battery, but it also makes it less obvious that you've left them on. Enter the headlight minder. It is mind-numbingly simple. Just put a 12v buzzer between the wire leading to the courtesy light from your door switch (negative) and the wire leading from the light switch to your park lights or dash lights (positive). When the lights are on and you open the door the buzzer sounds!

Other uses for VW parts

I found an unusual use for an old VW part! I had to mix up a batch of floor levelling mixture today. We have pulled up some tiles in an area where we are going to lay carpet. The floor became badly scored where tiles were, as their base had been laid using bond-crete. I had to chisel off the remaining tile bed leaving some score marks which would have eventually caused unevenness in the carpet.

Knowing the mixture would have to be fairly thick I wandered around the garage looking for something suitable to fit in my electric drill to help mix the floor-levelling compound.

After looking at bits of wire etc I found a part of a 1200 Beetle sitting in my useful scrap metal bin. It's the bit that you turn to adjust the rake on your seats. I have found these bits of metal very useful in the past. There are two tubes in the rake adjuster; one operates the tilt lever to push the seat back forward for rear passengers, the other the rake. The inner tube is nice fit over a M8 bolt, so it’s useful for spacers and sleeves. One that immediately comes to mind is the sleeve that goes on the bolts that hold in the master cylinder on Beetles and Type 3s.

The outer sleeve takes a ½” hose perfectly so is ideal for making breather boxes etc. The outer tube, with its rake-adjusting ‘paddle’ handle still attached, was perfect for mounting in my electric drill for stirring up my mixture.


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