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All Cooled Volksagens

Published: 21st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

All Cooled Volksagens
All Cooled Volksagens

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VW Service data concerning beetles, campers, 1500/1600 saloons, coupes


Air-cooled, overhead valve, ‘flat four’ cylinder (examples) 1192cc 30bhp, 1493cc, 44bhp, 1584cc, 50bhp

Sundry items

Every 3000 miles, or annually (whichever comes first)... Check brake fluid level. Examine the driveshaft gaiters. Renew damaged gaiters at once, to prevent the ingress of dirt and moisture. Scrutinise the ball joint gaiters for splits. Assess the state of the steering column’s rubber coupling; renew if damaged. Look for wear in the idler pin (by employing a long bar to carefully lever against the axle). Check for wear/excessive free play in, and re-lubricate the front wheel bearings. Re-lubricate with fresh grease specifically stated as being suitable for use in wheel bearings. Assess/re-adjust clutch pedal free play (for details please consult your workshop manual). Examine the heat exchangers; renew if damaged. Check operation of the heater control cables. Make sure that the engine and fan cover plates are securely fitted. Check all electrical connections (this is especially important on versions with six volt electrics), and inspect all wiring for damage. Assess the condition and security of the exhaust system, all running gear components, steering mounts/attachments, and suspension components,mountings and bushes. Check that all mounting bolts/nuts are all tight – including the wheel nuts. Check the shock absorbers for deterioration/leaks. Inspect the underbody for damage and rectify paint blemishes. Assess all tyres (including the spare) for condition, wear pattern and pressure.

Cooling system

At each service ensure that the fan belt is in sound condition, and correctly adjusted. All is well if the belt can be twisted through 90 degrees under firmthumb and finger pressure, applied midway along the belt run. If belt adjustment is required, the dynamo or alternator drive pulley must be removed. First take off the securing nut (21mm. spanner), while using a long bar or screwdriver, acting against a lug on the body of the dynamo/alternator, to lock the pulley as the nut is released. To increase belt tension, the two halves of the pulley can be moved closer together, by removing spacers which are sandwiched between the two halves. Only remove one spacer at a time, then re-check the belt tension, until the correct adjustment is achieved. When the tension is correct, re-fit the spacers you have removed to the exterior of the pulley, then fit and re-tighten the retaining nut. At each service ensure that the thermostat and the air flaps (which it controls) in the fan casing are working correctly. The thermostat is located beneath the cylinders on the right hand side of the engine. When the engine is hot, the flaps need to be open (to permit full air flow around the finned cylinders), and the operating bar should be positioned towards the left side of the engine bay. If it isn’t, you need to establish why not, and rectify the problem.
IMPORTANT NOTES:At all times ensure that nothing likely to be drawn in by the fan is left within the engine compartment.It is wise ALWAYS to carry a spare fan belt in the vehicle even if the belt used in service looks okay.

Fuel system

Every 3000 miles or annually, whichever comes first: losely scrutinise all fuel system pipework and connections. Check operation of the carburettor choke linkage and the air filter’s warm air control flaps. Re-lubricate the carburettor operating linkages.Take off the petrol pump lid and clean the gauze filter. Refit the lid and check for fuel leaks on completion. With the engine at normal running temperature, having first checked the valve clearances and all the ignition aspects, check/adjust the carburettor settings (for full details, consult workshop manual). On early vehicles featuring just volume control and throttle stop screws, turn the volume screw clockwise until the engine slows down, then VERY slowly rotate the screw anticlockwise to achieve the highest engine speed, finally re-setting the idle speed using the throttle stop screw. Note: On later examples with an additional air by-pass screw, this is used as the main device for regulating the tickover speed. On vehicles fitted with an oil bath type gauze air cleaner, at every service remove the assembly and drain off the old oil. Rinse the gauze and clean its casing using fresh paraffin, then wipe/drain off excess paraffin, before soaking the gauze in clean engine oil and re-assembling. Top up the reservoir with new engine oil to the marked level (capacity approximately 0.45 litres or 0.8 pint). If your VW has a paper element type filter, renew it at least every 12,000 miles (or earlier if visibly dirty; check every 6000 miles).


Firing order: 1-4-3-2. Spark plugs: Check, clean and re-gap if necessary, every 6000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); renew regardless every 12,000 miles. Plug type is Bosch 14mm; W8AC or equivalent. Gap 0.6-0.7mm. (0.024-0.028in.). Before screwing in the plugs, smear a little copper-based anti-seize compound on their threads, to assist in future removal. Contact points: Check/clean the points every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); renew regardless every 6000 miles. The correct breaker gap is 0.4mm. (0.016in.), corresponding with a dwell angle reading of 54 to 58 degrees. Distributor cap, rotor arm and high tension leads: Every 3000 miles/annually, clean and carefully examine all components. Make sure that all connections are in good condition. At each service apply a few drops of engine oil through the distributor baseplate onto the distributor shaft and mechanical advance mechanism. In addition, apply a little high melting point grease to the distributor cam. Timing (static): Starting point 7.5 degrees Before Top Dead Centre (BTDC); marks are provided on the crankshaft pulley and the crankcase. If re-adjustment is required, slacken the distributor’s retaining clamp and carefully rotate the distributor body to the required position, then re-check the timing.


Engine oil: In air-cooled Volkswagens, the engine oil plays a major part in keeping the motor cool, in addition to providing lubrication. So, for maximum engine life, remove and clean the gauze filter, and change the oil, AT LEAST every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first), but it is preferable to tackle the job more frequently than this. Take the vehicle for a long run to fully warm the engine, then drain the oil. Use a 21mm. ring or socket spanner to release the large, central sump plug, where fitted (when re-fitting the plug, use a new sealing ring unless the original is in perfect condition). Some engines lack the single, central drain plug, and if your unit is one of these, take out the six bolts (10mm. spanner) securing the gauze filter retainer. In all cases remove the gauze filter, rinse this and its retaining plate in fresh paraffin, and carefully dry all components using fluff-free rag, before re-fitting. On re-assembly, use new gaskets and stud washers. Good quality monograde oil (SAE 30) is recommended. Please dispose of the old oil in an environmentally friendly manner – local councils provide waste oil collection points. The oil capacity is approximately 2.5 litres (4.4 pints).
Gearbox: At least every 3,000 miles or annually (whichever comes first), check/top up the gearbox/final drive oil level (with the vehicle horizontal). Take out the filler/level plug (with a recessed hexagon head - 17mm) and check the oil – it should be up to the base of the threads in the filler aperture. If the level is low, check for leaks and rectify. Use SAE 90 oil for topping-up. Every 24,000 miles, after taking the vehicle for a long run to warm the oil, remove both the filler and drain plugs from the transmission and allow all the old lubricant to escape into a suitable container. Re-fill with fresh SAE 90 oil; the capacity is approximately 3.5 litres (6.13 pints). When re-fitting the filler/level and drain plugs, take care NOT to overtighten them.
Important note: On vehicles from August 1975, fitted with Type 091 transmissions, the units are ‘filled for life’, so there is no requirement for routine draining/re-filling.
Steering box: At every service, check the lubricant level; if necessary, top up with SAE 140 oil..
Running gear: At least every 1000 miles, apply multi-purpose, lithium-based grease to all the running gear lubrication points; first wipe them clean and ensure that they are not clogged with dirt or old, congealed grease. Note: Before applying grease, raise the vehicle and securely support it beneath the ‘chassis’ (so that the suspension is relieved of load); this helps to ensure that all the joints are lubricated. On early (pre-1967) vehicles, there should be eight grease points on the king pins (four per side), four nipples on the axle tubes, four on the track rod end ball joints, and another two on the idler assembly. On later examples, there should be three grease points on the front axle beam (one at each end, plus another in the centre), one at the axle end of the steering damper, and one on the idler assembly. On the later vehicles bear in mind that grease nipples were not fitted to the swivel joints or track rod ends.
Other aspects: Every 3000 miles/annually: Re-lubricate the carburettor pivot points/controls, and pedal pivots. Re-lubricate hinges and lock mechanisms (wipe off excess lubricant).

Valve clearances

Every 6000 miles or annually (whichever comes first), check/re-adjust the valve clearances, with the engine cold. Cylinder positions are: Right hand side of vehicle – No. 1 at flywheel end of engine, towards front of vehicle; No. 2 towards rear. Left-hand side of vehicle – No. 3 at flywheel end of engine; No. 4 towards rear. First release the clip securing each valve cover and rotate the clip downwards, then remove the cover (on re-assembly, fit new valve cover gaskets). Slowly turn the crankshaft until the piston in No. 1 cylinder is at Top Dead Centre (TDC) on the firing stroke (with both valves closed, and at the same time the distributor’s rotor arm must be in alignment with the TDC mark on the edge of the distributor body, and the notch in the crankshaft pulley must line up with the centre of the crankcase). Use feeler gauges to check the valve gaps on No. 1 cylinder. For both inlet and exhaust valves the clearance should be 0.15mm. (0.006in.). To re-set a clearance, release the locknut (13mm. ring spanner) and carefully turn the adjuster screw until the correct clearance is obtained. Now hold the adjuster screw steady while re-tightening the locknut then recheck the clearance. Rotate the crankshaft anti-clockwise through a half-turn (180 degrees), then check/adjust the valves on Cylinder No. 2. Turn the crankshaft a further half-turn, and check/adjust the valves on Cylinder No. 3. Rotate a further half-turn, and check/adjust the valves on Cylinder No. 4.


At least every 3000 miles or annually, whichever comes first: Closely scrutinise the fixed brake pipes, flexible hoses and the master cylinder. Renew any ailing components AT ONCE. Carefully examine the front brake pads and discs (where fitted). Remove the rear brake drums (also the fronts, where drum brakes are fitted) and closely check the shoes, operating cylinders and drums. AVOID INHALING DUST FROM THE PADS/SHOES – IT MAY CONTAIN ASBESTOS. WEAR A MASK AND USE A PURPOSE-DESIGNED BRAKE CLEANER FLUID TO HELP ELIMINATE AIRBORNE DUST. DO NOT BLOW OUT DUST USING AN AIRLINE! Note: On early examples (to August 1970) with drum brakes at both the front and rear, the drums can only be removed by taking off the large central hub nut (first remove the split pin) and disturbing the wheel bearings. On later vehicles with front disc brakes the rear drums are secured by two bolts (11mm. spanner), so it’s much easier to remove the drums for a full inspection of the brakes. The shoe-to-drum clearances on drum type brakes are adjusted by inserting a screwdriver through an aperture in the brake drum (early vehicles) or the backplate (later examples). Each toothed adjuster (two for each front wheel; one for each rear) is turned clockwise (when viewed from the end of the adjuster) until the brakes are locked on, then backed off until the road wheel freely rotates. Check at each service that the handbrake mechanism moves freely and is properly lubricated. Ensure too that the cables and linkages are not worn. At each service, check handbrake operation, and only re-adjust if lever travel is still excessive after first adjusting the shoe to-drum clearances, as already described (for full details, please consult your workshop manual). On early vehicles the cable adjusters can be found inside the cab, beneath a rubber cover adjacent to the base of the gear lever. On later examples the equalizer assembly, incorporating two adjuster nuts, is reached from underneath the vehicle. In each case, rotate the adjuster nuts clockwise so that excessive slack is taken up equally by each cable (trial rotation of the rear wheels will confirm this). After adjustment, always ensure that the brakes are not binding with the handbrake lever in the ‘off’ position. At least every 18 months/18,000 miles (whichever comes first), change the brake fluid.


  • Although well known for six decades and pretty conventional, the Beetle isn’t a DIY dream and special tools are sometimes required.
  • Just because it’s air cooled doesn’t men that the VW engine hasn’t a thermostat. It has… But it is tucked away so if the car runs ocver cool check this first!
  • Check the colour and level of the oil, which should have been changed every 3000 miles. The oil in an air-cooled engine has to work a lot harder than in a water-cooled one, because it acts as the coolant as well as lubricant.
  • See if oil is leaking from the rocker covers, which is fairly common. As long as it’s just weeping there’s usually no problem (it’s unlikely to be anything more), and it just requires replacement of the cork gaskets.
  • The heat exchangers make up the heating system. Run the engine with the heater on – if the exchangers are leaking exhaust gases you’ll soon know about it! Replacing them is easy, but do it for safety’s sake as the fumes can prove lethal.
  • Feel for excessive crankshaft end float by pulling on the fan belt pulley. If there’s any detectable movement, the main bearings usually need replacing.
  • Transmission has a fairly easy life thanks to the engines’ low torque levels. More likely than gearbox problems is a worn gear linkage rubber coupling, which perishes and leads to huge amounts of play in the gear change. It’s easy to replace the coupling, and cheap at just £15.
  • The chassis has up to 13 grease nipples (mostly at the front) depending upon year.
  • The VW’s steering box is best left well alone – many, unfamiliar with the characteristics of worm and peg steering try to make it give rack and pinion precision by adjusting the peg but it beyond repair. Adjustment on saloon is via hatch in spare wheel well.
  • If the steering feels somewhat vague you need to check for king pin wear by jacking up the front, and by getting someone to rock the wheel while you look at the hub from underneath. Nothing is terminal admittedly but a rebuild is expensive, with a kit costing around £200 per side. Keep them well lubricated!
  • The suspension is simple, with torsion bars all round but not DIY friendly. As well as losing some of their elasticity, you need to ensure the vehicle hasn’t been lowered, before being returned to normal spec. In the early 1990s there was a trend towards lowering Type 2 vans by cutting the torsion bars, twisting them on their splines and rewelding them. It requires welding of the axle and suspension components to attach the necessary parts, so inspect any welds for age and cracks.
  • The brake master cylinder often gets overlooked because it’s beneath a hatch, under the floor.
  • The drum brakes are supposed to need a special extractor tool but sometimes you can do it by deft tapping the drive shaft and yanking it away.
  • Adjustment however is done through sight hole. Up to 1966 there was a six-volt system – it is prone to voltage drop caused by poor connections and bad/aged earthing. Conversion to 12 volts can be easily achieved for about £250.
  • These VWs are well built but look for body rust at the front and rear compartment lids, around their seals, around windscreen rubbers, valances and – on Beetles – in the headlamp area, rear tail lights (1968-73 in particular), door hinges, rear quarter panels and around the piping which is sandwiched between body and wings.
  • Tuning a Beetle/Camper hasn’t changed much over the years; a front anti roll bar with better dampers goes a long way to improving things as does converting to 1500/1600 discs.
  • Engine boost is best done by upping the size with larger barrels and cranks. 1200 goes to 1390, 1300 to 1700 while 1500/1600s similar but can be stretched further to over 2-litres. Some brave souls even fit Subaru Impreza ‘boxer’ engines as kits are available. Or you can even fit an old school air-cooled Porshe 356/911 engine!

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