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Volkswagen Beetle

Published: 14th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Volkswagen Beetle

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Beetle specifications changed during production; consult manufacturer’s literature for full details of each aspect of maintenance, specific to your model. Specifications in the following text relate to 1973 versions, as examples


Overhead valve (pushrod), ‘flat’ four cylinder. 1200: 1192cc, 34bhp 1300/1303: 1285cc, 44bhp 1303S: 1584cc, 50bhp

Valve clearances

Check/adjust every 6000 miles. Clearances for inlet and exhaust, 0.15mm (0.006in). Adjustment is by screw and locknut. No. 1 cylinder is on right hand side of vehicle, at flywheel (forward) end of engine; No. 2 is on right hand side, at rear of engine; No. 3 is on left hand side, at flywheel (forward) end of the motor; No, 4 is on left hand side, at rear. Release spring clips securing each valve cover and hinge clips downwards; then remove covers. Rotate crankshaft slowly until No. 1 cylinder is on Top Dead Centre (TDC) firing stroke (both valves closed; remove distributor cap and ensure rotor arm aligns with TDC mark on rim of distributor body; check too that notch on crank pulley is in alignment with centre of crankcase). Check/re-adjust valve clearances on cylinder No. 1. To adjust, slacken each locknut in turn (use a ring spanner) and rotate relevant adjuster screw to provide correct gap (check with feeler gauges), then in each case re-tighten locknut while simultaneously preventing adjuster screw from moving. Re-check clearances on both valves.


Firing order: 1-4-3-2 (please see ‘VALVE CLEARANCES’ section for orientation of cylinders). Spark plugs: In each case check/clean every 6000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); renew regardless every 12,000 miles. Apply a little copper-based anti-seize compound to plug threads prior to installation. Plugs are Bosch W145T1, Beru 145/14, Champion L88 or equivalent. Gap 0.7mm (0.028in). Contact points: Gap0.4mm (0.016in), corresponding with dwell angle reading of 44 to 50 degrees (wear limit 42 to 58 degrees). In each case, check and clean points every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); renew regardless every 6000 miles. Every 3000 miles, clean and check distributor cap, rotor arm and high tension leads, making sure that all connections are sound. Distributor - mechanical aspects: Every 3000 miles, apply a few drops of engine oil to distributor shaft, and to mechanical advance mechanism (through aperture in distributor baseplate). Wipe off excess oil. SPARINGLY apply a little high melting point grease to distributor cam. Ignition Timing (Note: Check manufacturer’s literature specific to your model. The following should be regarded as initial settings, with final adjustments to suit individual engines being carried out after a road test): Timing marks are located on crankcase and crankshaft pulley. In each case dynamic timing should be assessed at 850±50 rpm, with vacuum pipe disconnected. 1200: 0 degrees (Top Dead Centre, or TDC). 1300, 1303 and 1303S: 7.5 degrees BTDC.

Sundry items

Every 3000 miles, or annually (whichever comes first)... Check clutch cable adjustment – please consult manufacturer’s literature relating to your version. Check driveshaft gaiters. Check cleanliness/security of all electrical connections (ESPECIALLY important on early Beetles with six voltsystems); inspect wiring for damage. Assess condition/security of all steering/suspension/running gear components (including shock absorbers for leaks/damage). Inspect underbody structure for damage and rectify paint blemishes. Check exhaust system for security/leaks. Annually: Check king pins/ball joints for wear. Annually: Check and if necessary re-adjust front hub bearings (please consult manufacturer’s data relating to your model).

Fuel system

Every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first), examine all fuel system pipework. Remove fuel pump lid and clean gauze filter. Every 6000 miles/annually, clean oil bath type filter element (early cars). Drain old oil from filter housing. Clean gauze type air filter and filter casing in clean paraffin; wipe/drain off paraffin and soak filter in fresh SAE 30 engine oil. Re-fill casing to the level mark with clean SAE 30 engine oil. Renew paper type air filter element (later cars) every 12,000 miles (or sooner if visibly dirty; check every 6,000 miles). For all versions, at each service, ensure that the breather pipework is clean, also ensure that the choke linkage operates correctly, and that the pre-heat air hose and air filter assembly’s warm air control flaps are in good condition. Lubricate the carburettor controls with a little clean engine oil. After the valve clearances and all ignition settings have been checked/set, and with the engine at normal running temperature, check/re-adjust the carburettor settings. Carburettor types varied during Beetle production; for specific adjustment procedures, consult workshop manual. Idling speed: 800 to 900 rpm.


Depending on the model, the brakes may be all drum, or front disc/rear drum. At least every 3000 miles or annually, whichever comes first, remove all the brake drums (retaining split pin and large, central securing nut have to be removed!) and carefully inspect the shoes, cylinders (check for fluid leaks) and drums. On examples with front disc brakes, inspect the calipers, pads and operating cylinders for wear/damage, also the caliper assemblies for fluid leaks. Examine also all brake pipes, the flexible hoses and the master cylinder, and check the fluid for condition/level (investigate/rectify any leaks AT ONCE!). Renew any ailing components (in axle sets) immediately. AVOID INHALING DUST FROM BRAKE SHOES - MAY CONTAIN ASBESTOS. Every 3000 miles, re-adjust the drum brakes as required - tighten the adjusters until the brakes are fully ‘on’, then slacken until the wheels rotate freely. At every service, check handbrake adjustment (refer to manufacturer’s literature specific to your model); ensure that the brakes are not binding with the handbrake lever in its ‘fully off’ position. At least every two years, change the brake fluid.


Engine oil: Ideally change the oil at least every 3000 miles or annually (whichever comes first); preferably more frequently. Drain the oil when the engine is hot, to help purge all the old lubricant from the sump. A single sump plug may be fitted, or it may be necessary to remove the six bolts (10mm spanner) securing the gauze filter retainer, in order to drain the oil. Remove and clean the gauze filter (use fresh paraffin) and the retainer plate. Carefully dry all components (using fluff-free rag) before reassembly.Use new gaskets and stud washers on re-assembly, and renew the sump plug’s sealing ring too, if this is damaged. SAE 30 monograde engine oil is recommended; sump refill capacity is 2.5 litres (4.4 pints). Manual gearbox oil: Every 3000 miles/annually (whichever comes first), check/top up transmission oil (with car horizontal). Unscrewthe filler/level plug and ensure that the oil is up to the base of the threads in the filler plug aperture. Lubricant type: SAE 90 hypoid gear oil (note - some recommend SAE 80 hypoid gear oil). Drain/re-fill approximately every24,000 miles. Manual gearbox refill capacity: Approx. 2.5 litres (4.4 pints).
Running gear: At least every 1000 miles, raisethe vehicle and support beneath the ‘chassis’, and re-lubricate all steering/front suspension greasepoints (use lithium-based, multi-purpose grease), including the king pins, on early cars, and the ends of the torsion bar tube, on cars with torsion bar type suspension. (Note: Suspension design varied; please refer to manufacturer’s literature relating to your model). Inspect the rubber gaiters on all ball joints, also all suspension mounting bushes (including those on the wishbones, sub-frame and anti-roll bar), and renew if damaged. At each service, check the steering box oil level (top up with EP90 oil). Front wheel bearings: Every 30,000 miles/three years (whichever comes first), check/clean bearings and re-lubricate with grease specifically stated as being suitable for wheel bearing use.
Note: Every 10,000 miles/annually (whichever comes first), check front hub bearings for excessive free play and re-adjust if required - please consult manufacturer’s literature relating to your model.
Other aspects: Every 3000 miles/annually, lubricate all hinges and lock mechanisms (wipe off excess lubricant).

Cooling system

Condition/tension of the fan belt is crucially important for adequate engine cooling. Note: It’s wise to carry a spare new fan belt with you at all times for this engine. Fan belt tension is checked at the mid-point of the belt run; it should be possible to twist the belt through approximately 90 degrees under firm finger/thumb pressure. The tension is controlled by means of shims; first the dynamo/alternator pulley has to be removed (using a strong screwdriver, located against a lug on the dynamo/alternator body, while the pulley’s securing nut is released). Take off the pulley nut, then both inner and outer sections of the pulley. Remove one shim at a time from behind the pulley to increase belt tension (re-assembling and re-checking tension after each shim has been removed). When the tension is correct, re-fit the spacers removed from behind the pulley to the outside of the outer section of the pulley. Don’t forget to re-fit and fully tighten the pulley retaining nut, on completion. At each service, ensure that the cooling system/fan cover plates and all pipes are correctly fitted, and that the heat exchanger is undamaged (renew if ailing!). Ensure too that the heater control valve operates correctly (re-lubricate with high melting point grease).

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