Tips Posts

Rear VW Axle Maintenance

Rear Axle Maintenance

Not long after I had reassembled Baby, our 1967 Savanna Beige Sedan, I noticed that the passenger’s rear axle was seeping fluid onto the backing plate. “Rats!” I thought.

And, sighing, I got out the tools and began the task of replacing the axle seal—what else could it be? I had done the “taste test” (not recommended for the weak of stomach). It definitely was not brake fluid. Now, folks, I don’t actually imbibe what I taste—it’s an immediate knowledge and I rinse my mouth of any possible residue. It’s the humble chemist’s unfailing test! Some people get a dab onto the forefinger and by rubbing between forefinger and thumb can sense what type of fluid they are dealing with.

Sure enough…after getting into the bowels of the axle, it was a leaking seal. I fetched a new seal pack from my supplies.

Vintage Volkswagen Speedo Removal

Vintage Volkswagen Speedo Removal

There comes a time when the original speedo in your vintage pride and joy needs to be restored. But, before bringing it back to its former glory, you actually need to remove it. No need to bite your nails and get anxious, it’s a simple task. Here’s how its done.

  1. Remove the wiring cover.
  2. Disconnect the positive battery terminal.
  3. Unscrew the speedometer cable knurled nut.  Pull the cable out of the speedo back.
  4. Make a diagram of the wires–colors and placement.  Just draw yourself the “circle of the back of the speedo”.
  5. Remove the wires–may need to use needle-nosed pliers to do this.  Some of the bulbs holders may come out with the wires; that’s okay since you need to remove them anyway and check to be sure that they are good bulbs and bulb holders.
  6. Put a large towel around the hood spring and opening down into that deep recess that gobbles all screws, nuts and bolts–to keep the speedo screws from falling into it.
  7. Loosen the two screws at the speedo “ears”.
  8. Slightly turn the speedo to clear the screws (or remove the screws completely) and the speedo will come to you.
  9. You can have the restoration shop to turn the speedo to zero across the board or to leave the mileage.
  10. Purchase a new speedo seal (goes around the bezel to seal between the speedo and the dash when you replace the speedo.  It buffers the metal-to-metal contact.
  11. Secure the speedo using the two screws.  It is self-centering.
  12. Check all bulbs to be sure that they are viable.
  13. Reattach wires as per your diagram.
  14. Reinstall the speedo cable.
  15. Reinstall the wiring cover.
  16. Remove the towel.
  17. Reattach the battery cable.

Vintage Volkswagen Bulb Repair

Vintage Volkswagen Bulb Repair

A couple of months ago, some of us were having a VW photo shoot. As my wife, Neva, drove away in our ’67 Beetle, someone exclaimed that one of the brake lights wasn’t functioning.

“Again?”, I thought and remarked to those present that I had serviced the offending brake light on more than one occasion. I added that to my list of VW Things To Do.

A couple of weeks later, I had a moment to work on the problem. But, in the intervening time, I had thought of a possible solution. It derived from something having nothing to do with VWs. In fact, this possible solution had nothing to do with anything automotive!

I removed the car’s cover, removed the lens and the offending bulb. I tested it to be sure that it was a functioning unit. Sure was. Sigh. Not as easy a fix as I had hoped. Wouldn’t it have been nice to just replace a burnt bulb?

Usually what I have done in the past is to remove the bulbs, then to remove the bulb holder itself. This is an easy operation requiring the removal of the lens, then the use of a Phillips head screwdriver to remove one short screw at the bottom of the bulb holder. The holder lifts out of its slot and there it is.

Vintage Volkswagen Oil Leaks

Hello from Austin, TX. Just a quick mention about fixing oil leaks at the rear main seal, from our good East Coast pal Chris Vallone of Classic VW Bugs.

We all know that VWs mark their spot when it comes to some oil dripping. If you don’t have a drip, consider yourself lucky, or maybe you do not have any oil in your motor! I came across a product recently that can solve the notorious “rear main seal” drip. This is probably one of the most common areas to drip on a VW air-cooled motor.

Undercoating Vintage Volkswagens

Undercoating Vintage Volkswagens

Foreword: Rather than to address “undercoating” as a general topic of discussion, I’ve tried to keep the focus upon undercoating as it related to Volkswagens through 1979 and as it relates, now, to the vintage Volkswagen hobby.

Undercoating has around for years and years in the world of vintage Volkswagens.

The theory behind undercoatings is that a barrier could be created to prevent the infiltration of moisture. Undercoatings themselves had no rust-inhibitive qualities. They simply have been intended as a barrier.

VW dealerships sold the service to new car buyers as a preventative measure to guard against rust. It was a money-making operation and dealers loved it. Especially was it offered in the colder climate States and especially where salt was used on icy roadways.

Recently, I spoke with a former VW trained specialist. He described the undercoating procedure as he observed it. He said that the dealership where he worked had one bay with a lift, “in a dark corner”, where the “nasty” undercoating took place. He told me that it was part of a money-making effort by dealerships in the make-ready department. Undercoating was applied using a hose and gun working from a 30 gallon barrel of material.

I have had my doubts over the years about its effectiveness in sealing the undersides of a vehicle as a moisture barrier. Here’s why. I was in the painting industry for almost 30 years. If there is a coating, I likely have seen it or read about it. In my experience, despite all claims to the contrary, coatings will fail. There is no “eternal” coating. I’ve heard claims that “you’ll never have to paint again”. Why can’t this be true?

Undercoating Vintage Volkswagens

It can’t be true because of expansion-and-contraction problems. When the base material—wood, metal, plastic—expands or contracts, the coating is going to suffer, eventually. Some coatings are better suited than others. But the fact of the matter is that coatings fail.

Metals, especially, are given to fluctuations from heat and cold. They will expand and contract more, and more quickly, reacting to weather and usage conditions.

What’s another problem? It’s the fact that the underside of a vehicle is not a continuous sheet of metal. Not at all. The undersides of vehicles are composed of pieces that have been fitted to form a unit. This could be through a continuous weld or spot-welding or with nuts and bolts and washers. There are joints. Every place where there is a weld or a nuts-and-bolts joint, expansion rates will differ.

As well, the application of undercoatings must completely encase all of this in order to form a viable covering—it must be seamless. This doesn’t happen.

The next issue is that undercoatings historically were shot onto factory painted surfaces. In order for a coating to adhere, there must be the possibility of adhesion. Slick surfaces will not offer such adhesion possibilities. As a result, I have been able to remove portions of undercoatings on Volkswagens simply by using compressed air. Sometimes, I have been able to remove it in sheets, simply because of the lack of adhesion. I can imagine that vibration over the years helps to loosen poorly adhered coatings.