Buffering O-Ring

Someone said, “Never say never and never say always!” A cute saying when you first hear it but “meaty” when you think about it. It was a piece of advice given to Neva and me when we were getting married.

But you didn’t open this Article to hear about my marriage, did you! So what does it have to do with Volkswagens and, specifically, with 1967 Beetles? You ask.

Randy Drubek, a faithful Reader of 1967beetle.com, is working hard to restore his ’67 Bug. He’s had many questions about knotty problems over the months during which we’ve been in communication. One thing about Randy, he doesn’t spare the questions. He makes a guy think!

When he came up with a new part he was having trouble installing, he told me about it.
Oh, yeah, he did! He even told me where he’d purchased it and the part number.

What? I didn’t want to look like a dummy. After all, I’ve owned ‘67s for many years and I’m supposed to know a few things about them. But, I sure did not know about THIS part! In fact, the part and its supposed application made no sense.

Are you following me here? No! Of course not—because I haven’t said which part it is.

It is called by one retailer: “Seal, Head Light to Body”.

No way! Here’s why. The Head Light on a ’67 Beetle can never “seal” to the body of the vehicle to effect anything. Water from rain or washing enters freely around the sealed beam and immediately flows into the Head Light Bucket.

In the bottom of the Head Light Bucket is a Hole. Into this Hole fits the Drain Hole Rubber Fitting (Plug), 111-941-187, which keeps road dirt out of the Bucket but which allows moisture to seep out of the Bucket through slits in the Plug.

Volkswagen engineers obviously knew that they could not keep water out of the Bucket or they would not have engineered the Drain Hole and Drain Plug. For one thing, there must be clearance around the Head Light in order to allow for adjustment of the Sealed Beam so that it focuses properly.

So what could be the purpose of this supposed “Seal”. The answer is, it is not a “seal” per se, but it is a Buffer to protect against chaffing between the Head Light Outer Ring and the Painted Fender. This made sense.

I consulted David Brown—he chuckled.

Yes”, he told me, “There is such a part” and “Yes, it protects the Painted Fender against chaffing by the Head Light Outer Ring.”

He agreed with me when I told him that of the many VWs which I’ve “handled” over the past 40 something years, I’d never seen one of these rubber rings in any condition on a ’67 and later Beetle. He told me that once in a while, he’d see a Bug with the remnants of one of these rubber rings still clinging to the fender.

Apparently it’s one of the forgotten parts which many owners and mechanics have deemed to be unimportant.

Armed with this information, I removed the Outer Head Light Rings on our ’67 Beetle in order to install the Buffering O-Rings on each Fender. Whoops! Randy told me that they were a bit difficult to install. I called my Chief Helper—my wife, Neva. Together, we did the installation in quick succession.

Then, I reinstalled the Outer Head Light Rings.

A Note: when installing the Outer Ring, start the screw at the bottom. Once it is started, raise and clip the Ring over the Top Lip of the Head Light Bucket. Then, check for alignment and fitting all around and tighten the screw.

The Buffering O-Rings already had been in existence long before the first 1967 Beetle exited the Wolfsburg Factory doors. Type 3 FastBacks, SquareBacks and NotchBacks already had the Up-right Head Lights as far back as the 1962 production year. (The SqBk and FstBk did not debut in the USA until the mid-‘60s. The Notches stayed in Europe)

Supposedly, Type 2s (Buses and that entire line of vehicles) also used the O-Rings from 1968 onward, when they also assumed the same Outer Head Light Ring.

There was a question which David Brown posed—when, in later years, Volkswagen began installing Plastic Outer Head Light Rings—did Volkswagen AG continue to install the Rubber O-Rings on Beetles and Buses? Retailers assume so, posting 1968-1979 on their labels.

Today…if anyone asks me if my Beetle has the Buffering O-Rings, I truthfully can answer “Yes”. Chalk off one more stock 1967 part on my list.

Thank you, David Brown for your consistent help with these adventures into the Annals of Volkswagen History.

And many thanks to you, Randy Drubek of Lynden, WA, for prompting me for answers to so many knotty questions. May your 1967 Beetle soon be giving you great joy as you drive the result of many months of painstaking labor.

Neva worked with the photos. I dragged her out into 100F temps to snap some of them. Only a fraction of photos taken appear in any of these Articles.

Posted by Jay Salser

My wife, Neva, and I have been driving and working on VWs since 1976. In fact, we raised our family in these cars. Now, we are retired and enjoy VWs as a hobby. The ’67 Beetle always has been our favorite year. We own a '67 Beetle and a '68 Karmann Ghia.

  1. Richard A. (Dick) Diaz June 30, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Wow Jay! I never considered there could be forgotten parts! But, it makes sense that, over time, a part could be deemed not necessary because someone was too lazy to find the part! Great article!

    1. Hello, Dick…It is good to hear from you. I hope that the three of you are enjoying your three VWs! Yes…there are “forgotten” parts (at least by me), and I expect that there will be other parts coming to the fore in time. Say hello to the family for me, please! jay

  2. Some folks say not to use them, as they can create air pockets and cause what you’re trying to prevent…..

    1. Hello, Fran…Thanks for the Samba Link. I read the contents. I would disagree with the person who says that the rings could cause “air pockets”. I think that this would be impossible given the tiny O-ring and how the Outer Head Light Ring is butted to it. There is less space after installation than if the O-ring were to be omitted. As for the suggestion regarding “silicon between the Head Light Ring and the fender”–yuk!
      Actually, I’ve driven for over 41 years and never missed the O-rings and never have had a problem with chaffed paint either. But, now, I am “legal”! LOL thanks for reading and commenting, Fran! jay

    1. Hello, Gary–It’s good to hear from you! Yes. I studied a couple of retailers who sell the O-rings. I did not include their Links in the article. Mainly because they rather “mis-advertise” the purpose of the O-ring. The O-ring is not a “sealing” ring, as I note in the article–but it is a buffering ring. People get the wrong idea when it is called a “seal”. Thanks for reading and commenting. jay

      1. Wolfsburg West probably hasn’t sold any in sometime and now that you came up with this article they’ll probably sell out.
        Keep up the good work and thanks for the article.

        1. That’s funny, Gary. Maybe Eric should apply for a “commission”! jay

  3. Stephen L. Murray June 30, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Jay,
    Stephen L Murray here in Southern California. I am the second owner of my Early Black 1967 Beetle, purchased from the Original Owner in December 1977. I recall as a kid replacing the Original Headlights and discovering the Rubber O-ring that is discussed in this article. In the past, when I raised the issue with VW Folks who were supposed to be knowledgeable, they looked at me as if I was crazy. Keep up the great work.

    1. Well, Stephan–that was my initial reaction when Randy broached the subject. What??? I am convinced about the O-rings now and have them on our Beetle. Were they absolutely necessary to the well-being of our Bug? Hummmmm! Probably not. LOL But, they are there now and I am happy to have learned about them. It’s all a long discovery process–a lot of which is not documented anywhere, to be frank. Your experience as a young man proved itself in later life. Keep up the good work, Stephan! jay

  4. As always; great info, Jay. I don’t buy the air pocket theory.

  5. James Mitchell July 2, 2018 at 10:49 am

    My 67 didn’t have them, but it did have a lot of pitting on the paint because they weren’t there to buffer the ring. As Jay said, they are tricky to get on by yourself only because you have to hold them in place AND slowly stretch them w/o breaking them. Best to have one person hold it in place, while another slowly stretches it since they are not very thick and easy to break.

    1. Thank you Jay for such an excellent article! I ordered a pair from WW.


      1. Hello, Tim…This was an interesting little study. I had to convince myself. There’s only one way to do that–a bit of research. I suppose that retailers who sell the O-rings will see an up-tick in sales. LOL..Take care, my Friend and have a great Monday evening in the Northwest! jay

    2. Right, I agree, James…I asked my wife to help with this little operation. I was afraid that the O-rings would break where they are “welded” together–but, they thankfully did not break! Maybe a wise thing to do would be to place the joint at the very bottom so that it is not the part being stretched. jay

  6. Really appreciate you taking the time Jay. Has anyone had the problem of the chrome Hella outer headlight ring/bezel not fitting over the lip on the headlight bucket? I know this seems about as simple as possible, but I cannot get the original outer ring to fit since I removed it two days ago. Would sure appreciate any feedback as I’m now 2+hours into what should be a three-minute job! Thank you. Dan Lehman

    1. Hello, Dan…I have seen this situation. Are you certain that the outer ring is Hella? Some reproduction rings are not carefully manufactured and the lip at the top will not firmly engage the fender protrusion (catch). Maybe you can carefully pull the ring lip open so that it can better engage the fender protrusion. Let me know what you discover, please. jay

  7. Frenchy took channel locks and lightly bent upward the lip from about 4-5 o’clock (lower right). Took him some time, but he seemed confident and never broke a sweat. The Hella outer ring snapped right on. He’s very resourceful! Dan

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