Vintage VW – Ominous Spot On The Garage Floor

'67BeetleOminous Spot On The Garage Floor

Jay Salser’s been mentioned at a few times before. I’d like to take this time to welcome his first contributed article. It’s a pleasure collaborating with you Jay. — Eric,

As a member of a Volkswagen club, I often submit an item of interest to the group for their indigestion. Here’s one such submission.

Ominous Spot On The Garage Floor—A Quiz

Hello, O Wise Ones!

Last month, I was one of the few to drive his VW to the meeting in the rains. Upon my return to park my ’67 Beetle, I noted a spot on the garage floor—the “Ominous Spot On The Garage Floor”!

All sorts of scenarios flooded my mind! What was happening to my ’67 Beetle?

Rather than to park the car in its usual place, I exited it and did the “old school taste test”. See…you thought that I am some 60-ish old guy. Actually, I am only 35 but this tasting of vehicular fluids has taken its toll upon me.

I really don’t imbibe the stuff—I just put it to the tongue enough to get a sense of value. And, to defend myself, I do the taste test ONLY when the color, viscosity, etc. of the fluid does not yield an immediate answer visually or olfactorily. Do not recommend this test to your children, grandchildren, and above all, not to your wives!

I fully expected to get a rather acidic, biting taste–instead there was almost nothing to the residue but a slightly oily sensation. Hummmm! This “spot on the floor” was at the FRONT of the car—not the rear! I postponed the examination until my car had dried. The water from the rains had everything looking black, and shiny on the car’s underside.

When finally all was dry, I laid a cardboard on the floor and turned the front wheels hard to the right so that I could get a good view of the area below the gas tank on the driver’s side. Strong light in hand, I carefully examined the master cylinder—nothing. Totally dry. The brake lines on the driver’s side were dry and the backside of the wheel was, as well.

I turned the wheels hard to the left and looked at the brake line there and the passenger wheel. Again, all was dry as a bone.

On the passenger’s side, there was a lot of the oily residue sitting in the frame head. There was more of the substance on the bottom side of the frame head, ahead of the actual pan. I used paper towels to remove and examine this residue.

Then, I saw it! There was some leakage at the gas tank outlet. I could see where gas had seeped from the large nut at the outlet pipe. Could it be that enough gasoline had leaked so that when it evaporated, the gasoline had left that residue? I have seen gas do that, leaving a sticky, gunky residue. Maybe that WAS a gasoline odor which I had smelled earlier in the year. I got a small adjustable end wrench, tightened the nut and cleaned the area well. I could detect no further seepage.

Nevertheless, I was bothered by the quantity of residue. It just could NOT have come from gasoline. As I lay there using the light to spot here and there…I found the culprit. What was it?

Answer To The Quiz

I received some very good responses to the quiz that I posed regarding the Ominous Spot On The Garage Floor. These, I will get to in just a moment.

Today, I corrected the fault and am happy to say that from what I have found in talking with others, this is not a frequent occurrence. For one, I know that I will not soon forget it!

Only two persons guessed the answer to the leaking fluid. John and my wife. While you may be surprised that a lady could quickly come up with the answer, let me tell you that she has “held the light” many a time while I worked in the bowels of an errant VW! She also has held my hand many a time when I have become discouraged over mechanical problems. So, kudos to Neva! And, to John! Here are some of the comments:

From Scott: “The Steering Box.”

Kirk wrote: “Well, one of four things:

  • It was the washer fluid reservoir. You would have spotted brake fluid from the reservoir…and it would have dissolved the paint on the frame head and you would have commented on that.
  • It was a can/bottle of spare ‘something’ in your trunk that had leaked.
  • Your car is possessed and it is ectoplasm (slime).
  • Your car is really a beetle (insect) and it is excreting waste stealthily…all of these years…but you finally caught it…it had gotten complacent and sloppy.”

With regards to my comments about gasoline residue, Roland said: “If the gas leaves a gunky spot on the floor when you get a leak, no wonder that it gums carburetors and fuel injectors.”

Bob quipped: “My guesswork…

  • Cat urine (how did it taste?)
  • Squirrel urine (how did it taste?)
  • Coffee from a cup left under the hood.
  • Windshield wiper fluid.”

Later Bob added: “…rain caught under the gas tank.”

The correct answer is: The steering damper. There is a quantity of fine oil inside the housing, just as there is inside any shock absorber. In over 29 years (at the time of writing), I had not seen a damper leak. However, I have been told that on occasion they will leak. Perhaps it was due to a lack of regular driving so that the seal aged prematurely. Or, perhaps some factory worker was having a bad day when he assembled the damper, a Colfap-Brasil product. The bulbous end of the damper extends over the passenger side of the frame head, thus releasing the oil onto that portion of the frame head, where it collected and slowly dripped onto the garage floor.

I am still reeling over some of the above imaginative comments. I am certain that they represent persons who have a great love for their vintage VWs!

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. My bugs have never leaked, they were just marking their territory.

  2. I’ve had the same problem in the past. It wasn’t known until my steering wheel started shaking at 55 mph for no reason.

  3. Fantastic first article Jay! Looking forward to more.

  4. yes I have used the taste test on leaks under my bugs. It’s the last resort when having trouble finding the source of a leak. Owning a bug will turn you into a mechanic, I love my Volkswagen and do all my repairs

    1. hahahahah–Darol, I don’t advise others to do this, but, so far, I’ve lived to year 83 with no problems brought on by using the “taste test”! I agree–having a VW WILL bring our the “mechanic” in almost anyone! When we moved back to the USA, we had no cars at all. Soon (in a month or so) we had two ’67s. Then another one! I found that I could read the repair manuals and perform jobs which otherwise required pay and being without a car. Being able to do one thing gave me confidence to learn to do other jobs. It snowballed until I had tackled almost everything except transmission rebuilding! Long live the Air-Cooled Culture! jay

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