Beetle Pedal Alignment

Gavin LaMaide's '67 Beetle Pedal AlignmentEditors note: Gavin, we thank you for the article. As I’ve said, isn’t about me, it’s about the community of ’67 Beetle owners around the world. Let’s continue to help each other stay on the road. -ES

Quote for the Occasion..

“If you think you can, or think you can’t….you’re RIGHT!” -Henry Ford


You will learn nothing new in the confines of this article outside of luck, determination and deep gratitude! In any case, I was asked by Eric & Jay to share my “little experience” with my clutch pedal cluster that I disassembled by accident and put back together. Based on my total lack of mechanical expertise, you can do it too!

It all started after I read the recent article about Pedal Clusters and the articulation and organization of such parts. I noticed for months my very own clutch pedal on my 67’ had way too much free play and was a two full inches depressed beyond that of the brake pedal. It really started to bother me. Although the clutch worked fine, it looked bad and clearly it was not adjusted properly. So, I thought, “ I’m not a mechanic, what could go wrong. Let’s give it a go!!”

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After getting together some of the right tools, floor jacks and lighting, I was set to explore. I made sure to align my resources, 1967, Jay Salser, You Tube Videos and my nearest mechanic on speed dial, just in case. After a quick email consult with Jay to get his take on what I thought would be a “slight adjustment”, I learned about the stop plate bolted behind the pedals. Jay said, “Check this first, perhaps just a slight tweak will do.”

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After removing the rubber mat etc, it took several minutes for me to find the bolt head and plate Jay referred to under the 48 years of crud, rust and particulate. Alas–there it was…..seized and not willing to budge. I decided to clean it the best I could and to soak the bolt and plate with several rounds of penetrating oil and see what happened by the next morning.

Sunday morning came and I awoke, determined as ever. I soaked the bolt and plate again, watched a little football, then decided to give it a try. Success! The bolt turned and turned and then suddenly–“Snap – Pop”–the clutch cable let loose and the pedals fell helplessly to the pan. Obviously, I was well beyond the “slight tweak”. Reminding myself not to panic, I slowly backed away, thinking, “What kind of mess have I made?” I knew now it was going to get painful.

I realized, quickly, that I would need to remove the entire assembly in order to re-hook the clutch cable. I took advantage of this by cleaning and lubricating the entire assembly. Then I tried, like a surgeon, to hook the cable to the clutch pedal through the hole in the tunnel while maintaining the connection through the rest of the procedure.

I meticulously threaded the two 17mm bolts into the tunnel and thought: “It’s going to be OK!”

Finally, I tied the clutch pedal to the firewall with a small bungee cord, which helped a lot. I also realized that the clutch cable needed to be adjusted. I needed to tighten the wing nut at the end of the cable on the clutch lever at the transmission. Looking at the wing nut, I found MORE rust and corrosion–the wing nut was frozen tight. Another round of soaking using penetrating oil was in order.

Monday came and it was off to work. Thinking through what I still needed to do, I emailed Jay to get his opinion on the work so far and confirmation of a pushrod measurement. He sent a few awesome pics and literature from the Bentley Manual and coached me along like he was standing next to me. When I got home from work, I just prayed that the penetrating oil had done its job on the wing nut. Thankfully, it had.

After affixing vise grips to the metal cable end so that it would not turn when I tightened the wing nut, I contorted myself under the car, reached up and tightened the wing nut in a very painful, uncomfortable effort to get it right. It was at that moment when my wife walks up thinking that I had been crushed by the car based on the tone of my audible grunts while twisting the wing nut with my bare hand. Remember, I said I had some of the right tools…

From under the floor of the raised car, I asked, almost begging, “Honey, would you wiggle the clutch pedal to see if it’s loose or sloppy?” After a wiggle…..“No” she said, “The clutch has tension and feels good…no slop.” Music to my ears!

Finally, I could get to the task I had begun two days earlier–the “slight tweak.” After a re-read of the Bentley Manual info and a double check of a few pedal measurements, I finally set the pedals in close alignment and tightened the plate and bolt.

Mission Accomplished.

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I reported immediately to Jay: “It’s all DONE!” Jay’s return email and well advised suggestion was to do a safety check in my driveway. I proceeded to take a slow, quiet ride and found the brakes and shifting have never felt stronger or shifted smoother. The feeling of satisfaction and the appreciation I have for the help of the community is overwhelming!

Thanks gentlemen, without your continued friendship and goodwill this would have not been such a successful outcome.

-Gavin LaMaide

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. Good job! You go…. I laugh, as you make Jay and I out to be super skilled. We’re not. We are the same as you. I started with items such as this. Next thing you know, I’m pulling my gas tank and restoring my whole car. Give thanks to old German thinking, as these cars were designed to be worked on. There’s nothing you can’t do! And, we’re here to help along the way.

    1. EDIT.. JAY IS SUPER SKILLED.. I just answer the phone and mop the floor here.

  2. Richard A (Dick) Diaz October 6, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    WOW! Gavin, your experience sounds so familiar to me! Different mechanical problem, but same frantic phone call to both Jay and Eric! I also agree you will be doing so much more on your own you will be surprised! For me, I have a rule, no special tools! I refuse to buy special tools to work on my cars! Well except for that wing nut; there is a cool, and inexpensive tool that fits in your tool box, to help you turn that baby! I bought mine, online, at Airhead Parts! For other special tools I leave it to a professional mechanic! Find a VW mechanic close to your home and become his new friend!

    Thanks to owning an Aircooled car I have become friends with both Jay and Eric! Both are more than willing to accept those frantic calls!-Dick

  3. Nice job of jumping in there and going for it! Nothing builds your confidence like tackling a project like that. Now, you can remove the pedal assembly again, disassemble it, blast the metal parts and repaint them. While it’s apart, you can clean and re-grease the bushings and shafts. I’ve done that to both my pedal assemblies in my bugs and it made a big difference in how smooth they worked and looked afterward. :)

    1. Bill Thanks! It goes without saying this adventure certainly built my confidence! Turns out the “fix” also corrected an annoying “tink” whenever I drove over a bump in the road. I thought the “tink” was coming from the drivers door jamb area….thankfully now I need not bother dismantling the door!!
      The issue must have been related to a very loose clutch cable…

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