Vintage VW – Valve Clearance — .006 or .004?

ValveClearance Pictured#b

Often times, Jay and I will be having conversations around specific aspects of ’67 Beetle restoration. Big or small, Jay has an article crafted in a day or two for the world to see. His research goes deep and is spot on accurate. Let’s all take a moment to thank him for his contributions to I consider him a true partner in my effort to better educate the world about this very special one year only car; the 1967 Beetle.

We restoration enthusiasts proudly refurbish our Beetles right down to the gnat’s eye bristle, as the saying goes. This includes such things even as the stickers/decals.

One thing which has puzzled owners is THE VALVE CLEARANCE MYSTERY!

There have been a few small comments made on about this issue but nothing really has been resolved. Finally, Reader, Quinn Elliott approached me with some information and I decided to plumb it as far as I could go.

Quinn has owned his 1967 Beetle since December, 1966, when he bought it after he retired from the Military. He was in England at the time he bought the vehicle.

Quinn says: “I have collected hundreds of manuals, parts lists, parts fiches, bulletins, documents, memorabilia, parts, etc. for many years now. “

So, he has experience and Volkswagen Literature on his side.

I involved David Brown in the discussion. David was trained by VWoA and worked as a Parts Manager. Later, he would establish his own VW shop where he worked on customers’ cars and did some FormulaVee racing on the side. David also has a treasure trove of VW Literature and Parts.

As an opening “teaser comment”, Quinn reported that in September, 1967, “…VW exchange engines were equipped with short replacement studs. Valve clearances were altered to .004. In addition to the .004 valve sticker, they (VW) included a metal clip which slid over the rocker shaft. It read: .1. .1 mm is .004”. Some of these engines could possibly have wound up in 67’s. A rare bit of VW history!”

The Clip was given the VW Part# 311-100-177



Getting to the point of The Valve Clearance Mystery, David notes that there began to be problems with burned exhaust valves, especially after 1968, when a combination of emissions settings and carburetor small main jets ramped heating. This resulted in burned valves and “dropped” valves, mostly in #3 cylinder.

Quinn adds that “…when an owner took his Bug to the dealer for scheduled maintenance, unless it was left overnight, the engine was hot. It takes many hours to cool down to cold. Since dealerships make their $ by quantity, the valves were set mostly when they were NOT cold. I have seen dealerships loosen the fan belt and run the generator off the battery to run the fan for cooling–still not cold.”

I can attest to the fact that valves were not always set on a cold engine. The first time I witnessed this was with my father’s ’65 Beetle. He took it to a mechanic friend. We talked for a half hour or so, then Benny adjusted the valves. That engine could not have been cold!

Amongst the three of us there was some discussion of when VWaG decided to take action. After all, if engines began coming back to dealerships, VW was going to suffer a loss as responsible parties, especially if their shops had been the sole maintainers of the cars in question. And…it would give Volkswagen a bad name.

Quinn here goes to his library of Volkswagen Literature and notes:

“The 1967 Volkswagen came from Germany with the valve setting sticker attached to the right side (passenger’s side) of the fan housing, with the notation in a rectangle: 0.1 MM and underneath that, .004″. Not just for 1967, but for some years into the future, the valve sticker would be .004″.

Quinn continued…”Volkswagen made the change to .006″ in December, 1971. As in all things Volkswagen, there is much speculation and misinformation floating around as to when, why, and what concerning the valve settings. There are several means to verify the change date, some subtle, some big, bold and weighted with authority

The first one is the various Owners Manuals.

(Also) the VW booklet Without Guesswork, Type 1, 2, and 3, 1971 and 1972, dated October, 1971, has the valve setting at .004″. Without Guesswork, 1960 through 1970, dated December, 1971, has changed it to .006″.

Another source: In Gear, a small newsletter published for use by Volkswagen mechanics by International Auto Sales & Service Inc, the Volkswagen Distributor for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, Issue Four, December 30, 1971, Page 1, Valve Settings makes the change from .004″ to .006″.

Furthermore, Quinn continued…”The main document that supports the change at that time is/was the change to the ‘M’ Manual dated 10, December, 1971 [“M” Manual being the Volkswagen Engine Workshop Manual(s)] stating: ‘Effective immediately, valve clearance of all engines manufactured as of November, 1964, should be adjusted as follows: intake and exhaust 0.15MM (.006 in.) with cold engine only’.”

Not being one with access to an abundance of VW Literature, I turned to the “popular” information source—the Owner’s Manuals.

First, I examined my own mint condition 1967 Beetle Owner’s Manual. Here’s what I found:

USA Owner’s Manual
Printed in Germany 1.67
Page 47. Technical Data
Mid-page: Valve Clearance with engine cold…..intake and exhaust .004in (0.10mm)

From here, I tackled’s Technical Section, Type 1, Owner’s Manuals.

I looked at English Owner’s Manuals from 1967 through 1972. All give the same information: intake and exhaust .004in (0.10mm)

But, for the August, 1972, Owner’s Manual (this would be for the 1973 Model Year) there is an abrupt change in valve clearance instruction. Both intake and exhaust valves now are to be set at .006in (0.15mm).

ValveSetting.006Aug'72-'73 model
The first time that I restored a fan shroud, in the late ‘70s, I wanted a new valve clearance sticker to apply to it. I went to Big Billy Barrett’s, a large VW dealership in Dallas, TX. There, I bought a strip of the .006” decals. They were inexpensive back then. I bought enough to use for years to come. I have only one left now.

A question which we all may ask is…why did it take Volkswagen another year (from December, 1971, until the beginning of the 1973 Model Year) to make the Official Change in Valve Settings a notice to the owners of cars? We may never know.

You wonder where all of this is going? I’m getting to that point. Remember I addressed the fact at the beginning of this Article that, as Restorers of Vintage Vehicles, a lot of us want to be Period-Correct.

So we apply to our fan shrouds, with regularity, the familiar .006 Valve Setting Decal. Which, as it turns out, is incorrect, properly speaking. The quandary is, will we change our thought pattern and, if we do, where will we find the correct .004 decals? Apparently no one presently manufactures and sells these. Will someone step up to the plate? I, for one, would purchase an .004 sticker.

Practically, then, what do we do about the actual Valve Clearance? I will continue to set valves at .006 on my stock engines. If you are tempted to use .004, speak with a qualified VW engine builder or mechanic for expert advice.

As always—my thanks to both Quinn and David for their continued good will and advice!

And, to my wife and daughter for helping with photography.

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. Great info.
    Thanks for the post.

    1. Hello, Mike…Thanks for reading! It’s not something which most VW owners have an interest in–but it’s a question that keeps popping up. Hopefully this will help to answer some questions–questions which I myself have pondered over the years but have not been excited enough to look at with any great amount of scrutiny. jay

  2. Good one, Jay! We’ve had a few customers ask for the .004 valve decal.

    1. I gather that no one really wants to gear-up for manufacture of this sticker–not knowing the market. If there IS a market, that is. jay

  3. We’d sell one once a year… Probably not. Also, .004 could cause some issues..

  4. Personally, I have always adjusted my valves with a loose 004 on the intake and a tight 006 on the exhaust. It seemed logical way back when as people were discussing the exact same issue. Something “logical” had to be decided by me as I was the main mechanic of my VW’s. Bug and a Bus, both ’67’s. All the engines made it over a 100,000 miles, originals and rebuilds. My idea of successful runs.

    1. Todd…I think that you are right with what you are doing–both theoretically and practically. The proof is in your engine success stories! The problem was mostly due to either inexperience or a rush-to-make-money, in the day. Today’s gasoline with ethanol in it causes engines to run hotter. Setting the valves @ .006 probably helps a lot of us. “My” VW mechanic advises me to use a slightly larger Main Jet in the carb to cause the engine to run cooler. I’ve done that on one of my VWs. First try was a little large–lots of spunk but too rich a mixture. I went down a step and things seem to have leveled off.
      Keep up the good work, Todd! jay

  5. Jay,

    Thanks for a great article. It all makes sense and leaves it up to each of us how much clearance we want on our valves.

    For me .004 on the intake and .006 on the exhaust sounds like a good way to go. Incidentally, if the valves are set “hot” that’s the setting they’ll be at when it’s running at operating temperature. The only time they’ll be tighter is when the engine is cold and ‘growing’ up to operating temp (when the cylinders and heads have expanded, more so than the pushrods.) So it would seem the only real time there’s a danger of burning an exhaust valve set at .004 ‘hot’ would be during warm-up.

    Thanks again for such good research–and sharing!


    1. Thank you, Stu for your gentle teaching about the valves. I am working to eliminate my incorrect and misleading statement. I appreciate your explanation! Setting the valves on a hot engine would give an incorrect clearance. But setting the valves improperly on a cold engine could result in damaged or burnt exhaust valves. Appropriately, VW was less interested in valve lash and noise than in damaged valves/engines. So, VW officially changed to the .006 setting. I appreciate your coaching here! jay

  6. Richard A. (Dick) Diaz March 7, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Still some independent thought on this topic! For me, I will stick with the .006! Thanks Jay for putting it out there!

    1. Hello, Dick…that’s what I do and it works for me. Maybe a bit noisier. But the older I get, the less I hear anyway! LOL. jay

  7. Why dont we split the diff and go with 005 on the exhaust.? Or, should be consider a winter and summer setting? Or, if you do short hauls say less than 25 miles, could be one setting, and another adjustment for long trips. For those that just run to Home Depot with their Buses or Bugs, probably anything close will work.

  8. Jay, would you be so kind to “dumb” this down for me? The sticker on my fan housing says .004. With that said, I understand the update to .006 from your awesome article.
    For the best results, I trust this adjustment depends on distances you travel, quality gas you burn, climate etc….
    Todd, Stu and Richard have great insights here with regard to the whys.
    Why does this adjustment matter so much??? Issues? Or are we just splitting hairs?
    Thanks for your insights…this is NOT my strong suit, obviously….lol

    1. Hello, Gavin…Good to hear from you! You have a pretty rare fan shroud to have the .004 sticker still on it. Most of those have gone by the wayside by this time of life! I hope that you can preserve it as is. To answer your question about “splitting hairs”–yes…this is an exercise of what is strictly correct when a person says that he has restored his car to factory specs. Neat if you can get it but it’s a fairly obscure factoid, Gavin. Nothing to worry about. Your car is a great example as it is. As for how to set your valves–keep setting them at .006 thousandths. As you can see from the comments, some people are pretty savvy and set the exhaust valves @ .006 and the intakes at .004. Possibly makes the engine breathe a bit better. Keep enjoying your ’67 Beetle! jay

      1. Jay thx again for your command of knowledge here. My fan shroud sticker is in fair shape, indeed readable and I will be certain to preserve it as is. Thanks again for all you do!!

  9. Once again, I learned something new here!

    Thanks, Jay!

    1. Hello, Todd…I hope that work on your ’67 is proceeding as planned. The valve clearance thing is something which has been swirling about in peoples’ minds “forever”. It helped me to talk through it just for the history of it. Will it change anything any of us does with our cars–probably very little if at all. It’s history–a part of the history which goes to make the Hobby interesting. Take care and keep up the good work on your Beetle. jay

  10. Really great info, Mr. Salser. I’ve been following your work here for years. I must say, you and Eric are changing the landscape for us vintage VW owners. You are the modern day John Muir.

  11. Hello, Keith…The Shoemakers are the Rising Stars here! is Eric’s and his wife’s Brainchild! Eric has allowed me the opportunity to learn through interacting with the 1967 Beetle Community. I assure you that I am still in the wading end of the swimming pool and learning every day. I ask more questions than make statements. And, I have a lot of enjoyment doing it. As for the Legendary John Muir–what a great guy he was! I have a copy of his Manual which I was given in the late ’70s. I assure you that it is well used and sports plenty of grease stains and notations! Long live the ’67 Beetle Community! Keep enjoying your ’67! jay

  12. I’m no star. I just know how to make web sites. Jay gets all the credit.

  13. My 67 Sun Roof still has the factory .004 valve adjustment sticker on the fan shroud. It is however showing its age and I understand that.

    1. Are you Richard in Nebraska? Yes…you are a rare member of the Club of the Original Valve Clearance Sticker! How neat! Save it for as long as you can manage, Richard. jay

  14. Nice article but I still think it is advantageous with the gasolines of today and living in hot southern California that all valves should be set at.006 and let them clack a little. In my experience, setting them at .004 tends to end up with little or no lash at the next adjustment. Not good. Especially for #3. Also keep all of the original engine tin on the car as it all works with engine cooling. If you rebuild the engine get yourself a pair of the cool fin tins that go between the cylinders on each side to help with cooling, you will be happy. Also try to find the original pre-heater tins for the 67 as they are getting harder to find. If I am in a junkyard I always pick up what I can get as they don’t make these anymore. If in doubt, buy them out.

    1. Hello, Bruce…I tend to agree with you. For all of these years, I have set the valves on my cars at .006 and have had good success. But…I understand those who are more precise and who set valves at .004 or who set the exhaust at one clearance and the intakes at another. Your encouragement to install all of the correct engine tins is so important. Missing tins are a chief problem for these air-cooled engines. A good engine compartment seal, decklid seal, proper engine tins and a clean engine–a formula for a cool-running engine! I had to laugh at your “motto” because that’s been my practice as well. In fact, Bruce…I have a fair sized inventory of those parts which are prone to fail or which, if needed down the road, will be more expensive. My inventory is computerized (to my ability) so that I can view the entire inventory and locate a part pretty quickly. In fact–my inventory figures into my collector car insurance policy. This was at the suggestion of my Hagerty’s Insurance Agent. I encourage all VW owners to collect spares of parts! Thanks for your input, Bruce! jay

  15. Just reviving an old thread…my 1965 Beetle came with the .004 sticker, but I removed it to a safe place for posterity. I would like a new one to replace it with a new one to stay correct to the vintage. Has anyone made any .004 stickers yet? Thanks

    1. Good morning (from here in Texas!). Christopher, I do not know of anyone who has made the .004 Valve Clearance Stickers. Eric used to have the new .006 Stickers, though. I think that I saved one new .006 Sticker which I acquired WAY back when–in the late ’70s or early ’80s. I bought part of a sheet of the Stickers back then and slowly used them. Even back then, I think that VW had discontinued the .004 Stickers. There’s always the hope that someone will revive the .004s, though. I’ll keep you in mind–just in case. Take care and thanks for staying in touch with jay

  16. I found some!

  17. I found some and this guy on Samba still has a few left:

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