Wiper Motor Testing & Servicing

Looking through my parts shelves, I ran across a couple of 1967 Beetle SWF 12 Volt Wiper Motors (VW Part# 111-955-113). Not knowing if they were viable, I put them on my work bench for future testing. 1967 SWF Wiper Motors are a one-year-only part—the last with the small 5mm Eccentric Shaft and the first of the 12 Volt Motors. Thus, they are valuable to us ’67 Beetle Owners.

Finally, I got a chance to test them. While testing one, the positive wire got hot. Hummm—not good. I put that one aside with a note attached. Maybe the old Grease was so hardened that the Armature just could not turn the Gears.

The second Motor tested good. I decided to draw a Diagram, while I was at it, to remind me which connectors were for what function.

To test, I used two test leads with clips on the ends (color of the leads doesn’t matter for this test. I used two colors to keep the wires separated). I attached the red lead clip to the 53 Spade. Using a black second lead, I clipped one end to the negative battery terminal. Now, I held the red lead clip to the positive battery terminal and touched the black lead clip to the Body of the Motor. I had movement—slow movement. This, I determined, was the Slow Speed. ’67-12 volt Motors have Slow and Fast Speeds—contrasted with earlier Motors which have only one speed (usually quite slow—if you have driven a 6 volt VW).

I clipped the red lead to 53b and repeated the above process. Fast Speed. Then, I repeated the process, clipping the red lead to 53a. Happily, I was between positions of the Wipers and the Motor ran to Park.

When testing a Motor out of the car as I was doing, do not use Terminal 31b. This is the Ground to the Switch. If you test using 31b—you’ll get a spark for sure.

The Body of the Motor is indicated by 31 on the Terminal Pad of the Motor—with NO Terminal. So you can touch the negative lead to anywhere on the Body of the Motor to get Ground.

I decided to service this Motor for my private Inventory of 1967 Parts—as a spare. (Have we talked about spare parts?)

First, I cleaned the exterior of the Motor. I used what’s commonly called paint thinner. It’s not highly combustible—but I do this cleaning outdoors. I don’t want to incur damage by breathing the vapors of this or any other solvent. I also use nitrile gloves to prevent absorption of this and all other solvents.

With the hardened grease deposits removed, I pulled the Bail over the Cap, or Top, of the Motor. The Rubber Sleeve at the center of the Bail still is good on this Motor, fortunately. More about this later when we discuss what to do when the Rubber Sleeve ISN’T good.

More cleaning to the inside of the Cap and some blow-drying and I turned to 4-ought steel wool for removing oxidation and superficial scratches from the aluminum. I really got after it—the result was a shining example. But, I wanted to do just a bit more. I donned nitrile gloves again, fetched the Mother’s Mag and Aluminum Cleaner and set to work on the Cap, using an old rag. After probably 20 minutes of rubbing, I had a Cap which was going to look really good on my serviced Wiper Motor! I used a terry cloth towel to remove residual Mother’s.

Now, I was ready to open the Gear Case in order to view the Gears and old Grease. I removed the 4 Screws. Gently prying with a small flat-bladed screw driver, I lifted the Case Cover. Now, I was able to view the old, discolored and hardened Gear Grease.

Using a small flat-bladed screw driver, and anything else I could find to do the job, I began to remove the old Grease from the Gear Box. This took a while to accomplish. After removing most of the Grease, I used pieces of paper towel and a screw driver to clean the recess well. With a pick, I cleaned the old Grease from the protruding Worm Gear at the Gear End of the Armature.

There is a tiny shiny Washer on the Post for the Small Gear. Do not lose this Washer!

I repeated the process with the Gear Cover and its two Gears. The large Gear has a recess. Inside the recess you can see a shiny Washer. This Washer usually won’t come out on its own until the old Grease has been removed. Be careful not to lose this Washer! When most of the Grease had been removed, I washed the Gear Case Cover and both gears using paint thinner and a tooth brush.

The Small Gear is fiber. It is loose once the Case Cover is removed. Clean its attached Smaller Metal Gear using a pick, if necessary.

The Large Gear is metal. I again used the pick to clean each Tooth on the Large Gear.

Since the Armature can be turned with ease, I am not going to remove it. This would involve tying back the three Brushes so that they do not pop out once the Armature Bracket has been removed and the Armature has been pulled from its position. In the past, I have had to remove the Armature due to hardened grease deposits on its lower shaft—which impeded movement. But, we’ll save that for another chapter down the road.

All cleaned and time to install the White Lithium Grease. I packed the Gear Chamber. Then I applied grease to the Teeth of each Gear to be sure that they would be ready to go once the Gear Case was sealed.

Once all was greased, I installed a new Gasket. I make my own Gaskets. I installed the Gasket onto the Cover Plate because the Cover Plate Locator Pins help to hold it in place during the installation of the Cover Plate onto the Wiper Motor.

I positioned the Small Gear—the Grease helps to hold it into position. Then, I placed the Cover with its Gears onto the Gear Case and worked the Cover with its Gears down into the Gear Case. Once things were well situated, I started the 4 Screws and began tightening them. I worked to tighten them evenly—working around the Cover Plate—until all 4 were tight. I turned the Wiper Arm and the Gears were meshing well. Next thing will be to put current to the Motor to see how good a job I did.

Well…not quite the next thing! First, I had to fit the Rubber Seal around the edge of the Motor Base and push the Cap onto it. The old Rubber Seal (111-955-119) hardens with age. I cleaned mine using a rubber rejuvenating product. This returned some of the supple nature to the rubber. Then, I carefully stretched the hardened rubber, tweaking it here and there. After some tedious work, the Seal fit and I installed the Cap and Bail.

If you cannot get the Seal to fit or if it is unusable, check with Eric at Lane Russell for a new one.

Another part to deal with is the Rubber Sleeve on the top of the Bail. This is a part which no one reproduces, to my knowledge. If yours is damaged beyond use, you can substitute by using Wire Shrink Wrap. This can be purchased at electronic stores. Take the Bail with you to test which size will best work for you. Once you have the Shrink Wrap, install a length of it onto the Bail, situated appropriately. Use a hair dryer to heat and shrink the Wrap. I have done this with some success. If you have access to scrap Wiper Motors, maybe you can find a viable original piece from one of them.

I cleaned each of the Brass Terminals so that they will give optimum contact. To further Polish the Spade Terminals, I used a product called Wenol Red Polish and a Q-tip. Beth Leverman put me onto Wenol a while back. Thanks, Beth!

The last thing to do was to test my Motor. Would it operate properly? It did, indeed.

If you do not want to service the Wiper Motor on your Beetle or, perhaps, there is damage which cannot be repaired without certain tools or parts, you can contact “The Wiper Guy”—Don West. Don is THE Wiper contact who can care for any Wiper problem you might have.

My thanks to both my wife and our daughter for photographing and videoing different aspects for this Article. What would I do without them?!

Thank you, David Brown—for helping with VW Part Numbers and a discussion of Wiper Motor Types!

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 article, Jay! Just yesterday, someone emailed me about this exact task. You are helping many ’67 Beetle owners around the world.

    1. Wow! You never cease to amaze me! I could have really used this about three years ago, but its going into my maintenance folder.

      1. Hi, Ron…I keep trying to get others to do these repair write-ups. There are many who can do a much better job than I. I am glad that you, for one, have stepped up to record your repairs! I hope that you and Diane are enjoying Arizona weather–it’s cold and rainy here. The good part–the rain. We are very dry in North Central Texas. jay

  2. I rebuilt and regreased mine a couple of years back and even got the cam to work properly. Ran fine until just a couple of weeks ago. Now i have to turn off the wipers near the start! Not enough of a burden to justify digging that thing out of my dash again though. Now dealing w leaks in the washer system? Thats worth a fix.

    1. It’s always something, right? :) #oldVW

    2. Hi, Stephen…Why do you need to turn off the wipers? What happens if you don’t turn them off? jay

  3. Richard A. (Dick) Diaz November 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Great article Jay! As always good photos from professionals too!

    1. Thanks, Dick. I hope that you, Carolyn and Arron are doing well these days and enjoying your Volkswagens! jay

  4. Another amazing needed step by step Jay. Even my kids could follow along with this. And they don’t know what the wipper motor is …. Lol
    Great photography as always. But that home cut gasket …? Looks anything but home cut ! Obviously some cutting skills and patience used on that Jay. Awesome job .
    I make many of my own also, but I can’t remember any looking so perfect.
    Thanks aging for all the great tips, and tricks.

    1. Hello, My Friend in Cold Canada! Thanks for your comments. I hope that you and Lynn continue in good health–try to stay warm during these very cold days! jay

  5. Super article Jay, it doesn’t get any better!!!

    1. You are very kind, Richard! I had fun with this one! My hands are becoming more and more shaky as I age–which is a bother! I am glad that you are all moved and hope that the cars have been “put to bed”
      for the Winter. May they sleep well. Hope to see you this Summer. jay

  6. I opened up my motor and there were no washers to be found…maybe the previous owner got in there.
    Will not having those washers installed affect the performance of the motor?
    If I replace them were the washers a specific thickness ?

    Thank you :)

    1. Hello, Daniel…Do you have an SWF Motor or a Bosch Motor? My feeling is that most (all?) ’67s came with the SWF Motor but I do not know that for a certainty. I say this because if yours is not SWF–it could differ–regarding the washers. If it is the SWF–yes–the tiny washers are necessary. Do you possibly have another motor of the same vintage? You could salvage washers from it. If not, perhaps I can find some from a salvage motor here. Let me know, please. (note–be sure to look carefully-grease could obscure these washers). jay

  7. I have a 67 beetle motor and have cleaned it like in your directions. It would not move before hand. Now that it is cleaned and put back together when I test it like in your video, it smokes like mad….. I took the cover off and where the brushes make contact it gets red hot. What am I missing. It looks like it has been hot before I bought the car. Any idea where I can get replacement brushes? They look well worn down.

    I am wondering if there is mechanical resistance somehow. It is hard to turn the gears by hand.

    1. Jay will reply as soon as he can.

      1. I am guessing that the brushes need to be replaced. I have no idea where to find replacement brushes though. Looks like the brushes are arching.

    2. Hello, Steve (please forgive the delayed response–I just returned home from surgery). Given that the motor was for all practical purposes stuck fast by the old grease, I suspect that it eventually shorted at some point–meaning that there is a direct ground in the
      armature or another spot. That’s the reason that it smokes and gets hot–positive and ground are directly connected somewhere. As you have deduced, the motor probably had issues before you obtained the car. I encourage you to contact Don West @: dwestfamily4@aol.com, 503-434-3530 (cell), 503-434-6486 (work). Don is known as the Wiper Guy. Don has repair parts and knowledge to return your wiper to like-new condition. jay salser

  8. Frank Walling March 9, 2020 at 2:02 am

    Hello Jay, Very nice write-up. My only recommendation would be to use a different grease. White lithium has too much harder in it and will not stay soft for very long. It is more noticeable in colder climate. A amber colored multi- purpose grease with a NLGI grade #1 would be a good choice. Most grease you find today are a grade #2 and are too thick. I would also not pack the gear box with all that grease, it just isn’t necessary. That much grease is hard on the motor and can slow it down. I have been rebuilding these motors for over 18 years and thought I would pass this on to you.

    1. Frank…I really appreciate your feedback! Another person also has told me NOT to use the White Lithium Grease. His comments are similar to yours about it. Also, I have thought, too, that so much grease was not necessary. Thank you for correcting me here. I had thoughts down the road following my article. I believe you when you say that not so much grease is necessary. I was attempting to duplicate the factory amount of grease. But , for the amount of “gear contact”, I believe that you are correct. I relish comments like yours–they help us all–to further our knowledge and skills for keeping these vintage Beetles running well. jay

  9. Thank you Jay for the pics and video, and I want to attempt this with my motor as it has been slowing down. I also have a few extra motors I saved over the years – a 66 and 68. I was just wondering if I could swap the small 5mm Eccentric Shaft from a 66 to a 68 body thereby building a kind of 2 speed 67 motor? Thanks!

  10. Hi buddy where can I get the small gear thanks

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