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Old 07-18-2012, 09:41 PM   #15
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Air-cooled VW's are pretty easy to work on. I'm a mechanical moron and was able to keep my '78 bus running without too much difficulty. Your best resource will be a copy of John Muir's "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot", or "The Idiot Book" to regular users. You can usually find one edition or another at used book stores - just be sure you get an edition late enough that covers your particular year. If you can, find an edition with the spiral binding, as they lay nice and flat while you're working.
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:51 PM   #16
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Happy', ironically I learned how to fix my 1st one from my girlfriend at the time.

And The Idiot's Book is a good one to use. Cameron is correct.

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Old 07-18-2012, 11:00 PM   #17
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I've had about a dozen VW's over the years, still have one. The air-cooled ones were very reliable for me, when they broke easy and cheap to fix. There was a place in San Diego that did a rebuilt engine swap for about $300 in '70's, although never had engine problem in any of them.

Biggest problem today would be keeping up with traffic, they were slow, decent 55 mph cars. Not too bad handling and the Super Beetle was quite good, independent suspension all around, rear engine, needed better tires.

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Old 07-18-2012, 11:40 PM   #18
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Awesome . . . finally something I can weigh in on. Here's the sum total of what i learned in two years of part time work in an independent VW repair shop while going to college. My boss was a VW genius who left the dealership and opened his own place so that stuff got done right.

1. Make sure you are religious about changing oil. Beetles love to have clean oil.

2. Keep the valves adjusted. We saw too many engines ruined because valves were not properly adjusted.


3. Keep the clutch cable adjusted. Failure to do this will lead to a clutch that gets less responsive over time and then one day its all the way to the floor and you will be limping into a repair shop in first if you are lucky. Clutch cable replacement (when one breaks) not rocket science to repair but can be a total pain to do.

4 Make sure your belts are tightened to the proper specs. That air cooled engine really depends on that fan working to disperse heat, so you don't want any slipping belts.

5. Learn how to adjust the brakes and stay on top of that, metal to metal is not a good sound when they wear out too fast. Or better yet, just take it to a good brake place. Changing brake shoes on a hot summer day still ranks as my all time worst employment experience. Well, that and the guy who had driven from Denver to Wichita Falls on his way to Houston, pulled in and demanded a quick oil change because he had to be on his way.... just no good way to get the oil out of the old Beetles without dropping at least one of the nuts that held the oil plate in the bottom of the engine into that pan of boiling hot oil.

Only other thing I learned from him was that if you really wanted a quality vintage Bug.... you wouldn't buy anything made after 67.

But if you are just going to use this as a toad and not as a daily driver, I would think you would get good service out of it and the real upside of the old Beetles was that they were a lot of fun to drive.
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Old 07-19-2012, 05:37 AM   #19
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My Super Beatle ran like a top. The Super Beatle has a transmission that was geared for the highway. I use to run it 80 MPH on the interstate with no problems. I don't know what trans ration is in the 74 standard Beatle. I rebuilt the engine myself it grad school and when I sold the car a few years ago it had about 60k on the engine and it was still running strong. There are good and bad parts out there. I would put new parts on it and sometimes they were worse that what I took off. I had an oil pump shaft wring off because the metal was too soft. I put a cast iron Melling pump back in and never had anymore problems. I also had problems with fuel pumps wearing out because they were cheap. I had the throttle cable problems as well. The breaks were crappy and were not self adjusting. If I was using one as a daily driver I would get a disk brake conversion kit for one and about 50% of your problems go away. They are tough little cars but a pain to work on especially if you have one that had half a million miles on it before you got it. The heads are prone to cracking but new heads are not all that expensive. There are ungraded crank bearings that last longer than the old ones. The magnesium crankcase is problem because the metal is so soft that the bearing become loose and you lose oil pressure. Get a real oil pressure gage and a head temp gage.

I hit two deers in the car and ran off a 6 ft embankment at 60 mph and the car held together. A lady pulled out in front of me and I had to take the ditch. I ran off the side of the road off an embankment and kept driving till I got to the next driveway and got back on the road. No other car that I know of would have survived that experience without major damage. I had no damage. I hit deer number one in front of the college and lost a fiberglass 40 Ford style hood (it saved my life). I did a 180 at 60mph when I had the second deer encounter 2 weeks later. I ended up with a dented rear fender when I tried to avoid the deers and they ended up running into me by hitting my rear fender which spun me around. Rain is an adventure in a bug because they have no weight over the front wheels. Keep a cinder block in the front trunk to add some weight up there. Also they swap ends real fast in the rain because all that weight in the back. I used to do it for fun.

Perry
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Old 07-19-2012, 08:38 AM   #20
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My first car was a '65 Beetle (55k miles, $555), that I sold to my brother, who traded it to my sister, who drove it for years then sold it to a neighbor. I believe it had around 120k on the original motor. Later I had a '69 bus, which stranded me in PA when it broke a valve on Rt 80. Dealer put a new head on one side, and off I went. Later, blew an oil cooler seal in Quebec - quick dealer repair. Drove for years, then it wouldn't stay in fourth gear. I screwed a leather strap to the driver's seat base, which I would slip around the shifter to keep it in gear - hah! Sold it that way. I probably accelerated the wear on the tranny when I moved from NJ to MI towing a U-haul trailer with it a couple of years before. Hills on 80 in PA had me down to 35 mph - oh, man, the things we did in that van. Flat towed, the beetle would be a fun toad to have to scoot around in - makes more sense than some of the big, heavy vehicles you see behind motorhomes (like Hummers- what's up with that?).
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Old 07-19-2012, 08:56 AM   #21
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Adjusting the valves or at least checking them every oil change is necessary for longevity of the valves. It is not that hard once you get the hang of it. Changing the oil every 3K is a must. There are only 2.5 quarts of oil and no filter. No use pulling the screen in the bottom. If that clogs up you have major problems. Just pull the center plug and fill her up. You can get an external oil fiter that attaches to the oil pump cover that is not a bad idea. I had a Chinese made oil pump that had the oil filter made onto the pump and that was a nice way to do it but the heat treat on the pump shaft was not good and the end of the shaft wore away. This was one of the times I had to tow the car and the oil pressure gage came in handy.

Perry
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:49 AM   #22
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Back to the original question, many states now require brakes on the toad, and they are prudent even if you are not in such a state. Brake Buddy is a widely used product, and will work with the beetle. There are other products that also work, including some that are installed permanently so that they do not have to be removed when the toad is driven by itself and replaced when it is towed.

If you are interested in working on your VW, I highly recommend the book "How to keep your Volkswagen alive" by John Muir, a well-written tome which taught many people not only beetle repair but also general automotive repair principles.

The Beetle is 1960s era automotive technology and has reliability and performance comparable to the other economy cars of the era. If you just want a toad, there are newer cars that are better choices. I'm assuming you have reasons of style or nostalgia that dictate your choice.
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:58 AM   #23
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Ok I looked at this brake buddy thing. It seems like a lot of expense for little benefit with such a small car. The Brake Buddy is worth more than the towed car. If I were full timing pulling a big SUV I could see this being useful but for towing a bug it seems like overkill. It also seems like one more thing to go wrong and to have to deal with calibrate, maintain, and adjust. He will be busy enough just keeping the bug running. I would not consider it unless the braking ability of the tow vehicle is marginal without towing anything.

Perry
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:04 PM   #24
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::shrug:: In some states at least it would be required by law.
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:08 PM   #25
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I thought that if you were towing 2000lbs or under that you did not need trailer brakes?

Perry
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:09 PM   #26
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It varies from state to state. In Minnesota, it's under 3000, but they go by GVWR not by actual weight. There are a few states that have 1000 pound and 1500 pound limits.
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Old 07-19-2012, 06:32 PM   #27
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I can speak right to the '74 Beetle, as I owned one from new. It was the last year for carbureted engines before they went to fuel injection in '75. It had the dual-port 1600 with exhaust gas recirculation; which frequently was disconnected and left that way if the car got custom exhaust. The transaxle was one of the most reliable that they made, and everything else in the car was really reliable as long as you kept up on your maintenance. They are maintenance-intensive. Yes, do keep your valves adjusted. A little bit of noise is better than a little too tight.

I found that on that year (as I have owned a '68 beetle and a '69 bus) that the heater controls worked better than ever, and it only takes a little squirt of graphite oil to keep everything in the control cable department working right. That goes for heater, defrost, throttle, emergency brake, and clutch cables.

I honestly don't get the "unreliable brakes" comment as I have changed lots of VW brakes. Again, the key is keeping them adjusted - per the maintenance schedules. Now, on my bus though, the darn brakes would fade badly, but that's another discussion...

I got 113,200 miles out of ours before we traded it, and this was without having to do any major work such as rebuilds or even having to pull the heads. The secret was that we ran leaded premium gas in it. Debate elsewhere if you wish as to merits/demerits of running high octane, but <holding right hand in air> that car went that far without major work.

There is a maintenance schedule for the car, and as it was to be my wife's car, I was followed it religiously. I didn't want her to get stranded, if I could ever, ever help it. I was 'the foreign car guy' in our shop, and I heartily endorse the "Idiot" book.

Changing oil on a '74 is simple, and can be done by loosening all six plate nuts and allowing the plate to drop a bit. There is no central drain plug; they wanted you to drop the screen and clean it every time. Seemed ridiculous when you were changing oil every 1000 miles... Repacking front wheel bearings is also easier than some of them. You will need the special Allen wrench for the outside wheel bearing nut.

It should tow fine. I'd get a light bar rather than try to mess with the electricals.
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Old 07-20-2012, 06:08 PM   #28
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Thank you, thank you for all of the great advise and tips! I actually ordered the John Muir book and received it today. I'm sure that I will be looking back at this thread many times and taking all of the advise. Nice to hear some "happy" stories, too, but I do understand where the other folks are coming from, too. Hopefully our "new little addition" will work out well.
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