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Old 07-18-2012, 10:22 AM   #1
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Towing a classic VW Beetle as a Toad

Hello. Does anyone have experience in towing a classic Volkswagon Beetle? We just purchased a '74 Beetle to tow behind our Argosy 20 motorhome. Do we need a brake buddy? Does a brake buddy even work with manual brakes? What type of wiring harness would we need? Any info would be great. Thanks!
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Old 07-18-2012, 10:33 AM   #2
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I would get the separate lights you stick on the back of the car instead of trying to break into the electrical system of the car. Get a tow bar for it and don't worry about the brakes. Make real sure you have the car in nuetral or it will really mess things up. I had a 73 super beetle and I spent more time keeping that thing going than any car I have had before or sense. Tow bars are cheap and you can get them at any bug place or on the net.

I spent too much time towing that car for all the wrong reasons.

Perry
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Old 07-18-2012, 12:11 PM   #3
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Not sure what you mean by "manual brakes". Beetle has hydraulic brakes. You might be under the weight limit for which brakes are required. You should check for sure. I would want the brakes anyway. I like the light bar idea. Check the front bumper area carefully. In the old days the tow bar mounted to the front bumper, and I had one come off on one side while towing. The bumper support pulled loose from the car body. I only towed about 1000 miles or so before this happened. One of the great weakness of the Beetle and the Porsche's of that era is the attachment of things like the bumper and the suspension mounts to the body or unibody or whatever it is. Have seen several of both brands that came apart. They are weak to start with and then they hit bumps and corrode. I was told I should start the engine every 500 miles or so and run the transmission through the gears. Never really believed it though. What about putting it on a trailer?
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Old 07-18-2012, 12:22 PM   #4
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I have never heard of being able to use the brakes of the car being towed while towing. Unless you use the old method of a rope and a driver in the towed car. That car only weighs about 2000lb.

Perry
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Old 07-18-2012, 02:15 PM   #5
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By manual I believe the OP's referring to the lack of a power brake booster. I would think a Brake Buddy would work but wonder if it really needs one.
Magnetic light bar would be the easiest to work with but hard wiring an old Bug would be pretty easy.
It the car a Standard or Super Beetle?
As far as a tow bar goes you need to buy one that connects to the torsion bar tubes for the front suspension if it's a Standard. The reinforced tubular compressing bumper brackets on a '74 are still only attached to the body, nothing structural. I'm not entirely sure where you'd put one on a Super. Maybe the frame extension?
I don't believe you would need to worry about if the car is an Auto Stick Shift of manual trans. The "Automatic" part was basically the clutch and nothing like a common auto transmissions in the Type 3 or 4s of the era.

Enjoy the old Bug and good luck,
Tom
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Old 07-18-2012, 04:02 PM   #6
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Thanks for all of your replies! The Beetle is a standard not a Super Beetle. By manual brakes I meant "not power brakes".
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Old 07-18-2012, 04:42 PM   #7
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I have owned some VW's and they were cheap vehicles that broke a lot. They were clever in their ads and became seen as cute and that sold a lot of them. Fortunately there were pretty easy to fix. The flat 4 air cooled engines lasted about 50,000 miles before they needed a serious rebuilt. They leaked oil all the time. The accelerator cables would break at the carburetor. They were cold in the winter and you had to be very careful not to breathe on the windshield or it would fog up. They were fun to drive though. I don't know how improved the '74 Beetles were, but the Rabbits were pretty bad too. Bring lots of tools and motor oil.

A dolly would be another option besides a tow bar.

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Old 07-18-2012, 05:27 PM   #8
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I had a good friend that passed away a few years ago that towed a old vw behind his class c for years, all over the states. i miss him a lot.
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Old 07-18-2012, 05:35 PM   #9
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Wow, from all of these replies I'm starting to think that I made a mistake by buying a VW Beetle to tow. Hope my Bug does better than what I heard about here. Thanks for your replies, though.
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Old 07-18-2012, 05:49 PM   #10
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Well, a bug should give you plenty of opportunities to tow.

However, that is balanced by the really bad brakes. They'll need fixing a lot too.

They are fun when everything's right though.
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Old 07-18-2012, 06:35 PM   #11
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Get yourself a tow bar for a standard beetle. They cost about $100 from many online sources. If you have a air-cooled VW shop near you they may have one. Here's a link to a decent article about the process (scroll down to the green heading "Or Be Towed"):

Towing
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Old 07-18-2012, 07:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyPill77 View Post
Wow, from all of these replies I'm starting to think that I made a mistake by buying a VW Beetle to tow. Hope my Bug does better than what I heard about here. Thanks for your replies, though.
Happy', I was thinking when I posted you didn't really want to hear about all the problems people have had with VW's. But, you might as well know the truth. They are light to tow and cool to drive. You can shift without the clutch if you time the engine revs correctly, but I used to do that just for the fun of it. If you are fairly good at auto mechanics, you can keep them going. And if you had bought an English car from that era, you'd be replacing all the Lucas electrical parts over and over. And just about any 40 year old car is going to need lots of maintenance.

Both my VW's were obtained in trades. A '59 was a European model that could climb a mountain pass in Colorado at close to 35 mph. Someone owed me $400 and gave me the car around 1980. I drove it for a while and then sold it for $600. Then I had a '70's Microbus with fuel injection. I got that in a trade too, but didn't make a profit. Actually it was a pretty good vehicle, but I sold it when I had to add oil every 75 miles and that was after I fixed the leaks. See if you can get a shop manual for the VW; they are strange, but simple cars.

It weighs 1,800 lbs. The engine may be 46 HP. But it is likely the engine has been rebuilt more than once, or replaced and rebuilt again. Some of them got vapor lock on hot days and people would drive with the engine lid up. One of the front cylinders (can't remember which side) would run hot because it didn't get enough air to cool it and it was the first one to need a rebuild. The pancake engines in the station wagons were the worst engines of all, but you don't have that one. I doubt you have a fuel injected engine though; the first fuel injected engines were poorly designed, the second generation ones were pretty good and much faster.

If you keep after it, it should be ok.

If you could tow the car on a trailer and use the trailer brakes and lights, you could avoid putting miles on the VW and that may be a good idea. You wouldn't have to get anything to operate the VW brakes and lights, but the trailer would be costly.

Check state laws to see how heavy a vehicle you can tow without brakes, but brakes are always a good idea.

Gene
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:07 PM   #13
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Looks like I am going to have to learn to be a VW mechanic. I'm up for the challenge.....I hope. A new adventure for a women in her 40's!
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:09 PM   #14
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Looks like I am going to have to learn to be a VW mechanic. I'm up for the challenge.....I hope. A new adventure for a women in her 40's!
One thing about working on VWs (Volkswagens, not me), the parts are light.
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