Archive for the ‘Maintenance’ category

Adjusting the Valves on your VW Greatly Improves Performance

September 4, 2016

Although the bus was running very well at the beginning of spring I felt it had lost some of it’s get up and go by late summer after a number of reasonably long road trips. Certainly I had tuned it to perfection, but I had left out one thing, the valve adjustment. (note: later air-cooled engines featured self adjusting hydraulic valves, my ’74 has the manually adjustable type)

Driving the ‘74 Westfalia seasonally I probably put on about 3,000 miles in the past 3 summers, perhaps a bit more. Three thousand miles is the recommended interval for valve adjustment. To my surprise the valves were quite tight, .004 inch or less when I ran the feeler gauge through the tappets. As usual number 3 exhaust was the tightest as its cooling is impeded by the nearby oil cooler. The stock gap for intake valves on a 1974 Type 4 bus engine is .006 inch. The exhaust setting is a bit more confusing, if the motor still has the special sodium filled exhaust valves the gap should be .008 inch. However, I see debate on the Samba with some people setting them to .006 inch with good results. My personal experimentation found .008 to be a bit noisy and I settled for something closer to .006 or just closer to .007 for the exhaust. The fact is I don’t think I have sodium filled valves as a previous owner gave the engine a top end rebuild about fifteen thousand miles ago.

Then the great joy of sealing up the valve covers, finding they don’t leak, and putting the gas pedal down to find the bus has new found easy glide power. Like an almost new engine the bus is once again making as much as it can out of its potential 70 horse power. There is no need to jack up the car for this procedure. Happy motoring, and don’t be afraid to set your valves yourself.

The videos are from Chris Vallone at Classic VW Bugs dot com though the same principles apply to buses both upright and Type 4 engines.


Beach Wood Wheel Chock for the Bus

July 21, 2016

Wheel chock made from a piece of drift wood.

It’s a simple thing but very useful as the parking brake cable on a bus is very long and can sometimes give way enough for the vehicle to start rolling. Call me paranoid, my dad’s bus once rolled down the driveway into a tree, and yes I park in gear. We often head to the beach in our ’74 Westfalia to enjoy an afternoon by the sea. I love looking at all the variations of beach wood, some natural or in this case man made. This block struck me as being the perfect shape and size to become a VW bus wheel chock that would fit easily behind the driver’s seat. I gave it a dash of orange paint from a rattle can and made a grip from the remains of some old lawn chair webbing, and voila!

Hasta Alaska – “You could not write this stuff”

June 3, 2016


Good news/bad news, Ben finally gets his U.S Visa! But…the Kombi is in a bit of a fix. From Vancouver to Haines Alaska, and now Whitehorse in the Yukon, the Kombi Life adventure continues. A must watch video in the series.

At first I thought, why is Fidel Castro putting out that fire? Maybe it’s just the angle, it is in fact Ben’s incredibly helpful friend in Haines who saved the bus just in time. And I really want one of these T-Shirts! You can support Kombi Life by purchasing one here.


Car S.O.S. Restore a Devon VW Camper

February 18, 2016

carsosvwcamperThis is so nice to see. These guys have a great work ethic, all they want to do is give a retired gentleman, who is recovering from a stroke, his dream back. Fun and games as they conspire to sneak the bus away for the restoration. The video is also quite educational for those looking to fix an old Volkswagen bay that might have been sitting, this one sat for 17 years, but thankfully  in a garage. I liked the explanation of the torsion bar suspension and brakes. Let this be motivation for those upcoming spring VW bus projects out there.

Loose Exhaust Spawns Faux Engine Noise

May 20, 2015


I’ve been chasing down a phantom engine noise since the end of last season when I put the bus to bed in the garage with what I first thought was simply a worn out muffler. Spring 2015 came and I eagerly set about tuning and fixing the camper for further adventures. The replacement Bugpack single quiet pack muffler went on fine and I also found one of the header to heater box gaskets was worn out too. Much to my surprise when I cranked it over and it still sounded like a box of hammers. I immediately began thinking of how to track down a new 2 litre boxer-motor to succeed the 1800, but I was too hasty.

A few days later while I was lying under the bus in my overalls contemplating its greatness, I began to idly twiddle with various bolts, you know just checking them. Suddenly there it was, a loose exhaust stud on number one at the head. I grabbed a 13 mm socket and popped it out, the nut was firmly on the stud at what I thought must be the right distance to torque up. I cleaned it up with some motor oil and gently, but firmly, put the works back in to the slot. It went in perfectly and snugged up like new. Then the moment of truth, I fired it up, music to my ears, all those crazy phantom mechanical sounds were gone and it drove like the wind with no back fire. It feels like a new engine, I now suspect the loose head bolt was working its way out getting louder over the last couple of years. The lesson here is, what sounds like bad lifters, a loose valve train or the like could simply be odd sounds being produced due to a leaky exhaust system.

009 Distributor – The Skinny

January 7, 2015


The Internet is a great place where you can justify just about any opinion by looking for like minded information. In the past I have written about the good experiences I have had with the Bosch 009 distributor. Many people believe it to be an inferior product that overall doesn’t perform well on VW street engines. With that in mind I came across a concise and to the point description over at the Kustom 1 Warehouse website. The key sentence is this, “009 distributors have more of an advance curve and will allow you car to reach top speeds faster.” The gas mileage may be bad, but there is a certain pep I feel when I run one on my ’73 bus. Arguably this is not a performance motor, but the effect seems to be similar. I have a 009 that I put a Pertronix ignition into last summer, can’t wait for spring to try it out.

I Found A Good DVDA for my Westfalia

July 16, 2014

Left: DVDA before cleaned and set, and Right: After

Ever since my stock Bosch Dual Vacuum Dual Advance distributor (DVDA) failed last year I’ve been looking for a replacement. The problem is they don’t make them anymore so most people use the commonly available new Single Vacuum Dual Advance versions. The Mexican Bosch SVDA is my favorite, I run one with a Pertronix ignition in my other bus, very nice. The DVDA has two vacuum hoses that are fed from the stock twin Solex carburetors. If you run the SVDA you’ll be blocking off the retard vacuum hole on the left carb. I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to running things stock so I’ve kept my hopes up to find something in the way of a DVDA that is close to my original. I know the literature says that you should run distributors recommended for your particular engine and year, but if that were true no one would be running 009s or the aftermarket SVDAs, the latter made for Mexican Beetles if I’m right.

Out of the five DVDAs I now have, including my broken original, only one is working to my satisfaction. I’ve been to a few shows and events this summer and whenever I see one I buy it. Prices range from 10 to 20 dollars and condition from rough to usable. They’re inexpensive, which means I can afford to be wrong here and there and keep the bad ones for parts. The most recent one turned out to be rated for a ’75 – mid ’76 Bus with an 1800 to 2000cc engine, and since I have a ’73 1700 I feel it’s about as close as I’m going to get. I took it apart down to the springs and weights which looked quite good. At first the advance plate didn’t want to come out, however a little persuasion in the vice with a gentle tap from a center punch convinced it to come free.  I degreased, cleaned and lubricated the whole works and added a set of gently used Bosch points and condenser.


Now came the moment of truth, I installed said DVDA into the bus, set the static timing at 10 degrees After Top Dead Center (ATDC,) made sure it was out of gear and started it up. It ran at low idle, I adjusted to 900 RPMs or there about and set the timing with a strobe light. By the way, the dwell read 44 degrees, nice. Took the van for a spin, but it seemed a bit sluggish, went around the block straight home and checked the static timing. Went out again, same thing, not quite right. I had noticed I wasn’t getting enough advance when revved, could the vacuum can be finished? I decided to give it one more try. I reset the static timing, then got out the strobe light again. This time it was reading nearly 10 degrees out at around 20 ATDC, weird. At least I had found something to fix. I reset everything to specs and headed out for a test drive. What a difference! It was running like its sewing machine self. I think the trick is to get the idle as close to the recommended 900 RPMs then check and recheck your 10 degrees ATDC setting. I hope this stock set up with the twin Solex carbs will improve my gas mileage a bit.

One thing I should point out. The old green retard vacuum hose began to crumble and rip when I went to connect it back up. The gauge looked a lot like a 5 mm fuel line hose so I grabbed some of that out of the spares box. It seemed to fit perfectly and is functioning just fine, perhaps they are one and the same type of hose.

%d bloggers like this: