Archive for the ‘Maintenance’ category

Spark Plug Trick That Really Works for VW Bus

June 19, 2014

I have to mention this trick that is shown here by SurvivalBusDotCom on Youtube. Simply take a small hobby magnet, place it inside the spark plug socket where the tip will fit in and it will help keep the spark plug from falling out and into the tin on your Volkswagen flat-four. Things can be tight when working on these engines, but with a few tricks and good technique to feel your way around you’ll be tuning up your bus with less stress and more confidence. This has been an invaluable help for me at tune-up time. You’ll also need several extensions to get down to the plugs, I even find I need to use a different combination of extensions on certain cylinders due to the configuration of the engine. If memory serves I think it’s number 2, but number 3 is generally recognized as the tricky one, but not impossible. Don’t worry, with a little patience it can be done. Some people like to remove the air cleaner for extra access (’73-79.) There is no upper hatch for the first year of the flat-four in 1972. Recommended spark plug change is 10,000 miles, but I suspect many owners like me put in new ones more frequently. For more on the Survival Bus check this post.



’79 Barn Find Bus Rides Again!

September 29, 2013

After those end of kombi production posts I needed something to cheer me up, and here it is.  A family of Volkswagen enthusiasts rescues what appears to be a 1979 Riveria and returns it to its former glory. Speaking from personal experience, when you get an old bus you tell yourself your going to a take it to a shop for some serious restoration. However, the best thing might be to clean it up and learn how to do as much as you can on your own like these folks did. Besides it’s fun. That original looking orange paint really comes back to life with some rubbing compound and a 2 stage wax.

Forgotten Volkswagen Camper Van LIVES AGAIN !!!!!!! VW Bus

Dual Solex Carb Idle Problem Solved – ’73 VW Bus

July 6, 2013

Power going to the passenger side Solex carburetor
on a 1973 Volkswagen van.

Recently my ’73 bus began to have problems idling. Inconsistent at best it would quit when my foot was off the gas, most often at a stop sign or intersection. It would start up again, but I’d have to keep my foot on the pedal to keep it from stalling. The problem would be worse when the engine was warmed up. I thought maybe it had something to do with the 009 mechanical advance distributor I had been running. My new aftermarket CIP1 single vacuum dizzy arrived so I headed out to the driveway to install it in hopes that would take care of the problem. The new distributor was smooth, but the idle issue remained. I had a good stare at things under the engine hatch and after a while I noticed a wire that seemed to be disconnected. Did a little detective work and determined that it was power to the automatic choke on the right side Solex carburetor. At first glance it looked like it was connected but it was only the last stage going from the electric choke to the idle solenoid. The primary power wire from the coil had been torn away. I connected it up and crossed my fingers, went for a spin and it seems OK now. So no power was getting to the choke element or the idle solenoid which feeds off the same circuit. Automatic chokes can be troublesome, in fact the late John Muir used to disconnect his, he said that the rich and inaccurate mixture they produce would age your engine prematurely. Another nugget of wisdom from John, he preferred mechanical only distributors! I have to say I had grown fond of the power curve the 009 was delivering, quite peppy. My apologies to the 009, it’s back in the spares box and  if I miss it I can always throw it back in.

009 with no Flat Spot

July 4, 2013

New Version EMPI Mechanical VW Distributor

An update to my post on the 009, sure enough my timing problem appears to have been a failing vacuum distributor, possibly 40 years old. I took it apart, looks pretty crusty down around the mechanical advance, I’ll try and save it.  Add to that, the plugs were wet with fuel from the timing issue. Cleaned up an old set of plugs and put new points and condenser in my trusty spare 009. The next part is a little tricky, you can’t just throw it in.  Although the various distributors slide in one way they can have different rotor positions. Case in point, what used to be the number 1 firing position is now number 2. On the Type IV engine I matched up the timing mark on the pulley with TDC on the scale.  Then I took a look inside my existing distributor to see that the rotor was pointing at number 1 cylinder. I removed the old distributor, dropped in the 009, held the cap in position and traced in the new firing order.  Instead of pointing at 4 o’clock the rotor was now at about 2 o’clock for number 1. Installed the rest of the wires, 2,3, & 4 counter clockwise, or 1,4,3,2 clockwise by the book. It’s important to get this right, don’t take my word for it, get out your manual, the more information the better. has a great explanation with appropriate warnings.  Timing for the 009 is now 10 degrees BTDC as opposed to the double vacuum setting of 10 degrees ATDC. But to get it right it’s best to set the timing at full advance with the engine revved up to where the 009 reaches its maximum advance. Set to between 28 and 32, I went for just under 30, and let the idle advance fall where it may. The engine runs better than ever and it doesn’t seem to have a flat spot, great!

VW 009 Distributor

Little Victories – Homemade VW Hubcap Puller

July 1, 2013

You can buy a VW hubcap puller for anywhere from 85 cents to 13 dollars online, but the supplier I use only had the expensive fancy ones. I figured I could make one like this for next to nothing out of a coat hanger or the like. Then, as I was standing in the basement, I noticed some disused wall hooks, you know the ones people use to hang up their tools etc. Wow, it looked too good to be true preshaped like it was made for the job. I headed for the driveway to test it out and lo and behold the magic of a re-purposed wall hook masquerading as an automotive tool.

Homemade VW Hubcap Puller

Homemade VW Hubcap Puller


In Praise of the Oft Maligned 009

May 29, 2013

VW 009 Distributor

Let me start off by saying that if you have a Type 2 bus with stock dual solex carbs, in my opinion your best bet is a single vacuum distributor (SVDA.) That said, I just polished up my old 009 distributor that I keep in my spares box in the bus. Dropped in some new points, condenser and a new cap to boot. Even though the old Double-0-Nine is notorious for that flat spot on acceleration, among other things, it felt good to know that should I need it in my travels I can drop it in and time the engine almost anywhere. (IMPORTANT the 009 has a slightly different orientation with regard to the rotor position, also be sure to have something to block off your vacuum ports) I’ve been having some issues with my timing advance which has all but disappeared on my old dual vacuum unit. If I can’t resolve the problem the 009 should get me through until I can order a new single vacuum distributor like the one below.

Reproduction SVDA VW DistributorOne note: after I screwed in the new condenser the rotor stopped turning, the screw had penetrated deep enough to prevent it from rotating. That was due to a thinner metal plate under the new condenser housing. The problem was resolved by adding an extra crush washer under the screw, now there are two instead of one.

This is interesting, an EMPI mechanical advance distributor that is said to address the 009 advance issue. For the price, US $44.95, it might be fun to try one out and keep it as an inexpensive spare.

New Version EMPI Mechanical VW Distributor

So here’s a tip of the hat to the humble 009. Simple century old techology that you can service in your own driveway, it may not be the greatest performer for street VWs, but it does work, and it will get you home.

(click on the last 2 distibutor photos to take you to

How To Change Oil on a VW Bus

August 9, 2012















Summertime means a lot of driveway maintenance, personally I’m reading all I can to be more self sufficient when it comes to keeping my Volkswagens in good running order. Three must have books are, John Muir’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, the Haynes VW Transporter Automotive Repair Manual, and last but certainly not least, the almighty Bentley Volkswagen Official Service Manual for Station Wagon/Bus. I find there are valuable tips to be found on the same subject in all three publications. Our high temperature air-cooled engines like good quality oil, my research led me to use Shell Rotella T 15/40 oil which is recommended for diesel motors. Good stuff, my babies love it. Castrol 10/40 is another I’ve used. Here’s a well produced video by Korduroy.TV‘s surf community showing how to change your oil on a bay window VW bus. The only thing missing is the part where you change the oil strainer, then again I was told by a professional VW mechanic not to clean or change the oil strainer, the theory being that it’s not necessary if the regular oil filter is doing it’s job.  Also because it IS possible to over torque the oil screen bolt and permanently damage the engine case by cracking it! In fact, my mechanic friend said in all the engines he’s seen brought in for a rebuild he’s never found any dirty or clogged oil strainers. This video does give you a good idea of what it’s like to work on a bus. One valuable tip, only hand tighten the oil filter.  

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