Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Well today I finally got the case split and it wasn't easy. I was able to beat three of the cylinders off and then we (help from friends) took a pipe wrench to the last cylinder (here is the good part and the answer to why the engine wouldn't turn over) but the piston was so seized into the cylinder that instead of just the cylinder it spun the piston too and turned the rod over three times until it broke.

If you've ever wondered how tough these rods are, there is your answer! Look at that!

The inside of the cylinder and the pistons were badly rusted together and the reason why my engine wouldn't turn over.

Everything else looked acceptable to run. The bearings were a little scuffed and the lifters were mostly flat but the crank turned freely and the cam looked decent.

The bottom of the case had a lot of really thick sludge; a lot more than what I pulled out of the oil. The inside of the case was just really dirty and most of the steel parts were really rusty.

The distributor is still stuck in the case and I'm trying not to break it. The shaft is definitely rusted in but the distributor should pull out anyway. I won't use a pipe wrench on this one, I promise.

What I learned from the tear-down was that the engine was seized because of rust in the cylinders, the distributor was also badly rusted and that there was an extreme/unacceptable amount of crap in the engine. It's a bit of a disappointing conclusion because there is a chance that I could have gotten the engine to turn over with a lot of WD-40 and patience and maybe have gotten it to run, BUT I don't regret tearing down. The engine was old enough that it needed an overhaul anyway; there was so much crap in/on that engine that I would never have relied on it as a daily driver and finally the oil was completely saturated with gasoline. However, I do regret ruining the case because it was the original engine and had matching serial numbers for the car but that also means that I would have had to rebuild the engine myself and I don't want to spend the time or anxiety doing that again.

July 16 is the Pamona Swap Meet and I will buy an engine there and what ever else I need. I will order my brake and axle things from aircooled.net. I trust them because they are very honest in their description of their products and tell you "what" "why" and "how" and they won't sell crap and if they do they'll tell you.

I've spent so much time tearing at the brakes and engine that I haven't spent much time in the driver seat getting comfortable or cleaning it up. I still have all the old magazines and papers and books in there. The interesting thing is that they are all dated from 1989... more food for thought.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


By now I've ruined the case. The pistons are seized in the cylinders and I'm not able to get the cylinders off even after breaking all the fins and generally beating them to ruin. I gave up trying to get the cylinders off and just began prying at the case with a screwdriver (go ahead and cringe) but since the cylinders won't come off the two sides of the case won't split either (but I had to try).

So the case is ruined and my only incentive is to see the inside and learn what can happen to an air-cooled flat four that has been neglected like an ugly child. Sometimes you wish that the previous owner of your VW were standing close by so you could slap them a good one.

Tonight I put the engine up on a table and began to tear down taking pictures along the way to remember how things go. First I took off the exhaust (thankfully without trouble), then the shroud and generator, the carb and manifold and finally the tins. Tearing down goes quickly and you have to have patience and remember put the screws and nuts back where they should go so they're not lost, or to put them in baggies but I didn't have so much patience and only half of them made it. I need to keep a box of baggies on the desk top.

One thing I noticed while tearing down was the mass amount of sand and dirt under the generator stand/oil filler. Also that the oil cap says "OEL", I guess that is German for oil. I'm not concluding that this car was shipped from Europe but there is also that loop for a hook that was forged on the bumper maybe to secure to while shipping(?) Maybe all VW oil caps say "OEL," I have no idea, but so far this has been a mysterious little bug. Looking at the heads and the pistons I'm beginning to see why the oil smelled like gasoline.

I disconnected the heater cables and then loosened the engine mounting nuts. With a little help from some friends we dropped the engine and pulled it out from under the car.

I also unbolted the starter and I will have it tested (though I'll probably need a new one). What I noticed is that the flywheel, clutch and throw-out bearing are new and the clutch even says "Made In Japan". It got me thinking about the history of this bug.

Today I tore into the brakes and axles. The rear brake drums were a real pain to get off but with a little leverage and a grunt I got them off. The brake shoes didn't seem so bad (except for seizing on the drums) and I might have been able to use them again but I'd rather take care of all my brake and axle issues at one time. The boots on the slave cylinders were torn so they will also need to be replaced and a rear axle bearing is stuck so I will replace both rear bearings. While I have everything torn apart I will clean up the backing plates and paint them, replace the brake hoses, clean up the axles and paint them, replace the axle boots and put on the GR-2 shocks I bought from Gert (he really just gave them to me, he's cool). I began disconnecting the wires to the engine so I can drop it. It's been pretty greasy, but I'm getting things done.

After pulling the plugs and shooting WD-40 in the holes and letting it sit over night, I tried turning over the engine by hand and then in gear by turning the wheels but still couldn't. This afternoon I drained my oil and found a surprise that may help answer why the engine is seized; it looks like someone took a fistful of dirt and threw it into the oil filler. Here is the sludge that came out with the oil, and there is just as much around the cap and screen.

There was so much of it that when I unscrewed the oil drain plug nothing came out, I had to take off the plate to drain the oil. The sludge is thick too and you can tell that it was dirt because there is sand and small pieces of grass. The oil was heavily saturated with gasoline which could mean a broken ring(s), explaining why it is seized, or it could be a bad fuel pump. I think it is a bad fuel pump because there was no visible metal in the oil, but we will see.

I bought the Beetle on Saturday, June tenth and, along with some help from Wally Wirick, towed it up to UCLA Uni Camp. All the numbers (pan, body, and engine) say that it was made June 1964 but it has been mismatched with parts from later models. I will order a "Birth Certificate" for the bug and see what it can tell me.

Today I began troubleshooting the bug. I put in the new battery but without keys I had to hot wire it. The headlights turned on and one running light but no signals. I didn't bother with the brake lights because I already know they need work. I tried to start it but I got nothing. I went to the engine and tried to turn it over by hand and couldn't do that either. Without a jack or any proper tools I can't do very much. I will try jacking up a tire and turning it while in gear to get the engine to turn over, but I'm not so sure about the transaxle either. The engine won't turn over and it can be anything between a little rust to a piece of piston jamming the gears. I will drain the oil and if I see any silver then I will drop the engine, but if it's clean I will do my best to get it started. Not only did I make nearly no progress today but the progress I did make was learning how much more work this Bug is going to take to get it on the road.