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Last updated: 10/31/01
I have owned 6 Beetles in the last 21 years. Two '68s, a '67, a '54, the '57 you see restored here, and most recently a '50 Sunroof. My capabilities and my resources have come a long way in that time. I have a large 2 car garage with an apartment-sized gas furnace easily capable of heating the garage to 70 degrees when it is 4 degrees outside (I live in Massachusetts). I have a compressor, air tools, 2 MIG welders, an Oxy-Acet torch, sandblaster, spray gun, lots of overhead lights, stereo (with 8 track!), phone and a sink with running hot and cold water in my garage. In 1999, I completed my "dream" '57 Beetle restoration, and did it the "right" way [aka "#4" described in the "Dealing with rust" article]; took my time (EIGHT years to be exact!), replaced whole panels, used real auto paint, MIG welding, etc. I say this not to brag, but because there was a time, several years ago in the late New England fall, that I was on my back, in the parking lot of the apartment complex that I lived at, with a flashlight, a couple tools, a wool hat pulled down over my head, dirt getting down the back of my sweatshirt, starting to lose feeling in my hands from the cold, trying to replace an axle boot on my daily (and only) driver '67. And making frequent sprints back into the apartment to find some kind of tool. I was the classic driveway mechanic. All I dreamed of was having a heated, well lit garage, with a compressor, air tools, sandblaster, etc. My point is: tough it out, if you really like working on these cars, stick with it, add to your resources a little at a time (continuing, gainful employment is useful too) and things will get better. Yes, I am married and have 2 kids too; proper relationship maintenance is required too during this resource building stage.
But while I consider my self a Beetle nut through and through, understand that I am far from an expert on everything. There are many aspects of Beetledom that I have little experience with. Engines are one of them. Yes, I did tear down and rebuild an engine in my first Beetle, I can identify all of the parts and explain the four cycles of the engine. But I have never built a modified engine, messed around with cams, cranks and carbs (maybe one day).
I find the 'net a fantastic forum for sharing
ideas and answers on our hobbies. Early on, I spent a lot of time on the
tech questions "wall" at the "Vintage Volkswebbin'" site and more recently
spend (waste) and enormous amount of time at rec.autos.makers.vw.aircooled.
While I do read other groups, it is my "top priority" newsgroup. It has
made me realize how much experience I have with the Beetles and allowed
me to share it. And I have found that there are LOTS of people out there
running into the same problems that I have. When I got my first '68 after
high school graduation, I would have loved to have found readily available
information on how to fix a fuel flow problem instead of anguishing over
it and ending up having to drive my "date" to the Journey concert in my
mom's '76 Plymouth Valiant. And I sense that many Beetle enthusiasts on
the 'net are like I was, just "starting out". The vast majority of "us"
don't have machine shops, frame machines and paint booths. We have a small
collection of tools (some of which we "borrowed" from our father years
ago and never returned), a couple manuals, a can of WD-40, a flashlight
and an extension cord. But we have TONS of ambition. We will work, at times,
outside in extreme conditions, late into the night on our cars. But our
payoff is the drive to work the next day with the satisfaction of knowing
that some little rattle, or engine noise, or oil leak, or wobble, or malfunctioning
accessory, is gone. And in our minds we are building a database of experience
and visual diagrams of how spindles and bolts and seals go together.
My goal is to share this experience in the
interest of keeping a few more air-cooled cars on the road a little longer.
You won't find instructions here on how to change the oil, set the timing
etc. There are good manuals for that (I recommend John Muir's "How to keep
your Volkswagen alive for the compleat idiot" and the Robert Bentley or
official VW service manual. They are indispensable). What I have
compiled are mostly the little tricks and "not documented anywhere" type
of repairs that would otherwise likely leave you frustrated completely.
Don't rag on me for sometimes offering "kludgy" and "half ass" solutions.
I know the "right way", but I also know that sometimes you just need to
do the minimum to keep your Beetle on the road.
Believe it or not, I have written most of these articles while on airplanes, doing business travel, on a notebook PC. I review them myself frequently, and add to them occasionally. Every page at this site has a "Last Modified" date in it's header; refer to this to tell if you have missed anything new. You might also check out the site chronology on the "What's New" page. It lists all of the changes/additions by date.
This Technical Help section is structured as a series of "articles", and, depending on how you are reading it, may separated. You may just want to print out the whole thing, grab a drink and a comfy place to sit, and read. I tried to minimize the places where one article references another, but it was pretty hard to do and not end up typing the same stuff over again. As of the revision date of this article above, this Technical Help is available at "The BugShop". The URL is www.thebugshop.org.
Hope you enjoy this stuff as much as you
do your Beetle (you DO have one, don't you!??). Good luck, be patient and
safe and persevere.
Copyright 1999; John S. Henry
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