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Volkswagen Bug Engine Removal DIY

Posted on 10 October 2011 by Chris

At some point in time every vintage beetle owner who actually drive and use their car will come to the day where the engine needs to be removed. I know first hand that it’s getting harder and harder to find shops willing to do extensive work on “old cars”.  Furthermore, being in the upper Midwest it’s hard to find shops interested in even doing basic maintenance on my “old  foreign junk”, as one mechanic put it!

Removing a VW engine is fairly straight-forward but anyone who tells you “Just remove four nuts and it’s out” is full of it. Yes, there are four nuts/bolts that mount the engine to the transaxle but let’s start from the beginning.

Disclaimer- This is an article about how I removed my engine. What you do is your responsibility and The Motoring Journal and Chris Runge are not liable for any harm, injury, death or damage to you or your car or engine.

Nitrile Gloves
Trouble Light
Floor Jack or  Post Lift
Jack Stands
Masking Tape
Metric Wrench Set and Socket Set
Phillips and Standard (flat) Screw Drivers
Needle Nose Pliers
Eye Protection
Golf Tee
5′ Length of 2×8 board
An ATV/Motorcycle Jack

Getting Started

  1. Disconnect your battery.
  2. While the tires are on the ground, chock the tires, crack your lug nuts loose on the rear wheels. You’ll be climbing in and out of each side where the wheels/tires will obstruct your view and reach… and depending on your beer intake, sometimes might make you feel plump…….
  3. Next is getting the rear of your car at a comfortable working height. You will be leaning into and reaching around the fan shroud which in my case is straining on the back. The first few steps I usually keep the car on the ground or lifted about 12″ off.
  4. Remove engine tin- When looking into the engine bay from the rear of the car. The engine cooling tin is screwed in with flat head screws. In some cases, the rear most tin needs to come out. First you should pull the two flexible tubes that run from the heat exchangers up to the fan shroud. Then remove the rear tin piece to allow more room for removal.
  5. Carefully Look for the wires coming through the firewall just ahead and to the left of the fan shroud or “dog house”.  These are typically your ignition and carburetor wires. I take a piece of masking tape and write with a magic marker, labeling them in accordance with where they go. If you don’t know the name of the device each wire goes to, you can simply number the wire and stick a piece of tape on it with the matching number to the place where it goes.
  6. Now, to your powering wires from the battery. These come through ahead and to the right of the fan shroud. They go to the top of the generator/alternator and can simply be labeled positive and negative and there’s a small ground that goes toward the front of most generator types. Confirm all wires are clear that would connect the engine to the car and you’re ready for the next step.
  7. Fuel Line. Make sure you have your eye protection and Nitrile gloves handy. You will also need that golf tee to plug the fuel line coming from the cars gas tank.  The fuel line comes in on the left (drivers side) of the engine. It comes through the forward engine cooling tin/firewall area. If you do this right you won’t have any fuel spillage or very little in most cases. I keep an oil pan handy to catch any fuel that might come out. Many of these cars have had the fuel lines replaced so yours may vary.  Look to see where the hard fuel line ends and rubber fuel line begins. This might be under the car or in the engine area. Either way, you need to disconnect it in a manner that you don’t bend the hard line or cut the soft line when dropping the engine. Once you find the connecting spot, disconnect the fuel line and quickly plug it with the golf tee and then clamp the golf tee in place. If you are plugging the hard line, have the golf tee already clamped into a  6 inch piece of rubber fuel line with another clamp ready. You will slide this over the hard line and clamp it down. Viola, your fuel lines are done.
  8. While you’re under the car looking at your fuel line, Look for the control cables coming into the heater box flaps. These need to be disconnected and pull the cable out so the heater boxes won’t get hung up when dropping the engine.
  9. Carburetor Throttle Linkage- On the left side of the carb you will see the small throttle cable coming through the fan shroud. There is normally a hard tube that this goes through to protect it from the metal edges of the fan shroud. Sometimes these are long gone. If you don’t have one you can use a piece of hard fuel line to slide through as a protector when re-assembling. There is a set screw type of nut where this cable goes into the carb linkage. Loosen that up and make sure not to lose the nuts/screws. The cable should then slide out and you can push it back into the fan shroud out toward the forward side of the engine. This cable sometimes gets hung up on the forward engine tin when you drop the engine, so make sure it’s clear!
  10. Jack the car up high, very high. This is where you must be careful. Most jacks won’t get a car high enough for the engine to be lowered and rolled out from under it. I use a 8″x8″x5′ piece of railroad beam ontop of my heavy duty floor jack. It spans across the rear footwell pan and transaxle area. Most importantly it works without damaging the car and gets it high off the ground to where I can support it safely at the highest level my jack-stands will safely allow.
  11. Support the engine- At this point you’re ready to support the engine in preparation for dropping it. I use a motorcycle lift/jack for this. It’s just so much easier than anything else I’ve tried (skateboards, 4 wheel dolly, etc). I lift  the  motorcycle jack up to the bottom of the engine case till it just puts a slight amount of pressure on it. If you’re lifting the car from the engine you’ve gone too far.
  12. Loosening the engine bolts- Get your light ready and shine it just forward of the fan shroud on the right and left side. Down toward the base of the flat engine tin, you will see where the engine case is bolted to the transmission case.  There will be a 17mm nut on each side of the case. Using a socket/ratchet reach behind and get on that nut to loosen it up. You shouldn’t need a wrench on the other end of the bolt, which is accessible from under the car.
  13. Loosen the lower engine bolts- These are accessible from under the car.  Although sometimes they may vary in size depending on who’s worked on the car, they are usually 17mm or 15mm. The passenger side is tricky and you might need to get on it with an open end wrench.
  14. Once these four bolts are removed the entire engine can be lifted slightly higher using the engine (atv) jack. This will take some of the pressure off the bolt studs and allow you to slide it back toward the rear of the car. You may or may not need to remove your oil/air breather from the top of the carburetor to help it clear the engine surround. You will feel the engine let loose from the the transaxle and rest solely on the atv lift. Once you’re this far, lower it down.
  15. The easiest place for the engine to exit now is out of one of the wheel wells, right or left as this gives you a few more inches clearance without going out the back of the car.

My engine is shown below on a stand that can be purchased at your local auto parts store. The Yoke to mount a VW engine case can be found online.


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Richard Says:

    I remember dropping my 63 using 2×4’s, blocks of wood, concrete blocks and one floor jack. In a friends carport and not killing myself twice. Miss that old car.

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