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The text following is part of a series of articles written by John S. Henry on the restoration and maintenance of air-cooled Volkswagens. While his experience is exclusively with the Beetle, many of the techniques can be applied to other models.

This text is copyrighted and duplication, re-distribution or publication is prohibited without consent of the author.

Article: How to Lift Your Beetle
Last updated: 10/30/01

How to Lift Your Beetle

Symptom: You are going to lift your new Beetle for the first time and you have a friend who has a friend who has a cousin who told you a horror story once about how a mechanic went to lift up this guy's Beetle and ripped a huge hole in the floor and cost hundreds of dollars to fix. You remember something about how there are only "certain" places that you can use to lift the Beetle up to work on it.

Well, it is not all that complicated, but it is true that to the layperson (bonehead) who doesn't know how these cars are put together, I can see how you could easily mistake the "bad" place to lift the car for a "good" place to lift.

Here's the keys to the "right" way.


BUY a real floor jack for you shop. You'll be glad you did. I have seen (I have) a decent, 2 1/4 ton "wide saddle" unit for around $50 (my BJ's wholesale club has them, mfg by "Dayton"-something I think). Don't bother with these narrow $19.95 department store deals, they don't have the lift range. You want a good working range of around 5" to 22".

ALWAYS put a block of wood on the saddle of your jack to avoid damaging jacking points and/or removing undercoatings allowing rust to start. I have about a 7" piece of pressure treated 2x4 on mine. I have seen some hard rubber padded replacement saddles that would serve this.

NEVER get under your car with just the jack holding it up, always use jack stands or something else (I have several 12" sections of railroad tie that are handy) You want to support the car at as many places as you can, so what I do is leave the jack in place as well as the stands. I just release the handle on the jack enough to see it "unload" onto the stands (or blocks) and then re-tighten the handle. But sometimes this is not possible if the jack will be in your way when working.

I made wooden "pads" for my jackstands to match the saddle on top, the look like:

[graphic to be added]

They are cut from pressure treated 2x4 using a miter saw. This again reduces damage to the jacking points.

Chock the wheels on the "axle" that is staying on the ground. In front of one of the wheels, behind the other.

A Good Idea

 If you take wheels off, get in the habit of sliding them under the car, even if away from where you are working (but as close to the "lifted" end as possible). If you take off 2 wheels, stack them 2 high and slide them under if they can fit. This will give you some added protection.

Lifting the Beetle

EVER lift the car anywhere under the heater channels INCLUDING the "factory" jacking points. This is conservative, but being that the jacking point is probably the #1 area for rust formation, (often from the inside, so you wouldn't know it is weakened) its a bad idea. If you really have to (like you get a flat and can't get anything under it elsewhere) I would use a scissors jack and a 2+ foot piece of 2x6 to distribute the pressure along the channel.

Also, after I get the car up and on the stands, I always give it a good bump and shake to make sure it isn't ready to fall for some weird reason.

Lifting the Rear

I put a 2 foot piece of 2x4 across the jack saddle and place it under the motor mount carrier. That's the metal bracket that spans the frame horns right where the engine and tranny meet.

NEVER jack up or support the car by the engine or the rear bumper.

You can support the rear using jack stands under the outer ends of the torsion tubes (fat tubes just ahead of the rear wheels that the spring plates go into).

Lifting the Front

Use the bottom tube of the axle beam. Put the short block on the jack saddle and jack at the center of the beam. Jack stands for support on the outer ends of the beam.

NEVER jack up or support the front by the bumper.

The only other place I would recommend jacking the front if you had to (like if you are taking the beam off) is the bulkhead pan area. This is the "Frontest" part of the pan between the firewall and where the axle beam bolts up. Put your 2' 2.x on the jack. You can put jack stands (with wooden blocks on them) on the outer edges of the firewall line (just a couple inches ahead of the A-pillar) where you see the "corner" pan to body bolt.

Good Luck, be safe, use common sense.

Copyright© 1998; John S. Henry 

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