Welcome to the BugShop FAQ

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: Preface
Last updated: 10/31/01


Welcome to the BugShop's technical help section.

This technical help section has been available to VW enthusiasts on the web since early 1997, and as of 10/4/97 on my own "BugShop" site. I'm convinced that it remains the "core" of this site, the reason VW enthusiasts come back. I have received tons of positive feedback, excellent suggestions, almost on a daily basis it seems. Last time I printed out ALL of the articles, there were over 325 pages. New articles are added frequently and the existing ones are often revised. But let me establish how this FAQ began for the benefit of the first-time reader.

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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