Worked on an air-cooled VW

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Enterprise Architect, Teledyne Technologies
Apr 09, 2022
I took the Ghia to get a proper alignment on Thursday. Driving home, it did significantly less erratic wandering across the road, but I could also tell that one of the rear brake shoes was dragging a bit. 

I crawled under the car and tried to adjust the shoes to correct this but found that no matter how much adjustment was made the brakes either wouldn't let go when the pedal was released or else they wouldn't stop the wheel from turning when the pedal was pressed. I suspect that there may be an issue with the return springs.

I set to work removing the 36mm axle nuts so that I could pull off the drum and see what was going on... but some previous owner had helpfully painted over the nuts and the threads. I soaked the threads in paint thinner and penetrator and pulled against the nut with all my might, and wound up snapping my (cheap-but-guaranteed-for-life) breaker bar. 

You win this round, painted axle nut - but I'll be back (at some point) with more aggressive solvent, a torch, and a stronger breaker bar. Your days are numbered. 
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Enterprise Architect, Teledyne Technologies
Mar 26, 2022
Ghia gets a new distributor!

At some point in my Karmann Ghia's life, a Bosch 009-type single-advance distributor was installed. These are popular aftermarket replacements since they're cheap, plentiful, and easy to tune, but the single-advance design means they're only able to advance engine timing in response to increasing engine speed. This can cause the power to lag a bit, and often makes the engine feel bogged down when you first roll onto the throttle.

The car is supposed to be equipped with a Single-Vacuum Dual-Advance (SVDA) distributor which would be able to get ahead of the power requirement by increasing the timing advance based on the vacuum pulled off the carburetor. I found an aftermarket SVDA option which also replaces the points with an electronic ignition setup.

I got it installed, approximated the static timing, and the engine started right up! I made a minor adjustment to set timing to 7.5 BTDC at idle, and this motor purrs. I went for a quick drive and the car feels so much better. No more hesitation when pulling away from a stop, no more bogging down when I come to a stop, and the throttle is now much more responsive at cruising speeds. I'm quite pleased with this new distributor.

This is obviously still not a fast car... but it feels a lot less slow than it used to.


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Enterprise Architect, Teledyne Technologies
Feb 06, 2022
It's been a while since my last Ghia update. 

The cold and wet weather broke for a bit though so I was able to drive it to work last week. 

We have developed a bit of an oil puddle under the car lately which I suspect may be due to the 5w-30 oil I put in last time (as it definitely did not leak before then). So I decided to do an oil change and replace it with 10w40 to see if that will limit the seepage. 

And I also performed a valve adjustment while I was at it. It's a simple matter of holding a flathead screwdriver in one hand and a 13mm wrench in the other and a 0.006" feeler gauge in another, but I think I'm getting better at it. 
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Enterprise Architect, Teledyne Technologies
Oct 24, 2021
It's been six weeks since I last shared an update on my Karmann Ghia project, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working on it; in fact, the car's had one end or the other on jackstands for most of that time.

I drove the car to work one day following my last update, and when I got home I realized that the front-left wheel was radiating a lot of heat, while the front-right was only slightly above the ambient temperature. I removed the wheel and discovered that the caliper was seized and dragging the outside pad, which was about half as thick as the inside pad. I found a caliper rebuild kit for about $40, but I'd still need new pads (even assuming that I could successfully rebuild the bum caliper) - or I could spend $200 for a pair of new calipers with fresh pads included. I also ordered a new pair of brake hoses since the ones that were on the car were a bit worse for wear, and threw in a bunch of other small parts I'd been meaning to order as well.

When the parts arrived, I set to work replacing the hoses and calipers. That was going well until I stripped the fitting securing the hard line to the flexible hose. I realized I would have to instead remove the other end of the hard line where it connects to the brake cylinder, so I ordered  a new hard line as well.

While I waited, I installed some of the other parts to correct some minor deficiencies:
  • Replaced broken window crank handles to make it much easier to roll the windows up and down.
  • Installed (missing) carburetor pre-heat hose to feed the carb warmer air from underneath the engine until the engine bay is warmed up.
  • Replaced cracked carburetor intake hose.
  • Installed (missing) heater hoses to connect the cabin vents to the heater box under the engine.
  • Replaced broken heater cable to control the flaps closing the heater box off from the hoses leading to the cabin vents. Of course, I also found that the car was missing the levers to actually connect the flap controls to the cable so I had to order a pair of those as well.
  • Replaced (broken/missing) engine lid release cable. Also discovered that I needed some sort of guide tubing to feed the cable through so I raided a hardware store for some semirigid plastic tube of the sort used for connecting an ice maker's water supply. I got it connected to the engine lid release mechanism... and then found that the lid doesn't quite line up the way it's supposed to. Ah well, I'll fight with that another day.
Once the new brake line and heater box control levers arrived I was finally able to install those, bleed the brakes, and crank the engine for the first time in over a month (it started up fine!) and go for a test drive. 

It stops much better with the new brakes! Rolling up the windows so I can lock the car once I get to where I'm going is much easier now. Hopefully the reconnected heater components will help keep me comfortable when it's chilly outside, and hooking up the carburetor preheat should help the Ghia deal with the cooler weather as well. I'm so glad to have this car back on the road, and can't wait to drive it again!



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Enterprise Architect, Teledyne Technologies
Sep 11, 2021
It's been a fairly productive Ghia week!

  • Remember how I don't really know what I'm doing? That was confirmed this week when I realized that I'd basically been doing everything wrong. For some reason, I had (incorrectly) assumed that the single notch on the rear portion of my crank pulley must mark Top Dead Center, when the piston is fully extended inside the cylinder; I then read something that suggested the notch instead indicated 7.5 degrees Before Top Dead Center. To check this, I removed the spark plug from cylinder 1, stuck a plastic straw inside as a feeler, and slowly turned the engine with a 21mm wrench applied to the alternator pulley. That let me feel when the piston stopped moving... and, sure enough, it wasn't when the notch was lined up with the crack on the case. In fact, this position matched with the hard-to-see dimple on the front portion of the pulley. Good to know! 
  • Of course, that also meant that my previous valve adjustments had been performed incorrectly; those are supposed to be done with each piston in its TDC position - not 7.5 degrees before. So I re-did those adjustments, and it only took about fifteen minutes this time! It didn't make a big difference, but there were a couple of cylinders that had just a wee bit (like 0.008" instead of 0.006") too much valve gap. 
  • And I think I've finally figured out what I'm doing with regards to timing the (aftermarket) 009 distributor which was installed in the car at some point. All the specs I found said to time it to ~10 degrees BTDC at idle. Since the 009 isn't equipped with vacuum advance (it just centrifugally advances the timing as it spins faster), it's actually way more important to set the peak advance to about 32 degrees at around 3500 rpm; that should drop to 5-10 degrees BTDC at idle, but the exact timing isn't as important here. I printed out a timing wheel and used that to mark the relevant points around the rim of the crank pulley (TDC, a range covering 5-10 degrees BTDC, and a hash to mark the 32 degree maximum advance).
  • And I discovered that the Innova 3340 tach/dwell (many other functions) meter I'm using seems to do a much better job of reading the RPMs when I use the inductive pickup on the cylinder 1 spark plug wire and put the meter in indistinctly-named "CON" mode rather than attaching the contact probe to the negative terminal on the coil and setting the meter to "RPM" mode. It had previous been pretty tough to read, and often indicated that the car's idle was set way too high. The measurements are much more consistent (and reasonable) when using that inductive pickup.
  • So I combined all of this knowledge to actually get the timing set correctly (finally!), with a maximum of about 30 degrees advance at 3500 rpm and a comfortable idle of 7ish degrees BTDC at ~850 rpm. 
  • And I used the improved RPM measurements to also tweak the carburetor settings a bit, per the Bentley manual: I used the big bypass screw to set the idle to about 850 rpm, turned the smaller volume adjustment screw until the engine ran at its fastest and kept turning clockwise until it dropped off ~30 rpm, and finally used the big bypass screw to reset the idle at about 850. So maybe the car is now tuned correctly?
  • I had intended to drive the Ghia to work on Thursday since the weather was going to be nice, but my pre-flight check that morning revealed that the brake lights weren't working anymore. That evening, I jiggled some wires and got them working again... hardly a proper fix, but enough to take the Ghia to work on Friday - which I did! It drove like a dream.
  • Today, my wife and I spent a few hours cleaning up the electrical connections for the front and rear signal lights. I was a bit surprised to find that each bulb only had a single wire running to it, relying on the light housing itself to provide the connection to ground and complete the circuit. We carefully cleaned the corrosion and grime off of the wiring connections and thoroughly cleaned the bulb sockets as well. Once everything was put back together, all the lights worked again (yay), and some of them even glowed more brightly than before. Hopefully this cleanup will help keep the current flowing better in the future. We plan to revisit the other end of those wires (at the fuse box behind the dashboard) soon.
I feel a bit silly for having been doing things fairly wrong so far, but I'm glad to have finally figured things out. I learned a lot this week, and the Ghia is running beautifully. I think we'll take the Ghia out for more joy rides and trips across town now that the weather is (maybe?) cooling off a bit and we're getting a bit more comfortable and confident with the car's transport abilities. 
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Enterprise Architect, Teledyne Technologies
Sep 05, 2021
Now I've got a drain plug!

I noticed that the Ghia had been leaking a bit of oil in the past couple of weeks, probably because I hadn't been adequately prepared for that first tuneup and had reused the existing gaskets for the oil screen and the sump plate. I ordered several sets of gaskets, and also picked up an aftermarket sump plate with a built-in drain plug. That should make future oil changes much easier!

Plus it's shiny so that's +5hp.

I also did a bit of fiddling with the timing and carburetor settings. I realized that my car doesn't have the factory-correct single-vacuum double-advance (SVDA) distributor and instead has an aftermarket Bosch 009 unit with no vacuum advance (centrifugal only). The specs say that I should set the timing for that to ~10BTDC, but the motor really didn't seem to like that. No amount of adjustment on the carburetor would get it to idle correctly. I kicked the timing back to the ~5BTDC I was using previously and I was then able to adjust the idle with the bypass screw and the mixture with the volume screw. It seems happier now.

I'm not sure why the timing would need to be set so far off from what everything I can find suggests the 009 should be, but of course I also don't know what else might not be factory-stock about this motor. 

But hey, I'm learning stuff and enjoying the car along the way!
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