Starter Removal and Replacement

APPLICATION: I believe this covers pretty much all air-cooled Volkswagens I know for a fact it applies to late Buses (with Type 4 engine), early Vanagons (with Type 4 engine), Beetles, and Karmann Ghias.

Removing the starter is a fairly simple task. The first step is to disconnect the ground strap from the battery. DON'T FORGET TO DO THIS.

Once you've done that, crawl under the van with your 13mm socket and undo the nut on the big post terminal on the left of the solenoid, the one with all the wires to it. Remove the nut and keep it somewhere safe, then remove the wires from the post. You also want to remove the other wire(s) to the solenoid. Non-FI vehicles have one wire, FI vehicles have two. On non-FI vehicles, just pull the wire off, on FI vehicles it would be a good idea to either mark the wires as to where they go or remember really well.

Now you have the electrical portion disconnected. While you're down there, grab your 15mm wrench and undo the lower starter mounting nut. Look around, you'll find it. Loosen and remove it and its washer, don't lose either.

Now crawl back up topside and get in the engine compartment with your 17mm wrench. In an air-cooled VW, the upper starter mounting bolt is also the upper right engine-to-tranny bolt. This must be removed from inside the engine compartment at the 17mm nut. You can find this nut on a late Bus/early Vanagon forward (FIF) of the throttle body and on a Beetle or other Type 1 engined vehicle forward of the fan housing. It's tough to reach in all cases, but it can be done. Slow and steady work.

The bolt head is half-moon shaped and is made to keep from turning while you loosen the nut. If you find the bolt turning as you turn the nut, grab the nut and pull toward the rear of the car to engage the bolt head with the starter body, so it won't turn. Once you have the nut and washer removed, tap the bolt out and then go under the car and retrieve it.

Now the starter is ready to come out. From under the car, just reach up and pull it straight back so it is free of the bellhousing, then lower it down around the axle and heater hoses and set it on the ground. Starter is removed.

If you're replacing the starter with a rebuilt or new starter, you need to also replace the starter bushing with the new one that comes with the new/rebuilt starter. Get back under the car and look up in the hole where the starter was. You will see a hole inside there where the starter shaft goes when it is turning the flywheel. Inside this hole is the bushing. Methods for bushing extraction are various, but what works is either a bolt of a suitable size threaded into the bushing, and then pulled out or perhaps a wooden dowel shoved into the bushing and then extracted. If you have small hands you might even be able to get a finger into the bushing and pull it out.

Installation really is the reverse of removal. If installing a new bushing, oil it, then put it on the starter shaft. Then hoist the starter back up in there, and get it seated. Put the upper mounting bolt through and put the nut and washer on the lower mounting stud. Make sure that the upper bolt's half-moon shape is engaged properly with the starter body.

Hook up the electrical the same way you took it off. Make sure that you remembered to hook up all the wires to the big post. I've managed to forget one a few times now, one always likes to hide up above the heater hose. The car won't start without it.

Now go to the engine compartment and put the washer and nut back on the upper mounting bolt. Tightening it while trying to keep it from pushing forward can be tricky, but persevere and you shall conquer.

Hook up the battery and crank that sucker, that's all there is to it.

Sean Bartnik
April 7, 1998

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