Valve Adjustment Tools

by Al Brase and Ron Van Ness

Al Brase writes:

I've found a big help in adjusting valves is to get a screwdriver with a cross-handle on it. This exact tool happens to be the chain adjusting tool that came with my Stihl 020 chainsaw. I'm quite certain that anyone can purchase such a tool at your friendly Stihl chainsaw dealer for about $6.00 US. It's just a medium blade screwdriver with a combo sparkplug socket-13mm. socket welded across the end to form the handle. Using the cross-handle allows a little more leverage and much more control of small movements of the screwdriver blade. (Those screws tend to be a bit sticky.) It's also a handy 13mm. socket wrench. It's made in Germany, so it should feel some extra kinship while lying under your seat with the lug wrench.(For those of you who feel that wrench karma is important.)

If this helps an old salt such as myself, I'm certain it should make the job easier for a novice.

Ron Van Ness writes:

The Stihl chainsaw tool sure beats the price of the similarly designed Schley brand tool for valve adjustment (that sells for US$60!). Thanks Al.

Speaking of handy valve adjustment tools, some folks like to use the tapered "go/no go" feeler gauges for valve adjustment. Once you develop the proper feel for using this tool it can make checking adjustment quicker. It is often difficult though to find individual replacement blades for these (the blades around .006" mysteriously seem to wear out quicker for VW owners :). Strangely, companies that sell life time warranty specialty tools like KD or Cal-Van prefer to replace an entire feeler gauge set for free if one blade is worn/broken--but won't stock individual tapered replacement blades!

Feeler gauges come in tapered and non-tapered varieties, and in varying lengths and pre-bent for specific applications. Porsche aftermarket companies sell a replica of the Porsche feeler gauge tool that is very convenient to use for VW valve adjustment because of its comfortable handle and short blade which sits at an appropriate angle. It gives the user more control, especially in tight areas.

There are two varieties. One has a short steel handle with a curl on the end to fit comfortably against the finger and a feeler blade tip screwed to the other end at 90 degrees. The other type is also a steel piece but has a short feeler blade attached at an angle on either end (typically a .004" or .006" blade for Porsche applications). A worn blade is replaced by removing two small screws that hold the blade securely between the tool handle and a tapped backing plate. If you can't find tapered blades sold separately, you can cut the appropriate one out of your feeler set and drill it so that it will screw to the Porsche tool.

In fact, you can make the whole tool yourself with a stiff piece of 1/2" steel about 5" long. Bend the steel about 1/2" up from the end at roughly a 90 degree angle. Drill two holes near the end of the angled part, side by side, through which the hold down screws will pass. Then drill matching holes 1" up from the end of a feeler blade. Drill and tap a small steel backing plate to match the screw threads and sandwich the 1" bit of feeler between the handle and the plate and screw it down. Now you have a homemade "Porsche" tool that's a pleasure to use.

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