Clutch Removal and Replacement (Type 1 Engine)

by Robert Kuhn

Clutch removal and replacement

VW clutches are single dry disc types mounted on the flywheel. Between 1961 and 1970, VW used a coil spring pressure plate type clutch assembly. Later models used a diaphragm spring type.

From 1961 to 1965 (I think), Volkswagen used a carbon clutch relase bearing. In 1966 (or possibly 1967), Volkswagen used a conventional ball bearing type.

Removal of the clutch assembly is a fairly straight forward repair. The hardest part, I feel, is the removal of the engine. But even that isn't that hard to accomplish.

Simple hand tools is all that is needed, you will also need the following:
  • Clutch pilot tool. Your auto parts store should have this tool and it doesn't cost all that much. I think mine was about $3.95 (US). The main shaft from an old broken tranny also makes an excellent clutch pilot tool. I don't think it's worth renting this tool because of the low cost.
  • A cleaning solvent; trichloroethlene (a non-petroleum base cleaner). Most auto parts store will have this cleaner.
  • A medium-fine emery cloth.
  • A dial indicator to check the roundout on the flywheel.
Before you assume that the clutch needs replacing, do some simple checks:
  • What's the free pedal play like? Is it within specs (see below)?
  • If the cable is good, find a nice level area. Place the car in neutral with the engine running and apply the parking brake. Now shift into 2nd gear and slowly let the clutch out. If the clutch is strong, the engine will stall. If the it doesn't stall then replacement of the clutch assembly is needed.

If you're doing an engine rebuild or swap, replacement of the clutch should be done unless the old one has little miles on it. In any case, the engine has to be removed.

Clutch Specification 1200 & 1300 1500 & 1600 (1970) 1600 (1971-ON)
Type Single plate, dry disc Single plate, dry disc Single plate, dry disc
Spring type Coil Coil Diaphragm
No. Spring 6 9 - - -
Diameter 7.1 in (180 mm) 7.8 in (200 mm) 7.8 in (200 mm)
Friction area 41.6 in2 (268 cm2) 56.3 in2 (363 cm2) 56.3 in2 (363 cm2)
Pedal free play 0.4 - 0.8 in (10 - 20mm) 0.4 - 0.8 in (10 - 20mm) 0.4 - 0.8 in (10 - 20mm)


  • Remove the engine first.
  • Mark the flywheel and the clutch cover for later reassembly. Use something like a sharp punch. I've known some people to use paint.
  • Remove the bolts securing the clutch cover ... one turn at a time ... Do this diagonally opposite one another rather than working directly around the cover. This will help ensure that heavy spring pressure will not warp the clutch cover.
  • Once the spring pressure has been relieved, remove each bolt.
  • Now remove the clutch.


If you are going to reuse your old clutch components, then be sure to do the following inspection/checks. In my humble oppinion, since you've gone through the trouble of removing the clutch assembly, why not just replace the assembly? Most clutch kits come complete with clutch, pressure plate and sometimes throw out bearing. Flywheels are usually not included in said kit as they don't normally need replacing during a clutch R&R. If it's not in the budget at this time, then read and do the following.

  • Clean the flywheel face and pressure plate assembly. I use trichloroethlene (a non-petroleum base cleaner). Most auto parts store will carry this sort of cleaner.
  • Check flywheel for any signs of grooves and scratches. Check the runout with a dial indicator and compare it to the specs listed above. The flywheel might need to be regrounded. If it's really warped, which can be felt by your hand, replace it.
  • Check the pressure place for cracked or broken springs, signs of heat, cracked/scored friction surfaces and looseness. Be sure to check the release lever ends for wear. On diaphragm spring clutches, check the spring fingers for wear. If there is any damage, replace the pressure plate.
  • Now check the clutch disc (drive plate) lining for wear, cracks, burn and oil. The assembled thickness of the disc should be at least 0.36 in. Also be sure to check for loose rivets and cracks in the spring leaves or the carrier plate. Check that the disck slides freely on the transmission spline without excessive radial play. Replace the disc if it fails to meet any of the areas listed.
  • Check the throw out bearing (release bearing) for wear. DO NOT WASH THE BEARING IN ANY SORT OF SOLVENT !!! Wipe it with a clean-dry clotch. I don't like the idea of re-using an *old* throw out bearing. You should replace this bearing even if you are going to reuse the old clutch assembly. A lot of clutch problems are because of the throw out bearing not functioning properly. That's just my oppinion.

Putting it all back together

*** Be sure your hands are clean of all oil and grease before proceeding ***
  • With a medium-fine emery cloth, sand the friction surface of the flywheel and pressure plate. Sand lightly across the surfaces (not around) until they are covered with fine scratches. This breaks the glaze and aids in seating a new clutch disc. Or at least that's what was taught to me.
  • Clean up the flywheel and pressure plate with trichloroethlene type solvent (or something equivalent).
  • Insert the clutch disc. Place the pressure plate in position and line up the marks you made earlier. If you are installing a new or a rebuilt pressure plate, align the clutch assembly with the balance marks 180 degrees from each other. The balance marks, painted on the edge of the flywheel and clutch assembly, show the heaviest side of the part.
  • Center the clutch disc over the gland nut hole with a pilot (alignment tool).
  • Start all pressure plate bolts, finger tight. Tighten diagonally opposite bolts a few turns at a time until all are tight. Torque to 18 ft.-lb. (2.5 mkg).
  • Remove the pilot tool.
  • Measure the height of the release plate above the flywheel with a straightedge and depth gauge. This dimension should be 1.06 - 1.18 in. (26.7 - 30mm). Measure dimension at 6 or more points around the flywheel. If this not correct, or if any 2 of the readings are more than 0.02 in. (0.5mm) apart, the clutch pressure plate fingers require adjustment. I don't really know what's involved in this and have been told that the only way to do this correctly is to take the flywheel and the clutch assembly to a VW dealer (or a shoppe that know's how to do this adjustment) and have them do it.
We're done! That wasn't so hard, now was it?

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