Fuel Tank Sender Replacement

by Phil Houtz and Dave Burgess

Phil Houtz writes:

I pulled the firewall out of my '74 & replaced the sender. It wasn't the worst automotive experience I've had. When I inspected my old sender I saw why it wasn't looking. There are a series of parallel contacts that the sensor slides over as the float rises and falls. About half of the contacts were worn completely away.

My notes aren't in the archives yet, so here's my experience:

  1. As mentioned earlier, watch for two sheet metal screws accessible under the bus that hold the lower part of the firewall in place.
  2. With all of the screws removed, pry the firewall out from the bottom. Once it clears the engine tin (a squeeze & bend operation), you can free the top of the firewall by applying downward pressure with a tire iron or pry bar. There's a 1/4'' lip that goes straight up into a slot.
  3. It's a pretty tight maneuver to remove the old sender, but I did it with the tank in place. I removed the tank to put the new one in...but wouldn't necessarily recommend that. (Be careful loosening the hold-downs if you do. They're mild steel & break easily.)
  4. Reinstalling the firewall was pretty simple. The hardest part is getting the bottom to clear the tin. I used several wide-blade taping knives, wedged between the frame & the tin and the firewall slipped right over them.

(Editor's note: While the above procedure works well for 1972-1979 buses, for the 1969-1971 bus you must either pull the engine to remove the firewall and gas tank to replace the tank sending unit, or cut a hole in the deck above the gas tank exactly above the sending unit for access. 1968 buses typically have no firewall, so access is simplified. The latter method was a VW authorized procedure, but obviously requires caution when cutting and a suitable method of resealing the hole once the replacement procedure is completed.)

Dave Burgess writes:

  1. Raise van to suitable height, support engine.
  2. Remove 4 * 13 mm bolts from rear engine support bar.
  3. Remove 2 * 14 mm bolts from front engine support (on top of gearbox bell housing).
  4. Lower engine, about 4-5 inch gap between support bar and its mounts, careful not to damage throttle cable, it will come down enough without the need to disconnect.
  5. Remove insulation panel from engine compartment roof, a nice sharp wood chisel and a few taps with a hammer chops off the rivets without damage to the flimsey metal panel.
  6. Remove the 8 screws holding the panel in front of the engine, drop it down half an inch and lift it straight out.
  7. You now have access with the engine in the lowered position for any work on the fuel tank, sender unit, filler neck, overflow pipes.
  8. Reverse procedure for re-installing. The rivets that were knocked off can be drilled and tapped to allow fitting of screws for easier access next time.

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