Trivia question: Where was Rudolf Diesel
Return to the main VW Diesel Pickup
A very common problem in the VW A1 vehicles is bizarre problems with
tail lights and turn signals. Commonly you'll find the front turn
signals stop working when the headlights are on, or the turn signals in
back stop working when the brakes are applied or the brake lights don't
work when the headlights are on. It turns out all these problems have a
common cause, that is ground connections, or more precisely the lack of
a good ground connection. So what is going on? Many of the bulbs in
question are 1157 dual filament types. These bulbs have 2 filaments,
with a connection on the bottom of the bulb for each and then a shared
common connection on the side of the bulb base, typically connected to
ground via a strip of metal on the side of the socket. The main problem
is that VW seems to favor the use of a nickel plated steel or sometimes
aluminum in the sockets. All is fine until that plating is compromised
and then the underlying steel rusts or the aluminum oxidizes and
suddenly you have no ground connection, at least via the designed path.
Then without a separate ground, the electricity in the bulb will try to
find a path to ground via some other means. What seems to happen is
that the circuit for the other filament in the bulb may be grounded
when it is off. So when only one filament, like the running light, is
on, it'll ground through the off brake light filament. Likewise, when
the brake light filament is energized, it'll ground through the off
running light filament. The problem is when you have the running lights
on and hit the brakes. You now have the case where there is 12V on both
filements with the common connection floating (i.e. not grounded), and
with no voltage difference between the filaments, no current flows and
no light comes out. This happened to me a few times, always at night
(i.e. headlights on), I would see a brake light out, figure the bulb
was shot. replace it the next day (i.e. no headlights on) and viola, it
worked. At least until the next time I drove at night.when the brake
lights were out again. Similar problem has occured to me with the front
turn signals that share a bulb with the front parking lights.
So the rear fix is to find the bad ground connection and restore it to
proper function. Below are two fixes I have used with dood results:
So in photo 1 above, I removed the badly corroded ground strip from the
side of the socket (shown on top). Then I cut a strip of brass sheet
and fashioned a replacement ground strip (the lower piece) and inserted
it pack into the slot on the right side of the socket. In photo 2
above, I found that the strip had rusted down inside the socket where
the actual ground wire is soldered to it and had popped loose. Not
finding an easy way to remove the strip and wire, I instead I squirted
a dab of metallic anti-sieze lube down the hole then found an 8mm set
screw that I had laying around that fit prefectly into the hole in the
side of the socket. I just screwed it in until it bottomed out in the
hole, pressing the ground strip against the wire and restoring the
connection. Seems to work fine and both the bove fixes are still
problem-free after several years of operation.
Many of the stock VW exhaust (toilet bowl) manifolds use a pair
of spring-loaded C-clips to hold the downpipe to the manifold. Removing
these clips to work on the exhaust or engine can be a bear. Usually you
can pop them off with a long screwdriver. But then how to get them back
on? You can buy the big $$$ specialty tool or make your own for a lot
less money. Below are two examples of how:
Lewis Grimes submits this
"I'm lost with out the clock. I've have had to fix the clocks on
both my trucks. It was simple. Just pull the instrument cluster pull
three bolts at the ashtray, three screws at top of dash panel. You are
on your own with the radio both of mine came with the dash panel.
You'll also need to reach behind the far left side of the panel to
press the release button on the headlight switch, pull the knob out all
the way to remove it, then after the panel is free, you can push it
back in to turn off the lights. Four bolts, one on the four corners of
the cluster, pull the two screws on the panel that hide the fuses and
the two screws that holds the panel under the steering wheel then reach
up and remove the speedometer cable. Pull the cluster. Both of them the
wire in the plastic was broke. We just soldered a wire in with a
crimp-on lug and put it back together and they both worked."
This is of course assuming the problem is due to a broken power
connection to the clock.
The MacPherson strut front suspension used on the A1 VWs is fairly
simple, the strut itself is bolted to the wheel hub and that in turn
sits on top of a ball joint, that forms one half of the pivoting
mechanism for the steering. The other end of the strut is attached to a
strut bearing that is in turn bolted to the top of the strut tower that
forms part of the unibody. The strut bearing is a simple ball bearing
that is in turn housed in a rubber and metal housing.
Pictured above is an exploded parts layout of the strut bearing. The
key to a long lasting and quiet bearing is the highlighted bushing or
spacer (#9). It is the part that sets the bearing pre-load and is
usually supplied a little bit taller than the bearing is. The spacer
can be ground down until the top washer (#10) just makes contact with
the top of the bearing race inside the housing. I like to apply a good
wheel bearing grease to the top of the race for the washer to rotate
on. By keeping the bearing slightly pre-loaded it is less prone to
clunking and should last a lot longer since its not getting hammered
with every big bump in the road.
Pictured above is a typical late model A1 strut bearing assembly. Note
that it is not necessary to remove the bearing to do this modification,
it can be done on the vehicle if needed (assuming weight it on the
wheels). If you want to remove the strut bearings, you will need a
spring compressor to disassemble the strut. In the center of the
above-left image, you can see the bushing in the middle. In the
above-right image, I use a pair of calipers to check the height of the
bushing and compare that to the height of the bearing, itself. Calipers
are not needed for this modification either (and your spacer height
will likely not be equal to mine; i.e. 12.22mm is not some
"magic" number), best test is to just use your finger to feel
the height difference between the bushing and the surrounding top of
the strut bearing surface. If the bushing is taller, remove it and
touch it to the side of a grinding wheel until it sits flush in the
bearing. Be careful to avoid grinding too much off the spacer as then
you'll have too much pre-load on the bearing and will shorten its life
and make steering effort higher. The idea is to make the top of the
spacer flush with the top of the bearing, that's all. In the above-left
photo, the part with the RED circle needs to
be the same height as the part with the GREEN
circle (click here or on the
small image to see a larger version). All ball bearing
assemblies vary somewhat in size/height due to manufacturing
tolerances. Thus I suspect the strut bearing manufacturers supply a
spacer that is as tall as the tallest possible strut bearing they make.
If the bearing in your strut bearings are not as tall as that spacer,
it needs to be trimmed to fit. This only needs to be done with new
strut bearings or if you have one with excessive play. Once trimmed to
the proper height, the spacer and bearing should not need further
attention (aside from lubricating the bearing).
And I did not "make this up". I found this very tip mentioned
briefly in the installation instructions that came with my new Bilstein
HD A1 strut inserts. I recall it was only a one-line mention in the
instructions, but I tried it and found that it worked very well. In
fact, I am still running those same struts and bearings that were
installed back in 1998 or so. Still going strong, bearings are still
nice and tight with no knocking over bumps.
Also, if replacing the strut inserts, you should back filll the strut
housing with a bit of engine oil, ATF or even anti-freeze. It nly takes
a few ounces to fill the air gap around the strut insert, but the
liquid will increase the heat transfer rate out of the strut insert to
the steel body of the strut housing. Without backfilling, the dead air
space effectively insulates the strut, which will tend to build up heat
as it damps out road vibrations. I once "cooked" a set of
struts on one long road trip that had a few hundred miles of rough dirt
and gravel roads because they were not installed with the oil fill.
One thing I missed from my old '81 LX pickup was the variable
speed/intermittent wipers. My base model '82 had exactly one speed,
SSLLOOWW :-(. I had heard that it was possible to swap out the wiper
switch for the variable speed version. Anyway, one day I was poking
around behind the steering wheel and found that the switch had the
positions for the extra features, it was just blocked off with a
In the above left image, you can see the screwdriver blade in the place
where the white plastic pug used to be. While it was apart, I cleaned
the grease and dirt out of the contacts. So, I put everything back
together and tried out the wipers, same old single speed operation :-(.
So, I figured I may have a single speed relay or something, so I
located the relay, or should I say the relay socket. Instead of a relay
all I found was a brass jumper, see image above-right. So I fired up
the old ETKA parts program and went through a list of used relays I had
just purchased. Sure enough one was VW #321-955-531A
(updated/superceeded p/n is 171-959-143A), an intermittent wiper relay.
Yanked out the jumper, pushed in the relay, and bingo, low and high
speed plus intermittent operation!
Frequent any of the numerous car web forums and "air box" or
"cold air intake" mods are all the rage. I always wondered
about the location of the VW diesel air intake tube. It is directed to
the side of the engine bay and sort of away from heat sources, but it
still gets darn hot under the hood. I noticed a significant power drop
in hotter weather, especially off the line. My old '81 truck had
factory A/C which totally filled the front of the grill, I had plans to
make an intake vent around the passenger headlight, but never got past
the planning stage.
My '82 pickup has no A/C and there is a nice plastic baffle that fills
in between the end of the radiator and the sheet metal of the core
support. I picked up 4 - 45° ABS plastic elbows and a short length
of 2" ABS. I bit of filing got the elbow to fit over the stock
intake tube, a 2" hole cut in the front baffle allowed the end
(with an elbow facing downwards) to project into the cool air out in
front of the vehicle. The elbows were glued together and a single screw
holds the new tube to the existing tube.
It seems to do the trick, I notice a lot less power loss in hot weather
and the engine seems to run a bit easier on the highway. Probably
getting a small amount of ram air effect. A fairly simple and
inexpensive modification, under $8 for all the parts. And as an added
benefit, moving the air intake out front resulted in a noticable
decrease in the intake noise.
When I first got my '82 Caddy, I noticed the windshield washers didn't
work. Finally after about a year of no washers, I started investigating
the problem. I had power to the connector, I removed the tank, cleaned
out the gunk in it and still no washers. I then reached inside the tank
and slipped the star washer off the inside of the pump and gently
popped it out of the tank. I took the part down to VW and found out the
only part they have is the entire tank assembly, for $50. My tank was
fine, so I figured I didn't have anything to lose by tearing the pump
apart for a look.
I tried applying 12V to the pump, but nothing happened. I checked the
resistance and found it open. This was a bad sign, could be a fried
coil, but I proceeded anyway. I pried open the 3 metal tabs that held
the motor cover on and pulled it off. Rust was everywhere inside,
preventing the rotor from turning. I then carefully pulled the pump
housing off. Everything looked good there, cleaned out a bit of crud.
So back to the motor. I cleaned up the rotor with some abrasive pads
then filled the housing with some CLR and let it sit. That dissolved
the rust and I cleaned it out and let it dry. A shot of oil in the end
bushing and put the rotor back in place. Gave it a shot of power and it
spun back to life. I applied some silicone sealant to the housing,
crimped it back in place, put the pump back into the reservoir, pu the
star washer on to hold it in place. Filling the tank with fresh washer
fluid and viola, at least one washer worked. The other needed a bit of
work with a small pin to unclog it then all was fine.
This was a fairly easy fix, no special tool, about and hour of actual
work, so don't throw that old washer pump away, fix it!
When I first got my old '81 VW Caddy, it had 175-70R13 tires on the
stock 13x4.5 steel rims. I later had a set of 155-80R13 installed, then
another set of 175-70R13s. All were about the same diameter,
~22.5" tall. I figured something taller would fit, so when I wore
out the 175-70s, I wanted to get 175-80s, but had to settle for
165-80R13, which run about 23.5" tall. I ended up with a Kumho All
Season radial tire and so far they have worked out fine. I later moved
them to my '82 Caddy and run them on stock 13x5 alloy wheels.
With my FF transmission, I found about a 130 RPM drop at 65 MPH on the
highway, with little loss in acceleration. Later, with my '82 which has
an FN transmission, I see a 300 RPM drop at 65. I still have decent
clearance in the wheel well and I think even a 185-80R13 would fit,
which is about 1.25" taller.
I'm now running a set of 185-70R13 Yokohama Avid Touring tires. About
the same height and an inch wider than the Kumhos and they have a much
stiffer sidewall for better cornering. This tire is about 5% taller
than the stock 165-70R13 tires.
I'm no CB radio nut or anything, but I was digging through my garage
one day and found the following:
The radio that came in my latest '82 Caddy was garbage, so out it came
and in went the 1040SD. Initially, I only installed the radio, the
AM/FM antenna and I hooked up the coax for the CB. I found a microphone
clip to hang the mic off of the cold start knob. I normally remove the
mic unless I need to use it to transmit.
I kicked around some ideas for mounting the CB antenna. From my
previous experiences, I knew I wanted the antenna mounted on solid
ground plane, and I wanted to be able to use it with and without the
camper shell, and for sure I was not too thrilled by the prospect of
drilling lot's of holes to mount the thing.
So, this is what I finally came up with. I found an inexpensive
mounting bracket at my local electronics shop. I cut it to fit inside
the recess in the rear bumper, beneath the plastic trim piece. I had to
drill two holes for sheet metal screws to hold the bracket to the
bumper, then the trim snaps back to cover this.
I only had to drill one large hole behind the drivers seat to run the
coax cable out of the cab. I used a 3/4" rubber grommet to line
the hole, which I also plan to use to run some power wires into the bed
for 12V outlets and camper shell lighting. The coax cable is run along
the underside of the bed rail, over the end of the bed and down the
outside corner of the rear end where the tailgate fits. I used a couple
of cable clamps to hold it in place. I get a decent SWR reading and the
incoming signal is free of interference.
All in all a very clean installation and I'm quite happy with the
Does this sound familiar?
Has anybody else have their hand brake freeze on, on a cold morning?
It was -3 this morning and my hand brake was frozen on again. Driving
it does not free it. Any body got any comments or helpful hints? Would
like to know of anybody else who has had this problem?
Well, it doesn't get to -3 here in sunny California too often, but I've
had my parking brake "rust" in place once, never had it
freeze. It had been raining and apparently the water in the brake drum
caused it to rust to the shoes. With the slick pavement, the one wheel
would not break loose and just skidded along as I tried to drive. I had
to remove the wheel and wheel bearing nut and use a dead blow hammer to
beat the brake drum off of the wheel. (God time to clean and re-pack
the wheel bearings BTW). Luckily this was at home, so I had access to
Here's a handy tip from folks used to driving in cold weather:
When parking after driving in snow/slush, don't set the parking brake
in the winter if possible. Problem is the brakes are warm when you
stop, if snow/ice/slush get in there it can freeze. So if you have a
manual tranny, put it in your lowest gear and put the front wheels
against the curb. When I take my 4x4 up into the snow, I lock the front
hubs and put it in 4-Lo and it for sure won't be going anywhere.
Here is a step by step guide on how to remove/repair a door handle:
This tip courtesy of John Van
Here is a step by step guide on how to re-key a door lock to work
with a different key:
I think VW recommends replacing the fuel filter every 15,000 miles or
so. I usually run mine until I start seeing bubbles in the clear fuel
line, especially at full throttle, which seems to be about every 2
years and 20,000 miles. Replacement is a fairly easy process, requiring
no tools. There are a few tips to make it easier, though.
I have an upper stress bar between the strut towers. It is a lot easier
if I remove that first. Mine is held on with 13mm nuts, one of which
requires a u-joint socket to remove. Its also easier if you remove the
air intake cover and filter, by removing the 4 spring clips that hold
it in place. Now, reach in, grab the filter and twist it off. Be
careful to keep it level, it holds over a pint of fuel.
With the old filter off, take the new one and fill it with Automatic
Transmission Fluid (ATF). You could also use clean diesel fuel, but the
detergents in the ATF will give your injector pump and injectors a good
cleaning. Wipe some of the ATF on the two rubber gaskets and then screw
the filter on and tighten by hand.
Now start the engine and check for leaks. With the filter pre-filled,
you should see the red ATF in the clear fuel line almost immediately.
There should be no bubbles in the fuel line, if there are try checking
the filter for leaks.
Well, it finally happened after about a year of warning, my water pump
gave up the ghost. I had been noticing a drop or two of dark liquid in
the plug beneath the pump housing for the last year. Nothing major but
this gave me ample warning to the impending failure. One night driving
home on a bumpy road, I started hearing a (new) rattle. Upon
investigating, I saw the belt to the water pump and A/C compressor
looked loose. Upon further inspection, the A/C compressor itself was
loose (in fact there were no bolts at the base) and the water pump was
gone, as evidenced by my wet hand after pulling the water pump plug.
First step is to get the old pump out. With factory A/C, it is not
possible to get the pump housing off while its attached to the vehicle.
Several of the bolts are behind pulleys and brackets. So, to remove the
pump I did the following:
Once out, there are 7-10mm bolts to remove. Most likely they are
corroded into place. I found that by heating each one up with a propane
torch until it started smoking, then applying a slight tightening
torque (to crack the threads loose), they all came out w/o a problem
(even the one I snapped off before discovering the heat trick). Then, I
wire brushed the bolts and ran a tap down the internal threads to
prepare them for re-assembly. Then, with pump housing in hand, head off
to the parts store to get a replacement. My pump is the older 40mm hub
style. I found VW only carries this part in a full pump (to the tune of
$140). Anyway, I found a GMB pump for $32, after first getting a 30mm
version, I suggest holding the old and new pump housings up side by
side to make sure the hub diameter and offset match.
To make re-assembly a bit easier, I made a few modifications. First, I
ran a tap down the through hole in the water pump where the lower
timing belt cover attaches. I found a 5/16x18 tap fit w/o drilling and
a 1" allen-head screw fit nicely in place. On the A/C bracket, I
cut out a section of the web near the hard-to-get-at bolt to allow for
a bit more wrenching room.
I had to get new bolts for the base of the A/C
compressor to replace the missing ones. More on this fix below:
To quote Bentley, "assembly is the reverse of the removal",
use anti-seize or thread locking compound on all the bolts. I also
tried using a teflon thread sealant on the water pump bolts. Autotech carries a set of stainless
steel bolts for this application that resist corrosion.
One tip I have for properly tensioning the v-belts is as follows:
I wrap a nylon strap around the driven accessory (A/C compressor or
alternator) then lay a board or piece of angle iron across the engine
bay, resting on the passenger side strut tower and extending over the
front of the bumper. Then, tie the strap around the lever and use a
jack to raise the lever to apply the desired tension to the belt. Once
tensioned, tighten the adjuster and pivot bolts and then drop the
lever. Works like a charm and I've never had to re-tighten a loose belt.
Mainly due to the A/C compressor and the restricted working room. I did
the job on my non-A/C '78 Rabbit and it was a piece of cake.
You know, those two little plastic encased light bulbs beside your rear
license plate. Seems they last about 10 years then burn out. I pulled
mine out and couldn't figure out how to get them apart, so I picked up
new ones at the dealer (ouch!). Lewis
Grimes, a fellow Caddy owner, passed on this tip for repairing said
Sounded simple enough, I had my old burned out lamps in the parts
drawer (never throw anything away:-). Grabbed myself a sharp 1"
wide woodworking chisel and carefully worked the chisel edge along the
seam between the black and clear plastic. Place the assembly on a firm
surface and apply steady pressure while rocking/twisting the chisel
blade ever so slightly until you hear a faint "crack".
Keep moving the blade around the seam, don't try to force it open from
one point. After a few minutes of work, this is what you see:
1 New side marker lamp ~$1
My A1 VW came with 16" wiper blades. I was never happy with the
coverage (or lack thereof) of the wipers. There was a section near the
top and side of the windshield that was not cleared. I measured the
clearances and it looked like an 18" blade would fit. I bought a
set of dual-blade aerodynamic wiper arms and installed them. The
driver's side fit perfectly, on the passenger side, I had a bit of
interference on the outer end. I trimmed a bit (~1/4") of the
plastic off the end of the arm and a corresponding bit off the wiper
itself to correct the problem.
For additional coverage, I adjusted the driver's side wiper so that it
was a bit higher on the windshield. It used to rest on a downward
angle, I made it parallel to the hood. Now, at its upper stroke, it
runs right the the left edge of the windshield.
After doing all this, I discovered Rain-X and
now hardly ever use my wipers anymore.
1 Pr. 18" wiper arms $10
I tried a set of those 50W halogen backup lights a few years ago. The
first set I tried had trouble with the leads breaking off inside the
socket, so I went back to the stock bulbs. Recently I found some new
bulbs. They still had the same design as before, but I tried injecting
some hi-temp silicone inside the socket to prevent the bulb from moving
and breaking the leads.
These bulbs worked for a while then I noticed I had no backup lights at
all. The bulbs and fuse were fine, but I guess the 8A load fried the
reverse switch on the transmission. This switch supplies current to the
rear lights directly, there is no in-line relay. The switch read
open-circuit all the time. A new switch cost me $16 at the dealer and
only took a minute to install. On my 5-speed transmission, the backup
switch is located just in front of the speedometer cable.
1 Reverse switch $16
Apparently the new multi-LED bulbs provide more light at less current
so may be a suitable upgrade without the need for a relay.
After using the A/C for an extended period of time you might notice
that the passenger side foot well is soggy or that running the
defroster results in more fog on the windshield rather than less.
Usually this is due to a plugged drain line for the A/C condensation.
easiest way I've found to fix it (usually needs to be done once every
year or two) is to pull off the little cover plate right where the
passengers left foot would be (philips screwdriver). From here, you can
find the rubber drain hose, pull it off and blow some compressed air
through it. The hose is just the right size to insert the tip of an air
blowgun into. A blast or two and it is all clear. If it is really
plugged you may need to snake some wire down to open it up. Don't
forget to put the hose back on the drain tray before re-installing the
NOTE: If you suspect the drain is plugged and the drain pan is full,
might be wise to have something on hand to collect the water that will
drain out when you pull the hose off to unplug it. On mine, only a few
ounces would collect and since the footwell was already soaking wet, I
never bothered. Just wet-vac the carpet and leave a window cracked
until the carpet dries.
If you get that au-de-locker-room smell emanating from your
vents, you may have stuff growing inside your ventilation system. One
relatively inexpensive way to combat this is to switch to the Vent
position, all outlets open, fan on full speed and then spray in a whole
can of Lysol disinfectant (choose a scent you can tolerate) into the
air intake (under the plastic cover at the back of the engine
compartment. This should suck the disinfectant through the ducts and
put a stop to the critters growing in there.
Finally, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The last few
minutes of your trip, shut of the A/C while keeping the blower on. This
will help dry out any condensation inside the system.
$0 - $2 (for the Lysol)
My driver's side door was sagging (who's isn't!) to the point that the
door latch was not working very well. I tried loosening up the hinges
and moving the striker plate to their respective limits. No good. Then
I tried the jack-under-the-door method and was able to get a bit of
adjustment, but the improvement didn't last long. Then one day I read a
USENET article from someone who was asking why they had a washer under
one of the hinges and that it seemed to be messing up the door
Well, that weekend I went out to see if I could figure out what they
might be talking about. If you look at the door hinge, the door piece
attaches to the frame piece with a bolt. The door piece is attached to
the front side of the frame piece. By placing a nice fat washer in
between the halves of the *top* hinge, you can easily pull the latch
side of the door up and permanently cure the sag.
In the image, above, you can see the upper door hinge after the washer
is installed. While the washer itself is not visible (red arrow
indicates where it is installed), you can see the slight gap left
between the two halve of the hinge due to the shim's thickness. Since
the nearest part of the hinge is attached to the body and the far part
is attached to the door, the shim serves to "push" the upper
part of the door forward, and thereby lifting the bottom of the door.
Caveat: If the plastic piece on the latch pin is badly worn from
the latch striking it, this fix may produce an annoying rattle in your
door. If it does, here's a simple fix for
One or more washers
Under a buck (or free if you have a well-stocked junk drawer).
Why don't light-duty, diesel-powered vehicles have to get a (CA)
Free (ALL RIGHT!)
Yes, we have no s.
The Shade Tree Howler Monkey scale was originated by Larry Soo, here's how the
Trivia answer: He wasn't (buried
anywhere, that is), rather he fell overboard, or was otherwise "lost at sea"
while crossing the English Channel, and was never found.
[Last updated: 21.April.2020]