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- Hydraulic Valve Lifter Adjustment -

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VW bugs came stock with solid valve lifters and some of the later buses came with hydraulic lifters. That might lead you to ask why my 1966 VW Bug has hydraulic lifters installed in the engine. Well many people have replaced their solid lifters with hydraulic lifters for several reasons, the biggest possibly because VW claimed they do not need to be adjusted and called them self-adjusting. Well thats not entirely true, they still need to be periodically adjusted. Lucky for us, the process is pretty easy.

  • Tools and Parts you will need
    • Screw driver to turn the adjustment screws and remove valve cover bails
    • 13 mm wrench for locking nuts
    • New set of valve cover gaskets
    • Rag or paper tools
    • Socket to fit your pulley or alternator nut


  • Notes before you begin
    • Most people agree that this procedure should be performed on a cold engine
      • Run the engine the night before and park in a good location
      • In the morning you should not run the engine before starting the adjustment
    • Others say with hydraulic lifters the valves can be adjusted as long as the engine is cool enough to touch
      • I can not verify the validity of this claim, VW says cold engines
      • I personally use the cold engine process


  • Setting Valves to TDC on Cylinder #1
    • The cylinder must be at TDC for proper adjustment, I start with #1
    • Put the car in neutral to allow the engine to spin
    • Rotate the pulley counter-clockwise until the factory dot on the crank pulley (lower pulley on belt) lines up with the case seam at the 12 oclock position
      • If you have a degree pulley line up at TDC with the case seam
      • Pull the distributor cap and ensure the rotor is pointing towards the #1 wire
      • If tis not aligned spin the motor counterclockwise until the dot is aligned with the seam and the rotor is pointing to #1


  • Adjust the #1 Valves
    • Climb under the right (passenger) side of the car and remove the valve cover
      • Use your large screw driver to leverage the bail wire down
      • Pull the cover off and expect to catch a little oil with your rag
    • The #1 cylinder it towards the front of the car and the 2 front valves are for it
      • Both valves should be closed and in the same position, if not you are not at TDC and need to figure out why
    • Take your 13 mm wrench and put it around the locking nut and the screw driver into the adjusting screw and unlock the screw
    • Adjust the screw to the first contact of the valve
      • Now turn the screws in from between 1 to 2 turns depending on who you listen to
      • I use 1.5 turns
    • Once you have the adjustment set, relock down the nut by holding the screw and tightening the nut
    • Now repeat the process for the other front valve on cylinder #1
    • You are done with cylinder #1


  • Adjust the #2 Valves
    • Rotate the engine counterclockwise 180 degrees at the pulley
    • The engine will now be at TDC for cylinder #2
    • Get back under the right side of the engine and adjust the rear valves (#2)
      • Follow the same guidelines for adjusting them to just touching and then ~1.5 turns in


  • Adjust the #3 Valves
  • Rotate the engine counterclockwise 180 degrees at the pulley
  • The engine will now be at TDC for cylinder #3
  • Get under the left side of the engine, remove the valve cover, and adjust the front valves (#3)
    • Follow the same guidelines for adjusting them to just touching and then ~1.5 turns in


  • Adjust the #4 Valves
  • Rotate the engine counterclockwise 180 degrees at the pulley
  • The engine will now be at TDC for cylinder #4
  • Get under the left side of the engine and adjust the rear valves (#4)
    • Follow the same guidelines for adjusting them to just touching and then ~1.5 turns in
  • You have now finished the valve adjustments and just need to clean up


  • Replacing the valve covers
    • Carefully clean the gaskets off the head and valve covers
    • Make sure they are both clean and smooth
    • Replace the old gasket with a new gasket in the valve cover
    • Seat teh vavle cover onto the head and snap the bail cover back on
    • Make sure your distributer cap is back on and tools are out of the engine compartment and then fire up the engine



    If you have solid lifters instead of hydraulic lifters, the process is about the same. Instead of adjusting the lifters to first contact and then 1.5 turns in, you need to gap the adjusters .006" inches. This is accomplished with a feeler guage. Stick the feeler guage between the adjuster and the valve until there is a light drag on the feeler guage. Then lock the adjuster into that position. Other than that, the process is the same.