Adjusting your VWs tappets
Posted by Jon on 29 May, 2012
There’s not much that needs regular adjustment on a VW engine, but the valve clearances do. It’s easy once you know how.
Adjusting the tappets on any air-cooled VW is a relatively straightforward procedure, but it’s one that many people either fear or simply don’t bother doing. Once you’ve got your head around the process though, you’ll find it comes as second nature. Remember though, it must only ever be done with the engine stone cold, so if you’ve driven your car that day, leave it until tomorrow to do this job.
We’ve only shown half the process here as it’s exactly the same for the other two cylinders on the other side of the engine, just remember to turn the engine 180-degrees anti-clockwise between each cylinder.
Just so you know what you’re dealing with, the tappets are the parts that operate the inlet and exhaust valves and allow a carefully calculated amount of valve lift. Hence why you’ll also hear this job referred to as setting your valve clearances. On a stock engine they should be checked regularly and set to the factory settings every 3000 miles for optimum performance as if the tappet gap is allowed to stretch, valve lift will be decreased and performance will suffer. Plus your engine will sound like a bucket of nails being rattled. Alternatively, if the tappet gap closes, the valve will be lifted off its seat, which will soon damage the valve and valve seats. In short, keep on top of tappet adjustment and your Beetle will run happily ever after (hopefully…).
NOTE: TAPPET CLEARANCES
According to VW, pre-1971 air-cooled engines should run 0.004-inch clearance, with the engine stone cold. Post-1971 engines should be set to 0.006-inch.
Feel free to download this article as a PDF file so you can print it out and use it in your garage. However we do recommend reading the entire article first, so you can familiarise yourself with the procedure and know what your getting in to.
(To save the file to your computer right click the link below and select ‘Save file as’ or ‘Save linked file as’. If you click the link normally it will open in your browser.)
COST: Approx £2
TIME TAKEN: 30 mins to 1 hour
TOOLS NEEDED: Flat blade screwdriver, 13 and 21mm spanners, feeler gauges and tippex.
Ok, now that you’re armed with all that information you should be good to get going.
Click ‘Next page‘ (below right) to go to the first step, or use the page numbers below.