JBugs Video Series

1971 VW Super Beetle - Lowering the Rear End:

Video Overview:

While we didn’t have to lower the rear of our 1971 Super Beetle, we wanted to give an idea of how the car will look before we pull it apart. Lowering the rear suspension on a Beetle does not require anything other than tools and time. While we had the suspension apart, we did replace some of the wear items (the spring plate bushings and the shocks) but this isn’t a requirement. Follow along and learn how simple a job it is to lower the rear of your VW.

Vehicle prep: 1:05
Rear shock removal: 1:14
Trailing arm removal: 1:22
Spring plate prep: 1:40
Spring plate removal: 2:13
Torsion bar adjustment: 3:11
Spring plate installation: 4:30
Trailing arm installation: 5:38
Shock installation: 5:57


Video Tips:

Tools used in this video:

Jack
Jack Stands
Wheel Chocks
Flathead Screwdrivers
Miscellaneous Punches
Sledge Hammer
13mm Wrench
17mm Wrench
19mm Wrench
3/8" Drive Ratchet
3" Extension
6" Extension
9" Extension
13mm Socket
15mm Socket
17mm Socket
19mm Socket
1/2 Drive Ratchet
1/2 Drive Impact Driver
------------------------------------------------------------- Chemicals Used:

Brake Cleaner

Video Transcript:

Hello! I'm Sam with JBugs.com
We delayed the tear down on our 1971 Super Beetle to install four-wheel disc brakes 
and now, to suit the front of our car, we decided to lower the rear suspension before we get on to pulling the body apart. 
The nice thing about lowering the rear suspension is that no parts are needed. 
Granted while we have the suspension apart, 
we're going to go ahead and replace the original spring plate bushings and we'll upgrade the shocks to suit the front struts that we already installed but these are not requirements.
The installation starts by chalking the front wheels 
and jacking up the rear of the car so we can set it on jack stands. 
The wheel is removed 
so we can remove the upper and lower shock bolts and pull the shock from the car.
Next, the four trailing arm bolts are removed. 
The three rear bolts have nuts on the backside; 
the front bolt is threaded into the trailing arm. 
The rear suspension stop is removed 
and the trailing arm is jacked up as high as possible. 
Because VW's with IRS suspensions have long torsion bars in place, 
we have to get the bottom edge of the rear fender out of the way. 
The fender to running board bolt is removed 
along with the three lower fenders to body bolts. This will allow us to pull the fender through the spring plate when tie time comes. 
The four bolts for the spring plate cap are removed 
and normally we'd remove the cap from the spring plate at this point. Our cap wouldn't budge though but we'll skip to the next step and remove the cap later.
The next step is the most dangerous part of the job as the spring plate is sitting on the torsion housing 
and is under tension. 
In other words, 
the spring pressure that holds the car up off the ground is now pushing the spring plate against the torsion housing. 
So, after making sure that there is nothing in the way below the spring plate, 
we hit the spring plate from the backside until it pops off the torsion housing. We scribe the stock position of the plate on the torsion housing for reference. 
This way, we always have a point that we can go back to 
as we'll be pulling the plate and the bar a few times to adjust the suspension to the height that we want it.
We wiggle and shake the spring plate off and free from the torsion bar. 
We want to make sure that the torsion bar stays in place in the chassis. 
With the spring plate off, we can remove the spring plate cap 
which in our case took the use of a hammer. Once the cap is off of the rubber bushing, both the inner and outer bushings are removed from the spring plate.
Now, we can get to adjusting our torsion bars. 
The torsion bars have different splines on the inside and the outside 
so the suspension can be adjusted in as little as quarter-inch increments. 
Turning the bar on the inner spline 
one tooth changes the ride height 2.6 inches. One tooth on the outer spline changes the ride height 2.35 inches. We want to lower the rear of the car four inched to match the front. 
With the spring plate barely slid onto the outer splines, 
we pull back slightly so we can feel the splines and turn the plate up five teeth which should drop the suspension 11 and 3/4 inches.
We push the spring plate onto the outer splines 
then we pull the spring plate and torsion bar out of the housing at the inner splines, just clear of the teeth, and turn the spring plate down three teeth which lifts the suspension 7.8 inches. 
This gives us a final drop of 3.95 inches 
and should be just enough drop to match the front end. The spring plate and torsion bar are pushed back in. 
We mark the housing again to give us a new reference point 
since we have to pull the spring plate off to install the new bushings.
The spring plate is pulled off the torsion bar, 
the torsion bar is tapped all the way onto the inner splines, and we prep a new inner urethane spring plate bushing with grease. The inner bushing has nobs and is tapered with a narrower side inserting into the torsion housing. 
Once it is tapped into place, we can slide the spring plate back onto the torsion bar 
one final time and tap it in until it contacts the trailing arm. 
A punch and a pry bar are used to pry the inner spring plate down and under the trailing arm. 
With the spring plate sitting at the inside edge of the trailing arm, 
we use a punch and hammer to get the spring plate to pop past the trailing arm and then tap the spring plate all the way into the torsion housing.
Next, well install the outer spring plate bushing which is tapered and smooth. 
After we apply grease to it, 
it can be slid over the spring plate too with the narrower edge pointing out. The spring plate cap is bolted in place and keep in mind the upper front bolt is most always difficult to line up. Now we can lower the trailing arm back down in between the spring plates and get them all bolted back together. 
To get the alignment close, we line up the four bolts and washers at their original positions 
which are easy to see in our case with a clean plaint on the spring plate.
Next, we install a new EMPI gas shock to go along with the EMPI struts we installed at the front of the car. 
The original bolts are reused at the top and at the bottom 
where we also install the spacers that come with the shock, at either side. 
The brake rotor is cleaned, 
the wheel is reinstalled, and the whole process is completed on the opposite side. 
We can lower the car back down to the ground 
and sit back and admire the new stance of our car. Lowering the rear suspension can seem somewhat daunting but it isn't too difficult if you have the right tools. The best part is it doesn't cost anything but time.
Thanks for watching! 
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