JBugs Video Series

VW Beetle Front End Wrap Up:

VW Beetle Front End Wrap Up

Video Overview:

With only a few items left on our list, we're ready to wrap up the front end on our 1963 Resto Custom Beetle. Follow along as we walk you through the installation of the sway bar, brake rotors, brake calipers, narrowed tie rods and a pair of KONI classic adjustable shock absorbers.

Video Tips:

Tools you will need:

11mm Wrench
17mm Wrench
19mm Wrench
Crescent Wrench
Adjustable Pliers
3/8" & 1/2" Ratchets
10mm Socket
17mm Socket
19mm Socket
6mm Allen Key
Jack Stands
Drive On Ramps
Bearing Grease
Disc Brake Pad Lube
Brake Cleaner
Hydraulic Press (Used to install the bearing races, Off site)

Video Transcript:

Hi Sam here with JBugs.com. With the link pin drop spindles installed in our last video, we can start wrapping up the front end on our 1963 Resto Custom Beetle. We will be installing a sway bar, new brake rotors, brake calipers, narrowed tie rods and a pair of KONI classic adjustable shock absorbers.


We start with the sway bar and install larger sway bar bushings onto either end of our narrowed two Inch sway bar. This is followed by two smaller bushings. The sway bar is then held in place across the bottom tube of the front beam against the lower trailing arms and the bushings are aligned with the trailing arms at either side. EMPI stainless steel T bolt sway bar clamps are wrapped around the trailing arms and the sway bar bushings The T bolt clamps are tightened down a bit to hold the sway bar in place. The clamps will be fully tightened once the wheels are on the car and it's on its own weight.


To install the breaks, our new rotors need to have the bearing races installed before we can install them onto the spindles. We recommend pressing in the races to avoid cracking the brake rotors. Since we don't have a press in our warehouse, we enlisted the help of a local shop to press in the inner and outer races into both disc brake rotors.


Back in our warehouse, at our work bench, the wheel bearings are packed with grease. I use a plastic bag and grab a handful of grease using the bag as a glove. Then a bearing can be grabbed and the bag can be wrapped inside out. Squeezing the bag forces all the grease into the bearing. The inner bearing is done first, then set into the back of the brake rotor into the bearing race. Next, an inner wheel seal is set in place, pressed down, and tapped gently to make sure it's fully seated. The outer bearing is packed with grease and set in place into the outer bearing race.


Now, at the front of the car, the rotor is slid over the spindle while holding the outer bearing in place. Next, a keyed thrust washer is aligned with the spindle and slid into place followed by the appropriate left hand or right hand threaded axle nut. The left side axle nut is left hand or reverse threaded. The right hand nut, is right hand or standard threaded. The axle nut is tightened down while checking to make sure that the rotor spins freely. Check for any wobble or play in and out on the rotor and loosen or tighten the axle nut as needed.


Next, tighten the set screw on the axle nut to lock the axle nut in place. Now a new ball joint style grease cap is tapped into place onto the brake rotor to seal the bearings. The brake rotor is then cleaned with brake cleaner to ensure all the grease and oils from the packaging are cleaned off.


Back at the work bench, we prep the brake pads which come pre-installed on the caliper. With some brake pad disc brake lube on the back in-between the pad and the caliper and the opposite pad and the brake piston, the pads are pushed back into place and the calipers are taken over to the car where the pads are cleaned with brake cleaner. The caliper is slid in place over the rotor noting that the bleeder valve is at the top of the piston. This is the correct orientation and will allow the calipers to be bled properly later. The caliper is bolted to the spindle. After checking that the caliper is not contacting the rotor at the front or back side, the caliper bolts are tightened down. If the caliper were to hit the rotor, washers can be placed in between the caliper bracket and the spindle as spacers. The rotor and caliper are installed on the opposite side following the same procedures.


Now the left and right narrow tie rods can be installed to the front end by bolting the shorter tie rod to the spindle and the pitman arm. The right side inner tie rod end has a hole for the steering damper. That end is bolted to the pitman arm, and the opposite end is bolted to the right spindle. You might notice that the right side tie rod is hitting the tunnel. When the car is on its own weight, this will not be an issue as the spindle will sit higher, moving the tie rod away from the tunnel. A new steering damper is attached to the tie rod end then to the beam, and the lock plate is bent over on the beam bolt. The steering wheel is turned so that the pitman arm is pointing straight back.


Now the length of the left and right tie rod ends are adjusted so that the rotors are roughly parallel with each other, a more proper alignment will be done later. We will be installing new steel brake lines at the front when we swap out the master cylinder so the original lines are removed from the master cylinder. The brake hose clips are pulled so that we can remove the hoses and lines from the chassis. New brake hoses are installed at both calipers and tightened down. The hoses are then routed to the chassis brackets and held in place with new brake line clips.


Next, KONI classic adjustable shocks will be installed to control the suspension. The shocks have internal adjusters that allow you to soften or stiffen the shock by compressing the shock fully. You can twist the shock clockwise to increase, or counter clockwise to decrease the stiffness of the shock. As the front of a Beetle is very light, and we want a comfortable ride, the shocks are set to the softest setting and then bolted onto the lower front trailing arm. Then the trailing arm is pushed up so the upper shock bolt can be installed.


The narrowed beam towers sit closer to the body than a stock beam. Caution is used while tightening the shock bolt as we do not want the bolts pushing through the body. Once the bolt is touching the body we take note on how much bolt length is left. Remove the bolt and install some spacers on the bolt so it can be tightened down safely. Spacers or washers work fine in this instance as well as, of course, would shortening the bolt or using a shorter 12x1.5mm threaded bolt.


Now we are ready to install the front wheels and tires. Stock sized tires will not clear with drop spindles so low profile tires are required. We're using 135's mounted on EMPI's 5.5" wide gloss black BRM wheels. The wheels won't fit with stock lug bolts so an EMPI 12mm chrome stud and nut kit are used to mount the wheels. First the studs are threaded into the brake rotor, the wheel is set in place over the studs, then the lug nuts are threaded on and snugged down.


We still have to finish tightening down the sway bar and need to get under the car with the car on the ground. As the car will sit much lower than stock, a pair of drive on ramps is slid under the front tires. Then a jack is used to lift the front end of the jack stands, and the car is lowered onto the ramps. Under the car, all four sway bar clamps are tightened down. The additional length on the bolts will be cut off with a grinder and cut off wheel later.


For now we can roll the car off the ramps and get a better idea of the lowered stance on our front end. You might remember we have the front end adjusted to the highest point. We can lower the car much more from here but we won't yet as the front springs are brand new and will settle a lot once the car is driven a bit. Resist the temptation to slam the car to the ground. Drive it for a bit and wait for the front suspension to settle before setting the final ride height.


Next up we will be lowering the rear suspension, installing rear disc brakes, installing a new master cylinder, replacing steel brake lines, and bleeding the brakes. We will be one step closer to completing our suspension and brake upgrades on our Resto Custom Beetle. We hope this front end series has helped you all at home. If you have any questions or are looking for more information on some of the products we've used, stop by JBugs.com