JBugs Video Series

VW Super Beetle Adjustable Strut Installation:

Video Overview:

Does your VW Super Beetle seem to sit a bit higher in the front than in the rear? Our Tech shows you how to pull your old struts and install new adjustable strut inserts. The adjustable struts allow up to a roughly 3.5 inch drop from stock height. Some specialty tools are an absolute requirement for safety reasons, but otherwise the job is a fairly simple affair so follow along!

Video Tips:

The tools you will need are:

1/2" Drive Ratchet
3/8" Drive Ratchet
2" Extension
6" Extension
14mm Socket
15mm Socket
19mm Socket
21mm Socket
22mm Socket
15mm Wrench
21mm Wrench
Brass Hammer
Vice Grips
Adjustable Pliers
Angle Grinder
Flat Head Screw Driver

Video Transcript:

Hello, I'm Sam with JBugs.com. With the '63 Resto Custom Beetle getting ready for paint and body, we're going to tackle projects on our Euro Look Super Beetle. First, we will be installing EMPI's adjustable struts and inserts, and while there are other items under the car that need to be replaced, we won't be doing them right now as the car will soon be pulled apart for paint. We start with the rear wheels chalked, and then loosen the front lug bolts. The front end is jacked up, the front of the pan is set on jack stands, and the front wheels are removed.


On the driver's side, the speedometer cable clip would be removed, if we had one. The brake hose clips are removed from the front side of the strut housing, and the brake hose and line are pulled out and cleared of the struts. 1971-1973 Super Beetles have a bolt in ball joint that attaches to the strut through the spindle. The bolts have lock tabs that must be flattened out in order to loosen the bolts. A brass hammer and a chisel are used to tap the plates flat. A floor jack is positioned under the control arm and ball joint to support the suspension, before removing the ball joint bolts and lock plates. Save them as they will be reused.


The speedometer cable is pulled out of the back side of the driver's side spindle. A hammer is used to tap the spindle free from the ball joint, and free the spindle from the strut assembly which is set on the jack to support it once it's separated. Inside the trunk, the strut mount nuts are removed, and the strut assembly is removed from the car.


At our workbench, the strut cap is popped off with a flathead screwdriver, and a pair of coil spring compressors are threaded onto the springs, and tightened to compress the springs slightly, so we can remove the upper strut mount, without the spring unloading which can be very dangerous.


There are a few methods of loosening the top nut. An impact wrench, being the easiest. A deep reach wrench, an Allen wrench would also work. The method we use here is the easiest for those without somewhat specialized tools. Since we aren't going to be reusing the original struts, pair of vice grips are used to hold the strut rod from spinning while we loosen the top nut.


Note: that even with the spring compressors in place, there is still some load on the springs so caution is used, while removing the nut. The spring may still push off the nut, washer, and cap so make sure the strut is not pointing towards anyone or anything important. With the nut loosened, the strut mount and spring cap pop off. The bump stop washer, bump stop, and shaft cover are removed and set to the side. The still compressed spring is pulled off the strut, followed by the rubber spring pad, and the disassembly is complete.


EMPIs lower strut housings are adjustable with a snap ring. The span ring can be moved up or down on the strut tube, with a three and a half inch range of adjustment, which is roughly the same adjustment we'll see at the wheel.


We set our strut at the lowest setting. The adjustable strut housing requires a new, shorter strut insert, which is slid into the housing, and held in place with a threaded cap. The original rubber spring pad is set in place on the new strut, followed by the original spring, the upper spring cap the lower strut mount bearing spacer, and the upper strut mount.


Finally the upper nut is threaded onto the shaft. Pulling the strut shaft up and holding it in place may be needed, as the strut insert is not gassed charged and will not push itself out. Note that we did not install the bump stop washer, bump stop, or shaft cover; they cannot be used with the adjustable strut.


The upper nut is tightened using a pair of vice grips to hold the shaft, with a thick piece of rubber placed on top of it. The vice grips are not locked as we do not want to damage the shaft. The nut is tightened down, the nut cap is pressed in place at the top of the strut, and the spring compressors can be loosened and removed.


Lastly, we need to modify the ball joint bolt lock plates for the larger diameter strut housing. The plates are hammered flat, clamped together, and ground down so they fit against the new housing.


The new strut can now be installed in the car, reversing the order of removal. The upper strut mount is set into the strut tower, and the nuts are installed in the trunk to hold it in place. The lower ball joint is aligned with the spindle and the strut, and a jack is used to hold the lower control arm and ball joint up in place. The original bolts with the modified lock plates can now be installed. All three bolts are loosely threaded into place. Once the bolts are in place, all three can be tightened down, and the lock plates are bent up to keep the bolts from loosening. The brake steel line is re-positioned against the strut housing and the wheel is turned from left to right, to make sure it does not contact the body.


The new struts do not have a lock plate for the brake line so they can be used with discs or drum brakes. Zip ties or hose clamps can be used to hold the line in place. With both adjustable struts assembled and installed, the speedometer cable is reinstalled, through the back of the spindle, through the grease cap, and the clip can be reinstalled.


The wheels can be installed; the car can be jacked up off the stands and lowered back down to the ground. Before installation, the fenders sat at about 28 inches tall, and now sit at near 24 and a half inches. Seeing as our front end sat so tall originally, even with the drop, we still have plenty of clearance for the stock 165SR15 tires.


The front end may settle more once driven so take that into account when lowering the suspension. Settling may be more drastic with new springs. After lowering, the front end should be aligned to ensure proper handling and tire wear. Note that any worn components such as: the ball joints, strut mounts, and tie rod ends, should be replaced as Super Beetles are very susceptible to what is known as the Super Beetle shimmy.


The worn components are most often the cause of the shaking front suspension. If you think your Super Beetle sits a bit too high on the front end, stop by JBugs.com and get a set of adjustable struts and any other front end suspension components you may need for your vintage VW.