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
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
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
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.