JBugs Video Series

VW Super Beetle Engine Start Up:

Video Overview:

Our 1800cc stroker engine will be started, but first we need to fill it with oil and get the oil throughout the engine and make sure it has oil pressure. Our tech shows you how to unload all the internals so the engine can build oil pressure safely. Then we’ll drop a fuel line in a can and get our engine fired up, set the timing and run it for 15 minutes to get the camshaft and lifters worn in. It can be a tense few moments hoping that everything holds together on a newly built engine but we and the engine make it through!

Video Tips:

The tools you will need are:

12mm Wrench
13mm Wrench
17mm Wrench
3/8" Ratchet
6" Extension
3mm Allen Wrench
5mm Allen wrench
Timing Light
Spark Plug Socket
Flathead Screwdriver

Chemicals Used:

HD30 High Zinc Break-In Engine Oil

Video Transcript:

Hello! I'm Sam with JBugs.com

We’re about to fire up our 1800cc stroker engine for the first time. We built it using our original, 1971 dual relief, 1600cc engine case and installed a 74mm stroker Chromoly crankshaft along with Chromoly I-beam rods, a stock camshaft, thick-walled slim fit 88mm pistons, big valve cylinder heads, and 1.4-1 high ratio rockers. The purpose of our build was to assemble a mild performance engine that required minimal machine work.


With all that work completed, we install a cut-down bell housing and a starter to our engine. We hook up a battery and all the necessary wiring so that we can start the engine on our stand. The spark plug wires are pulled off the plugs and the spark plugs are removed so there's no compression load on the pistons, rods, crank, or bearings.All these steps are taken to ensure that we have oil throughout the engine before it’s started for the first time.


We roll our engine outside along with some tools, gasoline, and a fire extinguisher for safety. Our engine is filled up with straight 30 weight engine break-in oil. The oil has a high zinc content which will help our camshaft break-in. The stock oil capacity is 2.65 quarts but we do have our external hoses and filter to fill up so we use three quarts of oil. The valve covers are un-clipped and removed. The rocker assemblies are pulled off so there won’t be any load on the pushrods, lifters, or camshaft while we crank the engine over to build oil pressure. The valve covers are clipped back in place.


The engine is cranked over until we see that the engine has oil pressure on our temporarily installed mechanical gauge. The valve covers are pulled off again so we can install the rocker assemblies. We make sure that the stand shims are in place on the four studs and line up all four pushrods in the adjuster cups. With everything in place, the rocker stand nuts are tightened to 14-foot-pounds.


Next, we turn the engine over to top dead center at cylinder number one and adjust the valves. The adjustment nuts on the intake and exhaust valves are loosened and the screws are tightened or loosened as needed to set the valve lash. Our engine has Chromoly pushrods, so we adjust the valves to zero lash. We want the push rod to spin but we do not want any play between the rocker arm and the valve. If you have aluminum push rods, the valve clearance is 0.006. Once the valves are set on all four cylinders, the valve covers are reinstalled, the spark plugs are installed, the plug wires are reconnected, and we drop our fuel line into our gas container and get ready to crank the engine over for the first time.


The first few minutes of running an air-cooled engine are crucial. The engine must be revved up to 2000 RPM and should be revved from there to about 4000 RPM for 15 minutes. This allows the flat tappet camshaft and lifters to wear in together and the lifter faces don't get much lubrication until about 2000 RPM. We hook up a timing light and with our distributor clamp loose so we can set the timing, the engine is cranked over. Since our carburetor and fuel line are completely empty, it takes a while. Eventually though, the engine starts to cough and finally comes to life. The engine is revved a bit and coughs and sputters but its running.


We take a quick look to make sure that we have oil pressure on our manual gauge and then set the timing. Our timing light is advanced to 30 degrees and pointed at the crank pulley. The engine is revved up to about 3000 RPM and we look for top dead center to show up while turning the distributor slowly. When it does, the timing is set so the distributor clamp is tightened down. We continue running the engine revving it from about 2000 to 4000 RPM. The engine dies which can be expected as the carburetor is only bench set and not tuned for our engine yet.


We restart the engine and continue revving and note a few oil leaks at the fitting for our oil return line and both valve covers. Both will be addressed but for now, we keep running the engine while keeping a close eye on our oil pressure gauge. Notice the black paint, on the exhaust, is starting to smoke in just the first 45 seconds of running. This is normal as the paint is only there to keep the exhaust from rusting during transit and storage. We recommend stripping and repainting the exhaust with high temp exhaust paint or having the exhaust ceramic coated. As we welded on flanges to our muffler, it didn't make sense to start with a ceramic system and cut and weld on it. Our exhaust will be coated later.


With the engine warmed up, it starts to smooth out and to make life a little easier on our fingers, the idle adjustment screw is turned in to keep the engine revving at 2000 RPM. During this run, we don't want to let the engine sit at any rpm level for an extended period. We run through cycles of revving and high idling. This will ensure that the pistons rings don't wear the cylinders at any one position.


After 15 minutes of running, the engine is turned off and we'll take a break here to let our engine cool down a bit. It's been a long series to this point but the time and effort has paid off and we now have a running engine for our 1971 Super Beetle project. Keep an eye out for our next video where we'll get our carburetor tuned and continue the break-in of our engine. Thanks for watching, check out some of our other how-to videos, and of course when you need parts for your vintage Volkswagen, head over to  JBugs.com