YOUR VW WORKS
of sound mind and fertile (or was
that futile?) imagination, I had the
thought recently that every VW owner
could benefit by a short discussion
of how the VW actually works.
After all, how many of us really know
how our trusty Bug or Bus or Ghia
gets us around? In all reality,
it is amazing to me that it works
at all, because even though very simply
in design, like the human body, things
in a VW happen in a mysterious and
marvelous way. I'd like to take a
few moments to attempt to explain
the VW process, if I may, from a Blonde's
Eye point of view. It never hurts
to refresh your memory, and if it
does hurt after this, I apologize.
To really understand how and why your
VW works the way it does, you must
understand the various systems that
work together in perfect harmony to
create that lovable and familiar tickety-tickety-tick
that we know so well. Of course,
not all cars are designed and put
together like a VW, and even in the
Volkswagen alone, there are many different
changes and technical 'advancements'
that make simplifying my explanation
somewhat difficult. Therefore,
I shall stick to what I know best,
the early air-cooled models, and leave
the later and more sophisticated models
to someone who enjoys such torture.
How does the perfect harmony of all
these various components take us from
Point A to Point B? Take your
VW apart (figuratively, of course,
I don't have room here for the reassembly
process), piece-by-piece, and this
whole wonderful process becomes just
a bit more understandable, especially
if I'm not explaining it. But still,
I might be able to make things seem
a bit clearer. Read on.
The logical place to begin, I think,
is with the fuel system, since without
fuel, the engine can't run.
If you have ever run out of gas, you
can testify to this fact. The
fuel goes from the tank to the engine
via the 'fuel line'. Once back
in the engine, the gasoline is run
through something called a 'fuel pump',
whose sole mission in life is to pump
the gas up a short tube to the carburetor.
Sounds fairly dull, doesn't it?
But do not underestimate the fuel
pump's job - like I did - nor take
it for granted - like I did - because
if you treat the fuel pump as if it
were merely a little roundy unimportant
gray thingy bolted onto something
back there, it will get you back for
this neglectful and demeaning treatment
at a very inconvenient place at a
terrible time - like mine did.
That's another story but treat the
fuel pump with the respect it deserves.
Anyway, without the fuel pump your
VW will perform in a very predictable
manner by ceasing to function at all
and causing you to believe you are
merely out of gas, while all the while
the fuel pump is sitting back there,
laughing and snickering to itself.
To continue, the fuel pump pumps fuel
to the 'carburetor', unless you have
a 'fuel injected' model Volkswagen,
in which case you can do away with
the carburetor entirely. This
clever and incredibly simple-minded
system does just what it says - it
injects the gasoline directly into
the engine via the manifold, which
isn't much different than what the
carburetor does, except that with
fuel injection there is no carburetor.
Just WHY you need a carb at all is
beyond me and I don't truly really
CARE, since the only fuel injected
car we have is a Saab anyway and VW
logic doesn't apply to Saabs.
Come to think of it, not much logic
does apply to Saabs. But in
the early days anyway, VW rejected
the idea of fuel injection as far
too simple to ever be any good and
supplied all its cars with carburetors.
Hence the 28 PCI, the 30 PICT 2, the
32 PICT 3, and the 123 SPIT carburetor
models were born. Any questions??
But to press onward here, the carb
is really nothing more than a little
(little on a VW anyway, since these
suckers can get HUGE and tend to multiply
on larger cars) round thingamajig
that is used to spray gasoline into
a fine mist that will be delivered
to the engine in a manageable form.
Or something like that. Anyway, gas
comes out the fuel line, after being
pumped upwards by the fuel pump, to
be squirted delicately into the carb,
after which a valve or float or some
sort of flappy metal deeleebobber
leaps around in there, getting the
gas to the engine. Understand?
Good. To continue - yes, there
are a series of tubes and such in
the carb, sticking out here and there
at various odd angles and making it
impossible when rebuilding one of
these things to remember WHICH tube
when where. Lord help you if
you screw the wrong tube into the
wrong home - like I did - because
each of these tubes has a small homing
device located on the end, and will
not accept its new home with grace.
Matter of fact, most will neatly
break in two if you try to plant it
somewhere other than its own hole.
So, a word to the wise here.
I have no idea of these tubes' purpose
in there - other than to annoy and
frustrate you - but VW put them there
so that's a good enough reason for
me. Anyway, the gas next goes
down the throat of the 'intake manifold',
so called because it 'takes in' fuel,
and I don't have a clue as to what
the manifold part is supposed to mean.
But at any rate, the engine sits there,
hungrily awaiting the fuel and hoping
it might be in the form of a cheeseburger
or a taco or at least a chocolate
shake, but no, it's only GASOLINE
- until the manifold splits itself
into four tubes, via some sort of
nuclear fission or something.
But for whatever reason, these four
tubes each go to one 'cylinder', as
a way of delivering the fuel to that
cylinder. Are you with me so
far? Excellent. OK, once
the fuel is in the cylinder it must
be both compressed and ignited to
cause and explosion, which will force
the 'piston' inside up and down.
What's a piston, you are asking?
Well, I'm glad you asked that, because
the piston is really nothing more
than a big overgrown plug of sorts,
which fits tightly into the cylinder.
I think it was meant as a way of blocking
off the cylinder, sort of, so that
when the gas went in, it would explode
and not escape. But, try as
they might, the Powers That Be just
couldn't get that dang piston to fit
tightly enough to seal the top of
the cylinder, so that's why 'piston
rings' were invented.
rings are fitted into the top of each
piston and seal the piston to the
cylinder. Most piston rings
are perfectly well behaved creatures,
and are known as Good rings.
If your rings are Good Rings you won't
know it - which is good - because
they will be doing their thing in
there and happily ringing along.
But, if you rings are Bad Rings, you
will almost certainly know it by the
loss of power and compression you
will experience, and the dense blue
cloud of smoke that will be following
you around. This cloud indicates
that the Bad Rings are allowing oil
to be burned inside the cylinder,
something Good Rings NEVER do because
each cylinder has a tiny sign reading
'gasoline only' on it and the Rings
are supposed to keep everything else
out. But Bad Rings get a kick
out of letting any old thing into
the cylinder to be burned up in there
like gasoline, hence the blue cloud.
Most folks with Bad Rings seem embarrassed
to admit they even have Bad Rings,
since they manage to drive the car
around for several hundred thousand
miles in this condition, emitting
this blue cloud and seemingly ignoring
the fact that they have Rude Rings.
Do not be one of these people, since
it dirties the air and also will dirty
the looks that others throw your way.
Driven long enough in this manner,
your poor VW will certainly sooner
or later cease all semblance of forward
motion, given the fact that the pistons,
rings, and cylinders (and anything
else in the near vicinity at the time)
will all become melted together in
one giant chunk of useless garbage.
I speak from experience here, ask
me, I KNOW. This can happen
to one cylinder at a time, of any
combination of the four, or all four
at once, Heaven forbid. It may
take many years, or could happen in
a very short time. So, it is
best to make sure your rings are Good
Rings right off the bat, or you might
be paying for this folly later on
in the form of your trusty friend
leaving you thoughtfully beside some
stretch of deserted highway.
In the rain. At night. On a holiday
weekend. WHY do rings go bad?
Well, there are several theories,
one being that you didn't put them
in right when you installed them,
but the most popular notion is that
they simply grew up in a broken home
and were ignored as children.
OK, we were saying we needed an explosion
to cause the compression of the fuel,
and for this explosion we needed a
spark. But wait!! Don't
get out your Bic lighter just yet,
that ignition doesn't come from a
flame! Hahahaha, you crack me up!
This is where Mr. Spark Plug comes
in. Mr. S. Plug is screwed into
the end of each cylinder (4 in all,
in a Volkswagen), and when the gas
goes in and gets compressed by the
piston, Mr. Plug sparks, the fuel
explodes and the piston gets pushed.
More or less. Simple, huh?
Don't you wish YOU'D thought of all
this? You'd be a millionaire
by now. But to return to our
subject, HOW this explosion causes
forward (or backward) motion is a
job for Mr. Transmission to answer.
Mr. Tranny, in conjunction with Mr.
Crankshaft and Mr. Camshaft, are the
ones that take care of getting the
power (such as it is) from the engine
to the rear wheels. Now, although
I know a great deal about the VW engine
(and maybe I lied about most of that)
I know next to nothing about Mr. Camshaft
and Mr. Crankshaft, and Mr. Tranny
isn't talking. It has something
to do with Mr. Crankshaft turning
and Mr. Camshaft riding the turns
while the pistons move back and forth
in there. I've been afraid to
ask either one of these guys, because,
frankly, Mr. Crankshaft is, well,
a tad CRANKY. But your transmission,
from what I can gather, is a very
large, very heavy and very cumbersome
device located somewhere near the
back and underneath your car.
Its function is to take the turns
of the engine - known as 'revolutions'
and in no way to be confused with
any sort of military takeover - and
turn them into something the wheels
can understand. All of this
is accomplished by a series of gears
and bearings, possibly an odd kitchen
appliance or two, and several hundred
pounds of a thick black grease.
in the tyranny all this 'torque' is
converted into a rotating motion that
turns the wheels and give you the
forward movement. TAH-DAH!!
Clever, huh? At least I THINK
it works like this. And, exactly
how this is accomplished is still
unclear, even to experts, since there
are no reliable reference books on
the subject. If you look in
any VW shop manual under 'Transmission',
you will see several blank pages,
with the words HAHAHAHAHA written
at the end. However, in the
early days VW did things a little
differently and in the 1959 shop manual
I have for Vernon, there actually
is a short chapter on the transmission.
There is a rather nicely done exploded
drawing, complete with hieroglyphics,
of something called 'reduction gears',
which were invented by Grandpa VW
to transfer the power of a Type II
to the rear wheels. Apparently
one could not just hook up the transmission
of one of these beasts directly to
the engine (as on a sedan) because
of the tremendous horsepower issuing
forth. Something was needed
to slow all that power down, so VW
added reduction gears. At any
rate, the Reduction Gear Family, 10
in all, live in two small boxes on
the inside of each rear axle on a
Type II. Sort of. Each
gear is a different size, and VW cleverly
designed this small box, known and
the Reduction Gear Housing (and not
to be confused with Public Housing)
to leak huge amounts of a gooey oily
substance known as 'gear oil'.
The Reduction Gear Housing has a small
bolt-like apparatus on top, to allow
the frequent addition of ever more
and more gear oil (provided you are
wearing grubby clothes and can even
REACH the thing), which one must do
at regular 5-mile intervals to keep
the R. Gear Family happy. Due
to my crummy attitude about the R.
Gear Family and my lack of suitably
grubby clothes, and given the fact
that I get quite HOSTILE when DISCUSSING
them, this will be all I have to say
on the subject. SO THERE.
Not that I have a leak or anything.
Reduction gears are dandy when climbing
steep hills, carrying heavy loads,
or towing something. Other than
that, they are totally useless and
should be removed at once if you notice
them becoming larger or inflamed.
HAHAHA again, just kidding.
Vernon, in fact, has his reduction
gears intact, and they work just fine
unless you really MIND crawling along
in first gear at every stoplight,
or dealing with any pesky leaks.
You can always take the dang things
out and substitute some sort of hybrid
setup back there. But hey, if
VW put them there, then they must
have had a reason, no matter how hare-brained
it was. And, mine serve to connect
the rear wheels to the axle rather
nicely. So, I've been rather chicken
to disturb this setup. Besides, I
don't know anything about it anyway.
Now that you have a pretty good idea
of how your VW works, you should be
able to fix most problems that arise
yourself. The VW is known the
world over for its reliability and
ease of repair. With your new-found
knowledge still fresh, the next time
you hear that strange clunking or
odd clanking, do what I do:
pull over and check the cigarette
lighter. If you happen to drive
a VW that is not equipped with a cigarette
lighter, then pull over and check
the radio. Failing that as the
cause of your troubles, then I advise
the following: get yourself
to the nearest VW Repair Person, and
take out your checkbook. This
fixes most problems, and is all you'll
ever need to know. Any questions???