Front McPherson Strut Inserts Servicing & Replacement
Front McPherson Strut Insert Servicing & Replacement, Super Beetle 71-79
By Jim Thompson
Question from Customer: Whatís involved in servicing the Front McPherson Struts on my Super Beetle?
Answer: This is actually easier than it would first appear, provided you have the proper tools to do the job. This requires the rental of a Strut Spring Compressor tool from a local auto parts supply house.
Itís best to note that there are three different strut inserts for the entire production of Super Beetles:
71-Early 73 - Up to VIN 1x3 3003 655
Late 73-Early 75 - Fr VIN 1x3 3003 656 to 133 2219 622 on Sedans,
to VIN 155 2181 800 on Convertibles
Late 75-79 - Fr VIN 133 2219 623 on Sedans, fr VIN 155 2181 801
Be sure to check you VIN before ordering so that you get the correct inserts.
On a level surface, raise the front of the vehicle. Be sure to apply the handbrake, place the shifter in first gear and chock the rear wheels/tires. Use jack stands to hold the vehicle in the raised position, never the let jack do this job as it is unsafe.
Remove both front left and right wheels/tires.
On the left drum, remove the "E" clip that retains the Speedometer Cable end. Remove the cable out from behind the steering knuckle (spindle).
Pry off the Brake Hose/Metal Line retaining plate on the Strut Assembly behind the backing plate. You do not have to disconnect the hose from the line, but if you do, be prepared to bleed the front brakesí hydraulic fluid.
On 71 thru 73 models, bend down the lock plates, then remove the three 10mm bolts that hold the Ball Joint and steering knuckle (spindle) on the strut. On 74-79 models, remove the 2 bolts and nuts that mount steering knuckle (spindle) on the strut.
Pull the bottom of the strut assembly off the steering knuckle (spindle). On 71-73 models, re-install one bolt to support the knuckle (spindle). Itís also a good an idea to get a metal coat hanger to loop through the knuckle (spindle) to somewhere inside the fender to further hold it in place.
Working inside the front Luggage Compartment, remove two of the three nuts holding the Strut Bearing Assembly. Reach under the fender to hold/support the strut assembly while removing the third nut. Carefully remove the strut assembly downward when the nut is removed.
Instructions usually are provided with the Strut Spring Compressor Tool. Follow their instructions as most struts (regardless of the vehicle make) are usually removed/installed in a similar manner. With those instructions, do the following, if needed:
Install the Strut Spring Compressor Tool in a bench vise then install the strut assembly in the tool itself.
Pry off the dust cap at the top of the strut assembly, exposing the upper Strut Bearing Assembly.
Using the Strut Spring Compressor Tool, compress the spring, tightening the compressor bolts a few turns at a time, working alternately.
Using an offset box wrench and an allen wrench, remove the self-locking nut from the Strut Insert piston rod.
Working alternately loosen the compressor bolts until the spring tension is relieved.
Remove the upper Strut Bearing Mount assembly. Inspect the ball bearing. If it is loose, rough or "grainy" in circular movement of the inner race of the bearing, replace the Strut Bearing Mount assembly.
Remove the upper strut spring cover, rubber buffer and protective cover.
Remove the Strut Insert from the Strut Housing. The top of the strut insert on 71-Early 73 and Late 75 thru 79 model struts have a cap with threads and a special tool will be needed to engage the slots on the cap. Late 73 thru Early 75 models have a non-threaded cap which slides off (this is a relative term, they may need to be popped off with a hammer and drift - remember, theyíve been on the housing for a long time).
Remove the Strut Insert from the Strut Housing. These usually just slide right out, but thereís a chance you might encounter a stubborn one. Slide the new Strut Insert into the housing, then attach the cap (remember, the non-threaded style have to be tapped into place by a hammer and drift).
Reinstall the protective cover, the rubber buffer and the upper strut spring cover, in that order.
With the assembly in the bench vise, using the Strut Spring Compressor Tool, compress the spring, tightening the compressor bolts a few turns at a time, working alternately. Continue to compress the spring until unthreaded portion of the Strut Insert pushrod projects about 5/16" to 3/8" over the spring seat (cover).
Install the Strut Bearing Mount assembly, then using the self-locking nut that came with your new replacement Strut Insert. On 71 thru early 73 models, torque the nut 50 to 61 foot pounds. On late 73 thru 79 models, torque the nut to 43 foot pounds. Pack lithium grease into the open area around the lock nut and the bearing then re-install the dust cap.
Carefully uncompress the Strut Assembly, each bolt at a time alternately until the spring is fully uncompressed and seated in the spring seat cover. Remove the Strut Assembly from the Strut Spring Compressor Tool.
Reinstall the Strut Assembly by reaching under the fender and place the 3 mounting studs through the holes (make sure the bottom bolt holes are properly aligned to where it will attach to the steering knuckle (spindle). Attach the three nuts and torque to 14 foot pounds.
This is where a friend comes in handy: Remove that one bolt left on the steering knuckle (and the hanger if you used one) and reinstall the bottom of the Strut Assembly to the steering knuckle (spindle). Re-use or install new lock plates. Torque these bolts to 29 foot pounds.
Realign the Brake Hose/Metal Line to the bracket on the Strut Assembly and reinstall the retaining plate to secure the hose/line.
Reinsert the Speedometer Cable through the inside of the steering knuckle (spindle), through the outside bearing cap. Reattach the "E" Clip to the end of the cable.
Triple check all of your work before lowering the vehicle back to the ground. If for some reason you had to remove the Brake Hose from the Metal Line, you may have to the bleed the brakes hydraulic fluid.