Oil Change

APPLICATIONS: Type 1 and Type 4 engines (Beetle, Super Beetle, Bus, Karmann Ghia, Thing, 411, 412, air-cooled Vanagon).

No tech page would be complete without the most basic part of all car maintanence, the oil change. Your oil should be changed every 3000 miles if you have a Type 1 engine and every 5000 miles is fine for the Type 4 engine, since it has an oil filter.


The first step to an oil change is draining the old oil. So, crawl under your car and see what you have. Look at the bottom of the engine case, right in the center, and you will see a round metal plate. This plate is held to the engine case with a number of very small nuts. Your car may or may not have a large bolt in the middle of the plate. If it does, you're lucky! If not, you can buy one with the large bolt. Basically, the large drain plug in the middle of the plate makes it easier to drain the oil. Get your oil pan underneath the plate and if you have the center drain plug, undo it and let the oil drain into the pan. If you don't have the center drain plug, undo the small nuts. You'll get to a point where you've got most of the nuts off and oil has started to drain. At this point, you might as well let the oil drain rather than covering yourself with oil trying to remove the remaining nuts.

Once the oil is drained, the next step is to completely remove the plate. For those with the center drain plug, just undo the small nuts that hold the plate to the case. For those without the center drain plug, undo your remaining nuts and remove the plate.

Once you have the plate off, the oil screen will probably fall out into your oil pan. If not, sometimes it hangs up on the plate mounting studs, so reach up there and pull the oil screen out. This screen is your engine's only method of filtering oil. So, what you want to do is either clean your existing screen or be a big shot and spring the $2 for a new one. The new one will come with the two gaskets you need. If you simply reuse the old screen, you will need to buy the two gaskets. Your best bet is to buy a new screen, which comes with the gaskets and the copper crush washers that go under the plate mounting nuts. Since the copper crush washers cannot be reused, you will need to buy new ones anyway. Reusing the crush washers can lead to stripping the threads in the nuts.

OK, so at this point all the oil has drained and you have the plate, acorn nuts, (center drain plug), and oil screen laying in front of you. Clean any oil sludge off of the plate and clean up the sealing surfaces on the bottom of the engine case with a paper towel. Get it clean so the new gaskets will keep your oil in where it belongs.

OK, now you're ready to put it back together. Hold the oil screen up like it goes into the engine, then put one gasket over it on that side. Shove the whole works up into the engine where it goes, then put the other gasket on. Then put the plate up there and start the acorn nuts (with new crush washers on each one) and the center drain plug (where applicable). First tighten the acorn nuts, but not much at all. The proper torque for these nuts is something ridiculously low, like 5 foot pounds. If you tighten them any more, you're likely to either strip the nut or pull the stud out of the case. So just tighten them snug and then a hair more with a wrench, but be gentle. After you tighten them, then tighten the center drain plug and make that one fairly tight.

Now, crawl out of there and open up the oil fill cap under the generator/alternator. Put in the recommended quantity of oil (check the owner's manual or Bentley) and the proper grade. Whether you want to use synthetic oil is up to you, I won't bother with that tired debate here. I wouldn't recommend synthetic for a Type 1 engine for the simple reason that since the engine has no oil filter, nor does it have a proper oil seal at the pulley end of the crankshaft, you will not be able to take advantage of synthetic's longer oil change intervals. Therefore, you will still have to change the oil just as often. I would use 20W-50 weight conventional oil for most of the warmer climates and 10W-40 for the cooler areas. I wouldn't go below that unless I lived somewhere where it gets really cold. And in the super-hot areas, you may want straight 40W oil. I used 20W-50 in my van in the summer (before I switched to synthetic) and 10W-40 is good for the winter months.

If you have an oil bath air cleaner, now is the time to deal with that as well. The oil in it has to be changed regularly and when better to do it than your oil change? So, remove the air cleaner from the engine (usually a screw-clamp or two) and open it up. Pour the old oil into your oil drain pan and wipe the air cleaner out. Then put new fresh oil in up to the fill line in the air cleaner. Note, this only applies if you have an oil bath air cleaner. If you open your air cleaner and find a paper filter element, DO NOT under any circumstances add oil!

And that's pretty much it for the oil change. Note: This assumes you have a bone-stock Type 1 engine. You should also adjust your valves every 3000 miles, so you should do that at the same time you do your oil change.


The first step to an oil change is draining the old oil. Crawl under your engine and locate the two possible oil drain locations. One is a round metal plate held to the engine case with a 13mm nut in the center. The other is off to the side of the plate and is usually either a regular hex-head drain plug or an allen head drain plug. That's the one you want to remove, if possible. Sometimes the main drain plug is on too tight and then you have to remove the nut that holds the metal plate on.

If you can get the main drain plug out, do so and let the oil drain into your drain pan.

If you have to get the plate out instead, simply undo the 13mm nut in the middle. Sometimes it will fall out, sometimes you will have to coax the plate out. At any rate, the plate hides an oil screen, much like the Type 1 engine, except it attaches differently. You should probably remove the plate anyway, but it's easier and less messy if the oil has already drained. When you get the screen out, clean it up and clean the plate up. Kerosene is good, a paper towel is good too. Just get all the crud off.

Then move on to the oil filter. You will see it on the driver's side of the engine (left), hanging straight down and in a tight spot. You will probably need a cup-type oil filter wrench (available at FLAPS) if you can't get it off with your hands. Tip: while you're at the FLAPS buying the filter, find a cup-type wrench that will fit over the replacement filter and buy that. I'd recommend using a replacement filter from either Mann, Knecht, or Mahle. I'd avoid anything else. Loosen the filter, with wrench or hands, and get the drain pan under it. The filter holds about a half a quart of oil and there will be drips from the filter mount.

Once all the oil has drained out, prep the new filter by opening one of your new oil bottles and sticking your finger in. Get a little oil on your fingertip, and spread it around the rubber gasket on the filter. It helps make the seal. Then wipe off the filter mount with a paper towel and screw the new filter on, hand tight only. Do not use the filter wrench to tighten the filter.

Now, you can put the screen back in, preferably with new gaskets. Put the whole assembly back in the way it came out, and then start the 13mm nut. WARNING: DO NOT overtighten the 13mm nut. The torque spec. is 9 ft-lbs. DO NOT exceed this torque. There is a big warning in the manual about how overtightening this nut can damage the camshaft. So snug it up good, and then a bit beyond, but not much.

Now you can also put the main drain plug back in, and feel free to tighten that one down a good bit.

OK, get out from underneath, open the oil fill cap and add the appropriate amount of your favorite brand/grade oil. I'm using Mobil 1 synthetic 15W-50. If you're going to use regular oil, 20W-50 is a good grade for most climates. I think the spec is 3.7 quarts with filter change, but check the manual. Again, if you have an oil bath air cleaner, now's the time to deal with it, so check the Type 1 engine section for that information.


Check the oil level on the dipstick. It may seem high initially, but the oil needs time to settle, especially in the Type 4 engine, where about 1/2 a quart will stay in the oil filter after starting. Start the engine and check for leaks and also check to make sure the oil pressure light goes out when it's supposed to.

That's it, you're done your oil change. Take the old oil and put it in some kind of container, gallon milk jugs are good. Then take it to your local oil recycling place. Most FLAPS will take waste oil for recycling.

Back to the tech page.