How to Service an Air Cooled Engine After Long Term Storage

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Vintage Volkswagens use air cooled engines.
Vintage Volkswagens use air cooled engines.

After an air cooled engine has been in storage for a number of years, there are checks that you must make to ensure that the engine is able to fire up again. In most cases, the engine will be adequately protected from the elements if it is sealed and stored correctly -- that is, with the crankcase filled with fresh oil and all the fuel drained out of the fuel tank and carburetor.

Things You'll Need

  • Gasoline
  • Replacement hoses
  • Spark plugs
  • Spark plug wires
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Instructions

  1. Inspection

    • 1

      Open the hood of the vehicle and prop it so that it is firmly in place. Remove any cobwebs or nests that may have been built in the engine compartment.

    • 2

      Inspect the rubber hoses and wires in the engine compartment, and especially the fuel lines, to make certain that they are not cracked or damaged. If there is evidence of cracking, they must be replaced.

    • 3

      Loosen the wing nut that holds the air cleaner in place. Beneath this is the carburetor. With the air cleaner and element removed, you will be able to see the mechanism inside, called the "butterfly." Check to make certain that there is no debris lying on top of the butterfly, and that it does not appear to be jammed shut.

    • 4

      Sniff the area just above the carburetor. You will smell either gasoline or turpentine. If you smell gasoline, then the fuel system was properly stored. If you smell turpentine or anything other than gas, then the gasoline has gone bad inside the fuel lines and has formed a sludge. This requires replacement of the entire fuel system.

    • 5

      Check the tailpipe to make certain that no mice or other small animals have taken up residence.

    Service

    • 6

      Disconnect the old battery from the vehicle. Chances are that it will no longer hold a charge for very long, but you can have the battery tested if you wish to keep the vehicle as original as possible.

    • 7

      Drain the engine oil and then remove the oil filter. Even if the vehicle was stored with new oil inside, the oil may not have the same lubricating properties that it had when it was new, particularly if the vehicle was stored for more than five or 10 years. Replace the oil filter and the drain plug, and then fill the engine with fresh oil.

    • 8

      Replace the fuel system, if necessary. Depending on the vehicle, and the number of years it has been stored, this may mean removing the fuel tank, fuel lines, pump and injector. The fuel tank can be cleaned, if necessary, but the remaining components should be replaced.

    • 9

      Install a new battery in the vehicle, and then add fuel to the cleaned gas tank. Try to start the vehicle. The vehicle should fire up, but it may not run for long. If it won't fire, begin by replacing the spark plugs, followed by the spark plug wires and the distributor. If necessary, replace the starter motor, and then try the engine again. It should start right up if the pistons aren't frozen in place. If they are, then the engine is irreparably damaged and should be replaced if you intend to restore the vehicle.

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References

  • "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot"; John Muir; 2001
  • Photo Credit Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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