How to remove a starter from a 1965 VW Bus

August 9, 2010

This should work on most old aircooled Volkswagens, like the bug or beetle, though you will need to jack up the vehicle in order to get under it and at the starter.

Tools I used:
17mm wrench
13mm wrench

Now before we start it is very important that you disconnect the battery. Also make sure the VW is out of gear with the emergency brake on and the key off or out of the vehicle altogether. These precautions will help to ensure your safety while working on the vehicle. It is entirely possible to start the vehicle while you are underneath it and I am sure your ribcage would appreciate not getting highly compressed today.

First let’s roll under the dub and take a gander at what we are going to be removing. Put down your drop cloth right in front of the rear passenger wheel. Slide your head under there and look up and maybe a little to the rear of the car. You should see something resembling the following.

There should be several wires sticking out of the solenoid. The top wire comes off your ignition switch which sends the signal to power the starter. The large wire with the bolt on it goes to the positive battery post, and the small wire on the bottom is the ground wire. There should be one more wire on the right heading off the solenoid to the starter.

The top starter bolt is a dual purpose bolt. Not only does it hold the starter to the transmission, it also holds the engine to the transmission. So let’s roll out from under the dub and head back to the engine compartment. I did not take a picture of this part because it has to be done by feel and if you are going to wrench on an aircooled VW you need to be able to feel it out. Squat down behind the motor with you 17mm wrench and reach around the right side (passenger side) of the motor. Feel around in the lower region and you will eventually encounter a bolt with a nut on it. Stick the open end of your wrench on the nut and loosen it up. This nut may be difficult to move, as it should be as it holds your motor in your machine. I personally recommend a good set of ratcheting wrenches to help speed up the removal of nuts and bolts in hard to reach or see areas.

Okey dokey, that side is all done. Poke yourself back under the dub. Take your 13mm wrench with you and take the nut off the solenoid. When the wires are off stick the nut back on for safe storage. The ignition and ground wires need to be unattached as well, they may be push on, or held on by a nut. The wire from the solenoid to the starter can remain.

Pull your 17mm wrench back out and remove the bottom nut from the starter. You starter is now loose. You should probably use two hands to pull the starter out as it has some heft to it. Grasp the starter and pull it straight back, be careful not to drop it. Work it through the hoses and all the miscellaneous items until it is safely on the ground.

Your starter may be greasy as mine was, after a little cleanup you should have something looking like…

Congratulations, your starter is now out!

4 thoughts on “How to remove a starter from a 1965 VW Bus

  1. Roger (September 27, 2017)

    What 17 mm wrench do you recommend? Need extra long length if this 17 mm nut is frozen. Thank you (and anyone else?) for your reply or recommendations.

    1. Ben Lobaugh (blobaugh) (September 27, 2017)

      Hi Roger. Interesting question. I used a normal wrench you get in any toolkit. It was not frozen for me. If you have a nut that is frozen I highly recommend spraying some PB Blaster on it. The stuff can unstick darn near any screw or bolt in existence. I have used it to loosen up phillips screws that has rust bonded with the metal they screwed into.

  2. suzanne overton (July 1, 2018)

    replaced manual starer with automatic starter on a 1971 t2 westfalia camper how to wire. manual has two push on terminals. automatic has three push on terminals

    1. Ben Lobaugh (blobaugh) (July 6, 2018)

      By automatic starter are you referring to a remote starting device? I.E. a keyfob that lets you turn on the vehicle from outside?
      I am not familiar with the installation of those. Due to the vehicle having a manual transmission I would assume the third terminal is a signal terminal that tells the starter it is safe to engage. Maybe hooked up to the transmission to ensure the vehicle is in neutral. Take a read of the starters manual or call the manufacturer.

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