Sunday, September 23, 2012

Volkswagen (VW) Beetle Basics: The Speedometer and Warning lights for Idiots…

The title actually is only for idiots like me uninitiated with the very basic workings of a Volkswagen (VW) Beetle specifically the parts of the VW instrument cluster and what the warning (commonly termed as “idiot“) lights mean.  


'79 VW Bug Instrument Panel
from samba.com
Volkswagen Beetle 1971-1979
from volkszone.com

Vintage Original VW Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 Speedometer-1965 w/o Fuel Gauge

The "instrument cluster" is the big circular dial in the dashboard in front of the steering wheel which consists of the following:
·         Speedometer is the big dial itself that tells you how fast you’re going.

·      Odometer is a series of wheels with numbers on them that rotate as the car travels indicative of the cumulative distance the car has travelled.
o        earlier models- the right-most number is miles (or kilometers), and so-forth to the left.
o        later models- the extreme right number is 10th  of a mile (or kilometer); next to the left is miles, tens of miles, hundreds of miles, and so on.

·        Fuel gauge needle moves across a series of marks and indicative of the amount of fuel remaining in the tank. Not all VWs have this.

·          Lights- a sample ‘65 Beetle speedometer have 5 lights in it:
o        Top
§         high beam warning light (blue)
§         Speedometer light (clear) - provide instrument cluster face illumination at night. Note: On later-model cars there is a rheostat switch (right of the headlight switch) that controls the brightness of the light.
o        Bottom middle
§   turn signal indicator (green)- a two-headed arrow which blinks timed with the directional signals outside the car.
o        Bottom left and right

§     2 Warning (idiot) lights are found on either side of the turn signal indicator. 
     With the ignition turned ON, both lights should turn ON. Both should go OUT when the engine is running. No "Gen/Alt" light when you turn the ignition ON means that circuit is incomplete and you'll get no battery charging. This may be okay to get you home, but you can't leave it like that for very long at all. 

§"Alt" (or "Gen") light- left light (red) indicates the function of the generator or alternator. If this light goes on and stays on, stop the car immediately as there is something wrong in the electrical system. Following are the most common reasons for this :



·    A broken fan belt -is the first thing to check. If broken or loose, the alternator is not working and you're running entirely on the battery which won't last long. More importantly, if the generator/alternator belt is broken the fan inside the fan housing (on the other end of the generator/alternator shaft) is not turning with no cooling air provided to the engine, this can cook your engine in a few miles. In either case, drive the car NO FURTHER until the generator/alternator belt can be replaced. Replace and retension the fan belt.

·        The generator/alternator itself is defective. You may be able to still drive the car safely with this for a short while on the battery but this will rapidly drain – (6-8 hours with the headlights off and at most 2-3 hours with the lights on. Note: With a bench charger, you can charge the battery up overnight and then drive the car the next day (you won't harm the alternator even if it's not working). Get the alternator fixed/replaced as soon as possible, as you won’t be able to drive far on the battery alone!

§    "Oil" light- right light (green in earlier models, red in later). If it goes on or flickers at speed, STOP! This may indicate:

·         Low oil condition (more likely) - Stop and check as it may just need a quart of oil. Note: "Oil" light may also go ON temporarily with hard cornering, as oil sloshes in the sump to the right or left. This also indicates a low oil condition, but NOT as critical to stop immediately and top it off but can be done the following day.
·         You  may be in for an engine overhaul- extreme.



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