Thursday, October 4, 2012

Volkswagen (VW) Beetle Basics: Additional Gauges- Oil Temperature Gauge

From my previous post on the "Volkswagen (VW) Beetle Basics: The Speedometer and Warning lights for Idiots…"  the simplicity of the Beetle in form and function can be easily seen even in the instrument cluster offering only the very basic: the  Speedometer itself, Odometer, turn signals, fuel gauge, high beam light indicator and the two warning idiot lights (gen/Alt and the oil indicators). 
Volkswagen Beetle 1971-1979 from
Any VW purist can easily defend the austere instrumentation as simplicity that worked as it served its basic purpose well.  As much as I would want to maintain the pristine workmanship of the classic VW, as a practical car newbie not completely confident of basic car engine knowledge and maintenance in general, any additional information I can get from my engine to hopefully anticipate road disasters I believe would help take the edge off my deficiencies. Here are the gauges I added to my VW beetle over the years mostly due to consultations with my VW buddies:

Oil Temp Gauge 
VDO 310901 Cockpit Style Cylinder Head Temperature Gauge
 2 1/16" Diameter, Black Dial Face
The stock Beetle engine has no temperature indicator. Any old school VW enthusiast though can very well tone down your concern by offering bug built-in alternatives to what is a very basic indicator requirement for all cars today which can range from the practical to the theoretical. One very practical “indicator”  is the oft repeated guide that if a Beetle engine is truly overheated, you will not be able to touch the dipstick handle for even a couple seconds, without burning you fingers.   Yet the basic instrument cluster itself is enough for the standards of some VW purists who will argue that an overheated engine would force one of the two "idiot" lights to come on. Theoretically, an overheated engine's oil would run thin causing pressure to drop enough at idle that the green light would come on. With my newbie fear of not wanting to wait for my oil to thin out to know that I have a problem, I decided to go with an additional gauge to help me anticipate this potential issue. 
VDO Oil Temperature Gauge Kit (with Sump Sender)
In non technical terms, an oil temperature gauge is a simple electronic device that uses a temperature sensor usually housed in a brass fitting attached to some part of the engine whose heat would represent oil temperature.  It should be noted though that the primary purpose of the temperature gauge is not to tell you exactly in degrees Centigrade/Fahrenheit what the temperature of your engine oil at a given time but rather to identify changes in temperature. As you get familiar with the normal operating temperature ranges of your VW through the use of the gauge (in hot and cold weather- they are different for the air-cooled engine) the more important information the oil temperature gauge should give you is NOT exactly the precise numbers itself but to answer the question: “is my engine is running hotter than normal?” With a more graduated gauge as a guide, you can even start “playing” around with it in relation of course to the VW cooling system mentioned in my previous posts (VW engine cooling system components.VW Idiosyncrasies:Overview of the VW engine cooli...VW Idiosyncrasies: How an Air-cooled Engine Works) on cooling flaps, cooling tins, Fan shroud and thermostat, etc. and potential other temperature related accessories like oil sump plate, full flow oil system, etc.   



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