New Battery and Seat Cover Repair

After sitting through the winter, the battery in the beetlebug was dead. After having the car for two years, this is only the third time the battery has gone flat. The first time was actually not from a lack of use at all. I was in the habit of starting the car up and letting it run every couple of weeks. I would let it heat up, then drive it back and forth in the driveway a few times to keep all the moving parts lubricated.

After one of those sessions, I found the battery was dead a couple of days later. It turns out the old style generators don’t charge at idle like more modern alternators. Letting the car sit and idle will actually run the battery down.

The battery is under the back seat. So, I flipped the passenger seat back forward and heard the terrible sound of seat cover ripping. One of the upholstery spikes on the bottom rail was fully extended. It tore a long gouge in the seat cover and new foam padding I installed last spring.

I connected jumper cables to my truck and started the car. I left the cables connected, hoping to get a better charge off the truck’s alternator. After letting it run for ten or fifteen minutes, I disconnected the jumper cables and turned off the car. When I turned the key, the battery was still completely dead.

I was curious about the old battery. When I pulled it out, I noticed all of the labels/stickers/branding was gone. It has top and side posts and a handle, which is convenient.

Something else caught my eye, it had condensation all over. I’m assuming that’s what happened to all the stickers.

Next, I took the passenger seat out to repair the seat cover.

I carried the seat up to the porch to have a more stable place to work on it. I separated the two halves of the seat and found the offending article.

So, I pounded that one flat. The others in the area hadn’t found daylight through the seat cover, but they weren’t exactly out of harm’s way, so I flattened them as well.

Taking inventory of the situation…

First, I glued the chunks of foam back into place with some Scotch Maximum Strength Adhesive I had laying around. In my experience, this stuff doesn’t hold up well over time. To be fair, none of the others that I have tried to either. Also, the nozzle broke in half, glued to the cap, so at least it sticks to its own packaging.

While I let that dry in the sun, I headed out to the parts store.

I haven’t purchased a battery in a few years and was surprised to find that prices have doubled. It was $194.99 for a Super Start Size 42 T5 – 42PRM (O’Reilly link).

I sprayed the anti-corrosion stuff on the terminals and installed the new battery.

Back to the front (YOU WILL DO WHAT I SAY WHEN I SAY). Sorry.


…seat, I cut an oversized piece of the black vinyl that I used to recover the dash pad last year. Because the patch piece was so much bigger than the hole in the seat cover, it took some creative contortion and origami to get it in there and laying flat.

I used the rest of the tube of glue in between the vinyl patch and the shreds of seat cover to hold it in place. I thought about trying to stitch those edges together, pulling them tight. However, these old seat covers are so brittle, I knew the upholstery thread would have just pulled through.

It doesn’t look great as is, but luckily, the damage is at the back of the seat pad, right below the seat back. It’s not noticeable until you flip the seat back forward.

Let’s Try to Get This Horn Working

In my previous post, Replacing the Ignition Switch, I didn’t have much success getting the horn tooting again after having the steering wheel apart. This evening, I’m taking it all back apart to see if I can clean up the contacts and reassemble it correctly.

I armed myself with some emery paper and a can of WD-40 Contact Cleaner (Amazon link).

I got the copper horn contact ring polished up first.

Next I would need to move on to all of that old hardware.

And finally, cleaned off the contact ring in the wheel itself.

I have had this all apart a few times now, for different reasons, including trying to get the horn working again after taking it apart the first time. At best, I have been able to get it kinda working in one direction or the other if you hold your mouth just right.

I googled it and came up with the following image on the samba, credited to a site that doesn’t have that image up anymore.

That’s a picture I snapped with my phone off the laptop screen, so copy of a copy of a copy, but it’s clear enough for me to make sure it all went back together as intended. What a pain.

Also, it didn’t work and the horn is still nah, bro.

Replacing the Ignition Switch

As mentioned in Replacing Door Lock Cylinders (Again), I purchased a pair of door handles and ignition switch with matching key at Bugs & Buggies Kustom Autowerks in Denton, NC. I replaced the door lock cylinders in that post last month, but had moved on to other things and never got around to replacing the ignition switch.

Yesterday evening after work, I started disassembling the steering wheel/horn/turn signal assembly to be able to get to the ignition switch.

I only got so far before I found that I didn’t have the right size socket. My largest Stanley set only goes up to 22mm. Then of course, I have a 32mm impact socket for the axle nuts. Anyway, the info I found online said it was either going to be a 24mm or 27mm, with 27mm being the appropriate one for a 1968.

I went to O’Reilly and picked up both 24mm and 27mm deep well sockets. It was dusk by the time I got home and settled. So, I put it off until this evening.

It was a 27mm nut after all.

The metal cover/trim piece around the ignition switch was only held on by one screw. The other one was missing. That’s fine. One screw appears to be plenty. It isn’t exactly a comfortable fit to get back in there. When I removed the screw, it fell off the end of the screwdriver and tried to fall down into the steering column cover.

With the key in the ignition, I was able to pull the switch assembly out a little bit. From there I got a pick down into a hole and released the tumbler/switch.

The new tumbler/switch mounted up with no issues.

So I then started buttoning it all back up.

From what I have read, 1968 is a unique year in this area. The ignitions are supposed to be interchangeable 1968 through 1970. This new one is from a 1970 model. I’m not sure what’s happening. Once I got it all reassembled (with the horn working perfectly, BTW) I found that the key wouldn’t pull back out of the ignition.

I have heard that the 1969-70 models had a steering lock on the ignition and 1968 does not. That may be what’s happening here. The two cylinders appear to be physically identical. Once the new one is slotted all the way back in and tight, the key won’t come out when in the Off position.

I had to completely disassemble it, including undoing my masterful horn ring adjustment…

I found that if I don’t fully seat the switch – with just a tiny gap – everything functions properly. However, in that state, you can pull the ignition switch out with the key when the car is on. I will have to be careful not to leave the switch hanging on my key ring. It happened with the car running a couple of times already.

When I got it all buttoned up, the horn wasn’t working properly. I had this problem last time I had it apart, when replacing the horn ring. After fussing with the three screws for a long while, I could only achieve one of the following. One side works, the other side works, or constantly honking. I never actually got it fully functional again.

I’m going to put this away for now. I will tear it all back apart soon to get those contacts cleaned up. I have some WD-40 Electrical Contact cleaner spray. I’ll hose everything down with and scuff up the contact surfaces to get them all shiny.

Hopefully, I don’t need to replace the plastic/nylon isolators around the horn ring screws. They are available to order online if it comes to that.

Windshield Wiper/Washer Switch – Part 2

In Part 1, I connected a windshield wiper/washer switch from a Peterbilt truck in my 1968 Beetle and greatly improved functionality by adding intermittent wiper speeds.

When I opened the bonnet, I noticed the new seal I mounted had pulled out of the channel. I fixed that and moved on.

I got the new switch mounted, but the shaft is just a little too short for the knob to mount and push button work properly.

There’s a little set screw on the bottom of the knob. I struggled finding a screwdriver that would fit it. I eventually used one that came with a pair of glasses I bought.

In following with the quality level of other parts I have bought in the last year, the threads on the new switch were toast after test fitting it the first time. The threads are 11 x 1.0. Ask me how I know…

There was a double nut, one on the back side and a washer/nut on the front side. The shaft was almost long enough to work, so I may have gotten away with just removing the back nut, but I decided to file down those cross markings on the face of the switch to gain an extra 1/32″ of an inch or so.

I got that mounted and the switch was physically functional, so mission accomplished. Next, I moved on to mounting the washer tank. There’s no flat surface in there, since the original tank sat in a cubby hole behind the spare tire. The metal return line for the gas tank has solid body brackets in place and I was able to assemble an array of zip ties (seven of them, to be exact) and got the tank mounted.

And now for the last two wires, running power from the push button on the switch to the fluid pump in the tank and a ground. The original switch was grounded on its face to the dash metal, so there was no specific ground wire.

On the end of the blue (blue?) ground wire on the pump, I added some green wire (green?) and attached a female spade connector for the ground wire on the new switch, a forked adapter to attach to the body ground. On the power line, I added an inline fuse holder with a 10 amp fuse.

Once that was connected and routed around the front trunk, I added a little washer fluid and tried it out.

If the video embed isn’t showing, here’s the link:

As you can see, either the original nozzles are missing from the spray head or it was just that way by design. In either case, it’s kind of a gusher. The tank/pump came with two spray heads, so I mounted one of them.

And then buttoned everything back up. Success.

Windshield Wiper/Washer Switch – Part 1

I had previously (twice) ordered new windshield wiper/washer knobs and buttons. I need a new knob because the old one tends to spin on the threads when I try to turn the wipers off. I wanted a new button just for vanity reasons, the print has mostly worn off.

The new knobs had differing belly depths, neither of which would work. The new buttons also both had differing pin lengths, neither of which would work with either the new or old knobs. More junk.

The original plan was to keep the existing switch and find an original washer tank and hook it all back up to the spare tire to get it all functional. It’s such a charming and weird setup.

As I was googling around looking for alternatives, Amazon pops up with this item (Amazon link) from Peterbilt models 378/379/387/220.

I did some further reading and it had the right number of wires (6) and right number of speeds (2), so I decided to give it a try. With all the aftermarket parts failures I’ve had in the last year, I guess that’s where I’m at. Peterbilt? Sure.

There’s just as much of a chance it will work as something that is listed specifically for my model and year of Beetle.

I also ordered an add-on washer fluid tank and pump (Amazon link). We’ll get to that later.

First, I need to figure out the wiring for the switch and see if it’s going to work. I found a bunch of info on the samba, with various wiring diagrams.

I clearly don’t understand how to read wiring diagrams, because the notes below are what I wrote down on my cheat sheet before heading outside. The Pete switch came with connector pinouts with wire colors.

Step one in the car was to get the old switch out. This is all much easier (though still not easy) with the radio opening in the dash still empty.

When I pulled the switch out, there were extra wires that weren’t on the diagrams or my notes.

So, I got out my test light and mapped each connector.

Vape in the ashtray is a nice touch.

When I went back through and started connecting wires to the new switch, clearly my notes above had a couple of problems. Eventually, I found a magical combination:

With these four pairs of wires connected, I have what appears to be a huge variety of intermittent wiper speeds (on the slow end, like 30 seconds, and up to like one second), then a click for low speed and a second click for high speed. Of course, it’s an old Beetle, so high speed would be overwhelmed by a light shower, but anyway…

WOW. Another win!

Ironically, it’s about to start raining, so I’ll pick this up tomorrow and finish the job.

Replacing a Parking Brake Cable

I’m about to replace the parking brake cable on the driver side, but I started off the day by reinstalling the missing knobs in the dash.

I have purchased two new wiper/washer knob sets and neither have fit correctly. The existing one has a tendency to spin on the threads when you turn the wipers on, making it difficult to turn them back off. Also, visually, the print is worn off the washer button. So, here we are, with the old button and knob mounted again.

Now, moving onto that parking brake cable. As mentioned in a previous post, the driver’s side cable adjustment was screwed down all the way and the brake was barely grabbing back there. I had the new cable on hand, so let’s dig in.

I peeled back the new rubber cover I had put on earlier and removed the double nuts.

Then I got the rear wheel up in the air and removed the cable mounting plate from the back side of the brake assembly.

It took a lot of finagling the cable ends and moving back and forth between the driver’s seat and the rear wheel, but eventually, I was able to get the old cable out. It was covered in thick, black axle grease, so that’s good.

Once I got the new cable slathered up with axle grease and fed back through to the front, it took a lot of wrangling to actually get it pulled up through from the tunnel. By the time I snapped the next picture, I had removed both front seats and the parking brake handle assembly. That made it a lot easier to get into place.

Time for a break. BEER ME.

OK, back at it.

The new cable I bought already had a crack in the black plastic sleeve. The parts aftermarket manufacturers and sellers should seriously be ashamed of themselves. I have never consistently bought so much garbage in my life.

After getting the wheel mounted and brake adjusted, I was then able to get the cable adjusted. I want to not be able to turn the wheel by hand with the parking brake handle about 3/4 of the way up. The cables will eventually stretch and brake shoes wear, so it’s good to have some room left to adjust the cable tighter as needed.

And now the rubber cover is back in place and not stretched over a hot spot of that long cable end.

Brakes again.

I previously fixed the passenger side rear brake and got it adjusted. Now it’s time for me to check the driver side.

One could wonder why the parking brake wasn’t working… I found when clipping the end of the cable back in place, there was a lot of slop and I could imagine in normal use, it could work its way off. When I was recently reviewing old posts here, I noticed when I first looked at the parking brake cables, the driver side cable was tightened down as far as it would go. Maybe this is why.

So, I clipped it back together and re-adjusted the brakes. Tightening that cable all the way back down and applying the parking brake would almost stop the wheel from turning (by hand).

Note to self: The driver side cable is the one that needs to be replaced. Now I know it is just stretched, not broken.

Then I took the passenger side wheel off again and re-adjusted the brakes.

I then tightened the passenger side cable to where I couldn’t turn the wheel by hand with the parking brake lever about 3/4 of the way up. The rear passenger side wheel is now rock solid when the parking brake is on.

I remembered that I had purchased a new dust boot cover for the parking brake assembly. Now that the parking brake is working again, this is the perfect time to install the new boot.

It’s a big stretch and not a comfortable fit. With the heater vent levers pulled through, there was just no flex or stretch to be had.

Let’s move into the back seat for better leverage.

From there, I was finally able to stretch the boot into place.

I had to put in some effort to get the carpet stretched back enough to allow all that excess rubber to be hidden below.

But, I eventually got it. You can see in the pic above, that extra long parking brake cable trying to push through the top of the dust boot.

Now, I can run, stop, and check my mail at the top of the driveway when I get home. The parking brake is essential in the mountains.

This was a much needed win.

Reinstalling the Dash Pad – Part 1

Back out in the car, it’s time to mount this monstrosity and try to put the end result into perspective. It’s hard to tell how it looks when it’s on its own. You need to see it in context. So, off we go.

First, I mounted those long bolts in the corners.

I put all of the knobs and ash tray back in place.

Some of the knobs didn’t fit properly through the new holes with the additional vinyl pushed down through.

I mounted the grab handle and soon realized some of the cuts I had made in the vinyl below the glove box were too close. That’s a job for another day.

My goal has always been not to have visible patches, where I had to add vinyl after the fact, but that looks really bad. It’s a job for another day.

I don’t remember the ash tray being difficult to open before, but it’s really stiff. Like really stiff. The dash pad and extra layer of vinyl aren’t making contact with it, it’s just super tight.

I had stopped at Lowe’s earlier today and bought some new stainless sheet metal screws and washers. All of those that I removed from the dash pad before were mismatched, some were flat head, some were Phillips, some were shorter and longer.

The screw holes along the bottom weren’t lining up properly as I tried to screw them in and I was quickly losing light, so we’ll call it a day and call that a job for another day.

Wrapping the Dash Pad – Take 2 – Day 2

OK, we’re back at it.

I’ve got to tighten up some of these loose corners, making little cuts, gluing little bits, and holding them down.

There’s a soft ridge around the hole for the speedometer that isn’t yet taking an acceptable shape.

There were some more gaps over here that needed some more flaps and glue.

It’s starting to look pretty rough around the corners of the glove box. That needs some more cuts and glue.

We’re getting there, slowly, but surely.

I peeled the loose edge of the vinyl back and glued up underneath the long, straight edge along the bottom of the driver side. CHOPSTICK ENGAGE!

The edge was too thick there to clamp with binder clips or clothes pins. I just held it there for a couple of minutes.

Once that set up, I moved on and started cutting, gluing, and clothes pinning some of the detail edges around the gauge cluster and stereo.

There are lots of loose little flaps around the glove box opening. More glue, more binder clips.

Moving on, there are some more loose edges around the driver side which were exposed after cutting off some more excess. Then I remembered I have this ratcheting clamp, which fit nicely on the large bottom corner. Clothes pins fit the rest of the smaller edges nicely.

I have removed quite a bit of excess vinyl, which has just been piling up over here.

Enough of that for the moment, I decided to move back onto the ash tray, trying to find a suitable substitute for the missing spring clip washer thing that’s missing. I started twisting up little mechanics wire fittings, but nothing would grip it properly long term.

That’s the fancy new afghan my mom made for me. She would be so happy to see dirty tools laying on it.

So, then I gave up and glued the face onto the ash tray.

I picked up that little tube of Scotch Maximum Strength Adhesive ( link) to serve as a backup for the contact cement when trying to get the vinyl headliner glued back down. I used it liberally behind the face of the ash tray and also on the inside, to cover the pegs.

The face of the ash tray isn’t flat, it has a slight angle, so I couldn’t just clamp it down. I found just the right angle in the vice to put pressure on the contact surface to let that glue set.

Now that the corners of the dash pad are starting to get cleaned up, I decided it would be a good time to re-mount the mounting bolts.

We’re still a little flappy around the stereo opening, so that’s the next place for cuts, glues, and clothes pins.

And then some more clips around loose edges in the glove box opening.

Another big corner, you say? Sounds like another job (the exact same job) for the ratcheting clamp.

Back to the ash tray, now quite a bit later, the glue has held well. Trying to pull the pieces apart, gingerly at first, then with increasing effort, there is a little creaking sound, but it doesn’t budge.

Good enough.

Back to the dash pad, I moved on to opening up the holes for the switches.

It’s kind of creepy looking. Like Blair Witch crosses.

I had been noticing little puddles of glue in places that I hadn’t intentionally put them and was just convinced I was being extra sloppy. Then I saw it…

Death by a thousand little squeezes.

I found some more loose edges around the glove box opening. You can see how much extra glue I was using once I realized the tube was leaking. That’s not a great approach. More of this glue is not better.

Another edge on the glove box opening, just below the new opening for the grab handle.

And now we’re here, kinda rough, but still kinda done, mostly because I’m kinda done with it.

I mounted the matte vintage blue painted grills and speedometer bezel, bending the metal tabs around the back to hold them in place.

It doesn’t look great, but it looks better than it did. That has been an ongoing theme with this car.

Wrapping the Dash Pad – Take 2 – Day 1

After failing to vinyl wrap the old dash pad the first time, I ordered a new dash pad, which didn’t fit. So… Plan B was always to try wrapping the vinyl again. There’s lots of leftover glue on there.

I ordered some new vinyl (Amazon link), which took a while to get here and is different than what I bought before.

This is some very nice PU Leather Fabrir 2 Yards NEW.

It has a kind of fabric backing instead of the thick 3M adhesive that the previous vinyl (Amazon link) had.

I found that rubbing the dried glue made some of it flake off around the edges. To give my thumbs a rest, I whipped out a little nylon brush that came in a Harbor Freight set (Harbor Freight link). It did a better job than my thumbs.

What I didn’t think of was that is still glue. It’s stuck all over the new vinyl. Luckily, there are 2 Yards NEW and I can just use the other end for today’s project.

Cut to size…


I sprayed a stripe of 3M Super 77 (Amazon link) three or four inches wide on both the fabric and the dash pad.

I waited for it to get tacky (you know how we do) and started smoothing the vinyl down all around the top edge. Try to leave no wrinkles.


I flipped the dash pad over, so it was face down (you know how we do). I sprayed another few inches of glue to cover the face and underside, and then waited for it to get tacky.

Apparently, I didn’t learn from dash pad covering part one, because I stretched the vinyl over the whole face, not accounting for the low spots. The glue is drying rapidly and I have to stop to cut holes for the dash and gauge area. I guess I moved quickly enough, because I got it wrapped up pretty well.

No PB Blaster was harmed in the wrapping of this dash pad. It was only there as a prop to stand the dash pad up while the glue was drying. There’s a teeny-tiny wrinkle here that I spent a lot of time working on.

The radio area is not too bad.

Now the first corner wrinkle doesn’t look so bad.

Overall, not too bad.

Now it’s time to start digging into that detail work. Cutting in the edges, another shot of glue – this time the Gorilla Clear Grip (Amazon link).

Loads of wrinkles around the outside edges now.

I need to trim all of the excess to give myself some room to work in there.

Binder clips around one of the side vent openings.

There’s a wide-open corner here, from all of the excess vinyl that was wrapped up in there.

Loaded all the edges up with glue and folded them in.

Binder clips are great for these vent openings.

And all the flat tabs where there are screw holes.

I have soooo many binder clips. I love them.

We’re getting more and more presentable over here. I like it.

The other top corner was as mess as well and needed to be dealt with.

I’ll give it six out of ten. F PLUS.

I needed to get out in the sunlight after being hunched over on the basement floor all day.

So, I headed out and put my big ass to work, getting the rear seat, well, seated. It’s a tighter fit now with all of that padding.

I hope I don’t have to jump start or charge the battery any time soon. Getting underneath that rear seat, then putting it back in place is just about my least favorite thing. Other than dealing with drum brakes.

So I previously spray painted the spring lever on top of the ash tray. The 1634 was shooting silly string and apparently didn’t adhere to this metal, either.

Bummer. So I moved on to trying to lock that other tab in place. I had several pieces of metal, the little clip that speakers mount into. Kind of a washer with a split in it to catch the threads. Anyway, whatever those are called, I had a handful of them (had) and made a few attempts at bending them into shape to grip that little knob (you know how we do). But, nothing held firm for long.

Another job for another day another job for another day another job for another day another job for another day