Author Topic: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle (correction: SB Shimmy!)  (Read 478 times)

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Offline kinggeorge13

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So after shelling out a fair amount for new rubber for the Beetle we bought last summer I've learned that it's very likely that these particular wheels are wider than the original and do not "seat" correctly on the hubs and need spacers added or they will wobble very noticeably at higher speeds.   The wheels came with the car but the rubber on them was cracking along the sides like I've never seen before so we bought newer rubber.   It surprised me a little that these were possibly not original because they do have the little VW Castle on the hub cover (I think that's what it's called).   Maybe from a newer VW?   Dunno.

Anyways, one of the next weeks' projects is to figure out if this is true and if so, how exactly I figure out what I need for sizing  of these spacers and get them ordered and installed.   New stuff to learn!   


« Last Edit: April 17, 2019, 07:26:19 AM by kinggeorge13 »
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline Bruce

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2019, 05:23:30 PM »
The wheels you have are called EMPI 8s or EMPI 8 spokes. They are not an original VW wheel, but an aftermarket wheel originally sold by EMPI in the late 60s.  Your wheels will not be original 50 year old wheels, but more common contemporary reproductions.

What makes you think they don't "seat" properly?  Do they not sit flat against the front drum?  Wheel spacers is unlikely to be the solution.  Besides, they will likely cause the wheel to stick out of the fender.

Offline kinggeorge13

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2019, 07:12:21 AM »
The wheels you have are called EMPI 8s or EMPI 8 spokes. They are not an original VW wheel, but an aftermarket wheel originally sold by EMPI in the late 60s.  Your wheels will not be original 50 year old wheels, but more common contemporary reproductions.

What makes you think they don't "seat" properly?  Do they not sit flat against the front drum?  Wheel spacers is unlikely to be the solution.  Besides, they will likely cause the wheel to stick out of the fender.

Wellll.....you'd think I'd have a good answer for that full of details and my experience......except I don't.   When we got the car the original tires were so cracked and worn (the edges of the treads were very well into delaminating) that I said to the guy who drove it over from the Island "You are pretty brave to drive that on the highway".   Anyways, just driving it around Langley a little got the wheels seeming to be shaking and unhappy whenever we went over 80km/hr.    I'm not quite so brave so we bought new tires and had a shop replace them and balance them.   However, the person who worked on them said we are going to need (I'm pretty sure he said spacers) because the wheel does not fit properly against the hub or would not fit perfectly over it or something.  I'm thinking now it might have been a good idea to get a more detailed explanation.....   This was back last fall and we were putting the Beetle into our parking garage for the winter so I'll admit my keen memory may not be as detailed as it would have been back then.   Note that the car has not yet been tested back up above that 80km/hour mark because we simply drove it home from the tire place and put it into garage storage figuring to deal with the wheels/spacers next spring (which is now).

So with pressure from my wife this week to get her Beetle convertible back on the road instead of just playing with my buses every day, I turned my attention to the Beetle Wheel Project and wrote this post.   

Ok, so I'm going to go pull off a wheel or two today and see what's up.  Hopefully I'll see what the tech saw and understand the situation. 
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline bwaz

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2019, 08:01:25 AM »
Wouldn't a spacer more be needed if the center of the wheel is too narrow for the dust cap, or the wider wheels hit the fender wells? You should see marks from the rubber rubbing if that's the case. Can't see how spacers would change the wheels shaking at speed.... unless they're bad ones. Aftermarket disc brakes so the rim doesn't seat well? 
brian waz

Offline pittwagen

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2019, 08:10:59 AM »
What is the width of the front tire?

How much space is there between the tire and the coil spring?  Can you get your fingers between the tire and the spring by reaching over the top of the tire with the tire on the ground.  Both sides the same?

Did you inquire about the front suspension before you bought the car?  Ever heard of the super beetle wobble, shake or shimmy?  Do a search on the Samba.  Your front end may need to be completely rebuilt.  Get your check book out. 

Offline Brenticon

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2019, 08:16:10 AM »
Isn't shaking because of the super front suspension/linkage?
A lot of new rims come or need centering rings.
I'm guessing that is what "the guy" meant.
Just my two cents

Offline pittwagen

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2019, 08:28:07 AM »
Shaking is most likely explained by worn out and poorly maintained front end parts.  Nothing wrong with the design.  The front end on my 73 Super is tight.  No shakes, wobbles or shimmies ever in almost 46 years.

Offline Chris

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Re: New project: wheel spacers for my 1979 Super-Beetle
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2019, 08:59:47 AM »
I had a similar issue with a 73SB years ago, it ended up being that the suspension towers were rotten from inside, you couldnt see much as it had been resprayed, but the fix was replacing the metal and problem solved.

Offline kinggeorge13

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Ok, been meaning to post an update for a couple days and finally have some time.   So the front wheels are fine.   I think I found what the tech thought was a problem with the back wheels but I'm now kinda thinking it's just the way they are.    When you put the rear wheel on, it definitely goes up against the hub nice and flat.   However it is not "snug" on the center part of the hub that juts out with the large bolt.   It's got space to move around.  However as I experimented with putting the lug bolts in and slowly getting them in enough that they were lightly holding the wheel up against the hub but not tightly.  I found I could just barely move it at all.   Just a wee bit tighter and it no longer allowed jiggling.  So I assume this means that the wheel gets centered properly by the tightening of the lug bolts rather than the center hub.    I think the tech probably thought it was moving around too much after putting the first lug bolt on or something.   Anyone think I have this incorrect, please let me know.  So yep, just you guys suggested: not a problem that has anything to do with needing spacers.

So I did some driving tests.   The car does have a shimmy for sure.  When I get over 80km/hr going straight it's ok.  But any kind of turning at 80+ even a minor gentle one gets a shimmy in the front end that directly affects the steering wheel in the range of "Bloody Hell!" all the way to "Holy Crap!!".    Slowing down and straightening out is the only way to solve it.  So it did not take too much time to research and confirm what some of you guys suggested: I'm fairly sure that our little Beetle has the renowned Super Beetle Shimmy.   So looks like time to get under there and figure out what parts/connectors are worn and then order some parts.   

Of course during all this it stopped cranking over when I try to start it so it appears the starter motor wiring needs a little attention first.   Battery has lots of power.   When the rain stops I'll get her up onto jack stands and start poking around the starter first and get that fixed up and then move the jack stands to the front and start looking at all the steering/bushing components.   First time for this for me, should be interesting!

-George

« Last Edit: April 17, 2019, 07:28:59 AM by kinggeorge13 »
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline kinggeorge13

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I do have a question for you guys that have gone through this before.    After more research I'm thinking if the problem (or part of the problem) is shot bushings on the control arms, would you buy just the urethane bushing kit (i.e. the Empi brand red ones from CIP1) and replace them or would you just get the entire lower control arm all ready to go and just replace it that way?    Bushing kit for the control arms would cost me around $50.   Buying the two full sets of ready-to-install control arms would be more like $220 each (so $440 vs $50) but some guys make it sound like replacing just the bushings can be a bit of nightmare dealing with proper fit and removal or no removal of the "sleeve" or "ring" at the end that goes to the car frame.  I don't really want a nightmare but neither am I made of money.   But I guess what I'm wondering is this one of those times experienced guys would say to me "spend the money, it's worth it"?    (again, assuming I find these particular bushings shot).

Thanks!
-George
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Online BUSDADDY

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Bushings are easy to replace if you have a small shop press and an assortment of large socket wrenches to use as press tools. Arms only need replacement if they are bent from off roading or tow truck damage.
RUST NEVER SLEEPS

Offline pittwagen

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I would not spend one red cent on any part until I have performed a complete and thorough diagnosis of the entire front end.  Take the time and do your analysis and don't take the shotgun approach.  Get your Bentley out - Section 8 and go to it.  And don't forget the 2 universal joints and the attaching bolts in the steering shaft.

Offline Bruce

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re & re-ing the steering damper is easy. take it off and test it.

when were the wheels balanced?

Offline kinggeorge13

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I would not spend one red cent on any part until I have performed a complete and thorough diagnosis of the entire front end.  Take the time and do your analysis and don't take the shotgun approach.  Get your Bentley out - Section 8 and go to it.  And don't forget the 2 universal joints and the attaching bolts in the steering shaft.

I was thinking all I needed was where to apply the duct tape.   

I still think I'm pretty funny regardless of what everyone says.    I agree with what you are saying mostly but if I get under there and clearly see bushings thrashed I'm gonna replace them as step one and then work my way through the process.   
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline kinggeorge13

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The wheels were balanced by the shop I got the tires at.   They do have brand new little square weights behind each wheel so I'm assuming and hoping they got it right.   
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline Chris

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Ok, been meaning to post an update for a couple days and finally have some time.   So the front wheels are fine.   I think I found what the tech thought was a problem with the back wheels but I'm now kinda thinking it's just the way they are.    When you put the rear wheel on, it definitely goes up against the hub nice and flat.   However it is not "snug" on the center part of the hub that juts out with the large bolt.   It's got space to move around.  However as I experimented with putting the lug bolts in and slowly getting them in enough that they were lightly holding the wheel up against the hub but not tightly.  I found I could just barely move it at all.   Just a wee bit tighter and it no longer allowed jiggling.  So I assume this means that the wheel gets centered properly by the tightening of the lug bolts rather than the center hub.    I think the tech probably thought it was moving around too much after putting the first lug bolt on or something.   Anyone think I have this incorrect, please let me know.  So yep, just you guys suggested: not a problem that has anything to do with needing spacers.

So I did some driving tests.   The car does have a shimmy for sure.  When I get over 80km/hr going straight it's ok.  But any kind of turning at 80+ even a minor gentle one gets a shimmy in the front end that directly affects the steering wheel in the range of "Bloody Hell!" all the way to "Holy Crap!!".    Slowing down and straightening out is the only way to solve it.  So it did not take too much time to research and confirm what some of you guys suggested: I'm fairly sure that our little Beetle has the renowned Super Beetle Shimmy.   So looks like time to get under there and figure out what parts/connectors are worn and then order some parts.   

Of course during all this it stopped cranking over when I try to start it so it appears the starter motor wiring needs a little attention first.   Battery has lots of power.   When the rain stops I'll get her up onto jack stands and start poking around the starter first and get that fixed up and then move the jack stands to the front and start looking at all the steering/bushing components.   First time for this for me, should be interesting!

-George



You have described exactly what was happening with my car.

Offline pittwagen

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How many kms on this puppy?

Before I slid under the car to check the control arm bushings I would do the following:

Check the lateral play in the steering wheel.  1" is ok.  Is it more and how much?  Steering box will need to be adjusted at some point. 

Jack the car up and grab the left front wheel at 6 and 12 o'clock.  Any play.

Then at 3 and 9.

If so, adjust your wheel bearings to eliminate that as a contributing factor.  Do the other side next.

Now look at the control arms.  Bushings on one end and ball joint on the other.  Check for play.

Then check the tie rods and the ends for slop.  Repair as needed.

As Bruce said check the steering damper.  If it is really rusted or has oil leakage, I usually just replace them.

Finally check the idler arm for play and the tightness of the bracket. Repair as needed.

Back to the steering box adjustment.

Check those joints on the lower steering box shaft and clamps for tightness.

What is the condition of the struts?  Tight?  How is the upper mount?  Oil leakage?  Rust in the mounting area?

Off the top of my head.  Others will chime in if I missed something.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2019, 08:34:37 AM by pittwagen »

Offline kinggeorge13

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I will be under there hopefully Sunday/Monday.   Should be not raining and cannot do on Saturday because its Dubs in the Barn!!!!   

Thanks for the advice.   I will be doing all those checks.   

The steering from the steering wheel is luckily already nice and tight.  I have buses that I feel like I am in one of those old movies where the person is pretending to drive and they are over-moving the steering wheel back and forth a bunch as they drive along.   Need a little road-correction to the left?  The steering wheel finally starts having effect after you turn it at least 1/4 of a turn.   Not good, yes I know.  Yes, it can be fixed (and one day will) but the bizarre thing is how much you get used to driving it like that.   Then hop into a bus that has tight steering and you just about put yourself in the ditch the first little correction you need to do going down the road.   The fun never stops!

-George

1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline kinggeorge13

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Well some minor progress but happy progress.  Not with the shimmy but with getting the poor thing even started.   The corrosion and rust was typically epic around the starter solenoid.   As the sun was quickly waning in the sky late yesterday and I was getting plenty dirty, greasy and personally rusty under there with my wife working the key in the ignition I finally got our little Super Beetle going so assuming (possibly wildly) that it starts again this morning and was not just some bizarre fluke yesterday, we'll be driving to Dubs in the Barn in just a few short hours!  Wooo-Hoooo.   

Sunny and relatively warm today and tomorrow means convertible top gets to be down for first time this season!   Bringing tools, parts, jacks, jumper box, jackstands, wiring, electric impact wrench, breaker bar and of course a hammer.   You just never know.....

-See ya'll soon!

1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Offline kinggeorge13

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So I have an update.  Not only did we make it to the show but the Super Beetle had no problems.  Other than lots of smoke when accelerating.  Hmmmm.....was it really doing that last fall?   Oh well, I will get to that eventually.   Meanwhile, back to the shimmy diagnosis.   When I was working figuring out why my starter motor was not coming on, I had to remove the rear right wheel.   So that wheel in particular fits so large around the middle hub it's got nearly 1/4 - 1/2" space between the center hub and the center of my actual wheel.   I'm betting if I cranked down on one lugnut at a time when I put it back on that there would be a really good chance that it would not be nicely centered and balanced.  So what I did was carefully slowly hand-tighten each lugnut going from one to another and slowly tightening each one more and more and ensuring the wheel was as centered as possible until they were all snug and the wheel longer moving around against the hub.   I figured that would ensure it was about as centered as it could get.  Then I cranked them on for good tightness.   

Here is a photo of the wheel.  You can see the significant space between the center of the wheel and the actual hub.   Is that normal?  Or am I missing something?



1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

Online BUSDADDY

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There's nothing strange about that, the wheel nuts should have flat sides that fit snugly in matching flat sided holes in the wheels, that's where the centering happens.
RUST NEVER SLEEPS

Offline kinggeorge13

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There's nothing strange about that, the wheel nuts should have flat sides that fit snugly in matching flat sided holes in the wheels, that's where the centering happens.

Ok thanks.  I'm just used them seeming to fit nice and firm around that center hub on my buses (at least I've always thought they did) so when my beetle was not like that, I wondered if there was some kind of additional centering hub I was missing or something.  Thanks!

-George
1975 Westy, Serenity
1975 Westy, Jack Sparrow
1979 Kombi, Pistachio
1979 Kombi, Oliver
1977 Tin top camper, Cosmos
1974 Westy, Garfield
1973 Tin top camper, Bart (now thinking he's 1976)
1974 gutted Riviera, Casper
1975 Westy, Stella
1979 Super Beetle, Penelope
1967 Fastback, Green Hornet

 

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