Volkswagen Tools Turned To The Space Age

The Volkswagen Beetle, and yes the bus and the sexiest car ever made, are cars meant for the people. You can pull the engine out with a strong friend, and you can fix anything in an old Volkswagen. VW realized this, because in the 1950s and ’60s, they came up with plans for tools designed to tear apart an old VW, and these tools were meant to be manufactured in a local shop. That really turns that right to repair on its head, doesn’t it?

While working on his van, [Justin Miller] came across a reference to one of these tools meant to be made at home. The VW 681 is a seal puller, designed to be manufactured out of bar stock. It’s an old design, but now we have interesting tools like 3D printers and parametric CAD programs. Instead of making one of these DIY seal pullers with a grinder, [Justin] brought this tool from the space age into the modern age. He took the design, modelled it in OpenSCAD, and printed it out.

The VW reference book that lists this tool is Workshop Equipment for Local Manufacture, and for this seal puller, it gives perfectly dimensioned drawings  that are easily modelled with a few lines of code. The only real trouble is filing down the pointy bit of the puller, but a bit of boolean operations fixed that problem. After 15 minutes of printing and a few hours finding the right documentation and writing fifteen lines of code, [justin] had a plastic VW 681 in his hands. Yes, it was probably a waste of time as a regular seal puller could have done the job, but it’s an excellent example of what can happen when manufacturers support their local repairman.

36 thoughts on “Volkswagen Tools Turned To The Space Age

  1. This must be a German thing, Mercedes workshop manuals for trucks and unimogs have sections on how to make certain gadgets, admittedly it tends to be things to hold a gearbox while you smack the living daylights out of it.

    1. I was tempted to buy a Porsche 928 that was a “garage queen”. Literally it sat at a repair shop for years gobbling up thousands of dollars of repairs while the owner, a freind of my dad, was living in assisted living facility. The odometer never moved as the repair invoices piled up. So this car with tons of new parts had an oil leak where the head met the block. So I thought, how hard could it be to remove the head on this V8 twin OHC engine? Well for starters it required hundreds of dollars of specialized jigs to hold all the camshaft gizmo’s in perfect alignment while you disconnected the sprockets. I decided to pass on the car. Too bad.

    2. Old Land Rover manuals do include suggestions on making things like cradles for transmissions etc. although often there’s also a “proper” special tool you can order.

      1. I drove all over Alaska (on the few roads available, that is) during the early eighties in a ’66 VW Karmann Ghia. I only made two modifications: I had a third-party small gas heater installed because the stock heater wasn’t good enough, and I replaced the condenser with one from a Toyota to get better spark for starting (6-Volt system). It always started up on the second try, no matter what the weather. I had a book called, “How to keep your Volkswagen Alive and Well; Volkswagen repair for the Complete Idiot.” I did every single repair on that car except for rebuilding the engine, but the instructions for doing that were in the book if I needed it. I sure wish I had that car and book today.

        1. The heat exchangers, which are supposed to extract heat but not carbon monoxide from the engine exhaust, and pipe it up front. Dad ran a VW repair shop in the ’80s, and did a booming business replacing those things when they rusted out.

          The Venn diagram of “places where VW Beetles are adored” and “places where roads are salted in winter” has no overlap whatsoever.

        1. That is not correct.

          KDF cars were the Nazis’ PLANs to build “Volkswagen” (the people’s cars), but “Volkswagen” (both as the manufacturer’s name and a synonym for the original Beetle) were started after the war and after the company had been handed down (back) to the German public.
          While it is true that Volkswagen has a “shady past”, it is NOT quite fair to call any Volkswagen a KDF car. That’s mixing up history in order to diz what the Germans were able to pull off even AFTER they were rightfully defeated.

    1. It would be an injustice to not mention the book when VW’s are the topic.

      The old on USENIX was a valuable resource for me ~30 years ago.


  2. All your base belong to us..
    I bought the VW manual, and managed to rebuild the engine, transmission and all other components.
    I welded up some transmission jigs, rebuilt the trans, figured out the solex carb stumble, shift linkage, and how to change a muffler.
    Bunch of pussies..

  3. Versatile’s last tractor (before they were bought out by Ford), the 876, also had dimensional drawings for many of the special tools required for repair. I know, because I had to make them to repair the TwinDisc 1050 transmission it had. Viva right to repair!

  4. FWIW: The detail about the cross section was interpreted wrong: The tip is not the thinnest part, but rather the outside of the curved part is. The inside of the curved part stays at the original thickness,

  5. For the complete opposite end of the spectrum there has always been The Dodge Brothers. There’s one company that makes most, if not all, of the special tools MoPar vehicles need for various service and repair jobs. I had a 2004 Dakota crew cab pickup and needed to do some work on the heads.

    There’s a special tool for compressing the valve springs. It has a hook that goes under the camshaft. There are two tools listed, one for the OHC V6 and one for the OHC V8.

    They are EXACTLY the same tool yet have different part numbers. I called the company and asked why they do that. The fellow I talked to said “Because Chrysler wants it that way.”. He also flat out told me the two tools are exactly the same, except for part number, the lower cost V6 tool would work perfectly on the V8.

    For over 100 years those two companies have worked hand in hand to deliberately design their vehicles to need special tools for things that could be designed to be done with standard wrenches.

  6. Toyota too: The old 80 series Landcrusers had everything steel and bolt on and were great for bodge repair with basic tools in the middle of the bush. The new ones are plastic molded crap.

  7. strong friend? we lifted a nissan SR20De (no turbo) engine including transmission into my garage… by hand. i think this baby weighs in at 130 kg. doable with a bit of “knee-technique”. and neither of us is really “strong”. were just workers…

    1. I helped change a flat 4 in a Subaru without an engine hoist. Got one Really Strong Guy to just reach in and pick up the engine out of the car once everything connecting it was disconnected.

  8. Am I reading wrong ?
    I Can’t find any source for the openscad file !
    My friend is working on a VW Van, and could have the need of this tool… I would like to print one !

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