Car Care

Beetle Valve Clearance Guide

In our detailed Beetle valve clearance guide we hope to give an insightful how to article to make this job easier.

We tend to rotate the engine clockwise to avoid loosening the Crank pulley nut.

VW Beetle engine ready for valve inspection

Valve Clearance is often neglected on the Volkswagen Beetle Engine.
Too little clearance leads to poor compression, burned exhaust valves,  difficulty starting due to compression loss and even valve heads dropping off leading to catastrophic damage–sometimes total destruction of the engine.

Too much clearance causes the valves not to open fully causing rapid wear to the nose of the adjustment screw and the valve stem, valve clatter and a loss of power, the engine will emit a distinctive tapping sound.

Best practice is to check your valve or tappet clearance on every service or at least every 12.000 Kilometers.

This guide is written with the assumption that the engine is cold.


  • Small Flat-head screwdriver.
  • 13 and 14 mm spanner or our Special Valve Clearance Tool.
  • A feeler gauge.
  • A 19 MM or 21 MM spanner for the dynamo nut to turn the engine over or a 30 MM socket so the bottom pulley can be used to rotate the engine.

Caution remove all spanners and sockets afterwards and before starting the engine.

Required Parts:

Refers to standard factory 1.2, 1.3 & 1.6 Type 1 Engines

2 X Rocker Cover gaskets part no 113101481F

A small quantity of grease.

Technical Valve Clearance Guide:

Place the vehicle so you can get get to the valve covers and cause no danger to yourself. Bring the engine to Top Dead Center (TDC) on number 1 cylinder.

Rotating the engine clockwise by the crank pulley nut (30 mm)

You can use the rotor position in the distributor  to ensure you are on the firing stroke. The rotor will be pointing to No 1 Ignition Lead segment  on the distributor Cap. ( if the distributor is correctly installed , then the rotor will point to approximately 5.0 Clock when looking down on the rotor.

Distributor rotor at 5 O’Clock

A double check is to observe the Timing mark TDC or the indent  on the lower engine pulley lining up with the crankcase joint near the fuel pump on the firing stroke for Number 1 cylinder.

Crank Pulley at TDC

Now remove the valve covers  by flipping the cover bale down off the cover.

Removal of Rocker Covers

You can now see the valves, and rocker arms with their adjusting screws . The outer two valves are the exhaust valves and the two middle ones are the inlet valves . No 1 cylinder is on the right hand side and is nearest to the front of your vehicle. Looking in from the RHS  of the car 1 cylinder is on your right and No 2 on your left.

Exhaust Valve CYL 1


With the engine set at TDC on No 1 cylinder , the rockers on No 1 should  have a little play or clearance between the adjusting screw & the valve stem,  if you just grab hold of them & try to move them in/out you should feel this play or clearance.  It is the amount of this clearance that is important.
We set all our valve clearances as follows Inlet Valve 0.006 ” , Exhaust Valve 0.004″  cold.

Exhaust Valve:

To check the clearance in the exhaust valve , insert your 0.004 ” feeler blade between the  exhaust valve stem and the tip of the  adjusting screw, check if now there is still some play or its just a nice (drag) fit with no play or there is insufficient clearance to insert the aforesaid feeler blade.

To adjust the clearance , first slacken off the  retaining nut on the adjusting  screw, loosen of the screw a turn or two.  With the feeler blade inserted  turn down the screw until you just touch the feeler blade firmly –just still be able to slide (drag)  move the feeler blade to and fro some drag on the feeler blade is right. Hold the screw in this position  with your screwdriver and tighten down the adjusting nut, continuing to feel the clearance with the blade. If all good, fully tighten the adjusting nut, the feeler blade should slide without any play between the adjusting screw and the valve stem being felt. Remove the blade, check the clearance by feel .

Exhaust Clearance check CYL 1

Re insert the feeler blade for a final check. With practice this is a 2 minute job but be patient if its your first attempt and re-do as necessary until you are happy. Remember no one is charging you for your time so  take care and allow yourself plenty of time and get it right.

Inlet Valve:

Now turn to the Inlet valve on No 1 cylinder, it’s the next one to the left of that exhaust valve you just did. Follow the above procedure with one exception. The clearance requirement is 0.006″ for the inlet valve.

Inlet clearance check CYL 1
The best tool for the job

Cylinder 4:

With Cylinder No 1 now complete you can rotate the engine in its normal running direction, clockwise  180 Degrees  until No 4 piston is at TDC –you can just follow No 4 ignition lead to the distributor and observe the rotor as it reaches the No 4 segment on the distributor cap, approx 8.0 Clock.

Rotor arm at 8 O’Clock

To be doubly certain where you are-check the lower pulley position as well — The TDC mark will at the bottom .

BDC (CB) at top mark

Set the valves now on No.4 cylinder –this is the rearmost cylinder on the L.H.S of the engine.

Valve clearance check CYL 4

Cylinder 3:

Proceed to No.3 cylinder –rotate the engine another 180  degrees , the rotor will point to approx 11.0 Clock , the TDC mark will be at the top again–set the valve clearance for no 3.

Rotor arm at 11 O’Clock

Cylinder 2:

Proceed now to No 2 cylinder, the rearmost on the RHS. Rotate the engine another 180 degrees , check the rotor is approximately at 2.0 Clock. The TDC mark is again at the bottom, check the valves on No 2.

Rotor arm at 2 O’Clock

Now armed with two brand new rocker cover gaskets and a daub of grease. Take the two valve covers aside, wash and clean, blow dry, apply grease to the gasket surfaces on the covers. Apply the gaskets, apply grease on the gasket surface.

Rocker cover with new gaskets ready to go back on.

Carefully replace the rocker covers complete with gaskets back on the engine. Hold steady while pulling the bale back into position. Make certain the valve cover does not move as you do this.

Repeat for the other side. Check oil level is adequate. Now start you engine, allow to run for a few minutes, check for oil leaks, very common if the rocker-cover gaskets get dislodged, attend to this if necessary. 


You can upgrade to these aluminum bolt on valve covers  with the following advantages: Easier removal & installation (R & I) better gasket fit and grip, additional cooling from the cooling fins. 

Upgraded rocker-cover with superior hold on gasket from the metal tabs.

Test run the car and again check for oil leaks after the run–it is critical to check for oil leaks after this operation.
Listen to the engine, it should run sweet, smooth with no audible valve or tappet clatter.

Now it’s time for that cold beer, coffee or go for a spin and enjoy your handwork.

The most well earned coffee in the world.

We hope you found our VW Beetle valve clearance guide helpful.

Beetle valve clearance guide

Beetle valve clearance guide

Valve Clearance is crucial for engine life.

Beetle valve clearance guide