Second Time Around (update 3)

The second restoration of my 1952 split rear window Beetle, 'Val', drags on, but I have at last cured the problem of the badly warn hinge pins on the two doors.

All Beetles will eventually suffer from this malady and, if the wear becomes too extreme, problems will be experienced with door closure or the door catching on the sill. Where the wear is slight it can be mitigated by 'packing out' one of the hinges where it is bolted to the door pillar, but this is only a short term 'bodge'.

To remove the pins, Volkswagen garages used a custom made hinge pin extractor tool and some workshop manuals picture it in operation. It clamps onto the hinge with a simple screw-claw mechanism and a screwed shaft is then used to press out the pins from below. I found this device impossible to use, as did the person I subsequently sold it to and the person who later bought it from him.

With the doors removed from the car it should be possible to knock the pins out with a long drift and a club hammer, but all my attempts to do so were unmitigated failures. The pins are an incredibly tight fit and take a lot of force to knock them out. Just as well I wasn't worried about the paintwork on the doors, as both this method and using the VW tool can lead to considerable damage.

Deciding to break with tradition and enlist professional help, I sort the assistance of a local body shop that have an excellent record for quality work. Unfortunately they also failed to remove the pins using their own extraction tool, which got bent in the process. Next up was a young man who runs his own small auto repair business in the next village. He has done a lot of useful work for me over the past years including rebuilding my steering box and re-threading the shock absorber mounting points on the front axle beam, and he does all the work on my everyday cars that I cannot manage myself.

He took only a short time to warm up the hinges with a blow lamp and, with a few inoffensive taps with a drift and hammer, the old pins were out. What a sorry sight these were (see picture), two were very badly corroded, a third was badly pitted, but the fourth looked reasonably new. In addition, once the pins were removed it was obvious that the hinges themselves were also badly worn. Trying to fit new standard sized pins to them proved a waste of time, as these were woefully loose and did not cure the problems. The only commercially available oversized pins I could obtain (1 mm or 2 mm oversized) are for later Beetles and are arguably slightly too short. Anyway, this would not cure the problem with the ware in the hinges themselves. So, some progress, but some way still to go.

The four 'original' pins extracted from the door hinges.

My next move was to consult a local engineering workshop that seemed to think the job was quite straight forward. They would ream out the hinges and manufacture some oversized pins on a lathe. The original pins are manufactured with a conical 'hat', which assists in their fitting and also stops them working their way out of the hinge. Security is also enhanced by the tiny raised 'splines' on the upper portion of the pins that are machined into the original items and the commercially available replacements. However, this sort of pin would have been very expensive to manufacture and, in my opinion, the conical 'hat' portion could make effective lubrication of the hinge difficult. So, originally having to take a back seat again, I elected to have some much more straight forward pins fashioned, which were made of stainless steel and very slightly tapered from top to bottom, so as to stop them falling out. The workshop also fitted the pins for me.

Having any custom made parts manufactured and fitted is never cheap and this occasion was no different. However, now the work is done, what a wonderful difference it has made. I'm sure the initial shock and pain of the cost will soon fade and I shall never regret having the work done properly. Another small step forward on a very long and difficult road.

Standard size replacement hinge pin - non original

Oversized hinge pin for later cars - genuine VW

Custom made oversized tapered hinge pin made by local engineering workshop

Mike Johnson