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  • Writer's pictureairschooled

A beauty only on the outside…

Oh what a beautiful, bucolic San Diego day.

See, we only have two seasons here in coastal Southern California: Summer and Cold Summer. Sure you might need a light jacket to camp in February, but the daytimes are often too pleasant to stay indoors. Pete understands this, as you can see by his 1978 convertible Super Beetle. It didn’t even have the OPTION of putting the roof up last time I saw it!

I helped wire the car and tune it for smog testing two years ago, and its since been repainted and crowned. (The top mostly stays down, go figure…) Turns out the paint shop just disconnects any wire they damn well please, and plug some of them back in, and only some of them correctly.


Four hours later, I had all the headlights, high beams, flashers, turn signals, and brake lights working properly! I only blew about a dozen fuses in the process… And I may or may not have wrecked Buddy’s flasher relay using it as a test mule… Ok ok, so electrical work is difficult, confusing, and time-consuming in any weather!

It's important to remember the Three Rules of Troubleshooting Anything:

1. Always try the easiest thing first.

2. Never trust the person before you; they were not able to fix the problem.

3. Most problems are found between the seat and the steering wheel.

How many of you have fallen prey to the flat top fuses on the left?? The Dolly Parton fuse on the right is the only style that will actually fit and function in your Volkswagen!

The beautiful bug without a name did fail its first 2021 smog check, but it also sat for a year and wasn't fully warmed up before the test. I can't stress enough how important it is to fully warm up an engine frequently, ESPECIALLY before an emissions test.

Background: the CA smog test inspects for hydrocarbon (oil/gas vapors,) carbon monoxide (byproduct of incomplete combustion,) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx, a byproduct of excess heat/temperature, the MAIN issues that forced VW to start water-cooling their engines in the 70s/80s.) Lowering one gas typically raises another, unless the engine has architectural issues that can increase all three at once. See, isn't this game fun?

VW pasted a number of haphazard accessories on their wonderful stock carburetors until admitting defeat in 1975 and fuel-injecting the air-cooled line-up. The Bosch L-Jet injection system is smart enough to dump in the fuel during hard acceleration, and cut the fuel down drastically during steady-state operation. This gives great power, emissions, and fuel economy. It also can run very hot with the slightest mis-tune or intake (vacuum) leak.

The bug passed smog the next day after wildly guessing on the tune. Maybe I'll stick around these Volkswagen things for a while…

See you on the road,


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