If you are considering the purchase of a classic beetle, there are quite a few areas that you will want to inspect on the vehicle. One of the things I get asked quite often is; "What is the most important thing to look for"? Without a doubt I believe rust may be the one single item that is deal breaker, unless of course body work is your profession. Nothing is more frustrating or expensive as trying to restore a vehicle that is not solid. That being said I have seen many 66 bug owners bring a car back from the brink of the junk yard, but in most cases restoration was their specialty. Here are some of the items to inspect when looking at a Beetle that is for sale:
1) Crawl under the car and look at the floorboards - in particular look directly under where the rear seat is located (Passenger side) - this is where battery acid can eat through the floor. Make sure the floor is solid - if not you will need to replace panels or pull the body off the frame and replace the entire floor pan (or both pans).
2) Look at the heater channels - make sure they are solid - if you have rust coming up through them onto the front floor that's a sign of some serious rust issues and you may need to replace them. Make sure you look at them right behind the running boards too!
3) Look for any sign of damage front or rear - in the front this means opening the trunk and taking out the spare tire and looking at the bumper brackets...are they straight? OR have they been damaged? If they have been damaged does the hood still fit correctly? Is there an even gap all the way around the trunk when it is closed? Look at the underside of the hood as well for any sign of bodywork indicating damage (hammer marks).
4) Look at the trunk behind the gas tank - there are two bolts that hold it down - are there any stress cracks by these bolts (indicates an accident), also look down the wells on each side of the trunk close to the firewall where the heater hoses come up - can you see any damage down there?
5) Go to the rear and look under the car at the rear bumper brackets and make the same inspection.
6) Look at the rear engine lid – look at the backside – any hammer marks (sign of bodywork). Make sure the gap around the rear engine lid is even when it is closed.
7) Look for signs of welding or repair where the rear apron meets the body of the car.
8) Open the doors and look at the bottom edge of the door – is it intact and rust free? How do the windows roll up and down? Do the doors close flush with the rear quarter panels? How does the inside door sill look?
9) Look under the fenders for rust holes, behind the front wheel, and in front of the rear wheel.
10) Inspect where the fenders meet the body for rust.
11) How do the electronics work – they are almost all easy to replace EXCEPT the dreaded blue box that runs the turn signals and emergency lights – if the blue box is shot you will have a hard time finding another, however, there is at least one aftermarket kit available that you can connect to all the wiring for the blue box that will allow everything to operate correctly.
12) Buy the "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive" repair manual by John Muir - it will tell you step by step how to perform maintenance and repairs on your VW Beetle..
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