A Breath of Fresh Air

It sits ignored inside your engine compartment. Your air cleaner is the lungs for the heart of your engine. Like all of the parts of your car, it needs maintenance, too.

Paper air filterForemost, your air cleaner filters the air entering your carburetor. This function is to prevent dirt and debris from clogging the fuel inside the carburetor.  When early model air cleaners are removed for service, it’s important not to tip or shake due to oil located in the lower section of the cleaner. I have found no reproduction of these cleaners available. So if you feel like keeping your VW old school many air cleaners are available from most VW used parts sellers.

VWs have two different types of air cleaners. The first is the original air cleaner that Volkswagen installed when your VW was built and the second is a after market cleaner.

Volkswagen made two types of air cleaners installed originally in your vehicle. One was an oil bath type cleaner and the second type takes a paper air filter.

Oil bath air cleanerCleaning a oil bath air cleaner will take you about an hour and you’ll only need to do a few steps.

Please note: I’m assuming that most of you do not have the thermostat control flap connected inside your engine so I have not included the disconnect in these directions.

  1. Remove the hose connected to the oil fill and if in good condition place to the side. If the hose need replaced just take it to any parts store to obtain a replacement. I prefer the rubber incased in a braided overcast to replace this hose. Also disconnect any warm air hoses if they apply to your setup.
  2. Loosen the large clamp located at the bottom of the cleaner at the top of the carburetor. Be sure to loosen these clamp as much as you can, the looser the better for removal.
  3. Gently lift the cleaner straight up off the carburetor. REMEMBER there is oil inside you don’t want to slope around.
  4. Set the cleaner bottom down on a table or clean shop towel.
  5. Using your fingers unclasp the fasteners located around the middle of the cleaner. This unfastens the top of the cleaner holding the air filter and bottom with the oil. Set the top of the cleaner aside it doesn’t need cleaning on the inside.
  6. Drain the used oil into a oil pan or a washed out milk jug. Used oil should ALWAYS be taken to a certified disposal location like Checker Auto Parts or County run land fill. NEVER dump any oil into your drains or on the ground.
  7. If the inside of the cleaner is not very dirty just wipe out with a clean lint free rag or paper towel to remove any debris and used oil. If the inside is really dirty (and most are) I use a little gas about a cup full to clean the inside. As with used oil do not dump the used gas onto the ground. You can just pour the used gas into the same container as the oil. Pour the gas into the bottom of the cleaner and using a paper towel or rag rub it around the inside then dispose of the gas. Once the gas is removed use clean water to rinse out cleaner ( this dirty water is OK to dump on the ground just not on plants or near pets).
  8. Refill the cleaner with a matching oil grade that’s matches the type in your engine.  Fill with oil to the red mark inside the cleaner.
  9. Reinstall the top of the cleaner to the bottom making sure to that you refasten the clamps around the middle of the cleaner.
  10. Wipe the outside you the cleaner with a clean rag or paper towel.
  11. Reverse steps 1 through 3.
  12. You’re done!

For a paper filter air cleaner you do not need to remove the cleaner from the car.

If you have an after market cleaner just remove the screw or clamp at the top of the cleaner and replace the filter and refasten. For original VW paper filter cleaners, just undo the clamps, remove the old filter, install the new one, and reclamp. Depending on the year of your VW, the size varies, so please consult your VW mechanic or parts supplier.

If you don’t feel comfortable servicing your own cleaner don’t hesitate to ask your VW mechanic to do it as part of a oil change or tune up service. The cost will give you peace of mind. Depending on how much you drive your VW these service should be performed one or twice a year.

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