Changing a starter on a VW Cabrio no thanks to my $75 Bentley Manual!

As you may know, the starter on my 1998 Volkswagen Cabrio went out at a rather inconvenient time. Luckily for me, it is a manual and I have a strong girlfriend. After pushing starting it halfway across the country I finally got around to changing the starter. A starter should be a simple thing to change… so much for that!I had originally planed on changing it in a parking lot while out west. I had all the tools, and managed to pick up a starter at a local parts place in Montana, I even had the HUGE all covering Bentley manual with me just in case. But when I opened that 10 pound book to make sure there were no surprises I got one. They only devoted one page to the procedure, which would make sense, but they spent half that page emphasizing that you need to properly support the engine or it my cause serious issues. What?! To change a starter? They gave no explanation of why or even an alternative to using the special vw “swing set ” tool.  I googled it a bit, and asked a few other people, no one had a clue why you would need to. Lucky for me I did not try and do it on the road.

When I decided to finally do it, I used my floor jack and supported it the best I could, I even got my jack stands and put them under the tranny for good measure. As I removed the 3 bolts that held the starter in place, I realized why… a bit to late.  Turns out these 12″ long bolts go all the way though the bell housing and go into the front engine mount. Of course I did not have it supported for that, and the engine tilted forward when the last bolt came out. Opps. With help from my friend Dean, we were able to get them back in by Jacking the tranny up really slow, while one of us tried to get the bolt to start…not fun.

One other note for any of you doing this at home… The manual also does not mention at ALL the bushing that you will need to change. It is a REAL pain to get out, especially in my car. After trying a number of things, the trick was to use a tap and pull it out with that. The new one also required some “coddling” with a piece of wood and a hammer to get back in there.

It’s nice to have a starter again. It always amazes me just how hard or tricky even the simplest jobs can become sometimes. I am no expert, but I am also no amateur when it comes to auto work. Stuff like this should be a breeze.  It also amazes me how the newer the car is the harder they make it to do simple things. After all the years of engineering, wouldn’t it be designed to be so easy anyone could? Guess they would rather a dealer do it. I will not give in that easy, I suggest you don’t ether. 🙂

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