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Points and Condenser Change

The air cooled Volkswagen is one of the last cars out there that still uses regular points and condenser in the ignition. Some see this as a disadvantage because they need to be replaced once or twice a year for best performance. The advantage is that it is easy and inexpensive. Another advantage that many of us vintage lovers like is that when we do have ignition trouble we can usually clean up the points with a small piece of sandpaper or a point file and make it home just fine. Not so with the new cars. When the ignition goes on them you better call a tow truck and prepare to dig into your wallet. The points in the distributor just act as an off and on switch to a flow of current in the coil. They are pushed open by the raised lobes on the shaft in the middle of the distributor as it goes around. .016 is the ideal gap. The condenser is attached to even out the current. The car would run without the condenser but not as well or as long. Normally the condensers are trouble free but they are inexpensive and it is common practice to replace them with the points. If they were to short or ground out the car would quit running. To replace the points remove the distributor cap by popping loose the clips. Examine the contacts inside for obvious excessive burning and look for cracks.

Now pull straight up on the rotor and remove it. (now would be a good time to see if looks badly burned on the end and replace it if needed)
The points are held in place by one screw. Remove the screw and unplug the wire from the condenser either on the side of the distributor or in the bottom on most.
The condenser is held to the side of the distributor by a screw and the wire will usually have a plastic insulator on it that plugs into the side or bottom of the distributor.
Sometimes it is easier to replace if you remove the distributor. It is only held in with one 13mm nut and has only one wire which is the one to the coil and in most instances a push on vacuum line. The distributor will only go back in its original position so don't worry about it turning. Though you might want to notice where the rotor was pointing when you took it out just for expediency.
It is good to have the distributor part # found on it's body when buying replacement parts. Now screw the new condenser to the distributor body being sure to secure the plastic plug of the new wire into the distributor body. Sometimes the one on the bottom takes a little coaxing.
Now screw the points onto to the distributor plate but leave the screw snug but not tight yet. A screwstarter is handy for this.
Now either turn the distributor body or the center shaft so that the fiber plate on the point arm is setting on the top of one of the lobes on the distributor cam.
Now the gap can be adjusted by scooting the points open with a small screwdriver prying the special notch in the edge back and forth as needed. When a .016 feeler gauge will slip through with just a very little drag tighten the points the rest of the way and check them again.
Now put a little bit of grease on the distributor lobe to keep the little fiber plate from squealing and wearing off too fast allowing the point gap to close up.
If the distributor has built in mechanical advance as most do put a couple of drops of oil in the center of the shaft. Replace the rotor being sure that it engages into the notch in the top of the shaft. Replace the cap and your done.
If the distributor bracket has not been disturbed the timing should be pretty close but I always adjust it to be sure. Setting the timing is a topic in itself and that is what we will be covering in the next session. Join us then. You can see this done in detail in our Vol.1 General Maintenance video available from Bug Me Video.

Rick Higgins and Crew
Bug Me Video, Inc

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