Plug Bug: Transmission / motor removal in an electric conversion

Electric Bug

I was still having trouble with my transmission. My last post talked about how I got it back in — this was months ago, in October 2014. I drove the car about 20 miles, and while coasting in 3rd downhill it made some bad grinding noises, so I put in the clutch (which didn’t stop the noises) and pulled over on the notoriously dangerous Highway 17 by Scotts Valley. The transmission was spewing oil everywhere! I had to get towed home. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, and I took the motor/transmission back out. Oil was everywhere in the clutch, and I had to clean it out really well with brake cleaner. It seems to have spewed into there from the “main shaft seal”. I had no choice but to mail it back to MOFOCO. It took a while, but the mechanic Roy Henning sent me this picture back:


I asked why this would happen and he said it may not have been filled with gear oil, or it was low on oil. I trust these guys; they have been doing bugs for longer than I’ve been alive, but I know I put a few quarts in it (I forget how much at this point – it was too long ago). But, I may not have filled it enough; I do recall filling it while it was on the jacks, and the instructions say to fill it when level. Maybe that was the problem…I don’t know.  He said he would fix it for free as a courtesy, but wasn’t happy about it. So, I offered to pay the shipping costs to help offset the difference. This ordeal made the transmission cost way more than it would have if I would have bought it local (but I did get to keep my old transmission — there was no core exchange required).

So, I waited for him to fix it. A few weeks go by, and I ask how it is going. He said it has been done for a while and was waiting for payment for shipping — however, I didn’t get any ship notification (I checked everything — spam folders, etc), and as soon as they sent the request for reals (via PayPay), I got it. So, I think they simply forgot to bill me. I got the transmission back in late December. When it wasn’t in the car, and I rotated it, it didn’t sound quite right; sort of a odd non smooth noise every now and again. But, I figured they knew what they were doing, and they said they did test drive it before they mailed it to me. 

The car had been sitting idle for a few months at this point, and I was frustrated with it. So, I had ordered another EV replacement for a while, and put the bug project “on pause”…this gave me less stress about getting it running again to have an EV to drive; I wanted a reliable car — even though the bug has been quite reliable, it still occasionally has “old car” problems that need to be dealt with (like the tranny, the brakes, and the steering).  I got the transmission back into the car in December on my break, and did a test drive the day before Christmas. After 45 miles, it was leaking a bit of oil again out of the drain hole from the flywheel. I feared it was going to have the same problem again. So, I emailed Roy at MOFOCO and he said he had no idea, but did offer to take a look at it again for free. At this point…I didn’t feel like dealing with it, and I just parked the car and drove my new EV.

Roll around to last week, and I decided to get it going again. The car sat for five months, and I missed driving it. If It wasn’t driven the batteries would just deteriorate over time, and I wanted to get use out of them. This time, I documented pulling the transmission, in case anyone else needs to do it sometime. The video is below, but be warned, it is 20+ minutes long!


One thing I had heard on The Samba was that it could be the main pilot bearing not seating right. That might cause excessive vibration, and cause the main seal to leak. It turns out my pilot bearing was pushed a bit far into the adapter, so I machined a little ring to push it out to what I think is the proper location. I’m hoping this fixes the problem…so I put it all back together.

So far, I’ve got about 120 miles on it this way. It is still leaking a tiny bit of oil….but I think I’ll ignore it for a while. It might be the main shaft seal was blown out, and not replaced. I’m just going to go with it as is and hope it is okay. It seems to drive pretty well again, but the transmission is still the noisiest part of the car.





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