1969 VW Beetle engine, problems starting it.

Asked by May 31, 2012 at 03:14 PM about the 1969 Volkswagen Beetle

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I have a '69 Beetle engine, flat 4, manual, 6V system. I am having issues getting it started with a key. I
have replaced the 6V battery not too long ago, cleaned the points and connections to the battery,
and it just won't start with the turn of the key. It dims the headlights when I try the key, so it does
draw power. I haven't been able to push start it because the car is so light (its in a custom dune
buggy) and even with people pushing it just doesn't do enough to get it going. I've had to either
jump it from the battery (inside the car and under the dash, hard to access) or on the starter. Any
ideas of what I could try?

Also, my speedometer quit working. Any ideas how to fix that too?

12 Answers


Did you check the fuses? When I had my '69 bug it died and after checking the owner's manual I saw that there was a fuse that controlled the start. I replaced it and it worked fine. My first auto repair job!

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Is it even turning over? I read your post and you say it dims the lights, but you never say if the starter turns over the motor. If your speedometer quit working then I would say the cable broke.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Without a jump/charger hooked to the battery during start-up, it will not turn over. With the jump/charger, it will turn over and start right up. How do I fix that broken speedometer cable?


there may be two problems 1: your battery is getting old and needs replacing 2: your starter positive or negative wire is not properly attached meaning the ground wire may be not grounded properly or the terminals may not be getting enough power to turn the engine in the starter

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

Have your battery tested, I am guessing it is bad based on what you describe. It has been a while since I have replaced one. You should be able to unscrew the cable from the back of the speedometer and then follow the cable down to the front left tire. The cable should be attached to dust cap on the hub. Remove the attachment there and pull it out.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

The battery is brand new. It might not be charged enough since we do not have a 6V battery charger. We have been putting it on the 12V charger for periods of time at a certain setting to give it a charge and then to start it with the jump. The starter is a possibility. I'll check that next.


Could be a couple of things. First 6v and 12v cars had different wiring. The 6v uses bigger wire so if you have a12v wiring harness in the car you may have to much of a voltage drop to start it. Search for hard start delay to help fix that. If it starts with jumper cables from another car this doesn't tell you much since your throwing 12v to a 6v starter. You are SURE its 6v right? Other thing is a bad starter. A bad solenoid can cause that same problem.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Not sure if you've gotten it fixed yet but I figured I'd throw my $.02 in. Old VWs send your voltage from the battery up into the trunk and all the way back to the starter. The starter requires a good ammount of voltage (I'm not sure exactly how much for the 6v but the 12v Beetles require around 9v to make it all the way back to the starter and with this math you would need around 4.5 volts to make the full trip) SO, the most common reason to have the issues you are describing is faulty connections. I would start with a multimeter and a friend to turn the key and hit a few points along the circut to see what kind of voltage you're getting (battery, ignition switch, etc.). Then (assuming that we've ruled out issues with the ignition switch or starter itself) I would start with the transmission to body ground strap, the ignition switch and the negative battery terminal cable connections (the usual suspects) which will likely present you with a solution.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Easiest and cheapest in the long run is to bin your 6 Volt started and coil and convert it to 12 Volt. To test the starter connections as it is; connect a jumper cable from the chassis to the engine block and try starting it. If it starts, there's you're problem. I agree with the 6 Volt battery issue however, if it isn't deep cycle charged it will give you problems.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

69 vw bug? Don't hate me but the 69 should be a 12 volt. VW stopped making 6 volts by 1967

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

It's a 12 volt.

My dad hand built the car 35+ years ago, keeps telling me the engine was a '69 VW Beetle flat-four. It is a 6V system (known for sure when I removed the 6V battery when I went and picked it up), all custom wiring, body, interior, etc. Current'y sitting in my garage taking up space (still same condition as above) while I try to follow his wiring and fix what the people who tried to steal it did to the wires (pulled a bunch to wire the steering so they could tow it or something).

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