Checking & Setting End Play



   Checking and setting end play is a VERY IMPORTANT job which needs to be done correctly if your engine is to live a long and happy life. 

   So what is "end play"??  End play is the slight amount of fore & aft movement that your crankshaft is allowed to move in the main bearings when your engine is cold.  This movement is supposed to be limited to between .003" - .005" with a wear limit of .006".  If you have too little play, your You will wear out your thrust bearing due to not having enough room for a proper oil film on the surface which contacts the flywheel.  Too much end play and you will slowly pound the thrust surface of your case with every engagement of the clutch as well as possibly have low oil pressure.  Your goal when setting end play should be to get it set at .003".  The tighter end of the specs should always be your goal.

   There are three different methods, that I know of, for checking end play:

1.  From the flywheel (most popular).  Most mechanics use either a dial type indicator or a special end play tool, both of which fit on the flywheel (front) side of the engine and take readings off the edge of the flywheel.

2.  With a feeler gauge prior to engine assembly.  I used this method for all of my engines prior to making my end play tool.  It's accurate and DOES NOT require any special tools.  In a nut shell, this method requires holding your crankshaft between wood blocks in a vise, installing the thrust bearing and installing & torqueing the flywheel.  You then check the gap with feeler gauges and adjust the gap from there with three shims.

3.  From the pulley side (rear) of the engine with the use of a special "home-brewed" tool.  An old VW mechanic who had been repairing air cooled VWs for about 40 years, checked his end play this way and swore it was the only way to get a 100% accurate end play reading. Well I thought I would give making a tool a try, and test his method.  It worked AWESOME!!  Here's how I did it. . .

   Here's the special tool that I made from a couple scrap pieces of 1/8" plate steel and 3" X 3" aluminum angle bar milled at a true 90 degrees.

ep-tool.jpg (48479 bytes)

   First I need to remove the two case half nuts where the plate steel piece attaches to the case.  I then add the two thin washers on each stud PRIOR to installing the steel plate.  The reason for this is to provide a flat mounting for the plate (this is VERY IMPORTANT with this method).  I then install the angle aluminum loosely with the two bolts.  Below is a shot of just the washer and steel plate installed (1).  Also pictured is another shot with the aluminum angle installed (2) and a view (from above) of the loose gap between the crankshaft end and the aluminum piece (3).

(1) ep-plate-installed.jpg (40517 bytes)      (2) ep-L-installed.jpg (29413 bytes)      (3) ep-gap2.jpg (23826 bytes)

   Then you install 2 of the three (3) required shims.  It's probably best to use middle thickness shims at first.  DO NOT INSTALL YOUR FLYWHEEL SEAL UNTIL YOU HAVE YOUR END PLAY SET PROPERLY!!  Below is a photo of some new shims.

ep-shim-assortment.jpg (37752 bytes)             ep-3shims.jpg (45470 bytes)             ep-shims-on-crank.jpg (50946 bytes)

   Install your flywheel and torque it to 250 ft. lbs.  You now need to push your flywheel tightly against the thrust bearing.  Then go around to the rear of the engine and slide the alum. angle forward until it just is resting against the end of the crank shaft as pictured below.

ep-tool-seated.jpg (25858 bytes)

    Now you need to pull on the flywheel so that all the play is shifted in the opposite direction.  The gap between the aluminum angle and the crankshaft is the amount of end play that is remaining to be adjusted by the final shim.  Below is what was left on mine (1).  I added a close-up so you can more clearly see the gap (2).  Then measure with a feeler gauge (3).

(1) ep-gap.jpg (24232 bytes)      (2) ep-gap-closeup.jpg (20272 bytes)      (3) ep-gap-check.jpg (14742 bytes)

   You then will need to adjust the shim stack so that you are left with an acceptable end play measurement.  You may have to go back and forth a few times until you get it just right.  Just take your time and get good, accurate measurements; the life of your engine depends on it.

    Once you have verified that you have the correct set of three shims and that your end play is correct, remove the flywheel and install your flywheel seal.  You can either buy a special seal installation tool, or make your own.  The tool is basically a big thick flat washer that when it is screwed down by the gland nut, it presses in the seal.  Not a real difficult tool to make.  Or you can have your local VW repair shop install it for a few bucks.

    Prior to installing the flywheel for the final time you MUST install the small O-ring into the groove in the flywheel.  If this little O-ring is forgotten, your engine will leak lots of oil out the front soaking your new clutch and pressure plate :-(  DON'T FORGET IT!!

flywheel-oring.jpg (52182 bytes)             flywheel-oring-installed.jpg (49144 bytes)

    Once you have again re-installed and torqued the flywheel in place, give it one final check to ensure you do good work.  If everything checks out, you're end play is now correctly set.


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Revised: August 29, 2003 .