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Getting Floored

by Mike C. -

Floor Pan Replacement Ė I

I vividly remember the night I went to this ladyís house to look at a prospective Beetle to restore. This one, like many a poor little Bug, had seen its better days. I donít know how this lady could stand to drive it very much, because the floor pan was full of holes. Some were big; some small. I reckon the battery was held in place by a couple of 2x4ís that spanned from the center tunnel to the heat channel or rocker panel (some of us in the club know exactly what I mean!). I had to point out to her that, from the outside of the car, you could see the ground from there! That could be a pretty drafty situation considering it was wintertime and you might get a pretty good bath on your way home if it was raining. Okay, you optimists out there would say that you get your bath at the same time you drove the car. Cool, donít forget your soap and shampoo! Anyway, most all unrestored Volkswagens by now have had hole-y floor pans. A lot of folks shy away at the thought of repairing or replacing floor pans because they look too difficult to do, they donít have the proper tools, it would take up too much space in the family living room, or it would be too expensive.

I will tell you that much of the above is true. It is rather involved. You do need air tools, a good MIG welder and some know-how about welding. Also a large hoist or overhead lifting device, if you remove the body from the chassis. Add to that, at least a cleaned-out two-car garage (preferably larger with a lot of overhead space for lifting), and some time on your hands. If you decide to let someone else do it, expect to pay $300 or $400 above the cost of the new floor pans to get the job done. It may very well be worth it to you if you really like the car and it seems to have no further rust damage. If there are just a few scant holes here and there, chances are that the rest of the body is in good shape. A lot of the time the floor pan is only rusted through where the battery has to sit. In this case, the repair can be made pretty inexpensively and with little involvement. You can even just cut out the bad part and insert a new repair panel and you may not even have to do any welding, only some careful trimming and fitting, of which Iíll explain later. In the event that the floor pan is so rusted through that you wonder how you didnít end up dragging the asphalt on your way home because you might have fallen through, consider the whole car and look at it carefully. Chances are the heater channels are also badly damaged with rust, and many body panels are eaten through. You may want to look at a better prospect before tackling all this, because you can sink a lot of money into a rust bucket to get the chassis and body sound before you even see the good results of the shiny paint and new chrome. Okay, so you know what you are getting into here. Iíll tell you how the floor pan can be repaired or replaced in this article. Since this is involved, it may take a few articles to get the information across. Even though you can do this job without taking the body off the car, Iím writing this article as if you were taking the body off anyhow to be able to restore other parts of the car more easily. Trust me, itís a breeze to work on the suspension, engine, and transaxle with the body removed.

You need the following for the job:

  • Body Lifting Method: A large engine hoist or overhead hoist mounted on an I-beam frame OR about six buddies willing to help out with the lifting of the body
  • A garage with at least two empty bays & 10í of vertical space
  • 2 new floor pan assemblies
  • New seals to seal the perimeter of the floor pan
  • Crowbar
  • Air compressor with air tools (impact ratchet, impact hammer with chisel end
  • Set of metric tools (8mm to 17mm of wrenches, ratchets, and sockets)
  • Rust-O-leum black paint or undercoating
  • Good MIG welder
  • Seam sealer
  • Safety glasses (donít work on the dirty undercarriage without them!)

Preparation for Body Removal

  1. Park the car on one side of the garage. Put on your safety glasses.
  2. Disconnect the battery.
  3. Remove the whole interior (seats, all carpet, and trim).
  4. Remove the bolts around the perimeter of the floor pans. Donít forget the two bolts on either side of the front bulkhead and the bolts at the rear of the pan.
  5. Remove the two bolts on top of the floor tunnel at the front inside the car.
  6. Undo the fuel line at the front and the back (be prepared to catch any gas when it comes out).
  7. Unplug the brake switch wires from the master cylinder up front.
  8. Remove the ground strap from the battery to the body.
  9. Disconnect the heater control cables at the rear and remove the two heater supply hoses that connect to the body from the heat exchangers.
  10. Disconnect the backup light at the switch on the transmission.
  11. Disconnect all wiring at the starter motor.
  12. Disconnect the wires at the distributor, ignition coil, oil pressure switch, and idle cutoff solenoid.

I told you this was involved, so I hope I havenít forgotten anything! Remember, the entire wiring harness stays with the body itself, so make sure you have the wiring off anything that is connected to the chassis.

Body Removal

You should now be ready to lift the body off the chassis. If you have an I-beam type hoist, assemble it over the car. You might have to make some kind of load spreader bar to span over the top of the car so you can distribute the load when strapping the bar through the roof.

  1. Slowly start lifting the body off. It should start to separate from the chassis. If it seems to not separate, try prying it with the crowbar. If it still doesnít separate, check to see if there are any other bolts you missed.
  2. As the body lifts up, watch for wires and other objects.
  3. When you have cleared the engine, move the body to the other side of the garage or bay and set it down on the ground.

Wow, what a job! Stop here and relax, wash up, and go get a big bratwurst hot dog. Thereís a lot more to do, as Iíll explain next month.

Your VW Maniac &Tech Specialist,
Mike

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