If you’ve arrived here from my ad in Hemmings, welcome. This is my 550 Spyder and it’s for sale, and while it’s for sale I’ll be maintaining it as one does any car, and reporting what I find and any fixes or upgrades. This one’s gonna be a fix. [Update—see below—it is fixed].
On Sunday I rolled the Spyder off the lift for its spring startup. Disconnected the trickle charger, pumped the tires up a little (22 front, 26 rear), checked the oil, which I’d changed just before I parked it in November, climbed in, turned on the key and pulled the fuel pump switch. It whined to life so after a few seconds I pulled the Accusump switch and watched the oil pressure light go out, pumped the pedal twice, pressed the starter, paused, heard the fuel pump’s whine get a third lower, pressed again and we had liftoff.
After about 20 seconds, the engine settled into a nice idle at about 900 RPM, and I got out and walked around the car, poked my head under it in search of oil drips (none), then got back in and eased her up the road.
I ran about 10 miles in the warm spring sun, taking it easy as the oil temperature slowly climbed toward 80C. Shifts were clean and trouble-free, the engine revved and pulled fine to the leisurely 4,000 RPM shakedown speed. No smoke, no weird smells or sounds greeted me, clutch felt normal (with that very slight chatter it has), brake pedal firm. I revved her to 5000 in second once on the way back and got a taste of that glorious “on cam” sound.
All went perfectly, except for one thing. Turning left onto my main road in the home stretch, a hit the brakes a little harder and heard—thought I heard—the left rear wheel lock up.
Once home I checked for drips again, noting nothing on the ground, lifted the clam and saw some spots in the driver’s fender well. Oil. Looking down I could see more of it on the inside of the wheel. It’s that thick, greasy 90-wt gear oil we all love so much.
Welp, we can’t have that.
The swing axle hubs are the bane of VW hobbyists. Leaks here are incredibly common, both as a result of normal assembly errors, poorly-manufactured seal kits, and it is even said one of the culprits is the imprecise machining on the aftermarket disc brake mounting brackets. Perhaps I was lucky this hadn’t happened previously.
Tonight I finally got after it, jacking the car, pulling the wheel and “drum skin” off, then taking apart the hub.
Man, that’s nasty.
I might, while I’m at it, replace these big goofy accordian-style axle boots with the more svelt ones I have.
Update (April 2): Finished up, refilled the transaxle and test-drove. Seems good, no leaks. I’ll take out out again this week and thrash it to make sure.
Update 4/5/23: Longer test drive indicates the leak is fixed.