How to Install an Electronic Ignition in a VW Bug

Written by derek odom
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An electronic ignition (most popularly the Bosch 009 package) can help your VW Bug run more reliably and with a little more power. It eliminates the points-style ignition in favour of full electronics, which takes all the guesswork out. Installation is about as straightforward as it gets, and the price tag isn't out of control, either. All electronic ignitions will come with a set of instructions from the manufacturer, but prepare yourself with a quick rundown on what to expect.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Wrench set
  • Timing light (optional)

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  1. 1

    Remove the old distributor. Loosen the same nut that is used to time the vehicle and twist the distributor while pulling up slightly to remove. Do not forget to disconnect the wiring, as well. It is a good idea to mark the cap where each wire was, so that the new distributor goes in with the least amount of hassle.

  2. 2

    Install the new distributor. Slide the new unit into the hole where the old unit was. It may be necessary to slightly twist the distributor body in order to get it to seat completely, but they usually go in pretty easily. Once the new unit is in place, position it as closely as you can when compared to the original, and tighten the timing screw. The positive, or power wire (usually red) is connected to the positive (+) side of the coil. The negative, or ground wire (usually black) is connected to the negative (-) side of the coil. Make sure not to reverse these.

  3. 3

    Time the vehicle. Using a strobe-style timing light, time the vehicle correctly to see optimum performance. If there is no access to a timing light, the vehicle can be "timed by ear" and driven to a mechanic where the timing will be done correctly. If the distributor is in the engine very similarly to how the first one came out, there should only be minor adjustments necessary anyhow. However, it is recommended to time it before driving it if at all possible.

Tips and warnings

  • Pay attention to which direction the rotor inside the distributor is facing! It makes installation a breeze.
  • It is recommended to use a high-performance coil with a new electronic ignition.
  • Never remove a distributor from a running engine.
  • If you must drive the vehicle before it is timed, go as slow as possible, staying out of high RPM.

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