If you have been following the tune up procedures your distributor cap is already off, if not then unsnap the clips and remove it from the distributor. There is no need at this point to disconnect the spark plug wires.
Pull off the rotor button and look at the tip. Is it burned, pitted or corroded?
Inspect the points. The contacts should be perfectly parallel and their surfaces should be smooth and clean. If the points appear burned the culprit is most likely the condenser.
As part of a routine tune up you will replace the spark plugs, ignition points, rotor button and condenser. You should also inspect the distributor cap and spark plug wires and replace them when necessary.The points are held in place with a small slotted screw and is attached to the condenser with a wire connector. Pull of the connector with your fingers or a needle nose pliers. Remove the screw and lift out the ignition points. Remove the condenser which is held on with a slotted screw.
Attach the new condenser and insert the new points tightening the screw only until it is snug. The easiest way to do this is to hold the points in your left hand then insert the screw into the hole and hold it in place with a screw driver.
When you look at the distributor shaft where it comes into contact with the points you will notice four lobes, or high areas. Turn the engine until the base of the ignition points is resting on the highest point. Here is when your points will be fully open and here is where you need to set the gap.
Loosen the mounting screw just until you are able to move the contact points. Insert a 0.016 in. feeler gauge into the gap and tighten the screw. There is a spot where you can use a slotted screw driver to pry and hold the points in place (See photo).
Be sure to recheck and verify the gap once the screw is tightened as the gap tends to decrease when you turn the screw. This takes practice and you will probably have to redo it several times to get it right. Many experienced air cooled engine mechanics can actually set the point gap by eye balling it!
Now all you need to do is pop on the new rotor button, and if it looks fine, then snap on the distributor cap.
In an emergency you can file the contact points and get your VW back on the road. If you break down and you find that your points are pitted or they have material build up (which causes them to never fully open) you can remove the points and file down the contacts. If you don’t have an ignition point file any small bastard file should work. Keep in mind that it is important that the surfaces be as smooth and even as possible.
Proceed to Step 4 of tune up procedure Air Cooled VW Spark Plug Service
Written by David Slone, Copyright 2008 AirCooledVWLove.com