How To: Removing An Engine For The First Time

I stared into the engine bay, confused. Both the side door and the garage door to the unlit shop were open, both to provide natural light as well as to cycle the stuffy, hot summer air. I looked over the three instruction manuals in front of me again, just to make sure. Each one told me that the four bolts I’d just removed were the only things holding the engine in the van.

I’d already loosened the engine mount from the frame, so by all accounts it should be ready for removal. But this was my first time pulling a Volkswagen’s engine—hell, my first time pulling any engine—and it almost seemed too easy. I firmly grasped the sides of the block, already partially stripped of its tin, and pulled. The engine came forward off the transmission so suddenly that I panicked a little, thinking it would slip off the jack and the plank of wood I had positioned underneath it in order to pull it out. I made a mental note to look into purchasing an ATV jack, which would be much more capable of balancing the engine when I put it back in.

Well, I guess it’s off, I thought. Carefully, I grabbed hold of the block once more and pulled, wiggling the engine slowly away from the transmission, taking extra care to fully clear the input shaft. Bending that would be a one-way ticket to purchasing a new transmission. When the engine was clear of the shaft, I let go slowly, making sure it was perfectly balanced on its plank. I walked back to the handle of the floor jack and twisted it slowly, lowering the engine down at a painfully slow pace. Attempting to pull the engine out, I found it nearly impossible to do so on my own between balancing the engine and pulling at the same time.

Stretching out and wiping sweat from my brow, I walked outside and into the daylight, following the path from the shop to the back door of the house. Inside, my brother and Jacey, a mutual friend of ours, were slumped in front of the television, doing their best to beat the heat, which had only recently dropped out of the triple-digits.

“Hey, can I get you two to help me out a minute,” I asked, leaning in the doorway. The lulling looks they gave me said that any movement would be too much, but after a bit of begging they slowly picked themselves up and followed me back to the shop.

“I need you two to hold the engine steady while I pull,” I said, taking position on the handle of the jack. They each grabbed a side, lightly holding onto the dirty metal. In this way we slowly pulled, clearing the back end of the van. I had earlier elevated it with jack stands, a good foresight; The engine would have been too tall to pull out.

When it was fully removed I stood, and with a flourish gestured to the engine.

“Look,” I said, “It’s out!”

Both Jacey and my brother gave halfhearted responses before traipsing back to the house. That was fine; I was excited enough for the three of us. I’d just completed the first major step in returning my Volkswagen bus to running condition. 


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