Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

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Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Amskeptic » Mon May 06, 2013 3:29 pm

Look at Diagram A. You will see two cross hairs, one in the middle of the camshaft, the other in the middle of the rocker shaft. Consider this a critical dimension that is known to change as the engine warms and cools. Now look at the "rock" and the "hard place". The rock is the contact between the lifter and the base circle of the cam lobe, the hard place is the valve seat. We must have space in the valve train for the valve to be firmly shut when it it is supposed to be shut. That "space" is defined by the valve stem, the rocker arm, the push rod, and the lifter as it rides the closed interval of the cam lobe, known as the "base circle".

Image


The problem is that the valve stem likes to grow longer as it gets hot. The push rod also grows longer as it gets hot. Now we do not have room for the valve to seat. Even with the lifter shoved against the base circle of the cam lobe, the slightly longer push rod and valve stem will prevent the valve from closing when the engine is hot. Valves will burn out if they do not have sufficient seat time, just like us.
Well? Make an extra space then, that allows a hot valve to always be able to close, you'll get a little cold valve clack, oh well, part of the charm.

For most of our 1500 and 1600 engines, the valve clearance used to be .004" That was the space VW engineers deigned as enough expansion room, but not so much that the engine would peck itself to death. Yes, too much clearance would allow the valve adjustment screw to peck a crater in the valve stem. But guess what? They demanded that you adjust the valves with a stone cold engine. Dealer mechanics were not adjusting engines stone cold. They would start a customer's engine to drive it into their work bay. In that evil few minutes of barely warm combustion chambers, the aluminum under the rocker shaft (cross hair, remember?) would push the rocker arms away from the valves. Dealer mechanic would find "acceptable valve clearances" that were actually too tight if fully cold. VWs had a rash of burned valves. So they allowed the clearances to go up to .006" on the Type 1 engines, and designed the Type 4 engines from the get-go at .006" (plus another .002" for the "super-grow" sodium cooled exhaust valves in the '74 Type 4 engines)

All of this to say, don't get too excited that your valve clearances must be exacto-mundo .006", instant death if not, on your Type 1 engines. They do remember when people adjusted them to .004". . . stone cold. You can go for a snuggish .006" on the intakes and a nice easy slip on the exhausts.

"But this is a hydraulic valve adjustment procedure," you say.
"Know the Whys and Wherefores," reply I.

In 1978, the automatically self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifter was introduced. No more having to adjust your valves, they crowed. We know better. You see the lifter close up in Diagram 2. Instead of a solid lifter, there is now a barrel with a piston inside. You see the spring that pushes the piston out against the push rod to the rocker arm to the valve. No more clacking and pecking mile after mile, that spring quiets things down as it keeps everything in contact no matter the temperatures. But, we have to have a way to make the piston and barrel act like a solid lifter when that cam lobe comes around to open the valve. See the purple half moon perched on top of the lifter? That is actually an oil supply gallery drilled in the case that feeds each lifter with oil that fills the chamber where the spring lives. Every time the barrel gets hammered by a cam lobe, the increase in pressure presses shut a little ball at the piston where oil normally is allowed to travel up the push rod to the rockers and valves. Then, when the lobe has passed, that ball releases from the outlet hole, and oil is allowed to leave, but as importantly, the piston is allowed to adjust its position in the barrel depending on how the valve stem and the push rod and the aluminum is all expanding or contracting. Very incremential, this repositioning every time the cam lobe passes and releases the little ball from the outlet hole.

Image

All we do, when we "adjust" our valves with hydraulic lifters, is to reset the position of the piston to midway in the barrel. That is all. Unlike anything you have read elsewhere, we do not care if the lifter is "pumped up" or not. It does not matter, it does not matter. It does not matter. If we are setting the position of the piston in the barrel, we want the piston to be able to move in the barrel, don't we? Of course we do. Either 1 1/2 or 2 turns will be fine. I switch from 1 1/2 to 2 and back to 1 1/2 every 50,000 miles just to let the piston have a new spot to wear in the barrel. So far, I am at 110,100 miles with flawlessly performing original hydraulic lifters (07/04/16).

Move the crankshaft to line up the TDC mark with the "0" on the scale. Ask the distributor if you are on cylinder 1 or 3. Start on whatever cylinder it tells you to, we don't care. Each subsequent cylinder will require moving the pulley 180* (*counterclockwise if you are going backwards up the cylinder numbers 1-2-3-4, clockwise if you are going in normal operating direction, clockwise through the firing order 1-4-3-2 etc).

Look at Diagram B. We have made each adjusting screw a clock. READ THE INITIAL POSITION. Is it 9-3? 12-6? 10-4? 8-2, like in the picture?
If this is your first adjustment on this engine, there are no forensic clues to be had. We do not know how the valves were set last time, right? But at the next valve adjustment, you will have valuable clues about how your engine is feeling . . . IF you promise to adjust with precision now! If you do not know this engine, recheck at a couple of thousand miles just for a heads-up.

Read the initial position? Good. Loosen the locknut. Do not strip the edges of the locknut. The screw may back out with the nut, we don't care. You already read the initial position. Back the screw out 1 1/2 turns if that is what you adjusted them to last time, 2 turns if that is what you adjusted them to last time. It should read the same position on the clock as your starting point. By turning the screw out, we are allowing the piston to get pushed up the barrel until it hits the circlip-that-keeps-it-all-assembled. Then, any turning of the screw opens up clearance between the valve stem and adjusting screw. We are on a quest to find the perfect no-clearance "0" point where the piston is against the circlip. Grab the rocker arm at the locknut/adjusting screw, and do a little push-pull test. Do you get an easy clacka-clack? If so, you have wear in the valve train, most usually at the lifter heel in green here in Diagram C.

Image

You must now *subtract* from your reading as you turn the screw back in with your fingers (towards tight) until you just feel the screw touch the valve stem and the clacka-clack goes away. In this example, the new touch point (the "0" point) is at 10:30-4:30. Since it was initially at 2-8, we say you "gained 2 and a half hours" since your last valve adjustment. Now turn in exactly 1 and 1/2 turns (or 2) from your new "0" point. You will feel the spring compress. It will take more effort than it took to unscrew. Hold the screw while you tighten the locknut to "snug" not "chimpanzee cuckoo crazy."

Let's say that you turned out the requisite 1 1/2 turns (or 2 turns if that is where you set them last time) and there is no easy clack. Take another exact half turn. Do you get an easy clack? You better. If not go another half turn exactly. As soon as you get a clearance, you then screw it back in while subtracting from wherever number you had to go out to get a clack. In Diagram D, 1 1/2 turns back did not get clearance, so I went another half turn to 2 total(still showing 2-8 position). Got the clearance, and began turning back in clockwise from 2 full turns until the screw touched the valve stem at 12-6. In this example, I "lost two hours". Some people find that they have lost six hours, even twelve. That would be bad news, but sometimes it is just that you lost count. Make a note of evidence of creeping valve seat recession on this particular cylinder. This new "0" point is where I then turn exactly 1 1/2 turns in to 12-6, secure the locknut and on to the next valve.

Image

If you have seen many many engines, you have seen many many cases of one valve adjusting screw sticking out from the locknut by three or four more threads than the others. Well? That means that many many engines have lost many many "hours" between adjustments, days even (two full turns of a clock is a day), out further than the others. You have time to monitor, time to correct whatever is causing this change, time to plan an impending teardown.

Generally, three adjustments in a row that lose or gain more than three hours each time, is a trend. By the time you have drilled a screw one full turn in or out just to maintain your 1 1/2 (or 2) preload, you know something is up. Plan investigative surgery at the end of your light summer travel schedule, but monitor!

If you have wear, change the oil and filter, clean the strainer like CSI Mami, look for magnetically reactive grey paste or lifter bottom shards, see if your pushrods are pushing oil up to the rockers, they should make the entire rocker area wet with splash after only a few minutes of operation. Clean the insides of your push rods with carb cleaner and compressed air if you can, to see if this improves the oiling up to your rocker arms. Clean them too. They have small passages inside of the pushrod cups that go to the rocker shaft and out to the adjusting screws. Clean is Good. Lifters can and have been replaced on the fly. PM me if you find yourself in this predicament.

If you have valve recession, pull the plug for that cylinder and compare it to others. Is it bleached more white? Lean! Injector seal, intake manifold gasket, intake runner sleeve leak? Exhaust copper ring or flange gasket leak? If everybody looks lean and bleached white, get that mixture richened up, and start paying attention to your driving habits and ambient temperatures. Strangely enough, the intakes like to recede and they do not live in hot hellsville. It could be that your seats are not surrounded by enough metal to stay in place under normal hot operating circumstances. I personally have never had a recessed seat in thirty four years of seriously hot highway driving with factory stock heads.

Noisy Lifters

This is where some sites get all excited and give bad advice.
Noisy lifters which have not pumped up make a fiercesome and distressing racket. Expect it after a winter's sit. Expect it if you have a tired engine that has sat a week. Expect it occasionally with your daily driver that just happened to sit on an open valve with a lifter ball that wasn't quite seated. These other sites may suggest running the engine with no preload on the lifters. One of them suggests running the engine with .006" for a couple of days to help the balky lifter(s) pump up. Please do not ever do that. The hammering that occurs between the piston (red) and the circlip (little black circles) often dislodges the circlip and disassembles the lifters inside of the engine. The rule for noisy lifters is:
Adjust the preload as above (add a half turn or subtract a half turn from whichever your current preload is).
Ensure clean oil and clean filter and correct level.
Gently go drive at modest rpms until the engine gets warmed up, then get on the highway and drive 55 for 30 minutes. I have yet to run across a hydraulic lifter that has not pumped up. Again, PM me if you have an engine that has a lifter that does not quiet down. I'd like to stretch my experience of these lifters being soooo perfectly reliable that I cannot report a single failure-to-pump-up, except for three disassembled lifters with loose circlips from . . . bad advice to run them with .006" clearance.

NO COMPRESSION!

I have happened across a couple of people who diligently adjusted their lifters to 1 1/2 or 2 turns preload and their engines would not start after. "Sounds like it has no compression, the engine just whirs on the starter." That is because they had no compression. You can be sure that they had one of three possible errors:

1) They were sawing so powerfully on the screw/locknut trying to find the clacka-clack point, that they were actually compressing the spring inside the lifter, and their "0" point was actually with the piston bottomed out in the lifter.

2)the spring inside the lifter was broken (often from running the engine for a couple of days at .006" clearance trying to pump up the lifter, nooooo)

3) the lifter is pumped up and refusing to bleed down at all, which it is supposed to do when there is no opening pressure from a cam lobe on it.

Solution 1)
Settle down and get gentle. Sure, try to verify that the spring compresses and pushes back. But turn the screw out until you are at a no-pressure-no-springiness clack. Use your fingers to delicately find the "0" point.

Solution 2)
Check your questionable valve's mate. Observe the orientation of the rocker arm and screw thread depth on its mate. If your problem child is angled back, if the screw is threaded in deeper, that was your effort to turn in it in past "0". Back it out until it is definitely not touching the valve. Now see if you can push the bottom of the rocker arm in towards the lifter. It will be springy and push back if the spring is springing. If it is dead AND the rocker arm is angled as though it is closer to the camshaft, assume a collapsed lifter. You can gingerly try to run the engine by turning in the screw to bottom the dead lifter, adjust to .006" from dead bottom.

Solution 3) This is a PIA, and I have happened across two sets of new lifters that were so stupid they didn't know how to bleed down. Release the locknut. Back out the screw you had just adjusted 1 1/2 (or 2) turns and observe if it is actually the valve retainer coming back out at you. That is proof of a valve that was stuck open because the lifter would not release the oil inside as you were trying to adjust it earlier.
Sad to say, I had to pull all the lifters, release the check balls with a small allen wrench down the middle of the lifter, and readjust. If anyone has had this problem, I'd like to hear from you. PM me.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Jivermo » Tue May 07, 2013 3:48 pm

Colin, your explanation of the valve adjustment procedure, and walking through the adjustment on my '78 was one of the most informative aspects of your recent Miami visit. I believe that I have a complete handle on the process, and am poised to begin the "Forensics" on the next adjustment. Yes, and a round of applause to Indian Head Shellac, known to be a superior product.

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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Amskeptic » Wed May 08, 2013 2:19 pm

Jivermo wrote:Colin, your explanation of the valve adjustment procedure, and walking through the adjustment on my '78 was one of the most informative aspects of your recent Miami visit. I believe that I have a complete handle on the process, and am poised to begin the "Forensics" on the next adjustment. Yes, and a round of applause to Indian Head Shellac, known to be a superior product.
Heyyy, yer not a paid shill are ye?

I need to do some editing of this post. When it says (ed) in the subject header, it is the completed article. I will link to Samba as well, and we'll see if that drives traffic here a little. They have been compiling some of my articles amongst others and I am glad they are useful, but sad that I don't have links to here . . . home.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by sped372 » Thu May 05, 2016 10:13 am

Ok, hydraulic valve newbie here. On the new-to-me '84 there is (to my ear) one valve that was substantially clattery for a good 10 minutes or so every time I'd start the engine when we first bought it last year. Granted it sat for a week or more each time. I was hoping I could remedy it by performing the following (which I just recently did):

1. Oil Change to Castrol 20w50
2. New Mann oil filter with anti-drainback valve
3. Adjustment of valves per this article.

At valve adjustment time, I definitely found one valve that was super squishy (holy cow that's a startling new sensation after dealing with solid lifters on multiple engines for the past 15 years). I feel relatively confident that I was able to learn the tactile sensation of zero lash even with a squishy lifter and then went in two full rotations from that point. I found most of the valves set approximately 1.5 turns in from zero but obviously I didn't perform the last adjustment myself. I lost track of where the 'squishy' one was [previously] because it threw me off how squishy it was. If it matters I did this on an overnight-cold engine (old habits die hard).

So, now, the valve(s) (I still think it's just one) still clatters on most startups, even only after a day of sitting. It goes away much quicker, though. So it's definitely pumping up, but it seems like it bleeds down relatively quickly too. Aside from checking my work on the adjustment, any other things to try? I cringe having to listen to that thing clap-clack-clap back there on first startup. Heads are next-to-new but no idea if the lifters were touched when the heads were replaced. I could try to get ahold of the P.O.'s mechanic, they've been relatively forthcoming with information, which is nice.
1971 Karmann Ghia - 1600 DP
1984 Westfalia - 1.9 WBX

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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by asiab3 » Thu May 05, 2016 11:04 am

Hi Sped,

Do you know which valve/cylinder it is? (You might be able to do a spark plug or injector "drop test" to identify which cylinder quiets down when you take it out of the workforce.)

Have you always down two turns in? Or 1.5 turns in? Some quick and dirty voodoo is to change from 2 to 1.5 turns preload, or vice-versa. This gives the piston a new section of bore to jive with, and can result in different enough clearances between the two to change operating characteristics.

Good luck!
Robbie
1969 bus, "Buddy."
142k miles with me.
319k miles on Earth.

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sped372
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by sped372 » Thu May 05, 2016 11:18 am

Like I said, this is a new-to-me vehicle so this was my first hydro valve adjustment. I don't know the history of previous adjustments on this mill. I don't have my notes in front of me but I believe it was #2 intake that was squishy.

Because I found most of them at approximately 1.5 in I thought I'd try 2 turns in to do the voodoo swap you mention.
1971 Karmann Ghia - 1600 DP
1984 Westfalia - 1.9 WBX

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asiab3
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by asiab3 » Thu May 05, 2016 12:09 pm

sped372 wrote:Like I said, this is a new-to-me vehicle
Like I said, oops. :drunken:

Let us know if the two turns setting changes anything. If the engine has sat a while, you might also be able to push the pushrod in by hand and feel for squish to confirm which lifter is lethargic.

Robbie
1969 bus, "Buddy."
142k miles with me.
319k miles on Earth.

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sped372
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by sped372 » Thu May 05, 2016 12:40 pm

Okay Mr. Robbie..., I shall, ahem, reiterate...

I performed the 2-turns-in adjustment and am still experiencing the initial clatter. It goes away quicker now though. I was definitely able to tell which valve was squishy when I did the adjustment. Actually I think there were a couple that 'became' slightly squishy once I relieved all pressure from the adjuster, but the one that I surmise is the main culprit felt squishy right from the get-go before I even loosened the jam-nut.

So, like I said, it's (they're?) definitely pumping up, and inside of a couple minutes, but it's troubling to me that it is happening at nearly every startup.
1971 Karmann Ghia - 1600 DP
1984 Westfalia - 1.9 WBX

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Amskeptic
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Amskeptic » Thu May 05, 2016 5:01 pm

sped372 wrote:Okay Mr. Robbie..., I shall, ahem, reiterate...

I performed the 2-turns-in adjustment and am still experiencing the initial clatter. It goes away quicker now though. I was definitely able to tell which valve was squishy when I did the adjustment. Actually I think there were a couple that 'became' slightly squishy once I relieved all pressure from the adjuster, but the one that I surmise is the main culprit felt squishy right from the get-go before I even loosened the jam-nut.

So, like I said, it's (they're?) definitely pumping up, and inside of a couple minutes, but it's troubling to me that it is happening at nearly every startup.
There is a little check ball (or disc) in the hydraulic lifters, #2 intake on yours may have some varnish or crap in it. The engine might also stop in a favorite position (usually at the cylinder with the highest compression) that always makes #2 intake sit in the open position all night, that will definitely bleed down an older engine. For fun, and it is ALL fun around here ALL the time, spot the engine's stop position a couple of times and see what it was where you note a clattery period the next start. Let us know what position it is based on timing marks and distributor rotor. I will publish the diagram of which cam lobe is open.

At the end of your next drive, put what you think is the offending cylinder at firing position before you go in. You can just stick the car in 4th gear and shove it until the distributor rotor points to the #2 wire position in the distributor cap. Let us know if you get a quiet start.

Anyways, my lazy experiment would include reverting back to 1 1/2 or 1 1/4 on the offending soggy lifter. If that doesn't help,
some people go all hocus pocus with Marvel Mystery Oil or STP or Sea Foam, to see if they can get the lifter clean without taking it apart. I say, why not try? Change the oil when the cleaning agent has had its chance.

Next step would be to replace the lifter. Most of the newer lifters know to have softer Rockford numbers than the cam, so a dab of moly grease or zinc-fortified break-in lube is all that is required to get it to break-in with the camshaft lobe.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by sped372 » Thu May 05, 2016 7:34 pm

Good information, thanks. I will try to monitor and check as time permits. It's not my daily ride.
1971 Karmann Ghia - 1600 DP
1984 Westfalia - 1.9 WBX

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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Amskeptic » Fri May 06, 2016 7:16 pm

sped372 wrote:Good information, thanks. I will try to monitor and check as time permits. It's not my daily ride.
Well that's why the lifter clatters. The BobD always gives me a clattery start after sitting for months on end. I just drive it gently for 10 miles or so and it is a quiet start each time for the week or so that I am in town . . . although, it did givew me two days in a row of clackity clacker this last time.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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sped372
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by sped372 » Sat May 07, 2016 4:34 am

Yes, but but but, even when I have driven it to work it clatters on startup when I come out to the parking lot to drive home.
1971 Karmann Ghia - 1600 DP
1984 Westfalia - 1.9 WBX

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Amskeptic
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Amskeptic » Sat May 07, 2016 7:38 am

sped372 wrote:Yes, but but but, even when I have driven it to work it clatters on startup when I come out to the parking lot to drive home.
Again, the information you need to execute a solution is contained in this thread.

Here is another dose from another source:

http://www.gowesty.com/tech-article-details.php?id=116

Now it is up to you. Although, I did forget that hydraulic lifters on a Vanagon waterboxer requires either tearing the engine down or installing all new collapsible pushrod tubes. Have fun.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

ktk833
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by ktk833 » Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:11 am

Hi guys.
I am new to the forum and equally new to the hydraulic lifter engines. Ive had the solid lifter engines for a few years now & never can complain about the VW aircooled engine.

I had issues with my vanagon... Having learnt how to adjust the hydraulic lifters, I did so but had major issues with sudden engine stalls as well as loss of power.

On investigating, my lifters are "dead solid" even though a peep through the pushrod tubes evidently show they are the hydraulic type.

The van had been lying idle for 15yrs and I've just revived it. I dont know what the previous owner/mechanic might have done either...I havent split the case as yet. I, initially, before learning how to adjust the hydraulic lifters, adjusted them like solid lifters....and the van run perfect...(about 8 days...short trips)

are there situations where the hydraulic function seazes totally?? Please advice. I have adjusted the clearance as solid lifters for now and running smooth. Please advice

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Amskeptic
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Re: Hydraulic Lifter Adjustment

Post by Amskeptic » Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:23 am

ktk833 wrote:Hi guys.
I am new to the forum and equally new to the hydraulic lifter engines. Ive had the solid lifter engines for a few years now & never can complain about the VW aircooled engine.

I had issues with my vanagon... Having learnt how to adjust the hydraulic lifters, I did so but had major issues with sudden engine stalls as well as loss of power.

On investigating, my lifters are "dead solid" even though a peep through the pushrod tubes evidently show they are the hydraulic type.

The van had been lying idle for 15yrs and I've just revived it. I dont know what the previous owner/mechanic might have done either...I havent split the case as yet. I, initially, before learning how to adjust the hydraulic lifters, adjusted them like solid lifters....and the van run perfect...(about 8 days...short trips)

are there situations where the hydraulic function seazes totally?? Please advice. I have adjusted the clearance as solid lifters for now and running smooth. Please advice
There are occasions where new hydraulic lifters refuse to release pressure. They make it impossible to adjust the preload because the valves will open instead of the piston going down the lifter bore. The only solution I had was to remove the lifter, disassemble, remove oil, reassemble, and adjust to my 1.5 or 2 turns.

There are solid lifters out there that are "composite". They have circlips and an inner piece and are solid. They will not have springs or check valves inside. Why? Why? Why? does life have to have all of these annoying permutations?

EVERY lifter opens the valves when you try to pre-load?
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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