1969 VW Beetle Speedometer Rebuild

I ordered this 1969 VW speedometer to use while I rebuild the speedometer in my 1968 Beetle. The 68 speedos are hard to find and expensive. They were a one year only design, so its worth your time to try to repair and rebuild it yourself. Mine is in good condition, but it suffers from the speedo whine and the gels need to be replaced. So before I remove mine from the car, I figured Id practice on the donor speedo that I got off of Ebay. Once I feel confident with the finished rebuild, Ill swap it out with the 68 speedo in my car and proceed with rebuilding it. The donor 69 speedo is in pretty good condition, glass is dirty inside, its a little discolored and the gels look a little warped. But its a perfect candidate to practice on and it’ll serve its purpose once I swap it out with the one currently in the car. I also rolled back the speedo to display the actual miles on my motor, I plan on doing this as well when I rebuild the 68 speedo that is currently in the car. A lot of people dread this part of the process, but I found it to be very easy. I did this rebuild in one evening, the whole process from start to finish took about 5 hours or so. To start, Ill list the tools I used, they’re also shown in the photos below.

1. Small flat head screwdriver
2. Dental tools (used to pry the bezel)
3. Steel wool (used to clean the housing)
4. Warm, soapy water and cleaning rags (DO NOT USE ANY CAUSTIC CLEANING SOLUTIONS)
5. Super glue (not necessary, but I ended up needing it)
6. Colorful folder tabs (used if you’re going to replace the gels)

Click on the photos for a larger view!

This is the 69 speedo that I started with. As I mentioned earlier, its not in bad shape, just needs cleaned up a bit. Purchased off Ebay for $39. Ill use it in my 68 Beetle while I rebuild my 68 speedo.

Here are the tools I used to remove the bezel from the housing. Most people use a small flat head screwdriver or a knife blade, but these dental tools were perfect for the application and made the process of removing the bezel very easy. Again, this is a step that deters a lot of people from rebuilding their speedos because you can easily damage the bezel if you’re not careful. My suggestion is to take your time and find the right tool for the job.

Start by prying the lip of the bezel, slowly working your way around. It doesn’t take a lot of force to raise the lip of the bezel, once you get started you’ll realize just how easy it is. I made several passes around the entire bezel until it practically feel off into my hands. Be patient, work slowly and you wont butcher your bezel. It’ll also make re-installing it that much easier with hardly any indication that the bezel was ever removed. Again, I cant stress how important it is to have the right tool for the job. I’m sure you can find something laying around the house or garage that will work for you.

Removing the bezel was definitely the longest process of the dis-assembly. A couple of times, Id step away for a moment or continue to remove other parts of the speedo. Eventually though, the bezel slipped right off of the housing. Be careful not to pry to much on the lip of the bezel, you can cause a lot of damage. And if you do it correctly, you shouldn’t have to pull it from the front, at least not have to pull it very much. Patience will be your best friend!

Once the bezel came off, the rest of dis-assembly was very easy. I had already removed the screw that secure the vibrator to the back of the fuel gauge, so I removed the remaining 4 screws from the back of the speedo (as outlined in photos at the top of the page) and finished the dis-assembly. Not rocket science, you’ll quickly realize how everything comes apart. May take some twisting and turning to get the housing removed, just don’t force anything and take your time. As I dis-assembled everything, I laid it out to try to keep everything organized before I began to clean the parts. Lots of small parts that are easy to lose. Keep track of everything you remove, take pictures if you think that’ll help. Removing the speedo needle can be a bit tricky as it has tension on it. Some people bend and lift over top of the stop arm. I think that’s a bad idea. Its plastic, its old and I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot to break it. I unscrewed the face plate, turned it, then marked the place where the needle came to rest on the metal side of the speedo housing. That was the easiest way to measure the tension on the arm. Be careful not to mess with the tension spring behind the face plate, that’s a whole world of hurt. To remove the speedo needle, I lifted from each side of the round black needle cover. It came off fairly easy.

I wanted to roll back the speedo to the actual miles on my motor. As far as legal issues, I live in Kentucky and the DMV states that I can do whatever I want to it because the car is exempt and over 20 years old. You may want to check your states requirements before you do this. I had already read that the process of rolling back can be a pain in the butt, but I found it to be very easy. Using a pair of needle nose pliers, I pressed the gear retaining pin through the housing just enough to free it. Be careful not to let the little plastic gears go flying off of the pin once its free. Then it was just a matter rolling the numbers back, seating the gears and pushing the pin back through the housing. This part can be a little tricky and test your patience as you try to keep the numbers from rolling and getting the gears set. But after a couple of tries, everything will fall into place. Lastly, I added some fresh gear grease to the plastic gears. I believe this is what’s causing the whining in my 68 speedo.

Now it was time to clean all of the parts. I used steel wool to clean the speedo housing and a damp cloth to clean everything else. You can remove the inner cover and glass from the bezel, but don’t be surprise if the rubber gasket that fits around the glass is dry rotted. This particular gasket wasn’t too bad, but I was careful removing it from the glass. It had a couple of tears in it, but nothing that a little super glue couldn’t fix. The glass was dirty as was the inner cover, so I cleaned it thoroughly with glass cleaner and a damp cloth.

The gels in this speedo sit inside of rubber holders. You’ll see once you get it apart just how they’re secured. These were in good shape except for the turn signal gel. It had warped and deformed over the years and was sliding out of the rubber holder. When I removed the rubber casing from the speedo housing, the gel fell right out. To straighten it and make it flat again, I placed the gel between two pieces of paper and placed a hot iron on top of it for a few moments, being careful not to leave the iron on it for too long. It took a couple of times, but the gel finally flattened out. Placing the gel back into the rubber casing proved to be a task. The rubber casing was a bit dry rotted and when I tried to spread it to insert the gel, it came apart. The rest of the casing seemed to be ok, just those two contact points were weak. So after fighting with it for about 15 minutes, I got the gels back into the casing, then applied super glue to the points where the rubber had failed. Again, you have to be patient and expect stuff like this to happen. While I waited for the glue to set, I taped off the speedo needle and gave it a light coat of off white paint just to freshen it up a bit. Then I walked away from the project for about a half hour.

Once the glue was cured and the paint was dry, it was time to reassemble everything. This was the easy part and the most satisfying. Remember to line your needle up with the tension mark you made, then turn the face plate and reattach it with the screws. Not hard at all. I just did everything in reverse order. Make sure the inside of the glass is clean and free of finger prints before you put the bezel back on. Once you’ve gotten everything in place, you’ll just push the lip of bezel back down around the housing and you’re done! I’m a lot more confident now that I can refurbish my 68 speedo now that I’ve finished with this one. I’m sure they differ more than just cosmetically, but the process should be the same.

If you have any questions about this project, please feel free to let us know. Well be more than happy to help!

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