Engine Support

by Richard Atwell
(c) Copyright 2004-2011

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Disclaimer: this article is for illustration only. Lifting engines is very dangerous so wear steel toe boots, observe safety protocols and use common sense.


Stands:

They say there are two kinds of VW owners: those that have pulled their engine and those that are going to. If you've ever rebuilt or dressed an engine while it sat on the floor you'll immediately understand how inconvenient it is. The solution is to purchase an engine stand like a repair shop or rebuilder would use.

Stands come in several styles: T, I, A and U styles. The style describes the arrangement of the legs:

T base H base A base C base
"T" "H" "A" "C"(The best!)

The C style is usually rated for 1250 lbs and has one obvious advantage: you can remove the vertical post and use it as an engine dolly with some 2'x4's and a floor jack. This is the style I think it best to own and it works equally as well for VW and Porsche.

The stand I bought is the Torin Big Red (#T25671). If you can find one locally get it because shipping a heavy item like this can be expensive. Luckily I found one that was in the same UPS zone. The stand was $50 and with tax/discount/shipping the total came to $65.

What I like most about the stand besides its use an an engine dolly and price are the dimensions: 31" high, 31" long and 29" wide.

Torin height Torin length Torin width

This allows you to drive an ATV jack or lift into the base area to help you lift the engine onto the stand. My first attempt was with the H style and you can see below how difficult it was to use when you are lacking a hoist (something most people won't have and which is not tailored to lifting a boxer engine anyway). Just take a look at the size of this impractical crane: Suitable for a large shop but what about your little garage? (Photo)

Summary:
Style Pros Cons
T stand none tipsy
H stand sturdy no front access
A stand super sturdy too big, access
C stand Best access none

Yokes:

porsche yoke

Now that you've got a stand how do you mount the engine to it?

The VW parts vendors sell a surprisingly expensive engine stand. It is not made from box steel and incredibly bouncy when the engine is fitted. Avoid temptation and steer clear of this stand: it's just the cheapest version you can buy and while I might mount the yoke by itself to a sturdy bench I wouldn't trust the welding of that bouncy stand at those prices. To be fair it's only designed to lift a Type 1 engine.

One thing you'll notice about the design is that it has a 2-arm yoke style engine holding fixture. Again, this is a poor reproduction of the original version made by Matra for the VW factory and their dealerships.

The box frame engine stands come with a universal yoke but it bolts to the case in a way that puts stress on the transmission mounting holes. The original fixture is designed to support the engine in an arc so the case is not stressed.

The original VW yoke was a sturdy 2 or 3 arm affair but it's hard to find used and expensive. Luckily the case mounting holes are universal between aircooled VW and Porsche engines and this allows us to use a 4 arm (dead link) or 5 arm fixture normally used to support a fully dressed 911 engine. Some people think this item is overkill for a VW engine but it's well made and available.

Unfortunately these items have been going up in price recently. The Porsche factory yoke costs $700 and the reproduction from Sir Tools shown here that used to be $125 a few years ago is now over $300 list price. Simply crazy! Keep a look out for one at a reasonable price. I looked for 6 months on eBay in order to save a hundred plus on the 5-arm reproduction.

Ok, so you're saying that's a lot of money. We'll there's a useful alternative that combines the yoke and the universal engine adapter. It's made by Mainley Custom By Design and is about $150.

Aug '07 Update: a sub-$200 yoke from QSC has recently appeared on the scene:

Summary:
Style Pros Cons
Engine stand yoke "free" bad for engine case
Aftermarket VW yoke inexpensive really meant for Type 1 engines
Factory 5-arm yoke strong expensive
Mainley Ring strong affordable

Clamps:

sirtools clamp

The VW/Porsche style yokes are designed to fit into a companion clamp (Sir Tools P313) that is bench mounted. The clamp was also meant to be bolted to a heavy duty stand that was bolted to the floor. Because the clamp held the engine level instead of at a slight angle like the universal stands it was easy to rotate by hand.

This yoke does not have a rotation handle attached to the back like the universal versions which makes engine rotation on the universal stands slightly more difficult due to the fact that the yoke is longer than the receiver on the universal stands. This can make it awkward to align the hole and hitch pin that lock the yoke to keep the engine from rotating. Given the number of times you need to rotate the engine this isn't really an issue. Just be sure to grease the yoke before inserting it into the stand.

Note: the head of the engine stand the holds the yoke is about 2 1/2" ID (63mm) while the yoke is a slightly smaller metric size of 60mm. While the engine does rotate easily on the stand even with the slightly loose fit I decided to improve the fit. I bought 2 ft. of 10" wide aluminum flashing from the hardware store and cut it to 21" long. This allowed me to wrap the inside about three times around. Use a clamp to compress the cylinder you form and insert it into the head. After you flare the front edge and trim the rear you can drill a hole through your shim so you can still fit the hitch pin. Secure it with a hose clamp and grease the inside.

my sleeve sleeve clamp

This setup is less than ideal but it's a compromise. If you have the money to spare, I would modify the engine stand by cutting off the top and welding a plate that would allow you to mount the bench clamp.

Summary:
Style Pros Cons
Engine stand "free" angled, wrong size for yoke
Factory Clamp none expensive

Mechanical Fuel Pumps:

72-74 Type 4 engines with the mechanical fuel pump will not clear the engine yoke. You have to remove the pump first. The yokes are designed to bolt up using the starter mount hole and the engine case stud below it using one of the nuts from the bell housing and the engine mounting bolt opposite the starter D-bolt. You can bolt it the other way but then the yoke won't clear the engine tin. If you need to bolt a starter adapter then you don't have a choice. If you bolt it horizontal you won't be able to split the case on the stand which defeats the purpose of using it to it's fullest.

BTW, I believe the original screws holding the fuel pump on were 8mm triple square like the new style CV joint bolts.

fuel pump carbs

Engine Dolly:

dolly

The traditional tool for VW engine removal at home is the dolly. All the factory photos you'll see show a pair of technicians using a long transmission jack to pull and engine and transition from a beetle.

The dolly is made from metal (although I've seen a few home-made 2x4 experiments) and it lets you slide a jack into it so you can lower the engine onto it and remove the jack afterwards. Some models have 4 casters instead of 3 and most are most from angle iron although I've seen a couple made from T-iron which is stronger although I'm not sure if it's necessary.

When choosing a dolly, all you need to know is whether or not it fits Type 4 engines because most are designed to fit the Type 1 crankcase only.

All of these stands are no fun to roll because the casters are so small and do not move easily over rough ground. The small casters are a necessity to keep the stand as low to the ground as possible.

The dolly really needs a couple of eyelets to let you attach a rope to pull it back to the garage.


ATV Jacks:

atv jack

Thanks to the Chinese, expensive items like shop equipment are costing less and less. One such item is the ATV jack which can be had for about $50 now.

With a plank of wood, the ATV jack lets you lower and transport the engine back to your garage. I can't really fault anything about this method except that the jack doesn't lift up high enough (more on this later). I wish I knew who to give credit to for this idea because it's really great.

These jacks are also called motorcycle jacks. You might wonder how you can lift a modern motorcycle with the exhaust pipes running below? These jacks are really meant for the old style cruisers with the cradle frame (watch American Chopper sometime).

Summary:
Style Pros Cons
Dolly low profile engine case specific
ATV jack mobility/convenience limited lift height

Improvising:

If you thought choosing a stand and locating an affordable yoke was difficult try lifting 300 lbs worth of engine off the floor and mounting it onto the stand that's too high. Several workarounds exist. Use 4 or more people and a short table and try to lift the engine onto the stand. Use a hoist to lift the engine up to the necessary height. Even with the lift there is a risk of damaging the fan shroud if you don't remove it because it's made from Magnesium and fragile.

I think everyone probably comes to their own unique solution based on the equipment and manpower at hand. Planning the lift is harder than it looks. He's my own solution for an engine pull I did for a friend and it shows the awkwardness of the ATV jack and the stand I used:

1. The first step was to remove the engine from the vehicle. I like to use an ATV jack because of its superior stability and mobility. The previous engine removal I performed was to replace a leaking flywheel seal. I also undressed and cleaned the engine and while the engine was supported on the jack and inconvenient it was still better than working on the engine with it directly on the floor. TJ pulls engine
2. The engine is supported by a plank of hard wood as it sits on the jack. This prevents the jack from getting damaged and helps to support the bottom of the engine keeping it level. I often take off the exhaust beforehand but since the bolts on this 72 engine have rusted so badly I decided to remove them after mounting on the stand. engine on jack
3. The ATV jack cannot lift to the height that the yoke requires to mount the engine on the stand. I scratched my head for a few hours wondering how best to do this with the equipment on hand and I came to realize it would be possible with my second jack and some blocks of wood. I used eight 6x6x12" end cuts from some wooden posts and oriented the jack transversely to the engine stand. This would allow me to roll the engine over the jack while providing a secure base. jack n stand setup
4. I raised the engine to transfer it from one jack to the other but found the engine didn't slide easily because of the irregular shape of the bottom. I discovered this during a prior engine pull trying to move the engine from the jack to a wooden pallet. My solution then was to rock the engine from side to jack but I found it unstable at this height so I decided to support the engine temporarily by the heater boxes using my floor jacks (another good reason to leave the muffler attached). Because of the arrangement of the eight blocks I was able to clear the support blocks, roll the engine over the other jack and lower it. The arrangement of blocks is very limited in order to allow the various jacks to move back and forth using the H style base. jack lifting engine
5. With a sturdy base and the engine stable I lifted the engine up into position. The yoke needs to go up about 2 feet to be at the same height as the receiver but because the receiver is angled you have to go higher in order to tip the stand to get the receiver level for the hand off. upper jack lifting
6. At this point it was easy to slide the yoke into the receiver and slowly lower the ATV jack in order to support the full weight of the engine on the stand. No heavy lifting involved, just a lot of jacks and a little "enginuity" :-) Too many jacks were required and I won't do it this way again but we were pressed for time.

If this procedure looks difficult just try doing the reverse. I must stress that at any time you are trying to remove the engine stand while you transfer the engine to the jacks and you discover that the stand is still supporting the engine, do not attempt to remove the stand fully. If you do, you might find that the engine is precariously balanced and the chances of it falling and damaging the engine or yourself are great.

engine on stand

A better way:

lift table $99 table

So having struggled with the difficulty of mounting and mounting I had to search for a better way. My solution? To use a U-shaped engine stand and a hydraulic lifting table:

The photo shows it in action. These tables can be had for $200 from HF and other vendors. Some only lift 300 lbs, some 1000 lbs. You have to carefully look at the specs. The best deal I've seen was at Kragen Auto. They had a $100 table that could lift 500 lbs. from Champion Power Equipment (NLA).

The table surface only lowers to about 11" off the ground. This means you can't use it like an ATV jack without jacking up the bus even higher. I haven't tried it yet but you may be able to remove the engine if you put the bus on ramps and remove the rear bumper.

These tables are also fairly heavy which limits their mobility. Having a table like this must be useful for a variety of other tasks. When not in use, just use it as a non-lifting table so it doesn't waste space in your garage.

I recently came across this photo showing the table in action, installing a beetle engine with the valance removed (something you can't do with the 72-79 bus). You can see they've lifted up the rear a little because of the minimum height of the table I mentioned.

betle

Summary:

Style Pros Cons
ATV jack inexpensive, fits under engine limited lift height, can't balance engine and trans together
Hydraulic Lifting Table lift height too high to remove engine from bus, needs C style stand, heavy

It's hard to beat the lift table for overall stability.

References:


History:

11/16/04 - Created
04/28/05 - Updates with lifting table
12/1/05 - Added photo of beetle engine
06/11/07 - Added clamp, ATV jack and dolly photos
09/07/11 - Fixed broken photos, added translate button, updated footer