Front Footwell Vent Control Restoration


History: The early beetles had a twist knob near the hand brake lever used to turn the cabin heaters on. Later cars, from about 1968, have two levers, one either side of the hand brake lever. The RIGHT lever turns the cabin heaters on, and the LEFT lever opens the footwell ports to allow heat to flow to your feet. From 68 to 72 the left lever only worked the rear footwell heater ports, and the front foot heater ports were individually opened by hand. From 1973, the front foot well ports were linked to the left lever so both rear and front foot wells opened together. With the two-lever system, pulling the right lever up (leaving the left lever down) directed all warm air forwards to give the fastest windscreen defrost, and once you could see where you were going, pulling the left lever up got warm air into the footwells for cabin heating.

Condition: The control cables to the front footwell vent flaps are missing or immovable. These cables are fitted to 1973 and later Beetles, and to some Karman Ghia models. Previous to this, the front foot vents were operated manually at the vents themselves.


  1. If the old cables are in place, disconnect them from the flaps in the footwell vent covers (there is a single screw in the connection point that loosens the cable).
  2. Remove the footwell vent covers by taking out the two screws that hold them in place.
  3. Remove or loosen the carpet and locate the vent control cables that run from the left control lever between the seats, through a tube and out of the tunnel, forward and around the sides to the footwell vents.
  4. The cable sheath is attached to the body of the car on either end. These attachments are important to ensure that just the cable inside the sheath moves, not the whole cable itself. Remove the old cable from these attachment points. Retain the clips and screws for use with the new cable.
  5. If you are going to be replacing the cables, it is easiest to remove the old ones by simply cutting them just before they enter the tube into the tunnel.
  6. Remove the old cables from the car and discard them.
  7. You may find it easiest to work on the left control lever if you remove the right side seat. Also remove the emergency brake lever boot.
  8. Carefully remove the 13mm hex nut on the left control lever and pull out the lever with the ends of the old cables attached. Note the arrangement of the washer, etc. on the control lever for reference when reinstalling it. Remove the old cables from the control lever and discard them.
  9. Note: Replacement cables are hard to find, but push/pull choke cables are readily available and work very well. Purchase the smallest diameter cable at least five feet long. Cut the handle on the end of the cable off with a hacksaw.

  10. Lay the new cable around the floor in its approximate installed position.
  11. Run the footwell vent end of the cable under the carpet into the vent area. Arrange the cable so that the sheath stops just short of the vent and the cable within the sheath extents into the vent area. Grease the cables by running them through greased up fingers, as you ffed the cable into the sheath.
  12. Secure the cable sheath to the body of the car at a point near the end of the sheath. Make sure that the sheath will not move back and forth in the clip, but don't screw it down too tight or it will bind up the cable.
  13. Repeat Steps 9-11 on the other side.
  14. Run the other ends of the two cables (and sheaths) into the tubes on either side of the tunnel.
  15. Note: The two tubes end immediately forward of the control lever inside the tunnel on the left side, one above the other.

  16. Devise a hook out of a coat hanger and fish the ends of the cables up and out of the tunnel. Secure them there for a moment.
  17. Attach the sheath of the cables securely to either side of the tunnel just before the cables enter the tubes to go up to the control lever. It is important to the adjustment of the cables that the sheath be secured at both ends and that the cable itself be free to move back and forth while the sheath remains stationary.
  18. Pull the two cables up and out of the tunnel to give yourself plenty of room to work. Be careful, however, not to pull the cables completely out of the sheath.
  19. Attach the ends of the two cables securely to the control lever so that both push and pull actions will be assured.

  20. Reinsert the bottom of the control lever with the two cables attached into the tunnel, at the same time pushing the cables back through the sheath coverings and into the vent areas on either side. Secure the control lever with the washer and nut just as it came off.
  21. Make sure the cable is arranged properly in the footwell, especially on the driver's side to ensure that there will be no interference with the foot pedals (the cable runs immediately to the rear (rear) of the foot pedals.
  22. Note: As noted previously, grease the cables with any grease (even vasiline jelly works fine) as you feed the cable into the sheath - this will both lubricate the cables, and reduce the chances of them rusting. You could use a non-drying oil either - the type of lubrication is not critical. But if possible avoid WD40 as it dries to a sticky finish which just attracts dust.

    Caution: If you later install new carpet over the cable, be very careful to make sure that no contact cement gets into the spiral wrapping that encases the cable. If you do, you'll be doing this job all over again.

  23. Make sure that the unsheathed ends of the cables on the vent ends are extending fully into the vent areas. Trim the sheath as necessary with a hacksaw.
  24. Make sure that the left control lever (now securely installed) is pushed all the way down. In this position the cable is pulled toward the back and the footwell vent flappers should be closed, so that warm air is directed to the windshield.
  25. Install the footwell vent flap into the vent cover pivot points and insert the cable through the connection point on the flap. With the cable still only loosely installed through the connection point, insert the whole vent assembly into hole in the heater channel and secure it in place with two screws.
  26. To adjust the cable, make sure that the footwell vent flap is fully closed and the control lever is pushed all the way down. Make sure that the cable is pulled tight so that when the control lever is raised (and the cable is pushed) the flap will be pushed immediately open. The cable sheath MUST NOT move as the cable is pulled through it; if it does, check to make sure that the hold-down point at either end of the cable sheath are secure.
  27. Tighten the screw in the vent flap connection point securely onto the cable and trim any excess cable. Repeat on the other side.
  28. Raise the control lever fully and make sure that the footwell vent flaps open all the way.
  29. Before replacing the carpet, take the opportunity to clean the footwell area thoroughly, especially around and in front of the pedal assembly. Especially make sure that no debris has collected under the accelerator pedal.
  30. Replace the carpet, the emergency brake lever boot, and the right-hand seat.


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