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1968 VW Beetle starter wont stop

I have a 1968 Beetle that has been sitting for a long time, after working through a list of items for the restart I put a new battery in and turned it over. Starter works fine and turns engine over but when I turn the key off starter will not stop until I disconnect the battery, When I reconnect battery everything is fine again until I try to start and starter keeps going until I disconnect battery again.

It must be either the starter switch or the starter/solenoid itself.

Thank you insightful, I think I will start with the solenoid.

Another possibility is that the starter armature is dragging on the starter motor case due to a worn transaxle bushing and the drive gear is not withdrawing.
The best fix in a case like this is a new starter motor and bushing. The new starter should come with a separate bushing for the tranxaxle.

To change the bushing the starter must be removed. The bushing inside the tranxaxle (yes, it’s buried in the hole formerly occupied by the starter) is then lubed with some grease and an appropriately sized thread tap screwed in the bushing. The tap will force the old bushing out and the new bushing inserted with a driver of some sort.

The reason for the separate bushing is because the starter motor does not have a nose on it to support the armature.

Suggest to narrow down the location of the source of the problem. Does the starter selenoid’s “start” input signal measure battery voltage while this is happening? If so, the problem is before that. B/c that signal should be at ground with the key away from the “start” position. Or does it measure ground, and the starter continues to crank? If so, the problem is after that.

I had a friend with this problem on a different make of car & it was caused by the starter solenoid contacts sticking together. Her car ended up burning up b/c of the problem, so it is critical you get to the bottom of what is causing it. In the meantime suggest to disconnect the battery unless you are actually driving it.

Insightful hit the nail on the head…but from a troubleshooting perspective…start with the switch…as it tells the starter solenoid what to do. It is also easier to check.

Pull the starter solenoid 12VDC trigger wire off the starter solenoid…then operate your ignition switch… See if it holds 12 at the trigger wire after you release the key in the start position…if it does…its the switch. If not…go after the starter…if its the starter…it will be a rusty shaft that the starter gear is supposed to slide into and out of the flywheel teeth… If its sticky or rusty…it runs on and on because it cannot slide back out of the way and thus break the connection within the starter solenoid. This scenario is very likely especially after a long period of not being used.


I owned a late 60’s Beetle and I seem to remember that they sometimes had a problem with their starter relay. When it stuck it would keep the starter energized. I had a problem when I tried to start the car and would have to turn the key to off then back on before the starter relay would energize.

Thank you all for your great comments !!! I will take a look at all of these situations. The Bug has been sitting in a building for 32 years so I expect to have some challenges and learn a ton. Thank you all again.

Wont hurt to remove starter and look at the shaft the gear is supposed to “slide” upon…when its rusty…you dont get much sliding done.

Check ignition switch functionality first…then starter itself… Pretty ez solution awaits.


Sounds like a fun project. You’ve got a 12 volt system, right? And non-sloping headlights? Original engine? Dual carb or single carb?

George San Jose, Yes it is a 12 volt, non sloping headlights with plastic covers, original engine and single carb. It is a one owner vehicle that has sat for the last 32 years, Every thing is there including original tool kit and owners manual. The interior is like new and the exterior need a little freshening up. All the heater channels, front pan and battery pan are in nice shape. very lucky find.

A few pictures

I wish I had this little bug…

A few more pictures, one under the front hood and the second how I found it. I think the other bug (also an original one owner) is a 1961 but he wants to hang onto that one.

I worked at a Volkswagen Dealer when that 68 was new. I had a sea blue 64 and bought a brand new 71.
I see the windshield washer hose is still connected to the spare tire, very original.

Are The Plastic Caps Missing From The Door Hinge Pins?

Common sense answer, yes they are missing. Thank you for letting me know there should be some.

"Common sense answer, yes they are missing. Thank you for letting me know there should be some."

VW technicians were paid by customers to drive hinge pins out and replace them when they would begin to seize up and make doors difficult to operate. A couple drops of oil in that recess, on top of each pin, occasionally, and replacing the plastic caps is good preventive maintenance.

Oh my, I’m very jealous! I especially like them restored in stock condition, OEM wheels and wheel covers, and original ride height. Thanks for sharing the photos OP.

Do ALL of us here have a Beetle story ? Seems no one on the planet is immune to this bug.

I know I have a long story with them.