Hello folks.

I'm a rather "new" bug owner so I don't have much experience with this so forgive me if I sound like a "dumb blonde".  My problem is this:  I have a '73 Super Beelte and when I turn on the heater (lift the heater handle) my car smell like exhaust.  What's the problem and how can it be fixed?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

thank you,

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Hi Mandi, welcome to the forum. Since the VW Beetle is heated by hot air that is taken from the exhaust you probably have a leak somewhere. If the heater boxes are rusted they will suck in exhaust fumes when you operate the heating system. You might be able to have these welded or you might have to replace them. Best bet is to get someone that is familiar with the Beetle exhaust system to check it out. You don't want those fumes leaking into your car, so I wouldn't use the heater and keep a window cracked until you get it checked.

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Oil leaking into the heat exchangers can make a pretty bad stink too (not exactly the same as exhaust, but nasty nonetheless). The engine's valvecovers are just above the heat exchangers, so if the valvecover gaskets leak that could be some or all of the problem - they're much easier to fix, but it could still be a long time before the smell goes away if you don't take the heat exchangers off and clean them thoroughly.
It's very rare for the heat exchangers to develop any internal exhaust leakage; much more often there's a leak at one or both of the muffler inlets and the fumes get pulled in by the eductor effect of the freshair rushing through the heat exchangers through any gaps in the outer jacket. First place to look is where the LH heat exchanger enters the muffler.
Also, any exhaust or blowby/oil fumes inside the engine compartment will be drawn directly into the engine's cooling fan and from there into the heating system....a fairly small hole rotted through in the intake manifold's heat riser passage, for example, can be responsible for an exhaust smell in the car. Your `73 doesn't have a road draft tube like older VWs, and moisture often builds up in the oil filler where it rusts through and allows oil and blowby gases to escape into the engine compartment. If the rubber engine compartment seal (between the body and the engine) is bad that can allow smelly air from "downstairs" to make it back up to the cooling fan also.
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Hey Mandi, welcome! I've got a 74 and had the same problem. I traced everything out to make sure it was tight first. Exhaust @ header, heat exchange tubes, heater boxes. Checked for rust through as Marc mentioned before. A big cause is the engine seal not being in good shape, if there at all. Mine is nonexistent and I'm missing my rear tin. That allows mass fumes in. I went ahead and cleaned my engine and compartment with engine degreaser. It had a bad oil plate leak before I got it and had covered the entire bottom of the engine and exhaust with oil that "burned" off every time I drove it. Since cleaning it and fixing the leak I've managed to just about get rid of all fumes. Of course until I get the rear tin replaced I will still get some but my point is I guess, If everything else seems intact, try cleaning up any oil you have leaking. Good luck to you!

'63 Ragtop
'56 Ragtop
'78 Riviera camper

"..at least I'm enjoyin' the ride"
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 Mandi, exhaust odor inside the car is nothing to be taken for granted as already posted you should stop using the heater . I had the same problem with my car several years ago. finding the problem can be quite an adventure my motor was pretty clean all the tin was in place the only indication I had was with the motor running and the heater on I could listen close to the floor vents and hear a small amount of exhaust noise on one side almost liken a rattle this may not work in your case but it might be worth a try not only did this help me find the problem ( burned out heat exchanger) but it also helped me find wich side. hope this is of some help.
'71 super now collecting parts for restoration
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