There are a lot of VWs on the streets of America. VW has sold cars in North America since the fifties, and continues to be a strong presence in the market. There have been some changes, though, and there are a few considerations to make when shopping for parts.
VW in America is divided into two ages: the air-cooled age, and the water-cooled age. Air cooled VWs haven’t been sold in the U.S. since the mid-seventies, but they were built elsewhere for many years afterward. These cars have a loyal following, and almost any part needed for one can be easily obtained. This includes some very entertaining models such as the Bus and the Karmann-Ghia. When looking for air-cooled VW parts it is best to shop around, the quality and availability are highly variable.
The second age of VW is the water-cooled age. When air-cooled sales began to drop, and emission standards became stricter every year, VW management made the decision to switch to a water-cooled engine. Temperatures in water-cooled engines are higher and more accurately controlled, and this is important in lowering emissions. Simultaneously, they decided to make a change to front-wheel-drive. There were a lot of reasons to do this, but packaging of the components was the main reason. VW’s combination with Audi made these goals easier to reach.
Parts for water-cooled VWs are easy to find. There are lots of used parts available for all years, and there is some interchangeability between the models and years. While there are some parts that will always have to be sourced at the dealer, almost everything else is available at the local parts store. VW did not always change models in September, however, like American manufacturers. So, when going to buy parts, the owner must make sure to take the VIN number, year, and model as written on the title. And, if it’s an older Golf or Rabbit, whether or not it has square or round headlights. Rectangular headlights were fitted to all American-made Rabbits, and they are not the same as the German-built cars.