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Pierburg 2E3 on a VW Vanagon

June 13, 2011

Please refer to this link for a schematic diagram of the pierburg 2E3 carb. I was too busy learning it to take any pictures. ūüôā

Excuses out of the way, this is perhaps the most annoying part of any fix for the DIY mechanic. The Pierburg 2E3 carburetor is a marvel of confusion and complexity that has led most people to switching to more ‘reliable’ carbs such as Webbers. Well the Pierburg 2E3 is not the worst of instruments, with a little patience and lots of knowledge you could get it working like a charm.

Common problems caused by the carb are poor idling (too high or completely non-existent), very poor running during a cold start, fouling of spark plugs due to too rich a mixture or other problems due to too lean a mixture and of course the worst of them all poor fuel efficiency. I shall attempt to guide you on what to do to try and iron out some of these issues assuming everything else that the carb is dependent on such as distributor and engine timing are working well.

Solutions to common problems

Vacuum leaks are common and these occur at gasket points and vacuum lines. Determine a vacuum leak by spraying some carb cleaner on the base of the carburetor where it meets the intake manifold and if there is a change in engine sound then there is a vacuum leak there. Also spray between the upper and lower part of the carburetor and listen for change in engine sound. Examine the vacuum lines especially the one to the distributor and ensure the line is not split  or punctured. This simple test will solve common idling problems however idling problems could also take on larger proportions. Caution: Ensure you have a fire extinguisher at hand when you spray carb cleaner on a hot engine. There could be a fire incident

Most common problems will also be solved with a good cleaning of the carb using carburetor cleaner. Spray the carburetor jets and linkages occasionally and they will run problem free. Frequent fuel filter replacements will also do your carb a world of good.

Cold starting/Choke problems

This is the Pierburg 2E3’s Achilles¬†heel. It has a choke mechanism that has always been misunderstood but this is the theory;

A choke is meant to actually ‘choke’ or starve the carburetor of air when the engine is cold so that the richer mixture is ignited easier. As the engine warms up a bi-metallic strip uncoils as it senses the increasing engine temperature. This sensing of engine temperature happens with the help of coolant that is ran through part of the carburetor’s choke mechanism. The choke works hand in hand with a mechanism called fast idle cam that if well set, keeps idle speed high and reduces it with increasing engine temperature. There is an additional component that helps heat up the bi-metallic strip using electrical energy from the battery. This usually helps open up the choke faster than the water would. From my¬†experience, it is not very important here in the tropics since we hardly have very low temperatures and furthermore, it keeps failing. I’ve totally disabled it in my van and I am running just fine.

Pierburg 2e3 choke mechanism

Image shamefully borrowed from

The aim is to set the choke (butterfly) gap such that when the engine is at its coldest it leaves a gap along the barrel that is only small enough to accommodate a 3mm drill-bit and the fast idle cam can cause idle speed to rise to 2000 +/- 200 rpm.

  • Remove the choke body to reveal the bi-metallic strip
  • Open the throttle and position the fast idle cam screw on the highest step of the cam by turning it
  • Push the pullrod on the choke pull-down diaphragm the furthest it could go and check the gap left when the bi-metallic strip is turned to the ‘start’ position. Turn the screw that manages the pullrod in or out accordingly until pushing the pullrod furthest in will lead to a 3mm gap between the choke butterfly plate and the barrel, when the bi-metallic strip is turned to its ‘start’ position.
  • Refit the choke body ensuring that it remains on the ‘start’ position when coldest.
  • The position of the choke body can always be adjusted depending on seasons so that there is always optimum cold start engine speeds
Fast idle should also be adjusted hand in hand with the choke pull-down diaphragm but when the engine is warm and at normal operating temperature.
  • Position the fast idle cam screw by turning it in or out to the second step of the fast idle cam and check that the fast idle speed is between the specified 2000 +/- 200 rpm for fast idle. Adjust as neccessary
Too Lean or Too Rich
The unseen evils that can shorten the life of your engine significantly are air/fuel mixtures that are either too lean or too rich. Too lean a mixture is one that has an excess of air while too rich a mixture is one that has an excess of fuel. This condition is managed by the mixture screw which under ideal conditions has a tamper proof cap on it. But should your mixture settings be tampered, adjust it using this screw by turning it in for a leaner mixture and outward for a richer mixture. Drive the van for a while preferable over 80kph for some significant distance, remove the spark plugs and examine them to determine the state of your mixture.
Idling Speed
Once there is no vacuum leak or any other carburetor problems and the engine timing is correct, the idling speed can be adjusted. This is done by simply turning the idle speed control screw. However, it might be important to adjust it using the mixture screw as well. This will tell you if your engine is running right.
  • Ensure the engine is running at optimum operating temperature
  • Various engines have various idle speeds but they usually range between 750 and 950 rpm
  • Set your engine to run at the recommended rpm by turning the idle speed control screw
  • Turn the mixture screw in until the engine begins to stumble and then turn it out again until the engine begins to stumble as well. Somewhere in there will be the optimum mixture setting. This will be verifiable over time with the process mentioned above
  • Sometimes turning the mixture screw has no effect on the running of the engine or idle speed cannot go lower than a certain point. If that is the case, check the carburettor¬†barrels¬†to ensure they are clear of any foreign matter and if not then the engine timing is off. I have assumed you have determined that there is no vacuum leak at this point
8 Comments leave one →
  1. Ron permalink
    November 18, 2011 2:32 am

    Do you know what a rough setting would be for the mixture screw? Cheers

    • November 18, 2011 11:42 pm

      Hello mate! Sorry for the late reply. Just returned from an 800km journey on the van ūüôā Idle mixture screw? Most forums and tech books recommend 2 or 2.5 turns. I have found though that all that is highly dependant on other issues such as inlet manifold leaking, vacuum line to air filter etc. Currently I am working with 2 turns. 2.5 turns for me gives black smoke in which case I guess the mixture is too rich. All the best

      • Ron permalink
        November 22, 2011 10:22 am

        Cheers Mate
        Just had SS exhaust made&fitted. Overhauled the carb&had prob with choke but found spring arm had slipped off and adjusting screw nackered all sorted now. Running on 2.5 at mo and good, but gona try 2 as you suggested. By the way I’ve reconnected my air filter to exhaust system, they were missing when I bought the van. Any thoughts on this? Cheers

      • November 23, 2011 9:09 pm

        Not much thoughts on connecting air filter to exhaust system. No experience with that. SS exhaust and all sounds fantastic! All the best!

      • Ron permalink
        November 23, 2011 11:09 pm

        Think its to do with extreme cold conditions, just don’t like things missing and not right. see how it goes. Adjusted my carb down to two, only short about town run today and fine, but will wait for longer run and adjust off plugs. Have a colour tune, either its nackered or my eyesight is! Worked well on my old Cortinas and T2. Ref SS Ex really impressed by it, built and fitted by a guy called Charlie (Pro Speed Cardiff) ¬£650. Used different system to original and I’ve the quite running I wanted, but a lot smother with more power and I think my MPG will be better. Also if I need to drop the engine, it wiil be much easier. Been looking around for ages for good SS ex, and I think for once its worked out good. He’s top lad very ‘can do’ and helpful. Some places are asking more than that just to sell you a system, then quote inflated ¬£ per hour to fit it! And the one which cracks me up is, we might come up against some dodgy bolts&nuts ect! Yeah this is to be expected, why can’t they just say this is the price then get on with it. Thats, where my respect goes to Charlie, rate him big time.

  2. jon ritchie permalink
    October 3, 2013 10:50 pm

    Do you know of anyone who can restore my Pierburg 2e carb its quite leaky and worn.I have a VWt25 camper and live in Dorset.Thanks Jon

  3. ronald achungo permalink
    October 28, 2013 4:10 pm

    been reading your items with lots of pleasure am bringing up a conversion ofan air cooled to a watercooled 1.9 am almost done in need of cab diaphram any idea where i could soucre one pierburg 2e would be glad to hear from you thks

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