Everyone wants to know, how are bajas in the water?
Well, see the dirty pictures and see what can be done.
The answer is, there's really not a problem in most normal water. Normal includes the average rainstorm, the 24" puddle and the mud-run that's less than 100 yards long.
Beyond average includes: Flowing rivers, slicing monsoon rain and car washes.
Water is not really a problem to the baja. One must remember that the stock VW has a hood, but the bottom of the motor is open just like a baja's motor is open. Not the world of difference you might think it is.
The special cases include: rainstorms, mud puddles and car washes.
The rear shroud is the magic solution to the Rainstorm Thing. For normal drizzle, it keeps water from dripping on the air cleaner.
I've been in monsoon storms with heavy slicing rain, and had to pull plugs & splash out cylinders, so I carry a shower cap in the car. Little-old-lady shower cap, you know? Color-coordinated and everything. On rainy days I cap it over the air cleaner. Last year (El Nino season) I took to carrying a 90-cent scrub brush like one uses to scrub their back in the shower, and a 40-cent bar of soap (shrink-wrapped). I'd hang the brush on the CB antenna, cap the air cleaner and set the soap on the shroud, just to see if someone would wash my car. Lotsa laughs but no scrubbers.
I imagine there's a way to make a "hat"-style air cleaner cover, so water doesn't drip off the cover onto the filter element, but it'd be ineffective in any real wind, since the drops might slice sideways regardless. The air cleaner sits in a tray, so any water it soaks up and drips out will run downwards into the tray, thus through the carburetor. There's not much room to work with, either, considering the placement of the fan-shroud in relation to single carburetors, but those in Oregon or Washington might consider this and let me know how it works.
When the car's running, a few drops of water help break down carbon in your cylinders, so don't worry about running in the rain. A revving VW motor moves hundreds of cubic feet of air per minute. Drops of water are meaningless in such a relation. I wouldn't pour a bucket of water over the air cleaner, nor would I let an ocean wave wash over my motor - one must remember that large doses of water sucked into a running engine cause the compression to skyrocket, so the pistons STOP, and the rods don't like this at all. Snap.
The over-the-top portion (pun intended) is, slicing rain can get under your shroud, into your air filter, and fill up a cylinder. At any given time there's an intake valve open, and that's the cylinder that's going to get filled. Should this happen, DO NOT PUMP THE MOTOR until it moves. The water simply gets through the rings & valves into the oil. Instead, pull a plug and splash the muther out. Replace the plug, and it will eventually fire.
You'll know in one simple way: You turn the key, and the motor turns then stops. A bit of water takes volume. Rings stop water better than they stop air. Your compression has gone sky-high on that cylinder. There's a risk of blowing out rings or valves or something if you actually got the thing to fire. If you tried turning it with a wrench until it was a little bit free, you'd have water in your oil and it still wouldn't fire well. So do it right.
But, no worries about the average rainstorm - if the motor turns in a normal fashion (or something like it) the water would splash out of the exhaust valve. I don't know the answers if you have a hi-torque starter, since the game is quite different at that point, but the stock VW starter will let you know, pure and simple!
Also worth mentioning - those with a Stinger exhaust system will need to carry a coffee can to cap the exhaust when parking in the rain. It does take a goodly amount of rain to matter - for example, I've left the baja uncapped during an entire afternoon's drizzle and had no problems - but I'd usually run out to the parking lot & cap it off, just for peace of mind. The coffee can makes a great carrying case for soap, scrub brushes and shower caps, too, although the rust discolors the shower cap and ruins my fashionable image.
Do remember to remove the can and shower cap before you start the car. The can goes clattering across the parking lot and everyone laughs at you - and the car doesn't run well when there's a plastic bag stopping all the air from entering the air cleaner.
Mud puddles are fun. Have a ball! See the dirty pictures to see what's possible!
If you get in a little too deep (pun intended), you'll feel the wheel spin. But the miracle is - it's a rear-mounted motor. The torsion of the wheels pulls the back end down. If you're in a little too deep you can pop the clutch, the car rocks back and you get some traction. I hope it gets shallower up ahead.
It's time to mention, bajas float... for a little while. The float-line on my baja, with two people, is about halfway up the lower portion of the door. Adjust for weight, suspension lift, tire size and carburetors (single sits higher than duals) before you charge any 30" deep puddles on my bad advice.
The hole where the starter cable connects to the battery is a killer. You can flow a lot of water through a 1-inch hole! The door seals like to leak a bit, too. There's a drain hole on the bottom of the pan but it's smaller diameter. Seems to me, you'll pick up a couple of inches of water a minute so you'd better think quick. I've never been in for more than a minute. Good instincts I guess.
There was a time I dove into the ferocious mud puddle at ludicrous speed and got the distributor wet. Beware those overpressure waves - they'll rebound off the back of the puddle and into your motor. I was running on 3 cylinders, but there was NO WAY I was getting out so I simply revved it up, dumped the clutch, and jumped a few feet. I did this 5 times, and was out. Stick a penny in your carburetor linkage and let it run until it smooths out again.
I've seen the 18-inch running river. I think I can make it but won't try. BAJAS ARE LIGHT IN WEIGHT. River current on a body panel creates a lot of force. I don't know that I'd roll, or maybe I'd just have to dig a bit, or I'd slip-slide-away - thanks anyway, this is a place for big chevy blazers. They stay where you put 'em.
My dilemma is going to the car wash & getting the distributor wet.
I've heard that you can run a bead of silicone around the bottom edge of the distributor cap, then install it. I've tried this before but it's not wet enough in the deserts of Arizona to keep my attention - it got in the way during a points-adjustment so I peeled it off.
Again, before you get taken to the cleaners (pun intended), the answer is a shower cap - this time you hack a slot up one side, so it will wrap over the wire bundle, and wrap the plastic around the back edge (rear of the distributor, where the force of the water spray is). Shower caps come in many colors, I'm sure there's a 99-cent package of two shower caps at the local drugstore just for you.
Did I Dodge any Wet Spots?