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Low Temp Gauge
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:16 pm    Post subject: Low Temp Gauge Reply with quote

I just picked up an 84 Westfalia a couple weeks ago. Been loving it so far and am slowly learning all the quirks and things to be fixed. Mechanically the engine is in great shape and the previous owner took great care as I can see from a few of the mechanic receipts that hit the 4 digit range. The one thing that has been bugging me is the coolant gauge. For the first week I owned the van I didn't see the coolant temp gauge move at all. I figured there must be a wiring problem as the connector on the sender was falling off. I replaced the connector and still nothing... Finally, last weekend when I was on a snow shoeing trip I got the van nice and stuck in the snow... I spent a while spinning tires and chopping ice, but when I finally got it out I noticed the temp gauge had moved up about to the 1/4 mark! So I know the gauge is working, but why is it reading so low all the time? Could it have something to do with the thermostat? I've been told there are thermostats for different climates. Is this correct? Maybe I have the wrong one?

Thanks,
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glutamodo Premium Member
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It could be the thermostat has failed in the open position, or just opens way too early.
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is there any way to test the thermostat, or other symptoms I should be looking for to see if it has failed?
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TremcladWhite
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recall a thermostat test somewhere in the Bentley. My copy isn't to hand though, so I can't give you a page number.
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glutamodo Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, for a definative test, you have to take it out and look at it. If it's stuck open, that would be obvious. If it's opening way too soon, you can put it in a pot of water on the stove, along with a cooking thermometer, then start heating the water while watching to see the thermostat open as you monitor the temperature. Too bad the 83-85 Westy thermostat is kind of a PITA to deal with.

Different engine here, but in my 85 Golf, a few winters ago, it was running really cold. It had progressively gotten worse and worse, and finally it was to the point that on really cold nights I was lucky to get like 60-70 degrees of heat out the dash vents and the needle would maybe come up 1/8th of the way. It was a German thermostat in there too. But after on some really frigid nights of it barely keeping the windshield defrosted, I had enough - and went and changed it out for a hotter range thermostat. I later did the above stove-top test, and found that instead of 80-90C like it was supposed to, it was opening up like at half that temperature! No wonder it was running so cold! Brick wall Talk about immediate difference in warmup time!

-Andy
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Andy, thanks for all the info. The Bentley should be arriving in the mail anytime now so once I get that I'll start taking things apart. Until then, is it harmful at all for the engine to be driven if the thermostat is stuck open or is opening too early?
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glutamodo Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harmful? Well... yes and no, minimal I'd say though. It is good to have the oil getting up to a better operating temperature than you are seeing though.

I can't remember the hose layout leading to the engine on that model, but if there's a section of hose that comes off of the t-stat housing going to the pipe leading up front to the radiator that is long enough so you can get to it and pinch it off, just as a test, that ought to simulate a closed thermostat and allow the engine to warm up. But I'd only do that as a test.
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VisPacem
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Low Temp Gauge Reply with quote

stonelib wrote:
I just picked up an 84 Westfalia a couple weeks ago. Been loving it so far and am slowly learning all the quirks and things to be fixed. Mechanically the engine is in great shape and the previous owner took great care as I can see from a few of the mechanic receipts that hit the 4 digit range. The one thing that has been bugging me is the coolant gauge. For the first week I owned the van I didn't see the coolant temp gauge move at all. I figured there must be a wiring problem as the connector on the sender was falling off. I replaced the connector and still nothing... Finally, last weekend when I was on a snow shoeing trip I got the van nice and stuck in the snow... I spent a while spinning tires and chopping ice, but when I finally got it out I noticed the temp gauge had moved up about to the 1/4 mark! So I know the gauge is working, but why is it reading so low all the time? Could it have something to do with the thermostat? I've been told there are thermostats for different climates. Is this correct? Maybe I have the wrong one?

Thanks,


Hello stone

First I shall vehemently (not that vehemently really Very Happy ) object to may of the allegations and conclusions not based on facts in evidence reached by several of esteemed and learned posters.

How do you relate thermostat and gauge reading ?

I have never seen a thermostat DIRECTLY activate a temperature gauge.

A thermostat "stuck" open will NOT prevent a motor from getting hot or overheating.
The absence of thermostat and I tested this on various vehicles
Will NOT prevent an engine from overheating.
Unless specifically designed most failed thermostats fail shut, Don't ask me why.
Why waste time to test the possibly defective thermostat ? I would get a new one, test the new one, install it and then having a functional vehicle just in case, test the old one and if not defective keep it as a spare.

Why not assume as a *reasonable* possibility that the engine is running cold as there is a DIRECT connection between a cold engine and a low reading on the temperature gauge.

From your location, I reasonably assume that the ambient temperature must be rather low.
I can therefore also assume that the engine is running cold.
I have a very similar problem. Whenever the ambient temperature drops in the 30s in my piece of desert or traveling through Utah and Colorado in the winter the OEM water temp gauge barely gets off the white mark at the bottom.
This is a true APPROXIMATE reading as it is confirmed by the reading on my AFM VDO gauge WIRED SEPARATELY.
In our hostile summers, confirming the normal functioning of both gauges the readings go up and up.

There remains that something is amiss as, as many will vocifer (sic Razz ) THIS SHOULD NOT HAPPEN as the thermostat should bla bla bla.....
I fully agree . It should not, but it does.
I posted this problem of mine months ago and got no solution.

Therefore I came up with MY solution, which I also posted of fabricating a "radiator shield"
I made a temporary rudimentary shield for testing purposes and I shall shortly post pictures and results.
Fact is with said shield I gained approximately 30 to 40 degrees, on gauge readings and air temperature at the heater side vents, keeping in mind that my shield is far from adequate and only installed on the upper grill.

So many problems happen that SHOULD NOT happen.

Good luck
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glutamodo Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Low Temp Gauge Reply with quote

VisPacem wrote:

Why waste time to test the possibly defective thermostat ? I would get a new one, test the new one, install it and then having a functional vehicle just in case, test the old one and if not defective keep it as a spare.



Yes, that's exactly what I did... I did not pull the thermostat out just to check it, but to replace it! Testing the thermostat only came later on. In my case I knew it was extremely likely that it had to be bad, it was the only variable that would have made it run that much colder than it had the previous winter - And like I said, I noticed a huge difference immediately.

I'd think on a Vanagon with its huge amount of coolant in the system that it would be even more likely to run cold than my Golf did. Looking at the hose map in the Bentley it looks like the Vanagon t-stat ought to totally shut off the return line from the radiator.

Now, while I've changed a few water pumps and thermostats on w/c vanagons back when I was a mechanic, I'm not sure if I ever saw one go bad. On inline VW watercooled engines, I have seen one or two that would not close all the way, plus that one on my own car that just plain wanted to open way too early. Why it was like that, I have no idea. But I only tested mine later on out of curiousity as to its function. But on a Vanagon, I Definately would not go to the trouble to pull a thermostat without planning on replacing it! Make sure the new thermostat has a new O-ring in the box, it should but check for it.

-Andy
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been awhile, but I finally had a chance to try and replace the thermostat while doing a coolant flush... But while trying to open up the thermostat housing, one of the old rusted bolt heads snapped off Mad So I'm currently stuck with the failed open (or possibly no thermostat at all). I'm not sure what the best way to go about fixing this problem will be (replace the entire thermostat housing?), but since coolant is flowing through the whole system all the time, and the temperature gauge is working, I don't think it's going to be too much to worry about (right?).

On another coolant related note... While driving home from a road trip this past weekend, all of a sudden the temperature gauge pegged and the red led started blinking. Thinking that I had just lost all my coolant I immediately pulled over and checked it out. Coolant tank was full and everything seemed fine. Got back on the road, and it did the same thing again about an hour later. I pulled over, and once stopped the gauge dropped back down to normal and the led stopped blinking. Has anyone ever had this problem?
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levi
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can find out pretty quick if it's the stat without taking it apart.
Drive till you get up to operating temp, and pull into any shop that will shoot your engine head temp with their IR gun.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 83/84 and some 85 came with an early version of the coolant level warning relay that pegs the needle hot and flashes the led whenever it thinks the coolant is low. That is the warning you are getting, most likely. The engine itself can't get hot super fast and can't get cool super fast either, so if the temp gauge needle jumps quickly either way it has to have another cause.

Mark


stonelib wrote:
............
On another coolant related note... While driving home from a road trip this past weekend, all of a sudden the temperature gauge pegged and the red led started blinking. Thinking that I had just lost all my coolant I immediately pulled over and checked it out. Coolant tank was full and everything seemed fine. Got back on the road, and it did the same thing again about an hour later. I pulled over, and once stopped the gauge dropped back down to normal and the led stopped blinking. Has anyone ever had this problem?
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, the gauge max out, and the LED flashing, has happened a few times now since the road trip, and the majority of the times it has started acting up was while going down hill (not using gas), or coasting Confused . It has only happened a handful of times and usually lasts between 10-30 seconds before going back to normal.
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It turns out that the coolant level sender was right all along! The expansion tank cap decided to take a holiday and wasn't doing it's job causing the expansion tank to get low on coolant. I topped up both tanks, put on a new cap and haven't had the problem since!
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DAIZEE
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was driving my former 84 Westy home from Buffalo (just purchased it) in a horizontal rain storm in the dark and I was tense because everything was strange to me well my light kept flashing. I must have looked at the temp gauge too. Pulled over several times and finally found that the cap on the overflow tank was loose! Topped her up and never a problem again but I do do regular 'maintenance' checks on levels and tops etc...
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

it may not be applicable in this case, but hey.

if your temp gauge is lying (showing about half of the real value), this wee fellow might be the culprit:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

if your fuel gauge is also lying, then it will most certainly be the above.

I'd try replacing this before arsing about with radiators, thermostats and the like.

Matt
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stonelib
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the tip. I'm guessing that is a grounding point for those gauges? My fuel and temp gauge I "believe" are reading correctly (haven't run out of gas yet) so I expect that to be fine.

Regarding the thermostat; I busted off one of the nuts (or bolt head, can't remember) on the thermostat housing trying to change the thermostat. If anyone has had the problem with a busted off bolt head in this spot, is it worth the effort trying to remove, or am I better off replacing the whole housing?
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Baxta
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stonelib wrote:
Thanks for the tip. I'm guessing that is a grounding point for those gauges? My fuel and temp gauge I "believe" are reading correctly (haven't run out of gas yet) so I expect that to be fine.



It's the voltage regulator for the dash gauges. If your fuel gauge is reading correctly, the VR is likely good, but there is a diagnostic for it in the Bentley.

Good luck!
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