View original topic: Freak Leak - Help!
Vespagetti Fri Jul 22, 2005 10:35 pm

I recently flushed out and checked the cooling system and everything's been running perfect. Today I pull over and notice a drip under a sliding door creating a smallish coolant puddle. The coolant has been coming out of the groove that runs along the right side of the van and out of the little hole on the side of it. The van is not overheating, still runs fine and now it's not even leaking anymore!!? I filled the expansion tank a little although it wasn't that low.
I looked at the engine and it's bone dry. Where is the leak likely to be coming from? I'm fairly new to Vanagons..... oh and it's an '88.


r39o Sat Jul 23, 2005 12:10 am

Howdy neighbor,

I betcha your rear heater is leaking. Sorry dude, they make a HUGE mess. Stinks after a while too. Everything soaks under the floor. Better hurry before it is too late.

I ended up removing the floor in my Westy and cleaning a long time. I also replaced some of that foam sponge stuff under there too. It is a LOT of work. Now my van don't stink inside any more.

I do NOT have the heater any more. I like the extra storage space.

As stated elsewhere by me: Those rear heaters are "evil."

This hot weather we are having will make it stink to high heaven in your van shortly, too, btw.

Vespagetti Sat Jul 23, 2005 8:34 am

Howdy and thanks.

It's funny because the first place I looked at was under the rear seat. I thought I had a container of coolant that somehow got opened in there and leaked out.
I'd be happy to take the heater out.... San Diego, 70 and sunny, right? :D

So this is nothing to do with the engine? Forgive my ignorance but there's coolant in the heater? Independent system? :?

Thanks again...

McHuntley Sat Jul 23, 2005 11:29 am

Vespagetti wrote:

So this is nothing to do with the engine? Forgive my ignorance but there's coolant in the heater? Independent system? :?

Sorry, but this is part of the engine, the engine cooling system. You have 2 heaters, one in the dash, and one under the rear seat. You might try turning that heater off, using the bypass valve on the left side. If that has not been done already.
You need to determine where it is leaking from, the rear heater core, or the valve or other plumbing.
I have not removed mine, so I can't advise on the best method of removing. If you do, you need to do something with the plumbing to/from, as you can't leave it open.

Good luck.

Ericthenorse Sat Jul 23, 2005 12:07 pm

:D another place to chevk is behind the right rear wheel. There is a connection there between the plastic tubes that go up to the radiator, and the rubber hose that goes to the motor. The connection is at a high point in the rubber, and sometimes when it is slightly seaping, the coolent will run downhill untill something interfears with it (like the first crossmember that it passes through...) I tooh an old resevoir cap and removed the pressure bypass from the top, and drilled the hose port to accept the valve stem from an old presta bicycle tube. Epoxy it in, and you have an instant pressure checker. put a few pounds into the system(15-20) and you can look for leaks without getting all burnt up... :twisted: :twisted:

Vespagetti Sat Jul 23, 2005 1:11 pm

Thanks guys. I guess I should have looked myself before asking silly questions. It was the little plug on top of the rear heater valve. It was cracked and it snapped as I unscrewed it. I tried shutting off the valve hoping that that would enable me to drive the van until I find and replace the part but the coolant is still coming out when engine is on. I'm thinking of finding the same size bolt and put some plumbers tape and a new gasket around it, temporarily. Would this work? Does coolant need to circulate thru this heater at all times for engine to be cooled properly? If I take the heater out all together would joining the 'in' and 'out' tubes be sufficient to make everything work OK?

Thanks again for pointing me at the heater I would have never looked there... :oops:

Funny sidenote: All the parts on the heater were made in Germany apart from the valve and the plug - the parts that failed, which were made in France. :roll:

r39o Sat Jul 23, 2005 1:55 pm

You can borrow one from me. I live over in Del Cerro. PM me for more info. Or bypass it. My hoses have plugs in the ends at the moment until I get under there and put straight pieces where the Tees are. My dad is making me some nice stainless straights with the correct flairs at the end. Or you can go to Napa and get some straight plastic couplers. Do something to stop the leak as it will make a big mess.

Ericthenorse Sat Jul 23, 2005 2:33 pm

:D That little dealie is a blead screw... to get the air out of the system. you should be able to use a plug, or a bolt to close it off. if you do.. use the o-ring from the broken piece on the bolt.. make sure to use a short one so you don't do any damage to the core...(don't know if it will matter)
:twisted: :twisted:

r39o Sat Jul 23, 2005 3:02 pm

I reread your post. Just block them off. Do not join together. I read somewhere it would not be a good idea to circulate like that. You can stick plugs in the ends like I did. Pep Boys 1/2 inch plugs did it for me. Or you can stick bolts in. Or find a short bolt or screw for the bleed screw. Just get the same threads. Use a new or recycle the old O ring. Not a big deal.

BUT, BUT, BUT, the heater it self can start to leak at any time too. It seems to be sort of random. I've seen 91's do it too already. They all will let go. Not sure why, but they do. Ditch it, you don't need it in here in San Diego.

Honuak Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:32 am

I want to delete the rear heater in my van but I want to be clear...the best thing to do is to plug the supply and return lines to the heater? And in that case why not plug them in the engine bay as opposed to under the seat where they could be damaged and are definitely in the way...

K58 Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:31 am

holy thread resurrect...
absoloutely the best way to do it is outside the Van but it's a little more work to access the hoses.
Also, you or someone else may decide to re-install a heater later.
It could happen...

Williamtaylor33 Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:53 am

Your in Alaska and want to delete the rear heater?
Your stock heater has lasted 22 years...Why not just replace the core and be good for another 20 years. I bet you wont have the van then anyway. And the next guy down the road will be glad his van is toasty up in the cold north.

K58 Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:23 pm

Williamtaylor33 wrote: Your in Alaska and want to delete the rear heater?
Your stock heater has lasted 22 years...Why not just replace the core and be good for another 20 years. I bet you wont have the van then anyway. And the next guy down the road will be glad his van is toasty up in the cold north.
I'm guessing he's going with butane or propane

Honuak Sun Feb 28, 2010 3:08 am

SO many things to consider. I do have a propex heater but so far no problems with the rear heat. More than anything its a space issue. I want to put a large battery bank under the seat and not having the rear heater would help that alot. So many options....

camerahunter Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:26 pm

Is there a thread somewhere that shows the how to's with pictures to rebuild the rear heater?
Mine leaks at the on/off valve. I caught it early and clamped off the hoses.
It looks like taking it out and rebuilding it is required.
Is fixing that valve easy to do?

Thank you,


pioneer1 Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:47 pm

check out Van Cafe for parts "rear heater"

camerahunter Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:35 pm

Ok, I see that part there. Looks like it just needs an O-Ring.
Is it really that special of a size or can one be had at the local hardware store?

Thank you,


IdahoDoug Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:46 pm

Trouble with the hardware store is the ol "OK, got the truck disabled and I've driven my wife's car to 6 different stores with the crumbled remains of the old O ring and nobody's sure if these are the right size." problem. The vehicle's disabled for a $5 O ring or you jam one in from the local store and hope it doesn't crack the housing while you're tightening it down or start leaking again in a week because it was too big/too small/wrong cross section.

I've tried that strategy with other vehicles over the years. I don't do that anymore unless it's a project vehicle that can sit for a week.


camerahunter Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:23 am

It actually is a project vehicle.
Waiting on parts now and getting things done that need to be checked, fixed, or cleaned up. The heater valve sprung a leak a while ago and I just clamped off the hoses.

Thank you,


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