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Bubs Fri Mar 10, 2006 3:38 pm


Maybe I made the wrong choice buying a Vanagon? I am a high school student, and having a 2nd car is out of the picture, and I will have to drive it in the winter. The van did have two rust spots, one in front of the right rear vent and the other one on the left side on the side "skirt" panel. The van has been mainly sitting, since we are waiting to drive it more until the weather gets nicer, and yet the rust spots seem to be getting bigger? Maybe I am just paranoid, but I need to find a way to keep this otherwise rust free van from becoming a typical northeast van with holes in the floor.

What I need are some things I can do to keep it from rusting up; other than not driving it in the winter? I need to keep seam rust from happening and also keep rust from happening on the underbody.

What is the best undercoating I can buy, and how can I save my van from seam rust? Please help me.

CF Fri Mar 10, 2006 4:19 pm

the best thing to do is use por-15 for everything .for the seam rust there are ways to slow it down. all seam rust comes from the inside other words a small piece ot seam sealer crcked to let the water in .now for soome of the camper that u will find are on the drivers side lower seam which is from the outlet gaskets cracking.another one is the fiberglass insulation which acts like a sponge.but don't regret the are young and have all the time going for u .

Witless Joe Fri Mar 10, 2006 5:14 pm

Bubs, any old used car you buy is going to rust. There's nothing unique about your Vanagon, so don't worry that you made the wrong choice. Every choice is wrong, from the perspective of the N.E. rust belt. The only "right" choice would be a brand new car that hasn't had rust take hold yet.

You can be sure that there IS rust in many places on your van that you just don't see right now. Seeing rust in 1 or two places and thinking, "I only have 1 or 2 rust spots" is like seeing only 1 or 2 cockroaches in your kitchen when you flick the lights on. I promise you that where there is 1, there are many.

I would not be putting on ANY undercoating in your situation. In fact, if there is aftermarket undercoating already there, I'd be pulling it off to check out what horrors lie on the metal underneath. Rubberized undercoating (or POR 15 or whatever) in theory blocks the salty slush from contacting the metal, but in practice, on an old used car, it traps moisture and speeds up rust. You would have to perfectly grind out every speck of rust before applying POR 15 or undercoating if you wanted that to work, and that's just not feasible for most people. Spraying oil on rusty metal WILL slow the rust though, and it's a pretty idiot proof method if you can't grind all the rust away first.

What I would do in your situation is pull any questionable undercoating or seam sealant, and spray the hell out of it with oil. Oil is your best protection against rust. I'm partial to WaxOil, which is an aerosol spray product that oils up the metal, and then cures to a waxy surface. Others use stuff like Krown oil, which stays liquid (and thus is messier and has to be replaced every year as it runs and drips away). Even painting your used motor oil all over any questionable metal will help.

Wash your car frequently through the winter, too. Get some high-pressure soapy water blasting the undercarriage and wheel wells to carry away the salt. You will carry away some of the WaxOil, too, and need to reapply it a couple of times, but you really have to suck that up if you insist on driving in the N.E. salt belt.

You don't have a Westy, so you will probably be safe from the notorious "kitchen wall" rust, but there are plenty of other trouble spots. Every spot-welded seam in the van is a potential weak spot, and as CF says, rusts from the inside.

If you're serious about this, you would need to pull all your interior panels to really get a look at which seams had rust problems (hidden from the outside viewpoint behind the polyester seam sealer). This isn't as bad a job on a passenger van as it is on the Westy. Once the interior panels are off and you're in behind the seams, grind away whatever rust you can get to, and then spray the hell out of them with WaxOil.

Remember that rubber shrinks with age and heat, so any windows are suspects for leaks and rust. Under the windshield is usually bad (rubber seal leaks), and the same with the radio antenna seals.

At the front of the bus, look at the vertical welded seams on either side of the "hood", which notoriously get hairline cracks in their sealant (I'm talking about the panel where your ugly "Vanagon" sticker sits). This leads to a lot of water getting in behind the dash, often leaking down and destroying the relays/fuses/wiring at the fuse box. I have covered over these seams on my van with a polyurethane sealant. It stays flexible, like silicone, but sticks MUCH better than silicone, and you can paint over it (which you can't with silicone). The polyester seam sealant that VW used originally on these vans is not flexible, and it cracks and shrinks with age. Basically, VW just gooped Bondo between the spot welds on all the seams, so it just doesn't last forever.

It's REALLY awkward to hit all the seams and rust spots under the windshield, because you have to pull the dash out first (but if your front heater core &/or heater blower, &/or clutch pedal clevis pin is bad, then you're going to have to do this job soon anyway!).

Pull off the front grille, and follow those seams down into the headlight bucket area, and then all the way around the joint between the front fenders & "firewall". Pull off the front turn signal lenses to get a better look in there. Dig out loose seam sealer that's trapping water, and spray the hell out of anything questionable with WaxOil or similar.

Once place I bet you are badly rusting is the seam that joins the top of the rear fenders to the floor (raised deck in the back of the van). When I pulled out the side panels of my Westy, I could see lots of daylight holes along this floor/fender joint from INSIDE the van. Very depressing, and required major welding & body work to fix.

If you start to dig into your van and find it's already got serious cancer, then just forget about any kind of rust-prevention, drive it into the ground, and start looking for a California van with a blown engine that you can transplant that nice Subie drivetrain into at some point in the future. The best part of your van may well turn out to be the drivetrain & Kennedy conversion pieces.

Good luck.

Bubs Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:01 pm

Witless Joe: Thanks for all the information, that will definently help me out when it gets warmer and we can start the rust checking.

On a side note: At first I liked that Vanagon sticker, but now that you mention it I think I'll take it off. :lol:

Dharma_Bum Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:44 pm

Witless Joe - very informative post. Thanks, man.

I have never heard of the WaxOil product.

I friend of mine in Topeka, Kansas (Rick T./Rick's Bus Farm…) drilled very small holes in the top inside of the doors on his Bay Window bus. These holes where used as oil points to allow him to squirt in oil and coat the inside metal of the door panels and protect against the notorious door rust on the Bays. I think he also drilled small drain holes in those areas where the moisture traditionally collects. It appeared to work very well and Rick swears by it. His chrome-yellow FI Bay is beautiful and it sees some nasty weather in KS. It was an interesting, common-sense, Midwestern approach to rust protection that I had not seen before. Rick always said, 'it is not the rust you can see that gets you, it is the rust you can not see…"

I need to attack the driver's side 'kitchen wall' rust on my '84 Westy this spring. It is starting to become significant.

billybobzia Fri Mar 10, 2006 9:51 pm

quick 85 westy weekender has the typical kitchen wall rust, but of course doesn't have a kitchen....why does that spot rust more than others? i live in colorado and plan on driving it only in summer months...i dont care how it looks, but should i do anything to this? thanks!

Desmo Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:30 pm

Anyone know of a good fix for supporting the fold up table in my Carats. If I lean on them with too much weight, the tables collapse. I noticed the Eurovans have a support leg that expands/contracts (with a push pin in the leg) when you fold open/close the table. I guess I could get a piece of pipe to support it, but it would be nice to have a leg that folds down and fits under the table when you stowe it away.

vansmack Sat Mar 11, 2006 9:38 am

My mechanic told me that Navy Jelly when applied to rust will stop it from progressing. I have not tried this but he is a good source of info and hasn't let me down yet. FYI - anyway.

Witless Joe Sat Mar 11, 2006 4:38 pm

Billybobzia - your rust there is caused by one of two possibilities. Either the rubber seal around the sliding window is leaking, or else the Weekenders have the same nasty fibreglass/rock wool insulation on that wall that the full Westies have. I'm betting on the latter. But it could also be a combination of both. My understanding is the passenger vans don't have this awful insulation on this wall.

The solution is to pull out the interior panels and look at the mess. I'm sure you will be horrified, if it's already so bad that you see problems from the outside of the van. Once you see the problem, the only solution is the medical surgeon's motto: "When in doubt, cut it out." Your own van may not be worth the effort - it's your call.

There's a Dutch web page around that documents this problem, and the owner's subsequent replacement of that middle panel with a new one from VW. I had the same problem, and did the same job (also replaced the 2 rear fender panels). VW still sells new body panels for the Vanagon, but even if you do this job yourself it's expensive and time consuming.

That insulation is just awful. VW hit the metal wall with spray glue, and just slapped the rock wool up against it. So all condensation generated in the van just sits trapped in the rock wool right up against that wall. If the window seal leaks, too, the problem is magnified.

In the full Westies, this is made worse as age and heat destroys the foam gaskets that "seal" the plastic ports for water & electrical service. Water starts coming in from outside then, as well as from inside (condensation).

As for Naval Jelly, my understanding is that it is very useful in removing surface rust, but it's not a preventative. Rust is oxidation, so if you prevent oxygen from accessing the metal, you're golden. Undercoating or POR 15 (or other epoxy products) would work as a preventative if the metal was "perfect" initially, because its purpose is to seal oxygen away from the metal. But if there was already rust that had set in there, then the rust will just creep along, spreading out between the surface of the metal and the coating. My experience is that oil works better, as it continues to flow into all the pores in the metal, blocking the oxidation process. If the metal stays nice & oily, there is no way for rust to form BETWEEN the oil and the surface of the metal.

There is no perfect solution to this problem. Everything you do will be a compromise.

cloudbaseracer Sat Mar 11, 2006 10:14 pm

Whitless Joe,

Where do you get this Waxoil? Is there a name? I tried a search but did not locate anything.

msinabottle Sat Mar 11, 2006 10:51 pm

Waxoyl's a British product, only a few automotive specialty shops import it. But the marine people have as much or more of a rust issue than we do, and I found for $5 a can of something called 'Mercury Corrosion Preventative' that is the same as Waxoyl--you spray it on and let it dry for 48 hours and you are left with a thick, slightly sticky, waxy film. I used that on Winston's new fuel tank before we installed it, and on the inside of his new hubcaps. When, in a couple of years, I gut him, de-rust him, put on new panels and paint him, that or the equivalent will go on before the interior insulation.


Witless Joe Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:08 pm

I'm in Canada, and it's easy to buy no-name brand WaxOyl in aerosol spray cans at our equivalent to Napa (ie. Lordco).

However, supposedly it's also easy enough to mix up your own home-brew waxoyl. I did a fast google search for "recipe" and "waxoyl", and I came up with this. No promises about its efficacy - I expect it would take a bit of practice to get it to come out the way you want. Here it is, have fun:

Quote: Take a ˝ kilogram of paraffin wax or candle making wax and grind it up with a cheese grater. Soak it in 2 liters of mineral spirits/ Paraffin/ Kerosene/ lamp oil/ Diesel until all of the wax is dissolved. It might take a couple of weeks. Stirring will cause most of the wax to dissolve, but soaking should take care of the rest, heating the mixture in hot water (no open flames) will add in the quick dissolving of the wax. Generally try to dissolve as much wax as the mineral spirits/ kerosene/ paraffin/lamp oil/ Diesel will hold. Pour one liter of mineral oil/ non-detergent motor oil into the dissolved mixture. If the mixture is too thick for spraying you can thin it further with more mineral spirits until it is of a spray-able consistency.


Buy any cheap engine spray gun at your local auto or tool store that carries air tools. You can also use a garden insecticide sprayer, although it will really make you tired. Rent or borrow an air compressor. If possible elevate your car so that you can get at the underside. (Remember to chock both front and rear wheels as you are going to work underneath the car.) First wash your truck's chassis, both inside and out, to get rid of all the mud, oil etc. Spray the solution onto the underside of the chassis and into every little hole, crack and crevice. Make sure you push the tip into the chassis to spray the inside of the chassis. Let the excess drip off. You will find that the solution will blend into all cracks and chips and if the chassis is scratched it will flow, covering the scratch. If there is existing rust the solution will be soaked up by the rust and thereby creating an oxygen free coating stopping the further rusting/corroding of the surface.

Repeat the above once a year if you live in an area where the roads are sprayed with salt. Once every two to three years if staying inland where it is dry and salt free.

The above information was received from the LRO list where various people contributed their own recipe. Most of the recipes was essentially the same varying only on which oil to use and discussing the pro's and con's of Mineral spirits/paraffin/ Kerosene/ lamp oil vs. Diesel etc.

cloudbaseracer Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:20 pm


Where do you get this stuff:

"and I found for $5 a can of something called 'Mercury Corrosion Preventative' that is the same as Waxoyl--you spray it on and let it dry for 48 hours and you are left with a thick, slightly sticky, waxy film"

I could not find it in a search.

msinabottle Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:41 pm

I bought this at a local boat dealership. Here's what's on the can:

Corrosion Guard
92-802878 55

Product of Mercury Marine
Fond du Lac, WI 54936-1939

Good enough?


danfromsyr Tue Mar 14, 2006 7:56 am

The vanagon chassis rust proofing process is very robust and takes some serious neglect (or bad design in the camper kitchen wall) to get anything even close to serious rust..

next time anyone feels thier van is rusty, take it to a Bay or Splittie guy for a 2nd opinion.. the way rust eats thier panels.. it's nearly visible to see it creep.

aside from the design oversight in the westy utility outlets (should have had a recall or TB) that kills the DS lower rocker (and is still quite repairable vs earlier VWs) the vanagon is STOUT and keeps it's shape..

Ohh the damned footwell rubber pads.. POP THEM OFF, wirebrush the scale from there. and brush with a light coat of wheel bearing grease, reapply the pads..
that area is a MAJOR water trap.. though it's a cheap patch panel..

who lives in the Salt City (syracuse, NY) in the North East rust belt..
for thier vintage vanagons hold up just about best out here..

Battery tray. buy a corrosion mat (yellow one) and clean with rubber gloves and baking soda mixture..

pitbovver Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:32 am

just roll it, Rust Happens, thats my motto. the wife may not like the way it looks but you dont notice rust at 55 mph much do you? i guess im salty anyways. GO NAVY

billybobzia Tue Mar 14, 2006 2:48 pm

thats my thought as well....realistically, how long will it take for it to rust away???

riceye Tue Mar 14, 2006 6:26 pm

You are in Colorado? Stop the rust now and you should be good for quite a while.

Clean out loose rust. 2x rust converter to all rusted areas. Paint the outside. Waxoyl the inside.

Give annual exams. Use follow up therapy. Don't travel to the upper midwest or northeast in winter.


photogdave Tue Mar 14, 2006 9:36 pm

There's a Dutch web page around that documents this problem, and the owner's subsequent replacement of that middle panel with a new one from VW. I had the same problem, and did the same job (also replaced the 2 rear fender panels). VW still sells new body panels for the Vanagon, but even if you do this job yourself it's expensive and time consuming.

Hey Joe,
Thanks for the great info in this thread. I'm interested in having the above job done. Can you give more details about the costs involved? Did you get the body panels from VW in Canada?

indytriple Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:29 pm

We use JP Weigle's Frame Saver on steel frames at the bike shop for rust prevention. It's the standard in the bicycle biz. It's expensive, but it seems to work very well. The cheap and frugal folks (the bike shop employees) know that Boeshield T-9 works really well, and it's easier to find and much cheaper. I've always treated the inside of my receiver hitch bike racks with Boeshield as well.

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