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  View original topic: New Owner, Looking for Direction
motolocale Tue Oct 27, 2020 2:44 pm

Hey all! Happy to be here, and finally accomplishing my goal of fixing up a Vanagon (hopefully)! I purchased an 87 GL today, and am already starting to tear into it. I've got motorcycle building experience, but this is my first car to really work on.

As it sits: the Van starts sometimes, but only runs for a minute or so, then dies. It will not restart without waiting 15+ minutes. 200k miles. It's got a nasty oil leak somewhere, so that needs to be found and addressed. The body is pretty good, one little fender bender on the back left. Interior is pretty much complete and functional, few cracks here and there.

Now here are the questions: My goal is to have this as a driving restoration, but I'd like a mostly reliable engine to do so. What's my best bet on this engine? Should I try to rebuild it myself? Should I buy a rebuilt? Should I swap? I know this is the age-old question, but I'm still asking. My preference is to keep this engine, but I don't want to throw money at a lost cause.

I'm in Dallas, Texas.

Thank you all, and look forward to the road!


dabaron Tue Oct 27, 2020 2:53 pm

first goal - make the engine start first time every time and able to idle and run without issue. that means sitting down with a multimeter and the Digifant Pro Training Manual

http://oldbluesblog.com/files/DigifantProTrainingManual_SingleSided.pdf

once you have the engine running and able to restart reliably, then you can turn your attention to the oil leak and deciding whether to rebuild or buy.

if you can't resolve the restart and running issues, a rebuilt engine might not resolve those as they are most likely FI system related. and then based on your experience with that troubleshooting, you might find Vanagons are not for you. and that's ok, but we are here for you.

kguarnotta Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:21 pm

Alternatively - you could put your efforts/finances towards a conversion - and there are lots of threads on that.

motolocale Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:26 pm

Well folks, she's done. Started with a compression test. Rear right cylinder showed 1 psi. Checked with the air compressor to make sure that my gauge works. My gauge works. Now we're back to square 1. Rebuild or swap?

kguarnotta Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:36 pm

I've not driven a regular motor in a vanagon. My first vanagon, (also my urrent one) came with a subaru motor. I like it.

I think before anyone can advise on rebuild/swap or convert - you probably need to determine your goals, and budget...

Merian Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:48 pm

"It will not restart without waiting 15+ minutes..."

usually means you need a relay on the starter - not expensive; sold on here by somebody


you may have other problems too :idea:

dabaron Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:49 pm

motolocale wrote: Well folks, she's done. Started with a compression test. Rear right cylinder showed 1 psi. Checked with the air compressor to make sure that my gauge works. My gauge works. Now we're back to square 1. Rebuild or swap?

i would estimate the cost to be $1200 to $1500 to rebuild the 2.1 yourself. it's not difficult, it does take some time to tear down and inspect. once you are down to the crankshaft and can inspect the journals, you'll know your next steps.

if you want a winter project, this is it.

MarkWard Tue Oct 27, 2020 5:57 pm

I would back off the valve adjusters on that cylinder and recheck the compression. 1 psi sounds like a stuck open valve. A cylinder leak down will tell you where the leakage actually is.

The WBX parts can be pricey. In the long run a pro built engine might be cheaper and more reliable. Plus you get a decent nationwide warranty.

If youve built cycle engines successfully, you could probably do this yourself.

I like the 2.1 in my 90. The TDI in our 82 is nice, but at a much greater expense. I pulled a good running wbx and sold it for $600. You might find a similar deal. Id do some more diagnosis before committing to something so quickly.

mikemtnbike Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:37 pm

MarkWard wrote: I would back off the valve adjusters on that cylinder and recheck the compression. 1 psi sounds like a stuck open valve. A cylinder leak down will tell you where the leakage actually is.


+1. Been there.

IdahoDoug Tue Oct 27, 2020 9:19 pm

Listen to Mark Ward here. Don't panic. He will tell you when to do so, but it most assuredly is not without following his advice.

mitch5 Tue Oct 27, 2020 11:29 pm

Figure out if you can get the motor running, assuming you can fix the no compression issue. I would then suggest selling it for as much as you can and swapping a subaru 2.2 or 2.5. The architecture difference between the two is astounding, the subaru motor has way less design flaws, parts are available and engines are plentiful.

If you DIY the swap, pull the motor from a yard and get second hand swap parts, then you could probably do it for close to what a rebuilt vanagon motor will run you. Either a stock rebuild of the wbx or swapping a subaru require the same skills in my eye.

Wildthings Wed Oct 28, 2020 12:09 am

It sounds like your coolant temperature sensor is either bad or disconnected, which makes the ECU think the engine is cold all the time and thus prevents it from starting once it is warm.

On the older aircooled engines it was common for an engine to show zero compression after it sat for a long while as carbon that had built up in the intake port would fall down and get between the valve and seat when one tried to start the engine thus holding the valve open. It could take several minutes of running for a valve to cleanse itself of the carbon.

Crud from running aged ethanol laced fuel can build up on the valve stems causing the valves to stick open as well. Adding synthetic oil to the gas at a ratio of between 100:1 and 50:1 can help get a stuck valve moving again. You need to premix the oil in a gallon of gas so the oil just doesn't settle to the bottom of the tank.

Jake de Villiers Wed Oct 28, 2020 8:24 am

IdahoDoug wrote: Listen to Mark Ward here. Don't panic. He will tell you when to do so! Awesome!!! :lol: Made my morning. :D



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