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Walty87 Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:43 am

Hey guys Iím new to this club!

I have an 84í 1.9 camper.

Anyways, whatís the best way to drive these things? I guess Iím more curious about slowing down. Is down Downshifting to slow down the best way? Or is it better to throw it in neutral and use the brake?

I want to say Iíve had friends tell me in my newer manuel trucks to use the brake instead of clutch because the brakes are cheaper to replace. Not sure about these old vans tho

Obviously if Iím coming down say Sonora pass I donít think Iíd hve any other option but to ride the gears to slow down lol because the brakes in these things arenít great.

Iíve found myself skipping first gear a lot of times at stop signs, especially if Iím doing a California stop lol. Norm and ok to do? I really try to not ride the clutch that often.

Anyways, anything else a noob should know about driving these things? I know I gotta get used to pulling over when safe to let people pass lol

shagginwagon83 Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:02 am

1.9L here. Do you have a tach? I shift at like 4k rpm.

I have learned a couple things here on the samba. One is - if you're going up a climb in a lower gear, you should probably be in that gear when coming down - so your water pump will run and cool your engine more.

As far as stopping. I'd lean towards using the brakes more than the trans. Brakes are so much cheaper.

As far as your California stop. Maybe it is okay but don't lug your trans.

oceanair Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:03 am

Hey -- welcome...

Always keep your van in gear when braking, do not go to neutral to brake. Definitely use the downshift, but don't over rev. Use the guide on the speedometer. There are red dots to mark 1st, second and third gear. On the flats, the brakes are fine, down hills, definitely down shift.

fxr Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:20 am

Use both! Get in the habit of it if you're not totally used to manual transmissions. Most importantly, as above, use downshifting and engine braking going downhill as much as possible. Brake before the curves, not while going round them. Slow in, fast out...

MarkWard Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:25 am

I don't downshift my van to slow it here in Florida. I use the brakes. I downshift to be in the correct gear say for coming out of a corner.

Coming down from Pikes Peak, I recommend leaving it in first gear and using the brakes as little as possible. Let the engine hold the van on the hill. Front brakes will overheat quickly and fade.

Brakes are always cheaper and easier to maintain, vs replacing worn synchronizer rings, clutches, etc. Technically you'd be braking and downshifting at the same time. This way if the light changes before you get there, you are back on the power in the correct gear.

Certainly downshifting to slow a vehicle is a lot more fun. Long run, if you are smooth, you likely won't damage anything.

Wildthings Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:55 am

When slowing down at a stop light I will typically slip it into 3rd at around 35-40mph and will only go into 2nd at around 15mph. The wife in contrast will throw it into 3rd at 55-60mph or so and into 2nd at as high as 45mph, not even this seems to bother the transmission or engine, just my nerves.

Driven properly the transmission spends no time in neutral at all except waiting at stops and momentarily during shifts. You don't have to grab the shifter firmly, just a loose grip and push it in the direction you want it to go.

IdahoDoug Sat Nov 14, 2020 11:11 am

Driving a Vanagon, you'll want to focus on being a maximally courteous and aware driver. Clearly signal turns and check your mirrors constantly. More than any other vehicle you'll own, the threat will come from behind with a Vanagon. Check that your blinkers are working and your brake lights and running lights. Drive with your headlamps on or install auxiliary daytime running lights. You should be prepared to let folks by on country roads and if you know a long hill is coming with a no passing zone all the way up it, do the right thing and let a few cars go and then use your emergency flashers.

It's a completely different feeling, you will discover. You are a constant source of irritation to other drivers where even their family van has 3 times the power of your vehicle. So be overtly courteous and you'll find yourself relaxing and looking for opportunities to be kind. Do that, and you'll be in the right frame of mind.

Try "I'll show THEM, don't they understand this is an underpowered classic?" a few times and you'll be well on your way to having a miserable time at the wheel of a Vanagon. Other drivers don't know jack shit, except they all seem in their DNA to know Vanagons are slow and they'll do crazy dangerous stuff to avoid being trapped behind you as they text and chat. If they screw up, they'll get out of their airbag bedecked safety cocoons and walk away while you will be crippled for life.

On the brakes, going down hills you shouldn't be sequentially downshifting all the way down like starting in 4th, down to 3rd, then 2nd. That's abuse of your tranny. No. At the crest, pick a gear - say 2nd - let the engine moderate your descent with a few brake applications as needed and have your emergency flashers on if you're going well under the speed limit. It used to be on a highway/freeway anything under 45 you can use the emergency flashers. I push that a bit as it helps folks coming up on you in a clump get organized into the left lane to go around, versus trapping a bunch of folks behind you as they didn't notice the speed differential until too late.

Ahwahnee Sat Nov 14, 2020 12:00 pm

oceanair wrote: ...don't over rev. Use the guide on the speedometer. There are red dots to mark 1st, second and third gear...

But be aware that the speedometers on the 84s were deliberately made inaccurate in response to a Federal law (they read too high).

Since they are too high by design I think there is even an algorithm in the Bentley for calculating actual speed based on indicated. The law changed for 85 and the units were made more accurate at that point.

MarkWard Sat Nov 14, 2020 12:31 pm

Every vehicle I have ever owned seems to have a "happy spot" you don't need a tach or a speedo to find it. If you listen the vehicle is always talking to you.

Now if you are one of those subwoofer equalizer amp owners, you won't hear much. A proper running vehicle is "music" to my ears.

Love My Westy Sat Nov 14, 2020 12:57 pm

Better to keep the RPMs up than lug it. Lugging your engine will kill it.

Walty87 Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:10 pm

shagginwagon83 wrote: 1.9L here. Do you have a tach? I shift at like 4k rpm.

I have learned a couple things here on the samba. One is - if you're going up a climb in a lower gear, you should probably be in that gear when coming down - so your water pump will run and cool your engine more.

As far as stopping. I'd lean towards using the brakes more than the trans. Brakes are so much cheaper.

As far as your California stop. Maybe it is okay but don't lug your trans.

No tach on my van. I do have the dots on speedo. I usually shift before those those marks though. Like someone said maybe for downshifting itís best to be under those marks?

Great info everyone. Learning lots and I really appreciate it. I always have so much fun driving the van and am constantly smiling. People prob look at me like Iím crazy driving around this ugly (for now) thing. Def going to use emergency flashers when going slow up or down hill, and always let people pass when safe.

Thanks guys and keep the advice coming!

RainierSyncro Sun Nov 15, 2020 12:34 am

Stock Vanagons have no power. You probably know that already, so when I pull out into traffic, I make sure there's a huge space to do so. The other thing is that Vanagons are long. It's too easy to accidentally cut a corner, so pull out a little farther than you think you need to make a turn. I bought a set of truck mirrors and they help A LOT to know where your back end is. A huge percentage of Vanagons have rear bumper battle damage. Maybe a back-up camera might be a good idea.

DuncanS Sun Nov 15, 2020 2:52 am

Everybody here is saying their vans are underpowered and slow. I grew up learning to drive in an 85 hp '35 Ford Phaeton my father bought new--we still have it. It had plenty of power. I find my T3 has plenty of power--for me. There are some times when a couple of extra ponies might be nice, but maybe we have become too used to the guzzling 5 liter zoomers and should slow down and be kinder to the planet and ourselves. Accommodating a less than super powered vehicle to our needs might really be a good idea.

All that said, however, you are correct in how the rest of the world views us. On non Interstates, I often pull over and let a string of impatient cars go by. One of the things I find remarkable is how a guy in a pickup will gun it and tear around me when the traffic light 200 yards away is red. Slow down and we will all live longer.

djkeev Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:17 am

If anyone mentioned it already, forgive me........

I've noticed that many people today tend to drive focused only on their immediate surroundings.
The car ahead, the car behind, the car next to you.

Driving an older vehicle (and a brand new one actually) requires you to be hyper aware of what is happening way up ahead, study the horizon, what is coming up behind the car behind me and behind him and behind the guy behind him.

Side streets up ahead, driveways, whatever.

Many drivers seem to get "hypnotized" by the rail lights of the car in front of them.
Recognize that you cannot accelerate quickly to escape imminent tragedy, nor can you brake on a dime.
Plus a fully laden unit has less than nimble handling characteristics.

No zoning out as you motor along!

As mentioned, no one wants to be behind you, expect the unexpected from other drivers! They won't disappoint as they maneuver to get ahead of you!

Dave

Abscate Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:31 am

Quote: One of the things I find remarkable is how a guy in a pickup will gun it and tear around me when the traffic light 200 yards away is red. Slow down and we will all live longer.

Itís hilarious how this happens in town. Then people want brake upgrades so they can stop faster, too.

We are mostly traffic circles now, but I still catch all the passers/posers at the few lights that are left and idle up having burned 1/4 of the fuel they just did.

dabaron Sun Nov 15, 2020 9:44 am

seat in the seat, turn the key and go. I have automatics in my Vanagons, I just blast the tunes and keep the pedal down. down hills Iíll remove my foot from said pedal and feather the brake to avoid prolonged riding. On mountains Iíll put it in 2nd and take my time going down.

if you aren't comfortable tossing the Vanagon around, go spend a hour in a warehouse store parking lot. get used to right turning and fast braking. these are really agile vehicles with a low center of gravity.

Love My Westy Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:56 am

RainierSyncro wrote: The other thing is that Vanagons are long. It's too easy to accidentally cut a corner, so pull out a little farther than you think you need to make a turn.

At 15 feet, Vanagons are actually short. It's just that the driver sits at one end of that on top of the front wheels. My Dodge 2500 is long.

Yellow Rabbit Sun Nov 15, 2020 11:00 am

A couple things I noticed in the original post. You mentioned the brakes in these things not being so good. It wouldnít hurt getting yours checked out by a mechanic. This includes flushing/replacing the fluid to you can be assured everything is as good as it can be.

The term manuel vs manual, leads me wonder if you are new to shifting? Could be auto correct, but if you are new, donít worry or over think it. It will come with time. Even without a tach, you will learn the engines power band and sound. I drive a lot on twisty mountain roads and never once think about brakes vs shifting but Iíve also been doing it for decades. The key is to not ride the brakes on long descents to avoid heat related brake fade and just keep the engine rpms in a happy zone.

Ahwahnee Sun Nov 15, 2020 12:21 pm

DuncanS wrote: ...I find my T3 has plenty of power--for me...
Me too - provided one isn't bashful about down-shifting, using revs to advantage and anticipating what is going to happen next.

Driving smoothly and maintaining momentum go a long way to offset the absence of the raw power that many drivers rely on to get them out of trouble.

My 'other car' is fast - was the fastest production car in the world when it was introduced 58 years ago - but I still get a kick out of driving the Westy with its peppy WBX engine.

dabaron Sun Nov 15, 2020 12:41 pm

Ahwahnee wrote: anticipating what is going to happen next.


that really is the key here... be very aware of what is happening around you and be ready. sure the speed limit is 35 but if you pump it up to 45 just before the start of the hill, you'll be doing 35 over the crest and everyone behind you will be slightly less angry.



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