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Dead Engine ~ Advice Please
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Lanval
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:21 pm    Post subject: Dead Engine ~ Advice Please Reply with quote

My mechanic went after an oil leak, and wound up discovering the engine is toast. Heads bad, pistons bad, main bearing bad, etc. He hasn't done a full estimate, but suggested we're in the $2000+ range.

The Westy interior is basically perfect ~ 86 captain's chairs, everything works (even lit the fridge once!). Exterior has some dents, a little rust, and a very long section with bondo on it along the driver's side rocker panel. The metal underneath sounds fine, but has some bubbles.

This presents two issues ~ I'd need to use a credit card to make the repairs; the body is only so-so, and I live in So-Cal. I'm more or less unwilling to spend that kind of money for an air-cooled engine in a so-so body. As a graduate student though, I don't have Go-Westy money (or anywhere near it), could maybe swing a 1.9 westy (5-7K) in the long run (6-8 months or more).

I can park the car here at my apt for an extended period. I can't realistically rebuild the engine myself ~ no garage, no expertise, and I need to finish my dissertation (actually I need to start it...).

So advice...?

Used engine?
Buy a salvage auto with a decent engine (i.e. the body is domo'd but engine is OK)?
Buy a salvage 2.1 with a good body, and spend the money on a good 2.1L (Ten Cent! Yeah!!)?
Sell it whole (i.e. engine out) for whatever I can get and start over?
Part it out and start over?

(note that start over could be another air-cooled westy ~ I had a 73 Baywindow, so I'm amenable to air-cooled. This time though, I'll vet the engine with a mechanic)

Suggestions?
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captainpartytime
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say try to find a beat up 2.1 and use your air-cooled parts to build it back up. I know some of the parts won't work but you've put a lot of energy into that interior and most of that will fit in a newer van. I found my diesel for $1800 and have used a lot of my 89 carat parts to "trick it out" (you'll be going the other way, but it still works). Whatever you don't use you can part out.....you're a grad student...you're time to money ratio is still greater than 1 Wink Let me know if you need a hand or a garage to use. I just moved into a house in mission viejo with a TWO CAR GARAGE! I'd be more than happy to tackle an engine conversion with you. Two inexperienced brains are better than one...right?

P.S. Hope to see you at the next S.Cal gathering
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r39o
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Building up a reliable AC engine on a budget with no experience is not advisable. The 68hp just don't seem to be very good for So Cal driving.

Converting to water cooled is not that bad of an idea. It has been done before. A lot of holes and mounting is already there for you.

I dislike the idea of just converting to yet another problem prone wbx. Mind you a GW or 10cent or Boston Bob would be great, but $$$.

My route is to the dark Suby side. For $5K or less you can get yourself a smog legal bitchen engne. There is a lot of documentation and third party support for this and the state of the art of the conversion almost makes it a bolt in.

I would LOVE a TDI, but practically speaking it would take a long time to recover what all you have to do to put in a TDI.

My 1.9 wheezer wbx runs just like it should. But, I long for a Suby when the day arrives. For now, I am leaving it alone.
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klucz
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:23 am    Post subject: Re: Dead Engine ~ Advice Please Reply with quote

Try selling it, see what you can get. If no one wants it then decide if you want to part it out or if you're up for a project. In the mean time watch the classifieds. My .02 GL w/ whatever you choose.
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jalopyjockey
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

did the mech tell you any details as to how its toast ie leak down values, dropped valve seats, cracks in the head, worn guides, bad crank saddles, etc.....

sell it? thats like sending your horse to the jello factory cause it has colic.....it took care of you for how long, now its your turn........

used ac motors can be found for very cheap(under 200) or free and the swap takes half a day(maybe two for someone new to it).....i would suggest that route for a temporary fix while you focus on school without the added stress of being out a bunch of coin......you can then slowly rebuild your original core as the money/time is available and learn the rebuild process(theres a lot of piece-o-mind in doin it)......and depending on your smog laws and such you can build one that will put out 100-125 hp, run cooler, and have an improved power band with only a few "simple" changes......
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RGS Paul
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First is the Westy your daily ride or do you have a backup? Could you even ride a bike for a few weeks while parts come into play?

I second 'you''s opinion, finding a descent Type 4 might be the best bet. Trolling theSamba classifieds I saw a few Type 4's that will probably plug right into your van. Check these out:

Up the road from me it might be a 1.8 though:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=560673

Should be a 2.0:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=483096

This one is a 2.0 and has all the fuel injection parts, also in CO:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=482263

Interesting but expensive, the 914 engine makes 95 hp though so you would be getting a power bump:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=519619

Might be worth investigating, it is a 914 core:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=493075

From the Pelican Parts forums;

A 912E motor, same as the 914 2.0, really expensive but you might ask what it would be without the Webers...:

http://forums.pelicanparts.com/showthread.php?t=382833

Another 914 2.0:

http://forums.pelicanparts.com/showthread.php?t=385196



For now I'd be tempted to stick with the Type 4, it will probably be the cheapest alternative ad you can always do a swap later or get a WBX van.

Cheers,

Paul[/url]
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mightyart
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your mechanic didn't even know what the cable for the thermostat was.
Now you say you drove it to him for an oil leak and he tells you your engine is "bad", I call bullshit.
Does it run OK?
Does it make noise?
Did he tell you what your compression is?
An aircooled engine is not very forgiving if you have something that's "bad" you would know it.
Who's your mechanic? maybe someone else has delt with him.
Scaring people is a good way of getting their money.
I'll bet the Terrorists had something to do with your engine going bad.
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tencentlife
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you's and RGS Paul's approach is the most sound, because it keeps you on the road in the short term, and being immersed in grad school you're not so likely to be taking any long trips in the next few months anyway. Get a used motor and stuff it in so you can drive around town (you wouldn't want to hit the road on an untried motor, but being broken down near to home isn't such a big deal, usually. Just avoid those SoCal freeways at rush hour for safety's sake and to avoid the humiliation, and always have enough cash on hand or friends with trucks and cellphones lined up for the possible tow home).

I would add a couple of features to that plan; get in touch with Jake Raby and save up for his Camper Special kit. Meanwhile, strip your old block and have your mechanic check the case, crank, etc., whichever parts you will be reusing. Basically, in the interim, get done the legwork that makes a rebuilt take time: case cleaning and checking, align-boring if needed, bearing selection, cleaning and repainting the cooling tin, procuring all the parts, etc. etc. there's tons of tedious work to do before you can put anything back together anyway. Lubricate the skids with your mechanic with ample offerings of favored beverages to get in his good graces, angling toward being able to use his facility on a weekend once you're out of school and everything is ready; the actual rebuild can be done in a day or two if you are well prepared, and stuffed, run in, and tuned the next day.

That's just because you have so much invested already in your ride, and for the sentimental factors, and that it allows you to spend money in discrete segments over the next few months and structure the activities around your school schedule. And if you get the Special from Jake and follow his suggestions, you end up with a much nicer powerplant that should last you a long time.

My second pick would be to get a late wbx that's driveable as is, probably not a campmobile because that would probably blow your bank in SoCal, but you never know. Of course for a budget ride you're buying someone else's deferred maintenance, but that can be just as true of a higher-market one if you don't have your eyes open. There are a lot of things even a very good mechanic can't tell you just by doing a PDI, so anytime you buy a new-to-you used vehicle you're rolling the dice. But on the Vanagon platform, the post-'86 models represent the refinement of the concept, possibly have lower miles, and give the best resale when they're brought to spec.

Then dream of the day you can upgrade the power plant, although after driving the aircooled, any 2.1 that runs will seem like a big step up to you.
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Last edited by tencentlife on Sat Jan 26, 2008 9:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dogpilot
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The other way to do it is find another AC Vanagon, regular edition. Buy it, and transplant the motor. There is an AC Vanagon here in town, oddly enough, in the NAU Grad student housing lot. It has been For Sale for a while now. Probably would be open to really low offers. You can then sell the van as salvage, while cherry picking a few parts off. It is in the highly desirable two tone orange.

I do agree with Art, your mechanic is most likely being a bit on the pessimistic side. Kerry (Captinpartytime) turned me on to a mechanic in Dana Point that seems to actually know Vanagons. IF you can limp it over to him, have him cast his steely gaze upon it.

You can do some paid political work for some of the candidates, they all need help. Like rent the sides of your van and drive around OC advertising for whoever. Might help pay for it.
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Taylor L
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would advise using an extra measure of caution if you decide to go the used engine route. You could likely run in to a scenario where you end up with exactly what you have now, another used engine in need of a rebuild. There's nothing more discouraging than going to the expense of buying a used engine, doing the swap, and then having another engine that won't get you out of the driveway or one that gives up the ghost after about a week of driving.

My advice is don't buy anything that is out of the vehicle and can't be tested. I don't care how honest or how good a person the individual trying to sell it to you seems to be, don't trust them.

If they say the condition of the engine is "unknown," it's crap. If they say it is in "great shape," was "running great when pulled," has "good compression," has only 2,000 miles on a rebuild, or the ghost of Robert Bosch personally built the engine from the ground up, there is at least a 99% chance that the engine is crap.

If I was going to buy a used engine, the only route I would go would be the suggestion to buy a donor car with a running engine. Then do a compression/leak down test before you buy it. At least you have a chance of getting something that will get you around for a while.

Taylor
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is your oil pressure? Does you warning light work, and does it come on when it is not supposed to? A properly working light will come on at least at idle if your main bearings are going south. Type 4 bottom ends are pretty tough and seldom give problems.

What is your compression? You can check it yourself with a cheap compression gauge and a spark plug wrench. Just follow the instructions that come with the tester. If your compression is good then your heads and pistons are likely both good.

What is your oil usage? Even a quart every 500 miles is nothing to worry about.
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Lanval
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks all,

Much to think about here; answers:

Mightyart ~ the mechanic came highly recommended from Walter (r39o); yes I agree the cable bit was odd, but I chalk it up to miscommunication, and the fact that I didn't know what I was asking about. I trust him.

I can't say what all was bad, here's what I remember; the main bearing had an odd hole and was scored. It was installed wrong (by the PO who did a home-brew rebuild). Several of the pistons were clearly scored/scratched on the sides, vertically. Looking at one of the heads, several of the valves were pretty beat up, with jagged edges all the way 'round.

There was some other stuff as well. I'll get the final/complete answer on Monday, when he has time to go over and intemize what needs to be done.

Some other answers:

No, it's not a daily driver, though that's what I wanted to do with it for the next 6 months. I have another minivan (wife-mobile) a mazda which seems relatively safe for now.

I can indeed ride a bike pretty much wherever I need to go.

I'm not in a hurry. Being in a hurry is how I got here. I've now learned a good many hard lessons about vanagons. Time to take time, do it right.
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Randy in Maine
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My suggestion would be to park it until you can do it correctly. grad school is far more important. Buy a beater if you have to.

Boston Engine or Raby would be both of my choices for a new engine.

A 914 or a 912 engine won't last long in a vanagon as a vanagon generates way too much cylinder heads temps and they will soon drop a valve seat.
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mightyart
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm assuming he took your engine out of the van and dissasembled it?
Maybe I'm missing something but you drove it to there to fix a oil leak(not uncommon in an aircooled)so the heat would work and he takes the engine out to trace a leak?


Last edited by mightyart on Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:34 am; edited 1 time in total
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klucz
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, after reading the other responses here and thinking a bit--I take back what I said above. I was thinking more or less along the lines of that you're broke and don't have time to deal with it. If you tried selling it as is then you'd just have to deal with a bunch of lowballers anyway. Sounds like swapping in a used stock motor is your best bet for now.

-Paul
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Lanval
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, it's in pieces on the floor of the shop, so he was able to pick up the head and point to the problem areas, same for piston, etc.

Lanval

Here's the progression ~

Fairly significant leak, I think it's the main seal. I think this because if I park the van nose up (oil running towards the back of the van), I get a small, silver dollar-sized oil spot. Park nose down, I get a spot about the size of an 8.5 x 11 in piece of paper.

He dropped the engine to do the main seal, and discovered the source of the oil leak is actually a small, round plug in the engine case, which requires splitting the case to get to. The plug is spinning in its place. Later, after the case was split I saw the edge of the seal. It looked sketchy to me.

Splitting the case, I assume, enabled him to see other clues as the state of the engine, i.e. the main bearing, heads, etc.

Yeah, it was drivable when it arrived. I don't know if I'll have him put it together or not. That's what I was wondering about when I started this thread. (I can have it towed to my place free). Do I want to just bring it home, and rework the engine bit by bit, get a new engine, get a new van, etc., etc. Just looking for advice from people who've been down the various parts of this road, and seeing how they might handle it.

Best,

L


Last edited by Lanval on Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:43 am; edited 3 times in total
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mightyart
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I guess he knows, but did you tell him to take it apart?
He's going to put it back together can so it's driveable till your ready to spend the cash isn't he?
It was driveable when you took it to him or was it broke down?
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Taylor L
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Randy in Maine wrote:
My suggestion would be to park it until you can do it correctly.


I agree with Randy 100%. "Doing it correctly" is IMO the most economical way to go. You can spend a lot of money on used worn out engines, or patching back together worn out engines. But the return per cost isn't that great of a ratio. You might have to spend more for a good rebuild, but you get more for your money in the long run, not to mention something that you can actually rely on to get you where you need to be without the prospect of having to walk.

Randy in Maine wrote:

Boston Engine or Raby would be both of my choices for a new engine.


More good advice. In particular, I think Boston Bob is the way to go. For about 3 grand you can get a long block with brand new heads shipped, and your core shipped back to him. When you look into what it takes to actually build one of these engines and BUILD IT RIGHT, that's not very much money. With BB you are getting an engine built buy someone who knows about all there is to know about these engines and is obsessed with making sure every thing is perfect about every engine that leaves his shop. He's not just slapping some parts together and crating them up.

Taylor
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Alan Brase
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the idea of a used engine, but I'd just tear it partly apart first, unless you can do a compression test before you buy it.
And have the heads fixed by someone good and put in new rings.
And, keep in mind, the only ones that will fit easily are the 1979 and later with square port heads. Early oval port heads will not fit your exhaust system and trying to use one them will only lead to long term grief.
So, keep in mind, GET A VANAGON air cooled MOTOR.
Al
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terryg
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Taylor L"]
More good advice. In particular, I think Boston Bob is the way to go. For about 3 grand you can get a long block with brand new heads shipped, and your core shipped back to him. When you look into what it takes to actually build one of these engines and BUILD IT RIGHT, that's not very much money. With BB you are getting an engine built buy someone who knows about all there is to know about these engines and is obsessed with making sure every thing is perfect about every engine that leaves his shop. He's not just slapping some parts together and crating them up.
/quote]

I have a BB engine with 15k on it and it's just like I got it - strong and smooth. If you decide on JR, make sure you and he understand exactly what he is providing and what he will stand up to. You must build or get built JRs engine parts, and he must be convinced that his parts are used properly for him to support them. BB lives by actually building A/C engines, JR sells parts for Vanagon engines but he doesn't build them because he fears them. BB fears them too, but he will stand by a nearly stock rebuild since he knows that is the only reasonable approach to A/C Vanagon engines. He's right!
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