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Finch
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:30 am    Post subject: Buying a Vanagon Reply with quote

Hey Folks...Yep another newbie. I'm looking in to buying a late 80's early 90's Vanagon and curious on some of the things to look for when buying one, some bad things to stay away from, troubles down the road, etc... I'm not new to the VW world, been out of it for a while though, I've had a couple bugs in my past and know what to look for in them. I'm wanting to make it a daily driver, don't mind doing some fixing, but don't want a project yet either. Thanks for the help!!!
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jkeller
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check this out: http://www.gowesty.com/library.php

The articles there will answer a lot of your noob questions.
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

be realistic..

any 17-20+yr old vehicle will be a "project"

But my '89 Vanagon (camper) has been pretty reliable just by paying attention to regular service issues.. and by not procrastinating on getting to the source of weird noises and unexpected performance changes.

Mine serves as a daily driver of sorts.. but not that many daily miles.
In owning this last '89 VW, (for 6 yrs now and my third VW van going back to a '72) it has never left me without transport unless it was planned downtime to do a project/repair.

It is no more a "project" than keeping my garden in check and my home from crumbling around me.. all things in balance right?

Cause and effect ya know?


Look at potential buy vans.. and look at them hard.. take a possible buy to an experienced VW mechanic and give it a once over.. pay him for the service and when he hands you an estimate for what it will take to get it road worthy.. double the estimate.

And then start picking away at the list.
Throwing money at it won't make it road worthy..
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vanagonforever
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm currently wishing that I had paid a lot more attention to seam rust. I'm in the process of learning how to deal with the van I've got and will be doing the repairs over the next few months but if I was buying another then I'm not sure I'd be willing to deal with a rusty one. Search for rust and you'll find pictures of most of the common places rust can be found. Also, be warry of bubbling paint. If you live in the north east then this most likely means you will have to travel a long way to find a van without rust.
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, Well worth your while to fly to the west coast for vacation, buy a van for the same dollar amount, and drive it home to New Jersey or where ever taking a nice trip through Yellowstone on the way home.

My local German yard was stripping an late WBX the last time I was there. The body was absolutely mint, very sad. Crying or Very sad
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woggs1
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a writeup on buying a Westfalia, might have some interest for you:



Quote:
Westfalia Buyer’s Guide

This “buyer’s guide” is being written because every time I take my venerable 5 Star “Hotel Westfalia” camping someone, and usually more than one, comes over and wants to know all about it. What’s it got in it? how’s the bed work? two beds! stove? refrigerator? sink? water tank? mileage?, etc, etc, etc. So I’ll print off some of these and carry them in the camper to give to these inquiring persons. You’re welcome to it also, and if you have any tips or suggestions, send them along.

A bit of background. I’ve got two Westys, both water cooled, and both with Subaru engines [more on that later]. I’ve “restored” two others, both of which have been sold [no, I’m not “in the business” nor am I a “mechanic”.]. As a result I have a bit of knowledge about them.

To answer the often asked question whether you can do the Subaru conversion to an air cooled Westy,,, well,, I suppose you could. But it would be hugely expensive. Better off selling your air cooled beast if you already have one and buying a “waterboxer”.

How to choose a Westy? To begin with,,,,,,, you want a “water cooled” Westy . Forget the air cooled engines or the diesels. Major problems, prohibitively expensive if you blow the engine, and just not worth the hassle. Nor do you want the 4 wheel drive “Synchro” model unless you’re going to be doing some serious off-roading and have lots of $ to pay for the maintenance these require. Also figure that a Syncro will cost you about $5,000 to $7,000 more than the 2 wheel drive model. The 2 wheel drive Westy, with the engine weight in the rear, will go just about anywhere.

Owning a Westfalia is better than a Certificate of Deposit,,,,,,, prices are going up rapidly. Especially with gas prices going up. The early model can generally be had for around $5,000 to $6,000 with the later models going for 1 or 2 thousand dollars more. That’s a “winter” price. Add $2,000 if you wait to buy it in May or June. I’ve seen a restored late model one sell for over $20,000 ! [GoWesty gets a fortune for them!]

And,,,, consider this, when California has the “big one”, the 9.0 earthquake, and is turned into a pile of rubble,,,, you’re all set,,,, you’ve got a place to stay,,,, stove, refrigerator, 13 gallons of water, etc.

Water cooled Westys, known as “wasserboxers”, started production in late 1983 and went to 1991. You can immediately identify a water cooled Westy by the 6” high horizontal front grill that’s below the headlight grill.

You also want a “full camper”, not a “Weekender” which has only a “pop-top” and beds. Don’t get a Weekender with the idea of converting it to a full camper; the cost is too much and way too much work. Without looking inside you can identify the full camper by the 3 black hatches [about 5” square] and refrigerator vent on the middle of the side of the vehicle on the driver’s side.

Essentially there were two more or less distinct models; the 1983 thru 1985, and the 1986 to 1991 model. Quickly identify the later model Westy by its square headlights. The earlier one’s have round headlights. There are subtle differences and the 86 – 91 is the preferred model with the price being $1,000 or so higher. That’s not to say that you should turn down an earlier one. Mine are 83’ & 84’.

The later models have a little better front brakes [all Westys have front disk brakes], a little simpler cooling system, power mirrors, wiper for the rear window, a little nicer upholstery and slightly more horsepower. Otherwise they’re pretty much the same.

What to look for when checking out a prospective purchase? These are really fine vehicles but they have two major “problems” that you have to be aware of; engine fires and overheating due to coolant loss. Both are easily solved.

First of all, and very importantly, have a mechanic look at the fuel injector hoses on the engine. All Vanagons [not just the campers] have a well deserved reputation for engine fires. The prevention is simple and cheap. These vehicles are 20 years old. The high pressure fuel hoses [rubber, about 1 ½ “ long] that connect to the fuel injectors become brittle and cracked from age. Eventually one cracks all the way through causing raw gasoline to spray onto the engine and that’s the end of the Vanagon. The fix is easy and inexpensive, just have them replaced with “fresh” hoses [$100 or so?]. No more problem.

Secondly, the thing that destroys more Vanagon engines than anything else is overheating due to coolant loss. Prevention is simple. Vanagon radiators are oversized and massive and the camper won’t overheat if there’s coolant. It’s coolant leaks from old, cracked hoses that is the problem. Have your mechanic check the condition of the hoses, not only in the engine compartment, but all the way to the radiator and the two heaters. Replace any that look questionable. And if you ever come out to your garage and see drops of coolant on the garage floor, don’t drive it until you have it checked and fixed!

Those are the two critical things to check. Beyond that, look at the condition of the camper’s top canvas [with the top up, of course]. If it’s at all discoloured grey or dark brown along the bottom [especially in the back corners] ask the seller to poke the fabric hard with his finger. He won’t do it,,,, because his finger will go right through. The fabric is rotted and will tear easily. Figure it’s going to cost upwards of $800 to have the top canvas replaced. If you replace the “tent” be sure and get the one with the three “windows” [sold by GoWesty].

And finally, check the propane tank. Probably 95% of the Westys out there have the original tank which has now become “illegal” thanks to the EPA. More and more propane filling facilities won’t fill the old tanks anymore. New tanks are about $350 plus installation. Having the old tank “certified” and re-valve’d is around $160 plus removal & installation. Use the tank “thing” and the canvas top’s condition as bargaining points to get a better deal from the seller.

Other than the items mentioned above, buying a Westy is just like buying any other used car. Have your mechanic check it out.

The early Westys have a 1.9 engine with 72 horsepower. The later one’s have a 2.1 engine [same engine, just a tad bigger] with a bit more horsepower. All Westys are woefully underpowered. You’re not going anywhere fast, especially up hills. Figure on 17 – 18 mpg [regular gas] if you “drive right”. These are good engines if you pay attention to the overheating issue and change the oil & filter regularly. Just underpowered.

The answer to the underpower thing is the Subaru conversion. Kennedy Engineering [http://www.kennedyeng.com/] makes the kit to put a 2.2 Subaru Legacy into the Vanagon. It has superb reliability, a significant increase in power and mileage [130 hp & about 22 mpg on regular gas], and it's nearly a "bolt-in" conversion. No modification to the body is necessary as with other engines. So if the Westy you’re looking at has a tired or blown engine, don’t despair. The cost of the Subaru conversion [around $4,900], is not much more than a stock replacement engine. It’s the only way to go! And it’s SMOG LEGAL for California! [More information on this conversion below.]

Your source for all things “Westfalia” is GoWesty at http://gowesty.com . First thing you should do is call them [888/ 469-3789] and get their catalog [$5]. Nearly ever part for the Westy is available, plus the catalog has a 41 page “library” with lots of good information on these campers. It’s also available on-line.

The Vanagon’s battery is under the front passenger seat. Many Westys have an auxiliary battery [house battery] under the driver’s seat. This is a very desirable feature and GoWesty or a qualified auto electrical shop can install one. Both batteries charge when the engine’s running. With the engine off the two batteries are separated so you’ll always have power to start the camper even if you’ve run down the house battery. To keep the battery from running down too low I install a “voltmeter” so I can monitor the battery’s charge [Stinger SVMB digital LED voltmeter, $30 from CarDomain.com].

Don’t worry if the refrigerator doesn’t work on propane. They’re an absolute bitch to light and very few people can get them lit. GoWesty makes a simple and inexpensive [$19] “check-valve” and once it’s installed it will light every time.

There’s a 13 gallon fresh water tank under the cabinet. Open the top hatch that’s closest to the hanging locker and you’ll find an access plate. Taking this plate off will reveal a large threaded cap on the tank. With the cap off you can clean out and sanitize the tank, and also check the fresh water pump.

These campers are notorious in high winds on the hwy. They get blown around quite a bit. GoWesty recommends changing the wheels and tires [very expensive]. I’ve found a tire that helps, AND it’s the only tire to have if you go “off road” anywhere. I highly recommend the Cooper Discoverer Radial LT, [LT 195/75 R 14 M/S].

One caution on changing wheels & tires; before you actually buy the wheel & tire have the shop install one on the passenger side rear wheel. Then make sure that the sliding door will clear it. There’s only about ½” clearance and if the wheel/tire combination is too wide, the sliding door won’t open. I’ve seen it happen!

Another thing is the lug nuts on the wheels, especially the rear wheels. Don’t let the tire shop “hammer” them on with an impact wrench. Have them put a dab of anti-seize compound on the threads and then tighten with a lug/torque wrench. If these lug nuts are put on with a impact wrench they tend to seize over time and are impossible get off with the lug wrench you carry in the camper. I’ve had to actually chisel one off when it stripped [rounded]. No fun at all!

Vanagons have an electric fuel pump. It’s located underneath in the vicinity of the sliding door. If it ever quits working in, say, Ely, Nevada you’re going to be there for a couple of days while they get one from VW. No need for that. The Master E-2000 pump, available almost anywhere, is an almost exact replacement and only half the price. If the local parts store doesn’t have the Master, they can cross-reference the E-2000 number for a different manufacturer.

One thing that I wouldn’t do without is a “real” temperature gauge. The stock gauge is a little needle buried in the instrument cluster which doesn’t tell you much. I mount a 2” “real” gauge on the dash where the engine temperature can be easily monitored. I use the Auto Meter Ultra-Lite 4337 [$50 from CarDomain.com] which comes with the sending unit that screws right into the engine [you can’t use the stock sending unit, it’s not calibrated for the Auto Meter gauge].

Some stats;
Fuel tank = 15.9 gallons
Coolant capacity = 18.4 quarts
Battery = Group 27
Auto trans = ATF DEXRON or DEXRON II
Tires [stock] = 185 R 14
Height = 81” [mine, with 195 tires]
Width = 70”
Length = 14’ 10”
Weight = 4,400 lbs [mine]

The Subaru engine swap is pretty straight forward with the exception of the wiring loom and computer, both of which have to be removed intact from the donor Subaru and reinstalled in the Vanagon. The Kennedy kit has a well engineered motor mount that bolts right in, a modified oil pan, and a new header system with catalytic converter, muffler, and heat shield which makes it California "smog legal". The Vanagon's stock cooling system is more than adequate for the new engine.

It's important to note that the stock Subaru oil pan hangs down too low for safe road clearance if you go off highway. The modified oil pan solves this. The stock air inlet for the air box ends up right behind the rear wheel making it necessary to add an air duct up through the Vanagon's side vent, a 15 minute job with flex tubing. If you have an automatic transmission the governor has to be "tweaked" to allow it to shift at a higher rpm to match the Subaru's power curve.

Dale Barnett did both of my conversions. He’s a former machinist at Kennedy Engineering who helped develop the conversion kit and who’s opened his own shop [“Infinite Fabrications”] in Palmdale, California to do conversions. He’s the “guru” of these conversions in my opinion. [Also builds 400 hp Subaru powered custom sandrails]

Dale’s price for the conversion is around $4,900 depending on any little “extras”. That’s a “turn-key” price, you drive it in with a stock engine, you get it back all finished. It includes the Subaru engine, the good powder coated header system, modified oil pan, temperature gauge, high torque starter and taking the vehicle to the state smog referee for the smog certification. [Once you get the smog “bar code” sticker you can take it anywhere for future semi-annual smog tests]

As a final “conversion” note,,, the addition to the selling price of a Subaru Westy is about equal to what you spent on the conversion, i.e., if a stock motor’d Westy is $5,000 then you’d get about $9,500 or so for one with the Subaru conversion.

Dale Barnett 661/ 547-1130 [cell] 661/ 947-7274 [shop]
[email protected]

If you want to see one of the neat places you can take your Westy, go to my little web site www.gonzowrite.com and click on the “Saline Valley” link.

Cheers,

Trent D. Sanders
La Cañada, Calif. & Ketchum, Idaho
[email protected]




From here:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=218886&highlight=
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Finch
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh I know there all projects, routine maintance i'm all familiar with, just didn't want a whole lot to do to it to be road worthy at the get go know what I mean. Yes, I am in northeast florida and I know rust is the big issue. I'll have to check out the link that was posted. And search "rust" on vanagons.

Thanks gang!!
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waynewatson
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's one over at www.vwvortex.com thats in Florida. Check in the van classifieds.
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Finch
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 5:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I finally got me one!!! '88 Wolfsberg ed. Pretty nice, drove it about 100+ miles to the house from where I bought it, had no issue's. Ran like a champ, and drove very nice. Only major issue on it now is grinding going into 2nd. I guess it could be a syncro?? I've tried double clutching it going into second, didn't really do anything. It's not a hard grind, just a good little vibe threw the shifter and then goes into gear, but does not pop out of gear at all. The PO did say that there is a seal at the top of the gas tank that is bad and do not fill the tank full or you'll have gas spilling out....Of course I forgot that and filled r up when we got on the road..duh Rolling Eyes That was a mess. I guess I need to drop the tank and get that replaced.

This is my daily driver and looking foward to some good times in it!!!
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funagon
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

replace transmission gear oil with Redline MT-90, it will help to shift a little more smoothy.
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finch wrote:
The PO did say that there is a seal at the top of the gas tank that is bad and do not fill the tank full or you'll have gas spilling out....Of course I forgot that and filled r up when we got on the road..duh Rolling Eyes That was a mess. I guess I need to drop the tank and get that replaced.

This is my daily driver and looking foward to some good times in it!!!

a "mess" ???

It's a burnt our van waiting to happen... better check all your fuel lines while you're at it.

eek.. gives me the chills just thinking about it!

Congrats on the van.. but do everyone a favor and get the fuel system sorted before you drive it another mile.
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Finch
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He said it was some seal at the top that if you fill the tank up full, it will spill out, which it did, and that was it. It's not continuasly leaking out. Nothing has leaked out since that. But yes, that is one of the first attention things to get too. Anyone know of what seals are at the top of the tank??? Sending unit??
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finch wrote:
He said it was some seal at the top that if you fill the tank up full, it will spill out, which it did, and that was it. It's not continuasly leaking out. Nothing has leaked out since that. But yes, that is one of the first attention things to get too. Anyone know of what seals are at the top of the tank??? Sending unit??

In your first post you asked about things to be aware of.

One of those things is to be aware of is that the owner was looking to get rid of the van. His word is only so good.
Secondly, under maintained VW vans are known to catch fire.

If a seal has deteriorated at the tank, odds are the rest of the fuel system may need to be looked at. For peace of mind I'd recommend you look at and replace all the soft lines. Its not that much money and it may prevent a total loss... or have a qualified machanic check it for you.

As an example.
In California you would not have been able to pass smog inspection with that van due to the leaking tank seal.. and there would have been no transfer of title until it was repaired.
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AndyBees
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 7:54 pm    Post subject: Buying a Vanagon Reply with quote

I have a few basic realistic comments!

RUST ................ Minor "surface" rust is generally not an issue if you plan to totally restore the Van. However, that "surface" rust will never get better without serious attention.

RUST ........ again. The serious stuff shows up in the seams, etc.

But, the best indicator is underneath!

Make sure you look under the Van... starting at the engine compartment!

Salt does a number on the Vanagons! Not only does the salt rust and corrode everything that can corrode underneath, it will play hovac with electrical connections in and around the engine compartment.

If the price is right (reasonable) everything else is repairable or replaceable!

One last thing........... The Vanagon gas tank can and does corrode inside. A new onc can be very expensive. It is possible to clean and prep with a coating application......... I did it to my '83 back in 1992 and it is still rust free inside..... inspection of the fuel filter pretty much tells the story!

Hope this is helpful to you!
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