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Help Me Decide - Repair Wasserboxer, Subaru, Zetec?
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jyl
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 4:20 am    Post subject: Help Me Decide - Repair Wasserboxer, Subaru, Zetec? Reply with quote

Hi guys. I'm asking for help in deciding how to deal with two blown head gaskets on my '88 Westy. Repair the wasserboxer, or use opportunity to install a Subaru engine?

The gaskets blew right before our family camping trip, arrgh. We crammed everyone in the Prius and went camping anyway. So the van is sitting back in the repair shop in Portland OR, waiting for my decision. And I'm camping in Canada - this is my one night of the trip with Internet access (and showers) - trying to make a decision.

I know there is a ton of info out there that I can tap if I decide on the Subaru transplant. I'm really more asking for help in thinking through the realistic pros and cons of each option.

So, the basics. Van is manual, 138K miles. PO's records show heads done once before. Engine was running nicely, had just had coolant flushed and changed oil in preparation for this trip. Wife is driving on some errand, oil light comes on, she starts leaving a trail of white something (steam? I wasn't there), coolant light comes on, she pulls over, and eventually van gets towed. (I know, why didn't she pull over immediately when the oil light went on . . . well, that's water under the bridge.)

My goal - go get the van running again, reliable for the long run and long trips. I have to keep the A/C. Need to keep the cost down too. Would be nice not to lose the whole camping season. I live in Oregon so fewer smog worries, but I'd like the van to remain smoggable in California in case I ever move back. Wife says she would like more power, I'm more interested in reliability.

Option 1 - Fix wasserboxer:

Mechanic has not started pulling anything apart, so don't know if heads are reusable, or if damage was done to bottom end. He tells me replacing heads and head gaskets is roughly a $2500 job if rest of motor isn't touched. So, I can write a check and be back on the road in a couple weeks. I admit that needing new heads twice in 138K miles isn't increasing my faith in this engine.

Option 2 - Subaru transplant:

I have a flat driveway to work in and a tiny garage to store stuff in, and tools, floor jack, jackstands, etc. I've never worked on the van before, but can read/follow instructions. I have dropped and re-installed the engine in my 911 before, so have some sense of how to pull a rear-mounted boxer motor. But minimal ability to "fabricate" anything - no welder, etc. I gather that a Subaru 2.2L with 70-100K miles including ECU and harness might cost $1000-2000. I am reading the Kennedy and SmallCar sites and am thinking I should budget $2500 for conversion parts, and another $500 for stuff like engine stand, engine hoist, rental pickup truck (to go get the engine), etc. Not sure how many man-hours to plan on - I gather the harness is the most time-consuming part, and next is replacing the Subaru timing belt and various sensors and seals as a precaution - maybe figure 80-100 hours of work to do a transplant?

What do you guys think? What considerations am I missing, what info do I have wrong? Anyone done a Subaru transplant and regretted it, or been unpleasantly surprised at the work involved? Should I have more faith in the wasserboxer?


Last edited by jyl on Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a huge fan of going the conversion route, and also a big fan of Subaru engines. From what I've seen, however, the Subaru conversion is a bit of a pain to do yourself. You might consider the Bostig conversion instead since it gives you a 100% complete drop-in kit and I think it's also somewhat cheaper.

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levi
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 5:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok it's been a late night for me but I'll toss out a couple things.

First you say you want to keep an option open for taking it back to Cal, so the bostig is out for now.

This is a 2.1 and it's got 140,000 on the bottom end?
I don't think I'd want to put 2500 into a 2.1 with that many miles.
I just couldn't do it.
I'd feel like a dummy if it lost the bottom at 150-175,000.
If it was 1.9 I'd feel a lot safer with that aspect. Not that I'd do it, but it would be one less thing to worry about.

What about the option of getting a used engine and swapping out?
That would be quick and pretty cheap.
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TELEK27
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know your looking at he subaru conversion but you my want to look at the bostig conversion I just did mine have 5000 mile with no problems support from bosig is great .did the whole conversion myself in about a week doing it after work and weekend .Good Luck
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Alaric.H
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What ever engine you decide on ditch the water boxer if its a keeper try not to rush it so you lose a season of camping better than losing a couple more because of a rushed decision.After I did mine I had no more engine problems but every thing else that's another story well its nice to get one thing out of the way.So maybe a used engine or a good deal on another vanagon if you need it now do a swap on one sell the other one.
You said 2500$ to fix right there must be something out there for that.
These are just ideals and its early for me so I might not be making much sense.
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bmwloco
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 5:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another Bostig vote here.

I've been considering it myself. For the long haul, it makes a lot of sense. There are Ford dealers all over if you require parts, and the install seems to be well thought out and complete.

Someday, I'll do a Bostig.
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buckturgidson
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

levi wrote:
Ok it's been a late night for me but I'll toss out a couple things.

First you say you want to keep an option open for taking it back to Cal, so the bostig is out for now.

This is a 2.1 and it's got 140,000 on the bottom end?
I don't think I'd want to put 2500 into a 2.1 with that many miles.
I just couldn't do it.
I'd feel like a dummy if it lost the bottom at 150-175,000.
If it was 1.9 I'd feel a lot safer with that aspect. Not that I'd do it, but it would be one less thing to worry about.

What about the option of getting a used engine and swapping out?
That would be quick and pretty cheap.

Levi , why would you feel safer spending on a re-build of a 1.9 instead of a 2.1 ?
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240Gordy
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:17 am    Post subject: Re: Help Me Decide - Repair Wasserboxer Or Transplant Subaru Reply with quote

jyl wrote:
I live in Oregon so fewer smog worries, but I'd like the van to remain smoggable in California in case I ever move back. Wife says she would like more power, I'm more interested in reliability.


I admit I skimmed it too, I guess we all need to remember people have different needs that affect their choices. It might be worthwhile reading closely before jumping in with our own arguably personal preferences.

My personal pref in this case would be one of these . . .

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=514460


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


should be enough power for the wife.[/url]
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240Gordy
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

buckturgidson wrote:
Ok it's been a late night for me but I'll toss out a couple things.

Levi , why would you feel safer spending on a re-build of a 1.9 instead of a 2.1 ?


cuz maybe the rods won't break and punch a hole in the case?
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jyl
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:55 am    Post subject: Oops, Add Zetec/Bostiq To The Mix Reply with quote

The Bostig is interesting. I should have added that to my options.

I guess the advantage of going Bostiq over Subaru is that you get all the parts, instructions, support from a single vendor? And that low-mileage Ford motors can be cheaper than an equivalent mileage Subaru motor?

What would be the disadvantages? Maybe timing - I see the 8th group closes for deposits on July 10, which was yesterday, and the kits won't complete shipping until September - even if I can still get into the group after I get home next week, that doesn't give me a ton of time to decide.
If I miss the 8th group, not sure when the next group starts.
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jyl
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:00 am    Post subject: No Votes For Fixing The Wasserboxer? Reply with quote

Hmm, I notice I'm not seeing any votes or arguments for fixing my existing wasserboxer.
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Bruce Wayne
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

if it was me I would go with one of tencent's motors as well.
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Terry Kay
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Who has any miles on the dimes engine?

I haven't seen or heard of any long term reports /results on his engines.

Remember this---

Your not upgrading your Van with this powerplant.
Your buying a rebuilt warmed over stock wasserboxer engine--nothing else.

I was at the local Subaru dealer last week.

The shop had 13 vehicles in the shop.
For some reason I saw a bunch--(7) of new engines in crates.

I asked the parts guy why so many engines out in the shop?
He told me they don't touch new vehicles with head leaks--they R&R them, and ship them back to Subaru.

Wow,I thought--another wasserleaker--en-mass--only a newer version of it.

I'd be more inclined to go with the Zetec swap.
I haven't heard or seen anything bad about this engine at all, and in a matter of fact I've heard nothing but good about it.

As long as your spending the money, I'd go with the pretty much proven Bostig set up.

It'll give you the most bang for the bucks.
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Last edited by Terry Kay on Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:27 am; edited 2 times in total
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WestyBob
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:26 am    Post subject: Re: Help Me Decide - Repair Wasserboxer Or Transplant Subaru Reply with quote

Since you want to keep it Carb compliant that pretty much narrows it down to the subie 2.2L although as we've all heard there have been a few others that have made it through certain CA deq stations.

I'd recommend doing a conver rather than a wbx'er fix but this depends on your bank account. Certainly doing all the work yourself will save $$$ but there are also several subie conver installation folks around PDX that may do it faster for you but you'll have to negotiate the price of their labor up-front.

The subie 2.2L should give you better mpg's than many other options if that's important to you. The hps should be more than adequate but it won't be a speed demon. Definitely better than stock. There's a subaru-only wrecking yard west of PDX with engines - p-mail me if you want the name.

Ron Bloomquist in NorCal has a site, Blabberon.com, that outlines his personal install of a 2.2 with pics. I think his biggest hang-up was doing the wiring harness himself but SmallCar can do this for you too. There may be a few other minor personal fabs required like brackets.

Again, based on your stated needs I'm not including all the other great engine conver options like the zetec, turbos, diesels, various subie engines, etc. My overall experience with any conversion is it's all about the existing health of the engine you get and how clean the install.

Bob
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VisPacem
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 9:55 am    Post subject: Re: No Votes For Fixing The Wasserboxer? Reply with quote

jyl wrote:
Hmm, I notice I'm not seeing any votes or arguments for fixing my existing wasserboxer.


Hello

I have already posted this opinion a few times, but as the question re-occurs, my answer also does:

I now own a Subaru powered (2.2) Wolfsburg, my 4th 1/2. The half is counting the Corvair conversion on my first air cooled Westfalia.

I "lost" each and every one of them, except the air cooled one of course to leaking heads.
My modest opinion being the WBX is a pile of junk. If it was not leaking, it is leaking, it will be leaking.
It is a flawed patch up, rushed project that puts VW on the hall of shame.
You are doing well at $2500. I paid $4500 for a rebuild something like 15 years ago, and it was the same POS. When after a week the oil light started to come on at idle after 22 miles of freeway driving. I sold the crate (a Syncro incidentally, which was giving me 13 miles per gallon of mostly freeway driving, my Jensen Interceptor was getting better mileage)

Fixing, rebuilding or praying to a WBX is throwing good money after bad. You will do it again and again and again ... if you keep the van, and still have that pile of junk in the back of your van
You can go with one of them fancy pants GoWesty or others super dooper WBX for a not so modest price and still be stuck with an engine that even VW did not like Twisted Evil

You spend the money and get the Bostig or the Subaru and be done with it.

The reason I would go with the Subaru is simple. It --looks-- for unadvised and happy go lucky smog "technicians" like a VW. In California, no one ever when testing the van did realize or **mentioned** the engine was NOT a VW. Just hook up the nazi instrumentation and run the test. The best way to do it is to send the wife as traditionally in the weak mind of macho "expert" techs what does a woman know about engines ... Rolling Eyes

The 2.2 Subaru not being perfect power wise but still like day and night compared to the VW lump has another advantage you can get JDM* nice engines for close to nothing when the time comes.

* Yes the responses to my post will scream, chant, fulminate threaten. warn and admonish that the *JDM is not CARB approved but as the expert tech (ouaaafff ouaaafff) at the local smog station cannot tell it is NOT a VW what difference does it really make. Do you think for one second that one of those "experts" will be able tell JDm or no JDM ? Very Happy Very Happy
To amuse you, the "expert" at my muffler shop when I told him:
"You know, the engine is NOT a VW' answered with a proud smile, "I know , it's a Porsche"

The Bostig with it obvious different design MIGHT trigger enquiries by a nosy "tech".

naturally it also depends if you want keep the van a long time or just patch it up.

One last thing -IF- going the Subaru way, to me at least -THE- major mod you want do is the modification of the governor on the (automatic) transmission.

Good luck
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Terry Kay
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The perfect engine swap post---

Yep--I could'nt have said it better myself.

Investing $$$ in a reman wasserleaker is like standing over the pot and flushing good, hard earned cash down the sewer--regardless who builds it.
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Last edited by Terry Kay on Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW, I've put a deposit for the Zetec 8th install group, I want peace of mind for several long trips I'm planning to do in the winter and afterwards (carrying my wife and 2 kids)

The way I see it, the Zetec at this point is

- a proven conversion
- has excellent support during and post installation
- it's a modern engine (kit even comes with a tuning program)
- reliable, low mileage engines are available
- parts are available on ay parts store
- if you need more power, you can add a turbo (from Bostig, available in the future) or a supercharger (Google Zetec supercharger)
- etc, etc
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pnwkayaker wrote:
FWIW, I've put a deposit for the Zetec 8th install group, I want peace of mind for several long trips I'm planning to do in the winter and afterwards (carrying my wife and 2 kids)


But pnwkayaker -- re-read his post. He says he wants to keep the conver Calif. compliant in case he moves back there. AFAIK, and unfortunately, the zetec is not yet approved for CA.
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Terry Kay
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got a question about the cailfornia compilance issue.

There aren't any Ford Focus'es registered in Arnieland?

Why couldn't you just use a California spec'ed engine & smog related parts for the swap?

Then the Vanagon with the Zetec for it's heart would be left coast compliant.

Why would this be a problem?

Or--beter yet-why wouldn't this work?

You'd think that the Zetec with the left coast spec's would be a lower emissions ride than the stock wasserleaker.
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Last edited by Terry Kay on Sat Jul 11, 2009 2:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Efficient low emissions engine conversions and California CARB are mutually exclusive.

They've got a by-the-numbers system and if the conversion ain't State approved or doesn't have the parts and pieces that their checklist says, it's in the crapper. There are several hoops to jump thru and on top of that the State just doesn't want old rigs rolling around. They'd rather you buy a new Routan.

I know the Bostig guys have been working on this with CA for awhile now - don't know where it stands.
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