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DIY or pay someone for a pro swap?
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SeattleDownhill
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:30 pm    Post subject: DIY or pay someone for a pro swap? Reply with quote

So I've been looking at doing a EJ25 swap for a while now... (though the full STI setup would be even better...) The tough part is money. I don't have alot of it. I am hoping to save up some cash and get a swap done maybe by summer of 2011.

I am curious on weather or not to try and tackle this thing myself, or just pay someone to do it for me. I don't really have a place to do work on the van, nor do I have a whole lot of tools... That being said, paying Small Car a few grand to do the swap means that I would have to maybe wait until winter 2011 or even spring 2012 to do the swap just due to financial reasons.

I was told about a Seattle area guy that does Subi swaps and has the possibility of renting his space, or having him just help out and save some dollars... but I can't remember who that was!

I was also looking at the Zetec because that seemed like it could be done pretty easily for a decent price, but ground clearance is a HUGE problem... My van is pretty low and the motor would be dragging on the ground...

Thoughts? Ideas? Anyone have an easy kit similar to Bostig's that makes it an easier swap (I haven't really heard of one that is as complete for a Subi as the Bostig is for the Zetec)?
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levi
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a fan of the DIY if only because it gives you a better understanding of what you've got back there.
That makes you more able to deal with most problems that will come up, instead of having the van towed, and paying a mechanic $80 an hour to get you back on the road.
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funagon
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:02 am    Post subject: Re: DIY or pay someone for a pro swap? Reply with quote

SeattleDownhill wrote:

I was also looking at the Zetec . . . but ground clearance is a HUGE problem... My van is pretty low and the motor would be dragging on the ground...


Some pictures of ground clearance on this page:

http://www.bostig.com/products/bostig-v20-options/hc-oilpan

and another here:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2...;start=200
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a pretty personal question! Smile Meaning: it depends so much on your personal situation. If $$$ is a concern, I think DIY will come out cheaper even if you flesh out your basic tool set and borrow/rent the lesser used tools. Do you trust your wrenching and electrical skills? Your ability to follow procedures? You're obviously okay asking for advice... you started this thread. Wink I jest, but there's a ton of experience with these conversions that can be drawn on if one's not afraid to ask when they're unsure. Do you enjoy tinkering and troubleshooting? I do, so it wasn't really a question of paying someone to do the work, but if it was just going to be a PITA to me I'd rather save and have someone who gets into that stuff do it for me. In either case, figure out what you think it's going to cost and then save up a cash buffer for unanticipated expenses. With luck, you'll still have the buffer for your first road trip in the converted van.

If you do it yourself it will probably take longer than if you pay someone with experience to crank it out for you, but you'll know what you've got. You'll know where you cut corners and what to keep an eye on. By the same token, if you're inexperienced and you cut corners where you shouldn't, you may cause more expense and downtime than is necessary.

If you elect to have the work done you should get some references regarding the shop's work. I don't dislike Small Car... almost all of my conversion parts are SC and I really appreciate Brian's and Mao's helping me sort through some of my questions. That said, through personal experience and things I've read, I think there's cause to be concerned about their attention to detail and quality of workmanship. I'm generally pleased with the "production" items like the motor mount rails, adapter plate, and flywheel.

I had them reverse my coolant manifold and drill for the temp senders. They drilled both temp sender holes at an angle to the surface which is a problem because they both use washers for gaskets that depend on being flat against both surfaces. I could have done better with a hand drill... better still with my drill press... but I figured they've done a million of these and I would pay them for the work. I paid to have it shipped back and it came back with a bunch of grinding marks in it and still out of square. Seriously, I could have paid my son the cost of shipping and had him hit it with my grinder and it would have been as good or better! Mao told me his mechanic with 20 years experience assured him it was good enough... whatever. I ended up hand filing it as close as I could get it and using RTV to fill the gaps, but for what I paid for the work I should not have had to fix obviously poor quality workmanship... and it cost me a couple weeks of screwing around.

Mao assured me they've since addressed that issue so you shouldn't run into that exact problem, but they didn't offer to replace or do a professional repair on mine. With that experience I would be really nervous about all the other steps involved in the conversion and whether they would stand behind their work. They're a big name in these conversions and nice guys... I'm not saying don't use them, just talk to a number of their customers and search here and on the Yahoo SubaruVanagon group for the praises and complaints before you plunk down your hard-saved $$$.

Paul
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some quotes from the Vanaru website with highlighted key points.

Quote:
Our bolt-in conversion package uses parts from Smallcar and Kennedy Engineering and several unique solutions to provide a standardized package that bolts up to the vanagon with no splicing of wires or cutting/modification of the body.


Quote:
This turn-key package is ready to bolt in and run and has been engineered to include all parts you may need to install it in your water-cooled vanagon.


These key points are where the home installer can get hung up if they don't have the time and/or inclination to come up with their own solutions. This is the area where I feel that Bostig really shines and where the other (not Vanaru) Subaru conversion parts suppliers fail. It is truly amazing how much time can get eaten up trying to figure out, engineer and execute a solution to a seemingly simple problem. Add a few of those into a home conversion project and the process just gets longer and longer and can add to the frustration level significantly.

I'm all for supporting the suppliers that provide us with much needed parts and solutions, but pick and choose wisely if your time and money are important to you.

I also agree that the tools necessary to do the conversions (any of them) are pretty basic and should be considered a good investment regardless.
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am going down the road of DIY.. slowly.
..and am picking and choosing parts.
I am picking up tools here and there.. and have not over spent on those. Yet.

I started into this with a hodge podge of rusty spent tools with key pieces missing.. like all my 1/2" sockets and box ends that rest at the bottom of various marinas around the state of California


That said, I have been tempted many times to just drive over to the guy who does it professionally, because sometimes I think I'll never get to it.

I will likely have a pro do the reversed manifold. I chose RJES bellhousing over adapter plate. So money is being spent in certain areas.


Regardless, I would at least start into this as if you are going to do it yourself. The knowledge you gain in researching the how to and figuring out the details will help you in maintenance later.. and will aid you in talking/planning with a pro should you decide to go pro later in the process.


I would not want to have a swap done and not be able to service the vehicle myself. Finding qualified mechanics who are willing to work on a "custom" set up, down the road, is a crap shoot.

No better way to "know" your vehicle than to DIY.
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danfromsyr wrote:
those are straight line runs with light weight race cars for only 1/4mile at a time..
not pushing a loaded brick up a mountain pass with a family of 4+ inside expecting to have an event free vacation..
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climberjohn
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:45 am    Post subject: Re: DIY or pay someone for a pro swap? Reply with quote

funagon wrote:
SeattleDownhill wrote:

I was also looking at the Zetec . . . but ground clearance is a HUGE problem... My van is pretty low and the motor would be dragging on the ground...


Some pictures of ground clearance on this page:

http://www.bostig.com/products/bostig-v20-options/hc-oilpan

and another here:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2...;start=200


Also on this thread:

Bostig drivers, show us photos of your rear end
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=367076

-CJ
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Volksaholic
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

j_dirge wrote:
Regardless, I would at least start into this as if you are going to do it yourself. The knowledge you gain in researching the how to and figuring out the details will help you in maintenance later.. and will aid you in talking/planning with a pro should you decide to go pro later in the process.

Good advice... learn as much as you can in either case. You'll need to make some decisions either way... the more you know, the better.

Paul
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would use Vanaru for a turn key set up again no question about it. The entire package came on one pallet and Hans is great to work with. These are all pre ran and tested. Check him out. www.vanaru.com
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recently got an $11,000 quote for a 2.2 Subaru conversion, 130 horsepower, from Berkeley Bus Lab.. Thats $85 per horse, installed.

Burley Motors is doing Subaru H6 3.0 conversions for $9000, it has 212 horsepower. Thats $43 per horse, installed.

It might be cheaper to buy a van that is already converted, and sell the van you are thinking of pouring money into.

Ive heard the Bostig conversion runs about $6000, plus shipping and install, I could not find the horsepower rating on their site, but I think it is 110. If so, thats $55 per horse, plus your install work.

The vanaru kit runs 8700 plus shipping and install, 165 horses, $53 per horse.

Some do it yourselfers report a materials cost of $3500 plus labor, to install a subaru 2.5, thats $21 per horse.
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Vanagon Nut
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

loogy wrote:
Here are some quotes from the Vanaru website with highlighted key points.

Quote:
Our bolt-in conversion package uses parts from Smallcar and Kennedy Engineering and several unique solutions to provide a standardized package that bolts up to the vanagon with no splicing of wires or cutting/modification of the body.


Quote:
This turn-key package is ready to bolt in and run and has been engineered to include all parts you may need to install it in your water-cooled vanagon.


These key points are where the home installer can get hung up if they don't have the time and/or inclination to come up with their own solutions. This is the area where I feel that Bostig really shines and where the other (not Vanaru) Subaru conversion parts suppliers fail. It is truly amazing how much time can get eaten up trying to figure out, engineer and execute a solution to a seemingly simple problem. Add a few of those into a home conversion project and the process just gets longer and longer and can add to the frustration level significantly.

I'm all for supporting the suppliers that provide us with much needed parts and solutions, but pick and choose wisely if your time and money are important to you.




I can attest to how challenging it is to come up with a solution. Another time taker is 'net searching and studying. Once you pick your engine, pick a website(s) that caters to that swap and has a good rep. i.e. Suby Yahoo group, Bens website. (are there engine swap links in the Stickies here grouped by engine platform??) Groups like Yahoo tend to have documents in the members only area. Going straight to those can save a lot of time. Spend time learning how to use the search function on those web sites efficiently. Bookmark and organize site links. Download info so you can study while off line. A used older laptop might provide a useful convenience. Bonus: likely could be used for engine diagnostics! Wink

Whatever swap you choose, make sure it's a well documented one (online forums etc.).

Regardless of the swap you choose, if you DIY, you will need a reliable means to R&R engines. A winch type setup can work fine. Costs less than a floor jack, and van doesn't have to be raised as high. The other tools could be found used if need be.

Neil.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I would not want to have a swap done and not be able to service the vehicle myself. Finding qualified mechanics who are willing to work on a "custom" set up, down the road, is a crap shoot. "


I agree totally!! You never know what was done and if/when you run into problems how will youever know where to even begin w/o an understanding of what has been done.

susie
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Susie makes an excellent point. Returning from California driving across Nevada on US 50 an hour plus from civilization, our van started losing power. To the point it would not pull 4th gear. I about threw up. The engine was still running, but was going to be a long way back to civilization. My mind was racing with thoughts, and then I started to focus on what happened. I attached my scan gauge and noticed the Intake Air Temp was ambient and no boost. Damn, where am I going to find a Turbo and get back to FLA? We pulled over and emptied out our junk on top of the engine hatch. Since I was the one that had done the conversion, I started checking everything. I noticed the VNT acuator was relaxed. Hmmm, maybe the vacumn pump died? Pulled the vacumn hose of the pump and it did have vacumn, I attached the vacumn hose back and the actuator moved off its seat. I could then hear the boost leak. I had popped a hose connection apart between the turbo and the intercooler. The ECU must have gone into limp mode and disabled the VNT. The connection had come apart, but the pipe and elbow were up against each other making it look connected. Had I not DIY'd this conversion, we'd have been stuck. Put the clamp connection back together and we were on our way.

If you are serious, I would do what you can yourself, seek help where you need it. It is also true finding someone knowledgable and willing to even work on a stock vanagon is difficult at best. Regards,
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ianstone
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cool, any chance you want to work on another one when you finish yours? Smile



j_dirge wrote:
I am going down the road of DIY.. slowly.
..and am picking and choosing parts.
I am picking up tools here and there.. and have not over spent on those. Yet.

I started into this with a hodge podge of rusty spent tools with key pieces missing.. like all my 1/2" sockets and box ends that rest at the bottom of various marinas around the state of California


That said, I have been tempted many times to just drive over to the guy who does it professionally, because sometimes I think I'll never get to it.

I will likely have a pro do the reversed manifold. I chose RJES bellhousing over adapter plate. So money is being spent in certain areas.


Regardless, I would at least start into this as if you are going to do it yourself. The knowledge you gain in researching the how to and figuring out the details will help you in maintenance later.. and will aid you in talking/planning with a pro should you decide to go pro later in the process.


I would not want to have a swap done and not be able to service the vehicle myself. Finding qualified mechanics who are willing to work on a "custom" set up, down the road, is a crap shoot.

No better way to "know" your vehicle than to DIY.
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ianstone wrote:
cool, any chance you want to work on another one when you finish yours? Smile

I need to get mine officially started first. Laughing
Hopefully soon.

The van is going in for, what I hope, is its last 2.1WBXer smog test this month.
Then.. let the games begin.
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-Grand Tour, Season 1, episodes 4 and 5

danfromsyr wrote:
those are straight line runs with light weight race cars for only 1/4mile at a time..
not pushing a loaded brick up a mountain pass with a family of 4+ inside expecting to have an event free vacation..
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ianstone wrote:
cool, any chance you want to work on another one when you finish yours? Smile

j_dirge wrote:
I am going down the road of DIY.. slowly.
..and am picking and choosing parts.
....

No better way to "know" your vehicle than to DIY.

I did mine SLOWLY. I (mostly) thoroughly enjoyed the process... but as I mentioned before, I'm a tinkerer. Would I do one for someone else? Probably not... unless my son wants to tackle one, in which case it would be fun to help him through it. I could never do it professionally and be profitable... I spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME on little details, some of which matter but many are just to tidy things up. In fact I'll be working more little details on the conversion as long as I own the van, knowing me.

Paul
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it's too bad there arent stalls to be had to convert your own, for the apartment dwellers. I just had an 87 westy in my shop for
3 weeks as the owner came and went, wrestling with his group 10 bostyech.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

his tools lay undisturbed all around while I made sparks on
my middie in the back. I had the room while I was still there,
so it wasnt any real inconvenience for me, but it made a tremendous difference to him.
he got discouraged with the project last
november [09] and hadnt gone near it since.
he responded to one of my hokey craigs list ads about the
middie and I just told him to tow it over. I had never even met
him before. together, we were
bound to make better progress than before. he struggled
with the attitude of the e/t in the van, and couldnt get a strait
answer out of the three bostiggers as to spacers for the rear
mount or the speed bump issue. his scanner was pulling
up data and measurements that were foreign to what bostig said it would be,
who made fun of him in the background on the phone.
at this point, he was 7200.00 in to it.
1500.00 of it was a new crate motor.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

he still needed an airbox, and found a large community of
anti bostiggers to boot. the website is the smoothest component
of the bostig illusion.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

It's like three guys decided on a cheap motor that didnt fit.
the throttle body could have been positioned properly, but it is canted and lifted into the hatch to avoid an electrical plug.
now he doesnt even want the van.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll be honest and share my experience, you can do one for about 4k$ but you will have to cut some corner for that kind of budget.

In over 40 conversion done in 3 years (and a lot this year) only 4 gave me no problem or glitch's, some went horribly wrong like the last one and some ok.

Remember that for me the conversion itself is rarely the problem, it's the van! Anything directly associated with a conversion can be a nightmare, as stupid as a 12V main + wire.... IGN switch, starter, ground, transmission... and so on. Sometime it's conversion part that are not right. Sometime it's the small mod that we do to converson part meaning they are not mass produce so they have small issue, but you the DIY won't see them right away, sadly.

Honestly, most of my problem have been with automatic van. Lately KEP has a small issue with automatic adapter plate, holes don't align with torque conv. plate.

so just be ready for anything OR nothing.

Voila, Ben
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

crowinghen wrote:

I agree totally!! You never know what was done and if/when you run into problems how will youever know where to even begin w/o an understanding of what has been done.


rsxsr wrote:
Had I not DIY'd this conversion, we'd have been stuck.


I'm going to play devil's advocate and disagree with ^^those. How many Vanagon newbies didn't know a thing about the WBX until they bought a Bentley manual, perused online forums and started turning wrenches on their own vans? Same can be said for a conversion project done by a shop. A good shop will document everything they've done and will be willing to teach you about, at the very least, the basics of the new engine and fuel system. Regardless of that, common sense should tell you to immediately buy the Bentley manual equivalent (reading online sources notwithstanding) for the Subaru motor so that you can study the ins and outs of the new power plant. If something goes wrong, you at least have something to refer to so that you can try troubleshooting the problem on your own before resorting to AAA. On the flip side, those who already don't work on their vans (for whatever reason, and there's nothing wrong with that), will be calling AAA on the side of the road regardless of what motor is in the back.

Those who want to learn and have a desire to turn wrenches will develop a know-how of the new power plant no matter who does the installation. Those who don't, most likely won't. Many times a break-down has occurred because of something stupid (disconnected wire, hose clamp not tightened, etc.); and how many times have we simply overlooked that something, despite being knowledgeable of the engine/fuel/electrical/etc., and whipped out the cell phone or laptop for help? In my opinion, just because you DIY'd a conversion, doesn't mean you'll be able to fix every little thing that may go wrong 1000 miles from home.

Shop or DIY? Choose the route you are most comfortable with, and most definitely learn everything you can about the new engine/fuel system/etc. no matter which route you choose. When the time comes for my van, it'll most likely go to a shop. While I have lots of tools, I don't have all of the tools required nor the space. Plus, if the shop screws up, it's their dime and frustration, not mine. Razz
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry thummmper, but your experience of the bostig guys, particularly the idea that they would be less than helpful, or laughing at a customer, just doesn't square with anything I've heard or experienced.

A Zetec isn't the engine for me, but everyone I've ever heard from is more than happy with their customer service. They go above and beyond, even going so far as to give extensive help to a friend of mine who bought one of their kits second hand. There was a problem with the engine he bought and they did all of the troubleshooting for him over the phone which allowed him to fix it. He wasn't even their customer and they went the extra mile!

Maybe your friend was frustrated, but I doubt that he was laughed at.

Confused
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