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Complete Front-End Rebuild
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NicaDub
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:15 am    Post subject: Complete Front-End Rebuild Reply with quote

I tore into my front end a couple days ago, and under the watchful eye of the Samba Wizards, I was finally able to get my Anti-Sway (Stabilizer) Bar and end links out. I've got the end links on order to put it back together, but of course, while it sits in my garage, I keep going down there and looking at all the "other things" that I could do while I am in there. Here are my thoughts:

Full front-end rebuild:

I've already got the Addco Stabilizer Bar, so I am set there.
End Links (Stabilizer Bar Links) (2): $140-$170 for upgrade
Stabilizer Bar Bushings (2): $33
19mm Stabilizer Bar - End Link Bushings (2): $20
End Link Sleeves (2): $33
Stabilizer End Link - Control Arm Bushings (4): $24
Upper Ball Joints (2): $50
Lower Ball Joints (2): $44
Lower Ball Joint Locking Nuts (2): $17
Radius Arm Bushings (4): $100
Radius Arm Bushing Seats (4): $32
Upper Control Arm Bushings (4): $80
Lower Control Arm Bushings (4): $30-$100 for upgrade
Upper Shock Bushings (2): $14
Eccentric Washers for Upper Control Arm (4): $16
Steering Rack Boots (2): $18
Steering Rack Mount Bushings (2): $20
Tie Rod Ends (2): $40
Front Shocks (2): $90 to $250 for upgrade
Front Springs (2): $220 - half the cost of the 4-spring set
Front Wheel Bearing Rebuild Kit (2): $60

That is all I can come up with for now. Can all you wizards out there help me to determine if this is all I need and if I am finding the best prices?

It seems to me that if a company were smart, they would put together a "Complete Front-End Rebuild Kit" that would motivate us to buy EVERYTHING together, from one company to rebuild our front end. From looking at the forums for front-end related stuff, there are a LOT of us out there doing it, and the advice seems to be to "do it all while you are in there."

Any company owners out there that are monitoring these posts that want to jump on and offer a package deal for all the items above plus any that I forgot?

Thanks!

NicaDub
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'87 Vanagon GL Westfalia - 2100cc
'86 Vanagon Westfalia - 1910cc
'84 Vanagon GL Westfalia Wulfsburg Edition - 1900cc
'74 Bay Window Double Cab Pickup - 1600cc
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:22 am    Post subject: Re: Complete Front-End Rebuild Reply with quote

NicaDub wrote:


Any company owners out there that are monitoring these posts that want to jump on and offer a package deal for all the items above plus any that I forgot?

Van Cafe has listed a front end bushing kit for quite some time.

http://www.van-cafe.com/home/van/page_943_774/front_suspension_bushing_kit.html

I am sure Loogy could package up a complete Powerflex "kit" as well..

But you may want to think on it some and use a mix of polyurethane and rubber.

I used all of van Cafe's offerings (including the balljoints and tie rods ends they carry.. and so far so good)..
But I do have Loogy's Poweflex bushings for the steering rack.. I'd likely have used more Powerflex.. but they weren't available just yet when I did mine.
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-89 GL Westy, still humming along under the power of a used "WBXer of mystery"
-57 pan f/g buggy with a 67 pancake Type 3 "S"

"Jimi Hendrix owned one. Richard Nixon did not"
-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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NicaDub
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as I can gather from the pricing on Van Cafe's site, they are actually charging a premium for the bushing kit. I added up the 20 pieces that they include, and they came in at $314 (with rounding), whereas they want $335 for the kit. Seems weird to me, so I suspected that I made a mistake, but when I ran the numbers again, I came up with the same result.

I guess there is a chance that they are including something that I don't realize they are...like maybe the bushing seats for the End Links and/or for the Radius Arms???

I am hoping that Loogy will write and put together a package for me that will include some of this stuff at a discount.

Sure does seem like a company like BusDepot, VanCafe or OEVeeDub would put together a complete package that would not only make it easy on us with respect to finding/ordering the parts, but would also offer a discount for the bulk purchase. Not to mention some savings on the shipping if it all came in one box. Throw a complete "rebuild your front-end" instruction manual in there with it, and you've got a winner!
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'87 Vanagon GL Westfalia - 2100cc
'86 Vanagon Westfalia - 1910cc
'84 Vanagon GL Westfalia Wulfsburg Edition - 1900cc
'74 Bay Window Double Cab Pickup - 1600cc
'73 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 1800cc
'72 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 2000cc
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NicaDub wrote:
I guess there is a chance that they are including something that I don't realize they are...like maybe the bushing seats for the End Links and/or for the Radius Arms???

Peter and the volks at van Cafe are extroadinarily nice people.. If you have a question about thier listings, by all means, click on the button that says "Have a question?" and send them your inquiry.

If you want info from Chris (aka Loogy) contact him directly.. Like VC, very approachable.

My own experience doing this project was that an all inclusive kit would have been more than I needed.. I had already replaced the steering rack, the sway bar, and tie rod ends.. So I ordered only what I needed.
over the course of three orders (at least.. I am not as well planned as you)

I am only about 60 miles from Van Cafe and it all arrives next day anyway.. so I can afford to be lazy about having all the parts on hand. And thats another reason I don't mind paying a bit of a premium at Van Cafe.. All told they are still MUCH more reasonably priced than other local sources.

As far as instructions, I needed nothing more than the Bentley exploded diagram.

The first step is obviously to remove tires and wheels.. then hubs.. off come the shocks, which frees up the spring assembly for removal.. undo the radius arms from the front and measure (and record the numbers) the distance of the rear adjustment nut to end of threads on the radius arm for "temporary alignment" upon reassembly and until you get it to the shop for a pro alignment.

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


From there its pretty straight forward and the reassembly is the reverse of disassembly.

You will, likely find that getting the upper ball joint out is tough but the lower ball joint out is impossible.. and if you don't have a 12-ton press in your garage, you will need to take it to a friend who has one.. or to a shop.

The radius arm bushings sleeves were NLA for a while, but it looks like VC and others have found sources.. Like others, I had to make my own from simple pipe stock.

The only thing I saw missing from your list is the steering donut.. From the looks of your suspension in your other thread, I'd hazard the guess that it is shot (hardened) as well.

I'd recommend you wire brush all steel components and repaint with your choice of under carriage paints.. It makes for a much cleaner reassembly, and may help fight some fo the corrosion your rig currently shows.


Completely dissambled:

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Almost finished:

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There are a couple threads on this subject as well.. you may have searched and read.. Lots has been written.
I'd like to hear more feedback on the Powerflex stuff.. But I realize they've only been availabel for a yr.. so maybe not much to report back yet.

All told, this is a big weekend project.. But I'd not push it and I'd plan for some lag time for dealing with ball joints, cleanup, paint, curing time and such.
I did mine over the course of a couple weeks while waiting on some machining for my big brakes.
_________________
-89 GL Westy, still humming along under the power of a used "WBXer of mystery"
-57 pan f/g buggy with a 67 pancake Type 3 "S"

"Jimi Hendrix owned one. Richard Nixon did not"
-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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turbotransporter
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NicaDub wrote:
As far as I can gather from the pricing on Van Cafe's site, they are actually charging a premium for the bushing kit. I added up the 20 pieces that they include, and they came in at $314 (with rounding), whereas they want $335 for the kit. Seems weird to me, so I suspected that I made a mistake, but when I ran the numbers again, I came up with the same result.

I guess there is a chance that they are including something that I don't realize they are...like maybe the bushing seats for the End Links and/or for the Radius Arms???

I am hoping that Loogy will write and put together a package for me that will include some of this stuff at a discount.

Sure does seem like a company like BusDepot, VanCafe or OEVeeDub would put together a complete package that would not only make it easy on us with respect to finding/ordering the parts, but would also offer a discount for the bulk purchase. Not to mention some savings on the shipping if it all came in one box. Throw a complete "rebuild your front-end" instruction manual in there with it, and you've got a winner!


I'd recommend that you call the Van Cafe and ask about the specifics of their bushing kit. They have always treated me very well both with pricing and customer service AND the Van Cafe folks are very particular about the real world quality of the parts they choose to sell. They have to be because they also sell/install the very same parts in their repair shop.

You may find better prices for what appears to be the same part BUT the various brands of front end components I've seen differ greatly in quality. In the case of upper control are bushings: Febi = good Meyle = not so much

Of course, if you can afford to step up to Loogy's Power Flex bushings (where applicable), buying a complete bushing kit from the Van Cafe might not make sense.

I'd also recommend calling Loogy directly for special pricing as exspecting him to respond publicly to your "discount" request is a bit tacky. Rolling Eyes
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Zero419
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did the front end last year. (+ lift springs and shocks)
Bought the kit.
and everything else.
I put the new ball joints on the shelf, the old ones were super tight and there was absolutely no need to go through the trouble of replacing them.

I like to take on tasks one summer at a time.

engine and trans(2 years ago)
suspension and brakes: wheels tires, bushings, shocks, springs and 90% of the breaking system(last year)
Body (this year)

I have lots of cookies Smile
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mariusstrom
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're budgeting for this, don't forget the cost of a wheel realignment after putting the front-end together. It would suck to have a great riding front end that's shredding your tires.
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randywebb
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

repaint with your choice of under carriage paints is a good idea, but I would get them all powdercoated instead of using paint
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levi
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might want to also check out the gowesty "cost plus 10% store"

Don't know what they're going for now, but a couple months ago I bought a couple tie rod ends for about 10 bucks each.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
but I would get them all powdercoated instead of using paint

I wouldn't, I would paint it. I have had more than a few parts powdercoated.
Don't buy Myle parts. All of the ones that I have installed have gone bad in a few years and have been replaced with Febi. Lemforder and Febi haven't failed me yet.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

syncrodoka wrote:

Don't buy Myle parts. All of the ones that I have installed have gone bad in a few years ......


Well hell then maybe that's why they were only 10 each ..
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NicaDub
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:52 am    Post subject: I went for it big time!!! Reply with quote

Well, since my last post, I decided to go for the complete front-end rebuild. It has been fun to take it apart, if not frustrating at times trying to break old rusty parts loose, but I've got it all broken down now into pieces. See photos.

Couple of questions that I had along the way:

1) The groove in the radius arm in the picture below...can I just fit a new sleeve over that and be ok or do y'all think that I need to replace that radius arm?

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


2) I haven't yet extracted the lower ball joints. From what I have read, it is very hard. One of them is in decent condition, while the other is destroyed. Any advice here? What would I ask a mechanic to do if I was to try to get one to take care of this for me? Would I take him the whole steering knuckle with the rotor and bearing still attached and ask him to extract the old and press in the new? Any idea on what a mechanic might charge to do that?

3) How would I diagnose whether I need to do (repair, replace, rebuild?) the bearings? Is there a way to test them to see if they are still good?

4) I want to replace the steering rack mount bushings, but the diagram that I have of the front end must not have power steering (which mine does), so I am a bit clueless on how to take apart the steering rack. Would someone be willing to take a picture of the front-end diagrams from the Bentley guide (mine is on order already, but has not yet arrived) and post them? Any advice on this would be much appreciated. Is there a way to test to make sure that it is still fully functional? I noticed that there are complete steering rack assemblies available out there.

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


5) J_Dirge mentioned that I will probably need a steering donut. What is that? Again, I think that my British-written book is calling that something different. Any help with that would be greatly appreciated.

6) I am planning to install zirc (sp?) fittings on the following. If anyone recommends more, please chime in...if anyone recommends less, please chime in. Upper ball joints, lower ball joints, upper control arm bushings, lower control arm bushings (if I get the upgraded type), and tie rod ends.

7) The lower bushing on my struts is pretty well shot, as well as the top bushing. I haven't had much luck with finding the lower bushing. Anyone know where I can get one of those? Are these KYB nitrogen-filled struts decent? I do not know their age, and honestly don't know if they are any good anymore. Is there a way to test them to see if I should just buck up and replace them or not?

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


#8 - Stupid Smiles! - I am looking for opinions on whether I should buy a set of lift springs for the front and back. What do the Samba Wizards think of them? Any good/bad stories on those? Worth the investment?

9) Based on these pictures of my rotors, is it a good idea to get new ones and/or have them turned?

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10) Starting to look toward the future already and thinking about the stern of the rig...does anyone have a good thread they can turn me onto to find information about a complete rear-end rebuild?

Thanks for all the help! See pictures below.

NicaDub

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'87 Vanagon GL Westfalia - 2100cc
'86 Vanagon Westfalia - 1910cc
'84 Vanagon GL Westfalia Wulfsburg Edition - 1900cc
'74 Bay Window Double Cab Pickup - 1600cc
'73 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 1800cc
'72 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 2000cc
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lower ball joint can be a pain without the VW tools, but a handy shop should be able to swap the lower ball joints for you. You will want to bring them the bare spindle. That means, no caliper, brake disc, or backing plate. To keep from tearing the new boot, you might suggest removing the boot from the new ball joint when installing the joint. The boot can be reinstalled after the new joint is pressed in.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1) You can salvage the radius rod but do not remove the inside nut. Just weld to fill the void and grind to allow a new sleeve to slide over the newly welded portion.

2) There is a ring that holds the ball joint in place - Make sure you remove it prior to any press attempt. You should remove the rotor and be left with a bare knuckle to present to your mechanic for the press work. Grease zerks should be machined prior to the pressing but installed after the pressing of the new lower ball joint. Upper ball joints are easy to remove and require a few good licks with your bfh with the nut on.

3) The bearings should not be blued or scored when cleaned up. I would change out the bearings and races if you don't know when they were last changed. It is nice to have a known starting point for all repairs so you don't second guess yourself later. Besides the parts are cheap and so is your labor.

4) You do not need to take apart your steering box. There are 4 mounts to the chassis that are bushed that are replaced. Since you are replacing the tie rod ends, boots and couplers you should be able to do this on the bench once you remove the hydraulic lines. This is the time to replace your steering boots. The boots are buggers and are easier to replace on the bench.

5) Steering doughnuts or 'couplers' - 3 total and are probably hard as a rock. 1 is located where the shaft connects to the steering box, another on the other end of the shaft, and a third inside for the steering column. I usually just buy 3 replace the 2 on the shaft and wait for a project that requires I remove the steering wheel for the last one.

6) zerks - I usually buy a box from HF and use the 6mm ones on the upper and lower ball joints and the 2 tie rod ends. I have never installed on the upper control arms. Never over grease so that the dust boots bulge or you will damage the dust boots and thereby your new joints. Also never apply grease in the assembly phase of your ball joints until the ball joints are securely bolted in place or the retaining ring that hold the dust boot will pop off and great sadness will begin.

7) I won't recommend brands of shocks.

8. no opinion but do all four if you do decide - You should have 4 wheel alignment so proper caster is maintained for the vehicle.

9) You can't go by appearance alone - A measurement is required - Perhaps time to think about the big brakes so don't just throw the old rotors away. They can be machined for hubs.

10) Rear trailing arm bushings are fairly straight forward. The removal of all the interference is the pita.

just my 2

Gary
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NicaDub
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yo Geezy,

Thanks a TON for your responses. I wish you were here to guide me in person...sounds like you have done a LOT of this.

Couple questions on your responses:

3) The bearings should not be blued or scored when cleaned up. I would change out the bearings and races if you don't know when they were last changed. It is nice to have a known starting point for all repairs so you don't second guess yourself later. Besides the parts are cheap and so is your labor.

Do you recommend just buying one of the "Front Wheel Bearing & Seal Kits" for this? I haven't ever messed with a bearing, but from what I can tell, it includes only 4 parts: inner and outer bearings, wheel seal, and front axle nut. Is that correct?

4) You do not need to take apart your steering box. There are 4 mounts to the chassis that are bushed that are replaced. Since you are replacing the tie rod ends, boots and couplers you should be able to do this on the bench once you remove the hydraulic lines. This is the time to replace your steering boots. The boots are buggers and are easier to replace on the bench.

Great news that I don't have to take it apart and I can work on my bench, but I am still confused as to how it comes out of there once I free up the 4 mounting bolts with the bushings behind them. I do plan to replace the boots, at least 2 steering couplers, and the mounting bushings. What is the process of separating the steering shaft from the steering column so that I can bring the whole deal over to my bench?

6) zerks - I usually buy a box from HF and use the 6mm ones on the upper and lower ball joints and the 2 tie rod ends. I have never installed on the upper control arms.

What is HF?

Thanks!

NicaDub
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'87 Vanagon GL Westfalia - 2100cc
'86 Vanagon Westfalia - 1910cc
'84 Vanagon GL Westfalia Wulfsburg Edition - 1900cc
'74 Bay Window Double Cab Pickup - 1600cc
'73 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 1800cc
'72 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 2000cc
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GeeZ12
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

3) Yes, the wheel bearing kits are what you need. You need to really work the grease into all nooks and crannies of the bearing when you pack them with high temp grease. Each of the bearings has an outside 'race' that is installed into the rotor that mates to the bearing surface. Therefore, you want to determine if your current rotors are serviceable before trying to install the new bearing races inside the rotor. New rotors will not have new races already installed since they match with the bearings.

4) You can use your vice, a bolt, and a socket to fabricate a makeshift press to push the 4 bushings out. You may not know what I mean right now but will soon enough when you have the new parts and steering box in hand.

6) harbor freight - You can buy 6mm grease zerks just about any good FLAPS but you will need the center punch, correct size drill bit, and tap. I like to use both the taper and square end taps. There isn't much space so you need to start with the tapered end tap and finish with the flat bottom. You will only be able to cut 2-3 threads in the small disk.

I hope this helps.

Gary
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NicaDub
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huge help!

Thanks a ton, Gary. I really appreciate it.

Nic
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'86 Vanagon Westfalia - 1910cc
'84 Vanagon GL Westfalia Wulfsburg Edition - 1900cc
'74 Bay Window Double Cab Pickup - 1600cc
'73 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 1800cc
'72 Bay Window Riviera Camper - 2000cc
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j_dirge
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:47 am    Post subject: Re: I went for it big time!!! Reply with quote

NicaDub wrote:

5) J_Dirge mentioned that I will probably need a steering donut. What is that? Again, I think that my British-written book is calling that something different. Any help with that would be greatly appreciated.

Looks like Geez has you covered.

If you have not located them.. and, sorry, "coupler" is the more correct term.. my bad. Here:
http://www.van-cafe.com/home/van/smartlist_763/steering_coupler.html

NicaDub wrote:

Cool - Stupid Smiles! - I am looking for opinions on whether I should buy a set of lift springs for the front and back. What do the Samba Wizards think of them? Any good/bad stories on those? Worth the investment?


I have syncro.org springs.. ~1" lift.. which are not currently available. I like them fine... But I would not lift a Vanagon unless you want or need bigger tires and/or plan on driving offroad a lot.
You sacrifice some road handling.. gas mileage with added windage.. higher CoG.. that kind of thing.
But like I said, after rebuilding my front end and going with taller springs to fit bigger tires.. I am pleased with the results and would not go back.
That said.. if I had room and a few more bucks, I'd buy a clean tin tip and tune it for street. These vans handle better than some modern vans.. once tuned.

NicaDub wrote:

10) Starting to look toward the future already and thinking about the stern of the rig...does anyone have a good thread they can turn me onto ]

Lots of threads on the rears.. and lots of really cool options like Burley's modfied arms and spring perches.. but the rears are very simple compared to the front.
Mine are still stock-ish, but will be getting a once over and possibly a Burley-16"-ization if/when I swap to 230hp.

Congratulations BTW on the tear down.. It really isn't that bad once you get started, is it?
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-57 pan f/g buggy with a 67 pancake Type 3 "S"

"Jimi Hendrix owned one. Richard Nixon did not"
-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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SteelB12
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Joined: December 21, 2010
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Location: Northern Virginia
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What size nuts are on the radius arm?? I don't have a big enough wrench for them
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Love My Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post as I am just about to order parts to do my front end. I was all set to order the VC bushings this morining when I read about the Powerflex bushings and so I have been trying to decide if I should go the extra $. After reading this, it sounds like the VC ones are just fine and should be good for many years. The Powerflex bushings sound great but I have a lot of other things to spend money on too. I was particularly concerned about the upper control arm bushings, but the Febi ones that VC sells should do the job for $19.45 per each ($77.80 for 4) as compared to $241.99 for 4 Powerflex. I know the urathane bushings are better but I have to make choices. The money I save there will go toward my new shocks.

I ordered the VC 2WD Springs today that should bring me back up to stock height plus 1/2" to 1" lift on my '86 Westy Weekender. I would like to put them on first to get an idea of what they will do before disassembling my whole front end. Possibly I might want to add or change the spring spacer if the springs don't solve the problem of my left front sagging.
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