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1991 Multivan TDI build
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 5:28 am    Post subject: 1991 Multivan TDI build Reply with quote

First of all, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Nick and I'm relatively new to owning a Vanagon but have had a two decade love affair with Vanagons. I am new to posting on this site but have been reading and learning from all of you who have posted for quite some time. A big thank you for all of the useful and helpful information posted on this site. The many build threads and new vehicle purchase threads were instrumental in helping me to find a van that suited my family's needs and helped give me the confidence to know what to look for when buying a Vanagon. So again, many, many thanks.

Before I delve into the conversion process, I'll give a little background on the vehicle and how we became the new owners of the vanagon. I'll also describe some of the improvements I made to the van along the way. Also, the purpose of this thread is to share some information about the company performing the tdi conversion, Foreign Auto and Supply and to attest to the quality of workmanship that they provide. I wish that a tdi conversion was within my wheel house but at this point I don't possess the skills or knowledge to perform a conversion. I hope that some of the information is helpful to someone contemplating a turnkey, FAS conversion kit or for someone who is considering a conversion by FAS.

We purchased our Vanagon in September of 2015 from a guy named Pat out in Vancouver Washington. It was a 1991 Orly blue Multivan with 36,000 well documented miles. We live on the east coast and I really wanted to fly out, inspect the van and drive it back, but work and family wouldn't allow for it at the time. I ended up paying Lemon Squad $200 to do a vehicle inspection. It turned out, the incredibly friendly woman who coordinated the inspection happened to be married to a Vw guru and more specifically, Vanagon guru in Montana (I never did get his name). Any ways, I never did need to call upon his expertise but I felt like this auspicious meeting was proof that I was in good hands with this Lemon squad.

The vehicle inspection confirmed what I hoped to be true. The multivan was a low mile, pristine condition, Vanagon that had been meticulously maintained. The report was a very detailed, thorough inspection from head to toe and included 65 photos. It was clear that Pat (and the fastidiousness of his father) had taken great care in maintaining the vehicle. Pat happened to be a used car salesman. Now I know what you're all thinking at this point but I have to say that the vehicle transaction went about as smoothly as possible and Pat turned out to be about the most helpful, honest person I have ever dealt with. In fact, we still check in with each other. I send him updates and he has inquired about the vehicle several times. He even sent me a little Christmas present from gowesty, a new interior light and some car care items.

After receiving the inspection, I arranged to have the van shipped back to the east coast. Again, the process went incredibly smoothly and I happened to luck into dealing with a great person who couldn't have been more helpful. I had heard horror stories about car shipping, but the vehicle arrived without a glitch and on time. (If anyone needs a great shipping company, I have the info and personal contact info of the woman that I dealt with. I'd be happy to share.)

We took possession of the vehicle and my wife and two kids and I hopped aboard and drove the 4 miles to Woods Hole, Massachusetts where we boarded the ferry for our year round home on Martha's Vineyard. While on board, we all admired our new summer home on wheels. I think the kids opened and closed every cup holder twenty times and asked about every knob and button that they could find. After a quick trip admiring all the bells and whistles, the ferry arrived in vineyard haven and we were one of the last to debark. When signaled to leave, I turned the key and nothing. I could not get the Van started. I had an incredibly sinking feeling that I had just bought a lemon. At that moment I happened to look at my phone and noticed I had received a text from Pat. The text was a simple checking in to make sure that we had received the van and to tell me, "you might want to put a charger on the battery before you drive or make sure you drive it a fair distance to make sure the battery gets charged up." He also informed me that one of his employees had left the parking lights on the night before it got loaded onto the car carrier and he didn't have time to charge it before it got loaded. It sounded like he had to jump start it just to get it onto the truck. Not smart but Phew! There was a chance that the van wasn't a lemon!

The pride I had felt when driving our new Vanagon onto the ferry had quickly melted away when a kind fella from the steamship authority came walking towards us with a jump pack to get the van started. "Ok, where's the battery on this thing? These things have the engine in the back right?" Well, I could answer the second question but the first was a bit of a mystery for me. With no time to spare and one poor couple stuck in line behind us, we got pushed off of the ferry and coasted off to the side. My heart had sunk and I began to question my master plan of buying a Vanagon and touring the country with my wife and two kids. I now envisioned us stuck on the side of Route 66, parched and suffering heatstroke, out of cell range, two kids crying, my wife with her feet on the dash saying, "I told you this wasn't a great idea."

I could feel the glaring eyes upon us, and the deafening sound of a clock ticking away time as I searched my memory bank for where this mysterious battery might be. My mind started flipping through the various Samba web pages containing photos of Vanagons and batteries. I know, under the drivers seat right? No battery. Ok, how about the passenger seat? Bingo! My newbiness was coming apparent to both me and the fella trying to help us out. We finally got the jump pack hooked up and the van fired right up without hesitation. As we hesitantly motored away from the Steamship Authority, I turned to my wife and apparently I swore her to secrecy and said, "don't tell anybody that this happened." I then texted Pat and told him we had to get pushed off the ferry and that I was a little bummed out. "Don't worry about it. This is my fault for not charging it. You'll be fine. The van has never let me down." Pat's words made me feel a little better and we made the last fifteen miles home (barely able to see beyond 40 feet under the dim light of the original headlights) without a glitch but thoroughly exhausted from the stress.

Photo of the two, fine Serbian gentleman unloading our precious cargo

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Photo of our fateful voyage home just hours after receiving our Vanagon. (I love the image of my mischevious son Willie. He looks like he's about to get barreled on a wave. In fact, I think he's actually running towards me and about to punch me right in the ____s).

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With the van safely parked in our driveway, I awoke the next morning to admire the shear beauty of my new mistress, "Pippen." (This cream puff of a name was partly to assuage and pander to my wife as she tried for months to convince me to name our first born child Pippen. (Sorry to all you fine women out there named Pippen but we happily named our little girl "Charlotte.")

Pippen has proven to be an awesome Vanagon with many trips throughout New England, safely delivering her precious cargo to and fro, faithfully and reliably for the last year and a half. There was one little bug that presented itself during wet weather that I will tell you about in my next installment but the main malady was inherent to its design, total lack of power and guts. From the moment I first drove her on the highway it was apparent that the waterboxer had to go (sorry to all of you waterboxer enthusiasts. They are wonderful little engines that serve many people well but not our family of four, loaded down with water toys, my wfe's highly essential fashion ensembles and beer (responsibly consumed at the end of a long day and not to excess - of course.)

Yes, before my two kids ever made it back into their car seats, my local mechanic resealed the fuel tank and replaced every fuel line and firewall fitting. I literally made the appointment before we received the vehicle. (Thank you Sambanistas for educating me on the issue.) One of the next improvements were three point seat belts for the rear facing seats.

Over the next year and a half, I added several mods and improvements, eventually deciding upon the most significant modification, a brand new, zero mile Vw tdi (pd bsw) and rebuilt, regeared 4 speed manual transmission with limited slip. My mechanical abilities are slim to none so I have entrusted the fine gentlemen at Foreign Auto and Supply of Harpswell, Maine to do the conversion. The van is currently nearing the end of the conversion process and I have many photos to share.

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For longer road trips I added this swing out iPad holder that seems to work from many positions whether you're sitting or lying down in the back and works great for the kids in their car seats

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Photos of the van with a few accessories but pre lift springs and shocks. The factory, lower suspension of the multivan wasn't going to work on our driveway or the many, long dirt roads near our home. The first time we drove her home she bottomed out on the bump at the top of the driveway.

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Notice how bright the passenger turn signal is. The turn signal only worked when the headlights were on. The previous owner somehow managed to have the wiring backwards on the bulb socket. I switched the wires and the turn signal and parking lights work as they should.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:41 am; edited 14 times in total
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pablum
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:01 am    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Pippin is short for Peregrin, a great name for a great looking van!
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Zeitgeist 13
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:15 am    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Wow, a low mileage Orly Blue MV with a TDI and a TBD is right up there in "Dream Vanagon" territory. Congrats on hitting the jackpot with the first pull of the lever.
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:47 am    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

pablum wrote:
Pippin is short for Peregrin, a great name for a great looking van!


Thanks for the info. I had no idea. I never looked up the meaning of the word. I just thought it was some girly name my wife liked so I agreed. Now that I know it means peregrin, well now that's pretty cool.


Last edited by Multiman mv on Sun May 21, 2017 10:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 10:01 am    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Zeitgeist 13 wrote:
Wow, a low mileage Orly Blue MV with a TDI and a TBD is right up there in "Dream Vanagon" territory. Congrats on hitting the jackpot with the first pull of the lever.


Thanks. We really get a lot of enjoyment out of our van and use it for going to the beach just about every day during the spring through fall months. We are definitely looking forward to some longer trips out west and I think the tdi will serve us well. My ultimate plan is to do a syncro conversion. A multivan, tdi, syncro has been at the top of my list of desirable vans. I'm not sure how many have been put together but I imagine it's a pretty small pool. Most importantly, I've been having a lot of fun transforming the van (mostly with the help of others, i.e. my local mechanic and Foreign Auto and Supply. I can't say enough good things about them both.)
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 1:01 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

After changing out the fuel lines my next order of business was to get rid of the original headlights and upgrade to the h4 and h3 headlights and South African grill. I also added the gowesty 2wd all terrain suspension bundle, including fox shocks, 1.5 progressive lift springs and bfg all terrain 215/70-16 tires. I also installed the addco 1" front sway bar. I also purchased a rear sway bar but have not installed it yet. I am waiting for the conversion to be complete to see how much ground clearance I have. The rear bars seem to hang a little low and I don't want to compromise the ground clearance.

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Addco rear sway bar. The addition of the larger, front sway bar definitely improved cornering. The van doesn't feel as top heavy when going around corners. You can actually feel the torsion of the bar kick in as soon as the van starts to lean outward of the direction of the corner and then the inward side starts to lean into the corner. For anyone contemplating a bigger sway bar I would definitely recommend it and say that it is worth the time and effort.

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I also added a Gary Lee rear ladder and small luggage rack, Yakima roof racks, an ARB awning, Rocky Mountain westy tire carrier, road shower and during surf season, a rmw side ladder for roof rack access. My buddies watch in envy when I take a hot shower in my wetsuit after a cold surf session. The road shower has been a great addition.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Thu Jun 01, 2017 5:08 am; edited 7 times in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 1:12 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

One of the next additions was a Eurospec brush guard. I like the look of the van without the guard but where I live, the guard is strictly for function, not looks. We live on the rural side of the Island and white tailed deer inhabit these woods in abundance. In fact, a few years ago, the State did an aerial survey of the Island, utilizing thermal imaging to try to get an idea of the total deer population on our end of the island, and in particular, our home area was found to have over sixty deer per square mile. This is a large population density rivaling and even surpassing certain areas of Pennsylvania. Needless to say, I have struck several deer over the years, running the gauntlet home and the idea of hitting one in our Vanagon is something I hope never happens but hopefully the brush guard could limit the damage.

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One of our first trips off island headed north. On the freight boat from Mv.
Can you find the other Westy in this picture?

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For camping trips, I purchased the ARB side tent and also the Gowesty, slip over, front window screens.

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The view from the side tent. Sebago Lake, Maine.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Mon May 29, 2017 4:26 pm; edited 6 times in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 1:34 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Our beloved multivan proved to be a worthy purchase giving us very few troubles until the rain started. We experienced a handful of stall outs during wet weather and one incident of what appeared to be Vanagon syndrome on our way up to Vermont. It was on that trip that I ordered a new air flow meter and harness, oxygen sensor and new grounding strap for the one near the transmission mount.

I proceeded with each solution, one at a time in hopes of figuring out the actual problems. The first fix was the air flow meter and harness and the bucking at highway speeds seemed to disappear but the stalling during wet weather returned. I then replaced the oxygen sensor and grounding cable and never had the stalling issue again. I was not able to decipher the cause but at least I know that it was either the o2 sensor or corroded ground. If I had to guess I'd say it was the o2 sensor. With the two bugs figured out, we have driven her on almost a daily basis during the spring through fall and have driven deep into Vermont and Maine several times each. Her reliability has been proven and I wouldn't hesitate to drive her anywhere - except on a route that included long, gradual inclines. Actually it was on our last trip up to Vermont while doing 40 mph in the break down lane that I realized that the tdi conversion was completely necessary and not just a mere indulgence. While we almost never drive the van in the winter in an attempt to keep her pristine undercarriage from ever seeing road salt, we did take her up to Vermont around Christmas time for a wedding. We checked the weather, making sure that we had clear skies for our entire trip and everything looked good up until the day that we left. It was while on the ferry from Martha's Vineyard that we noticed a news report playing on one of the flat screens, "Blockbuster Nor'easter' on the way to New England." Freaking great! I knew we should have taken the Subaru. It was at this point that I committed to the idea of a limited slip differential. I could not wait for this conversion to take place. After all, we bought this vehicle to travel with and I didn't want to let a long incline and the threat of snow deter us from our travel plans.

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Here is a photo of our trip up to Harpswell, Maine to drop the van off to foreign Auto and Supply for the conversion. We stopped into Portsmouth NH for lunch. Very cool town, beautifully laid out and lots of old brick buildings. It was a smooth trip up but we drove back through a blizzard. I'm just glad that we didn't have to deal with whiteout conditions in the van. We had caravan'd up there with two cars and the Subaru once again proved awesome in the snow.

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Photo taken as we dropped the van off to Foreign Auto and Supply. It was tough seeing our van frosted white with road salt from the journey north. My wife will attest, I actually shed a tear as we pulled away knowing I'd be without my mistress for what would eventually seem like an eternity. My sadness was tempered by the lineup of eye candy parked in and around FAS headquarters. Several completed projects and many in the works. The orange, syncro high top was pretty fun to check out. I love the high roof rack. I thought getting surfboards on and off my roof rack was a challenge!

Jon and Chris from FAS answered my many questions and were generous with their time. We left feeling good about the plan and knew that our beloved "Pippen" was in very good hands.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Thu Jun 01, 2017 6:44 pm; edited 13 times in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 2:34 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Though we loved the convenience of the automatic transmission that we had prior to the conversion, it was necessary to switch to a manual (tdi conversion, drive by wire necessitated the switch to a manual.)

Here is the new 4 speed manual with regeared 3rd and 4th and limited slip ready to be mated to the engine.

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Shift components ready for install.

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Freshly installed clutch pedal.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Sun May 21, 2017 9:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 2:37 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Tdi engine build with high output alternator almost ready to be mated to transaxle.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:30 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

That's a great looking Multivan!! It's gonna be sweet with the engine upgrade. Really like what you've done with it!
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:06 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

I wonder how many yards of wire lie beneath the dash of a Vanagon?

Dash removed for the running of the wiring harness and associated wiring.
(As the owner of the van I just loved receiving this photo from Chris at FAS and seeing the plastic seat protector and the paper on the floor mats.)

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Sun May 21, 2017 10:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:08 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Since you are there.....
NOW would be a great time for the Brake Booster upgrade, oh and your heater core and fan maintenance, too!
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:09 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Engine bay with waterboxer and transaxle freshly removed.

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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:14 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Team WorldTour wrote:
Since you are there.....
NOW would be a great time for the Brake Booster upgrade, oh and your heater core and fan maintenance, too!


Good point. Thanks for the tip. Right before I dropped the van off for the conversion, I upgraded to the Gowesty big brake kit. I figured with the increased power and torque of the tdi, more braking power would be necessary.

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In terms of the fan, I definitely have a little fan squeaking (which sounds like a common problem.) I'm just glad to know that nothing was nesting inside!


Last edited by Multiman mv on Wed May 31, 2017 2:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:17 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

tgraham wrote:
That's a great looking Multivan!! It's gonna be sweet with the engine upgrade. Really like what you've done with it!


Thanks a lot. I notice you have a multivan as well. I love the configuration of the mv (though a full camper is pretty sweet too.) The MV seems to have the best of both worlds and really fits our family's needs. It's been a fun project so far. My only regret is not being as hands on as I could with it, though I have tackled a lot of the simpler projects.


Last edited by Multiman mv on Sun May 21, 2017 9:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:20 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

I figured while the van was being ripped apart, it was also a good time to install an eberspacher D2, diesel heater. I am looking forward to the first chilly night, camp out and the thermostat set at 70.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Thu May 25, 2017 3:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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Multiman mv
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:34 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Now since I had planned on adding a little cabin heat, I spent part of early January tearing apart the inside and insulating for both sound and heat, I used 60 pounds of dynamat extreme on the inside of every panel, door and headliner. I also used a layer of 1/2" dynaliner on the inside of every panel and headliner, on top of the dynamat. The end result was a much quieter van and one that is easier to heat. I can now hear my kids in the back seat. I play the stereo at a lower volume level and I only blast the heat for a short time when it's cold and the van retains the heat much better.

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I have spent a fair amount of time trying to prevent corrosion and rust from happening on the van. When I received the van off of the car carrier there was maybe a half gallon of water in the bottom of the passenger side door because of a plugged weep hole. One of the first things I did to the van was to clean the undercarriage and undercoated with cosmoline. I also coated the bottom 1/4 of the inside of the door and side panels. We haven't had an issue with the cosmoline wax melting and plugging the holes on hot days. That might become an issue in hotter regions. I'm careful to check the weep holes to make sure there is drainage. The upper 3/4s of the doors and panels I lined with dynamat. In doing so I discovered that water had collected in the rear passenger side panel in front of the wheel well. Oddly enough the water seemed to be entering through the hole where the rear wiper motor wire and windshield fluid line exits the body in the upper right region above the rear hatch/door. The rubber grommet had rotted away and water was making its way down the rear pillar and into the wheel well area forward of the rear wheel. If anyone has water in this region I'd check that grommet. I siliconed and applied 5200 around the hole on my van and haven't seen water again. In the past year and a half I haven't observed any rust forming on the under carriage or inside of any of the panels but I am keeping a watchful eye since we live in the rust belt. My future plans include building a garage space to store the van during the off season and avoid road salt altogether.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Wed May 31, 2017 5:27 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:43 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Photo of the new wiring and stainless coolant lines added. Notice the drip at the drain hole in the frame. That is Cosmoline and it's a hard, amber colored wax that I have sprayed around the under carriage and inside the frame rails. I swear by the product. I have had three toyota trucks all subject to frame recalls because of rust. The only one that didn't need a new frame was the one I undercoated with cosmoline. I highly recommend the product.

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Last edited by Multiman mv on Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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Multiman mv is offline 

PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:50 pm    Post subject: Re: 1991 multivan tdi build Reply with quote

Engine bay stripped and ready for install. Notice the tools laid on top of rags. These guys at Foreign Auto and Supply are top notch and respectful of the vans that they work on. One of the first mechanics I tried using back home basically destroyed my vans rug by tracking grease onto the aisle area. Needless to say I never used them again. Laying down protection may seem like common sense but not many mechanics take the extra effort. It's a step I greatly appreciate.

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