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Vangon Articles - Replacing your Vanagon Exhaust System (waterboxer):


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Replacing your Vanagon Exhaust System (waterboxer):

January 28, 2015 1 Comment Exhaust Ken Wilford

Replacing your Exhaust System:

If you have had your Vanagon for any length of time you have probably come up against a problem with your exhaust system. Sometimes you have a minor leak that can be repaired with just a new gasket and some new bolts. However eventually everything wears out and it seems like spring is the time most folks choose to address that cranky exhaust system that you have been living with all winter.

One of the keys to doing a successful exhaust system replacement is to be able to do an evaluation of the system. Do you need a completely new system or just one pipe? What is the condition of your Catalytic Converter and does that need to be replaced as well? Most of these questions can be answered very simply by doing a simple visual inspection. Put the rear of the van up in the air on a pair of ramps or jack stands. Now start the van and try to find the leaks by feeling around all of the pipe connections with your bare hands. Be careful not to touch the pipes as they are extremely hot. If it is a cool morning you can probably see a little white smoke coming out of any leak so that is a good time to test. If you think you feel a leak and want to check further have someone put the toe of their shoe over the end of the tail pipe while you are feeling around and that should increase the pressure at the leak and make it more obvious. A place where pipes like to fail is right as the heads. They get thin at the area where the flange is welded to the pipe and will crack right here. Look at the condition of your flanges where they meet together to the driver’s side of the engine. If the flanges are getting thin I would count on replacing the whole exhaust system since these flanges are critical to getting the system to hold together once you have replaced a pipe or two. Thin flanges will mean even thinner pipes and they are probably either cracked right now or will crack soon after replacing the bad pipe. Next visually inspect the catalytic converter. Again the flanges are key. If you see them getting thin then the cat will need to be replaced. It doesn’t really matter if the interior of the cat is fine, if the flanges are thin it will soon fail after you put things back together. The good news is that junk catalytic converters can be worth as much as $60 at a junkyard so you can actually recoup some of the cost of the new cat that way. If the flanges look good you will still want to look at the interior of the cat at some point. You should be able to look through the catalytic converter and see light through it. There should be no broken spots or black “berries” in the honeycomb. If there are defects in the honeycomb then cat is bad. A brand new cat can be killed if you overfill the engine with oil so be very careful with your oil levels. I like to keep mine about half a quart lower than the top mark on the dipstick to avoid any problems. If your oil level is in the middle of the marks you should be fine.

Next inspect your muffler. The muffler should not look overly rusty. They like to fail at the place where the muffler meets the flange pipe that is welded to it that goes to the cat. They can also rust at the muffler seam and split in half. If it looks really rusty at the seam it should be replaced because they rust from the inside out so the rust on the inside is way worse than what you are seeing.

Finally inspect your muffler carriers and straps. Replacing these can add a significant amount to the cost of replacing your system so you should evaluate their condition before you contact us to order your system.

The exhaust system we currently sell is called the OE system. This system is exactly like the original exhaust system that VW put on the Vanagon at the factory and is made in Europe. It uses the same pipes and muffler support system that we have previously spoken about. We sell the OE system for the 1.9l system, and for the 2wd 2.1l Vanagon and Syncro. We also sell brand new catalytic converter and oxygen sensor.

I hope this helps you make your decision. If you have any other questions please feel free to give me a call or email. You can order these parts through our web store or just give me a call on the phone. We look forward to helping you!

Copyright 2015 Ken Wilford


Robert G. Schulte January 6, 2020

Very often the flanges on replacement Danish header pipes need to be lapped or dressed flat as a result of weld splatter or lumps of weld proud of the flange face. This seems to be a normal manufacturing occurrence and should be factored into the time required for pipe replacement. As well, the cast manifold should be dressed flat if it is to be reused. VW used muffler cement on the manifold joints which needs to be removed and the face of the flanges should be lapped flat before reuse. This has been my experience for what it's worth.

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