A discount parts source for VWs specializing in Vanagons, Eurovans, and VW buses Wed, 28 Jun 2017 19:19:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Drain Plug Thread Repair on a Waterboxer engine Mon, 18 Jul 2016 19:18:14 +0000 Drain Plug Thread Repair on a Waterboxer engine:

I occasionally get someone calling me asking for a new Vanagon waterboxer oil pan. This is kind of like in the old days when people would tease others by asking them to go to the local parts store in order to buy a VW Beetle radiator cap. 🙂 There ain’t no such creature. So what do you do if your drain plug comes out with all of the threads on it? You need to do a thread repair! I usually use a Time-Sert thread repair kit. I was turned onto these by my personal friend and hero Bob Donalds back in the day. I am sure there are other places you can buy the kit but the one you need is the M14 (14mm) x 1.5 (thread pitch) kit that you can buy here:×15-c-217_219_259/ts1415c-m14x15-drain-plug-kit-p-1586.html?zenid=98pnqg5rge8dtnf1vepdov2l16

I have used this kit many times and if you just take your time, and make sure your hole is straight when you drill out the old, destroyed threads, you should be good to go. Yes is it is not cheap, but the alternative is to replace the entire engine block (then it is cheap)! If you have ever tapped out a hole or used a die, you should be fine with this kit as it is pretty easy to use and has simple instructions with it. If you need anything else, please just let us know.

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1.9l Vanagon water pump replacement Mon, 26 Oct 2015 19:45:51 +0000 1.9l Vanagon water pump replacement

Here is a link to a nice video one of our customer’s made about how to replace a water pump in a 1.9l Vanagon. Let me know if you want to order the parts that he did. I will list them below so you can just order them through the store:

2 of these hoses
the rest order one each and you should be fine.

Happy replacement!

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Driving a Vanagon in Belize Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:54:06 +0000 Driving a Vanagon in Belize!

As many of you know, my wife and I had a wonderful trip to Belize in
Central America last winter. In fact we enjoyed it so much that we took
another one this winter from January 9th to the 19th of 2012! We stayed
in the Placencia area again which is the southern shore town of Belize
and became beach bums. In this area of Belize there is many, many miles
of beach along the shore and a lot of it still doesn’t have homes or
resorts along it. The Belizean government has wisely designated the
first 60 feet from the beach inland as public land. So if you wanted to
you could walk the entire beach from Maya Beach area all the way down to
Placencia Village at the end and no one could legally stop you. I think
it is 15 miles of beach!

Of course the excuse for coming down to Belize again was to work on a
customer/friend’s 87 Wolfsburg Vanagon. The van wasn’t even running last
year if you will remember and I had to fly down with a bunch of parts,
really just guessing at what could possibly be wrong. It wound up being
several things but the most messed up thing was the gas tank. It was
full of really fine rust particles that were passing through the fuel
filter and clogging up the injectors. When I was here last year we
priced out just the shipping on getting a new tank down to Belize and
the shipping alone was something like $900! I wanted to get the van up
and running while we were there last year but even paying that much for
shipping the tank wouldn’t have arrived until I was back at home in the
US. So I wound up waiting until I got home, packing up the new gas tank
and all of the other parts we would need, and shipping them down slow
boat to Belize. My friend Thorsten Kahl (a transplanted German) who runs
a VW shop in Spanish Lookout area of Belize took the new parts and
brought the van back to life! The customer was overjoyed! He came down
back in April of last year and got to drive the van while on vacation.
However the Air Conditioning wasn’t working and in a place like Belize
where the humidity is a living thing that embraces you the second you
step off of the airplane, you really need AC.

This year, that was our mission. Get the AC up and running, put some
leak detector dye in the system in case there was a leak somewhere, and
install a new set of front shocks.
So we flew down all the way to Placencia this time instead of renting a
car in Belize City and driving down. We got to ride on a “puddle jumper”
from the international airport to the Placencia Air Port which has a
really, really short runway and is terminated on both ends by water
(ocean on one end and lagoon on the other). We flew Tropic Air and
beside some wind shear taking off rocking the tail back and forth a bit,
we had a smooth flight.

Again we were staying at The Placencia Resort and Residences. The van
owner also owns a residence in this resort which is a three story
mansion. I think it has 6 bedrooms and three and a half baths. With just
my wife and I there, it gets down right creepy at night especially when
the icemaker in the basement comes on and makes noises that sounds like
someone is skulking around the house. It loves to make ice about 3am too
just to really freak you out!

The van was parked inside a garage that had marble floors! And you know
the funny part. Even though this engine was rebuilt by the evil GEX, it
doesn’t leak any oil whatsoever! Isn’t that shocking?
So I had the owner’s squawk list for the van and what we would do was
get up and 6am every morning and try to watch the sunrise (was cloudy
every day though so that didn’t really work out). Then we would eat
breakfast, I would slip into my jumper and do some work on the van for
about an hour. Laying on a marble floor under a Vanagon is surreal
experience believe me. Then we would go over to the resort and use the
internet ($50 per week!), to stay in touch with everyone at home plus do
orders, etc. for the business. That would usually only take an hour. Now
it is 9:30-10am and we would do whatever we wanted. Maybe we would go to
the beach. Maybe we would drive the van down to the village and get some
stuff. Maybe we would go to a cool place we found last year called “The
Shak” which is right at the end of the road in Placencia Village and
also right on the beach. It was a very relaxing vacation. I am usually
one of those people that gets restless if I don’t have anything to do,
but after the first three days, I finally let that go and really started
to enjoy our time.

I told you folks I saw another Vanagon there last year sitting at the
end of the road in Placencia Village and it looked like it hadn’t moved
in a while. This year, someone must have fixed it because I saw it a
good bit away from where it was last year in Seine Bight Village. That
was good to see that it wasn’t just sitting there rotting.
Finally we got down to our last few days and I had to take the van to
get the AC work done. I had shipped the tools we were going to need to
my friend Thorsten Kahl’s shop ahead of time so that he would have
everything when I came down. Thorsten lives about two and a half hours
away in a place called Spanish Lookout in the Cayo district. This is
where a large group of Mennonites live and it is considered to be one of
the best places in Belize to get mechanical work done. I know it sounds
weird but where we were there really were no mechanic shops. There were
a couple of guys who would work out of their house and were “Bush”
mechanics. That means they can do minor repairs or bailing wire repairs
to get you down the road a piece but you really wouldn’t want them to do
something major. For that you have to get your vehicle to Spanish
Lookout or Belmopan area. We drove the van there and it is always
interesting. There is a bridge that is being built but for now there is
a “temporary” bridge across the river which is just some planks that
look like they could collapse at any moment. Then there are the old
cement bridges that we had to go over which were crumbling and bumpy.
Then there was a place on the Hummingbird Highway where a piece of the
road was washed away by a recent rain and if you went off the road you
would be going down the side of a mountain!

The road itself has to be driven on to appreciate. I think the only
thing I can compare it to is to the test track that manufactures use to
test cars to destruction so they can determine the build quality of
their vehicles. It isn’t that bad of a road but if you drive on it you
vehicle is going to vibrate quite a bit. In the van the front doors were
rattling and I had never heard a Vanagon make that noise before. When we
got where we were going I checked out the doors to see if there was
something wrong with the latches but there wasn’t and everything was
normal tightness. It is just the road itself that makes things vibrate
that normally do not. Then you have the “Speed Humps” every ¼ mile in
towns maybe every five to ten miles on the highway. I hate these things
with a passion but there is nothing you can do but live with them. They
are everywhere and sometimes they are painted so you can see them or
they have signs and sometimes not. They are about a 18” high but about
four feet wide and they go all the way across the road. If you don’t
slow down to 15 mph and you hit one you are going to seriously damage
something in your front end. No fun believe me!

We got to Thorsten’s shop and we were supposed to replace the front
shocks and do the AC work. The front shocks needed replacing as you can
tell because the road had vibrated the lower shock bolt out on the
driver’s side! I had never seen this happen before. I found the problem
when we first arrived and Thorsten sourced a bolt and nut so we were
good to go. New shocks installed we moved on to the AC. I replaced the
drier and several o-rings, pulled a vacuum on the system for about 30
mins and then charged it up with R134a. The system held and worked
great! We also put in the dye. Hopefully it will hold. We should know
about that soon.

On the way back we made a big mistake. We stayed and hung out with our
friend Thorsten too long and got about half way back when it got dark.
The roads in Belize are OK in the day when you can see and avoid the
speed humps, etc. At night was Vanagon sad headlights (square), it was
dangerous. I have poor night vision anyway so my wife told me to pull
over so she could drive. The lines on the road are faded to nothing and
the road itself is the same color as the dirt on either side of it. So
it isn’t super obvious when you come to a turn and we were traveling
over mountain roads. I was happy to have her drive. Then you come upon
these black shapes in the road. They could be an 18 wheeler that has no
rear lights! They could be a farmer bringing his harvest of oranges back
to his barn with all of the workers sitting on top of the oranges in the
trailer that he is pulling behind his tractor. It could be people
walking along the side of the road, or riding bikes (at night). You have
to be aware of all of these things. I think it is best to avoid driving
at night in Belize whenever possible. We got back to the house safely
and were ready to enjoy our last couple of days before we left.
The van was running excellent the whole trip in spite of having itself
vibrated on the test track. I was really proud of it!

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Vanagon 1.9l Turbo Diesel Conversion Fri, 12 Jun 2015 19:39:49 +0000 UPDATE:
Just spoke to my supplier and as of October 2015 this kit is discontinued. I have removed it from my store and I can no longer sell it. I will leave this information up in case anyone is attempting a similar conversion and would find the information helpful. We do still sell the base conversion kit install parts if you want to source your own engine etc. Not sure how much longer that program is going to continue as parts dry up. Just wanted to let folks know as we were caught off guard by this program being discontinued. It had been in place for almost 10 years.

Original Post:
If you have taken a look at our website, you will note that we have sold conversion kits for many, many years. Just recently I installed one of these kits into a customer’s 84 Westfalia. Here are some things to consider when you are thinking about doing this:

Transmission matters

First, all of the kits we sell are only for manual transmission vans. So if you have an automatic van, I guess you will have to look elsewhere. Don’t worry there are lots of other options out there. If you have a manual transmission van, you may want to consider have the transmission re-geared to optimize the turbo diesel engine you are putting in. Yes it will work with the stock water boxer transmission, but you can squeeze a little more out of it with the gearing being optimized. If you your transmission needs rebuilding anyway, why not do both at the same time?

The Bed

Also, unless you have a Syncro Vanagon, the engine will stick up above the lid of the engine compartment. The kit includes a metal box that raises the engine lid to allow for this, but if you have a Westy, it is going to require a modification to your bed. You will see in the pictures that the new location engine lid is even with the stock bed level so the easiest way to deal with this is to buy an air mattress or a foam mattress that can cover the entire bed area so that everything is the same level.

Fuel Filler Mod

Unless you are installing this into a diesel Vanagon you are going to need to modify your fuel filler. The stock filler hole for a gas filler is about an inch while the diesel filler is 1 and 1/8th inch. We pulled the filler neck and expanded the hole and removed the little door that is in the hole and this mod works very well. Not sure why diesel pump nozzles can’t fit into a gas filler neck but a gas one can fit into a diesel neck. If you pump diesel into a gas tank by mistake the only thing that will happen is that your car will die out, you can drain the tank, put in new gas, and be back on the road. If you pump gas into a diesel (very possible) and drive the car, it will quickly destroy your motor. Thank you government, you are so smart 🙂

Some assembly required

I would love to sugar coat this conversion for you and say that the conversion supplier gives you everything you need to complete the conversion. I mean you would think that they would, but they don’t. If you originally have a diesel Vanagon, you would have most things that you need to complete the conversion (there are still a couple transmission parts that are missing). However if you are going to install this into a gas powered van, you are going to have to build your own electrical harness, you are going to have to modify the fuel system, and a few other mods and parts. Thankfully it isn’t a lot more money, and I know all of the little things that are needed to “complete” the kit. If you buy through us I will get you the rest of the parts and sell them to you at a fair price. I would just add it to the price of the kit, but it will vary a little depending on what van you are putting this in. If you have questions please ask before you buy the kit.

Power Steering and AC are optional

I know that if you have power steering and a good working air conditioning both of these things are not really optional. But with these kits, they are considered optional. So if you want them, we can supply the parts you need to get these accessories to work, but it is going to be extra and you are going to have to let us know about it when you order the kit.

I wanna see pictures!




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The 5th Van: A short story by Ken Wilford Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:42:39 +0000 In a small area like Cumberland County, South Jersey you get to know people. If you are a VW fan you get to know the few people that own Volkswagens in our area, at least by sight. But if you are a rabid VW van addict like myself you get to know the three other people with vans in your area on a first name basis.
And so it was that before a chilly night this past December I was pretty confident in the fact that I was one of an elite group of three other VW van owners all of which belonged to our little club. Jersey Owners of Transporters or JOT for short.

But that night was when I first saw the Fifth Van and after that nothing was ever quite the same.

I was going to night classes at our local county Vo-Tec to become an Aircraft Maintenance Technician. My experience with VW’s came in very handy since most small airplanes still use aircooled engines. Anyway I was late for school and had rush out the door and consequently was going rather fast when I saw, a set of strangely familiar looking headlights coming toward me in the distance. I pulled up at the stop light where Rt. 49 meets Gouldtown-Woodruff Rd. There is a small cemetary there and it always made me a little uncomfortable at night having to stop and wait for what seemed like an eternity for the light to change. But as I waited those headlights got closer and finally stopped right across the intersection from me. My VW radar had been correct. It was a VW van, but not just any van. It was a split window and in very good condition from what little I could see in the street light. Split window vans and South Jersey’s high humidity just don’t get along, so they were very rare to say the least. In fact none of the members of our club owned one and we all were looking to find one to restore with minimal luck.

I wondered why I had never seen this van before. Maybe he was only a visiting relative come early for the holidays or on here on business.

As the light turned green and we started across the intersection simultaneously, I flashed my lights at him, the traditional friendly gesture of fellow VW owners. Not only did I get no response but the van roared across the intersection at a surprising quick rate (I was just over the line when he passed me). Looking in my rear view I could see only tiny dot for brakelights.

‘Wow that thing must be from the ’50’s!’

Two of the other three members of JOT happen to go to school with me. Doug owns a ’74 bus and Jerry owns a ’79 bus with A/C from Colorado. So of course when I got to school one of the first things I did was spread the news. It didn’t have the result I thought it would.

My friends and fellow Volks folks didn’t believe me.

“Are you sure that you really saw a splittie?” Asked Doug with a puzzled expression on his face. ” I came down that same road just a minute behind you and I didn’t see anything.”

They both didn’t believe me and I couldn’t prove it. As we worked on our projects that night I wondered if I had really seen it or maybe it was because I wanted one so bad I just confused another van for a VW in the dusk light. I didn’t think about the fifth van again until I saw it again a couple of weeks later.

I was usually early for school and, again, this night, I was late. I had stopped at the same stop light and was fiddling with the radio trying to get the station I wanted. When I looked up there it was its large white, VW symbol standing out against the pale blue of the body. I couldn’t make out who was driving although I squinted and stared. I could only see an outline through the windshield of what appeared to be a man. I decided to flash my lights before the light turned this time that way he couldn’t ignore me and pretend it was because he didn’t see me. Again no response. I also noticed that the tag on the van of was a type I had never seen before. It looked to be antique which some avid restorers bought and put on their vans to make them more authentic looking. As the light turned green and we passed each other again I really made an effort to see the person behind the wheel. But could again only get that shadowy outline of a medium sized man.

I didn’t tell the guys at school about what I saw this time. I needed proof or they would undoubtedly scoff at me again. I believed that the owner of the van must be returning from work and would pass by that spot the same or close to the same time every day. I would have to set up a time for me, Jerry, and Doug to be there watching when the van would pass by.

The chance came when I discovered that next week our teacher would be out of town for a day and we would have the night off. I scheduled our monthly JOT meeting for that night.

And so it was that on that Thursday night Jerry, Doug, Royce (the other member of the club) and myself sat in my Vanagon next to the cemetary on Gouldtown-Woodruff Rd.

“Do we have to park right here?” Doug asked looking a little nervous.

“This is the spot where I see it and so I know it will come by here.” I affirmed. “What? Are you afraid of ‘Ghost Van’ is going to get you?”

Well nobody said much after that. Time went on and soon it was a half an hour later than when the van normally came by.

“I am getting tired of sitting here,” Royce said irritably. “Obviously this mystery van is not going to show and I have to work tomorrow.”

I agreed that it didn’t seem that the van was coming and that we should call it a night.

The next night at school all I heard about from Doug was how I made him sit in the cold next to a cemetary because I couldn’t admit that there was no such van. Jerry wasn’t so harsh but he too still doubted my story and was unhappy about the “wild van hunt”.

I had to have proof about the van. A way to prove it existed. The next time I saw it I would follow it.

A month went by. I had almost forgotten about the fifth van. We were working on a tough, labor intensive project in class that kept us all very busy with little time to talk. I had left the house without my books and had to turn around, after getting half way to school, to go home and get them.

I was very late tonight and the intense project seemed to fill my thoughts. I almost didn’t notice van passing me at the intersection, I was that engrossed. Suddenly I slammed on the brakes. Fortunately no one was behind me. I did a quick u-turn and the chase was on. That van was really moving! In fact I almost thought I had lost him when I saw those little red dots far off in the distance. I stepped on the gas and tried to narrow the space between myself and the van. At 65 mph I held myself. I didn’t want to get a major ticket yet I had to see where the van went and it was doing at least 70.

It had to stop at a four-way stop near the Millville Airport so I could see that it was going straight towards the Laurel Lake area. I tried to get as quickly as I could through the four-way and then continued the pursuit.

I saw the tail lights become obstructed as the van went around the bend to go over the Laurel Lake bridge. Then it sailed on past the lake toward Maurice Town. It was heading towards the bay. I followed those two little red eyes to Maurice Town and that is when something strange happened. I was far behind him and really could just make it out, but it seemed that the van went past the Maurice Town bridge and continued on up to the street that led to the old bridge. There was only one problem. The old bridge didn’t exist anymore. It had been a drawbridge and had been replaced in the ’70s by the taller, modern bridge only a mile upstream. I thought at first that he must live there on that dead end street. But when I got there and looked around the van was no where to be seen.

Suddenly a strange idea occurred to me. What if it was a ghost van after all? Well if it was then it would be on the other side of the river by now, so following this hunch I went back to the bridge and went over the river toward Dennis Township. I was flying now, doing 75 mph and straining to see something.

Ahead there was a Wawa and a Texaco on either side of the road. I seemed to just see the shadow of something van-shaped turning there onto Rt. 47. I turned also and just saw the van turn again into the road that led to Leesburg. Following this road at a high rate of speed I caught occasional glimses of my quarry around the twists and turns. Finally, on a straight away I seemed to see the van turn in to what must be a driveway. I tried to judge where it had turned, but with it being night and the distance the vehicle was in front of me I just had to guess. I pulled into the yard of a small yellow house with a delapidated looking one car garage. I was pretty sure that this was the place, but where was the van?

Someone came to the door.

“Can I help you?” An old man stood there his hastily thrown on flannel not fully covering his tee-shirt.

I walked up to the door.

“Yes,” I said. “I hope you can. I am looking for a van that seemed to have pulled into your driveway.”

“Van?” The old man looked confused. “The only van I know anything about is old ‘Betsy’ in the garage there and she hasn’t seen the road for quite some time.”

“What kind of van is it?” I asked fearing I already knew the answer.

“Go look for yourself, but don’t touch nothin’ until I get a heavier coat on.” He turned and shut the door.

I got a flashlight from my glovebox (a must for Vanagon owners) and slowly walked toward the ramshackle garage. Through a crack in the partially opened door I could just see the reflection of some glass. Walking up the opening I peered inside.

“You can’t see anything with the door shut!” The old man had come up behind me so quietly that I jumped when he spoke.

I grabbed onto the rusty door handle and he unto the door edge and together we slid back the sagging door on squeaky rollers. My flashlight fell on a tremendously dusty and yet familiar looking VW split window van. You could hardly tell it was blue and white or that wasn’t brown it was so dirty, yet there it was.

The old man (who was named Bob) explained to me later over some coffee that the van had been his son’s before he went to Vietnam. The young lad had asked his parents to keep it for him until he returned. When he didn’t, they kept it as a reminder of their son and with a hope that since he was MIA that someday he might return.

“Well my wife just died this last September,” Bob explained. “And my kids want me to sell this place and go to the high rise apartments with other folks my age. I have been thinking a lot about it too, but I didn’t really know what to do with Jimmy’s van.”

To make a long story short I now own the van which was a ’55 and have restored it completely.

I have tried to figure out exactly what happened that night in these few months that have followed, but I can never come up with a satisfactory answer. Was it the ghost of Bob’s son come back to relive better days? Or the van itself drawing me there in hopes that I would free it and allow it to again roam the countryside? Or was there some other explanation?

I thought I had found just that when I pulled into the Wawa near Leesburg last week for a cup of coffee and did a double take. In the parking lot sat a blue and white ’50-something split window van that had been immaculately restored!

I went inside and since it was very early in the morning there were only a few other people in the store.

A man stood at the counter and I noticed the keys in his hand.

“Is that your van out there?” I inquired.

“Sure is, why do you ask?” The man looked at me questioningly.

I explained that I had one just like it at home and he went on to tell me that he had recently moved into the area and was now living in Leesburg. In fact he was living on the same street as Bob.

‘Aha!,’ I thought. ‘Now I have figured it out.’

It wasn’t anything supernatural. I just picked the wrong house and by some strange twist it just so happened to be the one where Betsy was residing. A very strange coincidence, but a coincidence nonetheless.

I was getting my coffee and still talking to the guy when I happened to mention seeing his van up in Bridgeton near the cemetary.

He only looked at my stupidly and asked, “I know this sounds dumb, but since I just moved here last week, where is Bridgeton?”


Copyright 2015 Ken Wilford

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Maggie: a short story by Ken Wilford Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:38:29 +0000 When I first met Maggie it was a hot summer’s day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had just finished my days work at the local Marriot, parking other people’s cars, when I set out in search of one for myself.

The ’63 Beetle that I had bought as a boy of 16 was on its last legs and not very practical for the kind of trip I was planning.

“Find yourself something you can rely on Jim,” My Uncle Zeb had instructed me. “These darn fore-een cars that you like so much won’t make the trip.”

I was going to try and take my uncle’s advice. I wanted something dependable, something safe, yet something that had a personality all it’s own.

That’s when I first saw Maggie. She was sittin’ there, as pretty as you please, on the side of the road in front of a small house in East Ridge.

Blue bottom with a white top, slightly faded paint that still had a little shine left to it. A small orange lettered “For Sale” sign was in the left bottom corner of the windshield.

She was a VW Transporter, I could tell, even though the front emblem was missing. You could see a shiny, slightly brighter blue outline where the badge had once been.

I pulled over and thought about my uncle and what he would say.

‘Oh well,’ I thought. ‘I don’t have to buy it if it’s a piece of junk.’

As I parked my rusty Bug and got out, an elderly, stoop shouldered, gentleman timidly pushed open the screen door and started toward me.

“Hello,” I hailed him. We met right next the vehicle.

“Howdy young feller,” the old man clasped my hand and gave me a surprisingly firm handshake.

“I suppose your interested in Maggie?”

“No,” I said and blushed a little, thinking that he meant that I was there to see his daughter.

He frowned a little.

“You mean you didn’t stop to ask about Maggie here,” He motioned to the bus next to me.

“Oh, you mean this van? It has a name?”

“Shh! Boy don’t let the old girl hear you call her “it”.” The elderly man had a wry smile on his face. “Why Maggie here has been treated like part of our family since she was new. She has been treated like a person so long, she thinks she is one.”

“OK, what about “Maggie” then?”

We talked for a while about the how Mr. Nelson (that was the old man’s name) had bought Maggie back in 1974 to use in his business as a traveling salesman. He laughed and sighed recalling their adventures up and down the highways and the byways of the southern United Sates.

“She’s been a dependable old girl all those years, and then one day last month she just didn’t want to start. I am an old man now, I retired from my job last year. Since then Maggie hasn’t really seemed like herself. She had just lost her zip and vigor. I figure she’s lonely for the open road, but my traveling days are over. When I came out that morning and she didn’t want to go, I figured it was time for Maggie to move on.”

“Well I don’t know if Maggie is the right vehicle for me,” I said pondering. “I really need something I can depend on. You see my uncle has just passed away a few months ago and my aunt is left all alone up in Maine. The rest of the family is all down here. I am the only one who could possibly go and stay with her, so my uncle Zeb says it’s my duty to go and help out as much as I can. I can’t have a car that’s going to die on me.” I looked over at the van. Was it just me or had it moved closer? Nah, I must just be imagining it.

“I tell you what son, Maggie here needs a good home. You are going to be doin’ a lot of travelin’ which is what she like best. I’ll give Maggie to you, if you promise to take good care of her.”

“What?!?” I couldn’t believe it.

“Like I said son, Maggie and us is family. If she is not happy, like she is now, how can I let her just sit here and rot into the ground. She needs somebody and I think that somebody might just be you son.”

“But I can’t take a van that won’t start on a 1000 mile trip!”

The man smiled a wrinkly smile. “I didn’t say she wouldn’t start son, I said “she didn’t want to”. She’s been dee-pressed lately. Now that she has a chance for the open road again I am sure she’ll fire right up.”

I looked at the man a little funny. ‘This guy is really off his bean.’ I thought. ‘He really thinks this box on wheels is a person.’

“I can see you’re skeptical son. You could at least give her a crank and see what happens.”

Well against my better judgment I climbed into the well-worn drivers seat. Sitting there with that big wheel in front of me I started to feel something.

I felt taller somehow, and more confident. It felt right.

The keys were in the ignition. I reached down and gave the key a turn.

“Vroom!” The motor cranked without hesitation.

“See boy, what did I tell you?” The old man’s features beamed with confidence.

That evening, after visiting with the Nelsons and sharing tea and cookies and stories of our different experiences, I headed home.

Something special had happened today, I could feel it.

This is how my adventures with Maggie began so many years ago.

One day, I know, I too will have to settle down and leave the open road. When that day comes, stop by. Maggie will be waiting for you.

By Ken Wilford Copyright 2015

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The Vanagon Accelerator Cable. Fri, 06 Feb 2015 16:05:29 +0000 An often overlooked item on your Vanagon is the acclerator cable/linkage. These languish for years without inspection until one day you are driving along and “snap” you have no more “go-go”. I just had this happen to me last week so I know it can and does happen frequently. The best way to prevent this problem is to have a spare cable on hand (we sell them for not much money) and to inspect your cable once a year at the place where it always fails, right where the linkage attaches at the rear of the van.

Manual transmission.

Inspection is as simple as opening the engine cover and looking down at the accelerator cable from above. It comes out of the firewall at about the center of the engine (offset to the left a little) and connects to your throttle body. There should be a rubber boot that covers the short run from the firewall to the throttle linkage. If this is there, then your cable should be fine. Spray the throttle linkage with some silicon spray to lube it and you should be good to go. Do not use WD-40 or any other lubricant other than silicon spray. They will gum up your linkage after a short period of time.

If the boot is MIA or ripped then your cable is already on borrowed time. Water and dirt from the road is getting inside the cable housing and it will start to die over the next year or several months. Plan on replacing this at your earliest convenience with a new cable. There are no replacement boots that I am aware of so you have to replace the whole cable, but it is not that bad.

Automatic transmission.

These are a little more tricky because inspection involves getting the van up in the air so that you can see something. Trace the accelerator linkage back from the throttle body to the passenger side of the transmission. Here you will find the shift lever for the automatic transmission with the accelerator cable attached to it. Again you want to see no rust, free movement of the linkage parts, and a good boot on the cable end. If things are stiff then lube them with the silicon spray. If the cable end is a rusted gob or the boot is ripped then it needs replacing.

Replacing the cable.

Replacing the cable is pretty much the same on both vans. I start at the front and remove the plastic cover that is over the accelerator pedal linkage. If you drop the spare tire and look straight up you should see it. Some vans have a piece of sound deadening/heat insulation over it. Remove that and then you should have access. This end of the cable is just a piece of metal through a clamp. Loosen the clamp and release the end of the cable. Now go to the rear. On the manual vans you will need to loosen the nut that is on the clamp at the throttle linkage to remove the cable end from it. On the automatic version it just snaps on. Then trace the cable back a couple of inches and you will see that the end of the cable housing is held in place by a clip into a metal bracket. Remove the clip and pull the housing and old cable free. About eight inches in front of the transmission mount is a place where the cable housing is mounted to the frame with a 10mm bolt. Remove this bolt and separate the front part of the cable housing with the rear section. A new rear section along with the mount comes with your new cable, however you reuse the front section of housing. Once you have separated the two housings by just gently pulling them apart, pull the old cable out of the front housing (it looks like a black hard plastic hose that the cable is inside of). The cable should easily pull out. Now thread the new cable into the housing until it goes all the way up to the front (confirm this by looking up there to see if it came through). This should go easily. If not the housing could be damaged in some way. Push the new rear section of housing together with the old front section and remount this to the frame. Now thread your new cable end through the same bracket as the old one and reinstall the clip. The end now needs to be reattached either by putting it through the clamp (manual) or just snapping it into place (automatic). In the front there is a way to adjust the pedal travel by how much of the end bar goes through the clamp. I try to set this so that you have the least pedal travel before the throttle body is opened but there is no strain on the throttle body linkage when you are not pushing on the pedal. You want the pedal to return all of the way, but the tighter you have the pedal adjusted, the nicer throttle response you will have after you are done. Put the cover back in place and try out your new cable by starting the van and revving it a few times. Be sure that you didn’t take too much slop out of the pedal adjustment and now the throttle isn’t returning all of the way. A higher than normal idle would indicate this. If everything seems good then put your spare back in place (you checked to see if it was fully inflated first though right) and go for a spin. That is all there is to it.

Again this is another weak spot mainly due to age that can leave you stranded at a most inconvenient time or location. If you think you can let this one go without doing the PM, at least buy a spare cable and put it under the rear seat. Then if you are out in the boon docks, or it is on a weekend when this fails you won’t have to spend a bunch of time/money getting me to overnight you a new cable.

Copyright Van-Again 2015

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The Vanagon Charging System: Fri, 06 Feb 2015 16:02:55 +0000 Checking out your charging system:

It is always a good idea to occasionally check the condition of your charging system. This is the system that keeps your battery charged so that you can power your electrical items while driving down the road and also keep your battery up so that when you hop in and turn the key the van cranks right up and you are off on another adventure.

What to do? First check your voltage at the battery while the van is running. You do this with a cheap voltage tester or just take the van to your local Advance Auto/Autozone and they will do this test for you for free. You want to see between 13.5-14 volts. Some early Vanagons require you to give the accelerator a little rev before the alternator will “come in” and start working so be sure that you do this and your alternator light is out before you do the test. If you get a low reading that means that either your battery is dying or your alternator is on the way out or both. With the van not running test your battery. It should read around 12.5 volts with nothing on and the van not running. If you have a secondary battery unhook it so that you can test your main one by itself without the secondary one causing a false good reading. If your voltage is low then you are probably looking at a battery that is failing and it should be replaced. Sometimes batteries that are dying will take what is called a “surface” charge where they will seem like they take a charge and will test good immediately after you stop charging them but then a few hours later they have lost their charge. If you are having problems with a battery that doesn’t seem to hold a charge you should let it sit over night (unhooked) and then test it in the morning. That way you can see if it is holding a charge on it’s own. If it isn’t then it is bad and need to be replaced. If it is then something is draining it overnight and you need to test for that.

Many times you will find that a failing battery will kill an alternator or a failing alternator can kill a battery. Usually it is a good idea to replace both at the same time unless one or the other is brand new. Although this can be expensive it is the best way to not only ensure that your charging system is up to snuff but also ensure that your new battery or alternator will live as long as possible.

Now check your belts. The best way to check your belt for the charging system is to loosen the alternator and relax the tension on the belt. Now turn it so that you can see the inside of the belt that rides on the pulley. It should be in good condition, not shiney or worn down and with no heat cracks between the ribs. If it has any of these it should be immediately replaced. With the belt loose or off check your alternator bearing for play. Try to cock the pulley top to bottom or side to side. There should be minimal to no play in the pulley while you try this test. If you can feel the pulley cocking and you hear a “clunk, clunk” noise while doing this test then your bearings are going bad and you will soon need a new alternator even though it may be putting out proper voltage at this moment. Spin the pulley and listen for any funny noises and be sure it spins freely.

While you are in there do the same pulley cocking test on your water pump pulley. It too should have minimal play (a small amount is OK but no real looseness). Take a flashlight and look at the weephole underneath the pulley (straight below it). If it looks like green crust is around it your water pump is starting to die and should be replaced. If this locks up it can kill your motor so change it before that happens not afterward. Also check the condition of your other belts (A/C and power steering) and replace them if they need it. They can fail and take the alternator/water pump with them so it is good to be sure they are in good condition as well.

After installing a new alternator belt it is normal for the belt to stretch over time. You want to tighten it on initial install so that there is less than 1/2 inch of deflection when you push down on the belt with your finger in between the alternator and water pump. After about a week, check the belt tightness again and retighten as needed. DO NOT ignore your van when it makes squealing noises when you first start it up in the morning. This will lead to a broken belt which can take the dipstick tube and even the oil filler neck along with it (not to mention allowing the engine to overheat and self destruct).

Here at Van-Again we stock only the best quality Bosch rebuilt alternators and Continental (German) belts to keep your van happy for many years to come. A cheapy spray-paint “rebuild” alternator may be OK if you are stuck out in the boon docks on a vacation trip, but since you are doing these tests you have enough time on your hands to plan ahead for a quality rebuilt alternator and belts. It will pay off in the long run believe me.

Keeping your charging system in good repair will help you save money in the long run and also have a safer, happier Vanagon.

Copyright Van-Again 2015

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Vanagon Gas Tank Issues Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:56:43 +0000 The Vanagon Gas Tank:

Dealing with Gas Tank Issues:

I know there are customers out that who have been living with a leaking gas tank for several years now. You know the drill, you go to fill the gas tank all the way to the top and then you see gas spilling out underneath of the van. Or you smell gas very strongly. Either of these scenarios should tell you something is not right. With the price of gas today, can you afford to leak any? Not to mention the fact that it is dangerous to leak a huge puddle of gas on the ground underneath of your gas tank where some idiot could throw down a cigarette.

What to do? It is time to repair this problem. Many times our gas tank kit will let you repair some of the soft parts on the top of the tank that can leak. These kits are pn gastankkit1 or gastankkit2 in our web store.

Occasionally you will drop your tank only to find that there is a rust hole in the top. Or you just might want to replace your tank because it is old. In case you never thought about it, your gas tank does go bad over time. It has a small sump in the bottom that collects any trash that might get into your gas through junk gas, etc. The new gas most of us are using at this point is 10% ethanol. This is a great cleaner. Now the junk that sat on the bottom of our tanks for years and years is getting flushed and cleaned out of the sump and finding it’s way into the screen that is in the tank. These screens get plugged up and the next thing you know you hear your fuel pump screaming. That is a cry for help! It is pleading for a new gas tank. Ignore it at your peril. I had a customer tell me last week that after he replaced his old gas tank with a new one he is now getting 2 more miles per gallon. His fuel pump is happier and it is rewarding him.

I have brand new gas tanks available for the 2wd Vanagons. The 80-84 Vanagon with the metal filler neck is 251201075AD. Or if you have the 84-92 Vanagon with the plastic filler neck is 251201075AH. If your filler neck is metal and it is rusted out you can replace it with a plastic filler neck (251201129a) but you will also need to get the newer gas tank. If your gas tank is rusty inside you will probably also want to replace your gas tank level sensor (251919051E) and of course you want to replace your fuel filter.

Keeping your gas tank system in good repair will help you save money in the long run and also have a safer, happier Vanagon.

Copyright Van-Again 2015

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The water cooled Vanagon heater system Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:54:38 +0000 The Vanagon Heaters:

The water cooled Vanagon has two awesome heaters that, if working properly, will fry you out of the van. They are what I want to discuss today.

Front Heater.

Your front heater is a critical safety device. I know you probably think of it as a comfort device but think back to a day when the outside temperature suddenly changes due to a rain storm. The inside of your windshield starts to fog up and you can’t see a thing. You reach to turn on your windshield defroster and it doesn’t work! Now you have to either pull over (safe) or keep someone wiping the windshield down with a towel while you drive (not as safe). It would be so much better if you just adjust the defroster lever, turn the blower fan on and everything works the way it should.

Front Blower Fan.

One key to the front heater working properly is the front blower fan. These can seize up over time. In a normal car everything that you would do, heat or A/C, would involve this fan. In the Vanagon, the A/C is not in the dash so you only use the blower fan mostly in the winter. This lets the shaft rust. The best way to prevent this is to use the fan frequently, even in the summer. Just turn it on, once a week, even if it is at the lowest speed, to keep it going. If your front fan is stopped and blowing the fuse it is probably the fan itself that has seized up. If it isn’t blowing the fuse you can try the switch in the dash as they can go bad and they don’t cost very much. You can also check your ground connections over above the fuse panel. They are a “star” connector that has multiple grounds coming into it. If the motor isn’t getting grounded then it won’t work. Clean the grounds and be sure that the ends of the spade connectors are making good contact (they can loose their crimp tension over time). If the fan works but only on the highest speed then your resistor inside the air box is bad (very rare).

Inside the box.

If you have determined that your blower fan is bad. Then you are going need a new fan and also a set of 10 blower fan clips. The plastic air box is actually sealed together by melted plastic tabs. When you open the box you have to break these tabs. However VW has provided places around the edge of the box for you to use metal clips to put the box back together. Be sure to order these whenever you are ordering a new blower fan as you will need them to get the job done. I always notify customers about this when they are ordering the fans.

Cleaning and seal repair.

While you could just pull the whole dash apart, change the fan and put everything back together, it is kind of a shame to not make things happy while you have everything apart. I always clean the inside of the plastic air box out and also wipe down the inside of the dash. A damp rag and some soapy water will work no problem. You can even spray down the inside of the dash with some scented disinfectant if you want that “new car” smell. The seals can be replaced easily. I use some air conditioning filter material (foam) that you can get from Home Depot. Just cut it to the size and shape of the old one, snap the plastic fastners apart clean out the old foam, put the new foam in place and snap it back together. It is that easy.

Front Heater Core.

Front Heater Cores are very robust and will last over 20 years. However everything has a lifespan and I am sure that most of these cores are reaching theirs. It would be the best PM to just replace this as well if you can afford it. If it is bad you will have to replace it. Smell it. Does it smell like antifreeze? Does it have crusty stuff around the edge? It is bad and must be replaced. The OE cores have been discontinued but we have custom made cores available if you find you need one.

Rear Heater.

The rear heater core is is much more prone to leaking. Usually you will smell a coolant smell when you turn it on. The good news is that the rear heater fans and resistors are usually bulletproof. So it is super rare to have a rear heater fan or resistor to actually be bad (I have never sold either of these in ten years).

Rear Heater Cover Removal

On Westies you can just loosen a couple of screws and the wooden cover comes right off. On 83-85 Vanagons without rear seat/beds are also easy. If you have an 86-91 Vanagon weekender with a rear bed it can be more tricky. The frame that goes around the front vent of the blower housing goes under it. In order to remove the housing cover you can either remove the rear seat (a real pain) or you can just cut the lower frame away from the blower housing. I use a blade from a hacksaw. Saw down on either side of the blower vent. It should only take a little cutting on each side to cut through the plastic. Once you do this and remove all of the screws you should be able to pull the cover straight up and off. Inspect the rear core in the same way you inspected the front one. If it is suspect replace it.

Rear Heater Valve

Sometimes the core is good but the valve is leaky. You should always replace the o-ring that seals the valve to the rear core. If the valve is bad it should be replaced as well. Sometimes the rear bleeder valve on the core can be leaky but a new one comes with the new rear core.

If you follow these guidelines you should have warm heat, with no smell and no leaks. Also fixing your seals in the front box it will help everything to work better as well. As always any parts or advice you might need feel free to email me.

Copyright Van-Again 2015

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