How to Remove and Replace Brake Pads on 86-91 Vanagon

By Ken Wilford

A quick how-to on changing brake pads on Vanagons with Girling Calipers (’86-91 including Syncro).

1. Place van on level, hard surface

2. Chock the rear wheels or put on the emergency brake or put it in park.

3. Jack up van (I used the jack that came with the van)

4. Remove the wheel.

5. Remove upper Caliper bolt that is on the backside of the caliper (hold guide pin with 17mm wrench and remove bolt with 13mm wrench).

6. Loosen lower caliper bolt

7. Swing caliper down out of the way.

8. Remove old brake pads.

9. Crack caliper bleeder screw. (7mm wrench)

10. Use a clamp to compress caliper piston (a 6″ wood clamp will work by placing the body of the clamp against the back of the caliper and the screw side against the rim of the caliper piston. Now tighten the clamp until the piston is almost completely compressed- brake fluid will squirt out so have something to collect it with).

11. Before removing the clamp, close the bleeder screw (this minimizes the amount of air that gets into the system).

12. Place new pads in place of old ones.

13. Swing the caliper back over and align with guide pin.

14. Reinstall guide pin bolt and tighten (see Bentley for Torque Values)

15. Replace wheel

16 Lower van

17. Do brakes on the other side in the same manner

18. Lower the van

19. Fill the brake reservoir to Max.(You will find the reservoir under your instrument cluster cover.)

20. Bleed the brakes (have someone pump up the brakes and hold the pedal down. Crack the brake bleed screw on the caliper and you will hear the air and brake fluid squirting out. Have something to catch it in or you will have a mess on your hands. Now with your friend still holding the pedal down close the bleed screw. Repeat this process as many times as is needed to remove all air from the system. Repeat on the opposite side caliper.)

21. Fill the brake reservoir to Max. Do this at your own risk, disclaimer, legal blah, blah, blah.

I crack the brake bleeds and compress the caliper rather than just compressing the caliper piston in order to prevent crap from being forced back up into the brake master cylinder. If you don’t do it this way you could be doing your master cylinder in.

VW to NAPA Part Number Coolant Hose Conversion Chart

VW to NAPA Coolant Hose Conversion
for many ’86-’91 Vanagons
By Darrell Boehler

This conversion is based upon NAPA brand hoses that were either exact replacements for, or adapted to replace their VW counterparts. The conversion was performed on a 1986 VW Vanagon Westfalia with 2WD, manual transmission, and air conditioning. Your mileage may vary.



Coolant Hoses
Wasserboxer 86-91 2WD


Heater hoses are all 5/8″ hose and no big problems. I replaced the T’s for the rear heater with 5/8″ diameter T’s on all three points because the originals had two 5/8″ and one 1/2″ point. 30′ of 5/8″ hose is needed to replace all heater hoses. Straight hoses will even make the turns for the front heater under the dash without too much problem. However if your inside front heater hoses are good I would consider keeping them as they require a bit of time to replace. I was considering connecting my heaters in series instead of parallel, but backed off because I thought it might degrade the heat. NAPA has regular grade or premium grade heater hose and so do many other stores.

Simple Conversion



VW Part #: NAPA Part #: Description: Dimensions:
D N902873.03 1.5″ hose* Valve to radiator feed.
251-121-058a 1″ hose* Thermostat housing to valve. 1″ ID about 2ft long
G 443-121-107A This is a 7mm hose from a VW FLAPS, NAPA here doesn’t carry 7mm hose
H 252-121-130b 7990 Right head front to valve.  1″ ID, 6″ long. Has 2 60 degree bends
J 025-121-058e 10050 Thermostat housing to oil cooler pipe .472″ ID one end, other end .635″, 3″ long
025-121-058D Oil cooler to oil cooler pipe from from thermostat housing. No direct solution here. However 5/8″ heater hose about 2 feet long can be run directly from the oil cooler to the thermostat housing eliminating the need for hoses J and K. I like the one hose solution better than the normal path as there is more clearance from the oil cooler hose and the header pipe. My hose K got brittle and blew coolant all over my clean engine.
025-121-058G Oil cooler to oil cooler pipe from water pump. No NAPA hose replacement and no good way to eliminate this hose that I have found. Maybe someone else can find a sub.
025-121-058J 3/8″ ID hose A straight hose will function fine here 3/8″ ID 4″ long
O N901287.03 1″ hose* Water pump feed to right side of crankcase. 1″ ID 3″ long
443-121-107A 7mm VW FLAPS. Right head to pipe
025-121-108D No NAPA solution. Pipe at water pump to expansion tank. This hose is designed to take a lot of flexing between the engine and the expansion tank. I need help on this one, somewhere there must be another application that uses a similar hose. 1″ ID one end, 3/4″ ID other end
R 025-121-058h 9807 Expansion tank to pipe tee .620″ ID both ends. 90 degree bend each leg 4.5″ long
S 025-121-058B No NAPA solution. Thermostat housing to pipe tee. Need help on this one also. 1/2″ ID one end 7mm other end, about 14″ long.
? 025-121-073H 777 Thermostat housing to water pump pipe. This hose doesn’t seem to be listed on the chart. Good picture of it in Bentley on 19.11. It is the big one there with the 90 degree turn. 1.5″ both ends 90 degree bend 1 leg 6″ other 4″


* I got a 3ft long heavy duty NAPA hose and cut it to fit

For the rest of the hoses I used copper pipe, 90 degree elbows and various copper pipe adapters. This requires soldering some pretty heavy pipe but could be done with a plain propane torch. I bought NAPA heavy-duty hoses that are used mostly on diesel trucks and industrial applications. This was a mistake I would go with regular grade hoses if I did this again. The heavy-duty hoses has double layers of nylon reinforcement and outside wrapped with nylon. It is a real pain to work with and after a couple of days working with them I discovered why most Illinois diesel mechanics appear to be fresh off the Minnesota and Wisconsin farms. I used 6′ of 1.5″ ID hose, 3′ of 1.25″ ID hose, 3′ of 1″ ID hose. Most 1″ stuff was used in the previous table on F and O.

Complex Conversion



Hose: VW Part #: NAPA Part #: Description: Dimensions:
A 251-121-082 1.5″ and 1.25″hose Upper radiator feed hose Radiator connection is 1.33″ and long hoses are 1.5″, straight 28″ long. I used some 1.25″ hose at the radiator end and made an adapter using 1.25″ copper pipe, adapter to 1.5″ copper some 1.5″ copper pipe then 1.5″ hose to the long feeder hose.
B 251-121-083H 1.5″ and 1.25″ hoses Lower radiator return hose Same ID on hose as A above however 3 90 degree elbows are required on this one. Use a short 1.25″ hose, a short 1.25″ pipe, 90 degree elbow toward the rear a short 1.25″ pipe (make this pipe just long enough to get aft of the radiator and radiator holder bracket), 90 degree elbow pointing up and slightly to the left, enough 1.25 pipe to get up high enough to get over the spare tire, a 1.25 90 degree elbow pointing toward the rear, some 1.25″ pipe, an adapter to 1.5″, some 1.5″ pipe then 1.5″ hose to the radiator return long pipe.
E 025-121-062E 1.5″ hose and some 1.5″ copper pipe Return to thermostat housing 1.5″ both ends however this one goes up and over the transaxle. Use a short 1.5″ ID hose about a 2.5 inches of copper 90 degree up, about 10 inches (check this measurement) 1.5″ ID copper pipe up line these up so your copper pipe rests nicely in the hose holder above the transaxle), Now 90 degree copper elbow and you are heading over the transaxle, install enough 1.5″ copper pipe so you line up with the thermostat housing. (hint it is best to be a little too long with the pipe going over the transaxle or your hose might cause shifting problems). Now turn 90 degrees with copper elbow toward the thermostat housing install a short 1.5″ ID pipe in the elbow. use a 1.5″ ID hose to connect to the thermostat housing. That sounds pretty involved, try this for directions from the long return hose go back a few inches up about 10 inches over the transaxle about 20 inches and turn back toward the thermostat. What you end up with is a copper pipe with three 90 degree elbows attached.
N 025-121-058M Gates 20693 hose, home made adapter and some 7mm hose Left head to pipe One end is 1″, the other is 7mm. Start with a Gates 20693 hose (which is a 1″, 90 degree hose). I then used an adapter from my local hardware store from 1″ down to 1/4″ ID copper pipe that I used and then just stuffed the 7mm hose over that. The original hose on my 86 had sprung a leak and for a while I thought I had a head leak. Thanks Malcolm Stebbins.



Manual Transmission Drive Flange Seal Replacement for Vanagon

By Jim Felder

Time: about four hours

Tools: nothing special in a modestly-equipped shop. Assumes you have a

small cheap inertial puller set.


Do one side and then the other. In both cases:


  1. Jack up the first side, chock the other. release the emergency brake

and then put in neutral. You’ll need to lock up either the wheel and

other times turn it (to remove and tighten the CV joint bolts) or the

flange itself (for circlip removal/refitting) at various stages of this



  1. remove the allen-head bolts holding the inner CV joint to the

transmission flange. Clean out first with a small pick, then tap in

allen wrench with a small hammer to ensure seating in the fastener.

Otherwise, you risk rounding out a bolt.


  1. Drop and bag the CV joint for cleanliness. Have some good moly

greasy on hand if it needs repacking.


  1. You’re looking at the flange. Talk a hammer and a sharp tool and

drive it into the plastic plug in the center of the flange and pry out.


  1. Remove the C-clip with two screwdrivers, better a screwdriver and a

hook tool like a spark plug boot remover.


  1. Use a 3-jaw puller to remove the flange.


  1. Remove the two phillips screws that hold the plastic dirt shield to

the transmission.


  1. Clean everything you removed by soaking in gasoline, be sure you get

the spring washer from inside the flange.


Now you can see the seal in it’s aluminum housing.


  1. Use a sharp-pointed tool east and west positions on the seal itself

and punch holes.


  1. Use the screw tool with the puller to screw into the holes you

punched in the seal. There’s a big old ball bearing behind the seal,

don’t worry about it. Keep turning the puller screw into the seal

housing until the pressure of the screw point against the bearing rides

the seal out of its home. When you tighten the puller screw with a

wrench, you’re stopping the screw point against the bearing and riding

the seal up the threads and out of its seat.


  1. Oil up a new seal with transmission grease and tap home with a

stick, dowel or rod about 1/2 inch diameter and about 8 inches long.


  1. Tap flush with seal housing, keeping tapping constant while moving

rod or dowel constantly around seal housing.


  1. Remove soaking parts from gasoline and clean.


  1. Refit plastic dust cover and screws and then refit flange. Protect

with section of 2 x 4 and wail away with hammer until seated.


  1. Refit spring washer cup out (center part the closest to you).


  1. Refit clip ring with two medium flat screwdrivers. The first time

you do this, it will take about ten minutes. The second time, about 30

seconds. There is a technique.


  1. After fitting clip on axle stub, tap clip into place with small

flat punch and hammer to make sure it is seated in the groove against

the pressure of the spring washer.


  1. Tap in new seal, smear joint with RTV adhesive.


  1. Refit CV joint, packing with grease if necessary.


  1. Repeat from step 1 for next side.


  1. Drop shift rod by removing upper and lower 13mm bolts and nuts.


  1. Remove transmission filler plug with 17mm internal socket.


  1. Fill transmission per Bentley.


  1. Replace filler plug.


  1. Lube shift cup and shift bushing with moly grease, replace bad

rubber as necessary.


  1. Rehang rear shift assembly as reverse of removal in step 21.


  1. It’s over

Engine Conversion- Diesel to Gas VW

By Tom Carrington
With the passing of my Bug in 1987, I was VW-less for several months until bought a 1980 Vanagon. What a wonderful vehicle! I am still hooked on those things today. I sold it after a few years to purchase another VW, this time a 1965 Notchback.

My 82 Westy Vanagon.

Today, I still own the Notchback, and now also have a 1982 Diesel-powered Westfalia Vanagon. This is a vehicle I have lusted over for several years.

Diesel engine.

The main reason that I wanted this specific model was the engine conversion possibilities. This picture shows how the Vanagon diesel engine is basically the same engine as the Rabbit diesel, just tilted over on its side. And since the VW diesel engine is similar to a VW gas engine, I have always wanted to install a Rabbit/Golf GTI engine in a Vanagon.

Well, that project is now underway!

Saturday, October 26th, 1996:
Pic of hoistengine & trans out of Van

I removed the diesel engine from the Vanagon. I decided to remove both the engine and the tranny together as a single unit. The collapsible engine hoist that I bought from Harbor Freight Tools was a big help in removing the engine.

All told, it took me about 4 hours to remove the engine and tranny as an assembly, and separate them once out of the Vanagon. I also removed the muffler. If I had to do it again, I would remove the muffler while the engine was still in the car. I also removed the alternator just to get another spot to attach the hoist’s chain to.

Another thing I noticed when removing the engine/tranny, is that the grease in the CV joints was nearly dry. I guess now will be the easiest time to service them. I plan on replacing all of the boots (even though they look fine, they are almost 15 years old) when I repack the joints.

Sunday, November 3rd, 1996:
Gas engine from 86 Golf hanging from hoist

I removed the gas engine from the donor 1986 VW Golf. Removal was pretty straightforward, with just some minor “persuading” so separate the engine from the transmission. Now the task of transferring parts (exhaust manifold, oil pump & pan, etc.) from the blown diesel engine to the gas engine can begin. I also plan on replacing the O-ring seals on the fuel injectors.

front view, looking into the bell housingside view of trans

I also snapped a few pictures of the diesel 4-spd manual transmission. It is essentially the same as the gas-engined models, except it has different gear ratios, bell housing and input shaft. I will be swapping the bell-housing and input shaft over to a transmission from a gas powered Vanagon before re-installing the engine.

Sunday, November 10th, 1996:
Today I removed components from the diesel engine that need to be transferred to the gas engine. I also spent time degreasing the gas engine that will be installed. No cool pictures, though. 🙁

Saturday, November 16th, 1996:
Gas engine on a standGot a lot of work done today! I started by installing the oil pan & pump and exhaust manifold on the gas engine. I have decided to retain the stock diesel exhaust system, as opposed to fabricating a custom exhaust for the van. Exhaust manifoldsAs you can see from the picture to the right, the diesel manifold (on the left in the photo) is quite different from the gas manifold. There is no doubt that the diesel version is much more restrictive than the gas exhaust. While this will probably hurt the performance slightly, it will make for an easier install. If I am not happy with the power after test driving, I might consider swapping then. I also replaced the fuel injector O-rings. The gas engine is looking pretty complete, and will be ready to install next weekend!

I also received a replacement trans from an early ’80s gas powered Vanagon. Fellow Vanagon Listmember, Ken Wyatt, found it in a salvage yard and shipped it to me for a very reasonable amount. Thanks Ken! I took some pictures of the gas and diesel transmissions side-by-side so the differences would be visible. Note the shapes of the bellhousing to accomodate the different engines & starter motor locations. On the diesel powered Vanagons, the starter is on the top of the trans, and on the gas models, it is down on the side slightly. The gas trans also has thicker and more pronounced ribbing on the case.

I also spent some time sevicing my Constant Velocity, or CV Joints. I took several photos and documented the process on Tom’s CV page.

March, 1998:

An issue with the engine conversion is the low gearing of the diesel transmission. The stock diesel engine output is 48 HP versus the 67 HP of the air-cooled gas engine offered the same year. To compensate, the diesel transmission has lower gear ratios than the gasoline transmission. At highway speeds with the diesel transmission, the engine rpm is quite high. To allow the engine to turn a little slower, I modified the gas-powered Vanagon transmission by installing the bell housing and input shaft from the diesel trans. The process is not too difficult, with only a few special tools needed. I tackled this part of the job during the Memorial Day weekend in 1997.

Transmission innards.

Start by draining the transmission. With the transmission on a workbench, simply unbolt the bellhousing from the transmission. The bellhousing will now slide off the transmission. The input shaft is secured with a small circlip retaining ring. Remove the ring, slide the splined collar/coupling out an inch or so, and unscrew the input shaft. After removal of the input shaft, the tranny will look something like what you see on the left.

Shaft closeupInput shafts.These next 2 photos show the difference between the diesel and the gasoline transmission input shafts. The real difference is that the gasoline shaft is a little longer than the diesel shaft. They are both the same diameter on the end, so it would stand to eason that if you could not find a diesel shaft, the gasoline version could be shortened by a competent machinist. The picture on the right shows the shafts with their collars/coupling. The picture on the left is a close-up of the end of the shaft that will ride in the engine’s pilot bearing.

Installed trans

After swapping the input shafts, I installed a new seal for the input shaft in the diesel bellhousing, and installed it on the gas transmission with a new gasket. After refilling the transmission with oil, I went ahead and re-installed it in the Vanagon. I had removed the engine and transmission as a single unit, but I decided to install them separately. The idea was that I would be able to move the engine around easier while installing without the extra bulk of the tranny. With the engine out of the van, it was an easy job to get my freshly repacked CV joints and axles installed as well.

Sensor fitting
I also did some work on the engine during the Memorial Day weekend. The stock fuel injection from the Golf uses an oxygen sensor to control the fuel mixture. Since there was no fitting on the diesel exhaust, I modified it to accept a sensor. I went to the local Pep-Boys store, and purchased an universal oxygen sensor. The threads were the same as a spark plug (18mm), so I trimmed one of those spark plug “no-foul” adapter sleeves down to a threaded flange. I then drilled a hole in the exhaust pipe in a location that would be easy to access from under the van. I used brass to braze the fitting to the exhaust pipe. I tried welding it first, but the heat from the torch kept ruining the threads of the fitting.

Engine on ground
The July 4th weekend of 1997 was the next chance I got to work on the Van. With the transmission installed, it was time to finish preparing the engine. I installed a new rear main oil seal on the gas engine, and bolted on the diesel flywheel. It was then that I learned that the Golf does not use a pilot bearing in the crankshaft! Off to the parts store to buy a bearing. After locating and installing a pilot bearing, I was ready to install the engine. First, I used the engine hoist to remove the engine from the stand and lower it onto a piece of carpet on the ground. By tugging on the carpet, I was able to slide it under the rear of the van. Then I used the engine hoist to raise the engine up into the compartment.

Raising the engine and mating it to the transmission was a relatively simple task. I loosely installed two of the engine mounting bolts. Once the engine and trans were coupled together, I removed the bolts in the front transmission mount to allow me more “play” to move the engine around. As I raised the engine in place, it became apparent that I would definitely have clearance the engine compartment to make the engine fit. On the driver’s side of the van, the intake manifold would not clear the frame rail and the sheetmetal of the compartment.

Clearanced metal

I tried using a 20lb sledgehammer to whack the metal out of the way, but the hammer had no effect. Out came the whiz-wheel (muffler cutoff tool) and the air chisel. I wanted to remove as little metal as necessary, so I would trim a little, then test fit the engine. I repeated this process several times until the intake manifold fit. To the left, you can see the minimum amount that had to be removed to install the engine. Some of the trimming was in the sheetmetal surrounding the engine, and some was actually in the frame member. Whenever I have the engine out again, I will weld gussets into the cuts in the frame.

Tranny mounts

I had a real tough time getting the engine in it’s mounts and the front transmission mount lined up at the same time. It turns out that the two different transmissions each have a different front mount. When I installed the diesel transmission mount on the gas trans, the mount would not line up with the bolt holes in the chassis. When I used the gas transmission mount, the bolt holes would line up, but the transmission was too high under the van and would not fit. You can see the difference in the mounts by looking at the photo to the right. In the photo, the diesel mount is on the left, and the taller mount to the right is for the gas engine. What I surmise from my hour or so of fighting to install the transmission is that the diesel transmission is slightly longer and mounted lower than the gas engine by about and inch or so. I solved the problem by drilling three new mounting holes lower on the gas transmission mount, and chopping off the top of it where it was hitting the body. After the modification to the gas transmission mount, the transmission fit just fine.

Installed engine
That’s about all that has been done to the van for now. The engine and transmission are installed, and ready for the next phase of the project, which is the installation of the fuel injection, ignition and wiring. In the photo to the left, you can see the installed gas engine. If you look closely, you can see the area of the engine compartment that was cut to accomodate the intake manifold. I spent the Labor day weekend in 1997 removing all of the fuel and ignition system components from the donor 1986 Golf. This includes the wiring harness from under the dash, as well as the fuel pump assembly from under the car. Sometime in April or May 1998, I will start installing these components. Last September, another important milestone was achieved: The rear tires on the Vanagon touched terra firma once again. After nearly a year on the jackstands, the van was back down on all fours!

May 23rd-June 1st, 1998: I had last worked on the Vanagon in August of 1997. The engine from the ’86 Golf was installed, but nothing had been hooked up. Thanks to the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, great weather and a supportive wife, I have managed to make good progress on my project. For 2 consecutive weekends, I have managed to spend some serious quality time working on the Vanagon. The results are as follows:

The first issue I had to tackle were the high pressure fuel lines for the fuel injection. These are the stainless steel covered hoses that carry the fuel from the fuel distributor to the injectors on the engine. The problem is that they are several feet too short with the location that I chose to place the air intake/fuel disributor assembly. I went ahead and removed a single line from the engine to see how it was constructed. I knew that I would ruin it, but I figured that I could always stop by the junkyard to get some spares, if needed. The fittings are crimped on to the hose with a metal sleeve. I was able to use a hacksaw to score the crimped metal sleeve, and then split it open with a small screwdriver. It turns out that the hoses are made of plastic with the stainless steel wrapped around them. After pushing back the stainless steel outer braid, I was able to expose the plastic core. I sliced open the plastic core with a new razor blade to remove it from the barbed end of the banjo fitting.

At this point, I needed to find a suitable replacement hose. The inside diameter of the hose is 3mm, and needs to be able to withstand a pressure of 60-70 PSI. I tried local parts stores, speed shops and a hydraulic supply house but came up short. The VW dealer only sold the lines pre-made with the fittings already attached, not by the foot. Fellow listmember, Garth Woolstenhulme, wrote that when he did his conversion that he had high pressure fuel lines custom made byTroutman, an automotive performace shop that specializes in Porsche engines. I chopped off the ends of my old hoses, and sent them to Troutman with instructions to make the new ones 6 feet long. They used the old fittings for comparison purposes only, my lines had new fittings when they arrived. Total cost, including shipping, was under $150. Installing the hoses was easy. After installing the fuel lines I temporarily hooked up the fuel pump. As the pump ran up the pressure, I looked for leaks..none!

Spaghetti system.With the fuel lines installed, I started on wiring up the ignition and fuel injection system. I decided to hook up everything outside of the Vanagon, and test run the engine before mounting the components. When I pulled the engine from the donor car, a 1986 Golf, I also got the brain boxes, the entire wiring harness and the components from under the dash. I ended up using the wire cutters to cut the harness, fuse block and relay panel free from under the dash. I had tossed all of this stuff on top of the engine to store it over the winter – what a mess! The next step was to trace the circuits and remove the unnecessary wires. This process was slow and laborious. After many hours tracing the current paths in the Bentley manual for the Golf, I was able to hook up all the ignition and fuel injection components. Time for a test run!!

Before starting the engine, I removed the coil wire and cranked the engine over. Since the last time the engine was run was in November of 1996, I wanted to establish some oil pressure before starting the engine. To my dismay, the oil pressure light never went out. At this point, I was not sure if I could trust the oil pressure sender, so I removed it and cranked the engine again (and again). I was hoping to see great spurts of oil spraying out of the hole where the sender used to be. Nada. Now I was questioning myself…had I installed the oil pump correctly? Should I pull the oil pan and check the pump? After a few minutes of looking at the old oil pump that I had removed, I decided to remove the distributor and try to spin the pump with an electric drill. I found a socket that fit on the end of the oil pump shaft, and chucked it (along with an extension) into a 1/2″ drill. After spinning the pump for about 15 seconds, I was getting worried- no oil out the sender hole yet. Suddenly, the drill motor bogged down, and oil started spraying out the sender hole! It’s a gusher!! What a relief! I guess the oil pump just needed some help re-establishing its prime. I re-installed the pressure sender and distributor, then cranked the engine with the starter. Oil pressure light went out, just like I hoped for.

The next system to test was the ignition. While cranking the engine, I held the high-tension wire from the coil next to the engine block. I expected to see sparks as the ignition fired. Nothing. I did notice that every time I powered up the ignition module, the coil fired once. After another hour of circuit tracing and testing, I found that the knock sensor was not grounded properly. I cleaned the mounting surface and reinstalled the sensor. This time when cranking the engine, I was rewarded with a nice blue spark.

Ready to start?The engine was now ready for starting. I powered up all the ignition and fuel injection components, and cranked the engine over. The engine caught, then died after about 2 seconds. I could repeat this over and over. I was able to keep the engine running by spraying carb cleaner down the intake, so I know that I have a fuel starvation problem. At this point, it was nearly 11:00PM on a Sunday night, and the Van has no muffler. I decided to clean up, and attack the van again next weekend. I’ll pour over the Bentley this week, and try to figure out the fuel injector problem. I could be something as simple as clogged injectors from sitting for over 18 months. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to mail me! Thanks!

August 30- September 30, 1998: I took the entire month of September off from one of my jobs, partly to use the extra time to finish the conversion project.

One of the things that bothered me was that the starter motor cranked over really slow. When the diesel engine was still in the Van, it cranked just fine. I checked and cleaned the connections, but that was no help. Then I realized that when I tried to turn the engine by hand, it was very difficult. After messing around with the engine, and even putting 24v DC across the starter in hopes that faster cranking would “free” the engine up, I called in for the reserves – Dad came over to visit. His suggestion was to loosen the bolts holding the engine and transmission together. Turns out the old guy was on to something! When I loosened the bolts, the engine was *much* easier to turn over by hand. The starter motor now spun the motor over easily. Something in the bell-housing of the tranny was binding! While happy to know why the engine was hard to crank, I was not overjoyed at the prospect of pulling the engine out again!

Removing gas engine

The very next day, I got the engine hoist back out and started pulling the engine. I wasn’t sure what I would find as the problem, and I was hoping for something easy. I lowered the engine slightly, and separated the engine from the trans. It didn’t take me too long to find the culprit.

input shaft

Turns out the transmission input shaft (seen in the center of the photo to the right) was bottoming out in the rear of the crankshaft, causing the engine to bind. I was suprised, as I had taken the time to swap the input shaft from the diesel to the gas t ransmission. Oh well, so much for well-laid plans! I was able to sneak my grinder in between the engine and trans, and less then 10 seconds worth of grinding took off enough (less than .125″) material from the end of the shaft to remove the interference. When I tightened the engine mounting bolts down this time, the engine still turned easily. One big problem solved!

intake clearance

I have had several E-mails asking how much cutting I needed to do in order for the intake manifold to fit. While the engine was lowered down, I snapped another photo. Hopefully, the tape measure will put it in perspective. Remember, I’m American and those numbers are in inches!

Van is running!

With the engine back in, I hooked up all the electronics and fuel injection components. Gasoline was supplied by a portable fuel tank. A quick hit of the starter, and the engine started right up! I’ve been waiting for nearly 2 years to hear that sound. I let the engine run a few minutes, and then shut it down. Since all the fuel injection and ignition parts were hanging out the back of the van, I still couldn’t drive it around. But I sure was getting closer!

With the engine up and running, I turned my attention to getting all the electrical and fuel injection components permanently mounted in the engine compartment. The big issue to me was where to mount the combination fuel distributor/air intake box. Others that have done this conversion have moved their battery up to under the passenger seat like in the “normal” Vanagons, but my goal was to leave the battery in the stock location.

dryer ductThere is a nice open area just forward of the driver’s side tail lights, and I decided to put the air intake box in there. The stock air intake box from the donor Golf had no chance of fitting, so I decided to make my own. I started by buying a rectangular “low clearance” exhaust vent for a regular clothes dryer from my local Home Depot. Pictured on the left, this was the starting point for my airbox.

cut dryer duct

I removed the air flow sensor assembly from the air intake box, and traced its outline onto the dryer duct. Using tin snips, I cut out the metal outline and drilled holes for the 6 mounting bolts.

new airboxWith the fuel distributor mounted onto the modified dryer vent, I squeezed the entire assembly into that small area in front of the driver’s side tail light. A tight fit, but it made it! I mounted the ignition module and other related electronics in the open area in front of the passenger side tail light. What is nice about this setup is that most of the additional accessories are hidden from view.

installed engine

Here’s a few views of the nearly completed project. I secured all the wires, and used plastic wire covers to give the wire harness a cleaner look. Here’s one view of the engine. notice how the battery was retained in it’s stock location.

installed engine

From this view, you can see how the air intake box is tucked down and out of the way, with the large black hose leading to the throttle body. The custom-made, stainless steel braided fuel lines from Troutman are visible here as well. I think this is a clean looking setup. I don’t know why VW didn’t offer this engine option for the USA market Vanagons!

This engine conversion project is getting close to being done. I still need to hook up the throttle cable, finish the fuel system and track down a few electrical gremlins. Unfortunately, the project is on hold again while I get our house fixed up to hopefully sell in the Spring of 1999. I’ll get back to finishing up then. B esides, now I have my Crew Cab Vanagon to play with!

CV Joint Servicing all Vanagon

By Tom Carrington

Servicing the Constant Velocity (CV) joints is a maintenance task that should be performed at least every 50,000 miles or so. Why? Because the grease in the CV joints will harden and lose its lubricating properties over time. This will lead to premature failure of the joint. A properly maintained joint will easily outlast most street-driven vehicles. While not too terribly difficult, it is a messy and time consuming task. The purpose of this page is to guide you through the disassembly, cleaning and reassembly/repacking of the joint. While the context is VW Vanagon specific, the basic procedures can be used on later model VW Busses, Ghia’s, Type III’s and Bugs (68 and up), as well as several other types of vehicles.

Parts & Supplies Needed:

  • 6mm allen head wrench or “triple-square” tool (depending on the year of your van), socket version preferred
  • CV Joint grease (Approx 4oz per joint)
  • CV Joint boots (optional)
  • Plenty of rags or paper towels
  • Old clothing

    Step 1 – Removing the joints:
    CV joint boltsTo properly service the CV joints, they must be removed from the car. On VW Vanagons, they are bolted to a flange protruding from the transmission on one end, and to a similar flange on the back of the wheel hub on the other. The bolts (6 per joint) will either be a 6-point allen head or 12-point “triple-square” design cap head bolt.

    Before attempting to remove the bolts, spend some time with a small pick and clean out the accumulated crud from the heads of the bolts. Failure to do so may result in you “stripping” out the head of the bolt, making it even more difficult to remove. Once clean, use a 6mm allen head wrench to remove the screws from the joints on each end of the shaft. The driveshaft, complete with the joints can now be removed. Once on the ground, I like to mark the joints for reference. I use metal stamps and a hammer, imprinting PI (Passenger Inner), PO (Passenger Outer), DI (Driver Inner) or DO (Driver Outer) on the joint. This aids re-assembly later.

    CV joint in vise

    Now that the joint is out, place the driveshaft in a vise, or use a C-clamp to secure it to your workbench.

    Step 2 – Removal of the joints from the driveshaft:
    Retaining ringOnce the shaft is securely held, the disassembly can begin. Start by using your paper towel or rag to wipe the excess grease from the face of the joint. This will reveal a retaining ring on the shaft that keeps the joint from coming off. In the picture to the left, a pointer shows the retaining ring on the shaft. There are two different ways I have seen for removing this ring. The first is to use 2 screwdrivers to slide the ring off. While this does work, the ring tends to fly off and land somewhere in the neighbor’s yard. Just a bit dangerous and frustrating!

    Removing ret. ringThe second (recommended) method is to use a set of retaining ring pliers to remove the ring. These should cost no more than $10 or so from a parts house. Use the pliers to spread the ring, and slide it off the end of the shaft. The picture to the right shows the use of the pliers.

    Refer to the previous 2 pictures, and notice the construction of the joint. There is a inner race on the splined shaft, a bearing cage to house and guide the ball bearings, and an outer race the balls ride in. To remove the joint, you may be able to simply slide the entire assembly off. Most times, a little persuasion is necessary. Do not, at any time, use a hammer on the splined shaft or the outer race! This can damage either the splines or housing, and ruin your shaft or joint. If the joint appears to be stuck on the shaft, slide the boot open from the back side. Use a long punch and a hammer against the inner race to drive the entire joint off.

    Step 3 – Disassembly and cleaning of the CV Joint:
    disassembly of jointTo properly clean the joint, disassembly is necessary. Start by pushing down on one side of the bearing cage ring and inner race. Continue to rotate, and the inner race/bearing cage combination can be completely removed from the outer race. Once separated, the inner race, bearing cage and the ball bearings can be separated. While the location of the balls relative to the inner race is not incredibly important, you should not to mix components from one joint with another. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to only service on joint at a time.

    Once completely apart, wipe off as much of the old grease as possible with a rag or paper towels. Thoroughly clean the joint in your choice of solvent. Right now, I am using diesel fuel, since I have a bunch left over from my Vanagon’s tank. Kerosene works well, and I have also tried Simple Green.clean CV componentsBe sure to remove all traces of the old grease in the process. You may even need to use a fine wire brush to get the stubborn deposits off. If you used a petroleum-based solvent, dip the parts in hot, soapy water to remove the residue (This is because that some grease formulas will break down when left in contact with solvent). Then rinse the parts under hot water. Immediately dry using compressed air or a clean cloth to prevent corrosion.Place the now clean parts on a clean surface. I like to place a paper towel over my workbench for this part.

    Step 4 – Assembly of the CV Joint:
    front viewrear viewI like to assemble the joint “dry”, meaning that you have not yet applied any grease. This way, if you assemble it wrong, you won’t get all messy taking it back apart. There are a few things to watch out for when assembling the joint. The most critical issue is the alignment of the inner and outer race. On the left, you can see a front view of the joint. On the right is a view from the back of the joint. If you look closely, you can see the impact marks on the back of the inner race that were made from having to persuade the joint off the shaft with a punch and hammer.

    Here’s the really important part

    Notice how the grooves for the ball bearings in the outer race are not equally spaced. The inner race also has large and small spaces between the ball bearing grooves. To assemble the joint correctly, make sure to align the thin spaces of the inner race with the wide spaces of the outer race. Be careful – You can do this wrong! In fact, the joint goes together easier when you are doing it the wrong way. If you assemble it the wrong way, the joint will bind when it tries to flex.

    side view

    Now the joint is ready to be installed back on the splined shaft. If you are replacing the CV-Joint boots, slide those on first. You will want to push it down the shaft a ways, so you have easy access to the back of the joint. Slide the joint onto the shaft next, and secure it with the retaining ring. Notice the groove on the outside of the outer race – it is closest to the end of the shaft. Test the operation of the joint by swivelling the joint in various directions. You should not feel any binding of the joint.

    greasy joint

    Just be sure not to tilt the joint too far, or the ball bearings may fall out! Once you are convinced the joint works properly, it’s time to grease it. Start packing the grease in from the front, one finger-full at a time. Be sure to fill all the open areas, and keep pressing in more grease until it starts oozing out the back. The moly-based grease is really messy, so be sure to have plenty of paper towels around.

    CV assembly

    With the joint properly greased, slide the boot back down the shaft. When I have extra grease left over, I’ll stuff some into the boot, and smear a layer on the face of the joint. Now repeat steps 2-4 for the joint on the other end of the shaft.

    Step 5 – Reinstalling the CV Joints:
    Installed jointsStart by using brake cleaner to clean out the threads in the hubs on the transmission for the attaching bolts. Do the same for the end near the tire. Using the same solvent, clean all grease residue from the bolts. Apply Loctite to the threads, and use them to attach your freshly-serviced CV-joints. Use a torque wrench, and secure the bolts. Check your manual for the exact torque, but it should be about 35 Ft-lbs. Be sure to use the torque wrench! If you don’t, you run the risk of the bolts working loose and eventually shearing off. If that happens, you will end up “Pushing a rope” (getting towed) back home.

    Following the above steps will probably take you the better part of a day, so be sure to allocate the time needed. You should feel pretty good about yourself, as you have saved yourself a small pile of money and probably extended the life of your CV-Joints. Just be sure to take off your clothes before heading back inside…that moly-based grease is a real mess to clean up!


Upper Ball Joint Replacement on all Vanagon

By Tom Carrington

First, jack up and secure the Vanagon so that both front tires are off the ground. Remove the tire from the side with t he bad joint. If you are replacing just the upper joint, do not remove the brake rotor or caliper. It is easy enough to work around the rotor and caliper. By not removing them, the brakes will not need bleeding. Use the combination wrench to remove the large nut from the bottom of the joint.

Pickle Fork

With the lower nut removed, drive the ball joint separator tool between the upper control arm and the steering knuckle. The “pickle fork” destroys the rubber boot on the joint, but does a good job of popping the joint loose. As the tool is driven into the joint, the tool’s taper will force the joint up and out of the steering knuckle. Don’t be timid with the hammer – you will need to hit the pickle fork hard.

Separated balljoint

After several good thwacks, the joint will pop free and separate from the upper control arm. Next, take some time to clean the accumulated crud from the heads of the 2 allen bolts on top of the joint. Cleaning out the dirt allows the allen wrench to sit deeper in the socket, reducing the chances of stripping the screw head. On my Canadian-raised Vanagon, corrosion had locked the bolts tight. A few minutes of heating with a propane torch helped loosen the bolts enough to remove them without any damage. Once the bolts are out, raise the upper control arm far enough to slide out the joint.

New balljoint

Installing the new joint is even easier than removing the old one. Start by placing the new joint in the upper control arm and loosely installing the upper bolts. Next, guide the shaft of the balljoint through the hole in the steering knuckle, and install the new nut on the joint. Tighten the nut securely. The Bentley manual specifies 80 ft-lbs of torque, but I was not able to sneak a torque wrench in the tight confines, so I guessed it. The upper screws get torqued to 44 ft-lbs. The upper joint replacement shouldn’t affect your front end alignment, so once all is secure, re-install the tire and take a spin!

Front Wheel Bearing Replacement 2wd Vanagon

By Tom Carrington

Front wheel bearings are usually “serviced” when the disk rotor, caliper or brake pads are replaced. Servicing the wheel bearings includes bearing removal, cleaning and careful inspection. Worn or damaged parts are discarded and replaced. Grease seals should almost always be replaced during this process. The bearings are then packed with fresh grease and re-installed. The procedure is well within the ability of many home mechanics, and can be accomplished on a single weekend day, with proper planning.

Tools & Supplies Needed:

  • 19mm socket and breaker bar
  • 11mm flare-nut wrench
  • 7mm open-end or combination wrench
  • 10″ adjustable wrench or channel locks
  • 1/2″ drive torque wrench (must be capable of 125ft-lbs)
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • Hammer and assorted punches
  • Sturdy jack and jack stands
  • 1 8oz tub of High temperature/disk brake wheel bearing grease
  • Roll of paper towels or several rags
  • 32oz can of brake fluid
  • 2 new front wheel seals
  • 2 new inner and 2 new outer bearings and races (optional)Dust cap removed
    First, loosen the front lug bolts. Jack up and secure the Vanagon so that the front tire is off the ground. Remove the tire from the rotor, and set it aside. On the driver’s side, remove the circlip securing the speedometer cable. Pry off the dust cap, and use the paper towels to clean the old grease out of the inside of the dust cap and off of the exposed parts. You should now be able to see the nut that holds the rotor in place, as pictured to the left.

    Next, the caliper must be removed in order to get the rotor off the spindle. Loosen the 2 large bolts with a 19mm socket and breaker bar. These bolts are torqued to over 100 ft-lbs, so expect them to be tight! Next, the brake line and it’s bracket must be dealt with. There are 2 basic methods for doing this. One method is to loosen the large nut on the bottom of the upper balljoint. With the nut removed, the brake line bracket can be slid off the balljoint, and the caliper can be hung from the frame with an old wire coat hanger. The advantage to this method is that the brake system is never opened, and the brakes will not need to be bled. The other method is to place a drain pan under the rotor, and remove the threaded brake line fitting from the caliper with the 11mm flare nut wrench. I find this easier than wrestling with the large balljoint nut (see my upper balljoint replacement article for details). If you don’t have a 11mm flare nut wrench, you can use a normal open end wrench on the brake line. Just be careful, as the soft material of the fitting is easy to strip or round off! Once that caliper is off, it’s an easy job to install new brake pads.

    Clean spindle

    The next step is to remove the nut that secures the rotor to the spindle. If you look closely at the first picture up above, you can see that the round collar on the nut is “peened” to prevent it from loosening. In other words, the nut has been whacked with a chisel. Use a small screwdriver or punch with a hammer to push the collar back into it’s original shape. The nut can then be unscrewed with a large adjustable wrench or channel locks. Once the nut is removed, pull the rotor straight off the spindle. The outer bearing and the thrust washer may fall out as you remove the rotor, so be ready to catch them. With the rotor removed, use some more paper towels to clean all the old grease from the spindle, as pictured to the right. In this picture, you can also see the threaded mounting points for the caliper bolts.

    Removing the grease seal

    While the outer bearing pratically falls out of the rotor, the inner bearing is retained by the grease seal. To get the inner bearing out, that grease seal must be removed first. Turn the rotor over on it’s back, and pry out the seal with a screwdriver, small pry bar or seal removal tool. With the seal removed, the inner bearing can be lifted out.

    Bearing race

    Now, it is time for some cleaning. Using your favorite solvent, wash all the grease from the bearings. Use a bunch of paper towels to remove the old grease from inside the rotor. Once all the parts are clean, close inspection is necessary. Check the rollers in the bearings for any signs of pitting, scoring or discoloration. In addition to inspecting the bearings, take a close look at the bearing races. The bearing races are hardened steel carriers that are pressed into the relatively soft cast iron of the rotor, as seen here to the right. They are examined for signs of wear just like the bearings. If there are any serious wear marks on either the bearings or races, they should be discarded and replaced as a set. Do not install new bearings into old races! This can lead to premature wear and/or failure of the new bearing!

    Slide hammer

    Replacing the bearing races is not too difficult. The only slight challenge is getting the old races out of the rotor. Since I have a slide hammer (pictured to the left) puller in my tool collection, I use it to pull the old races out. The slide hammer works by securing the brake rotor, and then inserting the jaws of the puller into small recesses behind the race in the rotor casing. The weight on the hammer is then forcefully slid the length of the shaft, until the weight impacts the end. The force generated by the impact will pop the race out of the rotor in one or 2 strokes.

    Detail of rotor

    If you do not have access to a slide hammer or other puller, the races can be driven out with a hammer and a long punch. The trick to doing this is to strike against the back side of the race, alternating blows on either side. Once again, the small recesses in the rotor casting give you a good spot to strike against. One of these recesses can be seen in the picture to the right, which shows a closeup of the area where the inner race will sit.

    Clean bearings and parts

    Here is a photo of all my parts laid out on the table. Notice how I have them on a clean paper towel, instead of directly on my grungy workbench. On the far left of the picture is the inner bearing and race. To the right of the inner bearing is the smaller outer bearing and race. On the far right is the securing nut and thrust washer. Missing from this picture is the new grease seal.

    Hydraulic press

    Once the old races are out, the new races can be installed with a hydraulic press. I place a socket that is of a slightly smaller diameter than the race on top, and press against it, as seen in the picture on the right. Another perfectly acceptable method is to use the same socket, and drive the race into the rotor by striking the socket with a hammer. When the race is fully seated, the sound of the blow will change from a “thud” to a more solid sounding “ring”.

    With the new races installed in the rotor, it’s time to prepare the bearings by packing them with grease. Force fresh grease into the cavities of the bearings until the grease oozes out from the sides of the rollers along it’s entire circumfrence. The inner (larger) bearing is installed first. Simply drop it into the bearing race. A new grease seal is then installed on the inside of the rotor. The rotor is now placed back on the spindle. Pack in more fresh grease into the void between the rotor and the spindle. Then place the inner on the spindle, and push it into the rotor until it seats. Next comes the thrust washer, and then the securing nut. If you are wondering why there is no picture next to this paragraph, it’s because my hands are too greasy to pick up the camera! While turning the rotor to prevent the bearings from binding, tighten the nut the adjustable wrench or channel locks. The nut should be snugged until there is no wobble in the rotor.

    The proper amount of torque is something you have to get a feel for. One test is that you should be just barely able to wiggle the thrust washer with a screwdriver. Also, when installing new bearings, I tend to tighten the nut a little more, assuming that new bearings will “wear in” after a few miles. Once you have the nut to your desired tightness, strike the top of the collar of the nut with a chisel to lock it in place. Don’t forget this step – If that nut gets loose or falls off while you are driving, your wheel could fall off!

    With the bearings installed, re-install the brake calipers. Those large caliper bolts get torqued to 100 ft-lbs. If you opened the brake lines to remove the caliper, you will need to bleed your brakes. I’ll cover that process in a future article. Use a hammer to tap the dust cap back on the rotor, and re-install the tire. Once you have the front wheel back on the ground, tighten the lug bolts. Now either move to the other side to finish the job, or if you are done – hit the road! Properly done, you will not need to mess with your front bearings again for many thousand miles.


Front Shock Replacement 2wd Vanagon

By Tom Carrington

I have been pretty happy with the way my ’85 Crew Cab rides, with the exception of a few stretches of roadway on my daily commute. Two of the spots are up and down slight hills that have intersecting streets running across it. Kinda like that new Passat commercial or those car chase scenes in San Francisco where cars get airborne (with a cop right behind them), but on a much smaller scale. I don’t smoke, so my ashtray is full of change. If I forget to close the ashtray cover and run across these intersections at more than 20 MPH, the front suspension bottoms out and then unloads so violently that the floor gets covered with coins. The other section of road has a series of high spots and dips that must have been made by some paving contractor with a wry sense of humor. While crossing it, annoying up-and-down oscillations build up and continue for several seconds once back on smooth pavement. These issues put me in the mood to install some new shock absorbers.

I did a little bit of price shopping and research using the Vanagon Archives about which shocks were recommended. Three brands were mentioned most often: Bilstein, Boge and KYB. Bilstein is considered a premier brand and is expensive, at approx $90 per shock. The Boge shocks came stock from the factory, and cost about $50 each. The KYB’s were the least expensive, at just under $27 each at the Bus Depot. I had recently put a full set of KYB’s from the Shock Warehouse on my family station wagon with outstanding results, so the choice of getting another set of KYB’s was a no-brainer. The Vanagon shocks specified by KYB were GR-2 low pressure gas for the front, and Gas-A-Just high pressure gas for the rear.

Follow along as I go through the steps for replacement!

Tools & Supplies Needed:

  • 15mm combination wrench
  • 7/8″ combination wrench
  • 1/2″ drive ratchet
  • 23mm socket
  • 19mm lug wrench
  • Sturdy jack and jack stands

    Step 1 – Preparation:
    I started by replacing the front shocks first, since that end was closer to the garage. The repair procedure starts just like many others. Engage the parking brake, or place blocks of wood around the tires. Loosen the front lug bolts, then jack up the front of the van. Place jack stands under the frame so that the van won’t fall on top of you. Remove the lug bolts, pull off the front wheels and place them out of your way. Once all the prep work is done, it’s time to get busy!

    Step 2 – Remove The Upper Shock Mounting Nuts:
    Top of shock with cover

    The shaft of the shock extends up through a mounting hole in the frame and is held in place with a nut on the shaft’s threaded end. A protective plastic cover, seen here to the left, is placed over the nut to keep it from corroding. Use a screwdriver to pry the cover off the top.

    Corroded top nut

    Once removed, you should be able to see the nut that holds the shock in place. On the passenger side shock, the Canadian road salt had gotten under the cover, and corroded the nut so badly that I could not use a wrench or even vise-grips to get the nut loose. To get the shock off, I ended up using a reciprocating saw (Sawzall) with a 8″ metal cutting blade and slicing through the rubber bushing just below the large washer. As the blade went through the rubber, it made plenty of smoke!

    Preserved nut

    On the driver’s side, life was much easier. I was expecting to have to cut the top of this shock off as well, but was pleasantly suprised to find that the installer had put grease all over the top mounting nut before installing the protective cover. The result was that I was able to easily remove the top nut with a 15mm combination wrench.

    Step 3 – Remove The Lower Shock Mounting Nuts/Bolts:
    Lower shock bolt

    The bottom mounting point for the front shock is a bolt that passes through the lower control arm. I was not able to get the 23mm nut off at first, so I squirted some penetrating oil on the nut and heated it with a propane torch. I’m not sure if this is normal, or another result of my Crew having spent it’s first 13 years in Canada. After about a minute of heating, I was able to remove the nut with no damage to any of the threads.

    side-by-side comparison

    Once the lower bolt is removed, the shock literally falls out of the van. I played with the shocks for a few minutes once they were out, extending and compressing them by hand. They offered almost no resistance in either direction and I could hear the air gurgling inside of them. They were obviously worn out. Not only that, they were just plain old grungy as well! In contrast, the KYB’s had a smooth, consistent resistance to either compression or extension. Here’s a picture of one of the old shocks next to one of the new KYB’s.

    Step 4 – Transfer Rock/Dust Shields:
    Shaft to protect

    Looking at the picture above, you can see that the new shocks do not come with replacement rock/dust shields. The shields extend the life of the shock absorber by preventing small stones from hitting and pitting the finely polished shaft, seen here to the left. If the shaft gets pitted, the seals will wear out prematurely. The rock/dust shields are no longer available from the dealer, so the old ones need to be installed on the new shocks.

    The rock shield is held captive by a small metal sleeve that slides over the shaft of the shock absorber. I had to use a hacksaw and chisel to remove it from the corroded shock, while it simply slid off the other shock. Learn from this-Be sure to grease those sleeves when you do the install! The sleeve is only about $3.00 at the dealer, but they had to special order (of course) it. Once the sleeve is off, the rock shield slides off as well.

    Rock Shield

    Re-assembly is pretty easy. First, slide the dust shield down the shaft, as seen to the left. It can only go so far due to the stepped-down shape of the shaft (see picture above).


    Then slide the metal sleeve down to retain the rock shield, as seen to the right. You did remember to grease the sleeve before installing, right?

    Step 5 – Installation:
    Installing new shock

    To install the shocks, get back under the front of the van and slide the shock up through the hole in the lower control arm, as seen here on the left. If the shock is too long to make the angle into the lower control arm, manually compress the shock fully and then quickly stick it up the hole before it expands. You will be able to do it…these are low pressure gas shocks, so they expand slowly. Another alternative is to raise the van even higher in the air. I went for the “compress and stuff” method myself. I was doing the work at night to avoid the heat, and you can see where the light caught the front license plate of one of my other toys. 🙂

    jack holding up lower control arm

    Once you have the shock inside the lower control arm, re-install the lower mounting bolt and nut. The nut gets torqued to xx ft-lbs. With the lower mount secure, place a floor jack under the lower control arm.

    See the sleeve?

    Slowly jack up the lower control arm to slightly compress the spring. Keep jacking until you see both the shaft and sleeve of the shock sticking up through the upper mount, as seen on the left.

    Squished bushing

    Place the supplied rubber bushing over the shaft, followed by the washer. Next comes the nut to secure the top of the shock. I normally tighten the nut until the rubber bushing is compressed to just over the diameter of the washer that retains it. In this case, the nut bottomed out just as I was about to stop turning. Gotta love that! Smear some grease on the nut and stud, and re-install those plastic protective caps.

    Step 6 – Test Drive:
    With the new shocks mounted, re-install the front wheels and re-torque the lug bolts. Then take that test drive. At first, I installed only the front shocks due to time contraints. My impressions immediately after the install:
    The ride is slightly harsher. I wasn’t really interested in obtaining a firmer ride, and now I can really feel bumps in the seat of my pants. I’m wondering if the KYB was the right choice, or if I should have gotten the Boge shocks. I have crossed those coin-spilling intersections several times now, and I am amazed at the difference. The suspension no longer “unloads” like before, which makes crossing *much nicer*. That stretch of road near my home that used to make the Crew oscillate so much has been tamed…very nice.

    After 2 weeks of driving on the new front and old rear shocks, I am satisfied with the results. I must have already become accustomed to the firmer ride, since I don’t notice the bumps like just after I first installed the new fronts.

Water pump replacement for 1.9l Waterboxer Vanagon

By Tom Carrington
I should have known it was coming. The signs were there. I just chose to ignore them. What signs? For the past month or so, I have been topping off the coolant reservoir. Not much, just maybe a pint every couple of weeks. I was kinda worried that I might have a head gasket problem (most Wasserboxer owners live with this constant fear) but there were no drips or puddles in the driveway, or strange smells from the exhaust. The temperature gauge always read fine, so I happily fed my engine’s habit. Life was good.

Or so I thought.

Note: Click on thumbnails for expanded images!

Just a week ago, the habit turned ugly. I noticed a slight smell of antifreeze after parking the van, but still no drips or other visible signs of a leak. I was more concerned, but not enough to fully investigate the problem. I should have. A day later, my Van was leaving a distintive coolant trail along the path I drove. Hansel and Gretel would have been proud. Bottom view of leaky pumpThat night, I got under the Van to assess the problem. With the engine running, coolant was spewing out of a small hole in engine, just behind one of the pulleys. No ordinary hole, coolant from this one indicates that one of the seals in the water pump had failed. My preferred FLAPS (Olympic Auto Parts, College Park, MD (301) 474-1030) had a brand new German-made pump in stock, complete with new gaskets and an O-ring for $62.00. A quick check at The Bus Depot web site showed they had a similar pump for $50.00. Since I needed it *now*, off to Olympic it was! 20 minutes later, I had a new pump. Follow along as I go through the steps for replacement!

Tools & Supplies Needed:

  • 12mm and 13mm wrenches and sockets
  • 3/8″ drive ratchet, 3″ and 6″ extensions and universal joint
  • Screwdrivers
  • Slip-joint pliers
  • Gasket scraper, putty knife or razor blade
  • Sturdy jack and jack stands
  • New water pump (comes with O-ring and gaskets)
  • 2 coolant pipe gaskets
  • 2 gallons antifreeze
  • RTV silicone sealer
  • Large bucket or wide dishpan (To collect old coolant)

    Buried pumpThe worst part about replacing the water pump is it’s location. Down near the heat shield in front of the muffler with not too much room to work. Mentally prepare yourself for some fancy fingerwork. Some of the work you will do from above the engine, some from through the license plate door, and a little bit from below. In the picture to the right, the pump is behind that single-groove pulley with the belt riding on the top of it. The multi-grooved pulley is bolted on the end of the crankshaft.

    Step 1 – Disconnect the Battery:
    First things first. We will be working near the alternator, so go ahead and disconnect the battery ground strap. The battery is under the front passenger seat. Sure, you could leave it connected, buy why risk it?

    Step 2 – Drain the Coolant:
    Unless you are determined to replace *all* the coolant on your engine, don’t bother following the Bentley procedures for draining your coolant. What I did was remove the hoses from the thermostat housing by loosening the hose clamps and tugging them off. I had a large bucket underneath, T-stat housingand managed to capture almost all of the coolant. As long as you are there, you might as well disconnect the 2 temperature senders. Once the flow of coolant had subsided, I raised the passenger side of the van with a jack under the frame just forward of the rear tire to get more to coolant to drain out. After the flow slowed to a small trickle, I lowered the Van back down on all fours. The point of all this was to get the coolant level in the engine low enough so that none would spill out when I removed the pump.

    Step 3 – Remove the Water Pump Pulley
    The new water pump does not come with a pulley, WP pulleyso the one on the old pump needs to be removed. The pulley is held on to the pump with 3 13mm head bolts. The problem with removing the pulley is that there is no good way to hold the pulley still while removing the bolts. If you have an air compressor, no big deal – just use an impact wrench to “zip” the bolts right off. But here’s a trick for the rest Alternatorof us. First, loosen the pivot and adjustment bolts on the alternator just slightly. Lever against the housing of the alternator to tighten the belt *much* tighter than you would normally do. Re-tighten the bolts on the alternator and place the Van in gear. With the belt that tight, and the transmission in gear, the pump pulley should be held still while removing the bolts. A 13mm combination wrench will work just fine.

    Step 4 – Remove the Coolant Pipes
    There are 2 steel pipes that carry coolant from one side of the engine to the other. Coolant pipeOn the passenger side of the Van, both pipes are secured to the water jacket with bolts or PITA boltsnuts/studs, as pictured to the right. Remove both the bolts and nuts. On the driver’s side, the upper pipe slip-fits into the thermostat housing with an O-ring seal and the lower is bolted to the front of the water pump. It is the bolts that secure the lower pipe to the water pump that will try your patience, seen here to the left. You can just get a 12mm wrench on the bolts, but only about 1/8 of a turn can be made at a time. Take a deep breath, prepare to spend some quality time flipping your combination wrench again and again, and remove the lower bolts.

    Step 5 – Loosen Hose Clamps
    Tstat hoseAfter completing Step 4, you deserve a break, so here’s an easy one. The thermostat housing is connected to the driver’s side cylinder head by a short hose. Loosen the clamps on the hose. You will be removing the water pump and thermoststat housing as a single unit. Now is also a good time to remove the hose that goes from the expansion tank to the top of the water pump. Use a regular pair of pliers to squeeze and and hold the clamps open while you work the hose off the casting.

    Step 6 – Remove Water Pump
    The water pump itself is held on to the WP boltsengine by a single bolt and 2 studs with nuts. Use a 13mm socket with a universal joint and extension to remove these. At this point, there should be Water pumpnothing holding the pump to the block, as seen on the right. Once the bolt/nuts are gone, the pump and thermostat housing assembly can be pulled straight back towards the rear of the Van. You may have to wiggle the assembly to get the hose connection from the thermostat housing to the water jacket to break free.

    Step 7 – Separate Water Pump from Thermostat Housing
    The thermostat housing is attached to the water pump by two long, 13mm head bolts. T-stat boltsI had to apply a little of heat with a propane torch to get the bolts to turn freely. The heat helps expand the aluminum of the housing, which releases the housing’s grip on the bolt. Once free, I used a wire brush to clean the bolts, and a drill bit to clean out the bores in the housing. At this point, the disassembly phase of the project is over. If you were thinking of installing a new thermostat, now would be the best time.

    Step 8 – Clean All Mating Surfaces
    Having clean mating surfaces Old sealerClean surfaceis the key to preventing leaks around gaskets. Nothing worse than putting everything together and seeing a leak! Use a scaper of some sort to remove any traces of old gasket material from the thermostat housing and the mating surfaces for the coolant pipes. The area on the engine where the water pump mounts should also be cleaned to ensure a good seal. On the left, you can see the sealant residue from the water pump. The view to the right shows the same area, after a good cleaning.

    Step 9 – Let the Assembly Begin!
    Start by installing the thermostat housing onto the water pump. Next, put a *very light* coating of RTV sealer (I like Permatex Ultra Copper) in the o-ring groove on the back of the water pump. Push New Pumpthe o-ring into the groove, and smear a *thin* coating on the face of the o-ring. Do not use more than a paper-thin coating of sealer! If you do, the excess sealer can get into your cooling system and clog things up!! Put the water pump and thermostat housing assembly back on the engine, and tighten the nuts and bolt. The next step was the worse part for me. Using a new gasket, re-install the lower coolant tube. The bolts are tricky to line up and get started, but take your time. Once both of those are tightened down, take a break….you will want one! The upper coolant pipe goes in much easier. Coat the o-ring with a little RTV, and slide it into the thermostat housing. The other end bolts to the cylinder head on the passenger side. Reinstall the water pump pulley and alternator belt. Put the belt on extra tight to help while torquing the pulley bolts, then loosen the belt back to normal (1/2″ deflection). Re-install all the hoses and tighten the clamps. Hook up the wires for both temperature senders. You are almost done!

    Step 10 – Adding Coolant & Bleeding Air
    Before adding a single drop of coolant, open the engine-mounted bleeder valve located on the “H” shaped housing above the engine, seen here on the right. This will help prevent air from being trapped in the cooling system. Bleeder valveOnce you have filled the expansion tank, start the engine. Look for leaks at the pump and all of the hose and pipe connections. As the engine is running, the coolant level in the expansion tank will drop. Keep adding coolant until the level does not drop, and you no longer see air bubbles appearing. Close the bleeder valve.The next step is to get any trapped air out of the radiator. Screw the cap on the expansion tank, and turn off the engine. At the front of the Van, remove the grille around the headlights by turning each of the slotted fasteners about 1/2 turn. Jack up the front of the Van a foot or so and restart the engine. By raising the front of the Van, air bubbles should collect in the top of the radiator. Loosen (not remove) the bleeder screw on top of the radiator Bleeder Valve(seen here on the left) until you see or hear air being pushed out. If you see bubbles, then there is still air escaping. Once only a solid flow of coolant is escaping, tighten the bleeder. Get behind the wheel and rev the engine to about 2000 RPM for a minute or so, then loosen the bleeder again and check for air. Repeat this process several times until no more air is being pushed out when you open the bleeder. Shut down the engine and lower it to the ground. Fill the coolant reservior to the top, and put away all your tools, except for the 13mm wrench. As the engine cools, a vacum will develop in the cooling system, which will cause coolant to be sucked out of the reservoir, and into the system. After an hour or so of cooling time, check the coolant level in the reservoir, and fill if needed.

    Once done with the bleeding process, I tend to leave the grille off for a few days. New pumpUpon arriving at work or home, I will leave the engine running and crack open the bleeder valve on the radiator. It usually takes about 4 or 6 times before all the air has been purged from the system, in my experience. My new water pump is working just fine….although without the tell-tale trail behind me, I may have troubles finding my way back home! 🙂


Vanagon Clutch Replacement

By Tom Carrington

The clutch is responsible for taking the power produced by the engine and relaying it to the transmission, which ultimately turns the wheels. Ever since the first night I drove my 1985 Crew Cab in late 1998, I knew the clutch needed work. I was on a long uphill stretch leaving Fredericton, NB (Canada) for when it started slipping. Easing up on the gas would allow the clutch to regain its grip. I also found that the clutch would slip under moderate acceleration or any time I carried a heavy load. Since I haven’t had much free time lately, I resigned myself to driving gently in order to extend what time the clutch had left. Finally, in December 1999, it got so bad that I had to stop driving the van at all. It’s now April 2000, and I am in the process of replacing the clutch. Follow along as I wrestle the tranny out of the van and replace the worn parts. That’s right, you can pull the transmission without removing the engine!

Parts & Supplies Needed:

  • 6, 8 and 10 mm allen head wrenches, socket version preferred
  • 12-point CV bolt tool (may not be needed on all vans)
  • Assorted metric sockets and wrenches
  • Hydraulic or scizzors floor jack and sturdy jack stands
  • Plastic baggies
  • blah
  • Plenty of rags or paper towels
  • Old clothing

    Step 1 – Prepare the Van:
    Disconnect the battery. Raise the van high enough so that you can both get under it as well as slide the transmission out from under it. Support the van on the jack stands.

    Note:Click on thumbnails for expanded images!

    Step 2 – Unbolt the CV joints:
    CV joint boltsThe CV joints are bolted to the drive flanges of the transmission, as seen in this picture to the left. The bolts (6 per joint) will either be a 6 or 12-point design allen head bolt. I had a mixture, with 12-point on the passenger side, and 6-point on the driver’s side. Before attempting to remove the bolts, spend some time with a small pick and clean out the accumulated crud from the bolt heads. Failure CV joint in a bagto do so may result in you “stripping” out the head of the bolt, making it even more difficult to remove. Once clean, use a the 12-point tool or a 6mm allen head wrench to remove the screws from the joints. Once the joint is disconnected, place a platic bag over the end of the joint. This will accomplish 2 things: First, the plastic bags will keep the cv grease from getting all over you as you work. Second, the bags will help keep dirt from getting in the joints. I also like to take some twine and tie the axle shafts up to the frame to get them out of my way.

    Step 3 – Remove the starter motor:
    StarterDisconnect the cables from the starter motor, if possible. The starter is secured by an easy to remove 17mm nut on a stud at the bottom, and a not so easy bolt that passes through the engine case on the top. To remove the top bolt, open up the engine compartment and find the 17mm nut hidden under/behind the throttle body. Put a box-end wrench on the nut, and have a helper hold it or (in my case) jam the wrench so that it won’t move. Then slide under the van, and remove the upper bolt with a 8mm hex-head socket on the end of a 6″ extension. Once both bolts are removed, the starter can be pulled off and placed out of the way.

    Step 4 – Disconnect the shift linkage:
    Shift linkageLinkage removedUsing a 13mm socket and wrench or pair of 13mm wrenches, remove the bolts that hold the shift linkage to the transmission. One thing I noticed on my Crew Cab is that it was missing the dust boots from the linkage. I’ll be sure to replace those! Once the nuts are removed, the entire shift rod & linkage can be swung out of the way. Don’t bother undoing the linkage anywhere else. On the left is a picture of the shift linkage, and on the right is a picture of what the transmission looks like with it removed.

    Step 5 – Support the engine:
    Supported EngineThe engine is normally held up by the crossbar at the rear, and the transmission nose mount in the front. Before the transmission is removed, you must find another way to support it. What I did was span the engine compartment with a 4×4″ that was laying round. A chain was hooked in a cast hole right at the case seam, ran up and around the 4×4″, and hooked back into itself. Leave enough slack so that the front of the engine can drop about 2-3 inches.

    Step 6 – Unbolt the nose mount:
    Nose mountSlide a jack under the center of the transmission, and raise it so that it just touches the tranny case. Remove the 4 bolts that secure the nose mount to the frame, as seen here to the left. Also disconnect the ground strap while you are there. You can now start lowering the jack, which will cause the whole engine/tansmission assembly to pivot. Continue to lower until all the slack in the chain is taken up.

    Step 7 – Unbolt the slave cylinder:
    Clutch slave cylinderNow that the transmission has pivoted down, it is easier to remove the 2 bolts that secure the clutch slave cylinder to the transmission. You will also need to remove a small bracket that secures the hydraulic line to the side of the transmission. By keeping the system sealed, you avoid having to bleed it later.

    Step 8 – Separate the engine and transmission:
    lower studRemove the nuts from the 2 lower engine studs, and the remaining nut/bolt combination from the top (The other upper bolt was removed with the starter). Lower the jack just slightly, and the transmission should start to separate from the engine. Now for the fun part – Push the transmission away transmission exposed!from the engine, without knocking it off the jack. You may have to lower the jack a little bit more as the transmission slides forward. Once you see the input shaft is clear of the clutch, go ahead and lower the trans all the way down to the ground. Drag that pig out from under the van!

    Step 9 – Remove clutch pressure plate:
    oily flywheelThe pressure plate is secured to the flywheel by 6 bolts with 13mm heads. Loosen each bolt evenly a few turns at a time until the tension is off the pressure plate. Once the tension is relieved, go ahead and finish removing them and pull off the pressure plate. The clutch disc is easily removed now as well. What you can now see is the surface of the flywheel that the clutch contacts. In my case, the reason for the slippage is pretty obvious…the surface of the flywheel is covered with engine oil. It looks like I will have to replace the crankshaft oil seal as well.

    Step 10 – Remove flywheel:
    Flyweel off!The flywheel is held on to the crankshaft by 6 large bolts with 10mm hex-heads. If you are going to remove them, either use an air impact gun or get a “flywheel lock” to prevent the engine from turning and use a 10mm allen head socket on a long breaker bar to loosen them. Once the flywheel is off, the seal can be seen. I’m now sending my flywheel out to a machine shop to have it resurfaced at a cost of $30.

    Step 11 – Remove oil seal and pilot bearing:
    Seal & pilot bearing removedI have a seal puller tool that works really well for prying out oil seals. You can also use a regular screwdriver to do the same thing. You want the tip of the puller/screwdriver just barely under the inside lip of the seal when you pry it out. This will help prevent engine case from getting scratched. When the seal comes out, make sure you don’t accidentally remove any of the shims that go on the crankshaft. To remove the pilot bearing, I use a simple tool that was made out of an old shaft. I ground the end of the shaft to form a hook that will catch on the inside lip of the bearing. I clamp Vise-grips onto the shaft, then whack the side of the Vise-grips to pull out the bearing. Simple and inexpensive, yet effective!

    Step 12 – Change tranny oil:
    Fill plugIt’s easiest to change the transmission lube while the unit is out of the van. No tranny lube running Drain plugdown you arm this way! A 17mm hex-head wrench is needed to get the drain and fill plugs out. If the tranny is still in the van, make sure you start by loosening the fill plug before you drain it. Because if you can’t get that plug out, you won’t be able to refill the transmission!The fill plug is on the side of the transmission case, near the shift linkage as seen on the left. The drain plug is located under the bellhousing, as seen on the right.

    GL-4 gear lubeOnce all the old oil has drained, it’s time to refill. The oil capacity of the tranny is about 4.5 US quarts. Be sure to use transmission oil that is rated GL-4 ONLY! Do not use GL-5 or combination GL-4/GL-5 rated oil! The difference is that GL-5 transmission oil has more “Extreme Pressure” or “EP” additives to help it lubricate all the gears and bearings. The problem is that the higher concentration of EP additives can corrode the brass synchronizers in the transmission. When filling the transmission, you want to add just enough oil so that it is up level with the bottom of the fill plug. There is a service bulletin from VW that recommends filling it until the oil level is 1/2″ below the fill plug to make it easier to shift. I have never had a hard time shifting any of my Vanagon transmissions, so I am staying with the “fill it level with the plug” spec.

    Step 13 – Install new oil seal and pilot bearing:
    Before installing the new seal, use some “zero residue” electronics cleaner to degrease where the seal will be installed as well as the threaded holes in the back of the crankshaft. While you are at it, use the same cleaner to remove any traces of dirt/oil from the flywheel bolts. I like to install the pilot bearing before the seal by simply tapping the bearing into place. Don’t tap on it directly, use a socket that has the same outside diameter. I use a small steel plate to install the seal evenly, which will get it flush with the surface. Then I take the same plate and turn it on it’s end, and tap several more times around the circumfrence to seat the seal in the bore. Now’s a good time to put some hi-temp wheel bearing grease in the bore of the pilot bearing and on the inside lip of the seal.

    Step 14 – Re-install flywheel:
    Once the flywheel is back from being resurfaced, give it a good cleaning to get any grit from the machine shop rinsed off. To help prevent oil leaks, remove the O-ring from the inside of the flywheel. The old O-ring in my flywheel was hard as a rock, and may have been the source of my oil leak! I have seen too many “mechanics” ignore the O-ring, and simply reuse it. I say replace it…it’s cheap insurance! Be sure to clean out the groove the O-ring sits in. All sorts of crud gets built up in that groove, which can prevent a good seal from being made. Install a new O-ring in it’s place, and wipe a thin film of grease over it.

    Another commonly neglected but important part is the small felt washer that sits between the flywheel and the pilot bearing. This washer acts as a seal, which both keeps the grease in the pilot bearing, and the abrasive clutch dust out. Leaving it out is an invitation to early pilot bearing failure. If you look closely at the inside of the flywheel, you will see the ridge that retains this washer. I tried to get a picture, but my digital camera would not take a shot up that close.

    To install the flywheel, line up the roll pin hole in the back of the crankshaft with the corresponding hole in the flywheel. Use a rubber mallet to tap the flywheel into place. Once the flywheel is on a little, thread the flywheel bolts into the Resurfaced flywheelcrankshaft and use them to evenly pull the flywheel in until it seats against the crank. In the picture to the left, you can see the resurfaced flywheel. Notice that both the clutch surface and the raised surface where the pressure plate bolts to have been cut. This is important! For any thickness of material that is removed from the clutch surface, the exact same amount must be removed from the pressure plate mounting surface. This ensures that the proper distance relationship between the clutch disc and pressure plate is maintained. If this is not done, the clutch will fail prematurely. Probably not right away, but it will happen sooner than if the flywheel was machined properly.

    Next up, time to install the flywheel.

    According to Bob Donalds of Boston Engine, “The flywheel has 2 torque specs depending on the how old the manual you are using. The newest Bentley lists a torque spec of 44 ft pds and a 1/4 turn and the older books have a spec of 80 ft pds. This applys to all type 2 and was the orignal spec for the Vanagons. 80 pds is the spec I use on all type 2 and Vanagon torque plates and flywheels and yes I do reuse the bolts with no loctite when they are not to beat up as some times happens when removed.”

    I took Bob’s advice with one slight change. Once the flywheel was seated, I removed the bolts, and applied Loctite® #271 (Red – high strength) to the threads. Then I re-installed them and torqued the bolts to 80 Ft-Lbs.

    Step 15 – Install new clutch disc and pressure plate:
    Clutch disc held in place with alignment toolThe clutch kit that I bought from the Bus Depot included a new clutch disc, pressure plate, throwout bearing, pilot bearing and a nifty clutch alignment tool. The purpose of the tool is to hold the clutch disc in the proper position while the pressure plate is installed. This makes it easier to mate the engine and transmission back together. Place the clutch disc against the flywheel, and simply insert the alignment tool to hold it in place, perfectly centered on the flywheel.

    Pressure plateNext up is the pressure plate. Line up the pins sticking out of the flywheel with the holes in the pressure plate, slide it on. The pins will hold it in place while you get the bolts started. Apply Loctite® #242 (blue – low strength) to the threads of each bolt. Snug down each bolt until they are all finger tight and just touching the pressure plate. The tighten them evenly a few turns at a time until they have fully seated the pressure plate. Torque the bolts to 20 Ft-Lbs. Once the plate is secured, go ahead and pull the alignment tool back out of the disc.