I want a van! Where can I get one?
Well, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Denver, or New Mexico, you’re in luck, because Vanagons are plentiful in your area. If you live in New England, the South, or Midwest, they’re a little less common, and you may need to travel to find your dream van.
Places to search online include:
What should I look for when purchasing a van?
The first thing to check when buying a Vanagon is the head gaskets. (This isn’t a known problem with EuroVans.) You should be familiar with the head gasket problem, as described in the document ‘Vanagon head gasket leaks’ elsewhere on this site.
Next run a Carfax to ensure that the title is good and that the van hasn’t been in any major accidents. You will need the VIN so if the seller doesn’t want to supply that, move on, they are probably trying to hide something.
You also want to ask for records of work completed. Having an extensive mechanical history of your van from shops that know what they are doing is worth it’s weight in gold. I have bought vans that have all the records back to when they were new, and the work was done by either the VW dealer or reputable shops. I have also had mystery vans where you knew nothing about the history of the van. The ones with the detailed records had much less surprises than the ones with no records. In other words you will save thousands of dollars buying one that has been well maintained, versus buying a question mark van on Ebay. Yes the Ebay one is cheaper, but there is always a reason.
Rust is a big issue if you are buying a van that has lived in a rust prone environment for at least part of it’s life. Inspect the seam that is horizontal on the driver’s side and goes from behind the driver’s seat back to the rear wheel well. It is about three inches above the bottom of the sheet metal. This one usually rusts first. Inspect the rest of the seams closely and look for any sign of rust or brown color, bubbling under new paint, etc. Also inspect the areas around each window seal where the seal meets the body. Pop the rear hatch and look in the lower corners on the inside. Finally look underneath at the front door step wells. Usually the rest of the underneath will be in good condition as they did a great job undercoating these vans from the factory. Usually the rust is visible from above the van first. If it is clean up top, usually the underneath is also fine. If it is rusty up top where you can see, then inspect underneath as well. If the van has seam rust or rust around the window sills, just know that it will get worse over the course of the next few years, especially if you plan on using it in the winter in the North East. Repairing rust damage and repainting the van can be very expensive (4-12 Thousand dollars!) depending on how much work needs to be done so buy low enough to factor this in.
What are the dimensions of a Vanagon?
A Vanagon Syncro is about 1.2″ (3 cm) taller than a standard van.
What are the dimensions of a Vanagon Camper?
A Vanagon Syncro is about 1.2″ (3 cm) taller than the standard camper. A Vanagon Syncro 16″ is about 2.4″ (6 cm) taller than the standard camper.
How do I connect a 2nd battery?
Take a look in the battery compartment under your driver’s seat. Many Westy’s came from the factory wired to accept an aux battery. Look for a relay (silver or black cube about 1″ by 1″ by 1″ with several electrical terminals). If you have one of these then all you need is the proper battery, a ground strap, and a bit of wire and crimp-on connections. Note that the factory setup for the aux. battery will only supply power to your fridge and cabin light. You’ll have to run an additional power line to your dash to power your radio if you want it on aux. power. The fridge will deplete the battery in two or three hours.
Here’s what you need to do to connect an auxilliary battery if your bus comes with the relay installed. You should have a few basic electrical skills, if not, get some help from someone who does.
Disconnect your primary battery at the ground strap.
Disconnect the 2 red wires leading from the fuse box behind the drivers seat from the relay terminals. These wires lead to your fridge and cabin light.
Connect these two wires to the + terminal on the aux battery.
Run an 8 or 10 ga wire from the + terminal on the aux battery to terminal #30 on the relay. This terminal supplies current to charge the aux battery when the van is running.
Connect a ground strap to the aux battery.
Reconnect the ground strap on the primary battery.
That’s it. With this configuration, the aux battery supplies cabin power whenever your engine is not running. When your engine is running, the alternator charges both batteries and supplies cabin power. (Note: To start your engine with the aux battery, you’ll have to jump it to the main battery.)
Note that there aren’t any heavy-duty batteries that fit well into this space (11″l x 7″w x 6″h). A wheelchair battery fits, and gives you about 33 amp-hours. If anyone knows of any perfect-fit deep-cycle batteries, please send me mail.
Derek Drew has installed a deep-cycle 150 AH battery under the drivers’ seat, with the top of the battery ‘sticking up’ an inch or so. If you want to do this, Derek writes:
Completely remove the tray cover. Trim away the corner of the swivel base for the drivers seat so that seat can still turn without hitting the battery (you trim the right rear corner off the seat with a sawzall or similar device). Spray paint the sawed edge of the swivel base with black paint. Hammer the narrow mounting strip for tray cover into the upright position against the woodwork to the rear.
Optional: buy a pie tin to put over the battery. Cut the front edge of the tin if necessary, and coat with same color grey rug material.
The mysterious ‘Silver Socket’
The ‘silver socket’ is a European-style auto accessory outlet. It was installed in all ’74 – ’84 Westfalia campers imported into the U.S. According to Ronald Turner, the ’74 and ’75 Westies came with a small air compressor that used this socket. (The spare in those years came deflated!)
A plug which fits this socket is available from Hella (for about $12.) You can wire this plug into 12 volt accessories that you wish to use with the socket. You can also get a plug for these sockets from BMW motorcycle dealers (for between $10 and $35 – shop around!) They’re used on BMW motorcycles to power heated vests.