Used Vanagon Buyer’s Guide

By Tobin Copley and Christa Ovenell, for the air-cooled Volkswagen bus mailing list and web site at This checklist is designed primarily for 1968-79 Volkswagen Westfalia campers, but should have application for other vehicles as well. I have also added some Vanagon specific updated (Admin 2017).

This checklist adapted from the “Used car buyer’s guide” published on the internet by Scions of Lucas (SOL), (c) 1991. Permission to freely copy and distribute all or portion of this checklist is hereby granted provided that all of the following apply: it is not made part of another copyrighted work, the source is acknowledged, this copyright notice is retained, and no aspect of the distribution is for profit.

Original work by SOL based on a guide written by Lawrence Buja & Roger Garnett


Name: ______________________________________ [affix original ad here]
Address: ______________________________________

Phone: (h) ______________ (w) ______________

Date/Time: ______________________________________
1. Can you describe the car and its condition?
2. Does it run well?
3. How is the:
Any Rust? Ask specifically:
– under windshield?
– under battery tray(s)?
– wheel wells, esp. behind front wheels & in front of rear wheels?
– rocker panels?
Paint? (original? repainted?–why?)
Head gaskets?
4. If it is a camper, is it a Westfalia or some other conversion
5. What special features or options does it have?
6. Why are you selling it?
7. How long have you owned it? …had it for sale?
8. Is it currently registered and licensed?
9. Where is the car located?
10. How many miles does it have on it? [15K/yr?]
11. What problems have you had with the car?
12. Has it ever been hit or in an accident?
13. What work does it need done on it now?
14. How much are you asking for it? or What’s the least you’re willing
to take for it?

Why am I buying this car?
What do I intend to do with it?
Will it be my commute vehicle?
What service and support is locally available?
Will I be driving it year-round or summer only?
Do I want to work on the car more than driving it?
Am I willing to pay a premium because someone else has already done most
of the serious work on the car?
What is the most that I’m willing to pay for this car?
What is the least that I think that the car can be had for?

1. Ask the seller if you can have the van inspected by a competent VW shop before you purchase it. A pre-purchase inspection should be paid for by you, but is cheap insurance against hidden issues. Buying a van sight unseen over the internet with no inspection (I am looking at you Ebay) is highly discouraged.

2. Always inspect/take delivery of the vehicle in the broad daylight,
never in the evening/night or in the rain.

3. Arrange to inspect the bus at a time when the engine will be stone
cold so you can check valve clearances if necessary and cold-starting

4. A clean piece of cardboard placed under the engine/trans after the
test-drive will help show fluid leaks.

5. In some states, older non-titled vehicles may be titled with just a
bill of sale. Other states may require an additional security bond to
be posted. Use extreme caution in either of these cases!

6. Require seller have the vehicle pass all state inspections (safety,
emissions) at a mutually agreeable shop (NOT one of his choosing)
before you pay for it. Old (>30days) inspections are of absolutely no use to

7. A general guide to reading exhaust smoke:
Black smoke = unburned fuel
Valves bad or out of adjustment? Carb out of adjustment?
Blue smoke = burning oil
Accelerating: Piston rings bad? Decelerating: Valve seats/guides bad?
8. Get the VIN and get a Carfax before seriously considering a purchase as this should give you peace of mind that the van was never wrecked.

— TOOLS TO BRING FOR INSPECTION: (Allow 2-3 hours for the inspection)

Essentials: A cynical, mechanically-minded friend, Your standard tool
set plus 17mm allen key (or one made of 10mm bolt and 2 nuts),
Voltmeter, Compression Gauge, Tire gauge, Flashlight, Magnet, the 2 different spark
plug sockets, spray lube, clean rags Clipboard, pen and hi-liter to use
with a photocopy of this list, some cash, drivers license and copy of your
insurance showing you are covered driving the sellers car.

Optional: tow rope, starting fluid, jumper cables, timing light, ramps,
jack (floor or scissors), mirror, coveralls, rags, gas can, oil, duct
tape, wire, repair manuals, misc. fuses, calculator


Original Owner? ___________________________________________________
Carfax Report Results?_____________________________________________
Pre-purchase inspection report results?____________________________
Names/names of previous owners available? _____________________
What regular maintenance was done? Records? ______________________
When were the head gaskets replaced?______________________________
Who was your mechanic? name/address/phone? _______________________
What gas mileage have you been getting? ___________________________
Are there any repair or gas mileage records? ______________________
Oil change interval? ______________________________________________
Type of oil used? ____________________________________________
How old are the tires? ____________________________________________
Battery? _____________________________________________________
Has it passed emissions recently? _________________________________
Where? _______________________________________________________
Has any bodywork ever been done? __________________________________
Why? _________________________________________________________
Receipts? ____________________________________________________
Any mechanical work recently? _____________________________________
Where? _______________________________________________________
Receipts? ____________________________________________________
What work remains to be done or corrected? ________________________
Are there any missing parts? ______________________________________
Do you have any extra parts or wheels for it? _____________________
What new/aftermarket parts are in the car? ________________________
Receipts? ____________________________________________________
Was it ever used for towing? ______________________________________
Has it ever been crashed, burnt, stolen, hit or rolled? ___________
How was the car generally driven? _________________________________
On highway or in town? _______________________________________
Are the engine, transmission, steering, differential original? ____
(If not, why not? Origin and receipts?) _____________________
Do you have any books about the car or the engine? ________________
(repair books, owners manuals, history or general
interest, parts catalogs, club newsletters)
Any interesting history? __________________________________________
Has it ever been raced? ______________________________________
Are there any tools that come with the car? _______________________
Do you know of any parts cars or good parts sources? ______________

PART 2. EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR INSPECTION. (Don’t start the engine yet)

—OWNERSHIP VERIFICATION: (Do all of the following agree and seem right?)

Name on title: ____________________________________________________
Name on registration: _____________________________________________
Model/Year on title: ______________________________________________
VIN on title: _____________________________________________________
VIN on registration: ______________________________________________
VIN on dash: ______________________________________________________
VIN on door: ______________________________________________________
Mileage on title: _________________________________________________
Mileage on odometer: ______________________________________________
Price on title: ___________________________________________________
Asking price: _____________________________________________________
Blue Book price: __________________________________________________


___ _____ Title ready for transfer? Any liens?
___ _____ Do body numbers match those on title?
___ _____ Title in sellers name?
___ _____ Do body numbers match registration?
___ _____ Current Emissions certificate, < 30 days old?

___ _____ Current registration?

___ ______Current Plates?

___ _____ Current Safety certificate if req’d, <30days?



___ _____ Check door edges and underside for rust/tears

___ _____ Check doors/hinges for stress/tears

___ _____ Doors/hoods open/close freely? Rubs?

___ _____ Driver’s door / passenger door / sliding door / rear hatch / engine

___ _____ hatch

___ _____ Is anything obviously broken?

___ _____ Are lights cracked, dented or broken?

___ _____ Car sits level? (view from all sides)

___ _____ Are bumpers dinged? Rusty? Loose? Level?

___ _____ Rear bumper sooty or oily?

___ _____ Paint OK? All panels same shade? Cracks? Over spray?

___ _____ Any of the trim or hubcaps rusty or missing?

___ _____ New paint? Why? Any body ripples?

___ _____ Find bottom of trunk/side wells. Rust? Holes?

___ _____ Rust/repair on body? Fenders? Sills?

___ _____ Any Bondo? Fiberglas? (magnet) Why?

___ _____ Lift rubber mat in front door step. Rusty? Holes?

___ _____ Rubber parts and seals condition? Cracked?

___ _____ Any fender dings or misalignment? Why?

___ _____ Gas tank & fill hose OK? Gas smell?

___ _____ Door/engine hatch dings? Misalignment? Why?

___ _____ Jack in bus? OK? Spare tire good? Pressure? Jack points good?

___ _____ Have jack? works? Bilstein jack fits in all four jack points?

___ _____ Tires: Tread? Bulges? Cracks? (Check from under bus too)

___ _____ Tires all the same model/brand? LT / “C” rated tires?

___ _____ Rims: Bent? Rusted? Cracks? All the same?



___ _____ Brake disks grooved? Brake pads? Any leaks?

___ _____ Rubber brake lines OK? None brittle, cracked, etc.?

___ _____ Ball joint boots intact (upper & lower, check carefully)?

___ _____ Tie rods straight? Tie rod end boots intact?

___ _____ Look at underside of front door steps,

___ _____ Any under body/floor pan rust?

___ _____ Any rocker panel or wheel well rust?

___ ______Check particularly in entire vertical area immediately behind each front wheel. Pay special attention to inside of rocker panels, sliding door track.

___ _____ Are main frame members rusted? Dogs? Jack points?

___ _____ Is heater hose from heater boxes in place and intact? (Air Cooled only) ___ _____ Is there a underbelly gas heater (Eberspacher BA-6)?

___ _____ Cap from Westy sink drain in place?

___ _____ Anything dented? Bent? Welded? Why?

___ _____ Any evidence of ground clearance damage?

___ _____ Shift rod straight, linkage good?

___ _____ Shift linkage boots in good condition?

___ _____ Any leaks from transmission or differential?

___ _____ Use 17mm allen key to undo transmission fill plug and check fluid level ___ _____ Check for rust: rear frame members, jack points, wheel wells

___ _____ Check fuel lines under bus. All OK, no cracking, no wet

___ _____ connections?

___ _____ Fuel pump secure, no leaking anywhere?

___ _____ Turn, push/pull driveshaft by hand

___ _____ Any movement or slop? Shafts should move smoothly in/out, but not rotate  (try to turn them like you are revving a motorcycle, should have very little to no play)

___ _____ Constant velocity joint boots OK?

___ _____ (check all the way around, all four joints)

___ _____ Any oil leaks from engine? Where? _______________________________

___ _____ All lower engine tin in place?

___ _____ If engine tin oily, remove tin, search for probable source of leaking. Most likely source is push-rod tube seals, but check if leaking where cylinder mates with case. (Air Cooled only)

___ _____ Condition of heater boxes? Exhaust parts? Rusty? Solid & original?

___ _____ Patched/hacked? Properly aligned? Muffler dented?

___ _____ Look for rust under battery tray(s).

___ _____ Tire wear even?

___ _____ All shocks & struts damp OK? Any leaks? Creaks or squeaks?

___ _____ Tail pipe: Grey=OK, sooty/oily/greasy=Not-OK

___ _____ Anything hanging down, taped or wired up?

___ _____ Any non-stock suspension mods?

___ _____ Suspension loose? Jack up each wheel in turn.

___ _____ Pull on side/top of wheels (9 & 3 o’clock, 12 & 6)


___ _____ Anything broken? Patched? Leaking?

___ _____ Is engine clean? Any rust? Stock?

___ _____ All engine compartment seals in place? No light showing through from underneath (Air Cooled Only)

___ _____ seals?

___ _____ Has it overheated? Paint blistered?

___ _____ Check oil level. Look for oil leaks visible in engine compartment.

___ _____ Any play in main crankshaft pulley?!

___ _____ Any play in any of the other pulleys?

___ _____ Belts cracked? frayed? missing?

___ _____ Heater hoses OK? Hoses stiff? Cracked? Patched? (Air Cooled only)

___ _____ Vacuum hoses stiff? Patched? Capped? Missing?

___ _____ Fuel lines stiff? cracked? wet? (!)

___ _____ Is emissions equip original & working?!

___ _____ Are catalytic converters original & working?

___ _____ Distributor, cap, rotor, and points OK? Check ignition wires.

___ _____ Wiring harness appearance? Any new electrical tape?

___ _____ Any non-stock engine modifications? What?

___ _____ Remove grounding cable, check for shorts.

___ _____ Battery age/voltage ______/_____ volts


___ _____ Is anything broken? Torn? Patched?

___ _____ Open fuse box. Any missing? Any wiring hacks?

___ _____ Headliner OK? Gashes, mold, warping, screws missing?

___ _____ Carpets OK? Underlayment condition?

___ _____ Rubber covering over front seat risers OK?

___ _____ Check for rust under mat at front seat belt anchor points

___ _____ (remove 17mm bolt to check). Check rear belt anchor points

___ _____ over wheel well. (Both are very common–and hidden–rust spots)

___ _____ Rust, rot or water under the carpets?

___ _____ Any wiring hacks under the dash?

___ _____ Seats dirty or torn? Look under cover. Springs look broken?

___ _____ Do both seats adjust?

___ _____ Dash cracked?

___ _____ Windshield cracked? Chips? Scratched? Delaminating?

___ _____ Windows all open & close? Any cracks? Remember rear vent window! ___ _____ Mirrors all present and adjustable?

___ _____ Steering play? Does shaft move at all? Why?

___ _____ Brake pedal feels right? Smooth? Firm?

___ _____ Clutch pedal feels right? Smooth?

___ _____ All gauges/controls work? Stereo? Tape?

___ _____ Headlights high/low work? Lenses OK?

___ _____ Tail and side lights all work? Lenses OK?

___ _____ Brake lights all work? Any broken lenses?

___ _____ Turn signals all work? Any broken lenses?

___ _____ Windshield wipers & washer work?

___ _____ Heater, defroster, and fans work?


___ _____ All cabinetry in good condition? All doors/drawers lock closed securely? ___ _____ Wardrobe closet mirror in place and OK?

___ _____ Lower bed folds down OK? Cushion smooth?

___ _____ Upper bed folds down OK? Cushion smooth?

___ _____ Camping lights work?

___ _____ Dual batteries in place and OK? Isolator in place and working?

___ _____ Shore power hook-up works? A/C inverter OK? (If you have one)

___ _____ Propane tank OK? (look for rust, dents, corroded/bent valves)

___ _____ Front seat swivels OK?

___ _____ Front curtain accounted for? All snaps in place? Tears, rips?

___ _____ Check all other curtains. All there? Snaps all work? Tears, rips?

___ _____ Rear bug screen?

___ _____ Sliding door runs smoothly? Latches/unlatches OK?

___ _____ Side windows open/close/seal? Bug screens OK?

___ _____ Stove works? Test all burners, both high and low flame

___ _____ Stove pilot light starter and propane shut-off OK?

___ _____ Icebox/fridge OK? Check for cracks. Fridge cools on AC, DC, propane?

___ _____ Gas or propane heater installed? Works?

___ _____ CO2 detector installed/working?

___ _____ Sink pump works? City water connection works?

___ _____ Cabinetry to protectsink pump in place?

___ _____ Pop-top seals all good?

___ _____ Pop-top fiberglass OK? No cracks/leaks? Top sits level?

___ _____ Luggage rack tie-downs all in place and secure?

___ _____ Luggage rack bucket OK without cracks or warping?

___ _____ Pop-top opens OK? Latch releases smoothly and securely?

___ _____ Pop-top canvas in good condition? No tears, wear-thru spots or hacked patches? Canvas tight all the way around?

___ _____ Pop-top window covers OK? Zipper intact and runs OK?

___ _____ Pop-top bug screens OK? Zipper intact and runs OK?

___ _____ Pop-top canvas gasket where meets body tight and in good

___ _____ condition?

___ _____ Pop-top closes OK? Latch catches smoothly and securely?

___ _____ Safety equipment (seat belts, horn work?)

___ _____ Fire extinguisher(s) in place and properly charged?

___ _____ Rear Westfalia table (dining table) in place and in good condition?

___ _____ Rear Westfalia table leg in place? Table assembles securely?

___ _____ Front Westfalia table (for between front seats) accounted for and in good condition? Table leg for this table accounted for?

___ _____ Table assembles securely?


___ _____ Coolant Temp light should come on, blink, and go out! Connected?

___ _____ Oil warning light should come on! Connected?

___ _____ Charge warning light should come on!


___ _____ Oil warning light goes out?

___ _____ Charge warning light goes out?

___ _____ Do all idiot lights go on/out right?

___ _____ Are all the instruments working?

___ _____ Does it start easily when cold?

___ _____ Does it run smoothly when cold?

___ _____ Depress clutch several times. Noises?

___ _____ Oil Pressure: idle_______ 4000 RPM_______

___ _____ Volts/Amps: idle_______ 4000 RPM_______

___ _____ Any odd engine noises when cold?

___ _____ Exhaust condition/noises? Pressure even?

___ _____ Cap pipe with clipboard. Any exhaust leaks?

___ _____ Any deposits on clipboard? Does it smoke?

___ _____ Turn car off. Does it restart? Restart again.

___ _____ Now pull forward. Check for leaks on ground.

___ _____ Do you have any gas? Does gauge really work?

—TEST DRIVE (Allow 30-40 minutes) OK Not-OK

___ _____ Test the foot and hand brakes first!

___ _____ Relax, drive a bit to get used to it.

___ _____ How does car ride? Soft or hard?

___ _____ Revs smoothly to red line? flat spots?

___ _____ Any unusual engine noises/vibrations?

___ _____ Any drive train noises or vibrations?

___ _____ Any noticeable slop in drive train?

___ _____ Reverse works? Rev.lights go on/off?

___ _____ Trans shifts smoothly to all gears?

___ _____ Any clunks, whines, rumbles, rattles?

___ _____ Clutch smooth? Slippage on hill test?

___ _____ Hand brake works? Test against engine

___ _____ Is the low engine speed operation OK?

___ _____ Brakes strongly to stop from 50mph?

___ _____ Do brakes still work? Stops straight?

___ _____ Make 2 tight 360′ turns each way. Any noises?

___ _____ Accelerates smoothly from dead stop?

___ _____ Are there any hesitations/flat spots?

___ _____ Does the power seem right? Hill test.

___ _____ Is it running too hot or cold? Why?

___ _____ Drive beside a long wall. Any unusual sounds?

___ _____ Is it too noisy in general at highway speeds?

___ _____ Any noises or vibrations when accelerating?

___ _____ Any noises or vibrations when coasting?

___ _____ Any noises or vibrations when decelerating?

___ _____ Any noises or vibrations when braking?

___ _____ (Do each of these two or three times) Accelerate to 10 MPH in first, let off gas sharply: pops out of gear?

___ _____ Accelerate to 20 MPH in second, let off gas sharply: pops out of  gear?

___ _____ Accelerate to 35 MPH in third, let off gas sharply: pops out of gear?

___ _____ Accelerate to 50 MPH in fourth, let off gas sharply: pops out of  gear?

___ _____ Accelerate in reverse, let off gas sharply: pops out of gear?

___ _____ Any noises or vibrations when braking?

___ _____ Steering action loose or tight? Parallel park.

___ _____ Handles OK on bumps, curves and sharp corners?

___ _____ Tracks straight with hands off steering wheel?

___ _____ Brakes straight with hands off steering wheel?

___ _____ Brakes still work? Pulls? Pulse? Drag? Noises?

___ _____ Having fun yet? Comfortable? Does it fit?

___ _____ Do the heater, defroster and AC work right?

___ _____ Are all the instruments & lights still working?

___ _____ Now let it idle a while. Is temp stable/OK?

___ _____ Any exhaust, gas or other odors? Pull forward.

___ _____ Turn it off. Go back to check ground for leaks.

Have friend get out and watch the car driving: OK Not-OK

___ _____ Tracks straight? (Frame bent?)

___ _____ Smokes?

___ _____ Wheels wobble? Any noises?

___ _____ Leans? General impression?


___ _____ Open hood. See or hear anything unusual?

___ _____ Does engine seem too hot?

___ _____ Check for fluid leaks after shutdown. (Oil, Trans, Fuel, Differential)

___ _____ Check oil cap and dipstick for signs of water. (Oil off-color, brown/grey/white or bubbly)

___ _____ Compression test: (disconnect coil, remove ALL plugs)

___ _____ 1. Dry: 1____ 2____ 3____ 4____

___ _____ 2. Oiled: 1____ 2____ 3____ 4____

___ _____ Plug condition? (OK? Burnt? Oily? Sooty?)

___ _____ 1____ 2____ 3____ 4____

___ _____ Does it restart when warm? Why not?

COMMENTS: BILL OF SALE (buyer’s copy) Year, make, and model: ____________________________________________

VIN: ______________________________________________________________

Odometer reading: _________________________________________________

Date and time of sale: ____________________ ____________________

Seller hereby acknowledges receipt of $______________ in the form of _____________ for full and final payment for the above vehicle, which is sold “AS IS.” I, the seller, certify that I or we are the current owner of this vehicle, and have the authority to sell it. I hereby transfer full ownership of this vehicle described on this receipt to the buyer(s). I certify that the Title or ownership of this vehicle at the time of sale is subject to no outstanding taxes, fees, liens or encumbrances, other than those specified on the Title or listed below, if any, and none other, and that if there are, the seller will be held fully responsible for their payment. Buyer(s) hereby acknowledges receipt of the following: the signed certificate of ownership transferring seller’s full ownership of the vehicle and all of it’s contents to the buyer; various maintenance records; this signed bill of sale and the mileage disclosure statement; and all keys to the vehicle as well as delivery of the vehicle. ________________________________ ________________________________

(seller 1’s signature) (date) (buyer 1’s signature) (date) ________________________________ ________________________________

(seller 2’s signature) (date) (buyer 1’s signature) (date) Seller: _______________________

Buyer: _______________________ address: ______________________

address: _______________________

phone: _______________________

phone: _______________________

BILL OF SALE (seller’s copy) Year, make, and model: ____________________________________________

VIN: ______________________________________________________________

Odometer reading: _________________________________________________

Date and time of sale: ____________________ ____________________

Seller hereby acknowledges receipt of $______________ in the form of ______________ for full and final payment for the above vehicle, which is sold “AS IS”. I, the seller, certify that I or we are the current owner of this vehicle, and have the authority to sell it. I hereby transfer full ownership of this vehicle described on this receipt to the buyer(s). I certify that the Title or ownership of this vehicle at the time of sale is subject to no outstanding taxes, fees, liens or encumbrances, other than those specified on the Title or listed below, if any, and none other, and that if there are, the seller will be held fully responsible for their payment. Buyer(s) hereby acknowledges receipt of the following: the signed certificate of ownership transferring seller’s full ownership of the vehicle and all of it’s contents to the buyer; this signed bill of sale and all keys to the vehicle as well as delivery of the vehicle. ________________________________ ________________________________

(seller 1’s signature) (date) (buyer 1’s signature) (date) ________________________________ ________________________________

(seller 2’s signature) (date) (buyer 1’s signature) (date) Seller: _______________________ Buyer: _______________________

address: _______________________address: _______________________

phone: _______________________ phone: _______________________

ODOMETER (MILEAGE) STATEMENT (Federal regulations require you to state the odometer mileage upon transfer of ownership. An inaccurate or untruthful statement may make you liable for damages to your transferee, for attorney fees, and for civil or criminal penalties, pursuant to Sections 409, 412, and 413 of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972 (Pub. L. 92-513, as amended by Pub. L. 94-364) and applicable state laws.) I, the seller __________________________, state that the odometer mileage on the vehicle described below now reads __________________ miles/kilometers. Circle ONE only: (1) I hereby certify that to the best of my knowledge the odometer reading as stated above reflects the actual mileage of the vehicle described below. (2) I hereby certify that to the best of my knowledge the odometer reading as stated above reflects the amount of mileage in excess of designed mechanical odometer limit of 99,999 miles/kilometers of the vehicle described below. (3) I hereby certify that to the best of my knowledge the odometer reading as stated above is NOT the actual mileage of vehicle described below and should not be relied upon.

___________________________ ____________________________ _________ |Make |Model |Body Type

_____________________________ _______________ _____________ |Vehicle Identification No |Year |Dealer Stock No. Circle ONE only: (1) I hereby certify that the odometer of said vehicle was not altered, set back, or disconnected while in my possession, and I have no knowledge of anyone doing so. (2) I hereby certify that the odometer was altered for repair or replacement purposes while in my possession, and that the mileage registered on the repaired or replacement odometer was identical to that before such service. (3) I hereby certify that the repaired or replacement odometer was incapable of registering the same mileage, that it was reset to zero, and that the mileage on the original odometer or the odometer before repair was ________________ miles/kilometers. ________________________________ __________________________________

(seller 1’s signature) (date) (buyer 1’s signature) (date) ________________________________ __________________________________

(seller 2’s signature) (date) (buyer 1’s signature) (date) Seller: Buyer: phone: phone: address: address: —————————— —————————————————————————- Tobin T. Copley, M.A.

B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS & UBC Voice:(604) 822-6219
Dept. of Health Care & Epidemiology UBC Fax:(604) 822-4994
University of British Columbia St Paul’s Hospital voice:(604) 631-5753
Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Updated by Admin in 2017.  Suggestions to make this list better are welcomed!

We need your help!

As you can see is relaunching in the Word Press format for 2017!  This is great because it makes it very easy for me to add information and articles to the site.  When I was moving information from the old site onto this new one, the problem I am running into is that the information on the old site is very dated.  For example, they listed many different brands of tire working with the Vanagon, and that was true back around the year 2000.  However in 2017 I could only find 3 that were properly rated and currently being sold.  I need your help writing up to date articles for this site.  I want to be the repository for Vanagon knowledge in the universe.  The first place a new Vanagon owner or potential Vanagon owner can come and find out about their van from the experts.  If you can write an article, please send me a message through the site.  I will review it, edit it if necessary and post it with your name on the article.  You will become immortalized in the annals of Vanagon history, and also reap the rewards of the love of all Vanagon owners everywhere.  We will benefit from your wisdom and experience.  It is a win-win.  Please think about how you can help and then let me know.  Sincerely, Your gracious Admin.

Vanagon Tires 101

Vanagon tires

The Syncro Westy of 1987 called for minimum load index (L.I.) of 97. Later models have been reported to me to call for 99 minimum on 14×5.5″ rims and 107 for 14×6″ rims.

Here is a chart of load index (L.I.) ratings:

97 730kg 1609-1652 pounds
99 775kg 1709-1763 pounds
107 975kg 2149-2200 pounds
Reinforced sidewalls

Tony Peet writes:

Reinforced sidewalls are extremely important for Vanagons because their high center of gravity and narrow track puts excessive forces on the sidewalls! (Stand up and lean to one side and then imagine what would happen if your bones/ligaments etc were “mushy”!)

Some list members reported ‘cracks in the sidewalls’ — that is why it happens. The folks at Michelin have had more than a few of the wrong tires on Vanagons returned to them with cracked sidewalls, which can (and I don’t want to be alarmist here, but just inform) lead to what they call something like ‘bead failure’ (the inability of the bead to keep the tire on the rim I think) and resulting ‘catastrophic blowout.’ Not a pretty picture, not likely to happen, but a possibility in cases of extreme wear and something the list needs to be more aware of in my opinion.

This is why Michelin corporate was so adamant about the Agilis on the phone with me. One tech guy was not quite, but nearly, hysterical.

I hope this helps, and please, let’s be more conscientious about informing people – especially new list members/owners — about the sidewall considerations in tire shopping/purchasing — irrespective of what brand they chose.


Tire Recommendations

Tire recommendations

These tires have been recommended by members of the vanagon mailing list.
I have updated the list to reflect tires that are currently available in 2017

Yokohama Y356 from

Vredestine Comtracs on

Hankook RA18 Tires from

General Grabber Off-Road AT2

If you know of any more brands that are available in the two sizes recommended for the Vanagon 14″ Rim please let me know and I will add them. However please include a link to a site where they are currently available to purchase.  Also I am only interested in load range C or D tires that have the correct load rating for the Vanagon.

Vanagon FAQ


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:

The Samba
Your Local Craigslist
Pop Top Heaven
Westfalias for Sale .com

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?

Height 6’4″
1.93 m
Width 6’1″
1.844 m
Length 15′
4.57 m
A Vanagon Syncro is about 1.2″ (3 cm) taller than a standard van.

What are the dimensions of a Vanagon Camper?

Height 6’10”
2.08 m
Width 6’1″
1.844 m
Length 15′
4.57 m
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.

Vanagon Tire Tech

Tires are usually named with a series of codes. For example, one of the recommended tires for Vanagons is the ‘Yohohama Y356 LT 195/75 R14 (load range D)’. The latter part of this (195/75 R14) is a uniform code assigned to tires. This section tells you how to interpret this code.

Speed Rating

Sustained speed rating is designated by a letter code. Vanagons require a minimum speed rating of ‘R’. (Don’t be confused with ‘R’, though. In ‘195/75 R14’, the ‘R’ is means ‘radial’ and is not a speed rating.)

Q 99 mph 160 kph
R 106 mph 170 kph
S 112 mph 180 kph
T 118 mph 190 kph
U 124 mph 200 kph
H 130 mph 210 kph
V 149 mph 240 kph
W 270 kph
Y 300 kph
Z 149+ mph 240+ kph
(I’m not sure why ‘H’ is in there, except that some person thought it would be cool if ‘H’ stood for ‘high speed’.)

Tire widths

Wheel diameters are usually in inches and tire width in millimeters or a letter designation. In our example of ‘195/75 R14’, ‘195’ is the tire width in millimeters, and ’14’ is the wheel diameter in inches.

mm letter inches
80 MH 3.00
90 MJ 3.25
100 ML 3.50
110 MM 4.00
120 MP 4.50
130 MT 5.00
140 MU 5.50
150 MV 6.00
Shoulder heights

The shoulder height is stated as a percentage of the tire width. For example, in ‘195/75 R14’, the shoulder height is 75% of the tire width (195mm), or 146.25mm.

Load index

The load-index figure denotes the maximum load capacity of a tire when driven at maximum speed. Note that you have four tires, so you should multiply the load index value by approximately 4.

Vanagons & Syncros need a load rating of at least 97, while Syncro 16″ need a load rating of 104. In the chart below LI stands for Load Index and KG is Kilograms.

65 290 83 487 101 825
66 300 84 500 102 850
67 307 85 515 103 875
68 315 86 530 104 900
69 325 87 545 105 925
70 335 88 560 106 950
71 345 89 580 107 975
72 355 90 600 108 1000
73 365 91 615 109 1030
74 375 92 630 110 1060
75 387 93 650 111 1090
76 400 94 670 112 1120
77 412 95 690 113 1150
78 425 96 710 114 1180
79 237 97 730 115 1215
80 450 98 750 116 1250
81 462 99 775 117 1285
82 475 100 800 118 1320
119 1360

Miscellaneous codes

P Passenger
LT Light Truck
R Radial
B Belted
Tire Diameters

What is the diameter of a tire?
Here’s a table of tire diameters by width and profile, for your speedometer correction calculations. Eurotire, a nice-to-deal-with tire distributor in NJ, used to include this info and more in their catalogs.

14 inch wheels:
80 75 70 65 60 55
165 622 — — — — —
175 634 — 606 — — —
185 650 631 624 596 578 —
195 — 651 636 605 590 —
205 — — 652 — 602 582
215 — — 665 — — —
225 — — — — 626 604
245 — — — — 650 —
15 inch wheels:
80 75 70 65 60 55
165 646 — — — — —
175 660 — 632 — — —
185 674 — 648 621 — —
195 — — 656 635 615 —
205 — 681 669 647 627 607
215 — 692 682 661 639 —
225 — 694 — — — —
235 — — — — 663 639
265 — — — — 687 —
Diameters are in millimeters, with tire installed on narrowest rims approved for that tire size. Wider rims would give slightly smaller diameter.