Archive for November, 2011

AAA – around another airport

Congratulations to fellow Vanagon mailing listmember Frank G. on the successful launch of the Curiosity Rover. Frank sent these pics:


Vanagon – heater control light, LED hack

Years ago I made some LED lights for the instrument clusters before they were commercially available. They didn’t look pretty, but they worked. On my old neglected website I have some pics and text.

I still have those early models.

If you want to see how to make a much neater version, check out this German site. Don’t miss his clock lighting fix either.

I also hacked up a heater control bulb/socket to take an LED. I am embarrassed to show this effort, but as ugly as it is, it does work.

So embarrassing that I had to have a go at it again. Here is a burned out stock bulb/holder.

If you look closely at the slot in the plastic you can see a thin copper wire attached to the silver spade connection. Right adjacent to the “step” in the plastic the spade has a bent inward tab that secures the bulb and the spade in the holder. Bend up that tab (one on each side of the holder) and the bulb and spade will pull out.

I clipped off the bulb and then soldered on a resistor. Btw, you can decode that resistor value yourself 🙂 and there are online calculators to determine what resistor to use using led voltage rating and supplied voltage.

Then the spades were soldered on.

And the whole shebang pushed back into the holder. The resistor prevents the led from being inserted fully, but it is pretty secure as is.

Not perfect, but a whole lot better than that early mess. I’ll take some pics at night to compare with the stock incandescent.

Update Nov 28 2011 – being absent minded, I installed the led modified lights in the heater controls and the rear heater fan switch without taking pics of before swap. To be honest, it is a bit of a “meh”. It does match the rest of the dash now, but I can’t help but wanting something better, brighter. It was a 10,000 mcd LED in the heater control light, pretty bright I thought, but not as bright as I want.

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ATA – scrapyard finds

Local metal recyclers must have a contract with one of the aviation companies around here for I’ve been seeing more aircraft parts in the yard. Wing sections, helicopter sections, and recently – these motors.

Update: the engines are from the BC aviation museum. Sometimes hard to understand why museums chuck stuff out, but there are space and money constraints I guess.


Vanagon – heater control lights

This post was prompted by some Vanagon mailing list members being unaware that the heater controls are supposed to be illuminated, and the light can be dimmed by the dash light dimmer control.

Some warnings about taking off the heater control faceplate. The faceplate plugs into the dash via 2 posts on the back of the plate that fit into holes in the dash. One is located at the lower left of the plate, the other the upper right, but not at the corner, about 1.5″ to the left. A small pry bar or an old table knife can be used to gently pry the plate off. Be gentle, just as with practically all of the plastic in these old vans, the posts can be brittle. When the face plate is off, lightly coat the posts with grease to make later removal easier. The heater control knobs also can be stuck on tight. Try not to pull on the rubber knob at the end of the lever, and try pushing the lever in a little before pulling out. Again, a bit of grease will help in the re-install and removal when you go at them some other time.

So here are the controls illuminated.

Now to take the face plate off. First pull off the fan switch knob. Next carefully pull off the heater control levers (note their orientation first). Be careful, try and control the tugging so that when the lever moves it does not catch on the plate and break it. Squint in the slots and you can see how the levers can catch on the edges of the slots. The old table knife comes in handy again, pry down the lever to guide it out of the slot as you tug. Then pry off the plate. A word on putting those levers back on – use the table knife (again!) to pry down the metal arms in there, as you push the lever on.

The grey/blue wire is power from the light dimmer rheostat, the brown wire is ground. The bulb is integral to the black bulb housing so it has to be replaced as a unit. Here is a white bodied one from Van Cafe. It is the same bulb that is used in the rear heater fan switch.

Update: Dave M. wrote: “I was recently (in the last 3 months) able to go to my local VW dealer and obtain replacement bulb sockets with replaceable bulbs. You tell them apart as the ones you can replace just the bulbs in are white sockets instead of black. The sockets themselves have the same type wiring connection, so it is simply plug and play.” I wonder if this is the same as the white bodied one from Van Cafe?

Now that rear heater fan switch. Remove the knob and carefully pry the face plate out. Its should pop out, but to be honest you will reduce the chance of breaking one of the little plastic tabs if you reach in through the heater controls hole and prise the tabs from behind.

And here is that same bulb and bulb holder, popped out of the switch plate for this shot.

I have hacked into one of those bulb holders and wired in a white LED and resistor. I’ll go into that in another post. Hope this helps a bit Annie 🙂


Vanagon – changing the colour of cool white LEDs

Last year I bought a set of LED festoon lights to replace the interior lights in the van and one for the glove compartment/map reading light. For some reason I bought cool whites for the interior lights and a warm white for the map light. I tried to convince myself that the cool white gave a clean and modern feel (ha!), but no, as friend Simon puts it “it’s like a morgue”. I have 4 door activated interior lights; driver’s door, passenger door, and one on each side at the back seat area. So the morgue effect is throughout the van. In contrast, the map light does give an acceptably warmish cast.

I suppose I could buy new LEDs, warm white, but no, I have to try another route. I was talking to the lighting guy at a local theatre and we got onto the subject of lighting gels. I explained the morgue situation and he gave me an old Lee 204 gel. The specs for this filter can be found here.

Here is the filter:

I cut a little strip and wrapped it around the festoon LED and secured it with O-rings. I thought that just putting a rectangular bit of filter in the light housing would allow some cold white to “leak” out of the ends.

Back into the light housing.

And the result? Well it is different, warmer. Will have to wait until dark to really be sure it works, but the comparison pics are promising.




Update: After dark test – still not as cozy as incandescent lights but much better than before.


ATA – float plane tugs

Wet and stormy here and I can’t be arsed to photograph the viscous coupling plate pairs and comment on the wear patterns and present the theories  of plate shape and hump condition. So instead, here are three pictures of float plane tugs taken today.

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Vanagon – syncro viscous coupling anatomy – part 1

This post is just to clarify, a little, how the plates inside a viscous coupling (VC) are arranged. My post on replacing a VC shows more pictures of the assembly and the seals.

Maybe a couple of pics of the VC (end plate removed) to set the scene. Note the end shims, and the absence of the circlip (groove for it in shaft is visible) that keeps the plates all together.

Another angle, end shims removed.


There are 24 pairs of plates in the VC. One set are keyed to drive (or be driven by, semantics) the VC housing itself. So these plates have notches around the edge that fit in internal splines on the VC housing. They also are the plates with the circular holes in them. The other set of plates, slightly smaller in diameter, are keyed to drive the central splined shaft. They have slots in them. The propshaft from the transmission is connected to the housing, the pinion of the front differential is connected to the central shaft of the VC. The silicone fluid filling the VC is what mediates the power transfer between the plates. I won’t be going into the silicone fluid in this post.

There are spacers between pairs of plates, and these spacers fit into the hole in the middle of the plate that is keyed to the housing. The spacer is (all measurements are approximate) 0.065″ thick. The plates themselves are 0.040″ thick. So with the spacer partially lying in the hole of one plate, it only projects about 0.025″. That means the plate pairs are separated from each other by 0.025″. I think it is time for a simple diagram.

Does that diagram make sense to you? You can make out the spaces between the plate pairs in this picture of the entire stack o’ plates out of the housing but still on the shaft.

Oops, looks like I left the last plate in the housing. Also the aluminium ring I am using to support the plates is causing the plates at the end to be pushed upwards. Of course when in the housing they are all aligned. Here is a closer view, no mistaking the pairing of the plates.


And here is a stack of 2 pairs, plus one shaft keyed plate on top.

I think I have established that the plates are in pairs 🙂

I’ll post pictures of the wear patterns on the plates and try and relate that to the pairing of the plates in the next part. All comments and corrections welcome.





Vanagon – radiator replacement

Last week I swapped  new radiator into my friend Simon’s 91 syncro westy. What forced this swap was the failure of the threaded insert where the fan thermoswitch goes. We were trying to install a new switch (old switch was not working properly) and the insert just gave up the ghost.

So Simon left the van at my house and came back a few days later with a new rad and I had the pleasure of doing the install. A bit of background on this van’s radiator, about a year and a half ago we did the thermoswitch replacement, the story is told here. I think I should have nagged Simon a bit more to get a new rad back then, that eroded switch could not have been a good sign.

Removing the rad is a pretty straightforward, if messy, job.

– drop spare and remove clamshell

– clamp off coolant lines

– disconnect wires to rad fan

– remove upper and lower grills

– disconnect thermoswitch (obviously I did not need to do that!)

– remove the (probably rotten) cardboard wind deflectors from around the rad

– I found that removing the passenger side “L” bracket ( 2 X 13mm bolts)  first allows you to get access to the spring clamps on the coolant lines, leave the driver’s side bracket untouched for time being to hold the rad in place. Passenger side bracket removed:

Note: see the rubber washer on the plastic”tit” between the coolant hoses? There is a tit on each corner of the rad, the upper ones fit into holes in the van body, the lower ones into holes in the “L”  brackets. Don’t lose the rubber washers. Well, go ahead, lose them. Garden hose washers would probably make an ok substitute.

Driver’s side bracket still in place (pic taken before I removed the lower cardboard wind deflector):

– cut or undo any cable ties holding up the coolant hoses or the fan wiring so that the radiator will not hang up when it comes down.

– remove the driver’s side “L” bracket. Careful, the rad will drop down.

– drag the bugger out from under the van and swap the fan and shroud ( 10 mm self tapping screws) over to the new radiator.

Installation is harder than removal as you have to fight gravity and get those upper tits into the holes while lying on your back below the van. A helper at this point would be, well, helpful. Don’t forget that the driver’s side “L” bracket interferes with the spring clamps on the coolant hoses, and don’t forget to push up on the “L” brackets as you tighten the bolts to make sure the rad is seated tightly.

Now the fun part, Sawz-All plus Simon meets the old rad. He cut it in half then cut the plastic end caps off. We found the remains of the threaded insert and a whole lot of gunk at the bottom of the rad. Remember it is a 2-pass rad, hot comes in and directed by end cap up to upper half of rad, then it goes across from passenger to driver’s side and down the other end cap, then back across lower half. The junk was found in the lower, passenger side, ie just before the exit and just below where the thermoswitch (rad fan) is installed.

Note: I drained all the coolant and flushed the system on this van, then recharged with fresh coolant. I found bleeding the Vanagon and Subie EJ25 combo to be much more of a chore than stock or my old inline four in my ’82 westy.



Vanagon – local meet November 2011

A hardy few met at Beaver lake today. All Westies (if I can include my conversion), three syncros and two 2wd. One Tdi, one Bostig, one 2.5 Subie, and two stock wasserboxers. Was fun to kibitz  and see each other’s vans.

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Vanagon – sliding window rain screen – improved

My friend Stephen improved my sliding window rain screen by making larger cutouts at all four corners. I think this will keep out the rain better.

Update Feb 4 2020.

Here is a very quick and dirty pdf drawing of the screen. My old draughting teacher would be appalled. The width of the screen could be adjusted to suit, my first version was narrower.




Except my old Beetle was pale blue and the rack was on the rear, but the skis were wooden.

Here it is, Pine Pass in Northern BC, December 1978.

And my travelling companion, same place.


Vanagon – sliding window rain screen

Simon’s van is modelling a quick project made with a bit of scrap 1/8″ Lexan. The dimensions are 7.5″ X 17.5″, and the corners on one side cut out (about a 1″ radius). The idea is that the screen stops the rain from coming in the sliding window when it is opened for ventilation. To be field tested, I don’t know if I made it too long, it bulges out a fair bit.

Update: see here for improvement.

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Vanagon – Westy kitchen panel graphic

Jim Felder made this up, kudos to him. He writes:

“Today I got ambitious on a project I have been wanting to do for a long
time. It’s a replacement overlay for flaking, peeling and rusting front
panels for 83-up vanagons. It’s in brown, of course, because that’s what I
have. If someone will scan a grey one, I will make that version available
(I need to get the color right… if someone just wants to scan and sample
the CMYK mix in photoshop, that will work too).

You should be able to have this printed out on a variety of substrates,
depending on the capabilities of your local sign shop. Cut out the holes
for the LEDs (white circles, you may even be able to get this printing on
the backside of lexan with clear windows for the LEDS instead of punching
them out). Remove your old metal panel and sand and respray it. Cut the
printed file out at the outline, it should fit exactly within the debossed
inset of your panel.”

pdf file here:

LED panel layout

Here is a jpeg version:

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Vanagon – found object

I found this back in ’93 when cleaning out an ’82 diesel westy that I was re-selling. Also found a South Pacific missile base souvenir lighter, but I can’t lay my hands on that right now.

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ATA – fly past on November 11

Heard the drone of multiple piston engines around 1015 this morning, caught them on their second pass. Nanching CJ-6.


ATA – Vickers Viscount at BC aviation museum almost finished

The museum is only a 5 min drive from my house, and dropped by this afternoon to get my fix. The restoration of the Vickers Viscount is almost complete, the interior looks great. Other pictures of the Viscount can be found here and there on this blog, more pictures and the history of this particular plane is found here. The Harvard in the workshop just got a fresh coat of yellow paint.

Viscount cabin looking aft.

Ditto, looking forward.


Can’t get enough of the Douglas A-26 Invader.

The light was all wrong to get a shot of the cockpit. One day I have to ask to sit in the left hand seat.

Viscount and Invader.



Vanagon – D15 connector issue

Yesterday, driving the ’86 syncro, going down a long hill and the van died (noticed when throttle re-applied). Pulled over and it started back up after a couple of tries, funny I thought. Got to my destination and parked for a few hours. Then I tried to start the van and it turns over and catches for a second then dies. Try again, same, then subsequent tries has it turn over but no start. Noticed no fuel pump noise with ign on (and my van does cycle fuel pump with ign on.)

Looked in the engine compartment with ign on. No hum from idle valve. Pulled the fuel pump and ecu relays and replaced with new (during which I jumped contacts and did get fuel pump to run). No change, no idle valve hum and no fuel pump, and no start.

Then I pulled cover from fuse panel and pushed on fuses and generally jiggled panel. Fuel pump cycled on, and I could start the van. Drove home with no problems. I suspected the known problem of the D15 connection on the back of the fuse panel. This connector supplies power from ign switch back to engine compartment and can power (depending on van year and VIN) the fuel pump relay, the idle control unit, coil, and the crankcase breather heater. Gets a little muddled in that the crankcase heater was retrofitted to early ’86 vans (and that seems to be the situation in my case). The wiring diagram shown below is specific to my van.

No matter what version you have, the D15 connector is oveloaded. Note in the diagram there is another connector in the “D” plug that is on same current path as D15. This unused connector, D23, is a bigger Molex than D15. Today I pulled the fuse panel down and removed the “D” plug. D15 looks like it has overheated.

I couldn’t find a spare larger Molex connector to make the switch over to D23, but I did put a new connector on the black wire to D15 and spliced in a pigtail so that when I get the right connector I can plug in to D23 (see the unused larger hole at the bottom?).

Update: I did finally find a large female, molex type, connector for that pigtail, and it is installed into D23.

I can’t say for sure that this connection was responsible for my no start problem yesterday, seems likely though.

Addendum: dug up the Samba thread on this subject, worthwhile reading.


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