Vanagon – misc. updates

I haven’t been posting much recently, work and garden chores have been taking my time. One good thing about the work time is that my welding is slowly improving. Helps having a good teacher and access to the best equipment. One day I might be able to make a good aluminum weld that is more than one inch long.

But some things are happening on the vanagon front. First off, I replaced the LED light strip on the rear of the lower cabinet, doing away with the pierced moulding experiment. Mainly due to the fact that 6 LED elements failed on the initial install, but also I didn’t like how I drilled the holes. The LED strip is in an anodized aluminum channel



Staying with LEDs, I installed a couple of feet of strip above the footwells of the front seats. They are wired to go on with the doors opening. Not the greatest mod in the world, but fun to do.



When I was younger I thought that ski boxes, or coffins as I dismissively called them, were stupid. But what do you know, I’ve changed my mind and I found a really old school Thule Combi-Box 250 for sale for $50 and I bought it. So why the change of attitude towards these things? In a word, chairs. Yup, I’m fed up with stowing the folding camp chairs behind the back seat. Now they will go up top, and the fishing rods too. I haven’t mounted the box to the van yet, I still have to make some modifications to my roof rack attachments so I can get the box on the right spot on the roof.


The bigger news is that I was given a 2008 Subaru EJ25 motor. Good friend Simon had it in his ’91 syncro and it had been making a brapping clstter upon acceleration. All kinds of things were tried to stop the noise, none of them worked and the final opinion that it was perhaps a rod bearing. So he swapped in another engine and gave me the suspect one.


The generous gift has put me on the spot about future engine transplant. I really have a soft spot for VW inline 4 engines. I had one in my ’82 van (1800 Digifant) that ran flawlessly from 1994 to 2009 (van got T-boned and written off). I’ve been nursing the idea of a 2.0 litre I4 in the syncro. I have all the parts needed except one of the big ones – a diesel gastank. The starter in the 12 ‘o’clock position with the diesel bellhousing so it needs a differently moulded fuel tank to clear the starter. Those tanks are not so common over here on the northwest coast of North America so I haven’t been very quick to get an I4 installed. My dawdling and initial lack of interest in my stock WBX engine has resulted in me not doing much about keeping my current motor in good shape. Bothe the front and rear exhaust manifold need replacement, but the studs.bolts holding them on to the head are really rusted and decayed. I know that they will be hell to remove. Plus I have a slight coolant leak on one head (happens during cold part of winter) so it means some sort of head work even without the exhaust problem.

But then again I have a spare WBX engine that I have been just dicking around with. Why don’t I take the heads off it and see if they are good enough to use on the van’s engine? That way I can replace the exhaust manifold and head leak relatively quickly and keep the WBX in my van running long enough for me to get the Subie engine attended to (or get and I4 built up :)).

I had to drill out a couple of the exhaust studs on the spare heads, nothing, not even oxy-acetylene heat would budge the buggers. One of the drilling out operations went awry and I had to fill the hole by tig welding then re-drill and tap.

So far the heads look usable. One head has pitting, the other does not, just a hint of some corrosion beginning.

The two heads, I took a wire brush to one, and removed one set of valves (valves check out ok, and within spec on fit in valve guides).


Close ups of the pitted head.



Doesn’t look like any crack between the valve seats.


But is that a casting mark or a closed crack? I don’t think it is anything to be worried about.


The start of some corrosion on the un-pitted head.


And example of what the rest of the sealing surface looks like.


So I’ve got these heads, a gasket kit, a new front exhaust manifold and a used rear manifold. The plan is to drop the engine and tranny (I want to fix the diff lock light switch on the tranny, easier if tranny is out) and swap over the heads etc. I hope to do this in the next couple of weeks.

  1. #1 by famillysyncro on May 15, 2013 - 7:44 pm

    Hi Alistair

    The aluminium channel for the led strip is the way to go, easy and clean install.
    I like the light in the footwell, especially a warm color like that.
    I might take a look at it if I drop the dash for sound insulation.

    Have fun with your work on the motor. Do you think you could fill those pitting on that head with a TIG welder and shave it since you have the required equipment?


    • #2 by albell on May 15, 2013 - 10:19 pm


      I think the JB weld will be enough. I’m not a good enough welder to feel confident in filling the crevices, I worry about overheating and warping the heads.

      I agree about the aluminum channel for the LEDs, much nicer.



  2. #3 by Emilio San José on May 22, 2013 - 3:55 am

    I saw your idea of ​​the LEDs, and I bought some to install, thank you very much!

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