Vanagon – Q and D head replacement – catch up and conclusion?

So the deed is done, but the doer not quite undone. It turned out to be more of a chore than I bargained for. Let me see if I can relate what happened from the time took the engine off the stand to how things are today.

The engine had to be removed from the stand to get the clutch and flywheel on. I decided to replace the main oil seal there. This pic shows two used seals on top row, lower left is a seal I bought before I bought the Victor Reinz gasket kit, and the lower right is the seal that came with the kit.


Side view, from left to right, the 2 used seals, the kit seal, and the bought on its own seal.


I decided to use the larger seal. Before installing I de-burred the case.


Not quite all the way in, should be recessed a little more. One of the old seals was used between hammer and new seal. Pilot bearing got some moly grease.


I didn’t forget to install new felt ring and new O-ring in flywheel (I used the clutch install tool to form and settle the felt seal in place a little nicer than what you see in the pic.


i installed the flywheel and tightened the bolts. There is no nice way to say this, I fucked up. What happened was the thrust bearing (which sits behind the thin shims behind the seal) had fallen out of its recess and jammed as I tightened up the flywheel bolts. It smooshed  over the the edge of its recess. When I figured out what had happened I was scunnered. I used a series of bearing scrapers to carefully cut away the smooshed part of the case, trying to not damage the flat section where the thrust washer sits. I checked the crankshaft endplay a few times and used a combo of shims to get at an endplay of 0.005″. Was the best I could do. So it was the thinner of the 2 new oil seals I finally ended up using (the thicker one destroyed during removal to fix thrust bearing).

Okay, after a little self flagellation I got back at it. The connection between the throttle body and the intake plenum needs a special gasket. A truncated cone affair and my old one was really torn up. Seems to be NLA, but I think a replacement is on the way to me (right Bill?) and in the meantime I wrapped some silicone repair tape around the plenum “spigot”. Turned out to be, well at least it appears to be, a fairly good fix.



Getting the engine mated to the transmission took me an entire morning. I had the transmission on a bottle jack so I could move it up and down, and the engine was on a hoist. Still it was difficult for me to get things connected. I finally got it on, and the joint sealed with silicone (one of those syncro things).

All the electrical, fuel, and coolant connections made. Engine filled with oil and coolant. Coil power feed removed and engine turned over. No oil pressure. None. Cranking and cranking, even a 10 second run with coil connected. No pressure. This job was killing me. Of course it turned out to be a rookie mistake by me. I should have packed a little grease in the oil pump to help it pull some prime. I got the pump primed by removing the oil filter and cranking until oil came out. Filter back on and then cranking.. pressure!

But not much pressure really. Cold idle was 25 psi, cold max pressure was 60 psi. When hot, oil pressure was close to zero, max was 25 psi. With oil temp >80C, and at 2000 rpm, oil pressure was 25 psi.  What the heck could be going on? I’m going to make a long story short. I removed skid plate and then got at the pressure relief valve. Took it out and measured the spring. From the Samba I found out that a new spring is 62 point something mm long. My spring was 59 mm long. So I made a spacer.



Back in it goes, start up engine… I got 30 psi cold at idle, max 75 psi. Hot pressures were 7-10 psi idle, 45 psi max, and just shy of 20 psi at 2000 rpm.

During all this the oil drain plug hole stripped. Damn and blast, what else can go wrong? I took a 14 mm bolt, one that was longer than the drain plug, drilled and rapped for a 13 mmm head bolt, turned down the head of the 14mm bolts, made a Delrin washer and ended up with a new plug that was longer and caught some of the remaining un stripped threads in the case. This will do until I put an insert in the hole.


Back to the oil pressure. Next step was to pull the oil pump cover and check the gasket. Then I pulled the cover from the oil pump. I was *this* close to putting it back on sans gasket, but I decided to use a 0.004″ gasket I got from local mechanic. I did not have this gasket before.  Ok, added a little grease to pump gears (to help in priming), all the other things all put back on, coolant replaced, oil replaced.
Engine start… cold pressures: idle 70 psi, max 90 psi. Hot pressures, idle 20 psi, max 60 psi, a solid 30 psi at 2000 rpm.  Much better. Turns out the gasket in the kit, the one for under the oil pump cover, was 0.012″ thick. Far too thick. BTW, the endplay for the pump gears measured between 0.002 and 0.003″. After driving around for a week I am still not happy with the oil pressure, I think I can do better. Hot idle (after hwy run) is only about 7 psi. I am going to pull the pump cover again and re-install with no gasket, just sealant.

There were other annoyances after install – poor fitting (new) exhaust pipes was the big one, but I won’t bore you with my griping. So here we are, engine in.


A closer shot of how the oil pressure sender relocation manifold fits in. God I hate non-black cable ties.


So after a week or so of driving? Well apart from my lingering concern about oil pressure I have 2 other niggling issues. One is a little oil leak from the engine end of #1 cylinder exhaust push rod tube. Probably no chance of it sealing itself, so I’ll be putting in one of the spring loaded push rod tubes that I found on this engine. I cleaned one up and replaced O-rings.



The second thing is a funny, intermittent scraping, rattling noise. I think the forward exhaust pipe is sometimes rubbing on the skid plate. Only happens with some torque on the engine, and not when revving when van parked.

To finish up this post I’ll mention a couple of tools that made this job a whole lot easier. First one is a bit of a surprise, “The Larry” miniature trouble light. Was given to me by good friend Stephen and it really does do the job. The clip is magnetic so the pen sized thing will stick. Gets into tight places, puts the light where you need it and not in your face.



A set of hose clamp pliers. This is a pretty cheap set but works quite well. Well enough to make you love spring clamps.


This tapered punch came in handy to line up recalcitrant bolt holes on the exhaust and my skid plate/


The job is not completely over, but I’ll say it was a success. Tragedy + time = comedy, I’m laughing now.

  1. #1 by famillysyncro on June 19, 2013 - 3:41 pm

    I really like the set of hose clamp pliers. The way those are made seems to give you a better access than a regular plier.
    Looks like a colorful engine with all those cable ties…..
    Like that small light too, really useful.

    At the end, you did a good job since you have a good motor running again for a lot of miles without trouble.


    • #2 by albell on June 19, 2013 - 6:26 pm


      found them at Princess Auto. I wanted to get the cable type sold by Sears, but not available in Canada. But they worked out really good. I used the bent shaft ones mostly.

      The little light is surprisingly good. You can place it right close to where you are working.

      Oh the cable ties… I don’t like the coloured ones 🙂



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