Archive for category syncro specific repairs

Vanagon – Syncro trans case mod

Not mine, a friend, I just did the simple machine work. Not really much to see just a slight mod to an added bearing retainer ( one side milled down to clear casting) and corresponding webbing in mating case milled down to clear the retainer.

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Vanagon Syncro – some shift linkage mods

During the engine and trans out ordeal the last month or two, I added a couple of mods. One was a new shifter “cup”. The part that fits over the ball thingy attached to the selector shaft.

I had made a few different versions of this part over the years and was using a simple cylinder shaped aluminum one. Decided to swap in a stainless version I made some years ago. Also made aluminum version of roughly same design but I liked the stainless. You can tell which is which in this pic.

You see both are split bottom designs. Doing away with the stock method of a roll pin to attach to the shift rod. I think it’s better with the bolt. No slop at all. Here it is with boot on. The fit of the ball in the cup is close, not binding close, but close. Lubed with sylglide.

Here’s the old oily dirty simple version. oh and you can see the guide bushing in its bracket. And I had put in a zerk fitting on the cup.. why? for gods sake.

Another thing I did was make a new plastic bushing that guides the shift rod just infront of the above part. My Syncro did not come with the booted bushing found in later syncros or the ones with the “bad weather package”. Consequently the bushing gets hit by road spray and dirt and slush etc. You have to routinely clean and grease it. I’d like to have boots on it, but until then I made a Delrin bushing with a Teflon liner. I won’t grease it. To reduce the possibility of the Delrin transmitting more vibrations to the shift rod than the softer stock bushing, I added an o ring around the middle, located in a groove. The computer model shows the groove in a refined model. I added similar groove to the part after I took the pic. The grooves at each end are for boots if I can find suitable.

Yeah, always for me the first go round of making something brings up things I’ve overlooked.


Vanagon – syncro starter repair

Tuesday morning the van turned over slowly, but did start. I had to drop by a couple of places before getting to work, and on the second stop the starter died. Nothing, no click, no movement. Did a rolling start to get to work and there I checked out things ( connections, battery) and decided the starter was kaput.

I have to admit that the starter had been acting up on occasion for the last 6 months or so. Occasionally it would spin but not engage the flywheel. I agree, I should have known better.

As luck would have it, workplace close by my work had a hoist and it was free. The owner let me use it and later that afternoon I got it up on the lift.

I really wasn’t in the mood to document the job, but I did take a couple of pics and while things are fresh in my mind I have a couple of notes about the job.

Bentley does a fair job of describing the procedure, and there are a few threads on the Samba with additional tips. This was the first time I had taken out a stater in a syncro with engine in van, and I had to use both sources.

Battery disconnected

Van still on ground, S boot on air intake and air filter removed. To get access to the upper starter bolt.

Upper bolt for starter mounting removed. 17mm wrench size on nut on engine side, hex key on transmission side (forget size).

Van lifted

Driveshaft disconnected from transmission. I found the boot ripped so I took driveshaft completely out. I had a ready to go spare axle assembly and I felt chuffed about that. This kind of preparedness doesn’t happen very often

Diff lock actuator. Now this is a little bit of a bear. I found the nuts that Bentley said were welded to the bracket weren’t. Also found that the rubber sleeve covering the actuator shaft was a section of heater hose. So there was no pushing that up to drive out the roll pin, I cut the hose off. You can sort of see the cut hose in this pic.

Driving out the roll pin wasn’t as hard as I expected. Room is limited in there but I managed to do it and leave the roll pin still actuator shaft.

Now the lower starter mount nut, and the jiggle and wiggle to get the starter out. Once the gear end was out and it dropped down a bit I could remove the electrical connections. Took the starter to the bench, took apart the solenoid. Look ok I guess, it would retract under power if I gave it a helping push. Removed one end of the starter and, well, have a look.

Brushes worn down to a nub. Commutator burned, dirty, ugly.

Next morning took starter to rebuilder in town. I can’t really explain why I chose to have it rebuilt instead of buying new (or factory reconditioned, whatever that means). Starter would be ready that afternoon.

Back out to work. Had some time to swap in my spare axle, but left transmission end up attached.

Back to town for starter. Labour charge CA115 ( 84/hr rate), parts 43 bucks. New solenoid, brushes, drive gear, commutator turned, armatures checked. Looks brand new.

I really don’t like how the signal wire is attached to the solenoid by a spade connector. So I soldered on a female spade connector, then crimped and soldered on a long pigtail to the spade. Heat shrink and silicone grease. Pigtail will lead to a relay in the engine compartment that I installed a few years ago.

Diff lock actuator boot – well I copied what the previous owner did and used some hose. Polybraid stuff this time with a little window cut into it so the roll pin could be driven home. You know, the acuator shaft was pretty clean when I removed the hose so I figured it worked well enough to do same.

Getting the roll pin back in is a little tricky. What helped a bit was threading the roll pin onto the end of some stainless welding rod. It fit nicely and fetched up on the ID stamp of the rod.

Pic shows the idea without the clutter of the vacuum gizmo and the home made boot. The wire allowed me to get the roll pin in and engaged, then I could remove the wire and tap the pin home with small punch and hammer.

I replaced the starter bushing in the bell housing. Used a 7/16″ tap and screwed the tap into the old bushing and as the tap bottomed out in the hole the bushing screwed up on the tap and out. New bushing was a bronze, oilite type bushing so I soaked in oil before hand and gave it a bit of pressure between fingers with bushing filled with oil. Fingers on open ends. I thought getting  the bushing in place would be tricky so I made a quick install tool from some brass rod. Rod turned down to fit snugly in the bore of the bushing, shoulder on the rod, and the turned down section just a little longer than the bushing length so I could feel the entrance to the hole. That worked out pretty good.

Acuator in place, starter then wiggled and jiggled up and into place. I used sealant on the mating surfaces. I made the lextrical connections when the starter was partly in place. Oh, forgot to mention, made a new wire from big stud in solenoid to alternator.

Inner cv joint connected

While van was on lift I decided to rotate tires. Noticed scraping noise on rear drivers side wheel. Pulled drum and found the adjustment lever had broken and the spring dangling. The broken bit was still in drum. Have no idea how that happened. So off comes the shoe, some prep on the metal, and I welded it back together.

Then van down to the ground, upper starter bolt installed, all the other mess in engine compartment cleaned up, the new wires from the started connected.

And yes, the starter worked. Jeez, much faster than before. My starter was dying a slow death.



Syncro – propshaft with intermediate bearing support

John B. sent along some pics of his new propshaft. He was having some difficulty in getting the stock set up running vibration free so he went this route.

Due to some errors on my side, I can’t find his emails where he described the set up. Until I get that info I’ll post the pics as is.


In reply to Hans’ comment about CV jointed prop shaft. A couple of pics. First is the flange of my spare propshaft. Approximate measurements make it a 74mm bolt hole circle, the recess is 47mm diameter and about 2.5mm deep.

Stock 100mm diameter cv joint has a 6 on 86mm bolt hole circle.

A 108mm diameter CV joint, has a 95mm bolt hole circle.

I have the half shaft for that 108mm diameter CV joint. One could imagine cutting the spline section off and mounting it to a flange that mimics the stick propshaft flange, then the slides connecting to the 108mm diameter CV joint bolted to the propshaft. I hope you understand this is all just free thinking, just for discussion.



Vanagon – some notes on new wheel install

i bought the Mercedes alloy wheels last year. They weren’t my first choice, I wasn’t really sold on the flat face look. But the price was right ($100 for 4) and I thought the offset of 25 might work out for me. The ideal offset would have been 30mm, but folks have successfully  used ( without wheel spacers) wheels with offset of 37mm on the syncro. Mind you I think those wheels were narrower than 7″. 

The whole subject of wheel choice can be confusing. Chris at T3 Technique has good information (link) and there is a very lengthy Samba thread on the topic.

With the alloys having an offset of 25mm I wasn’t concerned about clearance issues with suspension components but I was a little nervous about how much space there would be between the sliding door and the passenger side rear tire. As it turned out there is a good 3/8″ – 1/2″ space between tire and door.

Some time after I bought the alloys, good friend Simon bought a set of Mercedes 15″ steel wheels. 6.5″ wide, offset of 37mm. He offered them to me, we thought that maybe the black steel wheel look would work on my van. If they did both of us would use one of the alloys as a spare, if not then the steelies would be out spare. Simon needs a better rin for his spare.

I had one of each type mounted with tire and compared them on the van. The alloys won. The clearance between the steel wheel and both the front and rear suspension components was tighter than the alloy.

As the alloy wheels have a thicker cross section where the wheel studs locate I had to get longer studs. Well on the rear wheels anyway. The studs are a tad longer on the front wheels so I left them stock. I measured and determined I had 8.75 turns on the lug nut on the stud as it tightens up to the wheel. The thread size is M14X1.5 so that gives 13.13mm of engagement which I think is sufficient . Replacing the front studs on the syncro is a pain. Note that various alloy wheels differ in thickness in this area, some are quite thick.

I got the longer studs from Chris at T3 Technique, hands down the best source for wheel hardware. I had a spare set of rear hubs so I had the studs pressed in, sitting around waiting until I got off my duff.

Also, the lug nut seats on the Mercedes alloys were the small ball type, the stock steel wheels on the Vanagon use large ball seats. So I had to buy some new lug nuts and yes I got them from T3 Technique. Here is a pic comparing the stock Vanagon lug nut to the lug stud that came with the alloy wheels.

And one more thing to do. The Mercedes alloys are drilled for 12mm studs. The Vanagon uses 14mm studs. I enlarged the holes with a 37/64″ drill.

I had a bit of fun getting the hubs off the van. I’ve done this job a few times but this time the big 46mm axle nuts were very, very reluctant to come off. What I normall use is a 1 13/16 socket, 3/4″ drive but for the life of me I couldn’t find the 3/4″ extension and T bar for the socket. So I thought I’d be clever and modify the 46mm slugging wrench I had. Btw, I have a hard time using the slugging wrench in the way it is supposed to be used. I find it hard to get a good swing at it with the heavy hammer without hitting the wheel.

I welded a bit of 7/8 hot rolled steel to the wrench, and that spud fit into the 5′ steel tube I use as my might extension. Well, the hot rolled bent immediately. Ok, I cut it off and welded on a found section of bar stock. I had the notion that this particular bar stock was perhaps a stronger steel.

Why the heck did I weld it on with the hole at that end? I can’t explain this bozo move.


Well that shifted the rig hand side axle nut, but it bent a little in the process.

And the hub swapped.

But Mr Wrench (and my weld at the end) was not up to going after the other side.


I nipped over to a friend’s shop and he easily loosened the nut with his Milwaukee battery powered impact gun ( has 1100 ft lbs of torque).

Mr Wrench was still strong enough to re-torque the nut to the 365 ft lbs the bugger needs. I added a bit more weld in the hope that I can use him again sometime, in his new cranked conformation.


I’ve yet to get some good shots of how the wheels and tires look on the van. In the meantime here are some quick snaps of my van and good friend Simon’s van. Simon has South African Carat (?) alloys and Nokian WRC 205/70-15.




Vanagon – kinda crazy sway bar mod to help install homemade drop links

This value of this modification to the sway bar is debatable. But hey, don’t let fear and good judgement hold you back from having a bit of fun. And god knows I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is an original idea, I’m old enough to know that someone somewhere has done this before.

I didn’t look forward to installing the sway bar drop links with Whiteline polyU bushing. It can be a bit of a struggle getting the drop link onto the sway bar. Mind you, Chris at T3 Techiniques makes it look easy in his video. By the way, T3 Technique is a place to buy polyurethane bushings and other suspension parts.

I had thought about the notion of cutting the knob end off the sway bar then drill and tap a hole so a thick washer could be attached to replace the knob. But I didn’t like that idea for a few reasons.

So what I did do was this, I welded a 3/8″ stainless steel bolt to the end of the sway bar. Well I should say sploodge welded the bolt on, not pretty.

So what eh? Well now I made a bullet shaped tool, tapped for the 3/8″ bolt on the blunt end and tapped for 1/2 NC on the pointy end.

Some tubular spacers, lube, and a nut and the bushing ( already fully seated in the drop link by squeezing the two together in a vise) and hey presto, the bushing and link can be easily pushed on to the sway bar. Hey don’t rely on this pic for correct orientation of the sway bar bend to the sway bar, I was just doing a test run and didn’t take care. I did get it right in the final assembly… I think 🙂

i made a Delrin cap to fit over the exposed bolt. Tidies things up and may help to prevent the drop link coming off the end of the sway bar. This has happend with the softer urethane Powerflex bushings, maybe not as likely with the harder Whiteline bushings I have used, but hey, it’s another justification for this mod.

And of course I scraped the heck out of the paint on the sway bar installing it on the van.  

 I guess I should show hey finished drop links. I had machined them a while back, 3/4″ (19 mm) stainless rod and heavy walled ( sorry I forget the wall thickness) tubing which had ID of 1 1/2″ (38mm) very close to to the stock link. Threaded the end M12X1.5, and a section approximately 17mm in diameter where it passes through the drop link bushings. No spacer in this set up, we’ll see how that works out, but is not an original idea.

I bent them on a friend’s press using a quickly made set up that does leave some dimples in the bar. I think I took about 8 tons of force to bend them. I was shooting for 4 degree bend, but I went a degree or so more. I don’t think that will be a problem.

I cut them to length and ground a chisel point on the end. One root pass, then two straddling passes of weld, then I washed over with the torch. I got a bit of under cut on the rod, I could have done better but it will be strong enough. Notice the pattern on the ring portion, patented “Chattr-Mastr” finish on the bevel.


I used the cup washers I made a while back, but welded on a smaller diameter flat washer to the should of the drop link as I was worried that the enlarged hole of the cup washer would get pressed over the shoulder under hard use in the van. I think you might spot that washer in the pic of the sway bar install. I’m happy with these drop links, maybe not in the same league as Burley Motorsport’s, but ok for an amateur.

And another thing, with the bolt welded to the bar it is possible to make some little adapter so one could use a puller to remove the drop link from the bar easily. Ok, that’s a pretty weak advantage of this modification but I’m trying to find other reasons to account for the time and effort.



Vanagon – front suspension bushing work

About a month ago i replaced a few bushings on the front suspension of my ’86 syncro. They were they sway bar to body bushings, the sway bar drop link to control arm bushings, and the steering rack bushings. I replaced them with Whiteline polyurethane bushing from Chris at T3 Technique. I can whole heartedly endorse Chris for his great customer service and products.

So first the easiest, the sway bar to body mount bushings. Here is a pic of the one of the original rubber bushings.


A couple of 13 mm head nuts and bolts and the mounting bracket comes off. Note the spacer used in the syncro bracket.


New bushing comes in pairs, and with a sachet of grease. Grease is important in polyU bushings. They do have a reputation that they squeak, so you must grease them up with s low wash out grease. T3 techniques sells a couple of greases, and I bought one of them, Accrolube. I didn’t know when i ordered that the Whiteline bushing come with their own grease. So you might see in the pics that i have used both the black grease from Whiteline, and the blue Accrolube. Note that the Whiteline package has instructions on where to apply the grease, important for bushings that undergo twisting motions.


Pretty easy install.


Next up are the drop link end bushings. You can read all about what I had done to the drop links a few years ago here and here

So far all the work has been done with van on the ground, but after I removed the nut at the end of the drop link I jacked the van up so that the drop link pulled up and out of the lower control arm. Be careful or course, block the van, support it etc etc. the drop link will come up out of the hole and then you can pull the sleeve and the topside bushing off. Look at that old bushing, that old home made bushing 🙂



The homemade sleeve is holding up fine. Interesting grease residue marks in the middle, showing the edges of the bushings?  also note the shape of the new bushing. It is flat one one side, domed on the other. The domed side goes into the control arm recess, the flat side faces the dished washer. The flat side really should be slightly domed or at least bevelled, I think. Chris agrees. I modified the bushings on the other side, ground a bevel on them, but of course didn’t take a pic. I think the bevel roughly matching the curve of the dished washer would allow a little more articulation in the joint.


Now the install of the new bushings. Dished washer on the drop link first, convex side facing bushing, then a bushing with sleeve installed in it and the drop link inserted in the control arm. van lowered off the blocks so the drop link is pushed in the control arm. but the new bushing is tight and not much of the other end sticks out. So even with van fully lowered, wheel on the ground, not enough drop link is exposed to get the other bushing installed.


So i rigged up a ratchet strap and pulled the drop link down. Also disconnected the sway bar to body bracket. Even then it was a bear to get the lower bushing installed.


I certainly couldn’t get my dished washer installed so I pulled the bushing in as tight i could with a plain flat washer and the nut. I would do the nut up tight then remove it, put on the dished washer and try the nut…. just wouldn’t catch the threads. My home made stainless washer was too thick.


So i turned a recess in the washer and after a bit of a struggle and a lot of cursing, i got the washer and nut on. The other side was a tad easier with the modified bushing. But this part of the job took me a couple of hours.


Now on to the steering rack bushings. There are four of them, upper and lower, left and right. Here you can see the lower on the right hand side. The bolt goes throughout the bushing and frame member and there is a stover type nut on the end. I would advise you to soak the nut side with penetrating oil a couple of days before you do this job, there is a fair bit of exposed thread on the bolt and they can be rusty.


I started by loosening all four bolts, but not all the way. Then had at the lower left side bushing. I removed that bolt, oh careful, there is s slim washer under the nut. The with a slim small pry bar i pushed the bushing out from behind. Remarkably it came out quite easily. On a couple i grabbed the bushing with needle nosed vice grips to ease its passage.


They seem to be in pretty good shape.


The new bushings are two piece with supplied sleeve.


Pretty easy to install. I did one at a time but didn’t tighten up until all installed.


Yeah, supervisor was checking in.


Now on the driver’s side the steering rod (from steering gear box to steering rack) prevents the steering rack from being pried forward enough to both pry out the old bushings and install the new bushings. I disconnected the coupling at the forward end of the rod and loosened the slimed coupling at the u-joint in the rod. It was only later, looking at the pics did I notice the cracks in the rubber coupling, sheesh, another thing to replace.





Wrench access on the driver’s side is a bit restricted, so it take a little longer. But these bushing took less time to install than the drop link bushings.

So the verdict? I could really notice the steering response improvement, especially at highway speeds. I’d recommend the rack bushings even if your existing bushings are in good shape.


Vanagon – syncro clutch slave cylinder replacement adventure

Seems to be a real busy time of the year for me, just the time to put a new slave cylinder into the old syncro. It had been leaking for a few weeks, but it still worked the clutch. I procrastinated replacing it until I felt like hurting myself.

I’ve swapped in a slave cylinder a couple of times on a 2wd vanagon, I4 powered ones at that, and it was not that bad. But the stock motor in the syncro makes access to the bolts holding the slave to the bracket really painful. The rear most bolt is somewhat accessible front he engine compartment but the nut for that bolt is pretty well hidden by the bracket. A good fix for that is to weld that nut to the bracket so you only have to deal with the bolt and no need to hold the nut. The front bolt is somewhat easy to access, from under the van. I tried to get those bolts off, but I couldn’t. I even bent a wrench to get it in there, but no luck. I had heard that some folk take the bracket and cylinder off as a unit and that means taking the actuating arm off the shaft that goes in the bell housing (and moves the throwout bearing). There is a cir clip on the end of the shaft and theoretically, on a brand new van, when the clip is removed you can slide the arm off the shaft. I don’t see how you can do that easily on any van that has seen any kind of use. The arm is on there but good.

I had a spare arm (and shaft) so I decided to grind the arm off. I used a steel burr on a die grinder. Yes I chewed up the shaft, I got sloppy. But I didn’t do enough damage to make the replacement arm a poor fit, still went on tight.


I tagged the bracket too.


The arm.


Now it was just a case of removing the 13mm head bolt on the bracket support strut and the 17mm bolt holding the bracket to the bell housing. Then you can ease the assembly down and let it hang by the hydraulic line. Great thing here is that the syncro has a flexible nylon line to the slave (and banjo bolt) rather than the steel line of the 2wd.


I had the new, FTE brand, cylinder already to go, bolted to a spare bracket. A bracket from a diesel vanagon… yes, you know what’s coming.


I had welded the two nuts to the bracket, here is a pic of the front nut. Yes, you know what’s coming.


Quick with the swap over and now bleeding with the cylinder hanging.


And up it goes into position… except I forgot the support arm is held to the bracket by that front nut which I had welded on. Doh, what a bonehead, ok off it comes with the zip disk. Right, up again with support arm attached…except it didn’t fit. The support  arm would not line up with the bolt hole in the transmission. Son of a bitch. Out it comes, let’s compare with the old bracket.


Gee, whaddya know? They are different. It takes a special kind of bonehead to assume a 2wd diesel vanagon bracket would be the same as a wax syncro bracket. I am that special bonehead.

And, to add insult to injury, after cleaning off the muck from the bracket I could see someone had brazed on the rear nut and had brazed on the nut to the support bracket. So i could have removed the slave by itself after all. Well, no, not really. The bolts were in there real tight. Even with the bracket held in a vise I had to grunt with the spanner to remove the bolts.


Righty oh then, back to the van to install new slave and old bracket combo. All went well, replacement arm on shaft, cir clip in place, slave bled. I tried the clutch pedal. The friggin pedal stopped hard about 2″ above where it should stop, no clutch activation. What the heck was going on?

The arm would move when the pedal was depressed, but only a little way before the pedal felt like it was hitting metal. I pulled the push rod from the slave and compared it with the one from the old slave, it had a longer effective length. New push rod at the bottom of the pic.


With the rod removed the clutch pedal would not move, with the shorter old rod the clutch pedal would move down a bit, with no rod and the bleed screw open on the slave the pedal would press down full range. Can you guess what was up? I couldn’t at that point. I talked to Dave the mechanic, we both were stumped but were leaning to an internal problem, perhaps the throwout bearing retaining springs had come adrift. Looked like a tranny pull. I was so desperate that I looked on the Samba and found something interesting, here is the thread. Now I had some hope, so I quickly made a bit of an extension using the old rod (I removed what remained of the plastic that was inside the metal cup end) and some polyethylene.



IMG_3185 IMG_3186

I made a hole, stepped hole, to mimic a socket to engage the ball on the lever arm. I installed it and yes, more pedal travel. Not quite enough so a made another using some Delrin rod. Here it is. BTW, it is a press fit into the metal socket.









And, yes, success. Clutch works just like it used to, perfectly. Man, I was relieved. The modified pushrod had overall length of 112mm, socket in the Delrin was 4-6mm deep giving an effective rod length of 106-108mm. That’s  18-20mm longer than the new FTE push rod.

So what the heck was going on with the new slave? As I didn’t want to take it out and measure I can only guess that the new slave had a shorter piston stroke than the old one. And even with a longer push rod it was not enough to fully activate the clutch. And before you ask, I did have the slave cylinder properly installed in the bracket. I wonder if the syncro bracket locates the slave higher from the arm than the 2wd bracket?



Vanagon – new wheels and tire fitment

Too long i have suffered the jibes from fellow syncro owners about the teeny stock wheels and tires I use. Finally I found some wheels that might let me join the real mens club. They aren’t my first choice but the size, price, and offset were all right. They are 15×7 Mercedes 15 hole alloys from an early ’90’s 380SL. The offset is 25 which I kinda like, I wanted good clearance from tire to suspension components. Another good thing about these particular wheels is the thickness of the casting where the lug stud goes through. In this case it is only 11mm, some can be as thick as 44mm. I would have to install longer studs for any wheel thicker than 11mm and that was something i did not want to do (its a pain to do the front studs on a syncro). This wheel thickness will come up later.

Anyhoo, I’m not going to go into all the tire choices in this post. Im just going to show you what I did today to see if one particular tire would fit. The tire in question is a Yokohama Geolander GL AT-S 225/70 15. They have I think a load rating of 100, which is my, probably flexible, lower limit.

Here’s one bolted up. I sanded this one a bit (they all need painting) to try out a primer. The wheels have to have the stud holes drilled out to fit on the 14mm Vanagon studs. They were originally drilled to accept 12mm studs. You also have to get new lug nuts, the small seat ball type as opposed th the conical Vanagon variety. I got the hardware from T3 Techniques, and I also have received a lot of great advice from the owner Chris over the years.



Here is the small ball seat lug nut from T3 Techniques.




The trial fit was done on the rear wheel for a few reasons. First, the rears have the shortest stud projection, just flush with the stock steel wheels. With the alloys I got about 6.5 turns of the nut to hand tight. Now with the thread pitch being 14X1.5 mm that means the nut goes on 9.75mm. I would have liked more, 14mm would be the same as with the steel wheels. I don’t know if this amount of thread engagement is not sufficient, anyone have any thoughts?

edit: 9.3 turns would give me 14mm of thread engagement. That would be grand, but there is a German notice of requiring 6.4 turns minimum. So what to do? I am leaning towards longer studs for the rear. The front studs might be ok, there is a couple of threads exposed with the stock steel wheel, unlike the flush situation on the rears.

The second reason to check fitment on the rear wheels is to determine if rim and tire combo clears the trailing arm. I made a rough template of the tire profile from published data. What I am not 100% sure about is the sidewall height. I initially made the template so that the sidewall height was measured from the lip of the rim. When i held the template up to the wheel it interfered quite a bit with the trial arm. I thought this strange as I am sure I have heard of this size tire fitting the stock trailing arm, even on rims with higher offset. So i trimmed the template so that the sidewall height includes the tire bead section.

Not a great picture but you can see the notches I cut and you can see there is not only about 1/4″ of clearance between template and the pinch weld seam on the trailing arm. My template does not have radiuses corners so that might exaggerate things a bit.



I don’t know if this close up illustrates the clearance any better.




I’m reconsidering this tire size based on this quick and dirty measurement.

The other worry is that with a wide tire and a 25 mm offset rim there might be interference with the sliding door. Well no worries there, it clears with about 10mm to spare (close to my paper calculation).


I’m going to have to pour over the tire choices once more. Please, don’t mention Nokians, I know, I know.

During all this my friend was giving me skeptical looks.





Vanagon – jury rigged fix for deceased cat

This post might get me some guff, but please have patience, I will get a new cat. The catalytic converter on my van is old, very old. Recently I’ve suspected it really was a converter in name only. I took it off today and it was empty. All the rare earth metals and ceramic had blown out through my stainless muffler. Ok, so now what? I had the shell in my hands and I decided to do a little experiment before i hunted up a new cat.

I had this resonator muffler thingy hanging around the mess I call a workshop. It is a little longer than the cat but I thought I could slap it in place and  see how it effects the sound of the exhaust. Ok, here goes..

The resonator, 2″ outlet/inlet. I scrounged a 3 bolt flange and cleaned it up on the lathe. Bored it out a tad so it would fit on the pipe.


You see? Pipe set into the flange.


And positioned not quite all the way through.



While I was at the lathe I necked down a nut to act as a threaded bung for the O2 sensor. Man, I just can’t recall the size of that nut right now.


Tacked the flange to the pipe.


Then a mostly autogenous weld inside.


If you squint you could imagine that hole was roundish.


Necked down nut pushed in hole.


And a bit of a heavy handed weld.


Two slits on the other end (tubing fits over the tubing inlet of the muffler. The slits will let the muffler clamp squeeze the assembly tight)


During installation my new lover was pestering me. For the last few weeks this goose has decided I am something special. I really don’t know what is going on with her.


I had to slide the muffler over a bit to get the resonator installed. It does look a bit funny, I admit. And did it change the exhaust sound? Yes it did, it is a bit quieter, with a hint of raspy with quick throttle off.




Vanagon – propshaft skid plate of sorts

Edit: I wrote that I used 10-24 insets and screws. I made a mistake, they are actually 1/4-20.

It seems like an age since I have posted on the blog, I guess I’ve been in the doldrums. No major van projects completed, the bumper build has been on a bit of a hiatus as I don’t want to be doing the steel fabrication part (trailer hitch) at work when we are doing aluminum work. But i have to get back on that horse soon or else I never will. I have done a little  work on it however, I cut off the end caps and slimmed them down some. A trial fit of the originals showed that they were a bit clunky.

Even being in the doldrums, or maybe it was the horse latitudes, I have managed to do a couple of little things and this post is about something I did this afternoon. I had a bit of 3/16″ aluminum plate (5052 alloy) earmarked for propshaft protection. Oh I know what you are thinking, that’s not beefy enough is it? Perhaps not, if you want rock crawling type protection. But I’m just looking for something to protect the propshaft from flying sticks and stones and the occasional scrape over gravel.

I cut the plate to size (and by the way the two propshaft rails are not parallel, they taper in about 3/4″ towards the front) so that there would be a 3/4″ projection on each side of the stock skid rails. I want that projection so that I can attach (later) some more plate to enclose the space between the skid rails and the frame rails. I drilled 1/8″ pilot holes, 10 places, locations for machine screws to attach the plate to the skid rails.


Then I clamped the plate to the rails and drilled 1/8″ holes in the rails using the previously drilled holes as a guide.


I removed the plate then enlarged the 1/8″ holes to accept threaded inserts. I bought this cheap insert tool at Princess Auto, back in the hazy days of summer. It came with a selection of inserts. I’m using the 10-24 inserts here. You screw the insert onto a threaded boss on the tool, insert the insert (!) into the hole and squeeze the handle. A couple of broken blood vessels later the insert is secured. Tool with insert in hole and an insert itself shown in this pic.


How it looks after insertion.


After a few more ruptured blood vessels all the inserts were installed. Oh I did spray some high zinc paint in the drilled holes before insertion of the inserts. Originally I had thought of counter sunk machine screws to attach the plate, but you know how it is with counter sunk screws, you have to get things perfectly aligned. I opted instead for these rather nice large (almost a truss head) headed stainless screws.


I have a notion to weld some braces on the back side of the plate just to beef it up a bit more. But then again I’m only using 10-24  1/4-20 screws to hold the darned thing on.

I’m happy with the result, and happy to be back blogging about the arcane things I do for fun.


Vanagon – Temp II sensor replacement

A rather thin post but since I took pictures I might as well post them up. On our last camping trip the van had a strange missing/bucking/bogging problem. This has happened twice before, always in summer, and always cured by a fill up of gas. So I’m leaning towards the “bad gas” explanation but I’m not ruling out other causes. I have checked and re-adjusted the throttle position switch and perhaps I should take the throttle body off again, take some pics and do a post about that. The next on my list was the temp II sensor. This is the sensor that tells the computer what the coolant temperature is. Not to be confused with the dash water temp gauge sensor. The connector to my sensor was broken and I’ve always wondered if it was making a good connection all the time. I thought that if I was going to install a new connector why not put in a new sensor too. Dave, from Dave’s Automotive in nearby Sidney BC (great guy) found me a connector and wired in a pair of pigtails. So off we go then, with the install.



The sender takes a 19mm wrench, but I didn’t pull it until I spliced in the new connector.



I took a couple of resistance measurements from the new sender, one in the evening and one in the morning. Pathetic eh? 🙂

I used crimp style butt connectors and heat shrink to make the splice. Not shown in above pic are the two smaller bits of heat shrink to go over the individual butt connectors.

Here’s a shot of the damaged connector.



And replacement one spliced in. You don’t loose much coolant at all if you are quick with the sender swap.



New connector and sender in place. The extra wire (and it does help to have extra wire when you splice in situ) is taken up to some degree by one turn and a zip tie on the crossing.




And boy oh boy, the new sender really has transformed the van. No, I lie. No noticeable difference. But then again my strange bucking/bogging problem occurs every 18 months or so…h


Vanagon – Syncro propshaft angle measurements… again

Warning: what follows is a very long-winded and tedious description of my further exploration of propshaft U-joint angles. Experienced and knowledgable readers, please, cut me some slack and refrain from face palming at my antics.

Being quite adept at re-inventing the wheel, I’m now re-inventing measuring propshaft angles. If you are a regular reader of this blog, and man it feels good to write that (evidence of my amusement with small things), you know I have spent some time exploring the flange angles of the transmission and front differential (my previous attempts, onetwothree.). I came cold to this subject, never having to deal with anything like this before, and Bentley has nothing to say about the matter. So perhaps I could be forgiven for my naive approach to the matter. Perhaps, but really no, I should have cut through the crap right away.

A little background

The transmission is connected to the front differential via a propshaft. On each end of the propshaft are U-joints (single cardan joints) that allow a little bit of misalignment between and movement of the transmission and the front differential. Now the problem with U-joints is that they do not transfer the rotational motion of the propshaft perfectly smoothly, ie. without pulsation, especially when the U-joint angles are greater than 3 or 4  degrees  and also if the angles differ from each other more than 1 degree (more on those angles later). Most of you know this, and also about the correct phasing of the the U-joints on each end of the shaft, but I do recommend having a look at this document from Spicer that explains all:

Spicer info on driveshaft install, angles, vibrations, etc. (pdf). 

And this Spicer document on measuring angles succinctly describes using Spicer’s angle finder doodad.

Spicer info on measuring angles

One subject not really covered well in that document is compound angles. That is when there is mis-alignment is in 2 planes, ie horizontal and vertical. I’ll go into that at the end of this post.

Over time I became dissatisfied with my last attempt at measuring flange angles with my laser tool. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a pretty neat way of measuring the flange angles and it measures both in vertical and horizontal planes. But you need to have the propshaft removed.
After some email exchanges with J. Slider, I reconsidered the protractor/angle finder method of measuring flange angles. I wasn’t very happy with the results I got when I tried this method a while back. I was unable to get consistent results measuring the flange angles with my propshaft removed. It came down to getting the electronic angle finder positioned correctly on the transmission and front differential flanges. But Jon’s argument for the angle finder method convinced me to try again.
I was sidetracked by an idea of a false propshaft jig thing. I reasoned that if I could make a jig that mimicked the propshaft but was constructed so that flange angles could be more easily measured it would be a good thing. I even thought of making a false propshaft with fixed, *ideal* flange angles that I could use to adjust the transmission and front diff. mounts. I still think this would be a worthwhile tool to make for those folk who install propshafts in vanagons.

– This flurry of innovative thinking (ha!) coincided with me removing my propshaft and having it checked for balance by Royce at Island Torque Converter & Driveshaft. Royce is THE guy to take your propshaft to for repair/balancing. He does good work, prices are very reasonable, and he is willing to work with you in solving driveline issues. Local (Vancouver Island) phone # is 250 388 4248 –

Royce and I talked about the syncro propshaft and about making a shaft with Rzeppa type CV joints. That discussion is another story but when I was Googling around with the idea of Rzeppa joints on shaft I came across a document describing the install of a marine, Rzeppa jointed, short prop shaft. In that document (you can see it here) the use of jigs that I described above is detailed. Foiled again. Is it always to be thus? Are all my ideas “a day late and a dollar short”?

I took my propshaft to Royce around the 15th of December and got it back the next day. But with one thing and another I did not get the shaft re-installed in the van until the 9th of January. During that time, when I was not working, eating, drinking, Xmas shopping, sleeping, putting up then taking down Xmas trees, etc, etc, I was mulling over the propshaft jig idea.

Too much mulling, not enough action. So I ended up going back to the protractor/angle finder on the installed propshaft method. You’ve seen this before, and it is described in the Spicer document, I just added a very minor twist.

Home-made tool

I mentioned at the beginning how I was never happy with the measuring propshaft angles with the angle finder because I could not get a good surface to place the gauge on. So I decided to do what others have done and use the ends of the U-joint bearing cup as the reference surface. That meant making a little tool.

A bit of scrap steel from some failed project.


Turned it down and machined a recess in one end to accept a rare earth magnet.


Fits in fine, held in firmly by magnetism and Locktite.


The magnet face is recessed from the rim of the tool by a gnat’s crotchet.


Here is my other propshaft, to be used for trial fitting. Big note here, ideally the circlip should be removed so that the tool can lie directly on bearing cup. But I reasoned that these circlips would be lying parallel to the bearing cups. Any dirt or damage to the circlips would screw things up.


Tool on the joint.


Angle finder on tool, held by magnets on side of angle finder. It looks like the angle finder is resting on flange, but it is not.


Angle finder on end of tool. I was not sure at this time which way would be better.


A bit of channel to provide a base to measure the propshaft angle.


Trying out the tool

Ok then, out to the van. First I had to install the re-balanced shaft (not the red one pictured above). I jacked up one side of van and supported on blocks. Wheels off the ground.


Small aside, I finally replaced the 1/2″ bolt used to hold the jack adapter onto the jack with a gated pin thing.


After the propshaft was installed (please note, I do insist on loosening the 3 bolts that go through the rubber mounts on the front diff. when I am installing/removing the shaft) I took the van off the blocks, released the parking brake and chocks, then crawled under to have a go at measuring angles. First I moved the van back and forth so that a bearing cup on the U-joint yoke that is attached to the flange was pointing directly down. I gave it a bit of a scrub then attached the tool.


See how the angle finder is a little askew on the shaft of the tool? This affects the angle measurement. It was hard to get the angle finder aligned true to the shaft when I was scrooched up under the van. Would have been much easier if the van was on a lift. But I persisted, went on to measure the propshaft angle.


And see how I do not have the angle finder aligned along the channel? It is askew too, and this affect the readinghh. And then on to the front diff. end of shaft.


Repeated the procedure a few times.


A bit better alignment on channel.


Again on the front.


And on the rear.


But I was not happy with the procedure, I was not sure of confident of the accuracy of the readings.

V-block modification and engine carrier adjustment

I tried a nice little Starrett V-block on the tool. I thought it might help me to keep the angle finder aligned along the long axis of the tool.


I was running out of afternoon and I wanted to try something more. I knew from previous measuring that the transmission flange pointed down more than the front diff flange. I wanted to reduce that angle, but I also new that there really is no easy way to do that. The transmission mounts towards the front of the transmission are really awkward to get at and fiddle with (especially when you don’t have a lift), so that leaves the engine mounts at the rear. But the arrangement/relative placements of the mounts means that it takes a fair bit of movement at the engine mount to effect a little movement at the transmission flange. Perhaps these data from R. Jones illustrates this (front diff. data included).

“4) I measured the distance between the flanges and the
mounting points, tranny and front diff, and worked the ratios.
Using washers, here’s what one can do:

a) raise front mount, front diff, lower flange.
1 unit raising gets 0.83 units lowering the flange.

b) raise rear mounts, front diff, raise flange.
1 unit raising gets 1.2 units at the flange.
This is the wrong way however.

c) lower tranny at front mounts, lowering flange.
1 unit at mount gets 1.25 units at flange.
Again, this is the wrong direction.

d) lower engine at carrier attachment to frame,
raise flange.  1 unit at engine gets 0.25 units
at flange.  Hardly worth it.”

I wanted to try “d”. So I supported the engine carrier (“moustache bar”) with a jack and removed the 2 bolts, each side, that hold the bar to the van frame. I had no time to record flange angles vs. amount of lowering of rear carrier, and I decided to try 5/16″ as the distance lowered. Handy number, I had some 5/16″ aluminum plate scrap on hand. On the top side of the flange on the van body that the carrier mounts to there is a steel backing plate. I used that plate to lay out the bolts holes in the aluminum spacer.


Holes drilled.


And spacer inserted. I used longer bolts. Damn mudflap mounting strut interfered.


Maybe you can tell, the light was fading fast. I got back under and measured angles, using the V-block innovation.

Transmission flange angle.


Front diff. flange angle.


By now it was dark and I was cold. I left things as they  as far as I got to: rear engine mount dropped by 5/16″.

It now occurs to me that I have not mentioned another little thing I did (a year ago) to resolve flange angle difference – I removed the topmost metal washers of the two rearmost mounts of the front diff. This did drop the flange of the front diff. a bit – I reasoned back then, that if I could not reduce the flange angle of the transmission the I would increase the flange angle of the front diff. I hoped that matching the flange angles did more to reduce vibrations than trying to get both flange angles below 4 degrees. I’ll clear this up at the end, I know this story is getting very muddy right now.

Road test

Okee dokee, I drove the van for the next couple of days. Felt pretty smooth, my 50-60 kph minor vibe has gone. I do have the very, very slightest vibration especially when accelerating, at around 40-45 kph. But I noticed this when the propshaft was removed so I am discounting that it has anything to do with the shaft.

I was pretty happy with this. I’d say that the re-balanced shaft is sweet.

Further modification to the tool

But I still wanted to measure the flange angles with somewhat more confidence. I cut a chunk of 1.5″ X 0.25″ hot rolled flat stock, drilled a hole, and screwed it (1/4 “- 20) to the end of the little tool. I checked it for square, was good. Now I had a better reference surface to place the angle finder against, and I could line up the long axis of the plate with the propshaft.


Here it is on the transmission end of the shaft. It is much easier now to use the angle finder to determine that the tool is pointing straight down, and the  plate can be lined up fore and aft with the propshaft. Those two things are important in measuring the true angle of the flange. Remember, the tool is on the bearing cup in the flange yoke of the U-joint. That means it projects the angle that the transmission flange is making with respect to the propshaft.


One way of doing it. The angle finder was inline with the bottom plate of the tool. This was not a recorded measurement, I had not adjusted propshaft so that tool is pointing straight down.


I found that having the angle finder in this position was the best. The magnets in the angle finder held it to the vertical shaft, but still allowed it to be aligned to the bottom plate.


A another measurement (using the channel) of the propshaft angle.


And a good measurement of the front diff flange angle.



Ok, I was getting more consistent measurements, now to look at some of the data. Remember, we are measuring relative angles here, not absolute angles. For example, the propshaft could be pointing down towards the front at 1.30 degrees, or at 2.85 degrees depending (apart from measuring errors) on the level of the van (ie just exactly where it was parked in my driveway). The sketch below summarizes my results. The top cartoon represents the situation right after I installed the propshaft. Let’s go over it, bit by bit.

The transmission flange (and the transmission and engine) is pointing down towards the front of the van at 5.5o degrees. The propshaft is also pointing down in the same direction, but only at 1.30 degrees. If we subtract the propshaft angle from the transmission flange angle we will find that U-joint operating angle, and it is 4.20 degrees. Remember: if the angles are in the same direction then subtract the smaller angle from the larger angle to find the joint operating angle.

proshaft angle-1

At the other end the front diff. is pointing down towards the rear of the vehicle, in the opposite direction of the propshaft angle. I added a negative sign to that measurement to remind me of its different direction. So in this situation the absolute value of the front diff. measured angle, -2.50 degrees, is added to the propshaft angle of 1.30 degrees. Result is a 3.80 degree joint operating angle. Remember: if the angles are in opposite directions then add the absolute values of the two angles to find the joint operating angle.

As clumsy as those two paragraphs are, I hope you get the idea of how the operating angles are arrived at. Of course with an electronic angle finder I could have zeroed on the propshaft angle and read the working angles directly. But I thought it would be clearer to me and to you if I did it explicitly.

Now the measurements after I installed the 5/16″ (8 mm) shim back at the engine carrier.

proshaft angle-2

And finally, the same set up but this time more accurately measured (bottom plate added to my home-made tool).

proshaft angle-3

I am fairly confident in this last measurement. Even if it is not perfect, I am sure the two flange angles are within 0.2 degrees of each other, though I do wish that the operating angles were less.

Compound angles

At the beginning of this post I said I was going to discuss compound angles, so here we go. The above sketches show angles in a vertical plane, but you can imagine that the same thing could be going on if you could look down from above. The transmission and front diff. could be laterally mis-aligned. What is interesting, is the combined effect of both lateral and vertical misalignment. The Aquadrive document I linked to previously has some good information on compound angles.

The accurate formula for calculating the compound angle is:

2013-01-13 09.05.48 am

Lovely stuff eh? Shall we do an example? (and please God, let me do the math correctly).

Let’s say we have a vertical flange angle (ie the kind we have been measuring ) of 4.1 degrees. And let’s say the lateral angle is 1.0 degrees. First step is to find the tangents of those angles.

tan 4.1 = 0.0716808913

tan 1.0 = 0.0174550649

we square both of these numbers and add them together:

(0.0716808913)^2 + (0.0174550649)^2

= 0.0051381502 + 3.0467929066e-4

= 0.0054428295

then we take the square root of that number and we get:


now we take the arctan (inverse tangent) of that number to find the answer, our compound angle:

compound angle = arctan (0.0737755345)

compound angle = 4.22 degrees

(Another example – 4 degree vertical angle and a 2 degree lateral angle, then the effective compound angle would be 4.47 degrees)

Not much of a difference, 4.22 degree compound angle compared to 4.10 degree vertical angle. So should we worry about lateral misalignment? Well, in the stock set up there is some room to laterally adjust both the transmission and the front diff. The old trick of leaving the front diff. mount bolts a little loose after installing the propshaft, then driving the van for a few miles before tightening those bolts, probably serves to reduce or eliminate lateral mis-alignment. But with vans that have non-stock engines/engine carriers installed, then there is a very good chance of having the engine and transmission laterally askew enough for that trick not to be enough.


  •  no matter what you read or hear, in the vanagon syncro the propshaft operating angles should be 4 degrees or less (but not zero degrees). Ideally they should be less than 3 degrees. Unfortunately there is no easy way to adjust the front diff and transmission vertical flange angles to achieve this. On vans with engine conversions and modified engine carriers, careful attention MUST be paid to the transmission angle.
  • U-joint operating angles should be the same or within 0.2 degrees of each other.
  • measuring the angles can be done fairly accurately with home-made tools. A smart phone with an inclinometer app could be used instead of my little electronic angle finder. But some sort of adapter between the joint and the phone must be used to ensure accurate and consistent readings.
  •  lateral misalignment of the transmission and resulting compound angles are very important to check and deal with if a non-stock engine has been installed. Remember that the angles combine and result in an effective angle greater than any one of the individual angles.
  • Your man on Vancouver Island for propshaft balancing is Royce at Island Torque Converter & Driveshaft. Phone # 250 388 4248



Vanagon syncro – front spring swap and radius arm bushing replacement

The other thing I did recently was swap in a pair of front springs from my old ’82 westy into the front of my ’86 syncro. You know that that suspension set up is different between the 2wd and syncro vanagons, the syncro has a spring perch on the shock absorber and uses (generally) shorter springs than the 2wd vans. I compared the spring lengths of the ’82 diesel westy and my ’86 syncro in this blog post, and in this post. This particular 2wd spring is about 20 mm longer than the syncro spring, but the wire diameter (approx 16.6 mm) and number of turns (8) are the same. The spring rate, if I have identified the 2wd spring correctly, is according to the IG16 wiki 80 N/mm. It is the same spring rate as the syncro springs I have. It seems only one spring type was installed in North American market syncro tintops and westies.

I’ve not been pleased with the amount of  “springing” in the van. With the westy conversion it must be a bit heavier than it was as a tintop, and I find that the van scrapes the spare tire clamshell on the ground when I’m negotiating ditches, trenches etc on logging roads. Friend Simon would add that my excessive bulk is not helping things. The distance between the front fender lip and the wheel centre was about 18.25″. I would like it to be at least 19″, but not more than 19.5″. At the back it is trivial to add some shims to raise things, and I did do that (rear measurement 19″). That shimming made the front end look even lower.

I’m not ready to dive into the hyperbole ridden and expensive world of aftermarket springs and shocks, and one must consider springs and shocks together. Increasing the spring rate does require increasing the dampening abilities of the shock.

Originally thought that I would add a shim to the top of the spring, but then I decided to give the spring swap a go. I did not know whether the “no compressor spring removal” technique would work with longer springs so I bought a rather cheap spring compressor from Princess Auto. Spring compressors give me the willies, I feel like I am on a bomb disposal mission when I use them.

Upper A-arm disconnected from upper ball joint, you’d think there is enough room to get the compressors in.


Nope, not enough compression with this set up.


Ditto here. The hex area at top of compressor does not allow you to get a grab on a higher coil, plus at the other end, the screws are too long and interfere with the axle shaft. I wasted about an hour mucking around with the compressors, I finally gave up. I could have cut the screws down, but I was of two minds about that. Was it worth wasting more time trying to get them to work or try and return them to the store?


So I went back to the no compressor method. Radius arm arm was removed, sway bar drop link disconnected, nut and rubber bushing removed from top of shock, and the lower control arm carefully lowered so that the spring and shock could be pulled out to the side and the spring removed. One thing though, I had installed a westy swivel seat base on the passenger side this summer. So I had to make a hole in the base to access the plug that, once removed,  allows you to put insert a tool to guide the shock back up into the shock tower during re-install.


So, I got the passenger side spring installed (radius arm bushings on that side done too) on New Year’s day. With one spring installed, and before driving to settle things in, I got a 19.5″ measurement from hub centre to fender lip. I like that look, it is as high as I want to, or should go. A couple of days later I got the other side done and the hub to fender height settled in at 19 1/8″. Driving the van felt a little different, I could tell the front was higher (yes, I really could detect the change), there was no difference in how the van dipped or raised over bumps. Mind you this was only driving over the lumpy roads in North Saanich, no logging road travel done yet.


Now some shameful pics of the dreadful state of my radius arm bushings…

New bushings and radius arm. Note the shiny spacer I made over a year ago.


Old and new.


“By Timothy, what a difference”





Well I think the spring swap was worth the effort but I will add a teeny tiny little spacer (about 1/4″ thick) to bring it up to 19.5″ hub to fender lip measurement. As to the radius arm bushings, I don’t think any further comments are needed.


Vanagon – Syncro propshaft bushing – 6 month update

Today, after the latest storm blew over and rain stopped, I got under the van and pulled the propshaft. “Again?” I hear you say, yes again. This time prompted by a few things:

1. I still have the slightest bit of propshaft vibe around 55-60 kph

2: J. Slider and I have been having an email correspondence discussing measuring flange angles on shaft. I want to re-do my measurements after the exchange of ideas we had.

3. I have a jig in mind to set flange angles.

So I pulled the bugger and it will be taken to driveline guy to check balance. So seeing as I have it off, I thought I’d check how the internal Delrin bushings I made back in June are holding up (the original posts describing how I made them, part one and part two). Well, the fit of the shaft in the bushings is as tight as it was when first installed. I tried to get some pics, in one of them, you can make out the split bushing still intact at the end of the bore. I have to admit that I worried that the split bushing wouldn’t last, I’m pleased that the Delrin held up.





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Vanagon – front brake fandango

I hope the story that follows will help someone be less stupid than I have been the last 2 days. No, that doesn’t sound right, no one would have been as dim as me notwithstanding.

Story starts with passengers complaining of squeaks from front left brake/wheel. Further development was noticing a clunk/rattle when going downhill on washboard/rough roads this last weekend. Noise seemed to be affected by brake application. Signs say examine front end and brakes. So I do that, could not find any loose or broken suspension components but did find that my brake pads were getting thin, and one pad on pass. side had a broken spring. So here is where I should have sat down and thought things through more. New pads are a good idea, but what about new rotors too? I did measure old rotors, they were within wear spec, so ADD boy here rushes out and buys some expensive Pagid pads and leaves rotors alone.

Quite a difference in thickness between old and new eh? Hint: that should have triggered a response in my brain other than “gee, look at the thickness difference”. Oh and another oversight, I mentioned that I measured the old rotor thickness, doing that I did note the ridges on the rotor (peripheral and internal) where the pads do not touch. I didn’t think that would be an issue, ha!

So I popped in the new pads. Bentley describes the procedure well, but did I do a careful reading? No, I didn’t. I removed both bolts from the caliper slider and removed slider to install pads. That is NOT how to do it. There are bold warnings not to re-use those slider bolts and the new pads came with just 2 new bolts (with pre-applied thread locker). I was puzzled by this, I thought I was shorted 2 bolts. So I used loctite and re-used the old bolts. This was both good and bad as you will see later. I finished pad replacement Monday evening and did not take van for test drive, yet another dumb-assed mistake. Next morning I had an important errand and as I drove out I noticed a rubbing/clicking noise from front right wheel. Bloody hell, drove back and popped that wheel to look. Rushed examination, pulled pads, noticed scoring on inside pad where it was hitting the un-worn area of rotor. Aha I thought, and beveled that part of pad a tad with stationary belt sander. Noise still there. Borrowed car and rushed out. I had the chance to drop by Autospiel that day and talk to Russ about this noise. I explained situation, he asked if I had checked that the rim, or balancing weights were not hitting caliper, I said no, I believed it was the pad on the un-worn part of rotor. Why don’t I listen and think? I decided to by a couple of new Brembo rotors from him (39 bucks a piece), and at same time, noticed them on the counter, a set of radius arm bushings (mine are old and worn out, I’ll post about replacement later, nothing to do with brake job). Got back home and set about rotor replacement.

This time, doing it right. First remove the pads. Undo lower bolt of caliper slider, in this pic I have 13 mm wrench on bolt and crescent wrench on flat of slider rod.

With that bolt out, the caliper body swings up and the pads exposed. Pull out pads.

Now those aneurism inducing 22 mm bolts (2) that hold caliper body to suspension upright. They are on tight (200 ft-lbs) and not much access for the lift deprived driveway “mechanic”. Shoot, forgot to state the usual warnings, ie support van SECURELY on jack stand/good wooden blocks during this procedure. You are really putting a lot of grunt into the van when loosening and tightening those bolts.

Ok, caliper off and hanging on breaker bar stuck in suspension. The slider part came off and is sitting to the right in this picture.

That hex socket bolt need to be removed, 5 or 6 mm? can’t recall.

Then the rotor should slide off the hub. Well, it started to but then hung up on something. At this point I really was not sure of anything, I consulted Bentley again, and again, finally used a puller.

I think it was this rust that was making the rotor difficult. Look at the state of it! What in the name of all that is holy was I thinking when I first decided to leave the rotors alone?

What it looks like with rotor off.

New and old.

New rotor on. I must say that it did give me a warm fuzzy feeling to look at it.

Caliper body re-installed and 22 mm bolts torqued back up to, ugghh, 200 ft-lbs. Pads installed, caliper slider swing back down into position and new bolt used in bottom position. You may find that you have to press in the brake piston to get the caliper to fit over new pads. I used a C-clamp to push piston in.

Other side done, wheels back on, tools put away, brow wiped. Ok, test drive…. rub, rub, rub. Son of a gun (or words to that effect), the noise is still there. Noise goes away when braking, that is a clue. On passenger side I had installed a no-name (drivers side is a Girling) caliper a couple of years ago when I broke the nipples off both calipers. I cannot recall why I got a Girling for one side and a no-name for the other side, but that is the way it is. I looked closely at the caliper. Oh yeah, scoring. So it seems that the added thickness of the new pads pushes the slider outboard enough to hit the rim (stock 14″ steelies yeah, yeah, I know I need bigger wheels. It is on my to do list)

And one of the curious little tits on the rim that is hitting.

Allright! Time to do some real work. Blending disc.

Grinding disc.

Caliper modified.

And yes, happy ending. Rubbing noise gone, and as a bonus, the brakes work.

Summary time:

– read the manual closely, don’t be a dolt like me and skim.

– replace rotors if replacing pads. Don’t screw around, the rotors are so inexpensive it is not worth having them turned. I suppose if you liked experimenting with different pads rotor replacement would get expensive. I have read that for good pad break in, the rotors (if not new or turned) should be scuffed to remove any old pad compound. But after all I went through, I’d recommend just buying new rotors and be done with it.

– be careful with those 22 mm bolts holding caliper on upright. The buggers are awkward to get full force on, don’t let wrench slip and for god’s sake support van well.

– think before and during  doing this job. Please don’t be like me.

– Russ told me that the Pagid pads I chose are excellent, the only downside is that they make more dust than the stock pads. That might be a concern if you had alloy wheels.



Vanagon – syncro front spring removal without spring compressor

The other day while replacing the upper control arm bushings on the van I wondered if the spring could be removed without using a spring compressor (Bentley shows compressor being used). I asked on the Yahoo syncro group and a couple of listmembers said it could be done, and they have done it. So today I had a go at it, and at the same time try out the spring spacer I made.

I have to warn you, while this procedure does not expose you to the same dangers as using a compressor , there are dangers to life and limb. That might sound like hyperbole but it isn’t. Please take care if you do what I am about to describe, take it slow, think, be cautious.

Also, what will be described was done on a van with stock springs and with a modest spring spacer. I do not think that it will work with longer springs or thick spacers.

Ok, on with the show. Van jacked up and supported by some solid 8X8 shorts, wheel off, sway bar drop link disconnected, radius rod/arm removed (inner adjusting nut not moved). The lower shock bolt loosened (22 mm socket).

Upper ball joint disconnected, those 2 socket cap bolts.

At this point I was not sure how this was all going to work, seemed like the spring perch would hit drive shaft.

Plastic cap removed from shock shaft end, 17 mm nut loosened but not removed.

Bottle jack supporting shock through hole in lower control arm.

Shock bolt was driven out easily.

And look at how clean that bolt is. I’m lucky, while I have some nasty rust on body, most if not all of the “mechanicals” are in great shape.

When the bolt was driven out and the bottle jack released, the lower control arm fell down. I did not expect this, of course in hindsight I should have.

The 17 mm nut was removed from top of shock and then shock and spring fell out.

Slight digression here, comparing the orange spring (2 white stripe code) from my ’82 diesel westy with the newly removed syncro spring. 20 mm difference between them. Confirms IG16 Wiki data.

And what do you know? The spring pads are different after all. Same part number (although writing this now I recall the syncro spring pad part number has an “A” suffix).

Shock fully extended with syncro spring.

Shock fully extended with orange spring. I would say a shock shaft extension would be need to use this spring in the syncro.

Side by side comparison.

I had to make some slight adjustment to the collar of my spring pad spacer to make it fit the syncro spring pad. Needed to reduce collar diameter a few millimetres

My T-handled tool in through access hole under seat to engage and guide shock shaft up through hole in shock tower.

The shock spring combo needed to be drawn inward to allow shock shaft to go up through hole in tower. I used a ratchet strap.

Here it comes, I’m using the bottle jack to push against the bottom of the shock. Lower shock bolt is installed.

You have to guide the shaft so that the step on the shaft does not get caught on edge of hole.

There you go, installed with spacer. You can see “shadow” line on spring pad that shows how much was in tower without the spacer. I did not re-attach sway bar or radius rod, but did put on wheel and drop van to ground. I bounced van as best I could and measured hub to fender distance. It looks like the spacer did the trick, now 19.25″ at front, 19.125″ at rear. Very preliminary measurement, probably will be a little different after driving.

So then I took it all apart again and removed spacer. I only have one spacer made, but the exercise was worthwhile – I can remove spring without a compressor and I refined my spacer to fit right.

And a bonus, I think I found my pesky squeak – it might be the bushing between sway bar drop link and the sway bar. I had made my own bushings from polyurethane skate board wheels, I greased them during this work and now squeak is gone.



Vanagon – syncro – VW tool 3141 substitute

As I am planning on fiddling around with my syncro’s front springs and shocks I thought I might need a tool to guide the top of the shock back into position when re-installing. Bentley calls for VW tool 3141, the best pic I could find with a quick search is this Snap-On one. I had some 1/2″ diameter aluminium rod handy, and a M10 X 1.00 tap (same thread as used in pressure sender on engine, I needed one to make my sender relocation manifold). The lathe made making the tool easy, shaft is a press fit into handle and is pretty secure, but I probably still need to blob on a bit of weld on the joint.

End of shaft.

End of old 2WD front shock – it has the same thread.

Tool screwed onto end of shock.

I hope to be able to show you how it is used when I pull the front springs from the van, but I need to borrow a spring compressor before I get going with that.



Vanagon – syncro upper control arm bushing replacement

So on our last trip I noticed a squeaking when suspension moved, noise coming from front driver’s side. I suspected upper control arm bushing so I set about replacing them on that side. It is a pretty straight forward job, and here are a couple of diagrams illustrating where the bushings are.

I jacked up and supported driver’s side front of van and removed wheel. When I detached the upper ball joint I could move the control arm by hand, and the squeak was there. 19 mm nut on one end of camber adjusting bolt, other end is 14 mm socket. Arm off and in the workshop.

Close up of one bushing.

Other side of bushing. There is a good chance these are originals.

Here is one of the new bushings. Vaico brand, I don’t know where they fall in the quality line up, but I got them in trade for some used vanagon parts. There is a great Samba thread on UCA bushings here.

I wondered if an O-ring would help keep any grease in.

Then I tried some silicone over the O-ring, a variation of what Tencentlife did in above mentioned Samba thread. I ended up removing the silicone and adding a second O-ring.

Now getting the old bushings out. I don’t have a press so I used a bit of aluminium tubing, a biggish socket, and an old 2WD control arm bolt, and a heavy hammer to drive the bushing out.

Look at that clutter. Workshop is in a real sorry state.

Old bushing out.

Bore of UCA where bushing fits. On the syncro it is a simple press fit, no spot weld needed.

Using a vice to press new bushing in.

Part way in. Ok, you’ve noticed that I painted the UCA. A very casual crap job and wasn’t needed (original paint still good), but I had a can of orange paint and I thought it might look cool. Overnight drying time was not enough, paint still soft, came off here and there. Perhaps I should lock up the paint.

A bit of pop can in UCA to keep a large socket in place while bushing driven home.

And the other bushing pressed in.

Out at the van, rear of support where bolt goes through and eccentric washer sits.

Front of support.

Rear eccentric washer in place. It was a fiddly job offering up the UCA into correct position and not have the washers fall out.

But in it went finally. Everything re-assembled. Guess what? I still have a squeak!

Next post will deal with camber adjustment and perhaps finding the squeak.



Vanagon – syncro bash plate project finished

Well the transmission protection part anyway. I decided to leave the plate mostly rectangular, but I did have to curve the front corners for no other reason than I thought it looked better. I also drilled some drain holes at the rear of the plate. Instead of using the drill press, I used the wrist buster, aka Van Dorn drill.

I made rather ugly holes with it, but I rationalized that (and other goofs) with the “it’s only a skid plate” mantra. I cut out slots for the stock skid bars and bent up the leading edges slightly. You can’t bend up that middle section too much or it will hit the nose cone of the transmission. I also gave the bottom of the plate some DA love.

I found it a real pain in the arse installing the stock skid bars by myself, but installed they were. See how exposed the transmission appears? Like having your goolies hanging out.

And same view with the plate installed.

Front view.

I think the extra width will help protect the inner cv joints and the fuel pump. Note to Simon, will also protect the speed sensor and that big electrical plug on driver’s side. But not sure about fitment around exhaust on your 2.5 Subie.

Next job will be to add some 1/4″ aluminium plate between the propshaft protection bars, and perhaps to extend that protection out sideways and attach to frame rails. That will help protect shift linkage and coolant hoses.

Damn. just occurred to me, forgot to paint the stock skid rails where I ground off the paint for welding the tabs on. I guess the project is not quite finished.



Vanagon – syncro bash plates project

I left the entire syncro drivetrain protection bars off my van after the propshaft business with a mind to installing some bash plates. The transmission is left pretty well fully exposed in the stock set up, and today I started doing a bash plate in that region. I had some scrap yard sourced 5/16″ aluminum plate to use.

Here are the stock skid bars/rails, transmission end. See the added tabs?

I had my first go at TIG welding…I still have a  long way to go.

A real welder (good friend Dave) did the stainless to plain steel weld (609 rod).

Pretty heavy gauge aluminum, but it was cheap.

I match drilled and countersunk holes in the plate to match the nuts on the rails. The tabs with nuts were not located with any special measurement in mind.

Other side view. I’ll offer the assembly up to the van and see how much of the plate I’ll cut away. Rough sketches on plate sort indicates my thinking, “wings” towards the rear to provide a little protection to the inboard cv joints.

Project finished, blog post here.



Vanagon – radiator replacement (mine)

Not really much to add to the previous rad replacement expect that it is my van (’86 syncro) and I thought I’d make it a post just for my documentation/memory aid purposes. I suspected my rad needed replacement for no other reasons than I think it is the original rad and that I noticed the rad fan coming on more often when idling after a hwy drive. The replacement is a Behr unit, made in South Africa. The old rad still had the a/c condensor rad attached in front, probably not helping heat escapement. The new rad did feel lighter than the old one, whether this is due to deposits in old rad or construction details I can’t say. No real details to note except that it is a pretty easy job. I clamped off the coolant lines so a total coolant replacement was not done, I glued on the little rubber washers on the spikes on top and bottom of the rad (so that they didn’t fall off during installation, and I sprayed Fluid Film on exposed fasteners in the general area. After install and bleeding, I have only idled van long enough (took 20 minutes) to get first stage of fan to come on, no road test yet.


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Vanagon – that transmission noise fixed?

I’m just back from test drive after installing my re-bushed propshaft and I can report that the noise I was hearing, and that I had thought was transmission noise, has gone! I’m chuffed!

But to ward off the Evil Eye, I’ll not claim victory.



Vanagon – making new syncro propshaft internal bushings – Part 2

I decided to make a split bushing for the internal location. I first turned down some Delrin to final inner diameter (23 mm to match the turned down yoke shaft), then mounted it on a mandrel to turn down OD to 28 mm (was OD of upper bushing and I guessed that the inner one was the same).

I kept the bushing on the mandrel and clamped it in my wee milling head. I also used a small C-clamp on the bushing to stop it from popping off during slot cutting. I used a 1/8″ end mill to cut the slot, made the slot 6.8 mm wide (chord length) which I estimated to be slightly more than needed.

Finished split bushing.

And as I tried to install it, I realized I had no way of holding it compressed to get into the narrow bore, no grip after it goes into outer bushing area. Oh, btw, this is how the bushing should appear when it is finally in place at the bottom of the housing.

I had an idea, some stainless shim stock to act like a funnel.

That worked and I was able to tap the bushing home. You can make it out, down at the bottom.

The yoke shaft would not fit in, I had to chamfer the end of the shaft a little more, and polish the end. But I finally was able to tap the shaft in and it is nice and snug. Quite snug actually, it takes about 20 Nm to rotate the yoke, but no radial movement at all. Oh and another thing, I removed that flange on the upper bushing, didn’t make any sense. I’m feeling quite chuffed in managing to get some sort of bushing replacement made. I hope they will wear well.



Vanagon – making new syncro propshaft internal bushings – Part one

I have my propshaft off while I try and track down my transmission noise (see previous post). Some helpful syncro owners over on the IG16 forum suggested that I look at my propshaft as the source of the noise. Well why not eh?

This is a story of mistakes and ignorance. When I compared my two propshafts in this post, I mistakenly concluded that one shaft had thinner walled bushings than the other. Well it did look that way and both assemblies felt equally tight – ie acceptable fit of shaft into bushings. But I think I must have been wrong for when I examined the “thin walled bushing” propshaft (the one I just removed from van), I could detect play in the bushings. The rubber giubo and the internal O-ring have been removed and dial indicator set up to measure movement as I lifted U-joint yoke up (trying not to rotate joint as I did it).

Here is diagram of that end of the propshaft just to refresh memories.

And my measurement set-up.

And short movie showing movement.

I admit to this being not an extremely accurate way of measuring the radial play, was hard to just move the yoke up and down and not rotate it. But I could feel the play and it was more than I think it should be.

So it comes down to replacing the bushings. The outer one would be relatively easy, but the inner one is a different story. And I think the inner one is important to be snug as it is at the end of the shaft and would limit shaft movement more than the outer bushing. That was a convoluted sentence, I hope you get the idea.

On the Yahoo Vanagon Syncro mailing list, the bushings have been discussed a few times. One list member wrote (a year ago?) that the inner bearing could not be replaced as it sits in a recess in the tube and was probably installed before that end was welded onto the propshaft. The drawing at top of this post does not really show the recess (drawing too small), and I had forgotten all about it.

Foolhardy is a useful adverb to use whenever I get it into my head to fix something. I kid myself that I know what I am doing, ha!

I pondered how to remove the inner bushing and came up with chiseling it out. I have this neat little 1/4″ chisel that looked like it would work.

And off I went, chiseling a groove down the inner bushing. It took a couple of groove before I could break out the bushing. I found it difficult to get a good pic of what was going on deep in there, but in this pic you can see a section of the bushing folded inwards. Sharp eyed readers will be able to see that there is a lip in the tube which locates the bushing. Bushing was pressed in from other side, then that end cap inserted (portion of bushing is obscuring the hole in the center of that end cap), and then assembly welded to propshaft. Even sharper eyed readers will notice another, smaller lip about halfway between inner and outer bushings. I overlooked this, I have no excuses why and it bit me on the ass later on.

Bits and pieces of the bushing. After I knocked the fragments out I could see the aforementioned lip. I didn’t feel very happy at that point.

I really had no choice but to go on and cut out the outer bushing. This pic shows how well the chisel cuts the bushing and the underlying steel – doh!

Note the fretting or corrosion on the surface of the bushing. Here is a close up of a fragment, looks a bit like sintered bronze, like an “Oilite” plain bearing.

So alright then, what to do about the inner bushing problem? I wasn’t about to cut the end off the propshaft. I settled on the idea of turning down the diameter of the end of shaft a tad, to about 23 mm from 25 mm (diameter at end where shaft inserts into bushing) and making that reduced diameter area about twice as long as the original bearing surface. I reasoned that a Delrin bushing could be made to fit into tube, be supported by the tube and extending on unsupported over the original bushing spot. Jeez, I need a diagram to explain.

Here is a cartoon cross-section of the end of propshaft that houses the bushings.

And with shaft in place.

Modified shaft.

And assembled with new bushings.

The drawings are not to scale and are meant just as sketches to get my idea across. Important thing to note is the new internal bushing will come further up the shaft, and be unsupported in old bushing area.

Off to the lathe!

Mounted yoke shaft between centers, was lucky and set up resulted in less than 0.001″ run out at end (inner bushing area).

Then turned the end down to 23.00 mm. I found it hard to get a nice surface finish even with very light cuts. I was using a round nosed HSS tool bit (has given me nice finish on other jobs), but this time I had problems. So, a less than perfect finish.

Chamfered the end and gave it a quick polish. I think it will be good enough.

Next step is to make the Delrin bushings. Whoa, slow down sonny! Have another look inside the propshaft, it is not quite the same as you describe in your sketches. Go on, look at that picture you took of the bore. What? No! Really? , let me… well gosh darn it.

I missed this before I thoroughly cleaned out the bore – the bore is machined out slightly for a little way, above the machined out area for the internal bushing. Illustrated, but exaggerated and not to scale, the slightly bored out region is not as large a diameter as illustrated, but it still screws things up for me.

So my original plan of a longer internal bushing will not work, see?

I decided to make the outer bushing, classic avoidance behaviour. I actually made 2 outer bushings, first one really as a practice piece, second one with a lip. I also went ahead and, again for practice, made the now discarded inner bushing concept.

Delrin rod (1.5″ diameter but turned down a tad before this shot) and boring out to fit yoke shaft. Gotta love that chipped cutter I am using, funny thing is that it does a nice job on this plastic.

Bored out to size, 25.00 mm.

I made a quick and dirty mandrel to mount bushing so that the outside diameter could be turned to size.

Then to get the bushing off the mandrel, I bored out the end of the mandrel.

To make the “practice” inner bushing, I first bored out Delrin to size, parted off, then mounted oversized bushing to yoke shaft to machine down to size. Note the outer bearing installed first. Makes you wonder if I hadn’t realized the issue with the propshaft bore yet, doesn’t it?

As I mentioned before, I went on to make another outer bushing and gave up for the evening.

Back to the problem of, in essence, installing a bushing from the wrong end. How about making the bushing the squeezing it to deform enough to be pushed in the bore and end up in position, then use a tool to form it back into shape, against wall of bore? Nope, daft. Well how about taking propshaft to machinist to bore out? Well, that might be the fall back solution. Ok, how about a split bushing? Would that allow the bushing OD to be reduced enough to be pushed in and then expand in correct place? Mmm, maybe, worth a try?

Something like the Iglide Clip2 plastic bushing (but without the end flange)?

The nominal diameter of the bore is 26 mm, and where the internal bushing is located, 28 mm. Circumference of bushing should be (pi X 28) 87.96 mm, and to fit in through 26 mm bore, 81.68 mm. So slot in bushing needs to be at least (87.96 – 81.68) 6.28 mm. Seems like a large slot to be cut. One thing in my favour is that the yoke shaft does not fully rotate in the bushing, just a few degrees allowed by the flex in the Giubo. A diagonal slot as shown in the Iglide bushing above would provide better support of the shaft so it is worth a try cutting the slot that way.

This post is getting rather long and rambling and I have other work to do, I’ll try making the split bushing later and report back in another blog entry. Feel free to give me a hard time in the comments section, I deserve it 🙂


Vanagon – transmission noise hunt

For the last couple of months I have been noticing a slight whine/howl when driving no load/coasting, in 3rd/4th or neutral, clutch in or out. Only in a narrow speed band,  50 – 60 kph. I’ve discounted rear wheel bearings and I resolved myself to having trans. taken apart and examined. So I started the pull process, first with skid bars and propshaft. After they were out I decided to drive van and surprisingly the noise was gone. So what does this mean? Maybe front diff is making the noise or is the removal of propshaft affecting whatever is noisy in transmission?

I pulled the front diff and took the case apart, 3 sections. Front cover and rear section. Mid section has R&P and I set that up to measure lash on the R&P.

Rear section removed (note spacer not on top of VC, I took it off before pic, sorry)

Front cover removed (cover was cleaned before shot).

I clamped the input shaft so it wouldn’t move.

And then set up dial indicator on outer part of ring gear tooth.

Close up.

I wiggled ring gear back and forth and measured lash. Was in spec (0.004 – 0.010″).

And teeth looked ok. Mind you Daryl at AA Transaxle says ring teeth don’t usually show wear, its the pinion teeth that do. Hard to really see them when in case.

During removal I had to cut the vent line as I forgot to remove banjo bolt securing it to case (did same thing last time I removed diff, doh). So I made up a nipple and added a section of vinyl tubing.

So where does that leave me? Daryl is suggesting it is the pinion bearing in the transmission and I can still drive it for a while. I’m not clear on how the propshaft affects that bearing but I don’t feel quite as pressured to tear into, or have a skilled person tear into the transmission.

Addendum: Dirk over on the IG16 forum, wondered if the ring gears did actually show unusual wear. He pointed to lines parallel to the teeth. I don’t think that these marks are anything to worry about.


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Vanagon – coolant temp sender wire repair and another broken hose

Is it good or bad luck I am having?

About the same time I discovered that leaking coolant hose I mentioned in this post, I noticed that my coolant temp gauge was not working – no needle movement nor did the warning LED flash upon start-up. I had been mucking around with the cluster a fair bit and I thought that I had either broken the circuit foil or had a bad connection at T14. But examining the dash did not reveal any problems. I finally tracked it down to a bad connection at the female spade connection to the temp sender back on the thermostat housing. The insulation on the wire was very brittle for about 2″ up from the spade, and the connector itself felt a little limp on the wire. It has been worked on before, that is not a stock spade connector.

The copper was corroded, and you can see the discoloured insulation which pretty well corresponds to the brittle section.

I cut back the wire to where it was flexible and spliced in a new length, plus a new spade connector (section of plastic insulation was cut out to allow the spade to slip on the temp sender).

Here is the brilliant location of the temp sender, exposed to heat and road splash.

And the new connection made.

So after that I was mucking around looking at things in the engine compartment, engine running, when I pushed on the hose that runs from the upper coolant crossover tube to the narrow steel tube that runs around 3 sides of the engine compartment. The hose split and coolant rapidly spat out. Yes, that is steam in the picture.

Te previous owner had used fuel line hose, and it was hard and brittle.

I had some spare hose to make the repair, and I think my van is really trying to tell me to go over all of the hoses and replace. I got the message with the previous leak, but nothing like another nudge in the ribs.


Vanagon – eccentric stub axle?

(note: holding stub axle by the splines was an error duly pointed out by David in the comments. Axle re-measured and post updated.)

I was complaining to Phil Z. about my wheel bearing failure and he suggested I have a look at the stub axle. So I chucked it up on the lathe, holding it by the splined outboard end (was careful to have the chuck jaws positioned correctly on the splines) and then I measured a couple of things.

Where the outboard bearing seats had 0.009″ runout.

At the inboard bearing seat I measured 0.015″ runout (sorry, fuzzy pic slipped past me).

Where the seal rides, 0.020″.

The face where the CV joint mates had 0.010″ runout.

I did not measure that outer edge of the CV mounting flange as I thought eccentricity there was not  important as the cv is aligned by the bolts.

And here is a quick vid of the assembly spinning.

What does all this mean? How does a new stub axle measure up? Was this runout the cause of my bearing failure?

Addendum: Crow eating time. David’s points about where I was grabbing the axle (splines) was correct. I re-measured runout with axle held by outer bearing seat.

Runout at inner bearing about 0.005″.

At seal, 0.007″.

Flange face, 0.002″.

Looks a lot better in motion.

So there, no smoking gun after all.




Vanagon – cooling system leak

Bloody vans eh? No sooner than I fixed that wheel bearing than another problem bites me. Last couple of days I had been noticing a slight whiff of coolant when I got out of the van. I couldn’t see any leaks, inside or out. Then yesterday I noticed that my coolant overflow tank was empty and even I could not ignore the fact that I had a real live leak somewhere. I topped up the tank and fretted about expensive repairs. Today after a short drive, the smell was much more pronounced and I did find the leak. Thank the Vanagon gods that it was a hose leak, short section that runs from the thermostat to the lower of the two crossover pipes at the front end of the engine.

This pic from above does not show any wetness (the bad hose is the lower, thick one). Update: I think it is this hose featured at Van Cafe.

But from below, you can see the marks of a leak.

I had to remove a bracket that holds the remnants of the Webasto coolant heater system to get at the short hose, and remove the bell housing vent to get it out of harm’s way (syncro bell housings are sealed to the motor and a vent is provided that leads up somewhere above the gas tank). No surprise I suppose when I broke the plastic elbow when removing the bracket, so it goes.

With the bracket out of the way, I could get at the hose. Off it came and time to look at it closely.

Just a pinhole really, but big enough to piss away 1 litre of coolant in about 30 minutes of driving. I had some used hose that I took the chance with, and I got it back in place. I had a closer look at the broken vent elbow, it was plugged solid with some sort of crap.

Then I made a jury rigged repair to the vent elbow using some silicone tubing, stainless tubing, and a bit of stainless wire wrap.

Yeah, I know, this hose leak is a not so gentle reminder that all of the cooling hoses on the van are old and tired. The thing is, I have it in mind to swap in a different motor so I’m being a bit cavalier with this old wasserboxer.


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Vanagon – Small Car stainless header failure

Was installed new about a year ago, in a EJ25 powered syncro. I suppose disappointing would be one way to describe it.