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Vanagon – Propex heater install part 1

A couple of weeks ago I had time to visit the local auto wrecker. I found a new arrival, a late model Westy that had a engine fire. A sad sight, but on the upside the fire was pretty well limited to the very rear. Under the bench seat I found a Heat Source HS 2000 propane heater. It’s commonly referred to as a Propex heater and it was undamaged by the fire. Well the cable to the thermostat did get burned but everything else was ok. Settled on a price and I pulled the unit along with the intake and exhaust pipes and as much cable as I could get out.

A pic of it in the van, taken so I could send it to Simon and do some crowing.


Simon has the same unit and we mounted his between the front seats, with a hollowed out console over it. It’s worked out very well for him and after a lot of waffling on my part I decided to do more or less the same. Does it go without saying that this install location only works with syncros? The gas tank on 2wd Vanagons precludes this option.

I set the heater up on the bench, supplied power and propane, but no joy. Deader than a fart. I mentioned that the thermostat cable was damaged by the fire, I had cut out the bad part and spliced the wires. But the unit was dead none the less. I emailed Karl at westyventure.com and he kindly, and promptly told me to check out a fuse on the heater unit circuit board. It’s a well disguised fuse and indeed he was right, it was blown. We both agreed that the fire damaged thermostat cable was the cause. I jumped the fuse and the heater fired up.

I ordered some fuses from digikey and they came the next day ( amazing ) and all was well.

Next step was to assemble the parts needed for the gas line connection. The heater came with a 1/4″ compression fitting  elbow. It’s 1/4 BSPT into the unit and what I discovered that there are various compression fitting sizes possible for the other end of the elbow. As I said, I had 1/4″, but it could have been 5/16″, 8mm, or even 3/8″. Anyway, I bought some 1/4″ soft copper tubing, a four way connector ( 4 by 3/8 NPT female) , a 3/8″ close nipple and a 3/8″ NPT X 1/4″ compression elbow. 

Yes it’s confusing and I don’t think I can say it any more clearly.

Ok, pic of the propane tank end with the new fittings in place.


So, you see the new four way connected by the short nipple to the regulator. It replaces the stock three way. The stock plumbing to the stove and fridge connects the the four way pretty well in the same orientation they did with the three way. The new elbow barely makes it at the bottom of the 4 way connector. You might be able to see the copper line running vertically behind the 4 way.

I led the copper up to the floor then between floor and fram rail. That’s the sink drain there. The 1/4″ copper makes it in that tight gap. I don’t think anything larger would.


Them it runs up forward.


Yup, to reach the area above the front diff and below the passage way between the front seats. Used my magic hammer to make the holes.


And because of the carpet and the rubber mat (latter not shown yet) and because the floor slopes,  I made a base from 1/8″ aluminum for the heater to sit on. It’s supported at the rear by some 1″ C channel.


And because the heater is not sitting directly on the metal floor, I stuck in a pair of aluminum tubes. Sealed with high temp silicone, and the ID is a close fit for the intake and exhaust tubes.


It wasn’t easy making all the connections, I got the heater in place and connected.


In the next part I’ll show how the intake and exhaust tubes run, and how I prettied up the heater.

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Apology

Reasons for radio silence these last couple of months:

– busy at work

– tired when I come home

– rain

– doing yard and house repair type work I should have done before

– idiotic mail dump deletion and slow recovery.

I have outstanding blog post questions to respond too, I apologize for being so unforgivably slow.

And sheesh, forgot one more apology. The Lesotho post from John B. is now unlocked and his commentary posted.

And hey, another mea culpa. The gif of Javier at the top of this post is from the site “if we don’t remember me” http://iwdrm.tumblr.com

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Syncro trip in Lesotho

John, B. was kind enough to send me pics of a trip he made in Lesotho. Thanks again John.

 Hi Alistair,

Lesotho is a mountain kingdom landlocked in the middle of South Africa. It is a country in its own right. It is part of the Drakensburg Mountains, literally means Dragon Mountains and they are a very high, wonderfully exciting range of mountains in South Africa. They get snow in winter, one of the few places that do and high enough up it is very stark and windblown. The Lesotho people still eke out a living in these mountains and are famed for their breed of horses that live up there and that they use to herd goats etc. There is very little in the way of economy and China has recently started building massive roads and bridges etc. as they are doing all over Africa now, in return of course for Diamonds and the like! Africa seriously has a new master or overlord, having gotten rid of us European Colonialists they now are rapidly trading their freedom away to China in return for infrastructure.

The motivation for the trip was that they were just about to tar on of the famous mountain passes whereby one gains access from South Africa into Lesotho. It will certainly change the region’s economy and make it easier for the locals to trade but at the same time at a huge loss in terms of pristine non developed mountains. So on the 24 of Sept 2014, eight VW Syncro’s headed for Cobham Nature Reserve just outside Himeville which is in the lower foothills of the Drakensburg to start this epic adventure.

We were going to attempt 3 well known and sometimes treacherous passes in one trip over 4 days. The Jeep club guys see this as their stomping ground and we in our boxy little vehicles were looking forward to treading in their territory!

Suffice to say the trip was exciting with the first pass totally smooth and easy as it had been prepared to be tarred by the Chinese road people! We then proceeded to get into the mountains proper and had an amazing time, sleeping above the cloud line and in river beds next to flowing rivers, completely self-sustained and cut off from civilization. We, as usual, attempted to do too much distance and our average speeds were so low as some areas had been washed away form the last snows and storms that we took a full day to do a few kilometres! But that’s how I believe these trips should be!

We had a trip, where although highly challenging, we had no breakdowns at all! Just shows that Syncros can be made reliable again if one spends enough trouble and time and money on them.

All the Syncro’s on this trip, bar one had upgraded to 15” wheels.

One of them is a rare (rare in SA, I think Europe had them a lot) imported factory built 16” wheeled Syncro but also fitted with 15” wheels for ease of finding tyres on trips into Africa. You’ll notice only one “Campervan” or Westy style roof. They were never brought into SA and so we are not used to having them and tend to rig ours out in a more modular in fashion and with standard rooftops.

2 Syncros had 2.0i Golf motors, 5x had 5cyl 2.6 VW (Audi) conversions and the one standard Syncro still had the OE VW WBX4 motor, although it had been stroked from 2.1i to 2.3i for more torque.

Interestingly, the standard 14 inch wheeled WBX 2.1 Syncro fared as well as any of the other Syncros, making one wonder whether we do mods for our own vanity rather than vehicle capability. It was an extreme trip in terms of needing both front and rear diff locks often engaged on very steep ascents and really good clearance for rocks on the passes and river crossings and the stock Syncro didn’t miss a beat!

I quote some excerpts from Stuart’s trip report at the time. He has agreed that we may use them. Stuart was the trip leader and owner of the 16 inch Syncro you can see in one of the pics, he also runs a Syncro business here and is a great source of parts and solutions to the traditional Syncro problems!…I quote…

“The track from Mantsonyane to Semokong is 67km in length, and we were far behind at this point. We met a group driving bikes on the track, they had camped at the river the night before, it was now 2pm and they had managed to do 5,5km from the river, they had a Ford Everest with a trailer as a backup vehicle and this was slowing them down, they had damaged the fuel tank on the decent into the river and said we were going to struggle to get up…. how right they were!”

“We pressed on to the river, the descent from this side was daunting with a nasty 400mm step on an angle to go down, if you took the wrong line it would push you to the edge of the track with a near vertical drop to the river. Once we were all safely down we needed to get up the 8.8km with 500m in total climb in the next few hours, as it looked as if there was rain on the way.” (My comments, it was so steep that if you stopped to help another vehicle, you had to switch off in crawler gear, handbrake on as hard as you could, then get out and dash to the back of the vehicle and put rocks behind the wheels for extra safety as the vehicles often felt that they wanted to slide backward. It also helped starting off again to have the rocks behind the wheels! It was incredibly steep, the photos pay no justice to this what so ever)

“I (Stuart) was the lead vehicle, we stopped after every climb and got the rest of the vehicles through, there were 500mm in diameter boulders, huge washed out steps and deep gulley’s everywhere. Luckily at this stage there were short climbs with flat patches in between, the last 4km was different, basically one steep climb with 2x hairpin bends, no place to stop and wait for the others. Huge rocks, massive steps, and a side slope to the cliff edge, wrong line and you were a goner….

… Henning asked me to drive his Syncro up to the top, as his confidence was shaken. His description is all you see is “Blue Sky” while driving up the steps. We now had to get his Syncro back onto the track, the rear locker was spinning it closer and closer to the edge as the one wheel was stuck on a step. We flatted the step to a nice angle and I used the front diff lock to pull the Syncro towards the track. Then it was foot flat and to the top without stopping.”

“Another 2 hours later and with the light fading fast and the first few raindrops starting to fall we had all the Syncro’s almost to the top. At the top there was a deep gulley in the road, Paul’s Syncro slid into it and almost onto its side.

Looking up “Gorilla’s pass” from below and seeing three Syncro’s stuck on the narrow track in front really had me worried. There was no going back, and if one of the Syncros in front experienced mechanical failure we would have had serious problems. No trees for winches, never mind getting a vehicle in there to winch. I had horrible thoughts of broken side shafts, CVs, busted sumps, etc. The buses were often required to restart on the incline, with four wheels clawing for traction between rocks, smoke coming from clutches and tyres on the rocks….. But when it REALLY COUNTED the Syncro’s didn’t let us down!”

  
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
And a couple of shots of John’s van alone.

   
 

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Beauty and the beast

Doing some errands and saw this beauty parked at Owen’s garage in Sidney. I had no room to get proper shots, but oh my, isn’t it a lovely thing? Sex on wheels. It’s in my dream garage beside my DS21, 246 Dino, and  of course, the syncro 🙂


image

Later that afternoon I came up behind another one close to my home.

Oh, forgot about another fantasy garage member, this Unimog with the hydraulic firewood splitter up front.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 105 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 144 posts. There were 643 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 425mb. That’s about 2 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was April 12th with 712 views. The most popular post that day was Weekend trip in April.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were thesamba.com, mail.yahoo.com, gerry.vanagon.com, ig-syncro16.de, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cyclekart, webasto bbw46, webasto bbw 46, bbw46, and webasto.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Weekend trip in April April 2010

2

Webasto BBW 46 heater December 2009

3

Frank G.’s modified instrument cluster January 2010

4

Cyclekart November 2009
8 comments

5

Pop top conversion- Mosaik kit February 2010

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Fastener info and reference

Nuts and bolts and screws and washers and…

Good reference document, pdf.
fastener manual

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DOD corrosion study

Canadian armed forces review paper on corrosion control strategies. Good bedtime reading for insomniacs. Pdf, 824 kb.
p526285

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