Archive for category vanagon mods

Vanagon – LED headlight H4 bulbs, next chapter, Part 1

Last winter I installed some LED H4 bulbs into my e-code lamps. Here is the link to the last update about them. If you haven’t read that post, and the original install post referred, and you want to know my reasoning behind trying the bulbs, I urge you to go read them. 

Oh and another proviso, I bought both the original and these new versions from Banggood. They weren’t given to me. My opinions about the bulbs are not influenced by any freebies. 

So why did I buy new bulbs? There are three reasons. First one is I was not happy about the radio interference they caused. The interference affected weaker fm stations. It was annoying. Secondly, I wasn’t satisfied about the high beam projection. The beam seemed to get lost at distance. On the other hand the low beams are so good that I didn’t need the high beams as often as I did with halogen bulbs. Again, please refer to the post linked above for more on beam patterns. The third reason for trying another set was that these bulbs come with optional gel filters, yellow. I was curious about how they would work.

Ok then, here are the new bulbs, and here is a link to the product page. Link fixed, sorry about that.


Packaged pretty well.

Similar to the older model ( on the right ) but with some important differences.


Right away you see the heat sink is different. I think that the older bulb has some electronics in the base, the new ones have a separate box of electronics. And notice the difference in the led element, size, number, and orientation.


I’m going out on a limb and say that the newer bulb has the LED elements arranged to more closely mimic the filament positions in a halogen H4 bulb. Interesting that the elements are smaller and fewer but the bulbs are advertised as 30W each compared to the 25W of the older bulb.

The new bulbs have a metal box in the power line. I was surprised it was metal, made me hopeful that the radio interference issue might be fixed. Popped the cover to have a look.


Components are potted, only a cap showing.


I was impressed, I started to think that these bulbs were surprisingly well made. The power line has a very positive and o-ring sealed connection. This probably eases some installs, makes no difference in the van.


The filters, according to the instructions, are self adhesive and applied to the glass tubes.


I’m holding off on the filters for now, but I did install the glass tubes. The end of the bulb unscrews and the tube slips down and seats against an o-ring.


O-ring wasn’t in correct position in that last pic, but here we go fixed.


Another interesting feature is the rotationally adjustable mount. The three tab base is held in place by two set screws, and it can be rotated. There is a degree ring on the base and a witness mark on the bulb body. I did not change the orientation, I’ll wait for some night testing to see if it’s needed. I’m only guessing right now about what effect the rotation would give.

Time to pop them into the lamps. The older bulbs thicker bulb body didn’t let me install those rubber boots, but the new ones did. 


Here is new bulb without boot.

If you remove the three tab mounting base you can push on a boot and then reinstall the base. The boot is everted here, makes it easier to get at the set screws.


Keep the boot rolled back and carefully get the retaining wire bails clipped in.


Then pop the boot.


Ok, so I actually installed one lamp last night. Right away I saw that the beam pattern on the garage wall was tighter, both low and especially high beam. The radio interference problem was still there, grrr.

But today, with both bulbs in, the interference problem has disappeared! Yes, that’s right, weak fm stations now back on the menu. I’m really chuffed about that.

Next to do is swap one of the old LED bulbs back in and do a comparison, take some pics etc. So far I’m really pretty impressed by the build quality of these bulbs, especially for Can$64.

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Vanagon – alternator voltage regulator re-brushing

During the summer, on a camping trip, the alternator failed. The brushes on the voltage reg finally wore out. I had a spare (used) voltage reg on board and the swap got us going again.

The failed regulator was an adjustable unit I bought way back in the early noughts. It got swapped over from my old 82 westy to the Syncro in 2011. It had been working perfectly all this time and I really liked the ability to up the voltage output a little to overcome any voltage losses in the wiring up to the battery and also to give my batteries a good charge.

I think the reg cost around 35 bucks back then, haven’t checked the prices these days. Might not seem cost effective to repair it, but I wanted to. Hey why not? What’s the point of other folk posting how to do it…

Local automotive electrics outfit, Brian Roberts, sold me a pair of brushes for 8 bucks.  Just $8, a little solder, flux, and time, and the reg was fixed.  I wasn’t very good at documenting the steps but here we go.

The new brushes look like this, carbon-like with a braided copper pigtail. The spring is the old one, no problem re-using.


Old brush…


To get the old brushes out, well originally, under the solder, the metal is formed into a tube which is crimped onto the pigtail, soldered, and trimmed.


I found that merely melting the solder didn’t release the pinched pigtail. So I drilled it out. That meant when I inserted the new brush and pigtail I had to hold the braided pigtail…


Pigtail with spring fed up into the brush holder on the reg, haemostat holding pigtail so brush projects fully but doesn’t come out.  Then, flux (rosin) and a good strong iron.


Was hoping for a better blob, but it’s ok.

And the iron? This old Weller, it’s a champ with this sort of thing.


 Same thing with other brush. Then trim the excess copper


So that’s all good. Hey just as an aside, clean up shiny, all the contacts on the reg and also on the alternator body.

Acesss to the lower machine screw holding the reg to the alternator is fussy in the stock wbx. An intake runner impedes screwdriver. 


An offset screwdriver does the job, albeit slowly. But beware, if you didn’t disconnect the battery then you can hit the hot stud on the alternator with the driver. The angry pixies make you jump. Foiled a second attack with heat shrink on the driver. But the pixies managed to nibble one end, see?


Oh, btw, adjustment of the reg is done via little screw.


Dialed mine up to 14.65 V at alternator. But I’ve noticed that the voltage will drop maybe half a volt or so when the alternator heats up. Btw, the multimeter is pretty good for $15, banggood. Auto ranging, back light, big display, AA batteries rather than 9V. Still have the protective film on display, it’s not a thing with me, just forgot.

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Vanagon – minor changes to old mods

A while back I made an aluminum grill to replace the stock grill on the rear side of the kitchen unit. I made it such that it would house an USB dual outlet and a voltmeter. Later I rotated it so the outlets were in top.


It was ok, never did paint it. What bugged me was no switch to turn off the voltmeter and outlet. So with more enthusiasm than design skills I made another and this time added switches and painted. Btw I used krylon espresso brown which I was told was a good match for the brown in my older westy cabinetry. The pics don’t really show the colour well but it’s darker than stock.


That thing in the aluminum block is a digital controller I’m using for the fridge fin fan(s). More on that when I post my findings about my fridge mods. Yeah you can see a bit of sloppily applied insulation on the fridge exhaust pipe, that’s much less than originally installed. Again, more on that later.

Now I can switch on the volt meter and USB outlet. The thermo controller has its own on/off function. Extra switch thrown in there just in case.

I did make the vertical slots as long as I could, but I didn’t mean to slightly overlap the cabinet. Doh…


Also refined, ha, the “new style westy table on old style arm” mod, link and link, slimming the aluminum adapter down a tad and adding a plastic spacer, ( the red thing, don’t know what kind of plastic, might be Delrin).


Surprisingly, the plastic spacer improves the tightening action.

And back to that espresso brown paint. I painted the little indicator panel on the kitchen unit front face. Maybe you can see the colour mis match in this pic. Nothing quite like taking a picture of something to make you realize just how beat up a thing is, man, look at those dents etc. Oh and another thing, trying this and that to bring back some life to the rest of the face plate. Paint was chalky and faded.

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Vanagon – that clunky airfoil roof rack update

Last year I made a pretty clunky roof rack to hold my old Thule ski box. Seemed like a good idea at the time, using up some airfoil aluminum extrusion. But, and apart from my crappy welds, I think the end result was a bit off. Here is the link to the original post. At that time I was using an aluminum rail attached to the side of the pop top, it worked but I thought it flimsy.

So… I made some new side rails from 1″X2″ aluminum box section. The rear Most section is bent to fit the contour of the roof, and  I put in some slots for visual interest and to access the roof rack mounting system.


That red badge is from a Passat syncro station wagon found at wreckers. Annoying that even though the mounting hole for the badge is cantered on the tube, when the badge snaps on it lies off centre, grrr.



The ends of the box section are filled with section of 2″ aluminum tubing, half circles 1″ thick. Welded and blended.

I came up with a novel method of holding the airfoil rack down onto the roof and side rails. 


5/16″ NC bolts drilled out and holes chamfered, 1/8″ stainless cable with swaged ends (copper). The shorter bolt goes into the underside of the airfoil, stainless threaded inserts in the aluminum. The longer bolt goes through the box section side rail and tightened and locked with nuts.


That works surprisingly well, the cable tension is good, the rack gets pulled down firmly. The ski box is bolted to the airfoils, so that ties the two airfoils together. But even alone, the rack is very secure on the roof. I’ll paint the whole lot black some day.

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Vanagon – what’s this gizmo used for?

Update: vanagon mailing list guesses include prop to keep loose vent window open and holding notes to metal dash. Good guesses and would work, but not the primary intent.

Good friend Stephen gave me this idea. Handy bit of wood with magnet on one end. It’s 1 1/2″ long, 3/4″ diameter. It could be another 3/4″ longer but works fine as is. Extra points if you can guess the wood (I’m looking at you, oldfussbudget). Wood hint, it’s never going to rot.

Oh and yes, can have more than one use, with that magnet and all.


Ok, the anticlimax, the reveal. It’s used to prop open the license plate hatch when checking fluids. Yeah I know you can use the oil fill cap, but I think this is better 🙂


If you want you can store it stick to the hatch. Or maybe better idea is to use it to hold down notes on the dash.

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Vanagon – a couple of minor fridge mods

Attention!!! Maybe some of these mods don’t work. Doing some tests now to confirm. Yes this is embarrassing 🙂

I’m going to try my best to not run down any rat holes in this post, for there are many when it comes to the fridge. I’ll try to stick to the mods that I recently made. Over this last winter I’ve had a couple of westy propane fridges in the workshop, in for some D&C ( that’s dusting and cleaning, not the other). With one of them, I tried out some ideas. First was to insulate the section of corrugated stainless exhaust pipe that really pumps out heat into the van. Just a couple of wraps of Fiberglas tape, exhaust pipe tape.

The next mod was a couple of aluminum plates clamped to the fridge cooling fins to help channel cooling air. I know others have made an enclosing shroud back there, I tried that about twenty years ago and I wasn’t very successful in getting a good fit. This time I reckoned that the plates would maybe do 80% of the job with 100% less effort.

In addition to the plates, I added a bank of three small, very quiet and low current draw, squirrel cage fans.

Here’s the test mule with the mods. At this time there was only one wrap of insulation on the exhaust pipe and I added a programable temperature controller and probe to control the bank of fans.


I bench tested this with propane, 120 V ac, and 12 V dc. I fiddled with a programable temp controller and finally decided that even though it was sort of fun to be able to adjust the fan set point and adjust the dead zone ( in effect, adjustable hysteresis) , it really wasn’t needed.

Also found that on propane, the exhaust pipe still gets hot. Not skin scorchingly hot as it was un-wrapped, but still a heat source. Decided to double wrap.

This weekend I duplicated the set up onto my own fridge. I had added a second fan to this fridge some time ago, and I had replaced the stock fan motor with a slightly larger unit. This was working ok, the second fan was fairly quite. Skirting round a tempting rat hole here when I say that I think the stock fan blade works as well as anything in that placement.


I removed that computer fan and installed the bank of three squirrel cage fans. The fans are wired in parallel to the stock fan. And added the plates.


Plates are held on by hooked ends, the straight ends threaded and nutted.


The fans are mounted to a bit of 1″ wide, 1/8″ thick aluminum. Little bit of a dog leg and screwed at one end, the other end cable tied to fridge tubing. It’s in there quite securely, no movement, no rattles.


Double wrap of insulation on the exhaust pipe.


I don’t think the insulation will have any adverse effect on the exhaust tubing. I think the stainless will take the additional heat.

A couple of tips on reinstalling the fridge. One thing I did some years ago was to re-thread the intake/exhaust flange for M4 bolts. The original sized holes had stripped out. The socket headed cap screws are nicer to use.


When you’re trying to line the fridge up to install the sheet metal screws inside the cupboards, a slim awl or a pin as shown is a great help.


And the propane connection to the fridge can be a little frustrating to attach. The line up might be off and the access is awkward. A short wrench is invaluable, this old family heirloom is what I use.


You know, I’m not an expert on these fridges but I’ve found that if all the components are working, the electrical connections good, and the combustion chamber ( and gas jet) is clean, then the fridge lights up easily. Believe me, I’ve struggled with the fridge at times, but I think those days are long gone.

Touch wood

Addendum, later that day…

Dgbeatty commented that I should look to the finned heat exchangers inside the fridge and re-do the thermal paste. That bugged me, I should have thought of that when I had the fridge out. I replied that I had tried to remove the fins years before but had no luck, they were stuck enough that I worried about breaking something. But I tried again and this time they came off.


That old thermal paste came off with WD40, then a rub with isopropyl alcohol.


Of course I don’t have a tub of thermal paste to re-apply, so I did what any redneck would do, I used anti-sieze. I don’t think that’s as daft as it seems. The MSDS for this anti-sieze states it contains 5-10% (by weight) aluminum powder.


And all back together. Replaced the the little CPU fan I had wired up to the top of the fins ( idea is to circulate the cold air, don’t use it that often) with one of the little squirrel cage fans. At the side of the fins. What the heck, it’s going to move some air.


Thanks Dgbeatty for getting me off my duff.

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Vanagon – pop top seal replacement and new decals 

This is, and i know there are many strong contenders, the most boring post on this site. You’ve been warned.

It’s funny, I mean funny curious, how we get concerned by things that others think trivial. What I mean is that there are so many cosmetic repairs I have to do to my van but what I end up doing is something minor. This time it’s the pop top seal which, while not completely thrashed, was getting tired.

And the the other funny thing is that I don’t like how many of the replacement seals look. I’m not saying they don’t work well, it’s just that they have a vinyl look that bugs me.

Way back in 2001 or 2002, I replaced the stock pop top seal on my old 82 westy with a bulb seal that I found at a local RV store. It had a nice rubber look and had a generous sized bulb and edge grabbing part. I kept that seal when I used the 82 westy parts to camperized my syncro tin top. The luggage seal was the original VW seal and I kept that ragged thing going with glue repairs.

But it was time to freshen things up and I found a replacement bulb seal. It’s a heavy duty seal that I discovered being used at a local boat company. It’s not cheap, and i had to buy more than needed. 

From left to right, an unused portion of the old seal that was left over from the 2001 install, the used old seal, and the new seal.

Right away you can see the new seal has white grippers and a slightly deeper gripping portion. Also has that inside lip that really doesn’t have any effect in the pop top install.


Side views.


My lord this is boring. Ok, So i bought new bulb seal and I put it on the pop top. Also used the seal on the luggage rack and it worked out just fine. That heavy bulb seal sat down nicely. Left the seal a little short at the rear to let water drain. Maybe I’ll need to cut a channel in the bulb at the front corners for more drainage, we’ll see.

There is one issue with this type of bulb seal on the pop top and I noticed it with the old seal. And that is there is a bit of a ledge between the seal and the pop top that collects dirt. What I might do is run a small bead of clear silicone caulk along the edge.

And the decals had really not weathered well. I don’t have one of those rubber wheels that you use with an electric drill to remove decals so I was thinking it was going to be a chore getting them off. But turned out that a plastic scraper and heat did the deed in a jiffy.


Bit of a tell left after a wipe down with isopropyl alcohol.


New decal, which btw are 3M reflective black, going on.


Looks ok, but I’m pants at this sort of thing, never seem to get the decal just right ( you’ll see that with the rear decal)



One last boring pic. The van is a daily driver and this is the wet coast of Canada and that combo means lichen on the pop top. Scrubbed the top and the interlux brightside on part poly urethane paint I used 7 years ago ( and only one coat, cheap me) cleaned up surprisingly well.

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Vanagon – the aluminum obsession continues – sliding door card 

It wasn’t my first choice of materials, but it was given to me by Thomas and I had to use it. 2024-T5 aluminum is hard to weld as I found out with another project. That project might get some air here. I just jumped into it and didn’t pay any heed to the letters printed on the stock, I thought I was just having a bad day at welding. It’s also not happy being bent, snappingly not happy.

So I had a couple of good sized bits of 0.063″ (1.6mm) 2024 that I really couldn’t readily use. Except… my sliding door card had been mangled by the previous owner and although liked the stock vinyl and cloth cover I hated that it was warped and tattered especially at the rear end.

I got that red mist in my eyes and made a replacement card from the aluminum. Yeah I know, it’s not the best stuff for this application. It’s cold, it’s thinner than the stock cards, it’s harder to fab, and I will have to cover with some sort of fabric. Oh speaking of the fabric cover I’m intruiged by this stuff from Seattle fabrics, the link here. I’d stick on a thin layer of open cell foam before the fabric. But we’ll see what I can find, don’t worry it will be covered and slightly insulated.

I just laid the old door card on the metal stock and traced the outline. I popped in holes the same size as stock thinking that maybe the stock clips would hold, but as it turned out they wouldn’t. The aluminum was just too springy to pop conform to the curve of the door without pulling the clips. That meant I had to slightly enlarge the clip holes in the door to accept some 1/4-20 riv-nuts. And then I used 1/4-20 flat head stainless screws and finish washers to attach the panel. And boy oh boy, screwing the door card on is so much more secure than those plastic clips.

The pics follow 🙂

Stock cut with protective plastic film still on.


Yeah, hand cut so the wobblies  show.

A bit of a “hall of mirrors” effect in the van. Maybe keeping it uncovered will make the inside of the van seem larger. 

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Vanagon – that westy table mod update

A couple of things to say. The somewhat clunky adapter that I made to allow the newer style table top to fit the older style table leg has raised the table enough to partially block the USB outlets I put in the vent grill on the side of the stove unit.


I think there is enough meat in the adapter to take away and lower the table. The next thing is the knob that tightens the table leg to the cupboards. I bet most of you find that it’s difficult to tighten that knob enough to prevent the table from moving a bit when driving. Many have made retainers of one form or another. Maybe magnets on the van wall, maybe Velcro. You know what I mean. I did something along those lines on my old 82 westy. But this time I thought about changing the knob to something I could tighten, and equally as importantly, loosen easily. So I quickly made a knob substitute from some 1 X 1/8″ stainless flat bar. I welded a M10 socket headed bolt to it and added some “speed holes” ( as Travis would call them ). Much easier to tighten and loosen and when tight it holds the table firmly. No need for any other fix.



It’s not very stock looking, but it’s not an irreversible modification.

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Vanagon – westy table, old type leg with new type top

I used the interior of my old 82 westy when I converted the syncro tin top to a westy. You might know that the old style table leg to table top connection is a spigot into a tube arrangement. The newer type has the end of the leg flattened and a bolt runs up thru that and into the table top. The later style is much better, in as much as the table doesn’t have the short spigot on it and stores a little easier. In addition, I never did have the front table or table leg until a few years ago when good friend Stephen gave me the pair, but the newer style. That was around the same time the kid left home so big table when camping wasn’t needed, we just used the front table. Actually, the front table was used much more often in the Swellegant™ conformation

But then the other day I was poking around in the first circle of hell, aka the home workshop, and found two late model large table tops. I had forgotten that same good friend Stephen had dropped them off after salvaging the edge trim. I grabbed one and cleaned it up, pulled the edge trim off my old style table, and whacked it on. So now I had a functioning late model table and I could use it with the Swellegant™ table stand and have a bigger outdoor cocktail table. And who doesn’t want that?

And then I got to thinking, why not make something so this larger table could be used with the old style table leg? I had a bit of aluminum round stock that I had machined to make shaft aligning tool which turned out not to be needed so I whittled it down to make a table adapter. Welded a bit of flat stock with holes in it to a suitable bolt and bob’s your uncle, a table adapter. It’s a bit clunky but note that’s the flat stock handle used to tighten the table top to leg is much easier to use than the stock round handle and I made it so that the handle ends up more or less above the table leg when tight. That’s just to reduce the chances of snagging something on the handle. 

Oh and the old stock knob that screwed into the tube on top of the old style leg, I replaced with a short bolt which hits the flat spot machined on the side of the adapter. Don’t need to touch that again, the table top is held on by the through bolt ( the through bolt which has the holy handle).


Ad the table in place. The short front table in this instance.


Oh and just to be clear on the table leg differences between old and new, here is a new style rear table leg which I had shortened to be used up front. Completing the circle as it’s going to good friend Stephen.

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Vanagon – awning guy line tensioners

Catching up on blog posts, some little things…

I have a Shady Boy awning on the van. Gosh, it must be well over ten years now and it’s worked well for us. But I never liked the plastic tensioners used on the guy lines. Came across some nice tensioners online, made by MSR and called “Camring Cord Tensioners”. Here’s a link to Mountain Equipment Coop listing. They looked pretty cool, thought I’d make some knock offs.

But whoa, you say, why bother making them when they are only about 11 bucks for four? Good question, I have no good answer. And to be honest, a little bit of me dies when I copy a good idea. 

Ok, enough of that. Here’s a pic from the MEC link of the originals.


Nice aren’t they? Nicely finished and anodized. I just guessed about the dimensions and used the stock I had on hand to come up with these.


Thicker wall tubing and not as nicely finished. I replaced the old Shady Boy guy lines with some paracord and the tensioners.


I suppose if you are going to shamelessly copy a design make sure you copy a good design. And this is a good design, tensioner slides up and down on the guy line easily with a twist of the ring, and holds firmly when set.

Shoot, forgot to give approx dimensions for my copies. OD is 1.25″, 1/8″ wall, 1/2″ long. 1/4″ holes, 3, drilled 90 degrees apart.

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Vanagon – update about minor mods

I’ve been kinda quiet in the last few weeks about minor vanagon hacks and mods, my weekend time has been taken up with other chores. But I have a few things percolating in the workshop; some propane fridge modifications, yet another led strip for interior lighting, and a “new to me” connector for the solar panels. 

I think the fridge mods will be the first finished. I have this extra fridge in the workshop that I gave a complete R&R. Having it on the bench let me try out some ideas around enhanced cooling of the fins. I just have to hook up power and propane and give it go.

Oh and I’ve been playing around with the already tried mod of a PWM motor controller for the ventilation/heating and rear heater fans. It works well and would be a reasonable fix if the resistors in the stock system fail. I’m dithering about whether it’s worth installing in a functioning system.

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Vanagon – kitchen unit lid strut support 

I have the older type kitchen lid ( because I used 82 westy kitchen unit in my Syncro tin top to westy conversion), I think it changed post ’88 but not sure. The change was to the leading edge of the kitchen unit, lowering it which allowed a little more reclining of the driver’s seat back.

Anyhoo, I think both versions use the annoying “broken leg” style support strut to keep the lid up. I really didn’t like the strut. Finally today I changed it. Used a gas charged strut bought from banggood, the listing is here. It’s a small strut with 100 N (around 10kg force).  I wish I could have used at least some of the screw holes from the stock strut but hat wasn’t possible.


And how does it work? I’m telling you Simon, ITS THE BEST MOD EVAH!!!

It is good, i was concerned that 100 N was too strong, but the placement of the strut in relationship with the hinge etc turned out to be perfect. And as a bonus, and this wasn’t planned explicitly, there is an “over centre” force from the strut when the lid is closed which gives a satisfying positive latching force. But I do I wish the old screw holes were gone.

Addendum May 2017

As requested, some measurement pics. Enough there to give you a start.

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Vanagon – led rear side marker light prototype

i took the mock up circuit described in my post the other day and rewired, sealed, shrink wrapped, connectores added etc,etc, and installed the led lamp with an unpainted aluminum guard onto the van. Pics show the lamp lit as running light ( as normal).

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img_2078

Looks fairly ok right? But I have to confess that I misled you in the last post about the led lamp size. Yes it’s not as tall, and just slightly less wide. But side by side comparison with the stock unit makes it look very much smaller overall.

img_2080

Bet you didn’t think it looked that much smaller in the first pics. The flasher function works well.

I’m fairly pleased with it, and if I paint the guard black I think it will look better.

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Vanagon – trivial little things 

Maybe I’m scrabbling for content. Content as in copy, not the state of peaceful happiness. In any case here’s some dross.

First up is a Syncro badge. It’s from the same 91 Passat Syncro that gave me one of the instrument clusters I posted about a few weeks back. Kinda nice little thing and it’s interesting that the date of manufacture is February 1990 and it’s marked made in West Germany. Wasn’t until August of that year that the two states officially merged. I find it so hard to believe that someone born then will be 27 this year. 



Next are led lights for the front turn signal/running light. So many choices for this light, I ended up with this unit from Banggood. Supposed to be a “switchback” light, well that’s what I thought. I was expecting the running lights (the white led elements) to go out when the amber turn signal elements are powered. And if you read the reviews you’ll see that at least one buyer had a bulb that worked that way. But both of my bulbs don’t waltz to that tune. The white elements remain on while the amber elements flash.

On the van, the bulb in the holder, by switching the positions of the two power wires ( one the flasher signal and the other the running light power) I could decide if I wanted the white led elements to be the running or turn signal lights. Decided on amber led elements for running lights and the whites for turn signal. Hey they work pretty well but jeeze I wanted that “switchback” effect 🙂

And finally a preview of another silly project I’m working on. A while back I discovered a rear side marker light replacement for the stock vanagon unit. It’s a little narrower than the original but the length is okay and the screw holes are right on. Trouble is that it’s rated as 24 volt. So I ordered some cute little 12 to 24 volt boost converters. Well it turns out that the lights work fine on 12 volts, certainly bright enough to be used as is. But then I had an idea. How about if I tap into the rear turn signal power so that the side marker would light up brighter with the turn signal power. Simply put, the side marker gets 12 volts as usual, but the turn signal power goes through the boost converter. I set up a crude set up and it works out fine. In the video you’ll a spot light to provide some load for the regular flasher unit ( I have an electronic flasher unit installed in the van and that plays nice with the led front turn signals), and you might notice the two diodes in the circuit to stop power going the wrong way. I’ve got some aluminum guards to paint before I install this in the van. I’ll show you more later.

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Vanagon – extinguisher holder

It’s already March and only now do we get the first entry  for the “Silliest Vanagon Mod of the Year Award”

I decided to relocate my fire extinguisher from behind the front seat to the stock westy location at the sliding door. Here’s an old pic of the behind the seat location.

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 It’s just a bit of pvc tubing mounted to the cabinet and really it worked quite well for years ( originally in my 82 westy and transferred to the syncro). But with the solar panel charge controller on the same cabinet face, making the connections to the portable panels was more awkward with the extinguisher there.

But the harebrain fairy must have visited me during the night, I ditched the pvc tube style mount and and went leather.


I’ve got a bunch of full grain leather off cuts, all different colours and none very large. So silly things like this use them up.

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Vanagon – alternator remix and a real surprise 

Back in January I had to do an emergency bearing replacement on the old wbx alternator. The local NAPA store had the bearings in stock (no name bearings, sigh) and the job went fast and worked. While I had the alternator apart I cleaned up the commutator but I noticed the copper was getting very thin and probably wouldn’t last much longer. I don’t know how to replace the commutator, or even if it’s possible to do that at home.

Yesterday when I picked up the Passat gauge clusters at the wrecker yard I also grabbed a Bosch al34x alternator ( also from a Passat), suffering from a brain fart thinking it was a direct swap into the wbx. Of course it ain’t, the bodies are different.

The al34x is on the left, a broken ( severed wires from stator to diode pack )a parts wbx alternator on the right. Note the different mounting.


So today I tore the al34x apart and mounted its rotor, bearings, diode pack, and stator into the wbx housing. The biggest chore when working on alternators is the fekkin hard to loosen machine screws. The long ones that hold the body together and the short ones on the bearing retainer plate and the diode pack. I’ve seen both slot and Phillips head in these, either way you have to use all your guile to get them loose. 

First the brush pack get pulled (you all know how to do that ) then the plastic on under the b+ and the “blue wire” (damn I forget the number designation ) terminal. The handy 1/4″ drive tool shown, I’ll talk about more later. And the pic shows that the alternator was a “premium ” rebuild. Premium, ha!


That end stripped.


The 1/4″ drive tool set I’m using has screwdriver bits.


And even being a cheap set the bit was up to the task of removing the long machine screws holding the housing together. That is after I used a regular screwedriver and hammer to give each machine screw a good rap. Then same rapping and grunt to remove screws from bearing retainer plate ( plate is internal but you have to remove the four screws before you can get housing apart).


After all that and some love with the soft hammer, the housing comes apart.

Then you pull the rotor out.


Well it looks like I struck out hoping that the commutator would be relatively fresh. It’s not, it’s more worn than I hoped. But that’s not the surprise mentioned in the blog post title. Remember this is a Bosch “premium” reman.


See it? The machine screw? It’s supposed to be in the hole just down and to the left, in the diode plate. I mean really, it came loose? Does this alternator actually work with that screw up there doing who knows what sort of mechanical and electrical mischief? 

It’s bent.


Well I’m in so deep, time and money, so I might as well finish things. The rest of the diode pack screws were not easy to remove. Too late I’m telling them, you can’t make up for your weak buddy. You can move the stator around a bit, careful not to stress the copper wires, to get at the screws. Then pull the diode pack and stator out of that housing and pop it into the wbx housing.


If you’ve made it this far you’ll know that putting it all back together is just the reverse 🙂 just keep an eye on the alignment of the two parts of the housing.


And there we are, guts swapped. Maybe it works but too late in the day now to test it. Man, I can’t get over that loose screw.

Hey, the 1/4″ drive tool I used a lot on this job is a cheapo set I bought a couple of years ago at Princess Auto. If you’re Canadian you know what that store is. I found it on sale, I think under 20 bucks and I have to say I really like it. It’s actually very well made, the ratchet could be finer of course, but jeepers for the money it’s great.

Addendum March 6 2017

Both for my education and to clear up any incorrect terms used above (and a nod to david B.) I submit this cutaway labelling  the parts in the alternator

11 Comments

Vanagon – anticipation of new wiper washer nozzles

I’m on the list for a set of new wiper washer nozzles designed and built by Forrest Whitmore. His samba thread about the nozzles can be found here.

I don’t know of anyone who is really happy with the stock nozzles and the spray pattern they make. And over the years I’ve been less than happy with the washer pump performance. You sort of suspect some amount of voltage drop at the pump making the motor less than perky. I toyed with the idea of adding a new power feed and a relay but I got enough improvement by cleaning the contacts right at the washer switch up on the steering column.

Then the other week I was digging around the mess in the workshop and found a spare washer pump. So I says to myself, “go on, plumb it inline”.

Yeah but… if I was worried about voltage drop in the stock un-relayed circuit with one pump won’t having two pumps in that circuit be pushing things?

Yes.

But I did it anyway. Maybe I’ll put in a relay later, but for now I tapped the G10 terminal on the back of the fuse panel ( its hot when washer switch activated. It’s a feed for the headlight washer system, an option we didn’t get here in North America).

I simply cut the washer fluid tubing right behind the driver’s side headlamp, heated up the cut ends and slipped them over the inlet and outlet of the spare pump. Oh and luckily I had the plastic connector with pigtails so making the electrical connection to pump was easy.


That black boot ain’t quite pushed on enough in the pic below.


So how well does this work with the stock nozzles? You’ll think I’m exaggerating when I say it works twice as good. More volume and force ( it will shoot over the top of the luggage rack if not aimed right) and I’m going through fluid fast. Fast enough that I checked for leaks today. When I get the new nozzles I’ll post some vid comparing things etc.

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Vanagon – rude and crude pedal lock

A late Xmas present made from 3/8″ X 1.5″ steel ( 3/8″ is admittedly overkill). Padlock goes through the hole in the removable bar.

The design is a direct copy of one I saw on the net ( I think made by a German vanagon owner). There are a few variations on the pedal lock theme, I chose this one as it seemed to be the simplest.


4 Comments

Vanagon – beating the H4 led subject to death

It’s a provincial holiday here today, Family Day, and what better use of my free time is there but to dick around with the H4 leds some more. 

One thing I haven’t mentioned before is my puzzlement with what the data sheet says. It states, and it does not specify if this is for the pair or a single, “input power L/25W H/25W”.


Ok then, let’s see if we can make any sense of that. On low beam only the cup shrouded led elements are powered up. That’s half of the available elements on the bulb. And on high beam all the led elements are powered. So how come the wattage figures remain the same?

I hooked a bulb up to a power source and ammeter. The current draw varied with input voltage. At 14V the current  measured 1.20A. At 10V the current measured 1.10A. But curiously, at 11.5V the current measured 1.47A. My power source only goes up to 15.5V, at that setting the current was 1.10A.

That was for high beam, low beam values very similar.

So a couple of things strike me. One is that the current draw had a peak at 11.5V and dropped of on either side of that voltage. Must be something to do with the power regulating circuits in the bulb, I bet it’s obvious to those with a bit of electronic knowledge. The second things is that the current draw was pretty well the same for both high beam and low beam. So that goes a little way in explaining how the spec sheet claims 25w for both high and low beam.
But do my measured values even come close to the spec sheet values? Let’s take the 14V reading, 1.20A. 

(1.20A)(14.0V)= 16.8W

That’s a fair bit from 25 isn’t it? 

Again it’s not clear if the spec sheet is for one bulb or two. If it’s for two then doubling measured value for one bulb would give 33.6W. Closer to 25W but come on…

At this point I get the feeling that either I’m missing something damned obvious or else the spec sheet is inaccurate. 

As I had one of the led bulbs in hand I thought I’d try comparing it to a 55/60W halogen in a couple of 6.5″ e code H4 lamps. These are nice German made Hella lamps, new old stock, unused, meant for the Iltis military vehicle. I thought I’d shine the lamps onto a bit of black card and see what the beam pattern looks like at a very short projection distance.

The lamp(s)


The super sophisticated experimental set up.


Low beam, 55W halogen. Oh I have to add that the batteryused as power source wasn’t at full charge, it’s at 12V. And for some reason the halogen low beam is lass bright than expected. But it’s beam pattern I’m interested in.


Now low beam with the led bulb.


A little different but certainly comparable. More light down low on the led don’t you think?

And now high beam, 60W halogen.


I draw your attention to the defined beam pattern outline, and compare to next, high beam led.


I’d say, and certainly feel free to disagree, that the led beam pattern is slightly less defined. But both quite comparable.

You know it all comes down to the placement of the light emitting elements in the lamp housing. And to how the light disperses from the elements. I think that the led placement is fairly good, but I think (and talking completely without any direct proof) that how the light comes out of the led, how it radiates from the surface mounted elements, differs from how the light emits from a tungsten filament. It’s not an outlandish assertion, the halogen filament is held in space and radiates all around, 360 degrees. The led elements are constrained by being placed on a surface and the best they can do is radiate 360 degrees minus the amount the led back plane interferes ( and that’s assuming that the led elements alone radiate 180 degrees, and I’m not sure that they do).

Ok enough of this for now. I think the thing that will put this exercise to rest will be the side by side comparison with the halogen lights on good friend Simon’s van.

10 Comments

Vanagon – H4 led bulb update

I’ve been trying out the led bulbs since I first posted about them. I still have the same opinion, low beams good, high beams meh. In rain, and in snow, I’m not seeing a much of a drop in the high beam performance though. 

I took a little time tonight to take some pics with a 80/100W bulb in right hand side lamp and the led in the left hand side lamp. I couldn’t find a good wall close to home, I apologize for using that corrugated metal structure.

Ok, here we go, first up is both low beams on. Left is led, right is 80W halogen. Notice the halogen has more of the angled kick, better defined. The led not so much and there is a stray beam at a higher angle.


Now it’s low beam left, led, only. You can see more of the angled beam kick now, not masked by the halogen. That stray angled beam shows up better too.


And now low beam right, 80W halogen. Nice beam definition eh?


On to high beams, first is both high beams on. Not really much to say about this except it’s a blast of light.


This is the 100W halogen alone. 


And the led high beam. Oh boy that corrugated steel is not making things easy is it?


Just as in the original post about the led bulbs I have to say again that pictures don’t capture the compete picture 🙂

Ok now to a gently sloping downhill dirt road. Same drill, same comparison. You be the judge.



So what do I think? I want to like them, I really do. But I’d give them a 7.5/10. I’d like them to be brighter. And I also have the suspicion that the led element placement that I showed in the original post is not quite right (as compared to the filament position in the halogen bulb). I might take the time to play around with a spare lamp and and bulb, on the bench, and see if some adjustment to the bulb projection into the lamp has any effect. 

6 Comments

Vanagon – H4 led light bulb experiment

Update, January 17 2017. I need to clarify a couple of things about this experiment. First, the led bulbs were tried in my Hella 7″ e-code (e 4 to be precise) lamps. The lamps are in good shape, no hazing on the lens and the reflectors are in great shape. They do however have stick on impact protection film applied. The beam pattern, specifically the low beam cut off, appears to be very similar whether it’s led or halogen bulb. But yes I should document that, and if I can find a suitable wall close by I will.

Second, I am having a hard time quantifying or even describing clearly my perception that the high beam distance projection seems less with the led bulb. I think you’ll just have to take my opinion on this for what it’s worth.

Oh and one more thing. The radio interference from these bulbs annoys me greatly. I have a fair bit of pwm regulated led interior lighting and have not noticed any interference from those. I have noticed a little interference from my “built into the bumper ” led back up lights, that should have been a warning I guess. Hindsight is so very very clear isn’t it? The interference effect now cautions me with another pwm project I have on the bench. I will test it in the van before going any further.




Ok, before you say anything, I know. I know the arguments about replacing the halogen bulb in H4 lamps with an led unit. And I agree with them. But, I had to try this.

What got me trying was reading a positive report about a Philips led bulb replacement. What was new to me with the Philips was the location of the led elements on the bulb. It mimicked the location of the high and low filaments of the halogen bulb and also had the little shield on the low beam elements similar to what is on the halogen bulb.

I think the Philips led units, and forgive me for not linking to a source, are around Ca$150 a pair. A bit steep for me but then I found what look to be close copies listed on Banggood. And, unlike other led drop-ins, these are passively cooled via a finned heat sink. Others have fans in the heat sink and for some reason I didn’t like that.

So for around Ca$45 bucks I bought a pair, and they arrived on the slow boat last week.


You can see the led element layout in that pic. Just to be clear they are double sided. And you can see the little shield or shade over the distal elements. Just to be pedantic, here it is compared with a halogen bulb.


I didn’t try to do any measurements comparing the led element positions with the halogen filaments but you can see they are approximately in the same location.

Another view of the led bulb.


It doesn’t look like those little shields on each side line up perfectly does it?

Installating in the lamp is a breeze. The three prong adapter ring is a twist fit on the bulb. You remove that and install the ring on the lamp and clip down the wire bail as you would with normal bulb. This pic shows the led bulb with the adapter ring removed.


And adapter ring installed.


And the bulb goes in with a push and twist lock. It didn’t seem like a very tight twist and lock, not pleased with that. Oh, and the bulb can be inserted in two orientations, 180 degrees apart. You have to be careful to get it right, to have the little shields/shades in the same orientation as the original halogen.


And there you go, lamp goes back into the van. I did this during daylight so a comparison picture ain’t that special. Mind you, taking any kind of picture of lighting is more or less folly. The pictures never seem to tell the same story your eyes do. But I did take a picture with one lamp having the led bulb and the other lamp with a 80/100 halogen. Both are on low beam, cam you feel the difference?


Yup, driver’s side has the led. Seems pretty bright eh? And with all high K value leds it makes incandescent lights appear more amber.

And what about when it was dark? Didn’t take any shots of the lights but I did do some driving. The low beams are nice, like the whiter light on the pavement. But the high beams are not so pleasing. As an aside, I bet most of you know this already, the colour value of the light seems to make a big difference in how you perceive the light. On high beams I was underwhelmed by the projection of the light. It’s hard to put in words, and I honestly can’t explain the effect, but the high beams just don’t seem as strong as the 100W halogens. Well, yes, I am comparing them to 100W so I have to add a grain of salt. What is very noticeable is how bright the reflective roadside signs appear under the led light. 

Once I got onto truly dark roads the lights appeared to project further. Boy this is hard to explain, all so subjective, but cut me some slack I am trying.

Tonight I lined the van up beside my friends Ducato van. Stock lights on that van and it was raining. Once again I’ll say pictures are really not very good at reproducing the actual lighting as I perceived it but here we go.

First pic is my van with led lights, low beam ( my van is on the right hand side of the driveway in all the pics so there will be a light bias towards the right of the driveway due to the low and right nature of the lamp aiming). 

And now low beams from the Ducato. See how amber the halogen appear


And high beams from the Ducato.


And high beams led.

Even though the pics don’t give a true representation of the lights, I think they do show that on high beams the halogens seem to shine further , or at least reflect back from a further distance. But then again it’s not super distinct.

Oh, one thing to note, the sharp cut off on the E code lamps on my van is still maintained with the led bulbs.

But here is the deal breaker. And it shouldn’t have been as much if a surprise as it was. The damn leds create radio interference. It’s only really bad on weak signals, but it’s very annoying. I bet the Philips bulbs do not do this, I bet it’s a result of the cheap price of the units I bought.

So what now? I’ll run them for a while and try to decide if they are worthwhile. I’m not sure of the things I like about them;

low current draw, the quality of the low beam illumination, immediate on/off high/low switching

Is enough to overcome the things I don’t like;

radio interference, long range reach in high beams, no heat on front of lamp to melt ice and snow.

10 Comments

Vanagon – headlight low beam failure 

The other day my low beams took a hike, both at the same time. Not the fuses, not the bulbs, not the grounds, not the low beam relay. Power out of the relay but no power at the low beam connector at the lamp.

So what’s up?

Some background, I have two relays in the headlight system. One for the high beam one for the low beam. Here is the rough schematic of how I wired things


So out of the low beam relay on terminal 87, the current then continues on and back into the fuse panel, pin 21 in the A connector block.



See A21? Turned out this connection was the culprit. Was burned and melted. So much so that I couldn’t get the terminal out of the block to replace. What happened to cause this? I’m thinking it’s was one of those positive feedback things starting with a slightly iffy connection, a little resistance making heat which causes more resistance then more heat etc etc. Ending finally in no continuity. Could I have been over loading the connection with 80W lowbeams? The combined current draw for two 80w lamps would be around 12 amps ( at 13.5 bolts) so I’m not really convinced the terminal couldn’t take that. Edit: sounds like I’m trying to convince myself doesn’t it? Maybe it is too much current for the pin, however the  pin carrying the high beam current shows no damage at all, albeit the high beams would be in use less than the low beams. This might all be moot as I have a lower current draw lighting solution that I hope will pan out.

As I couldn’t get the terminal out of the plastic block I cut the wire ( that wire runs directly to the low beam relay) and used the really handy M terminal right close by. The M2 terminal is common to A21, you can see that on the stock wiring diagram above.

Hers the nasty connector ( I tore the plastic clip of the near side) and you see the yellow “jumper wire” to the M2 terminal. It has a bit of black heat shrink on it to give the wire a bit of stiffness, strain relief of a fashion, for the spade terminal.


I really hate working on the back of the fuse panel. And getting the plastic terminal blocks out is a bear. And I always seem to knock some other connection loose with all the tugging and twisting involved in getting the connectors out. 

4 Comments

Vanagon – propane skid plate prototype

I’ve been mucking around with the notion of better protection of the westy propane tank. I wanted a bit of extra cover to reduce the amount of dirt on the tank fittings and also some protection for the copper lines that lead up into the van. Here are some pics of one prototype. During the making of this one I had a better idea, so another version is in the works.

This one appears to hang lower than the stock skid plate, but in fact it sits a tad higher. I think the unpainted aluminum and the side plate gives the visual effect of sitting lower.

Oh, and I do get a lot of muck thrown up on to the side of the van. Combination of not having my mudflaps on and the 25mm offset of the rims. 

I’ll do another post on this skid plate showing it with side plate off and explaining why there is a half moon cut out on side plate.

2 Comments

Swellegant table II

So when I made the first Swellegant table gizmo a couple of years ago, blog post here, good friend Simon made sport of my enthusiastic review of it. Turns out he was jealous but it took him until this last summer before admitting it…ha!

Made another, slightly different than the first in some details, and gave it to him. He used it on his recent trip.

Pretty much the same idea as the original, but a little slimmer.

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Vanagon – fooling around with gas pedals

Clossic displacement behaviour, I should have been doing other more important things. But I’ve been sort of obsessed by what I thought was sloppy gas pedal feel. You know, the pedal moving sideways. So instead of looking at my pedal to see what’s what, I put it down to the stock design that uses thin plastic to act as a hinge. Spoiler alert, the hinge was partially broken and that caused the sloppy feel.

But I went ahead and made a couple of pedals to try out. Here they are, pretty rough but as I said I’m just trying things out. I have a spare stock pedal, shown in the pics, I could have just installed that, why didn’t I?

image4


Yes, pretty crude but good enough to try out. I decided on the middle one, has a spring return built in. Thought it might be interesting to see how helping the throttled close will feel. As usual installing the pedal took longer than I thought. You know I have the factory rubber mat laid over the composite foam underlay that came standard with carpet but not with the rubber mat. The rubber mat therefore didn’t fit in quite as nice as it should. It was ok though, but this time when I pulled the underlay out and it broke up even more than before I decided to trash it. There was a bit of surface rust starting in the driver’s side footwell, I wire brushed that and treated it with rust converter then a couple of coats of paint.

The stock pedal was attached to the floor by a couple of pop rivets. I drilled them out and enlarged the holes to take a pair of 10-24 threaded inserts ( I don’t have any metric threaded inserts) .


Test fitting the pedal.


I agree, without that pressed foam underlay will be more road noise coming through the floor. Haven’t figured out completely what to do about that but made a start by sticking down some thin self adhesive asphalt based tape. Yup, tar based not butyl. It’s what I had on hand and I don’t think off gassing or the tape sagging during hot weather will be an issue in this location. Good god but I ramble on. 

I have to find a better route for those wires running forward. They haven’t been taped down in place when I took the pic, bout where I did tape them really wasn’t that great. You can feel them under the mat.


Mat back in, pedal installed. The top surface of the pedal is removable. I’m thinking I might make another that is slighlty wider at the top, the extra width on the brake pedal side. It feels ok underfoot and I can feel the resistance of the extra spring. I’ve yet to road test it. 

 Ok, tried it out on drive to work. Yes it feels firmer, a little more effort to depress it. But I don’t find it a probelm. But what is a problem is that it’s too narrow. It’s approximately the same width as the stock pedal. I know I must be obsessing over this but it bugs me that half my foot is hanging off the side. Do I have some sort of mental issue, i quickly made another pad to replace the narrow one.

Oh yeah, as clunky as it looks, it’s so much better. No really, it is. I mean it, I’m not kidding. It’s the best things since the last thing I thought was the best thing since…

8 Comments

Vanagon – Westy luggage rack mod

Good friend Stephan came across a Westy owner who made a very interesting hinged cover for the luggage rack. You all know that area is a source of wind noise and some owners have put in a flat plate to reduce the turbulence caused by the front edge of the rack.  This mod is a bit different and although I’d love to meet the owner and have him argue the reason for the trailing edge design, the entire structure looks very well made.

Got a couple more pics. Yes there are latches on the front.

10 Comments

Vanagon – Westy pop top lifting bar assembly fix

This post briefly outlines an experimental fix I made to my spare lifting bar assembly. At time of writing, I haven’t swapped it in to the van to give it a good testing, so the jury is still out as to whether the repair works as well as it seems to on the bench.

While I was futzing around doing this repair, Dave commented that I should design something that could be sold as a kit for the Westy owner that doesn’t have access to machine tools, welding, etc. This is a good idea, unfortunately the approach I was taking doesn’t really lend itself to that. But it did give me some hints towards a repair kit. 

I think most vanagon Westy owners know by now that eventually the pop top lifting assembly will wear out at the main hinge joint. It’s a poor design, a harsh steel on steel moving contact with no lubrication and insufficient bearing surface. Many other owners have fixed this problem by various means, welding up the worn surface is one example.

Andy, owner of the nice T3 Atlantic, “Wolfgang” (blog linked in list on right side of the page), recently had his lifting assembly re painted. It was his blog post on that and his comments to me that got me off my duff to try this fix.

I have a spare assembly, from my old 82 Westy. It’s galvanized steel, no paint like in the later Westies. The zinc coating has grown the characteristic white fuzz during storage in the barn. Here’s a pic of the hinge that is the problem.


A couple of notes on the hinge. The horizontal bar extends into the hinge through that collar ( with the screw) and near the end it get worn away. There will be a pic of that coming up. The hinge is folded up fully, as it would be when the top is down, and that steel cable you see running up over the round centre section continues down and back into the tube on the bottom where it connects to a spring. Again, more on that later. But as is, the assembly is under tension and wants to straighten out (tubes are tied together out of shot).

Remove the M5 machine screw from each end of the horizontal bar and then pull the bar out of the hinge. Are the ends of that bar worn, Or have you lived a pure life and the bar ends are sound?

One end. 


And the other end, even worse.


It’s really easy to take the assembly apart, apart from the annoying spring washers. Clip washers, starlock washers, must be other names for them too. I broke most of mine trying to remove them, but you can find new at the hardware store or auto parts place. When the hinge is relaxed, ie fully extended, and the pin that limits further extension is removed, the end of the spring cable can be detached and pulled out the bottom of the tube. Yes, the foot has been removed from the bottom of the tube. Another pin and annoying clip.

Greasy old spring and cable out.

Ok, back to the hinge. Here we have the pair and its the edges on the  “not so round anymore ” holes in the flat bar welded in the ring that wear the grooves in the cross bar. I mean really, what the heck were the engineers at Westfalia thinking?

My fix is to bush those holes to create a larger bearing surface. First I had to make the holes more or less round again. 7/8″ endmill was over sized just enough. Truth is, it didn’t complete make round one of the holes, but good enough.

Hard to see the difference, but the holes are now nominally 7/8″ diameter.

Ok, now the bushings. I had a small bit of bronze (or maybe it’s brass) salvaged marine shafting. I had fooled around making flutes on it with the index head. I was learning, wasn’t a great job, had the head offset so the grooves were asymmetric, blah, blah. But there was enough of the stuff to work with.

And alongside is the little shaft that will replace the worn end of the cross bar. I reamed the ID of the bushing to 16mm, turned the shaft slightly undersized ( about 15.95mm). The OD of the bushing was left untouched on one end, the other turned down to a press fit for the 7/8″ hole that I milled in that flat bar. 

Notice one end of the little shaft has a flat milled on it and a cross hole drilled? That end will fit into the cross bar with the hole lining up with the existing cross bar hole.

I cut off the worn end of the cross bar and milled back square. Still using the 7/8″ roughing end mill. Oh how I love that tool.

So, and excuse the initial so, so I pressed in the bronze bushings. One pressed home with that satisfying grunt that makes one smile, the other… Meh. Combination of pressing into only 1/8″ thick material and the hole not being fully round ( remember I mentioned one hole didn’t fully catch the mill?). I didn’t want the bushing to be able to rotate in the hole, it would then wear away just like the original bar. The answer? 1/8″ roll pin. Holds the bushing nicely in place. 

Beside it is the little stainless shaft that is pushed into the end of the cross bar.

Lubed the shaft up a little with some light oil and put everything back together. The M5 machine screws on the cross bar locates the stainless shaft, it doesn’t move.

Picture taking to forgotten during reassembly, all I can show you is the end of the hinge where you can see the stainless shaft and a hint of the bushing.

But trust me, the hinge action is now nice and smooth. Sometime soon I will install it and see if it lives up to the hype. And, I’ll have a look at the one currently installed in the van with an eye on making some sort of easy DIY kit or procedure.

18 Comments

Vanagon – stereo head unit upgrade

For a few months now I’ve been using a Pioneer MHV-X560BT head unit in the van. It replaced a Pioneer DEH-P5000UB that had worked almost perfectly for 8 years. The older unit did develop a ground loop whine and I posted about that back in 2011, link here. But apart from that the unit worked well. It had USB input on back, and I led a dongle up thru the ashtray to connect to devices. Played CDs , various formats but I found myself using CDs less and less in the van.

The one thing that really bugged me about the old unit was its depth. With all the wiring coming out the back, including three pairs of RCA jacked cables, it barely fit into the dash. Fetched up hard against the heater box in back.

So back to the new unit, it has no CD player so it’s about half the depth of the old one and despite the inevitable rat’s nest of wires coming out of the back (again including three pairs of RCA jacked cables and an USB cable)  it fits delightfully easily into the van.

It has built in Bluetooth which pairs up quite quickly and consistently with my devices, external mike for hands free phone,  a remote control, wired USB input.

The controls are not bad but not great. I find them better than the old unit, especially for menu access and also for adjusting things when driving. Don’t get as many bump induced accidental choices.

Looking straight down thru ashtray hole.


Maybe this shot shows reduced depth better. Pic taken at an angle.


The old unit sitting on dash. Looks really huge now.



I stuck the mic here, not the best spot perhaps.


And same ashtray lurking dongle in case of wired USB need.


Btw, the head unit feeds an old Blaupunkt 2 channel amp mounted infront of the glovebox. One channel feeds a pair of BA crossovers that feeds tweeters behind stock grill in door, and 6.5″ units at bottom of the door. The other channel feeds a pair of 4″ speakers back on the overhead cupboard.

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Vanagon – fresh water pump update

A few posts back I described how I installed an inexpensive diaphragm put in the van. I did it quickly, was keen to try it out on a trip. The other day I relocated it to what I think is a better spot.

I removed the in tank pump, the bilge pump type unit I was using as a stock replacement, and pulled the electrical wires out through the hr grommet at top of tank. I sealed the grommet wi a 1/4-20 stainless bolt and nut.


I shifted the little black box that is the water level indicator unit ( for the old style water level system) so that I could screw the pump to the wall between the cupboard and tank.


Electrical connection was very convenient, two wire plastic connector right there, just swapped over from the old pump.


You notice that the little wall that separates the cupboard from the wiring has been removed. I, like many other owners, removed that wall early on to gain a little bit more cupboard room. To protect the wiring from shifting cupboard contents, I screwed on a bit of the cheap carpet I’m using as cupboard bottom liner.


The pumps is a bit quieter back here. Still louder than the in tank pump, but considering the increase in flow and pressure, the additional noise is really acceptable. And for goodness sakes, just how long are you going to have the faucet turned on? 🙂

There is one, or maybe two, more things I’d like to add the the install. First one I will certainly will do, and that is add a relay back up front under the sink. You see, the eurovan faucet wiring is pretty skinny stuff. It’s not a long run from where it connects to existing wiring, but I’d rather that the switch is not handling the full 2.5 A of pump draw.

The second improvement that I probably won’t get around to but would be neat, is a little pressure tank accumulator. It’s what’s used in other RV and marine installs. Not sure if I really need it and if I am willing to devote space to it, I’ll see.

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