Archive for category vanagon

Vanagon – aux switch gear experiment

Starting to install one of those remote switch to solid state relay box type set ups. Just got the mounting plate done so far. Aluminum and slight texture powder coat. Not sure what will be controlled by this. You get stickers to go on the switch pads. I’ll show when done.


Vanagon – what silliness is this?

I’ll show finished later . Later has arrived…

It’s another version of the socket part of the ball and socket linkage back at the transmission. Other versions I made a while back here .

The idea of the spiral grooves is to retain some grease … that’s a tumbled finish on the part, gonna paint it. Bore hasn’t been deburred in this pic. The end has a rim to help keep the boot on.

M6 bolt goes up through the shift rod.

End of day today made another, slight changes. Any excuse to use this lathe .

Not finished, but you get idea. More thickness at bottom and a more sexy ridge at top for boot .

There is one thing I haven’t said.. one more step. I’ll show when done.

And done. I’ve done away with the roll pin years ago. The split clamp and bolt better, especially as the shift rod probably worn and the roll pin hole wallowed.

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Tools – prototype transmission wrench

Quentin asked me to make a wrench to fit a locking nut, in Syncro transmission. Fits the nut fine, not sure yet if it clears other components in the stack. Has to be tested. The centre of the 1/2” drive hole is 2.000 inches from the centre of the nut when engaged. So you can easily do the calc to adjust torque. It’s a simple thing, waterjet cut 1/4” steel plate.

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Vanagon – fuel rail fooling

Made a fuel rail a few weeks ago for fun. Trying out a tool and tool path. No need to do this, lots of commercial options. Last Friday I made a support for the rail, fitted up on old injectors and runners. No rubber on the injectors. And yes I have drilled and plugged , but not welded, the rail. Surprise for me is how sturdy the set up is


Vanagon – wee door mat

Yes, I could have tabbed the centre of the “O”, but didn’t 🙂 it’s 3/8” rubber

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Other cars – single din faceplate for BT amp

For an 82 Porsche. Idea is to mount simple and cheap BT amp in the single din space. It’s installed and works well even without fader. Door and parcel shelf speakers


Vanagon – replaced led strip over the kitchen

Left over from gutter strip replacement. Warmer colour temp. Controlled from same panel of switches as the gutter lights.


Vanagon – new led strip under gutter

Last year the strip I installed under the gutter ( 6 or so years ago?) partially failed… the forward 1/3 failed to light. I got another strip , this time the kind that looks more like a cob led. That is, looking like one continual led instead of discrete elements. Of course if you look closely you can see the led elements, but the effect is of one continuous strip.

Has the same thick clear coating as the previous. Making it waterproof they say. But I noticed when I took the old one off, water gets into it from the backside, the adhesive side. So I expect the same for this one. Mind you the van is outside all year round, and it is wet in the seasons not called summer 🙂

Pic below is in daylight and the strip on. It’s really not noticeable at all when it’s off.

And at dusk.

Controlled by the same touch to dim switches as before. Two others do the inside led strips, got one left as spare for something.

It’s a handy mod when camping.

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Vanagon – rear bumper done.

Well pretty well done. I can see things I’d like to change in the next one. But it’s ok. Had a bit of a silly moment and painted it orange. That didn’t work.


Vanagon – making another aluminum bumper

Rear first, close copy of the stock steel van bumper. This first go round ain’t perfect, but it’s good enough for my own use and next one ( I will be building more ) should be better. It’s 1/4” 5052 aluminum. Having it powder coated this week, slight texture black. You’ll notice I’ve cut some panel from the van , have plans.

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Vanagon – dash foil replacement

Good friend Greg has replacement dash foil in the works. Made from better materials than the original, a very nice bit of work. If you are interested , check out this survey form he created to determine numbers to make

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Vanagon – stock fridge vent delete option

I’ve installed a Dometic CRX-50 fridge. Yup I finally let go of the propane fridge I’ve been faithful to for 20 years. The install pics may come later, but the fridge vent replacement is now.

Made an aluminum thing that approximates the stock vent dimensions. Has a lid with magnets that correspond to magnets in main body , north south opposed.

I kinda had issues with the magnet placement, you’ll see the marks, but the concept works, a twist on the lid and it comes off.

Inder the lid is a Noco 120V inlet plug. That goes to the fridge ( has an AC power option). If I were to do it again, and I’m probably going to, I’d use larger and fewer magnets, and try not to screw up on the magnet hole drilling!


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Vanagon – trailing arm replacement

Not much to say here. I replaced my trailing arms with a pair I refurbished and modified, I ground off the spring perches and welded up new , thicker, and angled perches. Also made some thicker plastic pads to go on them. Primed and powder coated the arms and installed polyurethane bushings.

Made the angled perch. The lens shaped part,waterjet cut flat, then I just hammered into a roughly circular shape. Welded to top and bottom flat disks. The central boss welded in too. I drilled and tapped the top plate for a 5/16” set screw. That way I could squirt some rust inhibitor into that space after the arms painted. Also put in a couple of M6 riv nuts in arms to hold a clip for the brake hard line.

The blue plastic spacers I made from some mystery plastic that was hanging around. I think it’s nylon. Let me add this…

The reason I made the thick plastic pads for the perch was to be able to machine a recess for the spring end. The stock pad as you know, has a formed recess, with a corresponding thin and formed plastic pad. Those stock pads are hard to get, the replacements from vendors seem only to be plain plastic discs, no recess. I didn’t want to machine the metal for the recess if I couldn’t find a plastic pad to fit… get what I’m saying?

Not shown is new springs and slave cylinders in the brakes, new ( well a used 2wd ) handbrake cable on the passenger side wheel, and new brake flex lines. I did manage to bend the passenger side hardline into an ugly mess when doing that side flex line, but the little blue plastic clips ( yeah I made those) helped pull it back to reason.

The combo of the angled perch and thicker plastic pad has resulted in a height of about 19.88” from fender lip to hub centre. That’s at the limit, I think, of amount of lift for stock axles and joints.

Did the swap in my driveway, on gravel. I’m too old for this type of thing now, I felt every minute of the job.

Ok Simon…


Vanagon – “The Swellegant Junior” sneak peek

Some of you may know I’ve been working a few versions of a table stand that uses the stock westy table, since about 2016. The idea is you can screw on your small or large westy table to the stand and have a place to put nibbles and drinks when sitting at the campsite.

This is the latest iteration. 6061 aluminum, stainless pins and screw, and powder coated black. It is designed for the later westy tables, the ones with the thread hole in metal plate on the underside. The earlier version table with the tube on the bottom…. Well I have a prototype adapter made, but not tested.

Has a rubber gasket that holds the legs together when folded, and when in use , the gasket goes between the table and the stand to give firm adjustability of the leg orientation.

This is a luxury item. It’s expensive to make – cnc machined, quality materials, and living wages.

But it’s excellent , and it works!

And the price…

$150 Canadian

Here are some pics taken in the workshop.


Vanagon – a slim radiator shroud and fan

Made a shroud for Quentin, his design I’m just the fab guy. He has reasons for wanting slimmer.

It’s quite a reduction in thickness.


Vanagon – good, better, best

You decide 🙂

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Vanagon – stock westy kitchen light improvement

Friend Greg has developed a snap in replacement for the three halogen festoon bulbs in the westy kitchen light.

Led strips and dimmer control integrated on a board that really does just snap into the bulb holders on the stock light unit.

That spring on the left is the dimmer control. It rests in the stock shade and allows touch dimming.

Friend Simon got one and tried it out. He made a wee vid which explains how it installs and works. Have to note there are camera artifacts , you don’t see those in actual use.

I have to say, this unit is superbe. It’s so easy to install and the light quality is excellent. I think it’s a no brainer for those wanting to retain the stock light but move up to lower power draw led, with good light quality.

I think at max brightness the unit draws 1 amp, at lowest setting 70 mA.

Oh and I should add, he’s selling them.


Vanagon – rare pairing

Amazing sight, BMW M1 parked beside my van. Immaculate condition and it’s for sale, around $600k US.


Vanagon – Quentin’s Syncro

I’ve posted about his transmission rebuild, and it all went back into the van with no bits left over. Quentin, from vivid vans, reports that he’s put 700km on the van since, and is super happy about the result. The van has a good look eh?


Vanagon – door cards

It’s been years in the making. I’ve never got around to it until today. 0.090” aluminum. Some mods done too. I’ve cut the stock speaker hole larger and will attempt to fit larger speaker. That does have some challenges but I think I can do it. Also added smaller hole beside that main speaker hole for tweeter. Did the back hatch card too and added cut out for hatch release using the stock front door lever assembly.

I scuffed the cards up after cutting. If you look closely you can the my weight measurement written on one card. Comparison with bone stock 82 vinyl covered card.

Oh, what I used…


Vanagon – when I’m old I shall wear orange

One of the few *good* things about getting old, you care less and less about what people think 🙂


Vanagon – trailing arm rebuild part two

I had this thought that I’d make modified spring perches. To replace the rusty stock ones I pulled off, and…

This is where I doubt my thinking. The spring perch is really at an awkward angle when the trailing arm at fullest low position. I’m sure it’s more aligned with the upper spring bump stop when fully compressed. But I thought I’d cant the spring perch a little to make it align “better” with spring when trailing arm at a more neutral position.

You probably know that the diesel 16” Syncro had wedge shaped aluminum spacers on the spring perch to do the same thing. But I’m guessing it was more to accommodate the change brought about by the 16” Syncro longer trailing arm.

So it’s very debatable if what I’ve done is wise or needed. But hey ho! Off we go.

Perch made from circles of 3/16” steel. I modelled a tapered spacer from same stock , and made developed shape to cut out. I just hand bent it to slightly smaller than the discs, welding allowance.

Tacked up , you get the idea

Tacked, getting the idea now?

With an extra home made plastic pad, had milled in recess for spring pigtail. That’s about 1.5” at the back. I can make thinner plastic pad if this is too much of a lift. The pad as is, 1/2”.

I put some rust converter on the trailing arms and plug welded the three holes under the perch. I didn’t attempt to fill the divots left from drilling out the spot welds that held on the original perch

And then clumsily mig welded onto arm. I’ll drill a hole in the sandwich and squirt in some waxy stuff for rust protection. Then weld up the hole.

I don’t know if all this is a good idea. But I did it 🙂

Next is to pop in some m6 riv nuts that I’ll use to secure clios for both the brake hydraulic arm, and the e brake cable. I’m thinking about welding closed some of the seam area left open from factory, not sure about that though. And I might shave the seam for more tire clearance, as the kids are doing these days ( I did that on the pair of arms I gave to Simon). Apart from that the next steps are another sandblast then powdercoating .

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Vanagon – syncro transmission rebuild

This is Quentin’s work, he’s at Vivid Vans. A series of pics with his comments interspersed. I’m envious.


You can see the make shift m5x.7 puller I made for all the idler shafts to the left of the housing. An m6 bolt ground down and tapped to m5 haha. You can also see wear from axial movement of the mainshaft bearing in the casting.

I took a photo of each gear with its respective syncro for easy reference at reassembly. You can also just go off the number of teeth but it was easier for a newbie like me.

Nice and clean after being glass bead blasted and thoroughly cleaned.

Test drilling old diff housing for pinion oil squirter. Right on the money first try. (housing was trashed)

My NOS S.A. aluminum diff housing I had modified by Mr. GAS in Colorado for a locker and extra material for the pinion bearing squirter. Yes it would have looked a lot nicer if I had it milled down but I ran out of time.


4th Gear cool oil bath squirter. Questionable effectiveness but doesnt hurt nonetheless. Bathes 4th gear in cooled oil.

Main bearing oil squirter. Squirts cooled oil directly into the main bearing from the front side.

Main bearing retainer plate. South African style reproduced by Alika Motorsports. Prevents axial play. (I had the wrong thrust bearing pressed into the housing please ignore! Fixed it the next day.)

Cut the oiling groove in the pinion race using my CNC angle grinder. Drilled with 1/8 carbide drill bits.

Setting up the ring and pinion with the help of our head Tech Tony. Didn’t get photos of final pattern but It was spot on. Probably the most difficult part of the rebuild.

gear stacks assembled. I literally spent months labouring over the gearing. Ended up going with:

3.333 First

1.82 Second

1.125 big tooth Third

0.75 Straight cut fourth

Deleted the reverse/granny syncronizer and installed a 2wd slider instead. TDIs have been seen to rattle the syncro assemblies apart and destroy the low/reverse housing.

Fully assembled all aluminum goodness

Painted, torqued, ready to thrash. I just need to plumb the oil cooling circuit and it will be ready for break in.

One last photo of my trans temp gauge I custom built. My oil cooler pump is activated manually by a 2nd defroster switch. I considered doing and automatic cooler set up, but your brain is the best automatic controller money can buy.


Vanagon – start of trailing arm “rebuild”

Years ago I had a pair of trialing arms which I fixed up for good friend Simon. I shaved the wheel side seam and welded in a reinforcing plate in that area. Also welded up the spring pad perimeter. He finally had them installed last summer. His old ones he gave to me.

They were heavily coated in tar like undercoating and had been quickly cut from the van. I burdened off the undercoating using a tiger torch, and also got the bushings out.

Had them sandblasted. Here’s what one looks like after that. You might be able to see the Zip disk cuts in the arm, and the bent tabs. No idea what that tab on the inboard bushing area is for.

I welded up the zip cuts, and then I drilled out the spot welds on the spring perches. Yup, that’s what it’s like under the pads. Even though though the arms were rust free, on the surface, under the pads it’s nasty.

I’ll go out on a limb and say, unless you’re living in a super dry part of the world, your good looking spring pads will have cracked paint and rust under. Just saying, not being a Cassandra 🙂


Vanagon – funny Trucklite headlamp behaviour

Hi, I bought another, yes another, set of cheap led headlamps. Let’s not get into the pros and cons of that just yet. I’ll report on those later.

But I had the chance to compare quickly, the new ones with some older Trucklite headlamps. They differ completely in the led arrangement and number. But when I was doing a quick comparison ( very quick , shining onto a welding curtain) , I noted the Trucklite unit had a delay switching from high beam to low. You can see in this shaky vid. Trucklite on the right


Vanagon – quick autopsy of GW throttle body

It’s from the burned out orange van. Engine fire so you can imagine all of the plastic parts in there are melted or burned up. I did manage to pull the throttle body and it’s a go westy one. Here it is, even after an hour in the ultrasonic cleaner. I’m guessing it was black anodized.

Took it apart. The bearings , sealed, 22mm OD, 8mm ID, 7mm thick, we’re toast of course. And the throttle position switch burned off.

I did my best with scotch Brite pad on the main body and I skimmed a couple thou off one end ( lathe). The small parts I used vibratory tumbler, mix of walnut shells and grit. Put it back together using a a pair of cheap ceramic open bearings that I had. Of course you should use sealed , ti reduce the air bypass along the shaft.

Couple of notes. It’s a well made thing. I’m impressed by the build quality. The shaft has a very small groove where the bearings sit. There was something in the groove but maybe not an o ring, maybe it was some sort of sealant. The butterfly is a simple flat disc, no ramp or bevel as in the stock plate. The fit in the bore is very good, very close.

Good friend Greg has one in his van. He says it’s great. I don’t doubt it, it’s well made.

I’ll keep this one for a spare, yes I’ll swap out the bearings and see about something with that tiny groove in shaft under the bearings. And I need to get a tps either a kit from the usual sources or make one up. I’d did notice GW kit uses a 3D printed cam.

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Vanagon – some dash gauge resistance values

Good friend Greg is working on a replacement instrument cluster foil. Part of the work required some research into the gauges.

This info could help with troubleshooting gauge issues. it’s 86 and up specific, 2wd

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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 – another D15 connector failure

Update, 27/02/22

I was working on stripping more stuff from the burned out van today. Took a pic of the big white D connector that contains the failed D15 connection. I think you’ll agree that it’s toast

I’ve written before, 10 years ago it seems, about the failure prone D15 connector on the 86 and newer fuse panel.

Well, the other week I found another. This time on a van I bought with a friend. Sad story about the van. We bought it as salvage, after it had an engine fire. I’ll post more about that later.

Anyway, I pulled the fuse panel and found the white D connector badly burned and melted at the D15 pin. The pin is undersized for the circuit that it supplies. And what it supplies is the ignition coil and the crank case breather tube heater.

It was an oversight by VW. Other VW vehicles of that era using the same panel moved the circuit to the larger D23 pin. But on the vanagon it wasn’t…. The D23 pin is unused. I’d recommend owners to check that connector and add a pigtail to connect to the free D23 pin. I outlined that in the linked post above.

You can clearly see the burned pin

I guess I ought to show the entire back of panel

I have to emphasize, failure of this connection will stop the engine. It will strand you.

I found another bad connection on this panel, on fuse 14

You can pop the front off the panel and reveal the quite wonderful brass circuitry. There was bent prong in the fuse 14 position. Easy to bend back to shake with needle nosed pliers. I’m guessing some ham fisted person bent that pin, caused bad connection and the resulting heat melted the plastic.

Ok, I’ll post two pics of the burned out van. This was at sellers place on the mainland.


Trips – mostly Klanawa

The day after fixing the coolant hose problem we went on a trip. Of course, I was nervous. Maybe foolhardy to go off on such a trip , out of cell coverage, long walks to get help, without doing a better shake down of the van. A 35 year old van. But off we went anyway 🙂

Headed to Port Renfrew on the off chance we could get through RCMP roadblocks and get to our favourite spots northwest of the town.

There is a big logging protest in the area, as of writing I think there have been over 800 arrests of people protesting the logging of one of the last remaining old growth watersheds, the Fairy Creek watershed.

Wikipedia entry here:

We got stopped by a private security roadblock well south of the bridge over the Gordon river. The stated reason for the roadblock was road work further on. Yeah, right. Very uncommon to hire private security when doing road work. Makes my blood boil just thinking about it.

Turned around and headed to Cowichan Lake via Harris main ( also know on as Pacific Marine Road. This road is paved and a popular part of a circle route back to victoria via Cowichan.

At the lake we headed west on the south shore road , and back onto rough gravel. Onward west, and into the Nitinat watershed. Nipped down the wee road to check out Nitinat river falls camping area. We’ve camped there a couple times before, but there were others there this time and so we headed back on main road, onward to the bridge across the Nitinat , and looked for spur road that we had gone up 10 years ago…

I took wrong spur and ended up on the south side of Worthless Creek, road got steep. Nothing we aren’t used to, steep enough to have to use G gear on the syncro, and ease through a couple of ditches across the road.

Here’s the approx location.

Yes, that’s Nitinat lake in the distance. We could even make out the kite surfers ( binoculars ).

You might think us crazy, but we love having a view even if it’s on a rocky logging road.

The marine fog, low cloud, the next morning .

Off again Klanawa Main. Oh btw, passed Flora Lake and the forestry campsite. Pleased to see the campsite has been fixed up again. Few years ago we saw the access road washed out.

Then down Klanawa main logging road. Stopped at a spot on the upper reaches of the river. We have stopped here on other trips, lunch spot. As expected the river at this point is dry. Forst pic looking upstream, second downstream. And yes, others have been here and left fire pits on the gravel.

Further on down we came across some helicopter logging. Erickson by the look of it.

Timber Harvesting

Sikorsky Skycrane, I was surprised. I knew they were used for this, and have seen them used on the mainland some years ago. But to be honest I didn’t think they still were in service.

About a minute and a half round trip, from picking up logs to dropping them and return.

Then onward down the river to find on of our high view point camping places ( shown in other posts labelled Klanawa). Passed the Tscowis creek campsite, no one there, but we wanted high. First try we found the road trenched, de activated. Damn. Then onward again and found that Darling main road is washed out close to Klanawa river.

Then back track to get the the other end of Darling main, found some interesting things and also found road to another high spot choked with alder. Tried to drive thru but gave up after about 100 m.

So then back up Klanawa main to little lake we have camped at a few times before. And it’s been logged on one side!

That kinda spoils the ambience. Interestingly though, found some sundew plants there, never saw them at that spot before.

So back again to the Tscowis site.

It wasn’t that bad. Very little traffic on the road nearby. Mind you the creek is unusually cold. We haven’t been there at any time when the water is bearable for more than just a quick dip.

Spent two nights there. Did nothing but read,eat, drink, lounge.

And one more thing… first night on this trip noticed the fridge not working well. It was lit, but not cooling. Just like what happened on last trip , last year. I posted recently that I had cleaned the burner jet and the fridge was working great at home. So I figured the jet was partially clogged again. I’m thinking the bumpy roads is stirring up some contaminant in the propane supply and causing this blockage at jet.

I pulled the fridge after we got to Tscowis. Cleaned the jet the best I could, and back in it went. Fridge lit and worked like a champ! Close to showing plumbers crack here.

Return trio to home uneventful. Went back via Cowichan lake and Duncan. All in all about 550km.