Archive for category vanagon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bit of a “hall of mirrors” effect in the van. Maybe keeping it uncovered will make the inside of the van seem larger.
Answered local buy and sell ad and met up with ex-vanagon owner Warren. Really nice guy selling some left over parts including a later model westy kitchen unit ( the type that has the lower front end and different lid), a rear heater, home made pressure bleeder for brakes, and various other little bits and bobs. The kitchen unit does not have the stove parts nor the fridge. The space where the fridge went has some shelves installed.
The later style kitchen unit allows the driver seat back to recline a little more. I’d like to incorporate that into my earlier style unit but that mod will have to wait. But right away I could use the larger capacity drawer.
Early vs later drawer.
The faceplate wasn’t perfect but much much better than the one I had. So it got swapped in. But still using my black painted indicator panel. I think I’m remembering correctly, krylon espresso satin brown is a close match.
Interating vanagin and Dutch couple Simon met during his recent Mexico trip. I don’t have many details, but I think it’s a Reimo top (and limited edition ) diesel, twin fuel tanks, syncro. I bet a few of you out there know this couple.
Oh and yes, that’s a Thule van door lock on the sliding door.
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.
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).
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.
Small stuff. First off, I changed the transmission oil from the Castrol gear oil that I put in back in 2011. This time I’m suing Swepco 210. Lots of discussion about gear oil on the Samba, Swepco gets a good rap, many are running 201 and more recently more are using the moly containing 202 or 212.
So after 6 years and over 100,000 km the transmission plug magnet looked like this. Not too much swarf.
The second thing I did was to add more holes to my homemade transmission skid plate. Blog post about original install here. Yes, the relative lack of ventilation holes finally got to me. Even though I live in a very temperate climate, and I don’t do many long distance hot weather high speed trips, I knew I should have more air going over the transmission. Drilled more holes ( and didn’t measure spacing, but no one is going to see that are they?) and also put in some slots. And as I am always game for a questionably valid idea, I put in a bit of plastic hinge material art of the slots and infront of the holes.
Here’s my thinking. The plastic strip will create a little bit of high pressure in front which will help direct air flow up into slots, the strip also will trip the air flow and make a lower pressure area directly aft of it. It’s all pretty shaky fluid dynamics but what’s the harm in trying?
Green is air flow, gray is skid plate.
The last thing I did was adjust the ball and cup part of the gear shift linkage. The parts circled here.
But what adjustments can you make with that assembly you ask? I didn’t think there was any, I was thinking the fit of the ball into the cup was worn and loose. This supposition was a little bit of a Hail Mary wish, I had been having some shifting issues. The first to second, and the third to second shifts had been getting harder over the last few months. It felt like the linkage was hitting a stop rather than anything internal with the transmission itself. The low hanging fruit was this part of the linkage and I thought I’d have a look before working forward with adjustments to the rest of the system.
I think the specs for the ball and cup are that the cup has an ID of 30mm and the ball OD is 29.6mm. I was wondering if things were worn out and the fit sloppy. You can buy replacements. And also I was wondering if the splines on the ball part, where it fits in the splined shaft in the transmission, were worn.
Going at it I remembered that a previous owner had made a modification. The lower part of the cup lever had been cross drilled through the horizontal shift rod and tapped and nutted. The stock method of securing the cup lever to the shaft is a small roll pin coming up from the bottom. The red arrow approximates where the cross drilling was done.
Took the parts off and the cup and ball fit wasn’t that loose at all. But without the added cross bolt the fit of the cup lever onto the shaft was very wobbly. When I tightened up the cross bolt the fit became very secure. And miracle of miracles, tightening that bolt cured my shifting issues.
It would be a little bit of a chore to drill and tap the connection on the van. I think this was done when the transmission was rebuilt ( the previous owner mentioned, but had no paperwork proving, that the transmission had been rebuilt). Maybe this mod could be of use to some of you out there. It’s something to be aware about if you are putting on a new cup lever, check the fit on the shift rod.
A few weeks ago I replaced an upper ball joint on the van. This was not preventative maintenance, this ball joint was dead.
The boot was ripped, and you can see the grease had long gone. I have no excuse for this lack of awareness of the joint failing. (You know, I think it might even be the original joint)
I replaced the other side’s joint some years ago, blog post of that here. Good god, it was back in 2009. It was a real chore to get the tapered part of the joint out then and I expected more of the same this time. But apparently god smiles on fools, and the tapered part practically fell out of the steering upright. Back in 2009 I used a Lemforder joint, which I think are pretty darn good. But couldn’t get hold of one quickly this time and went for the Febi version. I don’t think I would have touched any other brands, those two are the best. So do you think the Febi is actually made in Germany? Says Germany, but not made in Germany 🙂
But I made life harder for myself. That strange looking tool in the picture of the new joint on Bentley may give a hint. The too was my quick effort to make something to hold the shock shaft while the nut is turned. There is a neat VW specialty tool for this.
And during my previous spring removals I’ve not needed to hold the shock shaft, the nut came off land went back on easily. But this time there must have been some damage to the threads and the nut was not cooperative. The tool was made from scrap hence the unusual shape at the business end. Really just amounts to a rod with a slot in the end to hold the flattened end of the shock shaft.
Yeah I was swapping springs again. Back in 2013 I installed 2wd westy front springs. They are a few cm longer and the wire diameter was ( and I remeasured) only about 0.5-0.8mm smaller than the syncro springs. I can’t give you better measurements than that, the paint thickness muddies things up. Back then I thought they were really the same wire diameter. But now I wonder. Anyway, the post about that is here. Over time I started to think maybe the syncro springs were stiffer or that the 2wd springs had sagged. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but I had my old syncro springs sand blasted and I repainted them. Here is the shorter syncro spring beside one of the 2wd westy springs I removed.
Well I don’t know. Probably should have left them in. But I didn’t and I had the fun struggle of spring swap. The other two tools I find useful, if not essential, in the spring swap are a ratcheting strap clamp to pull the shock into alignment and a guide tool to screw into the shock shaft to lead the shaft up through the shock tower. I made the latter years ago with a wooden knob for a handle. After I conked my forehead with the knob when I pulled up hard, but the rod was not screwed on securely to the shock, I changed the knob for a T handle.
Here’s the original at work.
And… I finally, after a year, got around to replacing the driver’s side lower control arm inboard bushing with a polyurethane version. The original was just thrashed. All distorted, the control arm pushed forward in the mount . Hard to see in the pic, sorry.
Hey you know the strut I used to support the westy kitchen lid? This blog post. I had three left over looking for a home. Got to use two today in my old and venerable Thule ski box. Phil is wrong when he says it’s a clunky, ugly, and heavy old thing. Its a classic, and it’s strong with double wall construction.
But it has one annoying feature when used on the van, the stock support strut doesn’t hold the lid open enough for loading some things.
Gas struts to the rescue!
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.
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.
With the paint fresh and fragrant, the vanagon heads north up the peninsula.
Just got the pics from Simon in Mexico, and the van is painted. Its Honda sunburst orange with black strip on window line and rockers. Simon says the colour really changes with the light and you can see that in the pics. I think it looks great, almost lickable 🙂
Addendum May 12, 2017.
Trevor commented that it reminded him of the new Air Canada livery. Yeah, I can see that .
Maybe more bits and bobs should have been taken off the body? I’m guessing the next pics will show the colour choice.
He’s doing it, he’s getting the van painted, no turning back now.
Making his way to Baja, where some surprises for us are in store. Yeah, he’s getting a paint job in La Paz. Before the stuff hits the fan here are some recent pics.
It’s a bit of where’s Waldo?
I think the van looks fine as is, but the heat is getting to him and he’s thinking of a colour change. Heat is not a problem up here in B.C.
These are new to me and I think the idea is great. Don’t need to pack a separate battery charger, just pop the cap (cap has short elastic lanyard) and plug into USB port. Little led light on the cell goes from red to green when fully charged. The mAh rating, 1200, is less than an alkaline (not sure how it compares to NiCd or NiMH) and the discharge profile is different. That discharge profile is flat with a sudden drop at end, so the cells may not play nice with the battery life indicators on some devices. Ie, your camera may show close to full battery then suddenly empty.
I’ll give them a go and see what’s what.
On this side, the friendly multi-generational line up.
A bit of a Spike and Chester thing going on
Link to the campsite
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.