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 – westy kitchen unit score

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.


More room but still being used as junk 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.

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Vanagon – Semi hi top pop top in Mexico

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.


Multiple dope slaps for shooting this video in portrait mode, but still very much worth a look.

Oh and yes, that’s a Thule van door lock on the sliding door.

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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 – minor transmission work.

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.


Yeah, laugh it up 🙂

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.

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