Posts Tagged vanagon

Vanagon – Simon’s syncro doka is for sale



Samba ad is here


Leave a comment

Vanagon – a pretty darn good site for mods and improvements 

Abel has been posting really good stuff here, Texas Vanagons.

Definitely worth a good look.

Leave a comment

Vanagon – USB outlet, voltmeter, custom vent

Bought one of those ubiquitous voltmeter and USB combos from Thought I would modify the vent on the fridge cabinet to install. But the old grill on the rear face of the cabinet had peeling paint and I didn’t like how the install looked. So I made a new grill from some 3/32″ thick aluminum plate. I milled slots, 3/8″ wide, on 1/2″ centres, 7 slots in total. And I milled a hole for the voltmeter/outlet combo.

The grill turned out a bit “gappy”, a bit too open perhaps. But as you don’t really look at it face on too often it’s good enough. The outlet and meter are wired to my auxiliary fuse panel under the driver’s seat. I thought about a switch to turn the thing off when not needed but I didn’t have a switch that would suit. I might add one later, but right now my big assed house battery will take any parasitic drain.

I’ll replace the mounting screws with the ones that will accept a plastic cap when I can find some.



Vanagon – Nathan meets very nice syncro tin top

Addendum April 16, 2016. Very nice install of  Garmin Nuvi 44LM in ashtray, pics at bottom.

Pics sent to me by Nathan, he met local owner of this really nice blue syncro tin top. The pics tell the story.




Leave a comment

Vanagon – trip to wreckers scores big, well fairly big

I had the morning free to head up to Malahat Auto Wreckers here on the southern part of Vancouver Island, and I got lucky. There are fewer and fewer Vanagons in the wreckers these days, a big drop from the halcyon days of the turn of the century. But I found a tin top, year of manufacture 1991. Pretty rare here to see a 92 model year T3. The sticker said it was assembled in Austria. You know the story, the Hannover plant switched over to making T4 models and the Graz plant continued for a while to make both syncros and 2wd vans.

The van was in rough shape but it had the heated drivers seat intact, plus all the electrics for same. I had already scored the column mounted controller, housing, and relays some years ago but this time I got another set plus the wiring to the seat and the seat itself. The seat is pretty skanky ( and it’s blue, wouldn’t match my other seat even if it was in good shape) but I think the heating pads are salvageable.


Taking the seat apart I found that the wiring to the seat base  was broken. Almost looks like it was cut. Everything else was intact and looked stock so I wouldn’t be surprised if the break was the result of some pinching and flexing. Nasty stains on the seat pad, ugh.
The seat back pad is fine.

My plan is to clean up the pads, test for continuity, remake the broken wiring, and install in my current driver’s seat. The other finds at the yard were some plastic trim pieces and the rarest of rare things, the little light above the glove box with an intact switch!



Vanagon – small led light bar

I’m getting a lot of guff about this light bar. 

“oh it’s so cute” 

” hey you know the front of your van is starting to look like you”

” you call that a light bar?”

And then I get this, not for the sign, but Bender’s face.

And this.

But the best one is this.

Yup, that’s it.


It’s this light bar from

54W 18LEDs Car Work Light Bar Spotlight White Projector Lamp

I chose it for its small ( yes, I chose small) size, had decent reviews, and had IP68 waterproof rating. It’s also a spot rather than flood beam pattern but saying spot does not imply that it is a carefully focused beam. My thinking was that I wanted a spot beam to project down trails/logging roads. And also I was pretty curious about these light bars. And god knows you see a lot of them on burley trucks around here. Multiples of the smaller ones, long ones that almost span the width of the truck, on bumpers, above cabs, you know the scene.

I mounted the light bar to what I call the light bar on my bumper ( getting confusing now ), power wire routed internally, ground wire attached to bumper. And I noticed that it’s missing one of the M3 socket headed cap screws on the face plate, sheesh.

Couple more pics of the ludicrous look.


Back to the wiring. Ran the power wire up into the dash, to a relay and fuse, and it’s switched on the second position of my fog light switch on dash. That’s why you see the aux lights on in the pics. They are on the first position of the switch.

So how bright is it at night? It’s bright but not life changing bright. I took some pics but you know how that works, never really gets things right.

First pic is the aux lights alone. These are tired 55w bulbs and I have aimed the aux lights low and a little bit to the right. The aiming is little bit of an attempt to catch any suicidal deer.

And this pic the led light bar and aux lights on. The led bar could be aimed a tad higher. It’s hard to believe from the pics but you could drive easily with this light combo.

And in this pic I’ve added my main lights (high beam). 


Am I happy with the light bar? Well yes, it’s fine. Good old high quality halogen spots would beat it, but for the power draw and the price I think it will do what I want it to do .



Vanagon – brake master cylinder 

A couple of months ago I replaced my brake master cylinder. It was a strange failure progression. I’ve noticed over the last few years that I would on occasion get a real soft brake pedal when driving on logging roads. Most often happened on quite bumpy steep downhills. But then the brake would return to normal and it didn’t happen during normal driving. I thought maybe it was the proportioning valve? Bleeding the system and adjusting rear drums didn’t seem to affect things, but then again it happened so infrequently…

But during this last January the soft pedal started happening during every day driving. So, I put a new master in and things are good again.

Couple of pics for no other reason than I took them. Used syringe and hose to drain reservoir.

Old and new master. I tried cleaning out the reservoir with some DOT 3 fluid I had, but couldn’t get it really clean. Fine grey sediment wouldn’t shift.

I pressure bled the system after install. Old cap connected to compressor, about 4psi pressure used. I managed to flush a full litre of new fluid through the system.


Vanagon – another ladder/tire carrier prototype

Still haven’t got a production model yet, still trying things out. This one has offset tire position which I thought was a good idea, but looking at it installed I’m thinking it’s awkward.

It’s on Nathan’s van. Pic of Nathan’s van beside my van kinda shows the offset and that the tire is a bit lower on the ladder. Oh and I did away with the curved bottom on this one.

Yeah, that offset looks a little odd.


Leave a comment

Vanagon – spark plug failure

I’ve never seen this before. Might explain why my van wasn’t running very nice the last month or so. On the other hand, trying to track down the running issue did turn up some cracked vacuum hoses so that’s all good eh?

I couldn’t get the broken bit out of the boot. Had to use spare.



Leave a comment

Vanagon – T4 grounding crown

Hey, did you know you can just squeeze in a T4 grounding crown in the aft position of the pair of stock crowns just to the left of the fuse panel?

It’s tight, but it gets in there.

I mangled the stock crown a little getting it out. But look, look at the abundance of connections on the T4 crown 🙂

Not a great pic, but here is installed.


Leave a comment

Vanagon – 2015 Dodge Caravan town and country second row seats

Addendum April 10, 2016. Drivers seat installed today. Simpler install, four bolts welded to stock swivel plate, 1×2″ steel box section fits onto those bolts, box section bolted to Chrysler seat. Pics at the end of the post. Oh, btw, sitting in the drivers seat is a big improvement over the stock seats. I’m 6-2, I still have a finger width or two head room to ceiling, and for some reason due to the seat adjustment or whatever, I get a much better view of the speedo and tach than I do in my van. This alone makes me want to have the seats in my van.

Addendum April 13, 2016. Some more pics taken by Simon of seats in his van, added at bottom of post.

Addendum June 14, 2016. Added some pics of the aluminum rails I made to mount the passenger side seat.

Quick post, I hope to show more details later. Adapted one of a pair of seats to fit on stock seat slider. There is a samba thread about this seat and the pioneer (link ) only used the Caravan slider mechanism in the install. Good fried Simon liked what he saw in the thread and bought a pair of seats and had the necessity of being able to move the passenger seat more, ie incorporate the stock sliders. With both sliders in action you can get a good range of fore and aft movement.

I just finished making the adapter and doing test fit in my van. The seat is more comfy than the stock seat. And it’s leather,  and has heating elements ( connecting the heaters is a chore yet to be enjoyed).





Here are some shots of the aluminum rails I made to allow stock seat sliders to be used. Note, the aluminum stock was left over scrap, the single holes in the vertical face have nothing to do with the install.

Laying on the stock sliders ( sliders salvaged from a spare seat, a couple of bars laid in the recesses just to show where the Chrysler seat rails will fit. I don’t have any more pics right now of the completed assembly including the slider release mechanism made to allow the stock slider rails to move ( the Chrysler seats have integral slider mechanism. Having the stock one too was really just to secure the stock rails). I’ll try to remember to get pics.

The longitudinal bars sitting in place. They have yet to be drilled to match the Chrysler seat bolts.


Vanagon – Simon’s Doka

Some nicer shots of the Doka, taken by Simon. Notice the gun racks.



1 Comment

Another tire carrier

Made another carrier, for good friend Simon. Some changes made from my original. I think I have a much better hatch grabbing arrangement at the bottom. Little forward pressure on the door panel but lots up vertical grip. Tire is very solid to the ladder and the ladder very solid to the hatch. Also I repositioned the tire placement to be about 3″ lower than my original so less intrusion into the rear window.

Having the tire on the hatch is a compromise. You do need to have special hatch struts to make opening the hatch an easy process. Simon has a pair of very beefy 1250 N struts that raise the landed hatch with no effort.

The top hangers and the bottom grabber assembly is made from 0.120″ thick 316 stainless. Bolts are stainless. But the lug nuts and the mounting studs are steel. 

I’m going to make some more, with some further refinements.

During the build, comparing tire placement with my original ladder.


It’s 1″ tubing, 1/8″ wall thickness, 6061 aluminum. Joints coped and tig welded.

On Simon’s van. The stainless steel hangers and bottom grabbers have been painted, but the ladder itself untouched. Simon is going to paint it later.

It still works as a ladder with the tire on. Step up from the RMW bumper onto the tire.





’89 syncro Doka 

Good friend Simon just bought another syncro. It’s a private import 89 syncro doka that we believe was a German border guard vehicle. The jx diesel has been replaced by a 1z tdi, it has both front and rear lockers, 15″ wheels, rear cabin heater, and some rifle racks.
The van drives so very nicely. First time for me to drive a tdi powered van and it’s quite impressive. In fact, it feels more powerful than the subie 2.5 Simon has in his syncro Westy ( but that in part is due to the lower gearing and lighter weight of the Doka). The Subie is probably better for higher speed highway driving but on the trail the diesel is the champ.

Westfalia hitch.   

   Vent for turbo inter cooler.   



Vanagon – syncro starter repair

Tuesday morning the van turned over slowly, but did start. I had to drop by a couple of places before getting to work, and on the second stop the starter died. Nothing, no click, no movement. Did a rolling start to get to work and there I checked out things ( connections, battery) and decided the starter was kaput.

I have to admit that the starter had been acting up on occasion for the last 6 months or so. Occasionally it would spin but not engage the flywheel. I agree, I should have known better.

As luck would have it, workplace close by my work had a hoist and it was free. The owner let me use it and later that afternoon I got it up on the lift.

I really wasn’t in the mood to document the job, but I did take a couple of pics and while things are fresh in my mind I have a couple of notes about the job.

Bentley does a fair job of describing the procedure, and there are a few threads on the Samba with additional tips. This was the first time I had taken out a stater in a syncro with engine in van, and I had to use both sources.

Battery disconnected

Van still on ground, S boot on air intake and air filter removed. To get access to the upper starter bolt.

Upper bolt for starter mounting removed. 17mm wrench size on nut on engine side, hex key on transmission side (forget size).

Van lifted

Driveshaft disconnected from transmission. I found the boot ripped so I took driveshaft completely out. I had a ready to go spare axle assembly and I felt chuffed about that. This kind of preparedness doesn’t happen very often

Diff lock actuator. Now this is a little bit of a bear. I found the nuts that Bentley said were welded to the bracket weren’t. Also found that the rubber sleeve covering the actuator shaft was a section of heater hose. So there was no pushing that up to drive out the roll pin, I cut the hose off. You can sort of see the cut hose in this pic.

Driving out the roll pin wasn’t as hard as I expected. Room is limited in there but I managed to do it and leave the roll pin still actuator shaft.

Now the lower starter mount nut, and the jiggle and wiggle to get the starter out. Once the gear end was out and it dropped down a bit I could remove the electrical connections. Took the starter to the bench, took apart the solenoid. Look ok I guess, it would retract under power if I gave it a helping push. Removed one end of the starter and, well, have a look.

Brushes worn down to a nub. Commutator burned, dirty, ugly.

Next morning took starter to rebuilder in town. I can’t really explain why I chose to have it rebuilt instead of buying new (or factory reconditioned, whatever that means). Starter would be ready that afternoon.

Back out to work. Had some time to swap in my spare axle, but left transmission end up attached.

Back to town for starter. Labour charge CA115 ( 84/hr rate), parts 43 bucks. New solenoid, brushes, drive gear, commutator turned, armatures checked. Looks brand new.

I really don’t like how the signal wire is attached to the solenoid by a spade connector. So I soldered on a female spade connector, then crimped and soldered on a long pigtail to the spade. Heat shrink and silicone grease. Pigtail will lead to a relay in the engine compartment that I installed a few years ago.

Diff lock actuator boot – well I copied what the previous owner did and used some hose. Polybraid stuff this time with a little window cut into it so the roll pin could be driven home. You know, the acuator shaft was pretty clean when I removed the hose so I figured it worked well enough to do same.

Getting the roll pin back in is a little tricky. What helped a bit was threading the roll pin onto the end of some stainless welding rod. It fit nicely and fetched up on the ID stamp of the rod.

Pic shows the idea without the clutter of the vacuum gizmo and the home made boot. The wire allowed me to get the roll pin in and engaged, then I could remove the wire and tap the pin home with small punch and hammer.

I replaced the starter bushing in the bell housing. Used a 7/16″ tap and screwed the tap into the old bushing and as the tap bottomed out in the hole the bushing screwed up on the tap and out. New bushing was a bronze, oilite type bushing so I soaked in oil before hand and gave it a bit of pressure between fingers with bushing filled with oil. Fingers on open ends. I thought getting  the bushing in place would be tricky so I made a quick install tool from some brass rod. Rod turned down to fit snugly in the bore of the bushing, shoulder on the rod, and the turned down section just a little longer than the bushing length so I could feel the entrance to the hole. That worked out pretty good.

Acuator in place, starter then wiggled and jiggled up and into place. I used sealant on the mating surfaces. I made the lextrical connections when the starter was partly in place. Oh, forgot to mention, made a new wire from big stud in solenoid to alternator.

Inner cv joint connected

While van was on lift I decided to rotate tires. Noticed scraping noise on rear drivers side wheel. Pulled drum and found the adjustment lever had broken and the spring dangling. The broken bit was still in drum. Have no idea how that happened. So off comes the shoe, some prep on the metal, and I welded it back together.

Then van down to the ground, upper starter bolt installed, all the other mess in engine compartment cleaned up, the new wires from the started connected.

And yes, the starter worked. Jeez, much faster than before. My starter was dying a slow death.



Vanagon – Doka heater box refoaming

But before the heater box work, I had to drill out the two broken heater box mounting bolts. I’m not an expert on this, and believe me I seldom have a good time doing this job. 

The pedal assembly is still out of the van so I had much better access to the broken bolts. Sometimes I grind the stub of the bolt flat so I can pop a good centre punch mark, not this time though.

I’m pretty close to the centre of the bolt. The bolt stub is not centred in the middle of the sheet metal. When I am hand drilling ( as opposed to using the milling machine and having the work held firmly) I like to enlarge the centre punch mark with a small drill bit. No need to drill deep. The small drill easily finds the centre mark. Then I drill with a larger bit, right through. Finally I use a bit just slightly smaller than the bolt diameter, in this case it’s a 6mm bolt and the largest bit in the is pic is 7/32″, or 5.6mm.


There it is. Some of the bolt still clinging to the hole. I poked around the edges with and awl and I got the remains out. At this point I would use a tap to chase the threads, but I had taken my metric taps to work…

So I used one of this self tapping 6mm bolts, actually one from the pop top hinge to body connection. I had a couple of spares.  

Now on to the heater box. Recall that I had split the box earlier. I washed the heater core and gave the internals a one hour soak with CLR brand rust and lime remover ( lactic acid, gluconic acid, and a surfactant). I started the refoaming on the upper half of the box.

The factory foam is pretty well gone. You can see how it is held, sandwiched between a plastic bit and the actual flap. 


The foam I used to replace the rotten stuff is 38mm wide, 5mm thick adhesive backed open cell foam. It has a shiny plastic face which can, and was, peeled off. I got this foam at a local RV store. Oh and it has and adhesive backing which helps hold it in place when the plastic part is press back into place. It’s important to use a very compliant foam. You want the flaps to seal with little effort. If the foam is too stiff then the heater control lever and cable system isn’t really able to close the flaps fully.

New foam in place, plastic part not I’m place yet.


And here the plastic is in place. You can push the plastic part on, the little tabs will poke through the soft foam.

I cut the foam just large enough to fit the opening, if you do this job you’ll see just how big to cut.   
All the other flaps are similar. There are a few different heater boxes used in the vanagon, but the the refoaming principal remains the same.

On this box the passive flaps located on the blower and core side, didn’t have a plastic retaining plate. The foam was glued to the flap. I removed as much of the crumbling foam I could, and then was he the flap with 99% isopropanol. Then I played a heat gun on the flaps and noticed that the residual glue in the flaps became sticky again. I like that, it will add to the stick of the self adhesive foam.


You see how I had to us two strips on these flaps, and I didn’t quite get them aligned perfectly. The foam tape grabbed the flap. But who will see? Too late.

The heater core has a bit of foam around the sides and ends to seal it into its place. The old foam was, like the rest of the foam in the box, rotten. And I couldn’t get rid of the black on the core.

I used a good used fan, cleaned and lubed. Then finally the box went back into the van.


1 Comment

Vanagon – Doka pedal assembly 

The Doka has a clutch that engages approximately 5 Angstroms above full pedal. Some work has to be done, but I noticed when I was mucking around with the dash off that there was a lot of play in the clutch pedal.

I’ve posted about clutch pedal play before, right here. Indulge me as I go through it briefly again.

damn wordpress, I’m still composing this post…

Ok, some say you can get the pedal assembly out with the dash in place, coming straight up out where the instrument cluster sits. Perhaps, but you have to bend a wrench to get the forward two bolts that hold the straps that run from dash to body. Might as well take the dash off. Oh, and taking the rubber pedal pads off the pedals makes things easier believe it or not.

Pull the brake master cylinder from the booster. No need to disconnect the brake lines, but you have to remove the fabric covered rubber hose that supplies fluid to the clutch master. And also remove the vacuum line to the booster. Pull the elbow from the rubber grommet rather than trying to remove the hard plastic from the elbow.

Disconnect the metal clutch line from the clutch master. Spill more brake fluid. I hate the feeling of brake fluid on my hands.

Four 13mm headed bolts hold the pedal assembly to the van. Then it comes up out behind that body beam.

Ok, off to the bench with the messy bugger. How about a clumsy video that tries to show the amount of clutch pedal play?

Well there wasn’t as much play in the clevis pin and yoke as I thought there was. But there was a lot of play between the rod that screws into the yoke and the cup it fits into in behind the master cylinder boot.  There is that rod in the next pic, the clutch pedal removed from the assembly.

See? The hole isn’t as wallowed as I thought it would be. And the pin is in fair shape. I measured the pin, 7.95mm. I’m supposing the hole would have been nominally 8mm diameter.

Blobbed in some metal.


Filed off. Maybe a 7/10? I left a bit of a hole in the middle on purpose, to give me a hole location.


Believe it or not, I have a 7.5mm drill bit and an 8mm chucking reamer. This entire exercise was worthwhile for just being able to use them.



And the pin fit into the hole just right.


You know, I should have done the same thing with the brake pedal, it wasn’t as loose as the clutch pedal but it was, and is, a little worn.

Alright, put the things back together (cleaned and greased).


Adjusted the rod from the yoke to the master for just a little play and this is the result.



Vanagon – Doka dash off

Last weekend I pulled the dash off the yellow Doka so that I could do a refurb of the heater box. It could have been worse, but of the six machine screws that hold the heater box on, the heads of two twisted off, and another had to have head drilled off and stub removed with vice grips.

Hey look at this heater box. I think my 82 diesel Westy was the same, and that is the box is not welded together at those tabs. Yeah, there were metal clips, but no plastic welding. My 86 syncro and Simon’s 91 syncro heater boxes had the halves welded together.

The fan motor was seized. I did loosen it up and I click get it to run, but it will be replaced. The foam on the flaps was all disintegrated. The heater core was dirty but sound. I’ll get back to the box later, next post will be about the pedal assembly.


Vanagon – diesel Doka work – part one

My neighbour bought another Doka. Yes, same guy that has the nice green Doka that at did some heater work on. Blog post on that here.

This one is an 85 diesel. A private import so it has one or two interesting things not usually found on North American vans. I’ve been talking some pics as I delve into the dash and the previous owner’s work and we start with the wide shots.

You can see it’s a bit rough around the edges. That rack is bolted to the roof, previous owner was a plumber. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Fixed vent windows.   

Front turn signal lenses slightly different. 

Spartan dash. No padding, the skinny steering wheel with small centre section, no odometer, not even a clock. No handbrake or brake failure warning lights above headlight switch. Rear defogger switch added by previous owner to switch those ugly auxiliary lights

Tray instead of glovebox. Full rubber floor mat in great shape. Funny how the rubber floor mat is so sought after. No it’s not funny, so much better than carpet for most climates.

Yup, 5 speed. And first is low.   

Double vinyl bench and replacement drivers seat.

Very firm vinyl rear bench seat. And you have to sit up straight.

I’m deep into dash work and that will be subject of next part.

Leave a comment

Vanagon – front bumper pics

I’m declaring it done, well almost. Still fussing with ideas to cover the exposed bolt heads. I’m going to give it an 8/10. It is doing what I wanted it to do, but I really don’t like the end caps very much. I found it hard to enclose the “C” shape of the bumper because I carried the bottom angled section of the bumper right back to the standing seam on the body. It made for a big cross section to enclose at the ends. I added facets to the endcaps that really don’t do much for looks. Also noticed after painting how my casual approach to finish grinding and a little warping due to welding gave the top surface the hint of downturn towards the ends. Mostly this is a visual due to the sloppy finish grinding on the top edge. But now my eye is drawn to it and I get that pang of regret.

Oh well, that’s how it goes, I have to see the thing made then decide what I like and don’t like 🙂

The light bar worked out ok. Places the lights approximately in front of the metal section between the upper and lower grills. One could argue that the lights are too close together, but I’ll leave that conclusion until I aim the lights and do some night driving.

As for the lights, I did manage to shoehorn the 6.5″ H4 lamps into the housings. Right now I have it wired to the fog light switch and only connected to the low beam filaments in the lamps. I plan on connecting (yes, of course relayed) to the hi-lo stalk switch so I can have both high and low beam auxiliaries. The lamps had city light bulb holders in them. I replaced them with 2W led eagle eyes. I wired them to come on with key on, thinking they might make DRLs. Not quite bright enough, but certainly noticeable. The night shot shows them on, appearing more brilliant than they actually are. I’ll see if I can dig out some pics I took months ago showing the eagle eye install. I’ll update this post then.

Wiring to the aux lights runs inside the light bar and out behind the bumper. The nice flat top surface really makes it easy to stand on to get things on the roof. The paint is rubberized rocker guard paint. Yes, not bedliner. I thought it would be be a better choice for touch ups after the inevitable scrapes on rocks. Certainly less expensive than bedliner. About ten bucks a can, took two cans to do the bumper. Aluminum was prepared by scuff sanding and acid based aluminum wash. Then one coat of self etching primer and about three coats of the paint.

I should mention how I mounted them to the sub bumper. The stock mounting holes (M10x1.5 I think) got reworked with helicoils for M11x1.5. I made a stainless steel bracket, like two “C” shaped pieces connected by a straight section out of 1/8″X1.5″ bar stock. The “C” parts fit over the sub bumper and are held onto it by two bolts running vertically down through drilled holes in the sub bumper. The bolts hold the brackets in place and also pinch the sub bumper a bit, pretty solid. On the back of the rackets I welded nuts for the M13x1.75 bolts that go through the centre section of the bumper. Trust me, the bumper is on there solid.


Leave a comment

Vanagon – soft shackles on tow points?

It might be a good idea, it might not. 1/4″ Spectra soft shackle to be used on the rear tow points of my bumper. On this example I have yet to trim the tails, I need to give the shackle a good pull first. one nice thing is that they pack into small spaces unlike a steel shackle. Note: 1/4″ Spectra has breaking strength of 6,000 lbs. tests have shown a soft shackle doesn’t decrease strength (infact, it can be 175% of single line strength). But, 5/16″ Spectra tests at 9,000 lbs, might be better to use 5/16″.


Here is link to instructions to tie this particular style. 



Vanagon – one man’s spanner 

I just received this message from another Vanagon blogger:

“How are you doing man. We’ve been blogging about the VW Vanagon for years. I have been inactive for a year and I really want to get back to doing what I love. Please post this indegogo campaign I have to help me restore the van:–3#/story

Have a look, worthy cause.

The kid knows what’s coming at that end. Shims, seal, end play…


Leave a comment

Vanagon – aux battery, solar, and aux wiring diagram update

Whoops! Uploaded the wrong diagram, hold on….fixed

I redrew my schematic to show changes made in the last year. I dropped the Doc Watson meter, added solar panel controller, and added large fuse at the big aux battery. And I added a 15A fuse on the small wire that runs from the ACR to neg return. It’s a safety in case of an internal fault in the ACR. Also, I corrected mistake in last diagram where the ACR was connected incorrectly to the aux fuse panel. Now you see it is fused at panel. I should make it clear that I do not have a power feed to the fridge cooling system. I may add that later, but I don’t miss it.




Vanagon – rear side marker light guards

i made a few prototypes, aluminum with quick spray bomb paint. What do you think, silly, sensible, or none of the above?


Update, in a way.

Still fooling with the idea. Made this version to see how a swing away guard would work. The proportions are a bit screwy but I like it enough to to try again.



Vanagon – front bumper build pretty well done

I’ll get better pics and notes when I wire up the auxiliary lights on that light bar.




Vanagon – hatch mounted spare tire carrier

Last spring I finally gave up on my swing away tire carrier project. I couldn’t get it stiff enough for my liking. I’ll post something about that fandango and my new front bumper later. The stock location for the spare was taken over by the big assed battery so I have been using a paulchen rack to carry my spare. I really didn’t like that and last week I made a quick and dirty aluminum ladder type rack to carry the spare. I’m going to give it a bit of testing before clean up and painting, then I will post more on construction details etc.




Vanagon – syncro doka



Leave a comment

Vanagon – inside the fuse panel

Pretty cool eh? 



Vanagon – two syncros and a donkey

My rough 86 and good friend Simon’s 91 hightop. And an old donkey.




Leave a comment

Vanagon – some notes on new wheel install

i bought the Mercedes alloy wheels last year. They weren’t my first choice, I wasn’t really sold on the flat face look. But the price was right ($100 for 4) and I thought the offset of 25 might work out for me. The ideal offset would have been 30mm, but folks have successfully  used ( without wheel spacers) wheels with offset of 37mm on the syncro. Mind you I think those wheels were narrower than 7″. 

The whole subject of wheel choice can be confusing. Chris at T3 Technique has good information (link) and there is a very lengthy Samba thread on the topic.

With the alloys having an offset of 25mm I wasn’t concerned about clearance issues with suspension components but I was a little nervous about how much space there would be between the sliding door and the passenger side rear tire. As it turned out there is a good 3/8″ – 1/2″ space between tire and door.

Some time after I bought the alloys, good friend Simon bought a set of Mercedes 15″ steel wheels. 6.5″ wide, offset of 37mm. He offered them to me, we thought that maybe the black steel wheel look would work on my van. If they did both of us would use one of the alloys as a spare, if not then the steelies would be out spare. Simon needs a better rin for his spare.

I had one of each type mounted with tire and compared them on the van. The alloys won. The clearance between the steel wheel and both the front and rear suspension components was tighter than the alloy.

As the alloy wheels have a thicker cross section where the wheel studs locate I had to get longer studs. Well on the rear wheels anyway. The studs are a tad longer on the front wheels so I left them stock. I measured and determined I had 8.75 turns on the lug nut on the stud as it tightens up to the wheel. The thread size is M14X1.5 so that gives 13.13mm of engagement which I think is sufficient . Replacing the front studs on the syncro is a pain. Note that various alloy wheels differ in thickness in this area, some are quite thick.

I got the longer studs from Chris at T3 Technique, hands down the best source for wheel hardware. I had a spare set of rear hubs so I had the studs pressed in, sitting around waiting until I got off my duff.

Also, the lug nut seats on the Mercedes alloys were the small ball type, the stock steel wheels on the Vanagon use large ball seats. So I had to buy some new lug nuts and yes I got them from T3 Technique. Here is a pic comparing the stock Vanagon lug nut to the lug stud that came with the alloy wheels.

And one more thing to do. The Mercedes alloys are drilled for 12mm studs. The Vanagon uses 14mm studs. I enlarged the holes with a 37/64″ drill.

I had a bit of fun getting the hubs off the van. I’ve done this job a few times but this time the big 46mm axle nuts were very, very reluctant to come off. What I normall use is a 1 13/16 socket, 3/4″ drive but for the life of me I couldn’t find the 3/4″ extension and T bar for the socket. So I thought I’d be clever and modify the 46mm slugging wrench I had. Btw, I have a hard time using the slugging wrench in the way it is supposed to be used. I find it hard to get a good swing at it with the heavy hammer without hitting the wheel.

I welded a bit of 7/8 hot rolled steel to the wrench, and that spud fit into the 5′ steel tube I use as my might extension. Well, the hot rolled bent immediately. Ok, I cut it off and welded on a found section of bar stock. I had the notion that this particular bar stock was perhaps a stronger steel.

Why the heck did I weld it on with the hole at that end? I can’t explain this bozo move.


Well that shifted the rig hand side axle nut, but it bent a little in the process.

And the hub swapped.

But Mr Wrench (and my weld at the end) was not up to going after the other side.


I nipped over to a friend’s shop and he easily loosened the nut with his Milwaukee battery powered impact gun ( has 1100 ft lbs of torque).

Mr Wrench was still strong enough to re-torque the nut to the 365 ft lbs the bugger needs. I added a bit more weld in the hope that I can use him again sometime, in his new cranked conformation.


I’ve yet to get some good shots of how the wheels and tires look on the van. In the meantime here are some quick snaps of my van and good friend Simon’s van. Simon has South African Carat (?) alloys and Nokian WRC 205/70-15.