I’ve had this Vanagon for 8 years. As best I can tell from the paperwork, before I bought the van it spent several years in a storage facility in Eastern Shore, Maryland. Given that it had zero rust anywhere on it I’d presume the storage facility was climate controlled or at least very dry and not exposed to salt/marine air.
Please note that this is a Weekender. It does not have the sink and stove. Instead it has an additional seat and table. I had a camper with the sink/stove prior to this and never used it. The weekender is a better configuration for our family and I spent a long time looking for one in this condition.
Here’s a timeline of the work I’ve done to it.
This guy, Kevin Mayer from Mayer’s Garage in Philadelphia (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!) who I found on Roadhaus, checked out the Vanagon before I purchased it from a private seller and then did a bunch of work on it before we took it home.
- Cooling system flush
- Brake fluid flush
- New break pads and resurface front rotors, new rear brake shoes/rear cylinders
- oil change
- repair speedometer (sent to outside shop, $120)
- shifter pivot/adjust shifter
These pre-delivery repair/maintenance costs totaled: $864
In addition to these maintenance/repair issues, we also had some cosmetic work done that was pretty expensive but it was worth it in the long run as we had new window seals installed all around and larger GoWesty wheels+tires installed. Neither of these were required repairs/maintenance but I’m glad we had that work done by a good mechanic.
Total “optional/cosmetic” costs: $1,800
The Vanagon was only home for a week before I had to tackle my first job: speedometer cable replacement. My first very satisfying repair.
By the time I’d driven the car home from Philadelphia, the speedometer cable snapped, so I had to replace it. This was my first “job” on the vanagon. It was harder than I thought it was going to be, but I did it and it was great way to dip my toe into the vanagon repairs. That fact that it was successful also helped to keep me motivated on subsequent repairs. $25
Also, trying to be a responsible dad, I performed a few safety-related upgrades:
- Installed third-brake light from GoWesty: $35
- Installed three point seat belts in rear of van on both passenger and driver sides ($210)
My fuel pump was whining and it was really annoying so I put in a new fuel filter in front of it. It didn’t solve the problem. I suspected the tank was just gummed up but none of the mechanics I spoke with thought it was a big deal. $16
Also, at this point I upgraded the stock radio and front speakers. I don’t have the costs on this but really need to document the process because I kept the old speaker grills on the doors and a lot of folks have commented to me how they like that. I will write that up someday soon. Still, as this wasn’t a needed repair to keep the van on the road I don’t think the cost information here is critical.
My van was having a tough time starting every once in a while. It seemed kind of random. I called Ken Wilford at Vanagain and explained what was going on. He suggested a temp2 sensor for $18 and coached me through installing it via email. Ken is truly one of the great people of the Vanagon community and I love how much he encourages and inspires owners to maintain their Vanagons on their own.
Also at this time, I cleaned all of the grounds. This didn’t cost anything and didn’t do anything as far as I could tell, but it seems like a Vanagon owner’s right of passage and it helped me learn a lot about the van’s electrical system.
I went out to start the Vanagon up after it sat for a lot of the winter and notice I smelled gas. A fuel line connected to one of the fuel injectors had developed a small crack. These were not the original fuel lines and they’d been inspected before we picked up the van so, you really want to keep an eye on these and change them out if they are more than a few years old. I replaced all of the fuel lines on the van and fuel injector seals $70. This is a GREAT way to learn about the fuel delivery system on the Vanagon and is a very easy job to do.
Our corduroy upholstery was shot. It didn’t keep us from using the van but over the winter I convinced myself that it would be worth spending the money on good fabric from Sewfine and doing the job myself. I The van looks awesome now. Thanks Sewfine! Labor + Materials: $900
Here’s the “after” shot. Really happy with how this came out.
Tired of the whining fuel pump, I tried blowing some compressed air into the fuel tank to clear out whatever was clogging it and installing a new fuel pump ($200 for pump and parts). This had limited effect and frankly the original fuel pump was quieter than the replacement.
The engine sounded weird and was losing power. I replaced the plugs, wires and distributor cap ($100). Fixed! And so much more power! This seemed like a big job but doing it step by step made it easy and I really learned a lot about the vanagon doing this.
Replace the three belts (power steering, alternator, AC) on the engine. Super easy to do, and a necessary maintenance item before our long summer road trip. $24.
I picked up a pair of old VW bus jalousie windows in OK shape for $100 and Kevin Mayer installed them for me for $250. Cheaper than air conditioning repair and it’s way nicer to sleep in the van on warm nights now. You can read about the install process over here.
Installing jalousie windows in the Vanagon was purely cosmetic but boy does it make sleeping in the summertime better.
My front wheelwells smelled like gas whenever I filled up and I was really getting tired of my whining fuel pump that I suspected was due to a clogged fuel tank. I knew the answer was to replace and reseal the fuel tank. After a lot of research (you can view my notes here) I decided to give it a go on my own.
Installing a new fuel tank by myself was a real challenge but solved all sorts of problems — silenced the fuel pump and got rid of gas smell!
This was by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on the Vanagon ever. I did it on my own, I’m not even sure how a second set of hand would have helped. It was a BEAR of a job but I’m glad I did it.
Replacing the tank and installing the reseal kit to help get rid of that gas smell up front.
I should note that I did it in the driveway on the day of my son’s birthday party. So I was baking and icing birthday cake as I did this install. Which was good as this meant I had to take breaks while doing the repair job. Taking breaks is a KEY part of replacing the vanagon fuel tank and it will help you from losing your mind!
Fuel tank reseal kit (RMW $100)
The previous summer on our way up to Maine, the vanagon had developed a small but shockingly loud exhaust leak where the exhaust pairs up with the engine head on the first cylinder. I used some of that exhaust repair putty on it and it held up amazingly well and really helped to keep the engine quiet over the summer.
But over the winter my vanagon’s exhaust had been getting progressively more obnoxious and I figured it was time to seek some professional help as replacing the exhaust system seemed a bit out of my depth. I brought the van over to Lou Hodi at Hodi’s Auto Service (someone on the NJ VW Facebook group recommended him). Good thing too as it turned out I didn’t need a whole new exhaust (despite all of the rust!) just new gaskets at the header.
Also, while the van was on the lift the mechanic discovered a torn CV boot (which explained the slight vibration I was experience when accelerating). I asked him to fix it while he had it as CV joints are a notoriously messy undertaking. Lou did a great job and is a super nice guy. The exhaust repair + CV joint replacement + brake fluid flush was $850.
Now the van accelerates smoothly and is as quiet as a Tesla. Ok, not really. But it’s super quiet.
Noticed my battery wasn’t charging. Bought a multimeter. Bad alternator. Replaced it in the driveway. Not too difficult.
The speedo broke again. The speedometer itself still registers the van’s speed but the gears in the odometer stopped spinning at around 175k.
My brother was going to borrow the van for a short camping trip with his family so I figured to be safe we should swap out the fuel lines. So we did this project again. It was overkill as the ones I’d put in a few years earlier looked great but better safe than sorry. Also, I have a blazecut in the engine compartment, too.
Before heading out on a family camping trip, I had a trustworthy local mechanic flush the brake fluid and replace all of the brake lines on the van.
Also installed four new Michelin Defender tires. The old ones had plenty of tread but were 7 years old so replaced to be on the safe side.