The Dead Vanagon

Dead Vanagon
At some point in most of our Vanagon ownership, we have come to the day of judgment where we are faced with a repair quote that forces us to consider keeping or selling off our beloved breadboxes.  Repairs such as heads and engine rebuilds can put a serious dent in the wallet.  And then there are the Vanagon specific surprises from the phantom engine surge, various sensor related issues, AC repair, and replacement of the plastic cooling pipes.  Even general maintenance items such as brakes, tires, shocks, and a replacement radiator or heater core.

For many of these repairs, they are being replaced for the first time.  On a dollar cost average for a 15 to 20 year old car, it's not excessive. The problem is, these repairs or replacements always occur when you financially least expect them.
Dead Vanagon
For many non-mechanic Vanagon enthusiasts, that places many at a financial Vanagon crossroads; To Repair Or To Sell. You calculate what you have into the Vanagon and consider selling it at a loss. In the current state of the economy, there are an increasing amount of ads on Craiglist for Vanagons that appear to have placed their owners in this position.

A sampling:

Most things work fine. It has run fine for the last six months except one problem. Now and then randomly it losses power. It continues to drive however will not go over about 2000 RPM on the engine. I have been told the problem is either a sensor or the computer. I replaced the O2 sensor since that was suggested to me however the problem continues. Often it will run for weeks without any trouble and then randomly with no apparent cause it slows down to about 30 MPH and just will not go faster. When this happens it basically ignores the bottom half of the gas pedal.

1.9L water cooled
-poor body. Some rust and dents
-good frame
-good canvas top
Seized motor
Good transmission, clutch, tires
Camper with sink, stove, fridge
New windshield
New "euro" clear front signals

AS IS!!! Has not been ran in about a year. Old gas, battery. Great tread on tires. Body in good condition inside and out. No body damage.
Clean title.

Vanagon that blew it's engine. We put $2,000 into it 2 years ago: brakes, shocks, tires, battery, dash assembly, belts, etc. Many good parts or fix the engine and drive! I checked for engines and found some in the $1,000-$1,500 range on craigslist in the past and got a quote of $600 to install by the vw shop downtown on State ave. Has been sitting for a year thus has mildew. Would like to get $1,500 but am open to any offers.

Van is in overall good condition.
Has small dent behind sliding door.
16 inch wheels. 2 tires are new and 2 are old.
Alternator froze, belt broke and engine got hot.
Engine runs.

Vanagon Radiator
At what point have you been at this crossroads?  What repair was the breaking point? Even if it was not financial, many Vanagon owners have had one that has been a repair leach. With the market for repairable Vanagons increasing, this might be a good time to find a good condition shell Vanagon and create a Subaru Vanagon.


  1. Thats why it is a great idea to be on the Vanagon list - or be mechanically able - or have good friends.

    A Vanagon is easy to repair, cheap to keep on the road - and easy to upgrade the engine to a Suby or I4 engine.

  2. Hey there, If anyone out there is in that sad "dead vanagon" position and would like to donate their Vanagon to my Electric Conversion Project...

    A) I would love that, and she would be taken care of

    B) She would live on... and with luck, without the pesky head and coolant issues that plagued her before.

    I am going to The class in PA to learn to convert to electric, and I'm a little reluctant to convert my well running Westy as a test project.

    A dead 88 or later weekend would be the best of all possible worlds--even though most say they are heavy for the conversion.

    I'm would be willing to purchase your vanagon as well... but the project, with the conversion parts, is beginning to look expensive as it is--so I could not give you much... but there are always photos and stories, and if we live near, you could always borrow her. Or borrow my gas Westy.

    just thoughts...