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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, i'm looking for a Vanagon for my father. So far we found 2 of them. Both watercooled 2.1 ltr, one Syncro one RWD auto.
What shall we look for? Any particular trouble spots?
A little FAQ/buyer's guide would be the best (I searched here but no returns
)
Any websites that would help?
Thanks
 

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Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (KARMANN_16V)

There's a decent amount of info on http://www.gowesty.com, but it applies mostly to the campers (which are mechanically identical)
Also, check out Vanagon.com
Basically, check for leaky heads. This is an expensive repair, but something that pretty much every Vanagon owner will have to deal with. If the previous owner already had them done, you're ahead of the game.
Also, pre-1990 automatics tend to have transmission trouble (or so I hear... My dad did with his, at any rate) late 90 and 91 automatics should be okay

As with any used car, look for low mileage, full service record..,. you know - the usuals
Good luck. We've had three Vanagons in the family since '85 (including my dad's current '89 and my '91). They're fantastic cars, notwithstanding a few design flaws.
 

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Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (MagicBus)

Bump for a fellow Canadian! Rust, check for lots of seam rust which is very hard and expensive to repair. If I get another it'll be from a salt-free area.
Good luck on your search.
Rob
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (J_Westy)

Thanks guys!
The rust is actually not bad

But i need to know about the head gasket issue. What should i check for?
Thanks again!! http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
 

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Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (KARMANN_16V)

Quote, originally posted by KARMANN_16V »
Thanks guys!
The rust is actually not bad

But i need to know about the head gasket issue. What should i check for?
Thanks again!! http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif

Find out, first off, whether or not they've been done yet.
If not, find out how many miles are on the van. If they haven't been done, and the mileage is over 70,000, count on them needing to be done in the near future.
I suppose you'd look for a coolant leak under the engine, but I wouldn't be 100% sure what to look for. I really wasn't paying attention when my dad's van had the problem, and that was 5 years ago. I know the original gaskets in my van lasted until about 105,000 miles. Previous owner had them done, and sold the van to me at 135K. I'm driving it now at 140K. Only problem I really had was a bad water pump about two weeks after I bought the van (I knew there was something wrong when I bought the van. The engine had a severe sqeak. I didn't find the problem until the water pump actually self-destructed on me). I replaced it myself, and have had no trouble since.
Anyone else have any helpful hints?
 

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Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (MagicBus)

Also, pre-1990 automatics tend to have transmission trouble (or so I hear... My dad did with his, at any rate) late 90 and 91 automatics should be okay
----------------------snip----------------------
actually, the automatics are MORE RELIABLE than the manual transmission waterboxer vanagons.
the automatics are basically the same from 83.5-91, the 83-85 having "slightly" different gearing for the 1.9L but all are interchangeable between all year waterboxers 83.5-91.
the manual transmission waterboxer vans all have a problem with developing a crack in the 3/4 gear slider hub which causes the tranny to grind/slip/hang up in 3rd gear. ive owned 6 automatic vanagons and never had a problem, owned about 5 wbx manual tranny vanagons and 2 of them had the 3/4 gear slider hub crack problem (necessitating a total replacement or rebuild)
 

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Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (jordanvw)

Quote, originally posted by jordanvw »
Also, pre-1990 automatics tend to have transmission trouble (or so I hear... My dad did with his, at any rate) late 90 and 91 automatics should be okay
----------------------snip----------------------
actually, the automatics are MORE RELIABLE than the manual transmission waterboxer vanagons.
the automatics are basically the same from 83.5-91, the 83-85 having "slightly" different gearing for the 1.9L but all are interchangeable between all year waterboxers 83.5-91.
the manual transmission waterboxer vans all have a problem with developing a crack in the 3/4 gear slider hub which causes the tranny to grind/slip/hang up in 3rd gear. ive owned 6 automatic vanagons and never had a problem, owned about 5 wbx manual tranny vanagons and 2 of them had the 3/4 gear slider hub crack problem (necessitating a total replacement or rebuild)

You may be correct, but that's not what I think I heard.
Anyhow, I can say for certain this much about our family's Vanagons
#1 - 1985 1.9 waterboxer with auto - Parents owned from 1985 to 1989. Sold due to minor body damage. Mechanically sound at apx. 45,000 miles.
#2 - 1989 2.1 waterboxer with auto - Parents bought in 1989. Suffered Vanagon head gasket problem at apx. 65,000 miles in 1999. Auto tranny died at apx. 75,000 in early 2001. Currently running on factory-rebuilt waterboxer installed at dealership in 1999 and original transmission rebuilt.
#3 - (mine) 1991 2.1 waterboxer with 4-speed manual. Bought in May 2003 with 135,000 miles. Heads done at apx. 105,000. Clutch at 136,000. Transmission guy gave the unit a clean bill of health upon inspection.

For the record, jordanvw is correct. I just found the article I remember reading:
http://www.gowesty.com/3-4syncrohub.html
I'm okay, because I'm driving a last year 1991 model, which was built to compensate for the original design flaw. Plus, the article doesn't mention mileage for the transmission failure. So, if I quoted that, I was wrong too.
But, what I said about my dad's '89 automatic was correct. Transmission died at apx. 75,000. Probably an isolated incident, though.
 

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Re: Buying a Vanagon, please help! Info needed. (MagicBus)

"I suppose you'd look for a coolant leak under the engine, but I wouldn't be 100% sure what to look for."
Look for coolant dripping from the area of the head gasket. Also look for light-colored stains on the (usually rusty) exhaust pipe on the driver side, just below the head gasket. Coolant can drip on these *hot* pipes and vaporize before it reaches the ground. You'd smell that, though.
Drive it till it's good and hot, then park the engine over a large piece of cardboard. Shut it off and come back in several hours to see what leaked.
 
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