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    VWVortex


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    Thread: Vanagon

    1. 10-13-2011 09:57 AM #1
      Hi,
      New to the forum and not a VW owner yet. I am however looking into an older Vanagon for my daughter when she is done collage in the next year. Can anyone tell me how easy it is to get parts in Canada for these vans and how reliable they are? Is it hard to find someone to work on them ? This will not be a year round van, she will store it with our 2 small cars for the winters.
      Thx for any help you can offer.
      Peggy

    2. Member MagicBus's Avatar
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      10-13-2011 02:31 PM #2
      Quote Originally Posted by 2pznapod View Post
      Hi,
      New to the forum and not a VW owner yet. I am however looking into an older Vanagon for my daughter when she is done collage in the next year.y
      Welcome to VWVortex

      Be sure you know what you're getting into. The newest Vanagons are 20 years old and they're known to have [sometimes very expensive] problem areas. If you and your daughter aren't going to handle the majority of the repairs yourselves, I'd recommend looking around for a reasonably-priced local mechanic willing to work on it first. As you're in Canada, you're more likely to have diesel variants available. I believe those will be more reliable than their gasoline counterparts.

      Quote Originally Posted by 2pznapod View Post
      Can anyone tell me how easy it is to get parts in Canada for these vans and how reliable they are?
      From what I see on the internet, I believe there are a good number of them running around in Canada. I know there are a few parts suppliers based there. Most parts should be easy enough to find. Some original stuff is NLA (no longer available) from VW, but the aftermarket has done a pretty good job fabricating alternative replacement parts.

      In terms of reliability, it mostly depends on how the van was maintained in its lifetime. While this is true for all older cars, some older cars take neglect and abuse better than others. The Vanagon does not. Head gaskets are almost certain to leak over the long term. I just had a complete engine death in my Vanagon a few days ago due to a worn-out bottom end. Electronics, including fuel injection, are finicky. Even the best-maintained Vanagon may be hiding problems even the seller isn't aware of.

      Not trying to scare you off, but a Vanagon (as awesome as it is) will not be as well-behaved as let's say... an old Toyota. Occasionally you hear of one going way past 200,000 miles with routine maintenance and no major work, but this seems to be, by far, the exception to the rule.

      All that being said... aside from the engine (and that's a big one), they're mostly pretty bulletproof.

      Quote Originally Posted by 2pznapod View Post
      Is it hard to find someone to work on them ?
      In my experience, yes. I'm just outside Boston, MA, and there are quite a few Vanagons still in the area. I had to transition to doing all my own work a few years back as most mechanics refused to touch it. There's one generic (non-VW) shop willing to work on it, but their quality is hit-and-miss. There's one specialist who's just barely willing to work on it, but he makes no bones about hating Vanagons (you don't want a mechanic who hates your car) and is expensive to boot.

      In my experience, most modern mechanics don't want to touch them, and most vintage VW mechanics way prefer to work on old aircooled VWs and shy away from the Vanagon. That being said, there are a few die-hard Vanagon specialists out there. They are few and far between and tend to charge accordingly (read - a LOT). Quality will vary among this group, as well.

      Your experience may vary.

      Quote Originally Posted by 2pznapod View Post
      This will not be a year round van, she will store it with our 2 small cars for the winters.
      The only advice I can give here is to make sure you read up on storing a vehicle. In my experience, Vanagons don't like to sit for very long. They prefer to be driven regularly.


      Best of luck.

    3. 10-14-2011 01:05 AM #3
      These vans IMHO are more of a hobby than anything else and probably are best to be thought of as NOT daily drivers for the most part and nor should they be your only automotive transportation. As MagicBus said, the newest ones are two decades old now. At that age, even the best cared for ones are bound to have some unreliable bouts. If any of us had more brains than money none of us would really own any Vanagon or Eurovan, as they make probably the least financial sense on paper these days among vans. I"m not even sure I'd call them a labor of love but more a labor of some strange irrational obsession.

      That all said, yeah get one if you like but just have realistic expectations.

    4. Member MagicBus's Avatar
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      10-14-2011 12:26 PM #4
      Quote Originally Posted by gti_matt View Post
      These vans IMHO are more of a hobby than anything else and probably are best to be thought of as NOT daily drivers for the most part and nor should they be your only automotive transportation. As MagicBus said, the newest ones are two decades old now. At that age, even the best cared for ones are bound to have some unreliable bouts. If any of us had more brains than money none of us would really own any Vanagon or Eurovan, as they make probably the least financial sense on paper these days among vans. I"m not even sure I'd call them a labor of love but more a labor of some strange irrational obsession.

      That all said, yeah get one if you like but just have realistic expectations.
      Seconded.

      As of late, my love/hate relationship with Vanagons and Volkswagens in general has been teetering precariously over towards the side of "hate". I'm hoping that if I can save enough for and complete an engine conversion that I'll be swung back toward the "love" side of things.

      That's a long way off for me.


      Another point to consider is engine failure. It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN. I'm not trying to be negative. I'm basing this on over 25 years of observation and nearly a decade of tinkering with these things personally. But, I digress. When you have an engine failure, a good (and cheap) used engine will be hard-to-impossible to find. That means an expensive rebuild or pre-rebuilt unit, or an expensive engine swap.


      To the OP - if you're looking for something along the lines of a camper for your daughter, there are cheaper and more effective ways to achieve that.



      Please keep in mind that all this badmouthing is coming from people who genuinely know and love the original Vanagon design.

    5. 10-14-2011 02:02 PM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by MagicBus View Post
      To the OP - if you're looking for something along the lines of a camper for your daughter, there are cheaper and more effective ways to achieve that.
      Yes, if you just want a camper, the smallest of mini motorhomes built on Toyota chassis are among probably the most reliable things. I still see these on the road today here and there:



      The Toyota bits run forever and the MPG isn't that terrible all things considered. When I was growing up we had a '79 built on a '78 Toyota truck cab, my family had it until around 1986 or so, and I swear even around 2000 or so I saw the dang thing going down the freeway (recognized the license plate).

      Looks like it was still on the road as of 2003:
      http://www.smogcheck.ca.gov/pubwebqu...PubTstQry.aspx

      License plate 322YMF

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      10-15-2011 09:21 AM #6
      Quote Originally Posted by 2pznapod View Post
      Hi,
      New to the forum and not a VW owner yet. I am however looking into an older Vanagon for my daughter when she is done collage in the next year. Can anyone tell me how easy it is to get parts in Canada for these vans and how reliable they are? Is it hard to find someone to work on them ? This will not be a year round van, she will store it with our 2 small cars for the winters.
      Thx for any help you can offer.
      Peggy
      Hi Peggy,

      It helps to specify your location. As others have mentioned, the newest Vanagons are at least 20 years old. North America got them from model 1980-1991. Europe got some one more year to 1992. VW did continue production of the T3 (as it is refered to by VW) in South Africa until the 2002 model year. Parts supply will get spottier as the final decade after production ends. The good news is they have increasing in value to the point that there is healthy aftermarket supply chain which is accessible via online stores. I know of a few specialist on the west coast of Canada. I can't help with the other coast of your country.

      Try going to www.vanagon.com. It's a non-profit site with useful information and links to various groups including the original Vanagon List. It is probably one of the oldest Vanagon forums. I comoderate that group. There is a good chance that we have listmembers who are likely in your neck of the woods.

      You should understand that the Vanagon is not for the 'faint-of-wallet' unless you are performing the maintenance chores yourself. It is not any different than maintaining any other 20-25 year old car. Whilst not always easy to live with, it is possible. I've personally owned more than 30 Vanagons since 1999. Despite that, I would not likely consider one as a 'daily driver'. Just as you are not likely to see me driving any other car I own of the same vintage everyday. I do occasionally take long drives. I would not hesitate taking one of my vans or trucks on a 1200 mile one day trip. I just don't make a habit of it.


      Cheers,

      BenT

    7. 10-20-2011 11:13 PM #7
      Hi Peggy,

      Has this helped? You didn't say if you were looking for a straight up Vanagon or a Vanagon with a camper conversion.

      We have an 89 Vanagon Westy and *knock wood* it's reliable, but we tend to it and have a good support network. For instance, my Uncle is a mechanic and I don't burn him on it - when there's a job that is just going to annoy him, I turn elsewhere. And honestly, there are jobs on these vehicles that are really, really annoying.

      We store ours every winter (we live in Salt-the-Roads-Minnesota) and we're pretty thorough about preventing problems, because these vehicles really do seem happier to be driven, not parked.

      Many parts are available but the prices and quality can vary. If you need more info, just flag us!

      -Julia

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      10-22-2011 06:14 PM #8
      I drive an 85 vanagon daily, it's my only car and works just great.

      there's more of a Vanagon community at the Samba, so I would take a look over there.

    9. 10-24-2011 09:02 PM #9
      I agree with the above comments, which recommended that you find a mechanic that knows their vanagons. If you can do that, then go to them with the information of the van you want to buy BEFORE you buy it. I recommend the '86-'91 Vanagons and have a '87 Syncro (4WD) myself and LOVE IT! I have a 2.2 Subaru motor conversion in it but the regular waterboxer engines do great if you stay on top of them (ie: have a good Vanagon mechanic). Here is a blog I'm writing covering my restoration: www.syncrorevival.wordpress.com

      If you are in western Canada, I can recommend a great place that works SOLEY on Vanagons. They are called North Westy and they are in Seattle. Check out www.north-westy.com and ask for Kirk if you have any questions.
      Good luck with your search and (hopefully) eventual purchase!

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      10-24-2011 11:09 PM #10
      Vanagon!

    11. Member turbowagon22's Avatar
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      10-28-2011 07:55 PM #11
      growing up my dad had about 5 vanagon vans. HE LOVED THEM They were most def a pain in the ass though all the time. Something was always going wrong with them and the people who specialize in them still had a hell of a time figuring out what was wrong most of the time. SO yeah good luck i suppose i learned how to drive on one about 15 years ago and love them.

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