A page devoted to Vanagon engine replacement is needed. There are many bogus rebuilt engines available. Even though your Vanagon may have an engine that is just a few years old, it would not be surprising if it was not done correctly, and is already in need of replacement yet again. For that reason, and because of the better performance, we offer only GoWesty engines. Vanagons with the original engine are rather under powered. The entry-level 2.2 liter GoWesty engine is already an improvement over the original 1.9 or 2.1 liter. Their engines are available as a 2.2 liter, a 2.3 liter and a 2.45 liter for the enthusiast or large family campers.
A deposit to cover the cost of the engine and the core charge is required before we begin a Vanagon engine replacement. We charge exactly the price listed on the GoWesty website. The refunded portion of the core deposit usually comes back to you within 2-3 weeks after the core is received and evaluated. GoWesty offers a staggering 4 year, 48,000 mile warranty, and this comes in three levels of protection. Ask your Service Advisor for assistance in interpreting the different warranties. Please understand that the GoWesty Warranty does not cover our parts that get installed during the job. Any part that we install has the Karmakanix lifetime labor warranty and the 2 year parts warranty. The good news is that GoWesty puts a new water pump on each engine, which is warrantied for one year or 12,000 miles, but not the labor to replace it if it fails. For an explanation of why, please read this. We highly recommend their top end Road Warrior Warranty. These engines are expensive, protect your investment.
Before we even remove your old engine, we want to inspect a few things. If you are a new customer, or it has been some time since we inspected your vehicle, we will perform a complimentary inspection to be sure that the rest of your vehicle in is good shape. We pressure test the cooling system to identify any bulging hoses or leaking pipes. We evaluate the steel components and radiator for corrosion damage or leakage, We stress test the old plastic cooling system parts to check for plastic crystallization. Other inspections take place during and after the engine is removed. Clutch condition, breather hoses, injector seals and fuel hoses, exhaust components, motor mounts, thermostat and fan switch, tune up parts, air filter, and electrical and fuel injection wiring are all inspected. A full inspection list is given to you in writing or by email for your approval. Expect some addition labor times on a few items, such as injector hoses, and cooling system parts replacement. But most of the parts you will need get taken off and installed anyway, and no extra labor is required.
We use the proper sealants, lubricants and anti seize during your engine job. All nuts and bolts are hand tightened, and a torque wrench is used for critical bolts such as the clutch assembly and engine mount bracket. Settings for timing, idle and mixture are correctly reset to factory specifications. The oxygen sensor signal and the fuel injection ground loss is checked and recorded. We make sure that the radiator fan is operational on both speeds, and nothing is weak or leaking anywhere in the cooling system. Karmakanix makes every effort to ensure that your investment is protected and reliable.
We make sure that you sign and return your warranty form to GoWesty, and a copy is kept with your records at Karmakanix. Their written Break In procedures need to be followed to the letter. They also require that the initial oil changes be performed with regular oil to allow for complete break in of all metal parts, then convert to synthetic oil at the proper mileage. Be advised that no warranty covers running the engine out of oil or overheating. The rebuilt engines come with heat tabs that have a soft solder core. The solder core will melt out if the engine is overheated, which then voids the warranty.
1.9 Engine Replacement: 1983.5 Through 1985
These early vans did not come equipped with oil coolers. However all the later vans with larger engines did. Oil coolers on larger engines are certainly necessary when driving at higher speeds in California style heat, or the oil pressure may drop to critical levels as the oil gets hotter and thins out. We backdate an OEM oil cooler system or can use a reliable aftermarket oil cooler setup from Vanistan. Sometimes we skip this modification for financial reasons during the cooler months, and then perform this service before serious summer driving.
Early vans have significantly different exhaust systems than the later 2.1 Vanagon engine. And parts such as the exhaust support bars and muffler hangars are no longer available. If your exhaust system is old and rusty, or missing much of the bracketry, consider replacing it with a full stainless upgrade from GoWesty. A used late style engine mount bracket and exhaust heat shield are required to accommodate the late style muffler brackets.
Vanagon Engines: A Different Technology
It goes without saying that Vanagon engines are different from the rest of the fleet. The pistons and cylinders stick out sideways across from each other. The concept was first patented by Karl Benz in 1896. Labelled “Horizontally Opposed”, this configuration is also known as a “Boxer”. “Water Boxer” or “Wasserboxer”, inspired by a boxer’s gloves going back and forth. Boxer engines are inherently well balanced as the power from each bank of pistons opposes the other bank instead of all the pistons forcing against the bottom of the motor. It turns out that the Boxer is naturally a high torque configuration. Generally, the torque specs are higher than the horsepower specs by 15-20%. Most other gasoline engines have that relationship reversed. Since torque is more important than horsepower when you are pulling a heavy vehicle up a hill, the Boxer engine works out well for Vanagons.
Vanagon engines have no timing belt or chain. The cam and crank are geared together, not much to fail. The flip side is that replacing the camshaft requires complete engine disassembly. Oddly, the original cam bearings only include the pair of thrust surfaces on one side of the engine. Thrust bearing surfaces control the end to end movement. Those who know install another bearing with thrust surfaces on the other side of the engine as well. In the past, an HD set was available with two thrust bearings, now one must buy two sets and file the unneeded alignment tang off one side.
All VW Boxer motors have always had a 3 shim set to adjust the crankshaft endplay for thrust movement. All other motors have just the center crank bearing with the thrust dimension fixed. The crankshaft endplay is set when the engine is initially assembled and should be checked during a clutch job, or any time the flywheel gets removed and reinstalled.
Unlike most motors, Vanagon pistons have a dish in the top which forms the majority of the combustion chamber. The concept is called Heron Combustion, after its inventor, British aero engine designer Samuel D. Heron, who also created the first sodium filled valves. Many early Heron designs linked this type of piston with a completely flat head, mostly for simplicity and budget of design. Heron pistons do a good job of forcing the swirling air/fuel mixture to the center of the combustion chamber as the piston approaches the head. The act of forcing the mixture to the center as the piston approaches the top is called “Quench”. Quench tends to cool hot spots by averaging the combustion chamber temperature, which reduces detonation and increases power.
Another facet of Heron combustion is increased thermal efficiency. Think of it this way. Your normal gasoline efficiency is around 20%, meaning about 1/5th of the chemical energy content of the fuel actually produces mechanical energy, i.e.; power to the crankshaft. The rest is lost as heat, i.e.; thermal energy. About half that heat goes out the exhaust, and the other half heats up the engine. That heat is going to end up in the coolant and the oil, with just a bit transferred out to the ambient air. Heat transfers from metal to coolant faster and more efficiently than from metal to oil. That’s why is can be noticed that an oil temperature gauge tends to keep going up on the downhill after the crest of a big hill. With Heron combustion, a bit more heat is absorbed by the piston than with a flat or domed top piston. Since that heat is not transferred as quickly to the oil, a bit more of that energy gets conserved in the power produced by the combustion process. I know that’s a mouthful, and the difference is very slight, but hey, you gotta love technology.
This leads to another reason we use the GoWesty engines. As of 2009, those engine come fitted with oil spray jets for the pistons. Sourced from Porsche, these spray jets significantly assist the heat transfer from the piston to the oil. A complete list of GoWesty modifications can be found on this Product Webpage. Additionally, GoWesty also uses custom pistons that have a ceramic coated crown and molybdenum disulphide coated sides. The ceramic decreases the thermal transfer from combustion heat to the piston, further enhancing combustion efficiency. The molybdenum disulphide coating (MoS2) reduces cylinder wall friction, which helps keep the pistons cooler and makes them last far longer.