Been reading the posts on this very helpful site for sometime. I own an '86 Vanagon Westy that was leaking coolant. The van otherwise is in excellent condition. I recently took it in to a very reputable mechanic in Rexdale, Ontario (greater Toronto area) who has been working on these engines since 1969. After removing my heads he showed me a high degree of pitting around the edges and after I ok'ed further exploration more problems were uncovered all the way down to worn rod barings. To make a long story short, I'm having him rebuild the engine. He says that he has rebuilt between 400-500 of these engines since 1969. He's replacing pretty much every moving part in the engine, all new fuel lines and coolant pipes, new heads, the list goes on. I can report a complete list of repairs for those interested. The total is $4000. A hell of a lot more than I was expecting to pay but he provides a full guarantee for a year or 35K. I know most people on the forum have been recommending the factory reman engines.. but I've gone the other route. Mechanic says I should get another 200K km out of the rebuild provided I follow regular maintenance.
I wish I had more mechanical know-how but one can only be expert in so many things! I'm hoping I made the right choice and I'll keep you all posted as I put the miles on the rebuilt engine. Wish me luck. If anyone has any experience with this shop or can comment on what I'm paying (I realize I haven't listed all the repairs) for the rebuild I'd appreciate the advice.