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Thread: How can V.W. Vanagon Westfalia pass smog test?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default How can V.W. Vanagon Westfalia pass smog test?

    I am posting for a friend who does not use or have Internet access. He is having a terrible problem with his V.W. Vanagon (Westfalia) 1985 water cooled engine that was rebuilt in 2006.

    Basically, he has done everything he could with several different mechanics and still cannot pass the California smog test. The opinion of the mechanics is that he is failing the smog test because the compression on the cylinder is not firing properly or possibly because the fuel injector heads are bad.

    Has anyone ever had this problem or know how he might get it resolved?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Snohomish, WA


    Please post some specific readings from the smog test and identify what is not 'passing' the test and under what conditions. It may be something as simple as ignition timing or something as expensive as low compression but we need to start at the beginning. There are different gases that the smog station tests for and they test on a dyno (I believe) so having the correct results of the test is important to try and diagnose. The compression is very easy to test and evaluate. The injectors are a little more complex but not difficult. Let us know what you can and we'll try and help.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    I am in Cali too and I bought a 1985 vanagon two years ago. I made the purchase conditional on having the previous owner pass smog. He went to get it smogged and it did not pass but was very close. He had the spark plug wires replaces and it just barely passed smog so I purchased it. After I bought it I put some marvel mystery oil in the gas, not at every fill up but occasionally used it over the period of a year. Then I stopped using it and had another smog check this past July. My vanagon passed with flying colors; when I checked the numbers (for NO, hydrocarbons, etc) they were all a lot lower than two years prior. I am not sure if the marvel mystery oil helped but I did not do anything else to the car so I think it might have cleaned up the inside of the engine a little. Also, before getting it smogged I drove on the freeway a few miles to get it good and warm, then when I pulled into the smog check place I asked them to keep it running until the test so it would not cool down. I too was worried about the smog and did some research before getting it tested. There is one product that is specifically made to pass CA smog checks called "blue sky clean air" luckily, I did not need to use it, but if I had failed smog and had to get it retested I would have tried it...


  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Los Angeles


    If you're against the wall sometimes you might qualify for Calif state aid, ($) through CARB. These are the bureaucratic thugs that you've got to please. If they agree to help, then you've got to take it to one of the few Gold Shield stations on the list they'll send you - the experts in doing this stuff. Except for parts, there is a limit to what they can charge you. $200-$300 as I recall. When it comes to smog, the other mechanics as nice as they are, are just screwing around and taking your money. Passing my 81 AC Westy...even with a nicely rebuilt engine by an experienced pro...was not easy! A real nightmare which is finally over! Think of it this way: there's the engine and then there's the smog stuff. There is also a "referee" process to pass you anyhow if needed smog or other smog-related parts are unavailable, but usually are. Also, find out if your van's engine is a "Calif" engine with Calif smog stuff. The testers must always go by what the VW label in the engine compartment says...is it a 49 state van, or an original Calif van? A lot of previous owners think it's cool to rip out parts of the exhaust system to "make it go faster" and you're left with a van that won't pass even the "visual" inspection. A 49 state labeled Westy only has to measure up to the smog levels for the other 49 states when it was made. A Cali Westy must measure up to the CA standards, etc.


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