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Thread: 1986 Westy - Problems at Highway Speed

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012

    Default 1986 Westy - Problems at Highway Speed

    I just purchased my first Westy from a local mechanic shop that had several units in the lot. I was told it was good to go (heads had been worked on, new clutch, safety certification, etc.). The van ran great around town but after about 15 minutes of 85 km/hour highway driving, it started losing power severely and the low oil pressure light would flash and buzz. I've been through the posts I could find and have tried the following: I checked the 0.9 bar pressure sender and it looks brand new. I pulled the cover off of the AFM and it was heavily corroded inside (the potentiometer was clear of debris), there was no capacitor soldered inside and it does not have the external harness. I added the capicitor, cleaned it out as best I could, changed the oil (Royal Purple 15W50 synthetic) and hit the road again. The oil pressure warning did not go on but it still loses power after driving at highway speeds. It seems slightly better but not much. If I shut it off and reset the ECU, it runs good again for up to 15 minutes or so. I've put maybe 150 to 200 km onit since and after my last short trip, the oil warning came back on. Oil smells like gas so I'm pretty sure its overfueling when it loses power, gas gets in around the rings or through the valves?, thins out the oil and the pressure drops which trips the alarm. I just would like to know if anyone else has had a similar problem and if I should invest in a refurbished AFM before attempting anything else. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2012


    I feel that I should add the following for clarity:
    - I checked the AFM per Bentley with my meter and the first resistance spec parameter was low on my unit. Everything else was in range and the potentiometer pad showed signs of wear but was changing resistance as I moved it.
    - Would a faulty fuel pressure regulator cause this problem? I'm not sure it could because my symptoms dissapear temporarily after turning off the engine.
    - It looks like the PO was attempting to chase down the problem because it has a new distributor cap, wire, plugs, appear to be new fuel injectors (shouldn't be leaky injector?), etc.
    - Could an O2 sensor problem be temporarily reset after re-starting the engine?
    - No oil leaks (that I can see), head gaskets look good, engine idles and sounds great before the symptoms start. Even after it starts acting up on the highway, it won't stall and will idle when I stop moving.
    It is my first Vanagon so I'm not sure what to expect. It almost feels like it's not firing on all cylinders when its chugging but doesn't really sound like it. I absolutely love the van otherwise but I am planning on taking it for 6,000 + km trip in a month and I'm a bit scared to be honest. I've got some body work to do as well but I want to make sure it's good to go mechanically before I spend major time on it. Any help or suggestions would be great. Thanks.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Seattle, WA, USA


    Sounds like "Vanagon Syndrome" to me. I'm not an expert though. My '87 Westy used to do the same thing, but not with any regularity. I'd be driving down the freeway, and then suddenly it would lose power, off and on, as if I were running out of gas. In any case, I would pull of the freeway and sit it for a minute, then get back on the road and it would be fine.

    Anyway, I got a new air flow meter last summer, and haven't had that problem since (including a 1300 mile road trip from Seattle to Calgary). So that might be worth checking out. I think the original wiring harnesses to the air flow meter had some issue--so you could either replace the harness or get an AFM that is rebuilt to work properly. Something along those lines.

    Hope that helps. I would definitely read some of the posts and threads on here about Vanagon Syndrome though.



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