Break-ins, car theft & vandalism


New member
I'm just curious. I live in the SF Bay area, and I always lock my van. A friend used to not lock her car and found that homeless were sleeping in it at night, then leaving before she got up in the morning, so she started locking her car. It's obvious that there's stuff in it. I'm wondering how many out there have been robbed, and if this is a major concern? Has anyone had parts stolen off his/her engine? Should one get a lock for the engine compartment? Am I being paranoid?

Capt. Mike

You are not being paranoid. Unfortunately our society seems to be losing the morality of "Thou shalt not steal." So I would recommend locking your vehicle. I also suggest locking engine compartment and fuel cap.

Some of these precautions are based on the high incidence of vandalism and senseless theft. Locks, alarms and anti-theft devises work on this class of criminal. They barely slow down a professional, thus INSURANCE! Declared value insurance.

You might also note the high prices and scarcity of parts means an old VW might net as much or more as a parts vehicle.

Don't become obsessive, but do use common sense. Lock at all times, get locks for engine & fuel tanks. Perhaps a burglar alarm &/or the Club.


New member
Thanks for your reply, Capt'n Mike... Can I get those lockable devices at a place like Grand Auto (or Kragen...), or do you think I need to go to a dealer? Elsewhere?


Capt. Mike

Both the engine lid lock & locking gas cap are dealer items. I haven't checked aftermarket sources but neither were particularly expensive. I'd suggest an OE gas cap because the late Type II's and all Vanagons have sealed tanks with the charcoal evaporative emmission system, thus an aftermarket cap may not work.

Things like the Club are available from many sources, including AAA -- or at least my chapter. I don't know Grand Auto or Kragen. Many of the auto stereo specialty places also sell & install alarm systems, but be careful of the discount chains -- they're installation quality is questionable. I put a factory one in my Dodge truck and it was still a pretty big job for the average backyard mechanic. Alarm systems can also be as simple or complex as you choose (& pay for).

For just vehicle theft, there are things like hidden ignition & fuel cut-offs, but those can become a pain in everyday use.


New member
I'm saddened and shocked to say that someone DID put sugar in my gas tank (see post at top), before I had the chance to buy a locking gas cap. Little did I know when I started this subject that I would be the victim of such a cruel "prank." I certainly am unaware of any enemies who would do this (or any at all). Obviously, the repair bill will include the purchase of a locking gas cap.

Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate similar topics

Sugar in my gas tank

Catherine, Member, 10-07-2000 02:30 PM

I drove 60 miles north from Berkeley to visit a friend one weekend in August, and the next day couldn't start the car. We had a "roving mechanic" come and take a look and he told me that there was no compression in one of the valves. (I had had 2 new heads put on in April, and taken a trip to Zion and Bryce since.) We thought that the new heads were defective. To make a looooong story short I had the car towed back to my mechanic in Berkeley since the heads were still under warranty. The mechanic told me it wasn't the fault of the head, but of the lifter. Apparently the valve had stuck open, the push rod disengaged and poked a hole in the head, while the valve was bent around 15 degrees by slamming into the cylinder (sorry if my terminology is wrong, I'm learning about how car engines work the hard way, and am not a willing student). My mechanic (of 12 years) kept the car 5 weeks. He took it apart (without out removing the engine) and put it back together again and couldn't get it to run. At this point I was very very unhappy and somewhat mistrustful, and finally decided to take it to a different mechanic. The first mechanic suggested that maybe someone had put sugar in my tank, but at the same time was discounting it and trying to get the car to run. The second mechanic said it definitely was sugar and it was vandalism, my insurance should pay for it, and it would cost around $5000.
This is a '79 Type II Westy that I bought for $2000 in April '99. I've probably put about another $5000 in it in repairs and fix-it stuff. I love this van. Great, clean interior, and I've put a new canvas top on, had the dashboard rewired so it works now (except the gas gauge), etc. etc. The insurance company (AAA) is trying to decide whether it's worth fixing. Of course, I believe it is, since one in this condition is so hard to find.

Is $5000 a good estimate to repair something like this? The mechanic is telling me that they have to basically recondition the engine, remove the gas tank and boil it, clean off the good parts that are quality metal (rather than replace with poorer metal parts), etc. His hourly rate is $80 an hour.

Help! I need advice, please. Should I get a "second opinion" from another mechanic? How can I convince AAA to fix it? Have you had an experience like this?


Capt. Mike, Moderator, 10-07-2000 10:07 PM

Well, I'd definately get a 2nd opinion, and a 2nd mechanic. I recently saw a factory reman put into a waterboxer Westy (more expensive than the air-cooleds) for about $4K DEALER prices, parts & labor. The new engine was less than $3K and labor is considerably more than an air-cooled.
I would be quite suspicious and wonder if the mechanic issuing the warranty isn't trying to get out of it. Has he provided ANY proof of sugar in the tank? (Although by now he could have added it.) With R&R of an aircooled only running about 3 hrs. labor, why would anyone do extensive head investigation "in car?"

Sugar in the gas tank is very hard on and can ruin a motor, but it doesn't start the chain of events as described. It does not gets into the oil & valve train system. It carbonizes and sludges up the combustion chamber, but NOT lifters. It could freeze a valve open, but at that stage should be readily confirmed by spark plug condition and other phyical signs. Sorry if I seem overly suspicious but sugar in the tank is getting pretty rare these days, especially with most gas caps locked. Was the car parked -- last spot previous to the incident -- in a problematic neighborhood; any police reports of similar vandalism?

Sugar in the tank should be readily identifiable by pulling and cutting open the fuel filter; any HS chem teacher could analyze it good enough for that. However, if the insurance company is willing to accept that as having happened, proof to the contrary is their burden.

Sugar in the tank requires a flush of the fuel system, but few actual repairs or replacements beyond the pump & injectors (possibly).

With damage as severe as you've indicated, I'd go with a factory reman -- the risk of undiscovered consequential damage to any shop overhaul is too great.

As to valuation for insurance purposes, running '79s are anywhere from $2500 (rough, class 4) to $12,500 (show condition). Higher but rarely lower; many private sales seem to go one class above actual condition. Your recent purchase and upgrades stand as proof of having more value than the repair costs into it. However, do note that most states require a car to be "totaled" if the repairs exceed 80% of appraised market value. However, insurance companies are notorious for coming up with a low-ball appraisal and quick "total" to cut payments. FYI; When I sold my '79 for the top end of the price range, I had buyers lined up. Excellent Type II Westies have become scarse and are turning into collector's items, priced accordingly. Get a copy of Old Car Price Guide & Hemmings Motor News ( a '79 is a true classic and approaching antique) to verify current market.


New member
I know this is going to sound crazy:
I've had 2 cars stolen from the same location in the last 7 months, from the same location (in front of my house). They were both automatic Chevy's. My landlord (who parks on the same street I do) always left his VW camper out there without a "club", sometimes with the doors unlocked. He's never been bothered by theives, where as I got windows broken and lost my car twice. Our latest acquisition has been a 69 westy, and I'm optimistic that our luck will change. It occurs to me that there are a number of reasons for VW's being exempt from thievery, at least in terms of the vehicle being stolen.
#1. Profiling
It's not nice, or very PC, but "homey's" don't generally drive hippie-mobiles. Cops will pull them over if they look like they's driving an unusual car. Theives know this and don't want the risk.
#2 Transmission
Most theives can't drive a standard. I know it sounds ridiculous, but most small time theives can't deal with a clutch. And big time theives aren't wasting their time on VW's. Not enough $$$ in the trade off.
#3 the elusive "reverse factor"
the first time I drove an old VW I practically stripped the gears looking for reverse. When I finally found it it was completely by accident and I couldn't figure out how to do it again until someone told me the trick. The old VW's are unique in the "push down" reverse mode, and car theives have enough to worry about without the chore of navigating the in's and out's of driving an old VW.
In short, the risk is too great and the effort too much to steal an old VW (they're only good for parts anyway, and there's not enough $$ in the underground for VW parts to make it worth their while) Acuras and (in my case) Chevy's are much easier to swipe, and more lucrative, too.

[This message has been edited by Capt. Mike (edited 03-29-2001).]

Capt. Mike

Transferred from other posts to consolidate same topics.

Theft prevention ideas?

gatonegro Junior Member # 2678 posted 11-03-2001 12:45 AM

I heard campers get broken into every now and then. Anybody has experience in adding high security locks, or alarm systems?
I'd like to be able to go for long hikes and leave my Westy full of stuff.

I've been told that cylinder locks are not compatible with Vanagon's handles and trunk.


Bajatacoma Junior Member # 2109 posted 11-08-2001 09:40 PM

I've got an alarm on my truck, but I don't think it does much good other than killing the ignition until it is reset. Think about how often car alarms go off and you don't pay any attention to it. As far as securing stuff, you're pretty much out of luck if someone really wants it, but I keep a small locking steel box mounted for small items i.e. camera, phone, GPS, handgun, etc.
I have been thinking about getting one of the handgun safes with the touch pads on top (Gun Vault brand)and mounting it to the floor under the rear seat or in the spare tire compartment.

Try to park near the ranger station/ office. Park near other vehicles, not off to the side "out of the way". Don't leave valuables in plain site. Cover up what you can. Those can safes disguised as Fix a Flat, etc. might be worth a look. For larger items, you could put them in the space behind the top bed- what thief is going to want to pop the top and attract attention.

ben Member # 671 posted 11-09-2001 02:12 AM

I don't really agree with the handgun but that another subject!!!, there is simply no way you can fully protect the stuff in your van (adding a lock on the rear bench is a start), if a thief want your stuff, he or she will get it (the more locks you have, the more damage you will get, thief have pride in the line of work!!!), even with a good alarm system, especially deep in the wood!!! However, a good, cheap and simple way to protect at least your van is to installed a killer switch on the ignition: from the coil, remove one of the two small lead wire and in "series", add a remote on/off switch with a 16gage(minimum) wire. A good place for putting the switch is behind the license plate. Believe me, nobody will find this device in a short time. (i have installed sound system and alarm for 2 years, I know all the trick that the thief knows).

Note: starter will turn but no start (a medium thief will be confuse). Also when the key is in the ignition position you won't hear the fuel pump priming, that mean the ignition cutting switch is on the ON position.

Good luck, Ben


New member
I wasn't suggesting a gun, only commenting on the size items that would fit. Gunsafes, on the other hand, seem to be made better than other small "strong boxes". Sorry for the confusion.


New member
Place a few choice bumper stickers on the doors like:

"Protected by Smith & Weston"
"I'm the NRA"

and such /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Sounds funny but it works. Who wants to mess with a percieved doped up hippie packin' some heat with nothin' to loose /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

My $.02,
Adrian Pillow

Capt. Mike

Good 'un -- and I'm not making fun of it. I'm a believer.

My thoughts with my truck. Redneck Pickemup with the massive grill guard & extra lights, HD suspension & A/T tires; diesel, black, NRA decal. Front plate says "If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch." The rear is a Vietnam Vet plate. Who wants to mess with what may be a 'Nam Vet ready to "go off." The plate supports NC highway beautification program (and promotes 'Nam vets far more deserving than I). They don't need to know it's the tow vehicle for my antique cars!


New member
I have heard that if you travelon the baha strip in Mexico you need a gun. I dont know but dont drive in Mexico anyway.(We rented a bug when we were there and found all the drivers to be considerate of our touist way:) ) I dont lock my work bus but do lock the laders inside. The simple math is that replacing glass is going to cost more than replacing contents.My stereo is hidden in my glove box(would not fit in the radio slot)
Anyway guns have a limited potential for protection. My dad takes one in his front bag on bicycle trips. I think thats a good idea, say does the NRA make cycling jerseys? I am always armed with a song to soothe the savage savage and try to keep a harmonica or guitar on me at all times. Peace be with you,



Greetings and sorry to hear about your break in. I live in San Francisco and was broken into on Christmas Day ( bah humbug ).On December the 26th I ordered two vent window locking kits from California Imports Parts Ltd.The item # is ACC-C10-3435. The pair cost me about $8.00 plus shipping.I installed them so the lock plate was in the down position which secures the lock plate behind the window rubber. I then tightened the BIG locking knob with a pair of pliers.I also installed them right next to the factory window lock so no one could slip a small knife through the rubber and try to pry the lock open. I also took off the window handles on both sides and unscrewed the door locks to both doors.Just to be sure I also unscrewed the inside door lock knob on the sliding door.
Motor Music in Daly City also installed a proxcimity sensor and adjusted it to allow normal street traffic to pass by without setting off the alarm.If someone stands real close to either doors for more than 10 seconds,it sets off two beeps.If someone gets real close to either doors and moves their hands towards the door handles or door glass the alarm sounds two warning beeps.If activity continues after the two warning beeps,ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.
That Christmas Day I had voluntered my time at Glide Memorial Church. I had taken public transportation to the church and when I returned home the Grinch had gotten my sun glasses,my binocks,my camera and my Kenwood CD/AM FM deck. Insurance covered most everything but the alarm and locks were on me.
Also, I purchased an Auto Lock for the brake pedal and one for the clutch pedal through E-Bay. They sell for $65.00 each at the chain stores but I bought them for $ 30.00 each and that included shipping.
Its a real shame that we have to go through hoops to protect our valuables,but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Best 2U.........RCB

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

Chuck (CA) Super Member Posted August 13, 2005 05:59 PM

I didn't know where to post this!

I've been thinking about Westy security....considering an ignition kill switch....don't think theves are going to tow a Westy....need recommendations as to the proper equipment, location, and the best procedure...



New member
My dad and I bolted chain locks on all of my doors/hatchback to deter intruders while I slumber. Was this totally necessary? (I live in LA.) At any rate, my dad feels better about me toolin' round w/out my Big Hairy Dog Alarm. Any suggestions?

Capt. Mike

GoWesty sells what I will call a "lock extension" that allows the rear lid to be opened a few inches for ventilation while remaining locked from the outside.


New member
I don't know if this is the correct place to post this question, I've not found the topic elsewhere....

We are parking our Westy in front of our house hoping to decrease the likelihood of vandalism (our back lane is notorious for such incidents). However, less than a week since having the van, we noticed that someone had pried off the "vanagon" emblem. Argh!

[Parts wanted deleted; Guideline #5.]


New member
Car Thieves SUCK!

When Lisa and I lived in Oregon, we were driving down the highway and saw a pulloff for some seaside park. We got out and walked down to the beach. There was a big old camper parked next to us. When we got back the camper was gone and our westy unlocked. The folks in the camper had forced open the sliding windows and helped themselves to our stuff. Luckily they missed the expensive stuff. After talking to the police we found out a lot of crank heads target the coast pull offs. Afterwards we started noticing lots of broken glass on pull offs. I personally am a non violent kind of guy BUT think we ought to 'bust a cap' in a thieves ass... I cannot stand thieves. Sorry, no sympathy towards people who cannot manage their addictions. So watch out along the Oregon coast. As a result I tend to bring a back pack and take evrything of value with me when hiking.