Diesel and turbo-diesel

Joanne Rauscher

New member
I'm considering buying an '82 deisel but am concerned that the lack of power might drive me crazy in hilly country. Not worried about when I'm in the Rockies on a trip (then I have a much more relaxed attitude!)but when traveling around home. How much more power would a deisel turbo give me? I know you loose about 5mpg and it gives you an extra 5-7 mph on the open road but would it get up those hills a lot easier? Thanks for any info.
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Capt. Mike

I can only give you a generic reply since I haven't driven the diesel Vanagon nor have any tech specs on a turbocharged version of that engine.

Most turbos are "adjustable"; i.e. the amount of boost is set, either by the manufacturer or the installer. Thus the amount of added power you get will be dependent on boost. Like any power increase, it is a compromise on engine durability. If the engine was not designed with the lower end strength for a turbo, you could be shooting the slow horse rather than feeding it vitamins.

A characteristic of turbos is that they tend to increase lower end torque and their boost is more a function of load than the engine's power curve. Thus more assistance on those hill's you talk about. The turbo boost gauge on my diesel truck will hit 25" under heaviest climbs and then taper to just a few inches at flat cruise at the same RPM. And, of course, that's their advantage.

There was a rumor going around that VW originally planned to turbo the Vanagon diesel to allow it enough power for the American market and to install A/C. Instead they came out with the waterboxer, with it's marginally improved mileage and one of VW's Mad Ave idiots decided we didn't "need" the extra mileage of a diesel anymore. Thus it was withdrawn from our market. But I can't answer is whether the Vanagon diesel was already built for turbo, or if the planned new one was going to have other modifications for the lower end.

Turbo's require several added considerations. The first is their cost -- very high.

Second, the turbo boost conditions will normally require modified FI settings, which may not be available for that injection pump. The added air will require a different fuel amount for a given condition.

Third, the compressed air is heated, an undesireable condition. Therefore better turbo installations have an intercooler to bring the temperature back down. Otherwise the boost is heavily negated by the heat expansion. The air-to-air intercooler (an 'air' radiator) on my diesel truck is twice the size of the coolant radiator. Coolant style intercoolers add considerable strain to the existing cooling system, perhaps far more than it can handle. Either way, temperatures go up with all that infers.

Fourth, lubrication needs skyrocket. The turbo gets its cooling almost entirely from the oil flow. You have an item spinning at maybe 20,000+ RPM in the hot exhaust stream and it's only cooling is the oil. I have a pyrometer on my turbo and it's common enough to see turbo temperatures of 600°F. They tell me the big rigs go well over 1,000°F. Considering oil should still be kept below say 300°F, you can see how that flow is critical. Then the oil cooling needs increase, usually requiring additional capacity and its own coolers. My truck's oil capacity is 3 GALLONS with a large coolant style oil cooler while a typical gas engine is 5 quarts. This is what allows it to handle those temperatures. The Vanagon didn't pick up the additional oil cooler until late '80s.

Last, a turbo requires some different driving techniques. There is some lag on accelerator response, but the one that most drivers have trouble with goes back to those temperatures. A diesel needs to be warmed up so the turbo is getting proper lubrication before being subjected to those loads and temperatures. Cummins says about 3 minutes on my B5.9. The pre-heat mode on mine is that long. If you don't, you can easily see the difference in exhaust and performance. At the other end, because of those exhaust temperatures, if you stop the engine, the oil in the turbo will heat to the turbo temperature and can "cook" -- that black varnish & gum so prevalent in the infomercials for the latest bottled gimmicks. (The varnish is real -- their cure isn't!) That means the engine must be left running until temperatures return to normal and down to what the oil can stand. Cummins recommends 3 minutes. I use that same pyrometer and wait for it to come down below 300°F. Either way, those 'start up & drive off' or 'stop & bail-out' habits can wipe out a turbo.

Oddly enough, I think your estimates of mileage reduction are high. Since a turbo uses the "free" exhaust to power it, it's not like a supercharger siphoning horsepower off. At least not a lot. Since a turbo increase the air and allows a more efficient combustion, many turbos actually increase mileage. Of course that could be offset by any changes in driving style or load the added power encourages!

Personally, I'd have been first in line for a factory turbo diesel. But I'd be very leary of a conversion.
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Capt. Mike

Not a new post -- just consolidation of the diesel & TDI threads.

TDI conversion? +propane

Scott Davidson Member # 0 posted 08-27-2000 08:12 PM

I have become obssessed with the notion of swapping the engine in my syncro vangon with a new TDI powerplant. Who out there can tell me what they know about this kind of transplant, or where I can find more? Are there any kits available? I'd love to hear from someone who has done one. Also, Several companies are producing propane injection systems for electronic turbo-deisels that are said to boost HP and fuel economy and run cleaner to boot. Anybody have experience in this department, or info?

CGOTTS Member # 168 posted 09-15-2000 11:50 PM

I hate to admit it, but I have been toying with the same thoughts. Currently, there are a couple of guys out there, I should say, here in the USA, that have TDI engines in their Vanagons. Unfortunately for us, they are not that easy to find, let alone do the conversation, but they can be done nicely with plenty of time & of course, money. I have looked into doing this conversation and with the amount of power and economy, really makes for an interesting thought. I can't really give you to much more information, in detail, but will give you a couple of websites that are just for us guys wanting to do this type of thing. They are as follows: www.egroups.com/archive/TDI-conversation The other one is: http://tdiclub.com Hope this helps and good luck. CGOTTS

knussear Junior Member # 837 posted 05-28-2001 10:55 AM

I bought an 84 with the intention of doing a TDI swap. I have a 97 jetta with the TDI engine and it ROCKS. Lots of power, really smooth great mileage. Blows the doors off of my 1.9 DOHC fuel injected Saturn.

Diesel 1.6 to 1.9

grinch Junior Member # 594 posted 02-11-2001 12:25 PM

Thanks Capt. for previous response.

Wondering when the motor goes out in my '82 what possible upgrades could I do as far as increasing h.p. and and maintain good gas milage. Is a 1.9 liter possible and any idea on price to a degree. Any comments welcome. TKS
Bryan Belman Junior Member # 400 posted 06-13-2001 11:00 AM

Hi, my 82 stock diesel motor died back at Christmas time during the cold week we had in NJ. I have been doing research for almost 2 years on an upgrade to a 1.9 TD motor.
In Sept. of 99 I purchased a 1.9 long block from Vanagin (Ken Wilford) and his conversion is as follows.

A company in CA modifies the shape of the intake and exhoust ports on the hydrolic head so you can use you 1.6 setup.
The motor will run using your 1.6 fuel injectors and injection pump. The motor uses the exact same engine mounts and you will have to cut some of the lower ribs off or the engine cover to clear the injection pump throutle arm.

If you are still interested, e-mail me and I can get much more detailed. I plan to document and put the whole convertion I am doing use 1.6 TD setup on a web site. Hope to be done by August of this year. I will miss Westy's by the Tunnel in MA this year for the first time in 3 years. Bummer.

The head on this 1.9l block
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New member
I have done two conversions from diesel to turbo diesel one in an 86 golf the other in a pickup. Although both are lighter vehicles than a van, the increase in power has been substantial. Both have shown an increase in oil temperature. You will notice it most during long trips pulling against a head wind. I now own an 82 diesel van and recently purchased an 82 diesel westy which had been converted to a gas. :( I intend to convert the westy back to turbo diesel. Will probably use an external oil cooler. An intercooler would be an option to help hold down manifold temperature but common sense works too. Power can be increased by adjusting aneroid valve but I wouldn't do it if you're interested in engine longevity. I would be interested in anyone's comments in regards to the turbo oil return tube and the mods it will require. The ultimate conversion would be a TDI. I have a 2002 Jetta and the peformance is phenomenal when compared to standard turbo motor. My concern would be going back to old mechanical control turbo pump as used on 1.6 and change in performance.

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Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

Westfreak Junior Member posted June 05, 2002 02:47 PM

I'm preparing for this conversion. I already have the engine but I will put the engine transverse in the engine bay. From my calculations, the bed will stay in the original place. The only thing is I will lost the storage area underneath the rear seat. Any tips or comments will be appreciated. I know that this conversion will be very difficult but I'm very motivated about it. By the way, the west is a 1972. Thanks.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic

brett.baer Junior Member posted December 21, 2002 04:27 PM

Does anybody know anything about this conversion? I have tried to research it online, but haven't had much success. I called a dealer here in Austin that sells them, they couldn't tell me anything but the price; great sales people, huh? What makes me so interested in them is that they are supposed to get a ridiculous 47MPG; I can't say that I could completely believe that until I saw it. The dealer (which eurospec's website makes clear to be the only place you can get it, because they are a wholesale business ONLY!) told me that the cost of the conversion, that includes "everything", including freight, would about $5100. A little pricy, but if you figure that you would be cutting your fuel efficiency in half, I think I could justify it. The website for this conversion, which isn't very educational, is:
If anybody knows more about this new conversion, please tell us about it, especially if anyone has done it. Thanks.

-Brett Baer

Capt. Mike

One of the dealers listed is GoWesty, a site sponsor. They are usually most knowledgeable about the products they sell.

:confused: Caution: Their web site indicates a raised rear deck conversion is also required, thus probably eliminating it from use in a Westy since that would make the main bunk unusable and probably interfere with the left rear cabinetry.
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New member
I sold my '82 Westy diesel to a friend, who decided to buy a TDI diesel from a wrecked 2000 Jetta and have a conversion done. His mechanic assured him that he could do it, but after many months gave up, and the matter has become acrimonious between my friend and his (former) mechanic. So, I'd be wanting to possess the tools and skills to tackle the job myself, or find someone who has already done it.

Another thought I had was the issue of engine noise. Modern direct-injection diesels are very noisy (listen to a Ford Powerstroke or Dodge Cummins pickup at idle sometime). VW's is supposed to be quieter, but our TDI Beetle has MAJOR amounts of soundproofing around the engine - including a very large plastic engine cover, and it's still pretty loud. Since I doubt most of this soundproofing will fit in the westy's engine compartment, and the engine is right under the passenger compartment, I'd wonder if the noise would be a problem over the long haul.

UPDATE 3/12/04: The '82 is back to un-turbo, 1.6 liter stock powerplant. It's been running reliably and well since last fall. So, after much hassle and staggering costs, it's the slow, stock setup that has worked best.
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New member
I just threw a rod in my 88 westy. My mechanic has suggested either a 2.2 or a turbo diesel. I have heard of people converting their diesel to a turbo-diesel, but not from gas to diesel. Any ideas?


New member
I am totally confused on the issue of Diesel in a 1980's ish Vanagon Wesfalia. I think 1982 and 1983 Vanagons had an option of a 1.6L Diesel Engine. I like the idea of getting a diesel for the lower cost of gas, less polution, and do not mind that they do not have much power. So, not owning a Westfalia yet, and diesels very hard to find, is there any year or years of Vanagon that can be changed over to the older 1.6L Diesal w/o too much hassle? Like if I found a 1982 or 1983 aircooled, would the Diesel bolt right in to existing tranny? Just curious how this all works. If that is the case, I would find the nicest non diesel I can get and one day, find a motor and put in later. Are these 1.6L Diesel found in other VW that it could be pulled from?

Thanks for any guidance or web page info that would help me.



Mike Robinson

New member
Firstly I would not concider converting an air cooled westy to watercooled. It can be done - well most things 'can' be done but it is quite the undertaking. You would have to install so much plumbing - heater, radiator, coolant lines running the length of the vehicle, cutting an air hole in the front of the westy to cool the radiator, unless you want a real mission and have lots of money I could not understand why you would want to do it.

If you really want a diesel - find a diesel - they are not that rare.

If you get a watercooled gas engined westy then it is possible to convert to diesel, again this is not as easy as it seems and will cost some time and money. Conciderations include transmission belhousings, fuel conversions, additional wiring, plumbing changes etc. www.fastforward.ca have a conversion kits which should give you an idea of what can be done. There are a number of posts on this site that deal with this.

The diesel unit used in the diesel westy version was used in a number of VW's of the same era. However I am not sure if you were doing a conversion this would be the one to look for. For the same cost and grief of a conversion it may be a better 'payback' to put a larger 1.8 or 1.9 TDI engine in. Even putting these engines into an existing diesel and cause problems - there are posts to prove this on the site.

I think the most things are possible but does the effort justify the hassel. Any change from the way a vehicle was built and engineered represents some type of compremise. Beware frankenvans!!

I have a '82 diesel. It is underpowered, but relaible and cheep on diesel. If the engine was to go I would replace it with another 1.6l diesel to keep it standard and reliable.

Hope this helps


Capt. Mike

Per Guideline #7, I'm not big into conversions, so don't devote time to learning the intricacies, but . . .

It was my understanding the diesel used in the '82-83 Vanagons was the Rabbit diesel with a fair amount of modifications. One, it was canted over to clear the engine compartment lid. I'm pretty sure it got a special oil pan. I believe you'll find the intake, exhaust and FI system were pretty much unique to that model, again for clearance reasons. Because the original diesel was used athwartships in FWD vehicles, I'd suspect the bell housings to be unique. Guideline #8 -- the parts fiche at your dealer is definitive source.

Mike's right -- beware of Frankenvan. Nothing is for free. And I still marvel at the number of folks that are so much smarter than VW's engineers that (think) they can redesign a vehicle that is so much better with no negatives. I guess that's why they are all sitting with Bill Gates type bank accounts turning down VW offers to take over the engineering program. Sorry, having worked with a factory race team and seen what goes into custom fabrications and adaptions, I'm a little skeptical.

Don't get me wrong, I've done a few extensive mods but look at the 'market worth'. For example, my auxiliary fuel tank system cost me about $200. The fabricator estimated $6-700 PLUS installation if done for the market. And those are 15 year-ago prices. Pretty steep for a 7-gallon jerry can, huh? Worth my investment in money and time? Yes, but we needed something unique for our special camping needs and destinations. Worth it for the average guy doing weekends and one trip to Yellowstone? I don't think so.

Buy a good used diesel model and restore it to original -- probably same money AND something that is approaching a collecter's model. That investment has the potential for profit down the road. A show-condition, restored to original '83 Westy can pull over $11K in the collectors' market.

Mike Robinson

New member
Diesel replacements

With my recent engine problem I looked into diesel replacements. (preparing for the worst hoping for the best)

A reman 1.6L diesel is no longer available from VW.

I talked to David at FastForward who was extremely helpful and kind with his time. His advice was to upgrade to a 1.9l turbo diesel. Which is different to a 1.9l TDI.

This engine fits very easily into a diesel westy, with the following conciderations.

1) you have to cut a hole (6"x6")in the engine hatch to stop a cross rib of said hatch interfearing with a solonoid (then rivet a plate on top)

2) a hose has to be connected from the turbo to the sump. A hole must be drilled into the sump and a hydrolic line attached. (Apparently straight forward for a good hydrolic shop) The attachment should be silver soldered to the sump)

3) custom exhaust - most muffler shops can do this for around $200 cdn

4) pulley kit from Fast Forward $50 cdn

5) custom fabrication of drivers motor mount (Fast Forward has some that will fit '83 on diesels, 81-82 are different)

6) 1.9l turbo diesels are relatively easy to get at breakers yards. They were used in golfs and jettas from approximately 93-97. Engine code AAZ. Cost is around $3000 for one with 140km.

I think this seems doable, but I am so glad the problem I had with the 1.6 engine was just tining.

'82 Diesel

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.


Matthew Shepherd Junior Member posted August 23, 2004 12:40 PM

I'm wondering if anybody's converted a gasoline '78 Westy into a diesel with the intentions of going biodiesel? Is it possible, and if so, how difficult?

judlandis Super Member posted August 23, 2004 08:40 PM

Anything's possible with enough time and money. Converting a type II to diesel? Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. I'd bet that you'd be waaaay ahead on time, money and aggravation by just finding a factory Westy diesel. My old '82 that I sold to friends is running 100% soybean oil without problems for the last 2 years.


New member
Mike R.:

There's a dealer here in Eugene (Sequential Biofuels) that sells fuel-grade soybean oil. We fuel our TDI New Beetle with 100% oil - in winter (they're mild here) we run about 80/20 biofuel/fossil fuel.

The folks I sold my Westy to have a fleet of 4 VW diesels that they use for their business. They buy the fuel in bulk and keep it in a 250 gallon storage tank. Thus we reap a little savings.

Performance is not noticably different in the TDI or the old 1.6. Fuel milage seems to drop about 1-2 MPG (biofuel has less energy per unit of volume), but the smell is like a wok full of oil on the stove burner. A big improvement.

[Moderator Note: Sourcing bioldiesel is beyond the capacity of this site. However the following web site lists distributors/suppliers as well as discussing other biodiesel issues: Biodiesel.org]


Tdi conversion

Does anyone have experiance with Fast Forward's tdi conversion kits? I've had some corespondence with David and I think the idea is a great one, but I am leary of buying/installing something sight unseen.

The consiquences of the bed seem to be addressed pretty well. I've seen and driven lots of tiico conversions and think that is a great conversion, but the idea of a tdi for the fuel mileage increase is very apealing. We drive 20-30k miles a year. With fuel over $2.00 in the states and +$.90 litre in Canada 15% is a big deal.

Thoughts??? Experiances???




New member
Did you receive any private responses on this? Am considering TDI vice TiiCO but worried about extra fabrication, installation and debugging requirements.

Moderator Note: See the member comments on Fast Forward in the <Mechanics> <USA> <California> topic, March 2002 post.


I have had no replys on the subject. I think that I am going to do a stock engine again. Mine runs so well, and has been so trouble free, I just can't go there.


Mac William

New member
Having recently done a conversion, last week as a matter of fact, I posted the details on an English forum and thought our friends across the pond might benefit from some of theexperience gained in the process.AAZ engines are i believe the last manual injections before TDI (no electronic wire to bother with) They do fit instead of 1.6 TD JX Engines

"The AAZ is now in situ in the van and running. I tried it this afternoon. Noisy as I do not have the engine lid back in place. But a nice sound, steady engine.
I cranked it for a good minute with the solenoid unpluged to prevent it from starting. The idea was to try and make sure the oil was going round. I then started it and it sounded ok to me, a bit like my old JX. the garage owner pointed that it was only firing on three cylinders. Ok tried again , and this time ticked over nicely on all fours. What a difference from a very very tired jx.
I then filled it with coolant and bled it went for a run and back for checks.

So to answer you questions: I used standard clutch kit + spigot bearing . The clutch pedal is now very easy, perhaps too easy to operate.
I used the JX turbo and modified inlet manifold and exhaust manifold.See picture below for modification in progress.


The oil feed pipe to the turbo had to be a little reworked round the engine as the oil filter support is a tad different on the AAZ and the other one doesnt fit.
The return pipe streched a bit after a session in the vice.


The turbo support bracket got slightly modified as it was now too short.The AAZ engine block is a wee bit taller than the JX.


I used the AAZ diesel pump fitted with the accelerator lever from the JX and a doctored fitting for the cable. The idea is to lower the lot. Tomorrow i'll see to the lid, but it wont require much modification
Rough hole cut with jigsaw
Mdf template and hole cut wuth bearing guided router bit
bridging gap
Brass plate glued in rebate with resin = no intrusion in my Bed!

Remember you'll need to order o rings for the two sensors holders (mine are leaking ) JX ref
Gasket for the oil filter holder AAZ Ref
rubber gasket for oil cooler AAZ
Sump gasket JX
Sump to fill pipe gasket JX
Timing belt and tension adjuster
oil filter
Rocker cover gasket if you are going to time the engine with it open
Plug from Simon for the side of the engine where the azz turbo lub return was originally
alternator belt
power steering belt
Crankshft end bolt( a must as this is a strecher bolt, it can only be used once . Tightened at 90 newton + 90 degrees)
fly wheel bolts for the same reason . I reused the old ones cos i forgot to order. It is a tad less vital though
Six allen screws for the clutch
Gasket for exhaust manifold x 4
Gasket for inlet manifold x 1

Power steering fluid
Coolant ( 8 litres)
engine oil 4.5

remember to doctor the original jx oil guage to fit the aaz . fill 4.5 litres rev the engine a bit.stop and let things settle and then adjust by cutting the guide tube until you get a "full " reading. You will need to keep a bit of the aaz one as a sleeve at the point of entry in the engine. just redrill it to open it a bit.

I'll add more when it comes back to mind

All the best
Dont really know whats involved in swapping a N/A 1.6 for an aaz. You will be missing all the specific parts from the jx. turbo and manifold. That means no choice and you have to keep all the bits from the aaz. I understand you will need a bit more modifications . Engine support, relocate air filter ,exhaust.
All this sounds fine until you have to do it. . . The potential for wasted time is enormous . Fine if you can cope with it. but be warned.

On a positive note, I still need to tune a few things on the engine like the advance and the tick over which is a bit fast. I tried it tonight for good and there is definitely more power. Torque! There is a slope to get to my house roughly 12 %. I use to have to accelerate at a specific point at the bottom in 2nd gear to avoid having to drop in 1st. I tried nearly stopped at the bottom and quite quickly engaged 3rd . It is not a power machine but it feels like this IS the engine that should have been fitted to it when new.

Hope this will help your decision. Bearing in mind that a recon 1.6 costs £1.500 ish and a aaz £200 in Scotland, a bit more in England where everybody wants one. you could change a few times for the price. And once you've done it once, it will be a doddle.I do recommend however the use of a pit. Well i am 45 years old !!!And i didnt want anything poking under my bed either!!!

more pics

bang goes the immobiliser
thats better.