Gauges (factory) and warning lights except Speedometer/Odometer

Capt. Mike

Transferred from other posts to consolidate similar topics.

Temp gauge works when it wants to..
mrjolly67 Junior Member 09-25-2000 10:23 PM

Can anybody help me with this small problem? I have an 82 westy and when i start her up the temp light flashes about 5 times then stops, (normal right!) but the needle never moves. It only moves if my clock works which is when it feels like it. Do these two items work off a fuse or is it more complicated than that, Any input would be great thanks.

Capt. Mike Moderator 08:51 PM

The '82 Westy was air-cooled. It doesn't have a temperature gauge. Suggest you see the Message Board Guidelines, especially #2-4.

Bouncing tach needle, any ideas??

Lemore, Junior Member 10-06-2000 10:10 AM

'87 westy: when i hit a bump my tach needle drops off and then comes back. the engine is not cutting out, just the tach isn't stable. any ideas where to start looking? thnx,

Capt. Mike, Moderator 10-06-2000 10:47 AM

Start with the wiring diagram, Bentley pages 97.102-118. It sound very much like you've got a short that is grounding out at when you hit a bump, or a loose connection. Since the tach (G5) is on circuit 54, start backtracing until you've found the culprit.
It is possible the tach is malfunctioning internally, which would require a VDO service, but if it only happens on bumps, it sounds like a loose connection, bad wire or ground.

CGOTTS, Member 10-23-2000 01:29 AM

I agree with Capt. Mike - check your connections - I would suspect your connection on the coil is bad, or at least the wire on the terminal end is bad. I had somewhat of a similar problem, but it was more related to not getting a right tach reading until over 2500 RPM's - everything traced out good, and it almost stumped me. The engine ran fine, just the tach didn't til a certain speed. I happen to feel the coil one day and noted that it was really hot, especially since I just started the engine and it hadn't been running for more then a couple of minutes. That was it - a bad coil, and when I changed the coil, my tach worked like it should. So check the coil and connections. Good luck. CGOTTS

Intermittent Gas/Temperature Gauge, turn indicator light output

Coos, Junior Member 11-06-2000 07:20 PM


I have an 82' Westfalia. The gas gauge, temperature gauge, and turn indicator light work intermittently. If they don't operate when I turn the ignition, and I drive for approximately 25 km (20 minutes or so), then they usually start working again. Further, if the gauges aren't working, when they start up the low coolant sensor flashes for about 5 minutes before shutting off. Lastly, they seemed to function better when warm (ie: summer).

I have checked the voltage balance circuit (within limits of manual) and fuses ... all seem fine.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


nosliwmit, Member 11-06-2000 10:04 PM

An '82 with a coolant sensor? I thought the water-cooleds didn't come out until '83...
My '85 has the annoying flashing coolant light syndrome. Comes and goes. Usually once the van warms up to full operating temperature the light stops flashing. I think it's a cheesy design (the little probes in the expansion tank, which can, by the way, be bypassed if it's that annoying). For a long time my temp gauge would peg when the LED flashed, but now, for some reason, the temp gauge always works. In any case, I'm guessing this is unrelated to your other gauge anomalies.

In a Toyota I once owned, a bad ground (loose wire) under the dash caused all of my gauges to act erratically.

Break out the Bentley's (I think their wiring diagrams are difficult to follow, even though I work with schematics, diagrams etc. for a living--just not used to them yet, I guess--it's the whole vertical vs. horizontal thing) and look for a circuit common to the malfunctioning devices.

Good Luck
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Capt. Mike

You're right, nowsliwit; the '82 was air-cooled and not fitted with a temperature gauge.

Usually, when any guage is intermittent, it's the sender or a ground between gauge & sender since most gauges work on the principle of power to the gauge, then grounding through the sender. When all fail, it's usually associated with loss of power to the gauge circuits. Often due to a cracked circuit in printed circuit backing of the instrument panel, or to an intermittent failure of the voltage stabilizer, wiring diagram 97.20-21. Circuits that begin to work "cold, but not hot," or "hot, but not cold" are consistent with these two defects.
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New member
84 westy... Odometer frozen but speedo works, temp gauge gets to just before red line before fan kicks in, too close to drive in bumper to bumper in summer. Temp red light blinks all the time wether hot or cold, just started or running for hours. Have had front and rear temp sensors replaced, coolant system flushed and air removed with front end jacked up, this improved from overheat but not by much. Now suspect it is circuit board in console and shoudl get new instrument console. Oh, and my clock keeps time for some other planet. Any experienced comments?

[This message has been edited by dajabr (edited 05-15-2001).]

Capt. Mike

I think the red light actually is activated by two different sources. One is overheat, a temperature trigger. But the other is the low level indicator in the feed tank. That seems to be the one that gives the most trouble. It looks as best I can tell from one diagram is that it uses the coolant as the circuit maker. Thus any corrosion or film on the contacts could give a false reading.

Both feed an solid-state devise in circuit #33 (Bentley 97.56) that activates the light in circuit #34. I would look at the ground (#34, cont. in #89) to be sure it's on the terminal 85 side of the fan relay; if on another terminal, it would come on at all the wrong times.

Capt. Mike

Dashboard clock (digital)

Hey Everybody,

Currently on a cross country roadtrip and enjoying very much my 91 Westy.

1)Dashboard clock. I can only change the hour but the minutes cannot be changed, is this some sort of fuse or do I need a whole new clock??

Small "problem" indeed but if anyone happens to know, e-mail me.

Answer: The digital clock has TWO set buttons for use with a small sharp instrument like a paper clip end or pencil.

The one on left changes hours; the one on the right changes minutes.


New member
It IS the instrument console printed circuit (see the many above). Question, is there a way to fix the printed circuit instead of replace? I have a multimeter to find any crack or break, but it is realistic to solder or tape or chewing gum the stupid thing back together? D! :cool:


New member
my 83.5 westy red light started to blink all the time replaced all sensors with no luck,however my fix was to replace the the wire that runs to the temp sensor2 the one that connects at the water pump,and the wire that connects at the coolant tank,the blinking has stopped,check your wires they take a beating from engine heat and the elements,im looking into a whole wire harness replace,has anyone done this it doesnt look to be to complicated that is if i can find the a new wire harness for the 1.9L.


New member
Hello all,

I have a very stupid question for all you Vdub heads out there. I have been battling an overheating problem with my '85 Westy.

I just bought the bus with a blown engine, so i've never seen the temp gauge work properly. What is overheat? To the left/up, or to the right/down? It seems as though overheat would be to the left/up (just out of pure logic), but the right/bottom side of my temp gauge has two lines with it hatched in between (this makes it seem like this is overheat). Thanks,

Oh yeah, I've replaced just about everything; water pump, radiator, sensors, console, piping etc.


Capt. Mike

VW used two different temperature gauges, depending on whether you have tach or not. The non-tach models were at the top of the cluster moving left (cold) to right. The tach models where in the lower left of the cluster and moved bottom to top.

Your owners manual will tell you the appropriate range of acceptable readings. Testing & diagnosis are per Bentley 90.21


New member
Thanks Mike,

I have the gauge with a tach.

Since I don't have the owners manual, and nobody in Indiana seems to have a VW bus, I've been thinking this whole time the beast is overheating, when it isn't even warmed up fully.

Is it true that when the coolant sensor senses a low level, it automatically spikes the guage? Also, is it common for the guage to spike when the bus is started and after 5-10 minutes it slowly creeps back to the bottom of the gauge (cool side)? When I goose the bus (say 3000 rpms) my guage spikes showing an overheat and a low coolant level. Is the guage wacky?

Capt. Mike

I'm not trying to be sarcastic but why don't you buy the owners manual? They are still in print and available at some of the resources listed elsewhere on this site like Bentley.

The later water-cooled Westies typically 'warm up' -- at least to the point of starting to get heat from the heater and gauge readings -- in about five miles.

The VW temp gauge does not spike, not even a start sequence check. The light is activated by either low fluid or overheat and are independent of each other. The light will come on with a cool engine but low fluid.

If you are spiking, you have an electrical problem: sensor; voltage stabilizer or gauge. Gauges work on a ground system. Power is always to the gauge and the circuit ENDS at the sender, whose varying resistance determines gauge deflection. Most gauges peg full on when there is a short on the sender side.


New member
Yeah, I have the Bentley manual, and have trouble shot the system using the manual. My votage regulator checks out at 10.5v. I replaced the sender and sensor. If I unplug the senosr at the water pump the bus will barely run, so I can rule out that i suppose. I've replaced the blue circuit and the guage (with a used console) and it behaves the same. My grounds are grounded as far as i can tell. There is just one on the block, correct?

At around five miles the gauge starts going toward the bottom. It makes me feel like the plug to the sensor is connected backwards (hence the guage behavior), but there is only one to plug them in.

Thanks for the help.


New member
Great converstaion lads. I'm a new westy owner and so will not be much help to start with. I have a...


First, at best the clock can be described as intermittent. It fades in an out as if a wire is being pinched or an unintentional ground made. Either case is bad and must be addressed for the sake of the regulator circuit etc. Anyone out there suffered a similar problem?

Second, I read somewhere (and should have made a hard copy) about a method of repairing the dash clock and/or converting it to a 24 hr clock. Has anyone else seen this?

If I manage to find this info I'll be sure to post it.

BTW, I'd have the dash torn appart except for the fact that it is bitterly cold right now (-18C). We are expecting a Chinook (warm breeze from the west) this weekend that may take the temp. up to 5C so I may give it all a shot then (manualless).


Boxer Fan (number 4 may arrive this weekend too)

Capt. Mike

Fading of the LED display is usually a sign of low voltage. You don't have any 'wires' to pinch; electricity doesn't flow that way. But you do have a flexible printed circuit and a crack in the circuit can cause the voltage to vary, often with temperature as the printed circuit expands & contracts.


New member
Speaking of the printed circuit wiring, the voltage regulator on my 83.5 westy went bad. As I went to replace it, I noticed a great deal of corrosion on the printed curcuit. Figuring it's only a matter of time until this fails I decided to replace it. Much to my dismay, VW tells me there are none in stock anywhere in North America. I'm not sure anyone else makes them. Besides vanagon graveyards, does anyone have any suggestions on where I could pick one up?

Capt. Mike

"Not in stock in the US" does not mean not available. If VW still distributes it, he can order one from Germany and, since they use an express delivery system, can usually have it if a few days. It would only be a couple of weeks if he just ordered it through channels (no shipping charges). You need to figure out if this a dealer just being lazy, or has VW corporate discontinued the part?

Those printed circuits on flexible background can be cleaned & repaired by electronics experts, but I would be sure of his qualifications first -- probably require the upper level of a computer or module reman facility. You might ask Bob Beckmann, Beckmann Technologies, Durham NC, 919-381-2700 if he has a recommendation -- they are about the best in reman of modules for MBenz, Porsche & other makes.


New member
A while ago the temp Gauge in my "87 Vanagon just quit working. I still get the blinking light at start up and it goes out after about 7-10 blinks. More recently my clock just went blank. I have cleaned and re-connected all the grounds behind the fuse panel (this is a fairly corroded beast) and all the connections including the plug block on the right rear of the instrument cluster all appear to be solidly connected,

I have disconnected and checked the black connector to the temp sensor on the thermostat housing and not having the VW tool called for in Bentley's,( and Bentley's providing no test values for this connection) could only do a continuity check on the 1) temp sensor (0 continuity when cold) and 2) the connector to Gauge (full Continuity). I have no idea what those values mean - if anything.

I tried to take the Blue FI Temp sensor connector off to compare those 2 readings but could not get the blue connector unplugged (I suspect in my double-jointed position, wedged under the van with dirt falling in my face, I was not fully releasing the retaining clip on the connector itself) even though I pried on it fairly ruthlessly with a screwdriver. I gave up because I was affraid of breaking the connector.

I suspect the actual blue and black connectorsare different (is that true) but are the electrical outputs of the 2 sending units the same? I figured if they are then I could do some electrical "bridgeing" , switch the connectors and then I could at least test whether it is the sensor or the temp Gauge that is wonky. This of course assumes that the FI temp sensor is working (engine runs well so I figured that was likely).

Sooooo if anyone out there has either wisdom or insight re my temp Gauge and / or my Clock problem I am all ears.

Thanks a heap in advance.
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New member
My'86 Westy has the insturment cluster with an analog clock where others have a tach. I feel cheated. All the gauges work fine but I would rather have a tach instead of a 3" diameter clock! I see complete insturment clusters for sale with tachs and wonder if there is any reason why I can't make the swap. It seems that both cluster styles were available in '86 and other years.
I expect (hope) that the plugins for the temp and gas gauges on the analog clock would work OK for the gauges on the tach.
Power to the digital clock should be easy,
I would hope that VW only has one wiring harnes and that the there may be the necessary plugs for the tach just waiting for me. Is this to optomistic or would I have to run wiring for the Tach?


New member
Hey there BoxerFan, the article you speak of is at here:

I've just started visiting junk yards and pulling the digital clocks out of older jettas and golfs... I've yet to get one that worked though.

They do pop right in perfectly, it's nothing more than a few screws once you get the dash console out.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidte same topic.

Chuck (CA) Member posted August 02, 2003 10:54 PM

I'm in the market for an 86-88 Westy. This week I looked at three. All three had dead fuel guages. What's up with Westy fule guages not working?

I hope this is the correct location for my post!

Comment and suggestions please.

Thanks in advance