Newbie Needs Help re Flywheel - 1990 Vanagon


New member
First post...hopefully I'm in the "right" tech section...

I have a '90 Westy, manual transmission. Recently I encountered a grrring noise when I tried to start my Westy. I thought it was the starter; like an idiot I had it changed without someone vetting the problem. The starter was replaced/the replaced starter appeared to be in decent shape. However the noise still happens (intermittantly as before).

It seems to be a flywheel issue. Any ideas on the cost of repair/replacing it.

Much thanks to anyone who replies...please be gentle.


New member
Well, how gentle can one be? let me start by telling you where it is and how to change it then you can decide whether it is within your mechanical skill set or you need to shop around.

The starter ring gear (as it is called) is located on the flywheel at the rear of the engine between the engine and transmission. I have a Bentley 1989 book and there is a good picture on page 13.40 of the flywheel with the ring gear around the perimeter. The ring gear is what the starter teeth engage with to turn the engine. When the starter is engaged, the teeth on the starter move outwards, engage with the teeth on the perimeter of the flywheel and turn the engine. If the "grrrring" noise is heard and you have changed the starter then the other half of the equation is the flywheel. In the 'good old days' the ring gear was separate from the flywheel and could be replaced separately.

Nowadays I think the ring gear and the flywheel are one piece. Even if you can get the ring gear separately it would probably be better to replace the complete flywheel. Now comes the question of mileage and clutch wear. Since the clutch applies to the flywheel and the transmission (or engine) has to come out to replace either then the clutch should probably be replaced with the flywheel to save on labor costs. (BTW: Have the rear main seal replaced at the same time as the extra labor is minimal and the cost savings is tremendous).

So, if you have to shop around it would probably be better to shop the clutch replacement around as the shop capable of replacing the clutch would also replace the flywheel. I looked at and flywheels range from $100 - $800 so you would have to call them with the specific information for your vehicle. This part is heavy so shipping may be costly. This will give you an idea on price. There is probably a local shop who could give you a quote; parts labor and all if you don't want to do it yourself. A clutch kit appears to be around the $200 mark.

I would imagine that you will be looking at around 4 hours of labor but that is an off the wall guess so be prepared for that to fluctuate.

Hopefully this information will be enough for you to shop around and get some prices for yourself. Happy hunting (and I hope I was not too rough!)

PS I just looked at GoWesty and they have a reconditioned flywheel for $99 exchange and they are located in San Luis Obispo county. I see you are from SoCal so that might be an option for either the parts or the replacement as they have lots of experience with Vanagons like yours.


New member
Hi there -

The torque converter drive plate on my '89 Vanagon (w/ automatic trans.) "went" yesterday - while on the highway driving to the mechanic's place, no less. I haven't been able to find this part on the bus depot or GW and the mechanic hasn't been able to source it from the dealership or any parts places. Would you have any suggestions where I might source this part (quickly: I travelled out of town to have this work done /and/ my insurance is up /very/ soon: so I'm both stranded and possibly facing having to abandon the Van outdoors all winter if I can't source this quickly...

Any other advice on the repair would be appreciated: the guy doing the work is experienced with UK & GER vehicles and generally wonderful, but doesn't specialize in Vanagons by any means (I simply trust him more than anyone else I've met): so if there is any idiosyncratic info on this kind of a repair on a Vanagon, it would be very welcome and helpful.

Specifically: do your suggestions in the above post hold for my vehicle (manual vs. automatic etc.)?

Thanks in advance to all responders - very much appreciated.