Our 1985 Westfalia (sometimes) dies while driving: Thoughts?


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Three weeks ago we’ve started our 3-month-roadtrip in a 1985 Vanagon Westfalia, and it’s having a frustrating problem: Sometimes the car dies while we’re driving. While we haven’t discovered a pattern in when it occurs, here’s how it occurs: We’re driving nicely and without any warning, the accelerator doesn’t seem to respond anymore. I can still shift gears but when I press the accelerator, it doesn’t make more speed. At some point while we’re slowing down, the battery and OXS lights go on. When I pull over and stop, switch the car key to turn it off and switch again to turn it on, the engine starts running again, and we drive again…
This has happened while climbing a steep hill, but also while going down on a hill. It has happened in the highest gear when driving on the freeway, but also when we were driving a lot slower. It has happened on hot and cold days. It has happened with the refrigerator and other appliances on, and when they were all off. It did happen more often when we (wrongly) thought it was better to drive more slowly and with a low rpm but it still happens every now and then.
Garages only want to look at the problem when it occurs, but it never occurs when they’re test driving for a day, and even so, the problem seems to resolve itself by just starting the car again… Any thoughts on what it can be?


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I also have the same problem with my '85. I have been researching for a month now, was about to buy a new fuel pump and then talked to somebody, who said "if it was the fuel pump, the engine would die". But it doesn't die immediately, as marquinho said the engine is still running I just can not accelerate.

Calkan - Did you have those exact symptoms? My issue is exactly as Marquinho describe it. (Just curious, not trying to give anybody a hard time ;))
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I have had the exact same problem, as described, for 20+ years...in 1991 VW dealership looked at it and acknowledged there was a problem with the 85's, but they did not know exactly what it was. They did lots of work, replacing wiring harnesess, fuels pumps, all sorts of things...to no avail (lucky for me they covered all the costs as the regional VP guy, again, acknowledged they knew of the problem but didnt have an answer). I have, over the years, read several owners with the problem, but have never heard a concrete answer or solution. Just an FYI...when it happens, pray there isnt a semi right behind you...happened to me on a canyon road in Utah...thought I was going to be crushed.


New member
When you consider just how many times a 26 year old vehicle has been started .........it might be time to replace the ignition switch. My experience with purchasing a new switch is to stay away from the ones made in China. Same goes for CV joints, wheel cylinders.....etc.
The Bosch fuel pumps are pretty stout, but then again if yours is an original it might behoove you to purchase one just in case. Im a real fan of Bus Depot for umpteen years. They currently have Bosch (made in Germany) fuel pumps for a very fair price.
Good luck and safe travels