Questions About a SPECIFIC Vehicle Purchase


New member
First, I have been reading/researching this site for months. And I have been looking for a Westy for months. This site has so much information, I have learned so much. I have enjoyed it a lot.

Second. I'm going to look at a Westy tomorrow. A 1981 Westfalia. From the pictures I have seen, I didn't see any rust at all. I guess its the beauty of Texas weather. The interior looks great too, the only thing that really concerns me is the length of time it has been sitting there. I know the guy did some work on the fuel system, because it was sitting for awhile. But is there anyway I can really tell if the fuel system is problematic when I check it out?

If everything looks good, I have an appt with a VW mechanic to do a Used Car Buyers check.

Thanks everyone!


New member
To check if fuel is ok:
1.look to see if gas is clean-no gel or lumps...
2. check to see if lines are cracked or discolored
3. see if fuel is getting to carb
4. SNIFF real good for gassy smell

I would also check the brakes out, if it had been sitting that long.


New member
I have another question. When a mechanic looks over the vehicle ("The Used Car Buyers Check"), do they usually check the alternator and chargeing system? I was talking to the owner, and he said he needed to charge the battery up. It has been sitting for a few months.

I did find out he worked on the fuel system, all new hoses and clamps, and such.


New member
zonetrap check with the mechanic on what gets checked, where I'm at the list varies slightly from shop to shop.

Even if the owner replaced/repaired the fuel system double check it. I once bought a vw that the po showed reciepts for recent total brake work, the lines were dried out. I learned an expensive lesson, it was my first vw . Don't go totally by owner's word and reciepts, double check for yourself. Although I still have it is only now resembling what the old reciepts show.


New member
Just picked my 1982 Westy Diesel, with the 1.9L engine, tonight. Very good condition. It has stuff that needs done, but not too tough. It is great to have this vehicle, finally.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

Kinley Junior Member posted April 03, 2003 01:08 AM

I have just seen an 85 Westy listed as having a 1.7 litre engine. Is that possible (assuming it's the original)? I though they had 1.9 l or maybe 2.1 l engines in that era.

Also, I'm a little concerned about this vehicle's automatic transmission - generally I prefer manuals. With the small engine, I figure that the auto will have to work awfully hard. Does the automatic transmission have a reputation for poor durability relative to the manual, and do autos typically use noticeably more gas than manuals?

Capt. Mike

A US/Candadian market '85 Westy would have the 1.9 liter water-cooled boxer engine and Digijet FI. The egnine code would be DH and an A/T tranny would be the type 090, code NH. Table and Location of VIN, engine codes & tranny codes are shown in the Bentley, 2 & 2a.

A/T vs. M/T is discussed at length in the Transmission forum.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

gazoo204 Junior Member posted April 26, 2003 12:02 AM

I am looking at a 1990 westy and noticed from some pictures on this site that the water, furnace exhaust and electrical were grouped together in a stright line however on the 1990 model I am looking at are not. There is two high (same hight as the three) and one lower on the side of the van. was this normal ??

skink Member posted April 26, 2003 08:35 AM

gazoo204, the '90 you're looking at is most likely a Canadian-spec model. The bottom outlet is the electrical cord which, I think, retracts back into the sink/stove cabinet unlike the US models that used a separate electrical cord. Hope this helps.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same subject.

stratmanx Junior Member posted May 30, 2003 10:36 PM

FOR CAPT. MIKE and all Westy Vets

I've found an '85 Westy here locally.

Definatly needs head work. Will overheat and upon a bit of driving, the white smoke. Looks like the drivers side cylinder is the culpret.

Engine compartment is clean, with the exception of the tell tale ring around the left hand head.

Oils is milky, so coolant is getting into the motor, meaning not only head work, but possible crank seals ?

With this in mind, knowing I need to either do the heads or more, or possibly just turn-key the engine, the rest of the camper is immaculate.

135k on the vehicle, all records, logs, absolutly no rust, no body damage, glass all clear and crack free, all screens and curtains intact and present, upper canvas excellent shape, all camping gear fully functional and clean.

New 6 ply tires, I forgot the make and model, but specific for the weight and role of the vechicle. No rips, tears, or worn areas in upholstory.

I've not seen one is the shape such as this one is.

The gent is asking $2000 for it.

Knowing I'm possibly looking at another 2K for the motor, would this be a wise purchase ?

Thanks guys..

Oh yeah, forgot to add, it comes w/ the Bently book as well !

He also has the original dealer info paper w/ the spec and mpg rating that they put on the window of new cars, so obviously he can back up his claim of good care.


New member
I've read that the design of the air cooling system on the early Westys was suspect, causing the engine to break. I am considering buying a 1973 Westy with a 1.7 type 4 motor. Is this van likel to have this problem, or had they improved the design for this version.
many thanks for any advice, Jeremy
PS: any other tips on things i should look out for on this type of bus would be very gratefully received.

Capt. Mike

It's posted elsewhere but I can't find it at the moment. The early air-cooled used the Type I style upright engine with the fan shroud above the engine and an oil cooler within the shroud. Thus the cooling air flow went over the cooler before #3 cylinder, letting that cylinder run warmer than the others. Not dangerously so, but enough that it typically wore first.

The boxer design introduced in 1973 has the cooler on the exit side of the air flow so it flows over the cylinder, then the cooler. The design is theoretically superior. The '73 was a good, reliable design that had actually been in production for a number of years on the Type IV. The factory dual-carb set-up was good, though some who didn't understand it and wouldn't try to learn, complain. The design remained in production through 1983.

In both cases, there are many far more important features; see the topic "Deciding between model years & features" and the many topics on the specific features important to you.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

kublakhan Junior Member posted July 18, 2003 03:55 PM

Originally posted in 'engine' but then deleted when i saw this. if i'm still in the wrong section, please help.

I'm about to buy (unless warned not to) a German Syncro that has the original CARBORATED 1.9L engine. The car is in canada now and past their 'safty test' but i'm not sure about a few things. will gas mileage be less than with fuel injected? will passing emissions in los angeles (where i live) be impossible? will the engine have less torque?

any other comments on buying this car are greatly appreciated. i posted in the buying a westfalia section some issues like the possibility of the car not having an automatic but manual viscous coupling. i wont repeat the post here but if you know something about these cars please help. you'll find my other post with the info.

thanks in advance.

kublakhan Member posted July 21, 2003 06:04 AM

I have the opportunity to buy an '85 Syncro Westfalia (this is 'The Joker' version whatever that means...hope it's not ironic) that originally was purchased in Germany and w/in the last year made it over to Canada and is now at a dealer willing to sell to me in the US. Quite an adventure for this van.

I've searched and searched archives and learned a lot but this van is so idiosyncratic that I really need some help and fast because I need to make my decision soon or the van will be gone at the price they're asking.

I have too many questions to list so I thought to write topics that concern me and if anyone out there has some input please feel free to offer advice (let's assume the van is in v. good condition):

1. This is the first year of the syncro and only available in Europe. This could mean VW put all they had into the car (for example, this van came with both front and rear locking differentials) and/or the fact that it's the first year could mean bugs needed to be worked out. Thoughts?

2. The dealer is a small one and they don't know much about importing this van into the US. I know some things like the speedo needs to be in km/mph but how can I make sure of all the other requirements? The van started out as a German then became Canadian and now wants to become a US citizen. Where and to whom do I start with my questions?

3. What might I be missing out on by getting an '85 v. '86? For one thing the engine on the '85 syncro is 1.9L carborated. The next year they went to 2.1L Fuel Injected. seems like they felt (at the most obvious) that the van needed more horsepower. Okay, so I'll have a slower syncro. But what else? I live in CA. How can i buy a van on the east coast of canada and know that it will pass emissions in Calif?

3b. What other options might I be missing out on and should ask about?

4. What about voltage? For example, the fridge is 240v. What else am I goign to have to deal with regarding this issue?

Here are things I know about the car:

- 1.9L carborated water cooled "Original DG water boxer engine"
- front and rear locking diff
- "The Joker" version.
- Interior color = Brown/lt Brown/green original
- 'very little rust
- 120,000 MILES (I rounded off the conversion)
- "3 way (LP, Battery<240v) fridge
- "LP stove" (what does LP mean?)
- "European rear hatch and side double pain plastic windows"

Little help?

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on July 21, 2003 at 06:47 AM.]

Capt. Mike

Most of your questions have already been answered in their appropriate topics.

Gas mileage will be less; FI is more efficient.

Importing between the US & CA and from 49-state to CA os covered in their respective topics.

If it's an OE engine, look up the engine specs in the original country manual. It should be in the owners manual that comes with it.

LP means "Liquified Petroleum gas". The "gas" is usually omitted. This is the standard fuel used in gas grills, RV's, camping equipment, etc.

You'll have to install a converter for 110v AC to 240v AC. That would be far more practical than trying to modify the fridge for 110v AC. You will also have to correct the AC connections inside & out. The plugs are different. However, most have the incoming AC go directly to the interior recepticle and then to the appliances or converters so that may not be complicated. You will have to get the original wiring diagrams -- Jokers are not included in the US/Canadian Bentley. Manuals may be available in English as the Joker was imported into England. Contact VW UK.

Syncro drive chains have their own topics but I haven't seen any comments on OE manual 4WD units on the site. Are you sure it's OE? And if so, is it a viscous coupling or pure mechanical? There would be no advantage of having a mechanical coupling to the front differential. I know the controller may have rear-to-front and front-lock indicator positions (all Syncros do) as it was a generic panel used in many applications by Styer-Daimler-Puch in Austria (the manufacturer) but does that mean this one is so equipped? If OE, you will probably have to get the German manual & parts fiche.

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on July 21, 2003 at 07:12 AM.]


New member
I am currently shopping for a Westy that my wife and I will take on a year-long sabbatical tour through the US. We have found a 1990 that seems to be good. One strange thing I noticed is that on the passenger's side door there is a label from the Westfalia factory in Germany that has the month and year of manufacture and the serial number. The strange thing is that the date and serial number have been scratched off. The person selling it is a broker who is working for the owner and didn't know why the label had been tampered with. I can't imagine why either. It seems to me that if they are really trying to hide something, they would have removed the label altogether. The only thing I can think of is that the door may have been replaced with another from a junked vehicle.

Another thing that I noticed is that there is some darkness that would indicate a slight fluid leak on the left rear axle housing around the point where the rear shock absorber is connected. There are no dripping fluids but the dust in this area is darker. The other side seems OK.

The airconditioning compressor also seems a bit noisy. It makes a high-pitched grating noise. According to the records, it was replaced not too long ago. The AC seems to work well.

Can anyone out there offer me any advice on these issues?


Capt. Mike

The Westies come with TWO manufacturer's labels. The primary -- the bar-coded unit with the earlier date -- is the actual VW manufacturer's plate & VIN number. It will match the unit on the left inside windshield pillar.

A 2nd decal style sticker will be on the exterior -- usually right door frame. That is the addition of the Westfalia camping equipment. Although interesting, it is not of particular signifigance in terms of your registration & bill of sale.

You didn't give mileage, but shock absorbers are hydraulic and will leak. Significant leakage indicates they are due for replacement -- not particular difficult or expensive for the rears. Some 'darkening' of the usual layer of dirt is acceptable, but heavy leakage and wetness is not. Rear OE shocks general are good for 90K miles, so if you're anywhere close, it might indicate it's time.

VW's A/C is not particularly quiet but the compressor shouldn't rattle, at least not mechanically. But check to see if it's the compressor or the clutch. The former is pretty expensive; the latter cheaper and does not require dumping of the freon.


New member
Thanks Mike! That is very helpful. The van has about 150K on it. The axle housing is only darkened and not at all wet. The darker dust does not feel particularly greasy so I guess it is OK.

I believe it is the AC compressor making the high-pitched grating sound. If you hold your head close, it seems to come from there. Also the sound went away briefly when my wife turned the AC on. The lady selling the van also said that her mechanic said the compressor was more noisy than usual but not a problem. I am a bit sceptical about the latter assertion. I wouldn't say the compressor rattles but the sound makes me suspect that a bearing is going or has gone.

Do you have an idea what I should expect to pay if the compressor needs replacement?



New member
Fabulous site, I'll be a regular.
I owned a 72 bus and loved doing every bit of repair work to it, and I payed 1000 dollars and expected to be fixing it. (alot)

Since I have less time on my hands I have decided to go for a westy of around the 87 era. And I have decided to pay more to hopefully get more and do less.

I am looking at an 87 with a rebuilt engine(5K) and clutch work(also 5K) has been done, engine seems good, interior is messy but a little work and she'll be good, wheels,tires and brakes need to be replaced, and the extrerior is in need of a paint job, not because I like shinny reflections, but because of its rust situation, and seals are also on the menu. The Westy has 230K on it and 5K on the engine and clutch.

We washed the van for them so we could better judge its condition, and the sellers said wow thats what it looks like clean. As VW van fanatic I always kept mine clean. How couldn't you.

They are asking $10,000(Can). What do you feel about the price knowing what I told you, and what remarks would you have regarding paint and where to enter the dabate on price. I don't want to disrespect the sellers however I am looking out for me. Thanks for your time,



New member
Hiya, glad to have found this site! I've been browsing for a few days, and admire how well organized things are.

I'm about to purchase a '71 Westy (for $400!), and have a few things to discuss:

1. It's currently not running. The owner (a good friend of my roommate) tells me he was driving it when he started losing power and blowing gray smoke. He thinks it's a blown ring. I'm considering pulling the engine (a 1600) and doing a rebuild, but he thinks a ring job would probably do the trick (it was well-maintained and running strong until then).

2. It's 750 miles away, and I'm looking at towing options. I can borrow my brother's Chevy van with trailer hitch, and am thinking a tow dolly is the way to go. I've read all the posts on this subject, lots of good info, but no one has mentioned towing it backwards, with the rear (power) wheels on the dolly. Is this a good idea?

3. I briefly had a '79 Westy (loved it, had to leave it in Alaska), and I notice from the pictures I have of this '71 that the poptop is reversed. How different is a '71 from a '79? No sleeping up top, I guess. I'm also unsure about what kind of galley it has, icebox or refrigerator, stove or no stove...

I'm excited about getting this! While the engine has issues, the body is straight and unrusted. Some of the cabinetry is going to need work (the stuff in the back on the drivers side is missing). It oughta be a good project vehicle...

Cheers, Tim

[This message was edited by tarmadilo on February 10, 2004 at 03:35 PM.]