Specialty tools; for your modifications and special shop needs.


Capt. Mike

Moderator
Many Westy owners have done modifications or additions that call for tools beyond the normal "traveller" tool set. This thread is for you to remind others of tools you found you needed due to some modifications. It also gives some solutions to the expensive special shop tools VW might call for or overcoming shop needs.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Antenna tools:

I have a CB & a cellular phone in my Westy. The antennas take allen keys to mount & adjust. I carry the appropriate sizes as an addition to my old VW 'optional extra' tool set. Other makes might require a US sized wrench or odd-sized screwdriver.

Sender sockets:

Many Westy owners have added gauges. Those with the VDO set probably have the oil drain plug replacement sender. On Vanagons, it's an extremely tight fit because the original drain plug was only 13mm nut size. I carry a thin-wall deep socket that fits since a standard won't. I'd rather supply the socket than have some garage round off the plug.

Another socket I carry is an extension flare socket for the oil pressure sender hose. If you use VDO's oil pressure gauge, it requires a sender too big to fit in the VW recess so you have to use their remote mount extension kit -- a rubber hose that allows the sender to be mounted elsewhere. Since a hose is subject to failure or damage, I carry the original sender and the necessary deep flare socket to be able to remove a damaged hose and reinsert the OE sender. At least I can limp home with the original idiot light but without gauge.

Awning & louvers:

Many Westy owners have an awning, window louvers or other accessories. Be sure you have the appropriate tools to remove (if damaged), adjust or tighten these items. A long trip will shake a lot of things loose, requiring US or other odd sized tools. We got caught by a hurricane strength wind that tried to turn our awning into a sail. It damaged the arm and I finally located some temporary repair hardware, but needed my tools to remove it for the repairs. The sizes may not be odd, but getting to them may require special versions of a tool.

Camping Equipment:

Don't overlook tools for repairs to camping equipment. It's a good idea to carry extra generators, pumps or caps for Coleman stoves, lanterns and such. Be sure you have the appropriate tools in your kit.

Also, with Coleman dual-fuel stoves, I find the Canadian gas (and I'm sure some US) will gum up the generator needle valve. An occassional clean & polish becomes necessary. A little assortment of emory & crocus cloth might also be a good idea.
 

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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Vanagon V-belt changes.

I've found to change a broken or jumped V-belt on my Vanagon requires a couple of extra tools that aren't in the OE tool kit or even the routine sets. On a Vanagon, you have to remove the others to replace one.

I've got A/C so that means a special allen key for the A/C compressor mount. The late model Vanagons have a coolant bleeder system that passes through the V-belts, thus the necessary hose-clamp tool to disconnect temporarily. Finally, my P/S adjustment bolts are a devil to reach so I carry an extra 17x19mm open end wrench to fit them.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Dip-sticks

I've got several applications, auto and other, where I'm expected to check fluid level blind. One example is a steering gear box. They give some vague specification such as 'cover shaft half way' but no measurable reference. I have made several specific dipsticks for such uses. Often it is as simple as taking a piece of rod, say 1/8", and bending it once where it needs to be set and again into the hole. Thus the dipstick becomes self-setting. File or grind smooth the appropriate range on the end for the fluid to register against. (Right, left pic) I've got a dual-marked dipstick for two different A/C compressors.

Some transmissions and differentials now call for a fill a certain distance below the fill hole. 9/16" on a Westy transmission. This is to reduce foaming, which has become an increased problem with the higher detergent & additive packages now in use. This is probably easiest achieved by filling to overflow, and then siphoning out the appropriate amount. However, at least to find the first 'siphon amount, a dipstick as simple as a 90° bent wire of appropriate length flattened at one end, will check fluid height below the hole blind. Forming a ring for the handle, mine looks sort of like a dungeon key from an old movie! (Middle left pic)

TDC gauge adaptor run-out gauge to measure TDC.

Multiple applications, almost no investment. Use scrap steel plate or bar stock. Cut piece sufficient to hold magnetic run-out gauge base. Drill appropriate holes so it can be mounted to an existing fitting. The flex or adjustable arms of gauge set will then allow gauge to be positioned for recording.

I have one to adjust valve gear. The plate is secured under one nut of head, cam or rocker arm shaft holder. Gauge base is attached magnetically and set for recording deflection. (Middle right pic)

A friend made & gave me one for TDC that screws into the spark plug hole. It's made out of an old spark plug, drilled out to take the body of the runout gauge and a set screw. Screw it into the spark plug hole, turn the crank looking for the maximum reading. This is TDC. (Right, right pic)

Use for brakes by attaching to fixed suspension or body point. For disc brakes, set gauge pointer against disc and measure run-out by turning rotor. Ditto wheel warp. Most disc brake specs allow for up to .002-.004" before replacing or turning. This amount may be felt as minor pulsing of pedal, usually at end of a slow stop, but does not affect performance. Turning, just because there is mild pulsing, wastes rotor life. Type II rotors only have a 1.5 mm wear range, Vanagon rotors 2.0 mm before replacement and turning even a couple tenths each side generally eats up half allowable wear.

In disc brakes one is measuring lateral warp, but in drums one measures out-of-round. Depending on drum and axle mount, it may even be possible to attach the base directly under the axle nut. Measuring outside out-of-round is not necessarily very accurate but may indicate if it is necessary to remove the drum for a more accurate inside measurement. Westy out-of-round allowable is .004"

You can also mount it on something suitably unmovable, such as a jackstand, next to the wheel.

Windshield wiper arm adjustment tool

This is also mentioned with the windshield wipers topic, but I'll add here.

Most windshield wiper arms are flat, to which the wiper blade assembly is attached at the extreme end. The blade assembly is most efficient when it is 90° to the glass surface. When the blade is smearing in one direction of its sweep or chattering, this is usually an indication it is no longer perpendicular to the glass surface. The key to adjustment is to adjust the arm, not the blade. A simple tool can be made of ½" round stock. About ¼" from one end, make a 1/8" cut about 2/3 - 3/4-way through the stock. This is to provide the 'clamp' to twist the arm slightly to make it sit parallel to the glass, the blade perpendicular. I've painted mine and then covered the handle end with shrink wrap in case of the 'clumsies.' One can even drill a hole in the handle end to insert a loop for hanging. (Left in first pic)

Shop manuals may call for using a smooth duckbill pliers (Who has a pair of them anymore?) and padding them to prevent damage. Most pliers have serrations, which could damage the arm, so this tool does the job without damage.

Strut bolt holding wrench

When installing struts, the top is often the piston of the shock, which rotates. Instruction will have you hold the strut while tightening a nut. The top of the strut is often not a true 6-sided nut, but an oblong end. This takes a special wrench because attempts to do it with an open-end wrench will often round off the shock end. Make one by drilling a hole into round bar stock, then elongating it wtih a Dremel tool or small burr on a die grinder. Finally weld the round bar to a flat handle. (Left, right pic)
 

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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Jack & jackstand adaptors.

Not really a special tool, but most jacks don't fit the VW needs. The metal lift saddles often put the entire weight of the vehicle on a tiny ridge that can damage the frame or lift point. In many cases, especially with the newer jacks that seem to have even tinier deeper cups, it means some laborious carving of a block of wood.

It's worth it in the long run. My smaller floor jack, an old Walker-built, it has a large 5" fairly square saddle. I cut a block of 2" oak to the appropriate size and then sanded and beveled the edges & corners to fit the saddle. Now it lifts with no presssure points. A Dremel tool, sanding drum or sanding disk on a grinder are often enough.

Wood will split. I suggest you use a premium oak or dense hardwood and then treat it with a good oil-based penetrating sealer (linseed or tung oil). Keep it from drying out and fill any early checking or splits with something like epoxy or Gorilla Glue.

You may find a version of a Porsche jack tool of use. It fits into the jack regular port on the side of the vehicle. It sticks out with a flat pad welded to it. VW has used both square and round ports, so get an appropriate sized piece of steel and have a pad welded to the end. You can then use the floor jack instead of the marginal vehicle jack.

My big 5-ton service jack has about a 4" saddle but fairly deep curve. Since I also needed a couple extra inches of lift for my tow truck, I decided on using a piece of very heavy gauge pipe about 3" diameter and ½" thickness. It's about 3" long and I then welded a flat plate to the top. I've even glued a piece of thick rubber stock to that, so I'm lifting with a stable and flat surface.

Jackstand have many of the same drawbacks. They tend to have saddles that are curved. That's fine when it can go under a rounded axle housing or frame, but the uplifted ends may create small pressure points that can damage a larger flat surface. This is a little more tricky, but again, you can 'hog out' (carve to the exact size and curvature) a block of wood that then caps the saddle and provides a smooth resting surface. Those with access to a welder and grinder may use metal stock. My diesel pickemup requires one jackstand to go under the frame, but the saddle curves and placing it on the frame made the stand tries to center in it's saddle curve and push the upraised end into the fuel tank. I chose to take a small piece of ½" plate, notch the ends with a die-grinder to grip around the saddle, and then welded on a supporting piece (round stock) under the middle to support it at the center of the saddle. Now the vehicle rests on a smooth flat surface instead of risking damage to the fuel tank.

It does seem like every time I have to do something, I need to make a tool. And THAT is as much fun as the job. I've made strut compressors, special VW tools and lots of brackets and tool holders. Lots of satisfaction. My strut compressor does just as good a job as MBenz' $350 special tool for about $6.
 

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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Run-out gauge mount.

VW calls for a special tool to measure flywheel run-out and crankshaft end play. It bolts to the bell housing and holds a run-out gauge. Instead of the fancy VW tool, try cutting a small piece of heavy scrap metal plate and drilling it in the appropriate place to be able to bolt it to the bell housing using an engine mount bolt. Then use a magnetic dial-gauge holder similar to the TDC mount in the above post. Sometimes, if you look at the VW special tool, you realize it's just a holder or generic tool of a necessary size. The solution may be a fabrication or modification of an existing tool.

Tappet & flare wrenches.

My original tool set came with a set of "tappet wrenches". They were nothing more than a set of regular open-ended wrenches that were much thinner than normal. Their purpose was to hold the lower of two nuts in a lock-nut situation. They then allowed the top nut to be turned with a regular wrench. Unfortunately, my set is SAE sizes and most of my cars are metric. So far I haven't found a set of metric and I doubt I'd use more than 3 or 4 sizes regularly anyway. A solution might be to buy an inexpensive wrench from one of the discount places and just grind it thinner. It will weaken it and one must watch it doesn't loose temper to the grinder, but the correct use doesn't put that much strain on it.

One can also make 'flare' wrenches by cutting out a segment of a box end wrench. I'm often frustrated by the 6-point configuration of my flare nut sets and long for a 12-point. This is an opportunity to create one or two 12-point flares for those times when there isn't much arc room to regrip the fitting.

I have made one flare socket -- I needed something special for the oil-pressure sender hose when I added gauges to my Westy. There wasn't room for a conventional wrench where the OE sender had been located. I bought an inexpensive deep-well socket and then cut & ground out the side so the hose could come out while retaining the drive head of the socket. In my case, I didn't have to cut a segment out of the socket at the nut end, as I could thread the hose through first and remove the socket the same way before attaching the sender head. An O² sender socket is often the same concept. Others use a verson of the flare crowfoot which can be a little pricey in the 22mm size.

;) Caution: home-made tools may not be as strong as factory. Use with a lot of common sense and protect yourself from failure.
 

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