Suspension height (incl F & R) -- corr. uneven; raising/lowering


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Capt. Mike

The only "whom" it concerns is you! This is not a paid commercial site; just fellow Westyphiles willing to help.

This symptom usually results when somebody has replaced the shocks, struts or springs with an unauthorized replacement. Sorry, no real solution other than to get back to factory OE.

Note the spacer & bump stop changes from VIN 25A 007 7659 as outlined in the Bentley section 40.4; and coil spring groups cited in 42.2.
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New member
I own an '85 Westy automatic and can relate to your problem. My dad had a German mechanic in San Antonio replace the front springs with new factory springs and wouldn't you know it, the front is taller than the rear. Yes, I can relate. From all indications, the springs in the front are the correct ones and of course the new ones are more stiffer then the old ones. So now the problem is the rears. Since we are talking Westy's - they are to have the stiffiest springs out of all the Vanagons, and yes in time, they will begin to sag. Consider that the Westy is heavier than a normal passenger Vanagon, especially since there is a pop top, refrigerator, water tank, sink, stove, etc. With all this added weight, they do sag. The only recourse is to either replace the coil springs for new ones, making sure you have the correct spring color code type. The other possibility is to have a coil shop reshape your springs to any height you prefer. This helps in the sag, but if they are not heat treated properly, then they will also sag in time. So check your local coil spring shops and see how they do things. The other thing that can be done, temporary of course, is coil spring spacers - there are so many different ones out there, some work and some don't - the basic idea is to lift springs another 1.5 to 3 inches on each side. The latest suggestion for the help in getting the Vanagon back to normal is the air cushion bag that semi-trucks use for their suspension. These fit in the coil spring and are air charge to assist the springs with weight. Keep in mind this does help, and for around $100.00 for the kit, might be worth considering. The company that sells this is Airlift - check out They look nice and for the price, even I am considering doing this to mine. These are some suggestions in your problem. The correct way is in the replacement of the coil springs, but they are rather expensive. Good luck and hope this helps. CGOTTS
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Capt. Mike

Transferred to combine similar topics.

Lift Kits for 2wd

catwink1 Junior Member # 1529 posted 03-26-2002 11:54 AM

Having had non-westy busses and vanagons in the past, I have always found the off road capabilities and clearances very acceptable. I now have an 89 westy and I am suspect of the propane tank ground clearance. I'd love to get a couple of inches of lift but can't seem to find any info.Do lift kits exist? Any suggestions that would help, including tire and wheel options would be appreciated.

Camper Member # 1227 posted 03-26-2002 03:27 PM

Hey there,

go to and look for an article re adding Airbags to the van, looks very promising and should work on the 2wd van as well, the exact article link escapes me at this time.

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Capt. Mike

VW used three suspension heights on US Vanagons. The standard was found on most Westies. Syncros used a raised suspension. Most deluxe & GL passenger Vanagons actually used a lowered suspension. You might start by spending some time with the dealer's microfiche and looking for suspension component differences. We know different springs were used; there may be others that, if not replaceable parts, would at least give you some ideas.

The problem with lifters and air-bags is that they often just move the vehicle into a different part of their suspension range and though you may gain some clearance, you have now lost the normal range of motion that may cause damage and stresses from bottoming out or constantly hitting the stops and riding the end of motion. You can also expect some effect on driveability, reaction to wind and stability (top-heaviness).


New member
My 1976 T2 Westy sags in the rear, due to age and engine weight, etc.

I have read Bentley and nonetheless, it involves removing the spring plates, using a protractor, compression tools, etc. Makes sense.

As I read in this thread, Vanagon owners must have coil springs. However, I'm not so lucky.

Are there any tips for leveling out the Bay Window before diving into the spring plates?

Thanks and happy motoring.

Ron Wolff
'76 Westy
'78 SB Conv
'74 SB Auto-stick

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

SAP Junior Member posted July 14, 2003 04:42 AM

I have an 85' Westy with badly sagging springs...Does anyone know of any options besides going through the dealership or Boge lowering springs? I need all the ground clearence I can get. Thanks


New member
Hi: I have a friend that has a 1973 Westfalia and its front end is too low. I`v look at Bentley but there is nothing about adjusting it. There is an explanation on the adjustment of the rear end, but none for the front end. Does anybody knows if there is a way to raise it without using a gas shock absorber or adding extra parts. He already changed the torsion bars, but it`s steel low.
Thank you
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Capt. Mike

Type II's use a torsion bar and torsion arm front suspension. Removing the torsion bar to check for cracks, breakage and damage is described in Bentley 2-7.5. Checking the Torsion Arms for bending or damage is described in 2-7.3. There are also needle bearings and bushings to check for wear.

However, older VW's may have rust or damage to the torsion bar housing. See the topic on "Suspension Rust . . .". The housing may also be bent or damaged in relation to the frame. All the housing, torsion parts and arms must be correct for proper suspension hieght.


New member
On a slightly reverse tack, I remember reading something about LOWERING the suspension. I have a 1979 Type2 and need to drop the front and rear by about one inch in order to overcome parking height restrictions. I realise that I can adjust the rear suspension on the Type2, but am concerned that might lead the front to tilt up a little, which would defeat the purpose.

Any suggestions?



New member
I know this original post was a while back, but I did this recently,
....after some reluctance and reassurance from syncro guys. Awesome, cheap DIY modification and totally makes my SA 5cyl powered, 215 75 15 LT equipped 85 2wd Westy make Syncro's look sissy now. Just wanted to pass on the idea to some others. Cheers. John


New member
We purchased an '85 Westy two years ago. Seller told us he had recently installed new shocks. The front end is 1.6 in. higher than the rear measured at front- and rear-wheel center lines. The front end level is abnormally high, while the rear height is normal. This has seemed odd but of no particular consequence. Recently, though, I realized that this explains why our mirror view is so short through the rear window - only eight car lengths or so. Question: Can inappropriate shock type explain this abnormal front lift (I don't know what kind of shocks are installed)? Or, is it more likely that the problem has to do with front springs that are too strong? I believe the springs have not been replaced (The vehicle is in other ways in excellent condition, and has had no body damage.) Can I solve this problem by replacing the shocks all around with, say, Bilstein HD gas shocks? My question overlaps the original question, but I would like help in assessing whether or not replacing the shocks, alone, (leaving the springs) is apt to solve this problem. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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Capt. Mike

If you don't know what's installed, it's not possible to diagnose what's wrong. See the topic on "Shocks/struts/springs" in this forum. There is little reason to pay the extra $ for supposedly high-end aftermarket when the OEM is already HD and may be Bilstein's anyway. VW warns in the shop manual NOT to change from OE specs -- too many parts suppliers sell what they have that will fit, not what's correct. There is zero difference between an OEM Bilstein, Boge or F&S -- they are interchangeable. If there have been no suspension replacements, go back to the correct shocks. They are priced quite reasonably, considering they are typically good for over 100,000 miles, from some of the quality vendors listed on this site. You do NOT have to change all around if it's only one end that's a problem.


New member
Can I put Syncro Springs on a 2wd Westy?

Looking at beefing up my suspension and also trying to figure out of the Go Westy Syncro springs (rear) can be used instead of the 2wd ones. On paper this would even out the rear sag and cover my requirement for heavier duty springs due to load and Baja roads. Has anyone ever done this?

Capt. Mike

Vehicle height

Recently we had an inquiry about vehicle height. Apparently it's too much trouble to look it up in the owners manual! There hasn't been enough interest to justify a topic on height but I believe everyone should have a "clears" number etched into their minds so as to know what is safe when entering low overheads like a parking deck. It's so easy to measure, there isn't much need for a topic!

Here's a couple: '63 - '67 splittie -- 76.4" (w/o pop-top).
Type II Bay Window -- 77.0", camper 78.0"
Vanagon -- 77.2", camper 81.6"
Vanagon Syncro -- 78.3", camper 82.8"
** Caution: These were taken from one owners manual of each model. There may be variations.

I measured my Vanagon Syncro. The book says my height is 6.9' ft. I determined I was a little taller but that a clearance of 7.0 ft. still gave me enough to navigate a parking deck. It's a working number! Even the shop manual charts a 1.6" variation range (Bentley §44.3a). I also remind members that parking decks get repairs, repaving, pavement bumps, replacement of lights, etc., that may reduce the height inside below the number on the warning bar at the entrance, so even the entrance warnings have to be taken with a grain of salt. It's important to measure yours, then add your comfort margin. Don't forget other antennas and whether the skylight closed tightly if so equipped.

So get out and measure yours. Put a reminder sticker in the corner of the windshield. Remember when measuring that the roof is not dead level, it has a crown in the center and you may have a skylight. Here are two ways to measure.

1. Park under something level you can measure height to ground such as a garage door frame. Use a step-ladder and measure from the top of the highest crown or skylight to the frame. Then measure the frame to ground. A little subtraction and . . .!

2. With a partner and a couple of step stools, tie a string between two ordinary rulers. Stand the rulers up on end in the rain gutter with the string tight across the roof. Adjust the string to the same height on both rulers and just clear of the highest crown or skylight. Measure gutter to ground. Add the two and . . .!

One other thing I will mention. Most electric overhead garage doors have an adjustment that will change the open range. Usually, you can gain a little height by adjusting it so that the door pulls towards the opener more and thus lifts the bottom edge.

I have one manual door in my shop the Vanagon won't clear in it's at-rest position. On that one I have to manually push the door a little farther and clamp a Vise-Grip™ on the track to hold it up. I also have a warning tag that I suction cup to the windshield reminding me to repeat that process before I pull out.
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New member
Front Springs and shocks?

'87 Westy, 170,000 all original.

Hello, I recently picked up this amazing vehicle with the intentions of restoring it and using it as my new cross country/continent traveling vehicle for my hobbies.

So far I have been fixing and learning over the past few months. I have done a lot and I'm starting to think about tackling the front and rear wheel wells (everything), but specifically the springs and shocks is what my question pertains to. I usually spend about three weeks researching before purchasing and starting the project at hand, and normally this has worked for me... until now. It seems the more threads, articles, and websites I read, about springs and shocks, the more I get confused and frustrated. And it doesn't help that every Vanagon website sells different springs and shocks. So I'm hoping I can get some specific advice on which set up would be best for my make, model, and use, because I am at my wits end :confused:

First off the PO had given me a brand new set of Bilsteins, F4-BNE-2019-BE for the front, and F4-BNE-2019-BE for the rear. If you go to the Bilstein website you can see that these are not the HD shocks but the Touring Class (why he purchased these I'm not sure).

I have two questions regarding this...
1. Are these shocks that I got from the PO worth installing or should I get a different pair?

2. Basically what would be the best set up for someone with my westy looking for a solid ride that will be good for all around use, and traveling long distance, on possibly dirt roads in central and south America?

I understand this is a very vague question to ask but there has to be some general consensus on what the good setups are for what I'm looking to do... I just can't seem to figure it out.

Thanks for all your the help and advice in advance :)

Mike Robinson

New member
Upgrading springs and shocks

I would check out the site for springs and shocks.

Stock springs seem ok. Sometimes they are tired and sag and can be re-leveled using the 'white chopping board' method which works really well. If you are looking for some additional height this can work as well - a very cost effective solution.

If you want a firmer (I think better) ride concider the 2" lift springs on the market. I would go with the GOWesty option rather than the options. I have not seen the GoWesty kit, but I have yet to see something poor quality out of their organization. The other spring set (which I have) looks a bit delicate at the back end.

I would check GoWesty park numbers for the shocks they recommend. I currently have cofab OEM cheep shocks that work just fine - from Van-Cafe.

One of the other advantages of going with the lift kit is you can get better tires and when going off roading you should have good tires. I have the steel 15" wheels from Van-cafe with LT215/75/15 BF Goorich All Terrain T/A KO tires - you need the extra height of the lift kit for these chucky tires

'82 Westy Diesel 1.9TD