Vanagon Front Suspension


87vanagon

New member
hi, I have an 87 vanagon that is making some knocking noises under neat my floor boards at the front- they come and go sporatically and I can't feel it on the steering wheel, shifter, or brake pedal. it gets really loud though, I don't seem to be able to feel anything 'loose' when I just bend down and try to shake anything I can see. is there something that typically goes on these vans at the front like that? what can I do about it without wasting time with mechanics trying to figure it out?
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Insufficient information; WHEN does it knock? Over bumps, turning, braking? Something worn, like shocks, bushings, etc., won't normally "shake" by hand when on the ground because of the pre-load. Get a professional inspection on a lift -- you could have something broke or worn to the point of danger that isn't necessarily felt in steering. Also read the rest of the appropriate topics like shocks (Guideline #4).
 

87vanagon

New member
Thanks! I will get it looked at, but to give you a bit more info, it will just start "flapping" as I'm driving straight down the road. or in a parking lot. as I speed up the kocking speeds up too. and then for whatever reason it stops knocking. It sounds like it is something right in the middle of the van knocking on the floorboard. I am new to this site, and just put my van back on the road after it sat for a year. I love these vans, and I'm wanting to learn all I can to prevent problems and replace things as much as I can.
my mechanic has a bit of an attitude and my trust is eroding, there just always seem to be more problems that are not his responsibility.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
When mechanical noises are directly related to speed, it's usually something in the drive train or moving wheels. Since you say "middle of the van", see the topic on CV joints. Noises transmit along the vehicle and may not always be caused where they seem from the driver's seat -- have someone else ride with you to at least figure out which end of the vehicle is causing the problem.

There are too many good mechanics still around to put up with one you can't trust. See the MECHANICS forums for other members' recommendations. Part of your post was cut -- READ the Guidelines. Since you do not post your email in the member's public profile, you will not be notified of future cuts or moves.
 

nagster

New member
I have a 1982 Vanagon. I have replaced one of the sway bar link connectors which, the ones the eyelet at one end and the other end threaded. This is the notorious part that breaks off at the thread. Anyhow the replacement went well but the ongoing massive squeaking from the sway bar has increased. Is the sway bar supposed to move at all where it is attached to the frame, meaning the brackets and bushings, should there be no movement. I have lubricated the upper bushing of the suspension but have determined it is the sway bar making the Van sound like an old freighter groaning in high seas, this is most prominent at lower speeds and uneven roads. So should the sway bar be totally unmovable or is it designed to float a bit. I have also lubricated them and everything else under there to try and stop the creeking. This problem causes much annoyance. Your suggestions are most appreciated.
Nagster
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
The sway bar ia a torque device, meant to load up (flex) as the vehicle leans. the only 'float' is provided by the swivel within the bushings and the flex of the rubber bushings where it attaches to the strut bar. Since that attachment has torque specs for the nut, there is no allowance for variation by the owner. That kind of squeeking is usually not the sway bar. Disconnect it and see if you've still got squeek. I suspect you've got bushing distortion and wear, with perhaps corrossion of the metal sleeves, per the post above describing the overhaul of a Syncro.
 

icarus

Moderator
Originally post: My trouble, as I expected when I first surveyed the job, is how to pull the old link off the stabilizing bar on the top. Is there a special technique for pulling off the link, does the link come off with the bushing or seperately?
If the link is broken, you can cut the rubber bushing apart with a good knife. By pulling in the broken stub, you can take slices off the front and the back, eventuly getting enough rubber off to pull the line eye off. (I discovered a broken link on my Syncro in the middle of nowhere after hearing the clunk for about 1200kms). Now to put a new one back on.

Icarus
 

icarus

Moderator
I know it is in violation of the guidelines,,,, but,,,

In searching for the sway bar connecting link, the only source I found is the dealer. Trouble is they want way more than I think is reasonable for the part. I realize that it is a limited item, but does an Alternative repair suggestions.

Thank,

Icarus
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Isn't it basically a piece of pipe to form the eye with a threaded end rod welded to it? Should be easy enough to fabricate locally. Just need to have the pipe section match the OE so you can use the OE bushing. Weld on a rod and thread the end.
 

icarus

Moderator
Your right, I could have it fabricated localy, but I don't think that the top bushing is available by itself. (I destroyed the bushing removing the broken link,,see above posts, not to mention that the broken link is in my junk pile in N.W Ontario, $3000 miles away)

The other thing I can't figure out is what the difference is between the syncro link and the vanagon link. They don't share a pn, but sure look the same. (Vanagon link under $50 with the bushing, syncro, almost $200!)

Icarus
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
The Syncro is on a raised suspension and thus the frame to arm may be longer. My old parts fiches are confusing. They show different links between right & left and then show a part change at Ser # 24K049497. No explanation and the both appear on the fiche as straight.

To make things more confusing, if I go to the regular Vanagon fiche, the diagram shows two other links, one curved and one straight. The rubber bushing P/N 251-411-045 of the syncro is also used on regular vanagons. It does show the rubber bushings available as separate parts. Then the fiche that shows both curved & straight links, only has the straight link in the part number listing, which usually indicates the straight link is the only one used in the N Amercian market.

My own '90 Syncro has different links right & left. They bend ever so slightly near the collar inward (toward center of vehicle), and then straighten back where it joins the lower arm. This has the effect of compensating for the slight offset of stabilizer bar end and link hole in the arm. It is NOT significant and I think could easily be duplicated, especially since you have its mirror image as a guide. Very slight bends in rod, then thread one end and weld the other to the collar. Definately doable.

IF you are fabricated your link, there is no longer any incentive to utilize the VW bushing. If you are creating the collar and link, you can use whatever is appropriate as long as the ID is consistent and reasonably close on thickness, hardness and width since the collar will be the compensator.
 

icarus

Moderator
After much self doubting delay, I finaly attacked the stabilizer link today. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined, but I think I got a bit lucky too.

Here is the blow by blow.

Jack up the offending side, turning the wheel full lock out. Remove the tire. Remove the nut holding down the opposite side link, using a visegrip to keep it from twisting on the bushing. Remove the brake hose bracket from the steering nuckle, and tie it up with a piece of wire out of the way. Re-install the 10mm bolt that holds the brake line.

Grease the upper rubber bushing with silicone grease. (Go to you tool box and get every concievable crow/pry/nail pulling bar you have.) Raise the bar up (it may need to be jacked up, releasing the opposite side link from the lower arm. Then, using the steering knuckle (and the brake bracket bolt for purchase) pry against the eye against the rod end. With some steady preasure as well as some wiggling back and forth it WILL go on. As you try to pry it on, you will enevitably slip and have it come off again. (watch your hads for the slip) I found a small carpenters crow bar, in conjuction with a 16" carpenters flat bar, I was able to get purchase on the eye from various sides and slowly pushed it on, adjusting the height of the bar up and down to get different angles. Once you are about 1/2 way you are home free, because it won't want to come off anymore.

Once you have the link on, you can line up both links with the lower arms. It takes a bit of persuasion, but they go back in. Pay attention to make sure you have the proper washers on both the bottom and the top of the lower arm. I got mine all back together and discoved that one of the top washers had fallen out.

Torque the nuts, replace the brake line bracket, replace the tire, and over a cold one congratulate yourself in saving a couple of bills. (My mechanic has never done one and was scheduled to do it this week (He was not thrilled) It took me all of about 3 hours, so my guess it would have taken that much shop time for him. He's got pleanty to do anyway.

Now the only question(s) are, why did it break in the first place, and will the handling be significantly improoved.

Icarus

PS. The right and left sides are different. They sure look the same, but they have different pn's. Also they are not straight, they have a slight bend. That doesn't mean you can't fabricate one (as outlined above) but it does make it more complicated, as it is a very slight, precison bend.
 

nagster

New member
Hello there, I see you got it on, more work than the standard Vanagon as we discussed I see but the same basic principle. The handling on my 82 improved a lot, much more stable in side winds etc... Answer as to why they break... For the doglegged versions it is a poor design and does not handle well lateral and top loaded stresses at once. Also moisture accumulates at the top of the tread and gets locked in around the bushing, plus overall the gauge of material seems overall inadequate for the loads it takes. I have not figured out if overtightening also may contribute to it or vs vs.
 

microbusdeluxe

New member
I have an 1981 Westy, air-cooled, manual tranny. I just put on new Bilstien shocks all around. Ride has improved, BUT I now have a distinct low speed steering wheel shimmy. I checked for anything loose, etc. nothing visible. The weird thing is that the shimmy goes away over 40 mph, only to return at low speeds! What gives? Thanks for any assistance. Hopefully this is the right forum for this question.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
IF it didn't do it before, and the ONLY thing you changed was to change the shocks, then you have either a wrong application, have changed or left something out, or had something change or give way coincidentally with the work.

Although Bilstein may have supplied VW for OE on the assembly line (Boge was the dominant suppliers), they would be to VW specs; what is sold aftermarket may be for one of the many suspension variations used in other markets. I would hope that you exactly matched the new with the old before installation.

There are several items that may have changed. The concave washer at the top of the strut must be facing correctly. There are a bushing, bump stop and damping ring (Bentley 40.2) that must match up correctly. There is a spacer sleeve at the top and bushing insert (metal tube) in the lower end that must be correct as that's what keeps the shock in correct positon in relation to the upper & lower control arms. Did you remove the spring during the job, and if so, is it exactly replaced as before, properly nested top & bottom? At the age or your vehicle, any of the rubber or synthetic materials may be dried, cracked or have broken out when you made the changes, not just in the shock, but the whole front suspension. Both the change-out and new shock resistance will put strains on old bushings through the sytem that may have hardened, set or worn.

I will concur with icarus that if your shocks were completely shot before, tire cupping or balance may now be felt that was previously lost in the wash of the old shocks. But that also applies to warped wheels, rotors or bearing adjustment. Finally, an alignment is usually called for following major suspension repairs.
 
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microbusdeluxe

New member
Captain Mike, Icarus & whoever else is interested:
My analysis was similar to Capt. Mike ie something must have been messed up (by me) when I changed shocks. However after tightening wheels and shocks (all ok) I started simple by checking out the tires and lo and behold the right front was one cupped and humped mother. I've been eyeing the Go Westy 15" wheels and tire combo, so sprung for 'em. Put them on today and she rides like a dream, no shimmy, tighter around corners, smooth as silk on the freeway. Tomorrow I'll get an alignment as cheap insurance. Hats off for the tips and thoughts.
 

mkollerjr

New member
Grease Zerks

I have a 1991 Westfalia GL full camper with AT and 155,000 miles. I thought I read in another maintenance post that you were supposed to lube the chasis. My mechanic tells me there are no zerks on the under side. Is this correct?

Thanks,
Mark
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Correct; there are no grease fitting on the Vanagons. There were 5 on the Type II Bay Windows. There were at least 9 on the Splitties. There are, however, a number of other points that get lubrication such as hinges, sliding door, locks, cables, pop-top, etc., at the major service intervals, which are lumped in with 'chassis.' Some choose to treat rubber bushings and boots. There are also service lubrication tasks such as wheel bearings and CV joints at greater intervals. See the Maintenance schedules posted on the Tech Drawings site.

Sure glad the lubes have improved over the years. Looking at the shop manual for a '63, we see lubricating them every 300 miles! Changing engine oil is called for every 1,500 miles and changing tranny & reduction gear oil every 3,000 miles. :eek: We'd spend more time under our Westies than in them back then.
 
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staninco

New member
Is front-end alignment called for?

Just put new Hankook RA-08 185R14 tires on our newly acquired 1989 Westy, and it handles great on the freeway - tracks very straight hands-off.

I'm wondering if it's really necessary to have a front end alignment performed. Got little maintenance history with the 85,000 mile Vanagon, so don't know if or when it ever had a previous alignment.

The old passenger car tires we got rid of had no apparent abnormal wear patterns. Getting ready right now for a 2000 mile introductory road trip, and if we were going to spring for this now would be the time.
 
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