Vanagon reliability


New member
Help, opinions, and personal experience

Hey all
I'm still really new to all this, but I'm looking to buy my first Westy (yay!)
So I was just looking for some advice from you, the knowledgable people. I'm looking to get an 80s vanagon, with stove/sink/fridge/the works for camping. Im hoping to use it for lots of roadtrips and driving frequently.
So my questions to you are:
If the westy has had lots of repairs and most of it is new how long till it will need new repairs (will it still be likely to brake down?)
How often do they need repairs in general?
Common problems you've had? and any advice?
basically just tell me how your westy does day-to-day life and long trips.

[Moderator Note: Answered this & other forums; see Guideline #9]
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Mike Robinson

New member

The formula includes the following elements

Quality of design of the vehicle - good
Quality and quantity of repairs and manitenance - big variable
Age - they are all old now - some parts replaced, some going to be replaced
Budget - how much time and money are you going to put into it?

The westy world becomes a bit cultish because we all tend to spend way too much time with our westies making them more reliable. They are a simple vehicle once you get past some of the oddities, are quite easy to work on. I hope you are mechanically minded and plan to do at least some of the work on the vehicle yourself. Saves lots of money and it does give you a feel for what is going to happen next!

There are a lot of good web resources on this vehicle and parts are easy to get. Spend some time on the site - in the library - it will give you a feel for whats what.

As for my '82 I am driving down to Southern California from Canada at the end of November and it should be fine. I do travel with parts and tools! really, what could go wrong with a 27 year old vehicle with over 500K on it?

'82 Westy Diesel 1.9TD

Mike Robinson

New member
Reliability and tool kits

I am preparing for two extended trips and was going through the van doing a bit of a tidy and had to have a laugh about the question of reliability.

I was wondering if we could do a pole on how many tools and how many spares you travel with!! I think my tools and spares breed in the van!

So when it comes to reliability, yes these vehicles are reliable, but you had better rely on your tools and spares should something break!



Mike Robinson

New member

Is this becoming a blog???

My intent is to add some depth to the discussion - that I seem to be having with myself !!! ;-)

I have just come back from a week long trip through the mountains 2000 miles in a week.

All good except ... the transaxle is going ... so I have to replace it before the California trip.

This is the aspect of reliability we all are living with - these are old vehicles - 27 years old, 500k km .....

'82 Westy Diesel 1.9TD
GoWesty van reliability

Two months ago we purchased a restored and rebuilt 1986 Westfalia Wolfsburg Weekender from Lucas Valdes at GoWesty. GoWesty installed one of their 2.4L engines in the vehicle.

In the past eight weeks, the GoWesty van has had a malfunctioning coolant temperature gauge, imploding fuel tank issues, fuel pump failure, several types of engine running issues, slow crank, several occasions of not starting, exploding coolant bottle, and fuel gage malfunction. The parts replaced include: (3) fuel tanks, (2) starters, (2) fuel pumps, electronic control unit, air flow meter, air filter, thermostat, coolant bottle, battery, charcoal canister, hoses, pipes, valves, and wiring.

During the eight weeks of owning the van, we had to make four trips- at our own expense- to GoWesty for repairs.

Also, the van broke down twice, leaving me and my 3-year old daughter stranded and requiring the van to be towed, at our expense.

We never expected to have these issues within two months of purchasing a GoWesty van, especially in light of their reliability promises, such as "Everything that is supposed to be there is there, Everything that is there works."

The van does not perform as promised and we have no confidence in its reliability. Lucas' explanation is it is due to "bad luck". We are disappointed and unhappy with how GoWesty has handled the situation.

Mike Robinson

New member
Gowesty/Vanagan reliability

I feel I am back blogging again...

I have just come back from a 6500km trip that lasted a month in my 27 year old westy. I had some incidents but no dead by the side of the road moments.

The saying 'Do something everyday that scares you' came to mind quite often during the trip. It can be interesting driving an old westy, even scary, because it can break down any time.

A friend of mine lent me a book ' Jupiter's Travels' by Ted Simon before I left. It is a travel story about taking a motorbike round the world in the 1970's. The follow up book is called 'Riding high' The concusion can be drawn from the books the THE INTERUPTIONS ARE THE JOURNEY.

The irony is the interuptions I have experienced driving the westy are the most memorable, the people I have interacted with during the interuptions have been fabulous .. so the journey has been fun.

I am sorry to hear that there are challenges with the westy in the above post. I guess Go Westy and the owner are having interuptions.

'82 Westy Diesel 1.9TD Interuptionwagon
Since our last posting, Go Westy has met their customer service obligation and the matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.


New member
I bought my 84 Westy had my mechanic go over it and did a 4000 mile trip in 3.5 weeks (I came back was just too cold) I did break down on 3 occassions (I didn't know the primary rule = change the fuel lines!!). Fortunately I had purchased my CAA Plus membership which is partner with the AAA). I had excellent service from all people concerned and all the repairs were much more reasonably priced compared to Cda.

Sure I was nervous of the unknown but I'm challenged oriented = "the unknown". My Westy performed beyond my expectations and I wouldn't be scared to drive to Alaska in it. In fact I plan to go from Toronto thru Cape Breton, P.E.I. and Newfoundland next summer. Can't wait.

Its a shame that your expxerience made you feel so bad. I think that unless one works on their own engine and/or has an excellent relationship (35 yrs my mechanic) with their mechanic, well there should not have been unexpected happenings. I would never venture forth without my CAA Plus and a cell phone. Never. My membership was worth a lot less than my expenses for towings. I got to be taken to the local Vintage VW Specialists and just lived in my Westy until they opened the next day.

I'm sure Go Westy did not "set you up" with a lemon, things just happen and sometimes we can't tell what will happen until it does. I've always liked the Boy Scouts expression of "be prepared".

We all learn (or at least should) from our experiences.
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New member

Just 'got here' today. Been reading posts, still in search of parts, but not dissappointed in anything. Cool bunch. I am glad that our recent purchase of an 80 Westy came with a son. He'd been told, as a high schooler, that any car he had, he must be the mechanic.
He/we, started with VWs and its been the general norm....for over 30 years.
Will be adding trivia as it happens.


New member
There are a few resellers of the parts you seek. Eventually, you will probably purchase from each of them. I just ordered some parts from the dealer as well. You can google the following. Busdepot, GoWesty, Van Cafe, Cip1, to name a few. Not sure of the policy of posting links to other forums, but I would google vanagon as well. Congrats on your purchase.