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Rusty VW bothering - on the road again


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Well today went well. I’d just finished adjusting the handbrake, having finished rebuilding the rear brakes, when I used the sill to slide myself out from under the van. 

Except rather than metal, it was a bit like sticking my hand in a bag of mccoys crisps. Crunchy. 

It started as a hand sized hole, but then I picked it…..


its very subtle, so like the MOT man I’ve added yellow marks! 

 A quick tickle with the knotted brush in the angry grinder and it was soon approximately leg length. Really I need a new sill, but only have 10 days until I go away in it, so it was out with the 3mm sheet, and a rough but very robust repair was fashioned. No photos, as my phone had gone flat after using it as a torch!!

Got it all plated up, zinc primed, painted and under sealed, which is handy as I have a trip out tomorrow to pick up new (to me at least!) wheels and tyres for it. 

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So next up is tyres. 

I was aware that the MOT man wasn’t overjoyed by the age of my tyres, so after a bit of good luck I scored a 10 mile set of tyres on decent wheels for less than a set of tyres would have cost. Result. 

Having inspected the old ones closer I had two firestones, a continental and a Yokohama, with between 4 and 8 ply construction and varying amounts of tread. 

The firestones look surprisingly good:

tread - 6mm, uniform wear


side walls not particularly perished:


but the date code is a shocker:


they are a week off being 25 years old. Think me and the last two owners got good value out of these! 

The other two were virtually new in comparison, being only 18 and 20 years old .

The actual wheels are off a Brazilian Bay from 1998, so are in much better condition (and newer than my old tyres!) 


The old wheels had a worrying amount of rust where the centre is welded to the rim, so we’ll pleased to be rid of them! 

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - the oldest tyres in town?

Right, everything fixable I know about is fixed, the rest of the family have packed. I have euro breakdown, a credit card and a covid pass. Its therefore time to get ready for the off for this little trip in it - a mere 3700 mile trip to the arctic circle...... lets see how this goes. 


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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - Scandi adventures

The long trip north has commenced - around 1000 miles in now. 

Stats so far:

MPGeees - 21 - at average £2.10/L. Whelp. 

Countries - 4

Oil use -  Exon Valdez quantities. I’m like the Hansel and grettal story, but with oil drops rather than breadcrumbs. 

Old chod spotted - 4 hill man imps on the ferry from Hull, nothing at all since. The Dutch, Germans, Danish and Swedes all drive new (mainly Germanic or Volvo) vehicles…..

Heading into Finland next, where in the past old chod ruled, let’s see what it’s like now. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

So made it - 3180 miles by van, 1182 miles by ferry. 

Issues with the van were limited to a split in the seat that rapidly unravelled, which I expertly* repaired 950C27DB-E01D-49E9-B8BD-35646110287C.thumb.jpeg.c336d12084308c602bb6ac4d6b91e3af.jpeg

And the bastard exhaust gaskets again. @cobblers had suggested before that these are subject to erosion of the head when the gaskets leak, which appears to be the issue. So a quick fix was required, featuring expory metal putty, oil and a new gasket - smear of oil on gasket, little roll of expoxy metal on head, bolt it up and it seems to have filled the holes. May or may not be a long term solution, but it did 1000 miles just fine so far. Work area for the repairs was basic, but worked well (and was the right way up in real life, won’t turn round for some reason!) B5F040DA-80C0-4222-A9DE-E99B1244FE57.thumb.jpeg.b2d866aaf26098d134b638a3f9655470.jpeg

Plus a bit of oil use, traces to a leaking gasket on the mechanical fuel pump, which was sorted and oil use returned to more acceptable levels. 

Driving wise, Finland is a joy - this is the main road or motorway* north


and this is the same road 2 hours later


Finland is still the home of old chod, although I was mostly driving so photo ops were limited, these are typical style (lowered, big modern alloys and very variable body work) 


and this old Scania turned into a camper 


It never got dark - here we are at 02:00 camped up (excuse the circus tent!) 


and here we are at the wife’s family home CB22A69D-F39E-45FB-B51E-50E9BFB36C84.thumb.jpeg.7da18204ef0215cddb8bb7762648e1e3.jpeg

went to the local diy type shop to get supplies for a couple of projects - never seen so many car tools in one place - brake cylinder reamer anyone?


also welding gas, car puncture repair kits, valve compressors and all sorts of other special internet stuff.  I pointed this out, but apparently everybody needs such tools…..

given the darkness this is the biggest car mod I saw (apart from the electric plug in engine heaters on all cars) 


this chap appears to have just self tapered some home made mounts to the front of his car, which was a common approach even in new cars!

I have a pez shot at this station - on the arctic circle, but it won’t  upload, so have one without the van in 


When camping we do have the most autoshite of cookers - you fill it with unleaded, pump it up and after a few seconds of uncontrolled fire it starts to vapourise and settles into a roaring blue flame - it’s terrifying and efficient in equal measures 


Did 6 ferries - most had a cut off height of 2.4m for cheaper tickets. I measured the van with top box at 2.4m ish so took a punt - it was quite tight, especially as the car deck flexed as you drove on it…5F12012B-DD32-4060-B774-665A347DE2C7.thumb.jpeg.b299964a9b3bc5703c2136db99fbeef2.jpeg

the return was much the same, with the exception of this rather fetching AX in a German services


so back now, looking at a few improvements including new more comfy seats, and possibly a wash:


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1 hour ago, rusty_vw_man said:

Finland is still the home of old chod, although I was mostly driving so photo ops were limited, these are typical style (lowered, big modern alloys and very variable body work) 

Now I do not know Finland but if they are like in Norway, there is probably a good chance that these are cars owned by younger people. While young people in the UK drive around in shopping trolleys. This under have been the common first car among Norwegian young.


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45 minutes ago, Dyslexic Viking said:

Now I do not know Finland but if they are like in Norway, there is probably a good chance that these are cars owned by younger people. While young people in the UK drive around in shopping trolleys. This under have been the common first car among Norwegian young.


Yep, all driven by younger people - that Volvo would have fitted right in. 

Also a lot of American chod - again mostly driven by younger people. 

Seemed to be a 50/50 split of men/women driving them as well. 

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - MOT day - whoop whoop

Been trying to get an MOT booked, but all the local garages are quoting weeks for an appointment. Took a punt on an MOT only place a bit further afield. 

I hate MOTs. I maintain my vehicles well, but the MOT just gives me the fear, they always have. I think it’s the apparent arbitrary nature of what each tester views as a pass or fail. 

Anyway, after a buttock clenching 45 minutes I have 289A1B42-41D2-43C0-998F-F96C2BA15EF1.thumb.png.25fd375af4335c8288fa08db50068ad1.png

not even an advisory. 

I am a very happy man!! Might treat it to some new shocks now, using them money I had mentally set aside for MOT repairs (man maths…). 

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  • 1 month later...

Very little is happening with the van at present, it is just hauling us around on various summer camping trips and acting as a builders van for various house projects. Said house projects are currently taking all the money, so the shocks are still shocking, and the coil is still showing signs of failure, but next month I should finally have enough cash to crack on. 

However, I have managed to bend my key slightly so it now has a small crack in - the sort that you just know will shear off in the lock when its dark and rainy. The only other key I have is an original one that is rather smooth, but still works with a bit of a wiggle. Keys weren't a problem on any of the old VWS I have had as all doors opened with a teaspoon, the locks were very much for show, but on this one they seem to actually lock. 

Popped down the local key cutting places, no dice, no blanks over 18 years old in any of them. 

Blanks online are all a bit scene taxed - they all feature original VW logos and are around £15/blank, which obviously then still needs cutting. Had a brainwave, popped the lock out, cleaned it all and found the number and have ordered a key online to be cut to the lock. 

Did have a slight wobble of handing over key number, vehicle details and address to a random website - I mean there is no chance that now have everything they to nick the van they would, right!?! 

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - Should have gone to specsavers

So new key turned up, but it’s nothing like the old one and doesn’t open the door. 79216394-387A-46E2-A365-88A0B073FDB2.thumb.jpeg.6381b205bdf08d73efb6767588c76326.jpeg

contacted the lock smith chap and sent him this pic of me holding the lock the right way up, along with one of the lock number 6918. I was worried that the 1 could be a 7, but online photos showed the 7 definitely was sloping, but this was more upright. 


but he pointed out that I made a more basic error and the number is actually 8469:


Felt like a right tit, but fair play the chap has offered to cut another for me for free, presumably as some sort of care in the community scheme for the hard of sight or simple of mind…..

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - Box of bits

For the last 4-5 months the van has been doing duties as a car - with a special focus on building materials as outfitting two bathrooms. 

However with a ferry to Spain booked for Easter for the next road trip, I need to start doing some jobs. As always, this started with many boxes arriving, full of shiny new things. 

First up is shocks all round. The ride is a bit choppy, so we’ll start with the way bits and see if that improves things. Rears simple - bolt top and bottom and they’re off, had value out of these:


fronts are an arse in as much as they have the typical 6mm flats to hold the piston, which had  rusted to a general blob:


a quick blast with a nut splitter and it saw sense. 3F32DD76-C72A-4940-B92B-CBB5D4F729CC.thumb.jpeg.95dace91138581592bf90ab8f1635d6a.jpeg

plastic sleeve is also the bump stop and no longer available, so gets swapped to the new shock. New shock is much smaller diameter, so we’ll see how well it performs. Trusted supplier says they are fine, so expect they will be. 


top mount was proper shagged, about half the thickness of the new ones, and hard as rock. All the rubber bushings in the shock bolts were equally hard and cracked.

This done I did a fuel, oil and air filter change. Air filter looked  minging, but it’s mostly just oil that gets fed in by the breather. New one is a fetching pink colour. 


In an attempt to sort a high end misfire I replaced the coil, plugs, leads, cap and rotor arm, which were all getting on a bit. Old plugs were a mix of colours - cylinders 4-1 top to bottom. The two in the right head (1 and 2) looked suitably brown/grey and healthy, but the left head (3 and 4) are oily and sooty. Not sure what’s going on, so am just going to ignore it for now!


Found a leak whilst underneath in the complex rear to front cooling system, turned out an old jubilee clip needed replacing. This meant bleeding it again. Lots of fun ways, but the easiest is a length of 32mm waste pipe in the header bottle to get a good head on:


proper shite engineering right there! Strangely effective though. Thanks to a crazy American who first shared this trick.

That was it for the day, tomorrow I think I’ll brave the heater blower replacement, which requires a dashboard removal….



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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - there she blows

So, ever since I first bought the van the blower hasn’t worked - TADTS. I can live without, but it’s a pain on those damp mornings. Trouble is they appear to have started with the motor and built the van around it. 

dash is held in by these screws  blobs of rust:


access is great, hampered only by the top of the dash and the screen. Some drilling with a long drill was required for a few of these. 

Then undo the steering column, remove instrument panel, wiring, switches, radio, glove box, heater controls, and will to live. This gets you here (although I don’t remember it being so Australian in real life)


A quick fight with some hose clamps, some more screws and out comes the heater box complete with matrix:


leaving very little behind


Now VW had a great idea. They closed the two halves of the box with a series of plastic tabs which they plastic welded together. They also provided slots that would take metal clips that used to be available as a service item. The idea was you snap off the tabs, then reseal with the clips. Why you couldn’t have the clips in the first place I have no idea. Whole thing is a bit irrelevant anyway, as clips are no longer available . Fetch me some zip ties


somewhere there is a German engineer having heart palpitations. 

With the motor out it was clear why it would t work 


that lump of rust was a bearing, but now doesn’t spin. 

New motor in the box, now all I need to do is reassemble the dash  which in the immortal words of Haynes ‘is the reverse of removal’ but with more swearing and trying to remember which screw went where…….


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  • 1 month later...

So after servicing, preventative maintenance and general fettling it’s time to go on the first adventure of the year - 1750 miles round the Pyrenees.

Leg one - north wales to Portsmouth for the ferry. 300 miles. So far I have lost a hub cap, and the accelerator pedal has fallen off. Luckily I have a pop rivet gun in the tool kit, so only a temporary set back! 


the bottom of the old rivets has just corroded away.

Next step is more restful in the sense it’s the ferry, but it’s 29 hours. Seas are moderate, occasionally rough. Not sure if this is better than piloting the falling apart van!! 

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - travels

Did a bit of bobbing in the Bay of Biscay then spent a long time here, as some travellers on board who may or may not have ‘liked dawgs’ had been drinking heavily, helping themselves to items from the shop and generally being a nuisance. Long wait to disembark while the police rounded them all up.62E6BE97-6161-426E-A874-91A3BA13412D.thumb.jpeg.c87b217c55b0020843caa531760f16c1.jpeg

next stop Barcelona. Gaudi was off his rocker:66B8A16B-75C7-4AE9-8357-CB6883D1AD09.thumb.jpeg.c172ec37bb8e7fdd0e660c2b95ae8f57.jpeg

Now all this driving meant lots of fuel required , which let to the next issue. 60 litre tank, but it’s kind of in two halves, so has a funky balance/breather arrangement.

With more than 30 litres in I get wet feet and a sinking feeling in my wallet. Some investigation showed that this 12 month old hose looked like this:


It wasn’t just the end either, it had split comprehensively. E10 proof my arse. 

only slightly tricky issue was access - in here, between the base of the seat box and the chassis rail:


with these two hoses to replace:


work area was quite pleasant though, as I dragged it dripping back to a campsite. The fire risk seemed low*


here shows the staining of quite how much fuel was slopping everywhere, there was a tide line


then it was over to France, then back over the Pyrenees - top of a 14km 6% climb with a fully laden 78hp powered van:


Also did one of the highest tunnels at 1880m above sea level. Coming down I did have to extinguish one front pad that was smoking comprehensively. All fun*. 

Now back in Spain, 25degrees plus. When I sorted out the heater blower I may* have possibly, maybe clamped the hot/cold lever in the wrong place so it was always a little bit on hot. Everyone was enjoying this, it was making the van especially a delightful place to be, if you like saunas. Only slight issue is it is way inside the dash. Finally sorted, very little skin left on my hands, but my family are relieved!

Just been wandering around this 11th century beast - how they built it without any machinery I have no idea:


Next stop Biarritz to see how the other half live. Current trip mileage 1250, mpg 21, oil 1l water 500ml. Reduction in life of brakes and clutch - very high. 


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Thanks - not sure I’m brave, more just I can’t afford a new one so this one has to work for us!! 

In answer to how the other half live:


Biaritz I think is French for pissing down sideways with a force 10. 

I had not accounted for rain, and wiper blades were old and squeaky, fixed by a quick trip to a hiper asia - was like if Amazon was a shop, shed loads of cheap Chinese shite. 

Did see the best car of the trip though, proper panda 4x4

AC83EAB9-29B8-4863-93A3-6446DA01AC32.thumb.jpeg.a9d6c3de73e6ed4e2b64da8e7ccefbb3.jpegThen the sun cAnd out briefly 


final aside, non motoring but what the hell is this - a light switch tiled into a splash back. Shocking. 

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - Em oh tea

MOT day - tweaked the handbrake from 22 clicks back to a more reasonable 4, switched out the LED headlights for the more test friendly halogens and drive it in. 

40 minutes later I had this 


which was a massive relief. Two areas of welding pointed out (tray in the engine bay and front wing into step area) that need some attention, but non structural so happy days. 

Might even treat it now to a new number plate bulb!! 

Just need to pop the led headlamps back in again so I can actually see the road at night and I’m good to go for another 12.5 months. 

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2 hours ago, rainagain said:

Well done on the pass, I’d be tempted to leave the led lamps in. I’ve passed plenty of mots with different cars with leds fitted. As long as they’re half decent ones so you get the same beam spread. 

Interesting. I was tempted - they have really clean cut off and a beam pattern that matches the halogens spot on (I drew round the halogens on a wall and compared to the LEDs). 

The MOT always gives me the fear, so like to try and make sure there is nothing ambiguous! 

May be bolder next year!! 

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - oily hole

In preparation for mega 4000 mile road trip I have done the boring bits (oil change etc). Having read a horror story on here of a leaky gearbox that shat itself after running dry I thought I probably best check mine


not so clear upside down, but it’s rather leaky, simple fix but needs drive shafts removing, so one for after holiday.

first, level van:


then simply top up until it dribbles out the hole. Only issue is that it’s clearly not designed as a service item, as the filler is tucked behind the selector rod, and access is an arse - you can just make out the silver hole in this shot behind the bellows


oil can then be added drip at a time from a little bottle. Almost 700ml went in, which is something like a quarter of the box capacity. What an absolute arse of a job. 

Next up was a hidden switch for the fuel pump, as a bit of security. I added a small flashing light so that when the pump is off I get a reminder. Seems to work well, and should hopefully provide a bit of piece of mind when parked up in Riga and Tallin. 

Next is a hoover and a single bucket wash and packing. 5 days to go…..

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  • rusty_vw_man changed the title to Rusty VW bothering - clickerty clack

Friday morning  I popped out to check it was happy after oil change and there were no leaks once it got warm. 

On reversing I get greeted with the unmistakable clicky knocking of a CV joint. Not sure which one, and giving them all a waggle they all feel fine. Going forward is fine. Backwards less so. 

Today the postman bought me this handy CV kit.

All 4 are the same, so doesn’t matter which one it is. No time to fit it before we leave, so it’s gone in the spares box with a set of spline bits, ready for fitting either when it breaks, when the knocking gets too much or we get home, whichever happens soonest. 

Time will tell, but I bet it’s the outer as access is much worse, and the bolts haven’t been kept marinated in a  steady  dribble of gearbox oil.

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