Yesterday, I took the Westy up to Ocean Beach in the city for Burningvan 2018. It was a gathering of 200+ Vanagons and Wetfalias from all over Norcal.
We arrived way early and secured a great spot facing the ocean. We popped the top and waited as most had arrived by 11:30am. This was my first time attending, and I have never seen so many Vanagons in one place before. I made some new friends and caught up with some folks I know from Buslab in Berkeley, CA.
I spent Saturday getting the battery replaced. Luckily I didn’t try to replace the starter. I’d be pulling my hair out if I’d gone through all that effort only to have it not start. The old battery was only a few months old. I took it back to AutoZone. They tested it, and sure enough, it wasn’t holding a charge. they replaced it no questions asked and she fired right up.
The last major work I had done was on the transmission. This was my first highway trip with her and she climbed just fine at 60mph without me having to drop it down to 2nd. I even got her up to 80mph, but that was going downhill.
I thought the Westy needed new brakes. On our first camping trip of the year, we went to Big Basin State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains. On the way home coming down Route 9 the front brakes started smoking. I was riding them pretty hard and we had a full load.
She had a few nits like the flickering temperature light, a broken steering column cover, and short in the relay. While I had her at the Buslab, I bit the bullet and asked them to see if they could find anything else. The transmission needed service, the brushing were worn out, and the radiator needed to be replaced. Ironically, the one thing they didn’t need to do was replace the brakes just the brake hoses. The good new, it came in under the original estimate.
As I drove her to work from the shop, everything was humming along. The creaking was gone, the brakes had grip, and she was moving down the highway like a car and not a pushcart. About five miles from Berkeley, the oxygen sensor light came on. Shit! Shit! Shit! I got all the other lights off and now another one. At least it’s a fix I can do myself.
I don’t want to jinx it, but she’s in the best shape ever since we bought her 3 years ago.
### The Latest Upgrade
The latest addition was a roof rack for our kayaks. I put on extra-wide, 72″ Yakima bars and towers. Drilling into the fiberglass top was the second-most nerve-wracking job. Drilling into the metal to install the awning was the first. Now, she’s looking good, doncha think?
Just killing time at a swim meet. I’ve been here since 6:30 in the morning. It’s now 1:30 and probably another hour and a half to go. Thank God I have the Westy. I have read books, taken a nap, and now writing a blog post. Having this little sanctuary on wheels makes all the difference in the world.
It’s a gorgeous day. We’re finally getting a break in the rain, and the hills are all green. It’s the most beautiful time of the year right now.
Speaking of the Westy. There’s always something to deal with. Some times it’s an expensive repair, other times, like now, it’s a little quirk. Lately the horn has been shorting out and honking at random times. What’s worse, I installed a train horn last year that’s obnoxious when it honks. The old one was like a duck fart no one ever acknowledged.
This new horn required some extra wiring for extra power. In fact, it gets louder the faster I drive. I think the short is a bad connector. It tends to honk when I flick the turn signal, or turn the steering wheel. It just kept getting worse. What started out as an spurious honk turned into a constant bleating. Which was especially embarrassing at 6am in the driveway.
I haven’t had a chance to troubleshoot it, so I disconnected the wires altogether. Now I have a raw steering column exposed, no horn, or turn signals. I’m kicking it old school with the arm signals. Since no on pays attention to them, I just use extra caution when changing lanes. Besides turn signals weren’t much use before. Whenever people see me signaling they just speed up so not to end up behind me.
I hope to get to it this weekend. Most likely, I’ll end up taking it back to Buslab in Berkeley to finish the job.
I’m kicking myself for not making it down to Hollister this year for SyncroFest.
Sunday morning we sat in front of the AppleTV watching any clip we could find with a Westy in it. This one in particular cracked me up. It’s a VW internal communication video extolling the virtues of the Vanagon. I love the part where they dismiss the competition from minivans.
Last week I ordered a 10″ electric orbital polisher and an array of bonnets to take on waxing the Westy on my own. I’ve washed my own cars countless times, but this was the first time I’ve ever waxed and polished it. I figured buying all the stuff was cheaper than even one professional job. Over time, I figured I’ll get better at it, or just go back to paying someone else.
The real work was cleaning the pop-top and luggage rack. It’s white fiberglass and had years of black dirt settled into the pores. Using a concentrated mix of Simple Green and a plastic scouring disk attachment on my drill, I was able to get the top back to white. The scrubbing made a world of difference, but I still need to do something about the oxidation.
Pop-top and Luggage Rack Before
Pop-top and Luggage Rack After
The body of the Westy looks good from afar, but far from good up close. It’s in decent shape for a 31 years old. When the light hits it just right, you can see a million little dents, nicks, and tiny rust spots. The yellow paint gets pretty dull and loses its luster in the punishing California sun.
After a thorough washing, I applied a coat of Carnauba wax and buffed it out with the fleece bonnet. I was surprisingly disappointed with the result as it didn’t shine. After reading some directions, I ran over it with a microfiber bonnet to get it to really sparkle.
Someone had replaced the original faucet with a manual pump faucet. It was useful to have water without draining the battery, but it was incredibly tedious to use. Also, you can’t get much done with only one hand in a sink.
I ordered and installed a faucet and electric pump. It was pretty straightforward, but still took about two hours. Everything in the camper components are hard to reach. I tore up my knuckles and got some serious cramps in my knee. Well worth it though, as you can see it’s working!
Of course, it only comes in one temperature – tepid.
The ShadyBoy arrived and I installed as soon as I got home from work.
Installation was straightforward, but the thing about drilling holes in sheet metal, you better be right the first time.
The nice thing about this model is it’s compact, about 4″ wide in the casing. Opened up its as wide as the Westy is long and deep. It can be cantilevered or supported in wind. How it holds up in blustery rain will be the real proof.
I ordered an awning for the Westy yesterday. It’s a really obscure brand called ShadyBoy. Let’s hope the product doesn’t live up to the name. It’s a shorter, encased awning similar to the more expensive Fiammas.
I learned about the ShadyBoy from a guy at The BusLab who had his Westy in for follow up work on a Subaru engine conversion. He wanted his back in time to get up to Burning Man – which, last time I heard was getting rained out.
I first read about Burning Man in Wired magazine in 1992. Both came into prominence about the same time and both seemed really interesting then. Now, it just seems like one big nude beach – a place that sounds titilating, but is actually full of people you don’t want to see naked. I love how people still talk about it like it’s some obscure event. The first one was a couple hundred people. These days, they’re expecting 50,000 plus.
Burning Man is a relic of San Francisco’s weird Mondo 2000 phase. The time after hippies and right before the tech bubble. Do a Google image search on Burning Man and you might think you’ve found outtakes from a Star Wars trilogy, or worse, live reenactments from “Heavy Metal” magazine.
For those who go, I’m sure it’s fun. To each his own I guess, which is part of why I like living out here.