|Plugging Into the Information Autobahn
There are significant online communities dedicated to the full enjoyment and proper maintenance of VW vans—from the old air-cooled Type 2 Busses to the most modern EuroVans—which I have found to be invaluable sources of knowledge. The more I've come to know the subtle workings and individual quirks of this versatile camping vehicle, the more I appreciate her. Here I offer links to some of the more useful internet resources pertaining to the Vanagon Westfalia.
This online community of Westfalia lovers, which affectionately calls itself Westyville, is one of the few moderated VW online forums. Presided over by the ever-helpful, very knowledgeable and sometimes cantankerous curmudgeon, Capt. Mike, the forum is organized in very logical fashion by topic of interest—“Getting a Westfalia”, “Vacations & Destinations”, “Sink & Water System”, “Wheels & Brakes”, etc.. Take a minute to setup a username and password, and you'll have instant access to several years' worth of helpful and inspiring information shared by many others involved in the rather obscure art and science of traveling by Westy. These people truly make Westying a verb …
NOTE: Do yourself—and everyone else—a big favor: once you've joined, please read the Westfalia.org site Guidelines (a link is found on the bottom of every page) before posting questions there. Chances are, your question has already been answered previously or in another topic, and such redundant posts serve only to clutter up the forums and annoy other members. Consider Westfalia.org a living document of which you are one of the many authors; please post wisely.
Vanagon.com and …
This is a Vanagon-specific site, offering many technical articles and essays on buying a Vanagon, purchasing proper tires for a Westy Camper, convincing your fussy fridge to cool your cucumbers, and much more. It hasn't been updated in a while, but hey—all Vanagons are at least a decade old now anyway.
… the Vanagon.com Mailing List
Sign-up for this free service and your Inbox will be flooded with dozens of daily emails from the 1000+ subscribers, discussing all the Vanagon-related minutae you can possibly imagine. And lots you didn't imagine. This is the Internet at its best—helpful, contentious, immediate, argumentative, hilarious, vastly experienced, and self-contradictory. Post an obscure Vanagon question and go to lunch; when you return, you will likely find a half-dozen replies from Vanagon nuts who have BTDT (been there, done that), probably with a few wisecracks tossed in just so you maintain your sanity. I personally subscribe to the list in 'Digest' mode, which automatically sends me 3 or 4 convenient 'chunks' of daily emails, indexed by topic so I can easily skim the contents for postings which interest me.
NOTE: If you are a bit of a sour-puss, stay away from the Vanagon.com Mailing List on Fridays, when members become even sillier than usual.
John Meeks' Been There, Done That
A wealth of information originally posted by the hundreds of Vanagon.com Mailing List members, now compiled and offered here by list member John Meeks. If you haven't had the dubious pleasure of subscribing to the mailing list in past years, here is your chance to read some of the more helpful and instructive posts by various members, conveniently arranged by category for your browsing and wrenching pleasure.
Yahoo Autos Groups: Diesel Vanagon
This mailing list is similar to the Vanagon.com list, but with significantly less traffic, as it pertains only to the relatively rare diesel-powered vans. Still, considering it was started only in May of 2003, it has attracted a loyal and growing group of avid and knowledgeable members, and is an excellent resource.
Covering all manner of topics related to the diesel engines used in a variety of VW cars, trucks, and vans, of nearly all vintages. Lots of good advice from shadetree mechanics who casually tear-down their VW diesels to replace head gaskets, crankshaft bearings, or connecting rods. It has been said that a wise man learns from his mistakes, but a VERY wise man learns from the mistakes of OTHERS. The occassional gory photo of scored crank journals, burnt valves, or twisted camshafts found here should encourage you to properly maintain your own VW diesel. If not, these guys will be there to talk you through the repair.
The Bus Depot
An excellent source of replacement parts for your Vanagon or Bus, plus most other VW cars, and many Westfalia Camper parts. Also Camper-related accessories such as side-mounted awnings and tents. Good prices, very good selection and service, with occasional discounts on 4-packs of common consumables such as oil filters. Wherever possible, the Bus Depot offers OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts, which are exactly the same as you would buy at your local VW dealer, but for significantly less money. If you are too tight even for that, The Bus Depot also offers acceptable aftermarket parts for less money, though you may find the quality lacking.
NOTE: The Bus Depot offers a member discount for customers who also subscribe to the Vanagon.com Mailing List, and owner Ron Salmon is a frequent and informative poster to the list.
Having ordered from GoWesty only once or twice, I can only say they offer a good selection of replacement parts for Vanagons, Busses, and Eurovans. In the past, they primarily focused on Camper parts and accessories, but have recently added engine and mechanical parts too. Quality seems good, though prices are perhaps a bit higher than other online places.
I've also ordered from VanAgain only once, but found the parts of good quality and reasonably priced. I personally find it difficult to browse for parts here, as the website's Search function seems not to bring up parts which I am later able to find by using a less-obvious keyword or a specific part number. But the web is constantly changing, so this may improve in the future. A recently added Forum offers visitors the opportunity to ask questions of owner Ken Wilford and to chat with other Vanagon owners.
NOTE: Ken is an experienced VW mechanic and in addition to offering parts online, also repairs Vanagons in his Millville, NJ, shop. He also frequently chimes in with helpful advice on a variety of topics on the Vanagon.com Mailing List.
Let's face it—driving and maintaining a 20-year-old oddball van is a bit of an oddball pastime, enjoyed only by … well, oddballs. So the opportunity to visit the personal homepages of other oddballs who share your obsessive love of VW Campers can be quite comforting and encouraging. Some Vanagon nuts are fixated on installing an endless number of handy accessories and modifications such as satellite dishes, photovoltaic solar panels borrowed from the Space Shuttle, and scooter/moped racks for extra-vehicular activities. Others are compulsive maintenance freaks who cannot sleep at night if they suspect there may be a tiny air bubble lurking somewhere in their coolant system. Still others regale us with stories and photos from their many roadtrips in their Westy Campers.
Below are a mere fraction of the many such sites I have enjoyed, though you will undoubtedly discover many of your own favorites …
Ben's Place Lots of maintenance procedures, photos, travelogues
GoldiBox Technical info, owner modifications, a nice tour of the Camper
Harald and Nancy's Home Page Pacific Northwest travels, beautiful photography
MatsuWesty Adventures Owner upgrades, travels, lots of VW links
Vanagon Cafe Classified ads, how-to pages, VW links
Westfalia Diesel Homepage Travels, diesel-specific info, links
VW Diesel Glowplugs VW diesel glow-system info, "Diesel Cheap Tricks" page
Epic Westy Roadtrips
Caravana Pan Americana A year-long journey to Tierra del Fuego and back
Larry Chase's Roadhaus The spirit and charm of small town, rural North America
Drive The Planet 30,000 km from the Netherlands to Beijing in a VW campervan
To India in a VW Camper A journey from England to India in a 1972 VW bus
Travesia Panamerica Four months and 21,000 km from Oregon to Buenos Aires
Women Who Wander: The Journey 25,000 miles through North America
If you'd like to suggest your own favorite link, or if you notice a broken one here, please let me know.