|| If money
is your hope for independence
you will never have it. The only real security
that a man will have in this world is a reserve
of knowledge, experience, and ability.
Henry Ford (1863-1947)
| A Mobile Anachronism
Truth be told, it is no mean feat to keep a 20-year-old van running. Especially one with the added complexity of the Westfalia Camper package. Especially if you expect it to withstand the rigors of everything from long-distance, non-stop thru-trips to unpaved backwoods camping forays.
In all likelihood, the previous owner neglected or abused the poor beast, and there may be any number of hidden components just waiting to fail, leaving you stranded. Probably far from home. On your vacation.
The good news is that although those with cold hearts may have let the old gal slip into a sad state of decline, that maintenance curve can be reversed, and with proper care she can be brought back into her full functionality and former glory.
In the coming weeks I will be adding additional topics here, how-to procedures for general repairs I've documented, maintenance checklists, accessories I've added to my own Westy, and much more. In the meantime, I offer the following suggestions:
Enter the Haynes manual. Whereas the Bentley figures I am a seasoned wrencher, surrounded by a staff of fellow VW technicians with years of collective experience with whom I can confer, the Haynes manual assumes I'm just a lonely guy with a good socket set and a sloppy balljoint, and gives me what I need to fix it. Step-by-step instructions, accompanied by concise photos where needed, walk me right through most repairs. For someone doing their first brake job, these sequential steps (engage parking brake, loosen lug nuts, raise car on jack, remove roadwheel, ...), while admittedly redundant, can inspire a rookie—even me—to proceed with some confidence.
The Haynes manual is available from many of the same booksellers and parts vendors as the Bentley, and I suggest you obtain both. If each manual has its strengths, I'd say go to the Bentley for accuracy; go to the Haynes for thoroughness. I always consult the Bentley first, especially for any sort of tolerance, torque, dimension, etc., and although I've never found a blatant inaccuracy in the Haynes, I will always defer to the Bentley in a case of conflicting data.
Personally, I can never have enough manuals, and I have amassed a small collection of workshop books which even remotely pertain to my van. Often, where one manual leaves you wondering, another will provide a 'eureka'-inspiring photo or description. Print off helpful tips or techniques you find online and keep them in a binder among your other manuals.
I have also found the following tools helpful in certain instances:
Sears/Craftsman, Snap-On, Mac, Armstrong, Master Mechanics, Stanley; all make good quality tools at reasonable prices. Many offer 'lifetime' warranties on their tools, but sometimes weasel out when you break one. As with most things in life, spend the most you can afford, plus a little more. There are few things more frustrating or foolish than watching your lousy 89-cent wrench hopelessly strip an expensive or irreplaceable bolt or part. To paraphrase super-salesman Zig Ziglar, "The bitter taste of an inferior product long outlasts the sweetness of a good price."