Tune Up Your Vanagon

The little things will keep your Vanagon purring!

Change motor oil, replace spark plugs, plug wires, distributer cap, air filter and fuel filter. Replacing these items will allow you to get on a maintenance schedule and hopefully stay out of the shop during an adventure. This is also a good way to get familiar with your van.

  • A do it yourself TuneUp Package can be purchased at GoWesty.
  • Change oil every 3,000 miles or when it starts to look dirty and thin. Make sure to always use a new washer with your drain plug. If the drain plug located on the bottom-center of the oil pan looks at all stripped, do yourself a favor and get a new one. Drain plug from Gowesty (a new one comes with the Tuneup Package).
  • Run vehicle for short time before changing, so the oil is warm and runs easily.
  • Oil Volume. When doing an oil change including an oil filter your van will take 4.8 quarts of oil.
  • Only use German Oil Filters. Mann Filter from GoWesty.
  • Type of oil depends on climate you live it. As a general guide. Arctic 5w-30, Cold to moderate– 10w-40, Moderate to tropical 20w-50.

Oil changing steps:

  1. Place Drain pan under drain plug.
  2. Remove oil plug (13mm socket) and drain oil.
  3. Once oil slows to a drip remove oil filter located on drivers side of oil pan. (An oil filter wrench may be needed and can be purchased at any auto parts store). Oil filters will have .5 liters of oil in it so be sure to have the oil drip pan ready.
  4. Once the dripping oil slows, replace the oil filter. Make sure to coat the rubber seal on new filer with oil. Hand tighten and snug about a quarter turn with oil filter wrench. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN.
  5. Replace drain plug and NEW washer. Tighten oil plug until it is snug DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN. Oil pan threads are soft aluminum and can strip. If you have a torque wrench tight drain plug to 18lb, but no more. If oil pan is stripped a helicoil spring repair or time sert can be installed.
  6. Once plug and filter are installed add oil through license plate door. We usually add slightly less (4.5l), making sure not to over fill adding small amounts in step 8.
  7. Start the van and press on the accelerator cycling oil through the oil filter.
  8. Turn off the van let the oil settle (5 minutes). Check oil and top up if necessary. The oil level should always be between the two notches on the dipstick, preferably in the dead middle.
  9. Installing new spark plugs, plug wires and distributer cap is not a hard job, but you must pay attention:
  • Spark plugs for cylinders 3 and 4 are visible on driver’s side of engine compartment, and spark plugs for cylinders 1 and 2 are hidden under airflow meter unit.
  • First, remove airflow meter and air filter. Large black plastic unit on passenger side of engine compartment. You must unscrew hose clamp on air flow meter, unplug air flow meter, remove intake hose and release a metal clamp. Unit should come out easily. Set aside, but remember to replace air filter before re-installing.

Steps for park plug, plug wires and distributor cap replacement:

  1. Remove wires from distributer cap, including center wire that goes to ignition coil.  You need to remember which wires go to which plug. This diagram shows orientation.
  2. Once wires are removed unclip distributer cap (two metal clips). Pull cap off exposing distributer rotor.
  3. Rotor can be pulled off. You must replace new rotor in EXACT POSITION the old one was in or the timing (firing of the cylinders) will be out of order.
  4. Clip on new distributor cap and plug new wires in.
  5. Pull off old spark plug wires from spark plug and replacing plugs one at a time. You will need a spark plug socket for this. Plug new spark plug wires onto spark plug.
  6. Double check the wires are tight and are in the correct orientation using the diagram above.
  7. This is also a good time to check the condition of the ignition coil. The ignition coil is a small metal cylinder located on left hand side of the engine compartment. (See your Bentley) If it is leaking coolant at all it is probably on its way out.  There are different coils for Air Cooled Vanagons and Water Cooled Vanagons, both found at GoWesty.

Replace air filter before reinstalling the airflow meter unit:

  • Unit is open by releasing a serious of small clips around the unit. Once the clips are released, open the unit and replace the filter. Close the unit carefully making sure the filter does not move out of place. Reinstall airflow meter unit. Remember to tighten hose clamp on air flow meter, plug in airflow meter, attach intake hose and clip unit back to engine compartment wall.

Replace fuel filter located under vehicle on the passengers side. Access by sliding under vehicle behind front wheel.

  • Fuel pump and filter are located inline separated by a small rubber hose. The fuel filter is the fatter of the two cylinders closest to the back of the van.
  • You can replace the fuel filter now, or more easily when you replace the entire fuel line system, which I explain next. (A definite must for any Vanagon)
  • If you chose to replace only the filter, here are the Steps:
  1. Make sure you have two new fuel line clamps for 7mm hose, screw type is ok.
  2. Open engine compartment and release fuel system bleeder screw. The fuel system is pressurized and you don’t want gas in your eye.
  3. If you are working over pavement make sure to place cardboard down as gas corrodes pavement. Climb under van and cut or unscrew clamps on either side of fuel filter. First, remove line heading toward engine compartment. Gas will flow out of line.  Have a container ready to catch fuel.
  4. Completely remove old fuel filter.
  5. Fuel filters are directional and should have arrows or say IN and OUT indicating fuel flow.
  6. Place new clamps over lines and slide fuel lines onto both sides of new filter, double checking correct orientation.
  7. Tighten both clamps.
  8. Our filter is zip-tied to the frame. This is just about the best way to secure it.



We are not mechanics.  See Corey’s Disclaimer here.


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One comment

  • Angel Marquez May 17, 2016  

    Hey Corey,
    Very good information. Thanks man.