A variety of Vanagon & Westfalia discussion forums and message boards, blogs and personal enthusiast websites, and other helpful links for learning more about maintaining and enjoying your own Westy.
CHAT: Discussion Forums & Message Boards
The Samba Vanagon forum
This is the Internet at its best: helpful, contentious, immediate, argumentative, hilarious, vastly experienced, and self-contradictory. Like most online discussion forums, it’s only lightly moderated and so is a mixed bag of advice both good and bad, and spans the complete range of personalities. And personality disorders …
This online community of Westfalia lovers is one of the few “curated” or edited VW online forums. Formerly presided over by the ever-helpful, 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.. Sadly, Capt. Mike is no longer with us, but his body of mechanical knowledge and VW advice lives on here, and continues to be ably moderated by Administrator John Babiak.
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 couple of decades 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.
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.
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, it has attracted a loyal and growing group of avid and knowledgeable members, and is an excellent resource.
VW Diesel Parts.com forum
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.
HELP: Mechanics & Volunteers
The new VanAlert app helps Vanagon owners find the nearest Repair Shops, Campsites & Driveway Hosts, Events, report stolen Vanagons, and more.
Vanagon Rescue Squad
Need roadside assistance for a breakdown while traveling? Search by City and State/Province or ZIP code to find a helpful Vanagon Volunteer. Keep the karma going by joining the volunteer list yourself! Now also available as an Android or iPhone smartphone app for mobile use!
UPDATE: When Vanagon Rescue Squad creator and very special member of the VW community John Meeks passed away a few years ago, the VRS remained in limbo for awhile, and many worried about its future. Fortunately, the above mentioned VanAlert app has received approval from the Meeks family to absorb the existing VRS index of Vanagon Volunteers into the new VanAlert app in order to further help the community and keep John’s brainchild alive.
VW Bus, Vanagon, EuroVan Shop Reviews
Need professional help? (Most VW owners do.) This is the largest review listing anywhere of independent VW van mechanic shops.
SHOP: Online Parts Vendors
If you enjoy watching tattooed, lip-ringed hipsters’ eyes roll back in their heads, just walk into your Friendly Local Auto Parts Store (FLAPS) and ask the counter-person for a muffler mount for a 1983 Diesel Vanagon. In all likelihood, his central database (and certainly his warehouse) peters out somewhere in the dusty recesses of the pre-Grunge-Rock era …
Most online Vanagon- or VW-specific parts vendors will be infinitely better stocked and more knowledgeable than your chain automotive stores or even your local VW dealer. Thanks to Volkswagen’s famous penchant for parts standardization, many components on your Vanagon are also used on other VW cars of that era—Rabbits, Jettas, Sciroccos, etc.—so parts should continue to be available for some time.
A few other online VW Vanagon parts vendors:
SURF: Personal Vanagon & Westfalia Websites & Blogs
Let’s face it—driving and maintaining a 30-year-old oddball van is a bit of an oddball pastime, enjoyed only by … well, oddballs. So the opportunity to vicariously enjoy the exploits of other oddballs who share your obsessive love of VW Campers and the #vanlife 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 International Space Station, and scooter/moped racks for extra-vehicular activities. Others are compulsive maintenance freaks who lie awake at night listening for the sound of coolant dripping from their van’s leaking head gaskets. Still others regale us with stories and photos from their many road trips in their Westy Campers.
Below is 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
Westfalia Diesel Homepage Travels, diesel-specific info, links
VW Diesel Glowplugs VW diesel glow-system info, “Diesel Cheap Tricks” page
Epic Westy Roadtrips
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
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.