Camp Westfalia

Author Archive for Jeffrey Lee

Route 66 (sort of) to the Grand Canyon and beyond

A three-week, 5000-mile road trip loosely following Route 66 from central Illinois to the Grand Canyon. With a few side trips …

We leave Beigeville Heights, Wisconsin, on a Friday morning and drive directly south, then turn to the southwest at Bloomington, Illinois, when we catch Route 66.

Or, perhaps I should say “the nominal Route 66.” Safety improvements, replacement of bridges and railroad crossings, traffic congestion, all led to various bits and pieces of the designated Route being realigned numerous times since it was first established in 1926. So when one sets out to get one’s kicks on Route 66, one must ask, “When? The Route 66 of the 1930’s? Of the 1950’s? Before or after US Interstates 44 and 40 superseded the original Mother Road?”

In some places we find original concrete, in others the route is a barely-visible dirt path cutting across sagebrush country. Interstates 44 and 40 were in some places laid directly atop the old roadbed, in others were built miles away from the original route. In many places, the original Route 66 can now be seen closely paralleling the new Interstate as a frontage road.

We found this handy online map very helpful in finding all the alignments over the years:

Near Auburn, Illinois, we find a couple miles of an early brick-paved section of the old Mother Road.

In our hasty packing for the trip we have both forgotten adult beverages. Fortunately, it is in no short supply here in the town of Bourbon, Illinois.

Fill ‘er up, please!

In sleepy Spencer, Missouri, we find a place to fill up the van, too. Only 14.7 cents for a gallon of Ethyl!

Just a mile east of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, I spot my first of the infamous “Muffler Men,” this one now repurposed as “2nd Amendment Cowboy.” A plaque near his boots (complete with spurs) features the pertinent quote from the US Constitution.

We arrive at Tucumcari, New Mexico, and take a room at the classic Blue Swallow Motel, then cruise the original Route through town at sunset to check out some vintage and retro gas stations.

In Arizona we stop at Petrified Forest National Park. About 225 million years ago, trees that fell into rivers here were buried by volcanic ash sediments, and eventually fossilized in remarkably original appearance. Whole logs, some 40 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, now lie intact on the ground, their bark, knots, and even growth rings clearly visible.

In the parking lot, some Italian tourists express disappointment that the ‘fossilized forest’ is no longer comprised of standing trees …

One day I find this 1.5″ red-winged waspy thing eating dead bugs off the front of the Vanagon. Turns out it’s a Pepsis Wasp, whose sting is considered the most painful of all animal stings. It was described by one researcher as, “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.” It won’t kill you, but it will likely be the longest three minutes of your life.

“They are also called tarantula hawks because the females hunt tarantulas (and other large spiders).”

“Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,
Such a fine sight to see.
It’s a tired old man in a camper van,
Slowin’ down to find a place to pee.”
(with apologies to Glenn Frey)

We start the morning by driving a couple miles of the original-original Route 66 (now gravel). Then, on our journey to the Grand Canyon, we pause to visit the SECOND largest hole in the ground. Meteor Crater is 3/4 of a mile in diameter, over 500 feet deep, and was formed when a 150-foot meteorite struck at 29,000 MPH. Though not a National Park, this private, family-owned operation boasts perhaps one of the best such visitor centers/museums we’ve ever been to (and that’s quite a lot). Especially if you’re kind of a space-science nerd. We also highly recommend the one-hour guided rim walk; our local Navajo-Hopi guide really gave some great scientific and cultural context to this strange and spectacular place.

On our way through Flagstaff, Arizona, we finally learn the unfortunate source of those singular smoke columns we’ve been seeing on the horizon the last couple of days.

Quite by accident, we take one of the most beautiful scenic drives we’ve enjoyed so far on this trip, following State Route 89A down through Oak Creek Canyon, dropping nearly 2000 feet in 15 miles, into Sedona. We take a room for a few nights and enjoy day hikes, a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad, and a sunset Jeep tour into the local hills.

Over breakfast on our final day here, another guest visiting from Phoenix complains that they have not seen any wildlife during their trip. I mention that last night while strolling back to the B&B with our Thai takeout boxes, we saw three coyotes cross the street, just a block from here. She clutches her purse and appears worried.

Eager to escape the utterly maddening traffic of Sedona, we climb back up Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. We briefly cruise a few blocks of old Route 66 through downtown Flagstaff, then make a detour from the Mother Road. There are other roads to drive, and other sights to see, so we turn north toward the Grand Canyon, and are rewarded with a wonderful drive up through high desert ponderosa pine forests which open out to broad views of the San Francisco Peaks.

We enter Grand Canyon Village, claim our reserved campsite, then hurry to Trail View Point for our first glimpse over the South Rim.

Over our many years of Westy traveling in North America, we’ve seen a lot of big stuff. We’ve dipped the wheels in both oceans; driven the 1500 miles around the world’s largest freshwater lake; crossed the Continental Divide countless times, sometimes as high as 11,000 feet; and camped below a prehistoric waterfall which was once five times the width of Niagara with ten times the flow of all the current rivers in the world combined.

But nothing prepared me for the depth, the breadth, the utter scale of the Grand Canyon. For the first several minutes, I just stand there dizzily clutching the handrail like a dope, my eyes ratcheting in and out like a digital camera unable to auto-focus on its intended subject.

I finally recover, we drive to the next overlook, and it happens all over again.

Really, just a nearly incomprehensible magnitude of space …

For most of the peak season, the only way to see the western portion of the South Rim is via the National Park Service shuttle buses. They’re free, easy, they run every 10-15 minutes so you can hop on and off as you like, and they prevent the dangerous, frustrating, polluting traffic jams that used to plague the park. We ride the bus for much of our sightseeing the next day, and highly recommend this break from driving your own Bus.

The next day, we drive from Mather Campground to the east entrance along the Desert View Drive, then return the same way, stopping at all the viewpoints and other sites.

In the morning, we leave the South Rim via the same east entrance and head to the North Rim. This turns out to be one of the most dramatic and visually stunning scenic routes we’ve driven. Up the Little Colorado River gorge, then up the Marble Canyon flanked by the Vermilion Cliffs, over the soaring Navajo Bridge, then up the Kaibab Plateau to the North Rim Campground. Map.

The lodge and cabins are closed for the season, but the campground is open, so we settle in for a couple of 26-degree nights.

It took about a full day for my feeble brain to finally comprehend the immensity of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, and upon arriving at the North Rim, I have to start all over again. In addition to being 1000 feet higher in elevation, the North Rim is also set back from the Colorado River 2-3 times further than the South Rim, with more spectacularly carved side canyons.

Also, a mere fraction of the crowds. Though still a fair number of narcissistic numbskulls who happily scamper beyond the designated barriers to take Instagram selfies posing on the precipice. Each year, of course, several fall to their deaths …

An enjoyable way to visit many of the scenic overlooks is a drive up Cape Royal and Point Imperial Roads, the latter of which offers a view from the highest point in all the Grand Canyon (elevation 8800′). So high, in fact, that the bag of Caramel & Cheddar Popcorn we purchased in eastern New Mexico (4000′) now spontaneously bursts open.

On our way from the North Rim to our next destination, we take a 30-mile backcountry byway on washboard gravel through the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The twisted and warped landscape here was formed when two tectonic plates collided 40 to 80 million years ago. Pretty quiet today.

In Page, Arizona, we take a room where we can keep a close eye on our beloved vintage van. Or, perhaps the van is keeping an eye on us?

The next morning, we enjoy a guided cruise in Lake Powell to visit Lower Antelope Canyon.

Later, we tour Glen Canyon Dam, the controversial 700-foot-high concrete arch-gravity dam which holds back 27 million acre⋅ft of water to form Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S.. The hydro-electric generators also produce 5 billion kilowatt hours each year, or enough to power 330,000 homes at any given moment.

We depart in the morning for Bryce Canyon National Park, take a site at Sunset Campground, then spend the rest of the day tooling along the main park road enjoying all the scenic overlooks and viewpoints.

The drive northeastward from Bryce Canyon on US 12 starts off scenic enough but mile by mile, as we continue through Cannonville, Escalante, and Boulder, the country grows increasingly dramatic. By the time we swing eastward at Torrey and enter Capitol Reef National Park, the jaw-dropping bluffs and cliffs are ablaze in gold and crimson as sunset approaches.

We discover the campground at Fruita, Utah, has several cancellations due to the sudden cold snap, so we take a site and settle in. After a day of motoring across the rocky, barren land of the Kaiparowits Plateau, we find the tiny former community at the junction of the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek a veritable oasis. Now preserved by the NPS for its historical value, the small farm and orchard complex was a small, isolated community of largely self-sufficient Mormon farmers and other frontier folk. The orchards of her residents prospered, offering apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums, and by 1900 Fruita was known as “the Eden of Wayne County.”

The broken and jumbled landscape here is the result of a hundred-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust that formed between 50-70 million years ago, along an ancient buried fault line. Today, the rock layers in Capitol Reef reveal ancient environments as varied as rivers and swamps, deserts, and inland seas, recording nearly 200 million years of geologic history.

In the morning we follow State Hwy 24 along the Fremont River as it tumbles down the rocky canyon. Like so many other routes in this area, the 40 miles to Hanksville, Utah, is a dramatic and stunning drive.

We plan to begin our eastward swing here, cutting across the midsections of Utah and Colorado and eventually homeward. But a pair of winter storms is sweeping down on the region, predicted to drop 4-10″ of snow before we’re able to cross the central Rockies. So, instead we scoot south from here to Albuquerque to steer clear of the storms, rejoining Route 66 and retracing our route along I-40.

We have clear sailing with a favorable tailwind until Santa Rosa, New Mexico, when the expanding gray storm front swells to overtake us. We are soon surrounded by strange twisting wraiths of freezing fog, pelted by snow-hail, and the Westy windshield becomes glazed with icy sleet. A sense of impending danger descends, so we pull off the highway, take one of the last available rooms at Tucumcari, and order a pizza. Throughout the night, we hear almost constant sirens on the nearby Interstate …

The next morning, under clear and cold skies, we resume our homeward drive. Every few miles are marked by a car stuck in a culvert, or an overturned pickup, or any number of crashed semi-trucks. In a couple places, there is nothing left but a rectangle of black and charred pavement and a road crew scooping up a smoldering pile of twisted steel.

We are fortunate in so many ways, and carefully thread our way home along the Mother Road …

Camp Westfalia Book Shelf

Travel Aids

Vanagon travellers tend to wander off the beaten path, and these old-school travel guides will help you find your way, enjoy the scenic drive, and discover a sweet campsite, even when you’re off the grid.


If a good map or atlas helps you with the ‘how and where’ of a road trip, these epic travelogues will inspire you to find your own ‘why.’

Workshop Manuals

Though few modern cars are as easy to work on as the Vanagon / Transporter, these workshop manuals will not only help you be a better partner to your Vanagon, but also to reclaim the lost art of self-reliance and independence.

Replacing the Vanagon Engine Cover Insulation

Remove the old rotted and crumbling insulation beneath your engine cover and replace with this slick modern upgrade.

The Vanagon’s engine, as you undoubtedly know, is located in the rear of the vehicle, and is accessed via a large opening in the rear deck, covered by a lid. The underside of this lid is covered with a sound-deadening heat insulation. The older metal deck lids use a synthetic batting, while the later fiberglass lids utilize a foam rubber.

Regardless the type, after 30-40 years the insulation has usually disintegrated, and absorbed dirt and oil, no longer providing sound-damping, and creating a potential fire hazard.

I replaced mine with two 1/2″ layers of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam, intended as flooring in home fitness rooms. EVA is resistant to chemical, oil, and fuel spills, and provides thermal insulation and acoustical damping properties.

Easy to cut and shape, this modern lightweight, closed-cell foam comes in 24 x 24″ (60 x 60 cm) interlocking tiles, is affordable, easy to apply, and should last for many years.

Get it here!

We’ll start by removing the original sagging insulation, cleaning the engine lid, then apply the new foam!


Optional Materials:

  • rigid polystyrene foam insulation scraps, 2 x 3′
  • acetone
  • silicone sealant
  • FatMat, a self-adhesive acoustical insulation, 8 square feet


Optional Tools:

  • pressure washer
  • green abrasive scouring pad

Step 1: Remove the old insulation

Lay the engine deck lid upside-down on a workbench or sawhorses. Take some photos or measurements of any depressions molded into the original foam; these provide clearance for various engine components and you’ll want to include these in your new insulation later.

Begin working loose the old foam using a utility knife and a sharp 1.5″-wide putty knife or paint scraper. An even narrower scraper may be helpful in removing the foam from the corners and recesses of the lid.

On certain model years of the Vanagon, this foam insulation is embedded with a chicken-wire-like mesh; remove this as well.

Remove as much of the old foam bits as possible, to ensure a good clean bonding surface. A home pressure washer is effective for stripping and cleaning the engine cover. Pay particular attention to the raised areas of the corrugations, as this is where the new foam will be glued.

If necessary, scrub the surface with an abrasive scouring pad dipped in acetone or other solvent to remove as much of the old adhesive as possible.

NOTE: Two layers of 1/2″ foam will be 1″ thick, of course, and this may be somewhat thicker than your original foam. In addition, I had recently installed a different engine which was a little taller than the original power plant, necessitating different clearance areas in the new deck lid insulation.

Just to keep it all straight, I rigged up some scraps of rigid polystyrene foam insulation at exactly the same final depth of the new deck lid insulation, so that I could visualize where I needed to cut relief areas (cardboard will work too). I then used these scraps as a pattern to make matching relief cutouts on the new foam. Remember to label the Top and Bottom sides of your template to avoid errors!

Step 2: Cut new foam to size

Starting in one corner, measure for your first section of the new foam. There are two lateral reinforcing ribs running across the decklid, which you’ll need to work around.

The EVA foam tiles feature interlocking ‘jigsaw’ edges, so snap a couple of tiles together into one piece before cutting. Focus your attention only on the first layer for the moment; you can use this as a pattern for the second layer.

The foam is easily cut with a utility knife and a metal straightedge. Cut a piece to fit the main center area first, then the narrower sections at top and bottom. Remember to provide clearance areas for the latch mechanisms. From your scraps, cut smaller pieces to fit any remaining bits.

Repeat to make the second layer, staggering the jigsaw seam with the first layer, and adding any relief areas.

Step 3: Glue foam into place

My first attempt to glue the foam tiles into position using a spray adhesive did not work well, and soon came loose. I’ve had good long term results using a good contact adhesive instead.

Following the maker’s directions, use a brush or small roller to apply contact adhesive first to the raised corrugations on the deck lid, then across the entire porous underside of the first foam layer. Allow both to dry about 15 minutes, then carefully fit the foam and press into place.

NOTE: this dry-fit method provides a much stronger bond, but allows NO time for repositioning your work pieces, so you must get it right on your first try.

Repeat for the smaller areas, then for the entire second layer.

Consider using silicone sealant or other caulk to seal the ‘jigsaw’ seams.

The outer groove running around the perimeter of the deck lid should be likewise sealed using 3/4″-wide closed-cell foam weatherstripping.


For additional sound-damping, you may consider adding a final layer of FatMat, a self-adhesive acoustical insulation, over the EVA foam.

Finally …

Test-fit your deck lid to check for any clearance issues, then apply some Armor-All or other protectant to help keep it clean.

This new foam is fuel-, oil-, and heat-resistant, and will provide effective sound and heat insulation for many years to come.

What do you think? Leave a question or comment below!

Vanagon Cooling System Overview

New owners often find themselves mystified by the cooling system of the Vanagon. Which is understandable, considering that it’s kind of an oddball setup.

A little historical context and a quick tour should help ‘splain things.

Most water-cooled cars, including the one you probably use as a grocery-getter, has the engine up front, right behind the radiator. So, the entire drivetrain is in one compact package.

Like all previous Volkswagen vans, the Vanagon/Transporter’s engine is located in the rear of the vehicle. But, unlike all previous Volkswagen vans, the 1983-and-later Vanagons are water-cooled.

A water-cooled engine relies on a radiator to dissipate heat, and the best location for a radiator is out front in the stream of fresh, cool air. To connect this rear-mounted engine to this front-mounted radiator there is a pair of long steel or plastic pipes running the length of the Vanagon’s underside.

In this regard the Vanagon/Transporter is indeed an odd duck, but at least it’s in good company; other notable production vehicles to utilize this unusual arrangement are post-1998 Porsches and the DeLorean DMC-12.

This design also calls for a separate coolant expansion tank and a coolant reservoir located near the engine in the rear, and here is where much of the confusion commences …


Let’s take a quick lap through the Vanagon cooling system.

When you fire up that little waterboxer or diesel and hit the road, excess heat from the cylinder heads is immediately transferred to the liquid coolant, which the water pump circulates back through the cylinder jackets & heads again, in a short closed loop. This prevents over-cooling and helps the engine quickly warm up to proper operating temperature.

Once the coolant reaches about 190˚F (87˚C), the thermostat opens and begins routing coolant via the long coolant pipe way up to the radiator. Here, fresh air draws away the excess heat, and the now-relatively-cool coolant goes back to the water pump and engine via the return pipe, completing its circuit.

Expansion Tank

Like any liquid, engine coolant expands as it is heated. As the name implies, the Expansion Tank manages this expansion; a pressure-sensitive valve built into the tank cap allows excess coolant to vent via a small hose to the Refill Tank. In a well-functioning closed system, the Expansion Tank will always be completely full of coolant, with no air space.

The Expansion Tank also has a built-in coolant level sensor, which detects a low fluid level and triggers a flashing red warning light in the dashboard temperature gauge. This same warning light may also be triggered by separate coolant temperature sensors, located elsewhere.

Refill Tank

This excess coolant flows to the Refill Tank, located just inside the license-plate access door, and which serves as a coolant reservoir. When the engine is turned off and begins to cool, the coolant in the system now contracts, and an equal amount is drawn back into the Expansion Tank from the Refill Tank. The Refill Tank’s volume will rise and fall with coolant temperature, between the MAX and MIN marks.

NOTE: These tanks are often and variously referred to by owners and even by the vaunted Bentley Workshop Manual as the reservoir, pressure, overflow, or burp tanks, sometimes interchangeably, which certainly doesn’t help matters. Expansion and Refill tanks are the terms most consistently used in both the Owners Manuals and the Bentley.

Heater Circuit

In addition to these basic system components, there is also a heat exchanger located inside the dashboard, with standard controls on the front dash panel, as well as a secondary heating element beneath the rear bench seat.

When the dash temperature control is set to “Warm,” a valve is opened, directing hot coolant from the engine to the heat exchangers to provide warm air for the cabin. This coolant is then routed back to the Expansion Tank for re-distribution.

Self-Bleeding Basics

In a later article I’ll cover how to properly bleed the cooling system of all air bubbles after a coolant change or other work. But, it may be helpful here to understand the interaction of the Expansion and Refill Tanks in daily operation.

Though in theory a closed loop, the Vanagon’s cooling system can sometimes develop bubbles or pockets of air, caused by incomplete bleeding following a coolant replacement, a leaking hose or clamp, or by a failing cylinder head gasket allowing exhaust gases into the cooling system.

These air bubbles will tend to (but not always) make their way to the coolant Expansion Tank, where normal operating heat and pressure will usually expel them to the Refill Tank.

As any child with poor table manners knows, a drinking straw in a glass of chocolate milk allows bubbles to be blown into the glass, but only liquid can be drawn back up. This is exactly how the Vanagon Refill Tank functions; it accepts both coolant and errant air bubbles from the Expansion Tank when hot, but sends back only liquid coolant as the system cools. In this regard, the Refill Tank functions as a sort of one-way valve, serving to ‘self-bleed’ air bubbles out of the system to a great degree.

I hope this clears up some of the common questions about the Vanagon cooling system!

In future articles, we’ll look at proper cooling system care and maintenance, how to bleed the system, common symptoms and problems, and more!

Using the Westfalia Liquid Propane System

If the galley kitchenette is part of what makes a Westfalia a cozy Camper, then the onboard liquid propane system is the power source of that kitchen.

It provides an exceptionally efficient, affordable, easy, and clean means to run both the refrigerator and the stove.

Let’s have a look at the Westfalia propane system to familiarize ourselves with the various components, and how to use ’em!

Full operating instructions excerpted from the “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual” for the 1983 Camper can be found here >>


The Vanagon Westfalia external LP (Liquid Propane) tank is mounted on the underside of the van, on the left-hand side, and is plainly visible below the Camper hookups. The valves and regulator are protected by a steel shield, and new Campmobiles were delivered with a heavy-duty mudflap behind the left-front wheel to prevent stone damage.

The heavy steel tank is rated for 3 gallons of LP (liquid propane), but is filled to only 80% capacity, to allow room for safe expansion:

  • 2.4 gallons
  • 9.6 lbs.
  • 9.6 liters


Starting at the rear end of the tank and moving forward, you’ll see the main components:

Overflow Bleeder Valve

The propane technician will open this bleeder while filling your tank to release excess propane vapors, and as an indication as to when the tank has reached its capacity of 80%.

Fill Valve

Under a protective plastic cap is the heavy brass fill port fitting. This is where the technician will connect his filler hose valve to pump pressurized propane into your tank.

Main Control Valve

This primary valve is what turns On or Off the supply of propane from your tank. As with most such valves, turn it clockwise to turn the propane supply Off; turn it completely counter-clockwise to turn the propane On.

Two-Stage Regulator

Opening the Main Control Valve allows high-pressure propane to enter the first stage of the regulator, which reduces the pressure to about 15 PSI. A secondary stage further reduces the line pressure to about 0.5 PSI for use by the kitchen appliances. The regulator is often covered by a protective plastic housing to keep it clean of mud, etc..

Tee Fitting

Immediately to the left of the regulator the line divides into two supply lines, which pass upward through the floor of the van to provide propane to the kitchen; the upper copper line supplies the refrigerator, while the lower line provides gas to the stove.


The Westfalia LP tank accepts a standard fill nozzle found at most commercial propane dealers, such as RV service centers, U-Haul outlets, many hardware stores, and some campgrounds. Unfortunately, many younger or inexperienced LP technicians may be unfamiliar with the Westy’s older design. So, if you find a place that you like, continue going there for your propane refills.

Compared to most other RVs, the Westfalia’s LP fill port is mounted quite low to the ground, and is relatively difficult to access. You can make things easier for your propane guy by parking near the LP station, laying out a padded foam kneeling pad or carpet scrap, and removing the plastic cap from your fill valve. Make sure the main control valve is OFF before filling. I also like to ensure that the overflow bleeder valve is working freely by briefly loosening & tightening it beforehand, so the tech doesn’t need to twist on it with a pair of old pliers. Wear a heavy glove when doing this, to avoid severe cold-burns from escaping liquid propane.

At only 3 gallons, the Westy’s tank is barely half the capacity of a typical BBQ propane tank, and is likely one of the smallest tanks many techs will encounter. So, it tends to reach capacity sooner than expected unless completely empty, and results in only an eight-dollar sale.

Let the tech do his thing, and consider tipping him for his troubles. Replace the filler valve cap, and make sure the overflow bleeder valve is fully closed (an LP tech once left mine somewhat loose, resulting in a slow but dangerous LP leak).


Though legal to drive while using the propane to power the fridge, save the LP and switch the fridge to 12 VDC while underway.

Liquid Propane Consumption

Though the tank is small, both the stove and the fridge are quite efficient, so a refill lasts a good long while. In normal usage, even running the fridge 24/7 and cooking 1-2 hot meals each day, a single tankful will last an entire month.

The Westfalia propane tank has no gauge to tell you how much LP is left, so after a refill, start a simple log book to keep track of your typical camping days, so you have some idea of how much fuel you can expect from a tankful.


The LP system requires virtually no periodic maintenance, other than routine washing of the tank exterior, valves, and regulator. Periodically inspect these parts, the tank body, and the supply lines for dents, scrapes, or other damage. If you ever smell the distinctive odor of liquid propane, immediately make sure the main control valve is closed. You can also spray soapy water on any of these components; if the soap mixture forms bubbles, there is a leak.

If ever in doubt, see a qualified RV propane service center for repair or replacement of your tank or other components.

Finally …

As the main fuel source for the stove and refrigerator, the liquid propane system is a key player in the Westfalia Campmobile, and provides easy, economical, and reliable convenience.

Have any questions or comments about the Westfalia liquid propane system? Post ’em below, and use the social links to share with friends!

Instructions for the Westfalia Liquid Propane System

NOTE: the following text and photos are excerpted from the 1983 Camper “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual.” For more info on using the LP system see, “Using the Westfalia Liquid Propane System.”

1980-1985 Vanagon Westfalia Campers: “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual”
1986-1990 Vanagon Westfalia Campers: “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual”

Propane Gas Tank

The liquid propane gas tank is located under the left side of the vehicle. The equipment includes two pipe lines; one for cooking and one for refrigeration. Instructions for refilling the tank are listed on the sticker and in a separate pamphlet. The propane gas tank capacity is 3 gallons/12 liters.

Evolution of the Vanagon/Transporter

Do you consider yourself a Van-Fan?

Do you enjoy “Vanagon-spotting”, identifying various years and types of VW vans while on a road trip?

Or have you just begun shopping for your own Westfalia, and find yourself a bit baffled by the features of each variant?

Here’s a quick guide to the Vanagons/Transporters offered in North America between 1980 and 1991. Obviously, some of the component specifications of each model are more detailed than can be outlined here, but it should help in your own on-the-road “Vanagon-spotting” ventures!

Feel free to grab the graphic or share the article with friends or on your own blog or website!

If you’re interested in exploring the very early developmental ‘genealogy’ of the T3 Vanagon & Transporter, check out this thorough and fascinating read!

For more detailed info on the model history of the Vanagon & Transporter, please visit

What do you think? Leave a question or comment below, and use the social links to share with friends!

Setting Up Your Camper Van Kitchen

How to outfit and organize your campervan kitchen to make the most of your precious cooking and clean-up time!

The Westfalia Camper boasts a small galley kitchenette which includes a refrigerator powered by AC/DC electricity or by liquid propane, a two-burner LP stove for cooking, and a sink for food prep and cleanup. Storage for food and kitchen wares is provided by several cabinets.

Like most campervans and other small motorhomes, space is at a premium, so smart use of limited resources will help you stay organized and make cooking easy and fun. Here are some ideas for outfitting your own camper van kitchen.

Feel free to grab the graphic or share the article with friends or on your own blog or website!


Dry packaged and canned goods are perhaps best kept in the two rearmost top-entry cabinets. A compact tea kettle with folding handle may fit inside the sink, along with Camp-Suds and scrubby for dishwashing.

Cutlery, knives, can opener, and most other cooking utensils will fit in the small drawer below the sink.

The large cabinet below provides pretty ample storage for pots, pans, griddles, and food storage containers. A dishpan serves as a handy ‘drawer’ to organize most cooking wares, and can also be used for its original purpose.

To prevent jostling and annoying rattles while driving, place thin rubber shelf liners inside cabinets, and dish towels and pot holders or trivets can be laid over the stove burners.

Just as at home, you’ll want to store leftovers or other unused foods for later use. Lightweight plastic food containers with snap-on lids save space, both when nested for storage, and when stacked for keeping food. Work well for dry goods and refrigerated items. Smaller quantities can be kept in zipper-lock plastic baggies. A few chip clips for resealing plastic food and snack bags.

Work Surfaces

Space for food prep is in short supply in the Westfalia, so be smart and creative.

The original Westy table can be mounted either directly behind the driver’s seat, or above the rear kitchen cabinets, and can be pivoted in a range of positions for best use.

If not immediately using the stove burners, flip down the stainless steel drain board, or close the lid completely to use the countertop surface.

When the popup roof is raised, there is a large ‘shelf’ offered by the folded upper bunk; this is a great place for ingredients, cookware, and utensils you’ll be using immediately.

A large cutting board makes for an additional, portable work surface for chopping vegetables, assembling sandwiches, and other food prep. Get one with raised edges to help contain messes.


Modern cooksets made for camping and backpacking offer several advantages over pots and pans from your home kitchen. Most can be nested inside one another, or feature folding handles, to save space and reduce clutter. They’re often made of aluminum or other lightweight materials. Many feature bottoms optimized for better heat dispersion when cooking on a camp stove or small burner, to avoid scorching.

Most such cooksets include a small- and a medium-sized pot, a small frypan, and a lid and handle/gripper to fit them all. When cooking for two, a 1 1/2-quart and a 2-quart pot should be sufficient; larger sets are available for larger crews.

Though small, the included frying pan does have its uses for light-duty heating, but you’ll probably want a larger pan for most frying, sautéing, and flapjacking. If your pan doesn’t include a lid, pick one up in a thrift store.

Oven mitts or pot holders protect your hands and countertops when handling hot pans.

A small set of kitchen knives of various sizes with snap-on sheathes will provide all your chopping, dicing, and mincing needs.

Two or three mixing bowls of various sizes; double as serving bowls for chips and other snacks.

Other typical cooking utensils: spatula, spoons, ladles. Smaller, lightweight camping versions save space and weight. Can opener, bottle opener, and corkscrew. Small multi-spice shakers. A grater for cheeses, vegetables, and other foods. A collapsible strainer for draining pasta.


Cooking in your campervan can be fun, but eating is even better! Again, lightweight and compact is the key here, and dining wares made for camping & backpacking are the ticket.

Stacking, plastic plates and bowls are durable and quiet, and help keep your food warmer longer, especially when dining outdoors.

Matching polycarbonate cutlery offer the same advantages: knives, forks, spoons, even the thrifty and versatile spork.

The same thermal beverage mugs or cups used when driving can be utilized at the dinner table, or use dedicated plastic cups and glasses for meal time.

Use placemats or a heavy vinyl tablecloth on untidy outdoor campsite picnic tables, especially if the previous occupant gutted a couple of brook trout on the table, or was an incontinent seagull …


Seldom the favorite part of mealtime, there’s no need for tidying up to be laborious. Like cooking, let’s keep it quick and easy.

Stow any leftovers away in the storage containers mentioned above. Scrape any heavy remainders from cookware using a thin plastic pot scraper.

A five-gallon plastic bucket with a padded seat, often used by hunters and fisherfolk, also serves as a convenient container for trash and recyclables when lined with a couple of trash bags.

Water can be heated in a teakettle while you eat, then used for dishwashing and cleanup. Simply pour it into the Westfalia kitchen sink or a separate dishpan, and add cold water to temper.

Conserve your biodegradable Camp-Suds by applying a few drops directly to your non-scratch scouring pad. Start by washing your least-dirty cups, cutlery, and plates first, followed by the messier, greasier pots and pans. Rinse cookware directly in the kitchen sink, and set out on the drain board to dry.

Synthetic microfiber dish towels are extra-absorbent and quick-drying.

Dirty dishwater should be collected in a gray-water container, and not drained directly on the ground. Empty the container in a campground toilet or a designated dishwater-collection receptacle.


Any ways in which you can get double duty out of your kitchen gear will save you space, expense, and time!

  • A large cutting board with raised sides can also be used as a serving platter for sandwiches, wraps, and other foods.
  • A flat grater for shredding vegetables and cheese takes up almost no space, and doubles as a pasta strainer!
  • Experienced backpackers often eat from the same pot in which they cooked, using the same spoon with which they stirred, to minimize clean-up time.
  • Slip dish cloths between pots and plates to protect non-stick coatings, and store towels and pot holders on the stove burners to help reduce annoying rattles while underway.
  • Mixing bowls can also be used as serving bowls for snacks, or use food storage containers for both!

Finally …

With some basic camp-cooking and serving wares, and some smart packing, you can make the most of your Westfalia Camper kitchen.

Find more ideas for packing and organizing your entire van here!

Got any Westy kitchen cooking & clean-up advice or tips? Leave a suggestion or question below, and use the social links to share with friends!

Product Review: Audew 150PSI Double-Cylinder Portable Air Compressor

A lightweight, compact 12-volt air compressor for refilling tires and other inflatable equipment

Camp Westfalia was provided with a product sample at no cost in return for an authentic review of this product. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of Camp Westfalia, and are not otherwise influenced by the manufacturer or its affiliates.

Integrated 0-150 PSI Gauge


  • Operating Voltage: DC 12V
  • Max Power: 250W-300W
  • Air Flow: 60L/min
  • Maximum Pressure: 150 PSI
  • Size: Approx. 9.6 x 3.75 x 6.25″ (24.5 x 9.5 x 16cm)
  • Weight: 6.4 lbs, 2.8kg-3kg

Vanagon and other van-travellers tend to wander off the beaten path, often finding themselves far from major highways, and perhaps beyond reliable phone reception. A flat or leaking tire on the interstate is a big inconvenience, but the same flat tire on a remote byway can be downright dangerous for you and your family. Self-reliance is crucial, and a portable compressor like this can be a real trip saver.

This portable automotive air compressor is lightweight and surprisingly compact. But can it get the job done?

First Impressions

When I first unboxed the Audew Double-Cylinder Air Compressor, I was a bit surprised by it’s small size and light weight. It seemed solid enough, but I wondered if such a diminutive device could properly inflate the larger, light-truck tires used on most Vanagons.

Still, its cast alloy cylinder heads, main motor housing, and reinforced case all seemed to make for a pretty durable little unit.

A folding top handle makes it easy to carry, and to lift in and out of the Vanagon bench seat. There’s an LED work light integrated into one end of the case, controlled by a dedicated switch, to shed some light on nighttime flats or other breakdowns.

Unlike most other compressors of this size and price, this Audew Air Compressor model features twin cylinders, which evidently makes for higher pressures, faster inflation times, lower noise, and less vibration.

The primary power cord plugs into a cigarette-lighter socket. Also included is an adaptor to run the compressor directly off your main starting or auxiliary battery, a 10-foot coiled extension air hose, and three nozzle adaptors for inflating air mattresses, soccer balls, pool toys, etc..

Everything tucks neatly away inside the included zipper bag, to keep all the loose bits clean, undamaged, and organized.

Get the Audew Double-Cylinder Air Compressor here

On The Road or In Camp

To simulate a flat tire, I pounded a 2-inch roofing nail through the sidewall of a low-miles Hankook. Just kidding. Actually, I just unthreaded the valve stem of my Vanagon spare and allowed it to completely deflate while I ate lunch.

For maximum power during my test, I connected the Audew Double-Cylinder Air Compressor directly to my starting battery using the included clips. Both the primary air hose and the coiled extension use screw-on connections, so you don’t need to hold the hose onto the tire’s valve stem; just flip the switch and stand by.

Small compressors like this are generally able to provide high pressure but at low volume, so they tend to be slow. While the little unit chugged away, I wondered how long it would take to completely fill the rather large Vanagon tire:

  • At 2 minutes, it had inflated the tire to 25 PSI.
  • At 4 minutes, it had inflated the tire to 35 PSI.
  • At 6 minutes, it had inflated the tire to 48 PSI

All in all, pretty speedy.

NOTE: flat tires should always be inflated while bearing NO VEHICLE WEIGHT, to ensure the tire bead is securely seated on the rim, and so that the compressor is not over-working to lift the vehicle. Either jack the vehicle up so that the wheel is clear of the ground, or remove the wheel from the van entirely. Tires that are only a bit underinflated can be topped up while mounted.

Built-in LED Work Light

Using the 8-foot power cord and extension hose, all four Vanagon wheels are easily reached from the dashboard power socket.

The included instructions warn users to allow the compressor to cool off after 10-15 minute’s use, but after completely filling my tire, I found the cylinder heads and motor casing only very warm to the touch. If inflating something larger like an air mattress, do it in 10-minute intervals to prevent overheating.

When compared to my shop-grade handheld pressure gauge, the compressor’s built-in gauge was accurate to within 1 PSI.

Finally …

Considering its compact size, weight, and versatility for other tasks, there’s no reason not to carry one of these as part of your emergency tool kit. The Audew Double-Cylinder Air Compressor fits neatly in the storage space beneath the Vanagon bench seat, and gives us the assurance and peace of mind when travelling in the backcountry

Hits: quality construction, compact & lightweight design, fast inflation, long cord and hose for extended reach, included carrying bag & accessories
Misses: slightly more spendy than lesser portable automotive compressors

Get the Audew Double-Cylinder Air Compressor here

What do you think? Leave a question or comment below, and use the social links to share with friends!

Making Custom Rigid Hydraulic Brake Lines

Replace the old, rusty, unsafe steel brake lines on your Vanagon (or any other vehicle, for that matter).

After 30 or 40 years, the original steel brake lines on your Vanagon/Transporter may well be past their reasonable service life, especially if you live in a wet region where corrosive road salt may be used on roadways.

Pre-bent, direct replacements are no longer available for the Vanagon, though one can purchase complete sets of straight sections of the correct lengths with the flare nuts already installed; these must then be bent to shape.

An alternative is to fabricate new lines from stock off-the-shelf materials. When I recently replaced a few brake lines on a Vanagon, the new Cunifer or copper-nickel line seemed a good solution, and is quite popular among do-it-yourself auto enthusiasts, so I purchased a big roll of the stuff and a decent flaring tool.

But I had trouble making satisfactory flares with a few different sub-$100 tools. Many others have had great success with the copper-nickel lines, so the problem was either with my consumer-level flaring tools or my technique.

In any case, brakes are no place for questionable results, so I saved that particular skill for another day, and decided to use conventional poly-coated steel brake lines with pre-formed flares and nuts already installed. These are readily available, affordable, and should last another 30 years.

NOTE: throughout North America these rigid, hard brake lines are commonly known simply as ‘lines’, while the Bentley Workshop Manual and most of Europe refers to them as ‘brake pipes’. Tomatoe, tomato.

These ready-made brake lines are available in a variety of diameters, lengths, and flare-fitting types. The Vanagon requires 3/16″ (5mm) diameter with 10mm x 1.0mm DIN/ISO bubble flares. You’ll simply need to bend to shape and install.

In short, you’ll remove the original brake line(s) from the vehicle, measure their total lengths and save them as patterns, then bend new steel lines to fit, and install. Finish by bleeding the brake system as usual.





  • Stiff wire for making patterns, several feet

Bending Basics

A hand-held tubing-bender tool like this one is quite versatile for bending a variety of curves in brake lines, and usually includes a few different sizes of roller dies for various diameters of tubing.

I generally start by marking the tubing to indicate the first tangent—the beginning of the intended curve or bend. Set the tubing into the bending tool with this mark adjacent to the die, then carefully begin bending, making sure the curve is applied beyond the tangent mark.

For smooth, continuous curves, bend the tubing a little at a time, working your way along the length of the curve a few times, bending it a little tighter each time until it matches the original.

  1. Remove the old brake line from the vehicle, being careful to avoid bending it too badly out of shape. Add a label to indicate its location and orientation, to prevent confusion.
  2. Measure the total linear length of the old line, including bends and curves; a tailor’s measuring tape is useful for this, either on or off the vehicle.
  3. Select a length of new brake line slightly longer than your original. Off-the-shelf brake lines are typically available in increments of approximately 10″ (20″, 30″, 40″, etc.), so you’ll need to buy pieces slightly longer than needed. ISO/DIN Bubble flare couplers can be used to join two shorter sections.
  4. Before beginning to bend, make sure the flare nuts are each at their respective ends of the line, and use a bit of tape to keep them in position and prevent the intrusion of dirt or other contaminants. Find a clean, flat work surface.
  5. The extra length of the lines must somehow be accounted for in order to fit your intended use. So, if the new piece is, say, 6″ too long, you’ll need to add a 6″-circumference (NOT DIAMETER) loop somewhere in the run, in order to take up this ‘slack’. Choose a final location someplace out of the way, where it will not interfere with adjacent hoses or wires once installed, or be damaged by road debris.
    NOTE: If necessary, the additional length can be spread out over two smaller loops.
  6. After choosing roughly where in the line you plan to add this loop later, begin making the other bends in the new line, starting at the nearest end. Using the old brake line as a pattern, use the bending tool to make the first bend.
  7. After making the first bend, begin paying attention to the third dimension and the axial orientation of the new line when comparing to the old, to ensure you’re making an accurate replacement that will fit properly. Add the next bend, and so on, until you come to the intended location of your loop.


NOTE: You may want to practice this technique on an extra piece or scrap of brake line. You can even use a length of stiff wire to make a pattern and to test-fit before beginning to bend, as shown above.

  1. Mark the loop’s location “A” on the chosen section of line.
  2. Determine the required circumference of the loop; Ex.: 6″. Make an additional Mark “B”, located 6″ PAST Mark “A”. These two tangent marks indicate the beginning and end of the loop.
  3. Starting at Mark “A”, use the bending tool to ‘loop’ around 360 degrees until Mark “A” comes around full circle to align with Mark “B”, creating a 6″-circumference loop.
    NOTE: I prefer to make such loops oriented horizontally to avoid the collection of air bubbles when bleeding, and I coil them in a direction that will encourage air bubbles to migrate downstream toward the bleeders.
  4. Continue making the remaining bends to the end of the line, comparing to the old brake line as you go.
  5. Once you have a faithful copy of the original brake line, you can install it on your van! Replace any broken or missing retaining springs or clips along the way.

Finally …

This bending and looping technique allows you to use readily available, affordable, conventional poly-coated steel brake lines, and should last for many more years of vintage motoring!

What do you think? Leave a question or comment below, and use the social links to share with friends!