Camp Westfalia

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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.

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!

Dometic RM182 Refrigerator Instructions

NOTE: the following text and photos are excerpted from the 1983 Camper “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual.” For more info on operating the fridge see, “Using the Westfalia Refrigerator.”

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


The controls for gas/electric refrigeration are arranged along the top edge of the refrigerator. They are accessible by opening the refrigerator door.

A: Pump Knob
B: Safety Valve Button
C: Thermostat Control Knob
D: Voltage Selector Switch
E: Gas Valve Knob
F: Flame Indicator Light

Startup Procedure for Propane Operation:

  1. Turn the gas valve on propane tank to ON.
  2. Move the Voltage Selector Switch (D) to GAS (center position).
  3. Turn Gas Valve Knob (E) to ON.
  4. Turn Thermostat Control Knob (C) clockwise to MAX.
  5. Pull Pump Knob (A) and pump in and out at least 15 to 20 times.
  6. Press and hold Safety Valve Button (B), at the same time push Pump Knob (A) in completely until an audible click is heard.
  7. Continue to hold Safety Valve Button (B) until the Flame Indicator Light (F) in the sink cabinet control panel comes on and remains on. This should require about 15-30 seconds.
  8. If the Flame Indicator Light (F) does not come on, or if it flickers on but goes out again, the pilot light has failed to ignite to a steady burn. This might happen if the refrigerator has not been used for some time, or if the outside temperature is low. Repeat steps 5-7.
  9. After a few minutes, check the Flame Indicator Light (F) again, to assure yourself that the pilot light is still burning. The pilot light flame can also be observed through the sight glass in the lower left hand corner of the rear wall inside the refrigerator.
  10. Should the pilot light snuff out unexpectedly, the Flame Indicator Light (F) will also go out, and the thermocouple safety valve will automatically shut off the gas flow.
  11. Temperature inside the refrigerator can be regulated with Thermostat Control Knob (C). The center position will usually maintain sufficient cooling. In hot weather, or when more cooling is required, turn the knob toward MAX.

To discontinue gas operation:

  1. Turn Pump Knob (A) to OFF.
  2. Turn Gas Valve Knob (E) to OFF.
  3. Turn Thermostat Control Knob (C) to GAS MIN.

To assure yourself troublefree gas refrigeration at altitudes above 6500 feet or 2000 meters, it is necessary to install a smaller gas burner jet. Therefore, if you use your camper predominantly at high altitudes, the no. 24 jet installed in the burner tube should be replaced by a no. 22 jet. Contact the Dometic Refrigerator Service center in your area for this service.

NOTE: When the liquid propane tank is refilled, air will remain in the gas line. Before using gas refrigeration, we recommend bleeding the system by lighting the burners of the gas stove. Let burners burn for about one minute. This will help air escape more rapidly.

Procedure for Electric Operation:

  1. Move Voltage Selector Switch (D) to AC 120 V.
  2. Make sure Gas Valve Knob (E) is in OFF position.
  3. Turn Thermostat Control Knob (C) clockwise to MAX. When the refrigerator interior is sufficiently cold, turn Knob (C) from MAX to an intermediate setting.

The 12 Volt power supply from the vehicle battery can be used only when the engine is running and the Voltage Selector Switch (D) is set on DC 12 V.
The 12 V circuit is not thermostatically controlled.

To Discontinue Electric Operation:

  1. Move Voltage Selector Switch (D) to GAS (center position).
  2. Turn Thermostat Control Knob (C) to GAS MIN.

Defrosting the Refrigerator

Keep an eye on the ice formation on the evaporator core. Too much ice build-up reduces cooling efficiency. We recommend frequent defrosting. Never let the ice thicken more than 1/8” (3-4 mm).

Make sure that Gas Valve Knob (E) is in OFF position, and that Thermostat Control Knob (C) is in the GAS MIN position.

Empty the refrigerator, leave the door open and let the ice melt into the catch basin below. Pull the basin out to empty the water and dry off before reinstalling.

Cleaning the Refrigerator

Clean the refrigerator interior with a solution of lukewarm water and baking soda.

To keep the door seal air tight, clean the seal around the door with clear water only. Chemical additives, oil and grease much to come into contact with the seal.


Keep all vent openings clean and unobstructed to assure efficient cooling. Vent openings are located below the refrigerator door, behind the heart shield of the gas range, in the left sidewall of the sink cabinet, and in the left outside panel of the vehicle.

Inspect the propane tank and lines periodically for tightness and leaks. Use soapy water to test for leaks — NOT MATCHES.

Start refrigerator several hours before storing food. Precool or freeze food items at home before loading your Camper refrigerator.

Leave spaces between food and drink items for the necessary air circulation. Use unbreakable plastic containers and bottles, and seal them tightly to prevent spilling.


The FLUE VENT must be kept uncovered at all times.

Only when you wash the Camper, or while taking the vehicle through an automatic car wash, should the Flue Vent be covered.
To drain accumulated water due to normal condensation, open the screw on the condensation drain pipe (arrow).

When the refrigerator is operating, be sure to park on level ground to maintain efficient cooling. If the vehicle remains stationary for any length time on gradients exceeding +/-8˚, the cooling output will be considerably reduced. Should level ground parking be unavailable, it is best to discontinue operation to prevent overheating of the core which can lead to permanent damage of the refrigerator.

Vanagon Westfalia Water System Instructions

NOTE: the following text and photos are excerpted from the 1983 Camper “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual.” For more info on operating the water system and sink see, “Using the Westfalia Kitchen Sink.”

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

Sink Cabinet Cover

Before opening the lid cover, slide the driver’s seat forward to make room.

The left underside of the lid cover has a stainless steel heat shield/drain board. The heat shield can be unsnapped to cover the gas burners. While leaving the sink open for dish washing, the heat shield provides convenient drain board space.

In the Canadian version the heat shield cannot be unsnapped and used as a drainage board.


Do not put the heat shield over and open flame or a hot burner. Never attempt to use the heat shield as a hot plate or grille.

Water Supply

City Water connection

To provide you with the convenience of an ample water supply at campsite, a hose fitting B has been installed in the left side panel of the vehicle.

When city water is not available, you can carry your own supply in the built-in water tank, located in the storage chest between sink cabinet and clothes closet. The water tank can be filled from outside through the lockable filler cap A installed in the left side panel of the vehicle.

Tank capacity is 13.2 US gal. or 50 liters.

Remember that any weight carried affects fuel economy. Consider filling your water tank shortly before you reach the campsite and not at home.

Water pump switch

The electric water pump is immersed inside the water tank. After filling the water tank, and the green indicator light in the control panel comes on, activate the water pump by turning th switch knob on top of the faucet to the left; in direction T (Tank). Turn the knob several times in 10-second intervals to bleed the hose until water runs into the sink.

NOTE: When the city water hose connection has been made, turn the water pump switch knob on top of the faucet in direction C (City).

The water pump and all lights in the control panel can be turned on or off with switch G. The left column indicates how much water is left in the tank. The right light column indicates the condition of the battery explained on page 12.

(C) Green: 13.2-10.5 US gallons (50-40 liters)
(D) Yellow: 10.5-4.0 US gallons (40-15 liters)
(E) Red: 4.0-0.8 US gallons (15-3 liters)

Water Tank Filling

To unlock the filler hose stopper, turn the key clockwise on quarter of a turn and pull stopper out.
To lock the filler hose opening, insert stopper, turn key counter-clockwise one quarter of a turn and remove key.

The water tank vent pipe opening is located above the filler hose stopper.

The protective cover should not be removed, nor must the vent pipe opening be closed off.

Water Drainage

The sink pipe drain extends through the underbody of the vehicle to an opening aft of the left front wheel. The drain pipe opening has a screw-on plastic cap. Remember to remove the cap before using the sink, and always replace the cap securely when the sink is not in use.

Water from the sink drains onto the ground. Therefore, be mindful where you drain the sink water.

The drain plug for the water tank is located under the vehicle in front of the left rear wheel. Always replace the screw-on cap securely after cleaning the water tank.

When danger of frost exists, make sure water is not left in the city water connection. Press screwdriver into the valve opening until water is drained.

Water tank

We recommend you drain the water tank after every trip.

Tilt up storage chest lid.

Unscrew the cover shield and remove the plastic stopper A.

Unscrew the drain plug to empty the tank. Close the drain plug but leave the stopper open to allow the tank to air out. Should there be an odor, flush the tank with a solution of baking soda and water. Rinse the tank thoroughly with clear water and allow it to dry.

Vanagon Westfalia Stove Instructions

NOTE: the following text and photos are excerpted from the 1983 Camper “Supplement to Volkswagen Vanagon Owner’s Manual.” For more info on operating the stove see, “Using the Westfalia Stove.”

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

Gas Stove


  • Keep combustible materials clear of the lighted burners.
  • The burner orifices have been set by the factory for safe operation. DO NOT CHANGE THEIR SIZE!
  • Keep a lighted match ready when turning on the burners.
  • Keep windows or door open when cooking. Gas flames consume oxygen.
  • Never light the burners to heat the interior of your Camper.
  • Make sure the propane tank is securely fastened in place.
  • Check tank and lines from time to time to be sure they are tight. When testing for leaks, use soapy water. DO NOT USE MATCHES!
  • Do not put the sink cabinet cover over an open flame. Wait til the burners and the cooking rack are cold.
  • After cleaning the stove, make sure to anchor the cooking rack securely in the slots provided.


The dry chemical fire extinguisher is located behind the passenger seat.

  • Release fire extinguisher from holding bracket.
  • Remove the tape over the white discharge button.
  • Hold the fire extinguisher upright and press the button all the way down.

Aim the spray at the base of the flame. Do not test the fire extinguisher. Partial discharge may cause the contents to leak.

Recommended Vanagon Workshop Manuals

“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)

Personally, I can never have enough manuals, and throughout my years of VW ownership I have accumulated 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.

Bentley-Vanagon“The Bentley”

First and foremost is the Official Factory Repair Manual, published by Robert Bentley, and rightfully considered “the bible” for Vanagon repair.

This was the manual used by the wrenchers at your local VW dealership, but now that most VW technicians have lain neither eyes nor hands on a Vanagon, the Bentley is used only by the occasional independent shop and by shade-tree diehards like you and me. It remains the final authority in accuracy and precision, providing the proper sequences, torque values, and tolerances for most repairs. Repairs are well organized by topic and sub-topic.

Get the Vanagon Bentley manual here

Haynes-Vanagon“The Haynes”

As its title implies, the Bentley often presumes I am an “Official VW Repair” technician, surrounded by a staff of equally seasoned wrenchers with years of collective experience with whom I can confer. By contrast, 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.

There are two Haynes manuals covering the Vanagon (known as the Transporter everywhere except North America):

Get the 1980-83 Air-Cooled Haynes manual here

Get the 1982-90 Water-Cooled Haynes manual here

Q: Bentley or Haynes?
A: Both

If there is anything for which the Bentley can be faulted, it is perhaps its brevity. It often omits the most basic and preliminary steps of a given procedure, sometimes leaving one standing beneath the proverbial shadetree, scratching one’s proverbial head.

For example, for replacing your clutch master & slave cylinders, the Bentley offers perhaps 20 words and an exploded view. The Haynes, by comparison, devotes several hundred words and a couple of photos to the same procedure. For someone doing his first hydraulic clutch job, these sequential steps, while perhaps redundant for an ace mechanic, can inspire a rookie to proceed with some confidence.

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.

“Auto Repair for Dummies”

If you’ve owned as many crummy cars as I have, you are probably already a graduate of the Automotive Institute of Bloody Knuckles, and you may well know your way around a 30-year-old Vanagon.

But if you’re new to the whole wrenching thing (and everybody was, at some point), you might want to start with the basics.

“Auto Repair for Dummies” by Deanna Sclar is perhaps the next best thing to having a knowledgable, helpful, encouraging mentor standing at your elbow offering advice and handing you tools.

Like most books in the “Dummies” series, this one unpacks the seemingly complex structure of a car into its various simple systems and how they fit together, followed by more detailed overviews of each sub-system. Safe working practices, troubleshooting, preventative maintenance and repair, emergencies, and step-by-step illustrated instructions that even a newbie can groove on.

Though few modern cars on the road today are as easy to work on as the Vanagon, the knowledge you’ll gain from “Auto Repair for Dummies” will help you maintain all your other cars too, or at least be a more informed consumer when taking them to a local shop.

“Auto Repair for Dummies” will not only help you be a better partner to your Vanagon, but also to reclaim the lost art of self-reliance and independence.

Get Auto Repair for Dummies here

Other Helpful Vanagon and Diesel Workshop Manuals

In addition to dedicated Vanagon manuals, I keep a few other helpful workshop manuals in my diesel Westy library, in order of pertinence:

Peter Russek Pocket Mechanic Volkswagen Transporter
Sort of a compromise between the abovementioned books: explanatory text like that in the Haynes, plus itchy-and-scratchy drawings evidently traced from the Bentley. Written by Britons for Britons, so you’d better know your spanner from your dynamo …

Haynes 77-84 Diesel Rabbit, Jetta, Pickup
Extensively covers the 1.6L diesel engine. Other chapters offer insight into parts and procedures common to most VW vehicles: brakes, suspension, etc..

Chilton’s Volkswagen 74-89 Front Wheel Drive #(8663) 70400 ISBN 0-8019-8663-X
Covers Volkswagen gasoline and diesel engines of this era. No Vanagon-specific info.

Haynes 81-85 Scirocco/Jetta/Rabbit
Mainly covers gasoline engines, but includes many notes on the 1.6L diesel. No Vanagon-specific info.

Chilton’s VW Front Wheel Drive 74-83
Only covers gasoline-engined cars, but the 1.6L diesel engine is based very closely on these gasoline engines, and in fact shares many parts with them.

Bentley Volkswagen Service Manual: Jetta, Golf, GTI: 1993-1999; Cabrio: 1995-2002
I replaced the original 1.6L diesel engine in my Vanagon with a new engine intended for a 93-99 Golf, so this manual is helpful when working on my new engine. If your Vanagon has a similar engine transplant from another VW model, or a Subaru or Ford Zetec conversion, the appropriate workshop manuals will be invaluable when doing your own wrenching.

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