Camp Westfalia

Archive for Summer

Product Review: Windshield and Dash Car Fan

This Windshield & Dash Car Fan is a compact, portable fan for keeping you or a passenger cool while driving or parked.


4.5” Diameter Model

  • Dimensions: 6.3 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches
  • Weight: 9.1 ounces

6” Diameter Model

  • Dimensions: 6.7 x 6 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Noise Level: <45db


  • Integrated suction-cup mounting bracket
  • “Stepless” variable-speed switch
  • Powered by standard 12-volt DC cigarette lighter socket
  • High energy-efficient design moves a lot of air
  • Quiet, low-noise
  • Child-safe design

Most Vanagons, especially the older models, do not boast air conditioning, so things can get pretty warm in the cab during summer excursions. There are lots of things you can do to help (see “Staying Cool On Summer Road Trips”), and one of the most effective is a quality fan.

But is such a small fan up to the task?

Get the Dash Car Fan here

First Impressions

The compact Dash Car Fan easily attaches to the windshield or door glass using the integrated suction-cup mounting bracket, and can be angled or adjusted for nearly any installation.

Powered by a standard 12-volt DC cigarette lighter, the fan includes a 90” power cord, so it can circulate air in the cab or rear passenger area of your Vanagon.

I opted to cut the original power cords and connect both our fans directly into the van’s power system behind the dash.

There’s even a free-standing, dual-fan unit available.

On The Road or In Camp

This fan is great for use in the Westfalia camper van. Our current Vanagon has no air conditioning, and the fresh air dash vents rely on speed for maximum flow, so when driving slowly or stopped on hot days, things can get uncomfortable.

Available in two sizes, even the smaller 4.5”-diameter really moves some air. In fact, it works so well even on lower speeds that we rarely use it on high. It’s pretty quiet too, so it’s not annoying to use while driving.

In The Long Run

Though small and affordable, this compact fan does a great job of moving air in the Vanagon cab, whether driving or when parked.

The suction cup attachment system works very well to hold the fan in place on any window, though once or twice in very hot direct sunlight it has come loose, but with no damage.

The direction of the fan is very easily adjustable, using a ball joint on the mounting bracket.

A real life saver in hot weather, we’ve also used this fan when winter camping, to help circulate warm air from our LP heater.

All in all, the Dash Car Fan will do an admirable job of keeping you and your family cool, and the little fan moves a lot of air for its size.

Hits: compact, adaptable, affordable, quiet, adjustable speeds
Misses: occasionally detaches in very hot sunlight

Get the Dash Car Fan here

Winterize Your Westfalia for Storage

How to put your Vanagon Westfalia Camper Van to bed for the winter or off-season

You’ve hopefully just completed a long happy summer of road tripping in your camper van, with all the memories and Facebook moments that come with it.

But if your van resides in the cold northern tier of snow, ice, or perpetually rainy days, and especially if it lives in one of the Rust Belt states which use copious quantities of vehicle-eating road salt, you’ll want to tuck your van safely away until next Spring.

Keep it Clean

Now is a great time to give your Westfalia a good cleaning, though some owners prefer to do it first thing in the Spring (see “Preparing Your Vanagon Westfalia for Summer”).

The onboard water tank should of course be emptied, rinsed, and well drained after each camping outing. But it’s also wise to give it an annual cleaning before or after off-season storage:

  1. Add 1/4 cup of household bleach to one gallon of water, and pour this mixture into the water tank, either through the exterior filler port or through the large cap on the top of the tank.
  2. Continue filling the tank with fresh water, then run the sink faucet until you can smell bleach-water at the faucet to indicate that the entire supply line is primed.
  3. Let it sit for at least 12 hours to fully sanitize the system, then drain the tank and re-fill with fresh water.
  4. Run the faucet again until bleach can no longer be smelled, then drain the tank.

Don’t Freeze Up

If you live in a region which experiences freezing temperatures, water left in your Westfalia’s supply line and sink drain trap can freeze and expand, damaging or cracking these components. To prevent this, use a commercially available Marine & RV Water System Antifreeze
(NOTE: This special RV Antifreeze is a non-toxic, food-grade formula and can safely be used in drinking water systems. Do NOT use standard automotive engine coolant antifreeze, which is poisonous.)

  1. Pour a half-gallon or so of the RV Antifreeze into the supply tank and run the faucet pump until you see the pink Antifreeze running down the drain.
  2. Drain the remaining Antifreeze from the tank (you can catch and save it back into the jug using a funnel).
  3. Leave the Antifreeze in the system all winter to protect your supply line and drain, then rinse thoroughly with fresh water in the Spring before using.

If you didn’t do so after your last camping trip, be sure to close the main shutoff valve on your LP tank.

If parking your camper van for several weeks during the winter, it’s a good idea to prevent fuel problems with a quality fuel stabilizer for your specific type of fuel: gasoline/petrol, or diesel. These additives will prevent corrosion from moisture and the build up of varnish. Diesel additives also help prevent bacteria, fungus and algae. If the formula you choose does not include a component to prevent fuel gelling or freezing, you can also include a fuel-line antifreeze for your specific type of fuel.

After pouring the additive(s) into your fuel tank, start and run the engine for a few minutes to ensure that it’s circulated throughout the fuel tank, lines, filters, and pump, then turn the engine off.

If you haven’t done so recently as part of your regular maintenance schedule, change your Vanagon’s motor oil and filter, to prevent accumulated moisture and acids from harming your engine internals.

Remove any supplies which are perishable or which can be damaged by freezing: canned goods or other food, etc..

Out, Mouse!

Remove anything from your camper van that may attract mice. For whatever reason, Vanagons are notoriously easily infiltrated by these vexing vermin, and you don’t want to invite them. Food, candy, snacks, even paper tissues, napkins, and other tempting nesting materials should be taken out of your Westfalia for the off season. You may even want to deploy mouse traps, or use cotton balls doused with peppermint oil throughout your van to repel them.

Get Charged Up

Seasonal Vanagon Westfalia MaintenanceIf your van will not be driven for more than 2-3 weeks, a trickle or maintenance charger should be used to keep the battery(s) near full charge state while parked, either in the van or indoors. A lead-acid automotive battery will generally discharge about one percent per day, even if not used. Add to this any parasitic battery drain from stereos, clocks, or other devices, and you can quickly ruin even a new battery.

If parking your Vanagon for a couple of months during the winter it’s a good idea to remove the starting (and optional auxiliary) battery from the van each fall and bring them indoors. Use a quality automated maintenance charger to keep them topped up throughout the winter months.

Safety First

Check that your fire extinguisher’s pressure gauge is in the green, and turn it upside-down to give it a few hearty shakes to loosen any compacted agent powder.

Go Undercover

Park your Vanagon in a garage or beneath a carport during the off season, if possible. If not, there are still some things you can do to protect your van.

vanagon-wheel-coversMany Vanagons are used only seasonally or for special trips, so their tires can age/degrade long before they are worn. Protect your Vanagon tires from the UV rays of the sun during the winter and between camping trips with easy-on, easy-off RV wheel covers. You’ll want covers which fit tires from 24-26.5” in overall diameter.

For all the same reasons and more, a quality full-vehicle cover for your Vanagon is important if stored outdoors. A good cover will protect your van’s paint, rubber window seals and plastic trim pieces, and even the interior upholstery from the sun’s harmful UV.

A good cover will help keep rain, snow, and airborne crud off your van while parked, but you should look for a cover made of a breathable fabric, so that moisture is not trapped beneath the cover where it can damage the paintwork.

Van covers range in price and in material, with more expensive covers generally being more durable and breathable, and sometimes including additional features like door access zippers. With or without a cover, you should periodically open your Vanagon’s windows or doors on clear dry days to allow any accumulated humidity or moisture to vent, to prevent mold and mildew.

A special precaution is called for in the northern tier: keeping your van’s roof generally free of snow. It’s not easy to collect enough snow up there to damage the Vanagon or Westfalia roof structure, but accumulated snow and ice can create a cold thermal mass which will cause humidity inside the van to condense on the underside of the roof, just like a cold beer from the fridge. This moisture can lead to the growth of unhealthy and unsightly black mold or mildew inside your van roof, and even deteriorate the Westfalia canvas. So keep the snow off, and occasionally air it out.

Follow these tips to keep your Vanagon in tip-top shape during the off season, and it will be ready for another summer of adventures!

What do you think? How do you winterize your camper van? Leave a question or comment below, and use the social buttons to share with your friends!

Staying Cool On Summer Road Trips in Your Camper Van

Tips and advice for keeping yourself, your children, pets, and other companions cool while travelling

The summer travelling season is upon us, and we’ll all be putting on some miles in our camper vans. For many of us, road-tripping is the best part of owning a VW Westfalia!

Every VW Vanagon or Bus owner knows how cool it is; you can tell by all the waves, thumbs-up, and friendly honks you get! But the simple challenge of travelling and living in a confined space for a week or two at peak heat season, combined with a few inherent design characteristics of the Vanagon, can get you hot under the collar.

The Vanagon’s large untinted windows offer panoramic scenic views, but can also collect a lot of solar energy, and these campers come from a bygone era before automotive air conditioning was ubiquitous. The engine’s in the back, with the radiator just a few inches ahead of your Birkenstocks, which can lead to a condition known as Vanagon Hot Foot Syndrome. Not as bad as Athlete’s Foot, perhaps, but almost as uncomfortable … So, we’ll offer some suggestions specific to the Vanagon.

These recommendations for staying comfortable while driving or camped are grouped into easy, basic habits you can adopt, affordable products you can purchase, and helpful modifications you can make to your Vanagon, listed in order of ease, practicality, and cost.

Behavior — Things you can change about you

While Driving:

  • Beat the heat. Start driving earlier in the day to take advantage of cooler temperatures, and pull off when the day begins to heat up. Rack up some bonus miles by resuming your drive in the late afternoon or evening when things cool off a bit.
  • Take a break. Occasionally get off the hot highway and step into a restaurant, retail store, museum, or other air-conditioned refuge to cool off and stretch your legs. Such breaks are especially important for the comfort and health of children and pets.
  • Laugh it up. In the summer heat, as passengers become fatigued, uncomfortable, and irritated, things can heat up in the Vanagon too. Keep your sense of humor and maintain a positive attitude, especially in regards to your travelling companions.

vanagon-lakeside-campsiteWhile Camped:

  • Catch a breeze. Choose a campsite in an open clearing or near a lake to take advantage of cooler breezes.
  • Get some shade. Find a spot in the shadow of trees, and park your Vanagon with the rear oriented toward the afternoon sun to benefit from the protective shade of the popup roof.

Van & Accessories — Features & products to help you stay cool

While Driving:

  • Chong-bandannaDress appropriately. Lighter summer wear like shorts and T-shirts are obvious choices, but wicking synthetics made for sports and fitness will help shed the heat. A “Cooling Towel” worn around your neck will help cool your shoulders and upper torso. Or for a classic hippie vibe, wear a wetted bandanna to chill out, man.
  • Wing windows, the original air-conditioner. Along with full-size spare tires, manual transmissions, and ashtrays, most modern cars no longer offer wing windows, those small triangular moveable sections of glass near the side mirrors. Thankfully, your Vanagon still has these hot-weather lifesavers, and they can really help keep a breeze going while travelling.
  • During one of the above-mentioned restaurant breaks, get a large insulated cup of ice water or other cold beverage for the road. This will not only help lower your body temperature but also keep you properly hydrated (avoid caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate you).
  • Spritz yourself (or your travelling mates!) with cool water from a spray bottle to aid in evaporative cooling.
  • Toss a Coolmax or microfiber towel over your seats to help wick moisture and perspiration away
  • Circulate air in the cab or passenger area of your Vanagon using 12-volt DC fans, ranging from the simple dashboard variety to more permanent versions.
  • Your Uber driver may enjoy his swanky wooden-beaded seat cover, but you can do better than that; consider a ventilated seat cover with integrated 12-volt DC fan which forces air from near the floor through internal channels to keep your bum and back cool.
  • Children or pets will appreciate a little extra ventilation, too; use The Noggle to extend fresh air to the rear passenger area or anywhere else you need it.

The Van — Things you can change about your van

While Driving:

  • gowesty-wind-deflectorsWind deflectors. These accessories are easily installed and besides allowing more fresh air (even in the rain or when parked), also reduce wind noise.
  • Combat Vanagon Hot Foot Syndrome. Keep hot air from the radiator out of the cab by replacing your old and faulty heater control valve and/or adding an auxiliary shutoff valve in the heater hose circuit. Reseal the small exterior accelerator-pedal housing, and install foil-faced insulation on the firewall behind the radiator.
  • Rear window vents. Vanagons built after 1988 featured additional vents in the rearmost side windows, to aid in drawing stuffy air from the interior. Though no small task, these windows and vents can be installed in your early-model Vanagon for better flow-through ventilation.

While Camped:

  • Once you’ve reached your campsite for the afternoon, draw the curtains on the sunny side of the van to prevent solar gain, or install reflective foil automotive sun shades.
  • Purchase or make your own front window screens to allow a cross-breeze while keeping bugs out.
  • Build your own portable camping evaporative air conditioner. Sometimes known as a ‘swamp cooler,’ these work best when camped in hot, dry environments.
  • Install a 12-volt thermostat-controlled ceiling vent fan in your Westfalia popup roof to help draw warm air out.
  • Some inventive Westfalia owners even carry compact 120-volt home air conditioner units for use in campsites offering electrical hookups. This will require a custom panel to mount the unit in your front window, or a shroud attached with Velcro to your Westfalia tent.

With a bit of planning, a slight attitude adjustment, and maybe a few dollars, you and your family can keep your cool this summer!

What do you think? How do you keep cool in your camper van? Leave a question or comment below, and use the buttons to share with your friends!

Preparing Your Vanagon Westfalia for Summer

How to get your Vanagon Westfalia Camper Van ready for summer road-tripping and camping

“Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. I wonder where dem campers is?”
Paraphrased from Frederic Ogden Nash

If your camper van is anything like mine it probably spends its winters tucked safely away in a big red barn, or maybe in a garage or under a protective cover, or perhaps in the great outdoors (see “Winterize Your Westfalia for Storage”).

But now spring is in the air: the bees are buzzing, the meadowlarks are … larking, and campers are eager to begin a new season of outdoor living. Ironically, storage can be hard on things made to move; batteries can run down, fluids leak, and joints and mechanisms stiffen.

And that’s just the driver!

So before we hit the road, let’s get our Vanagons ready for another summer of safe, comfortable, enjoyable journeys.

A Springtime Checklist

Get Some Fresh Air
Start by opening all the doors or windows, and popping the Westfalia top, to vent the stale months-old air and to allow any humidity or moisture to dissipate. Inspect the underside of the fiberglass popup roof and the canvas for signs of mildew or rot.

Take a Good Look
Visually inspect the van inside and out, looking for evidence of rain leaks and fluid leaks: coolant, motor oil, transaxle oil, brake fluid, etc.. Check the reservoir levels of all these same fluids, and top them up if needed. If you use protective tire covers remove them now; check the tires for proper inflation and inspect them for weather checking, including the spare tire.

Battery-DocGet Charged Up
If your Vanagon was not used much during the winter, you probably brought your batteries indoors in the fall and used a quality automated maintenance charger to keep them topped up throughout the winter months. Reinstall now in the spring.

Shakedown Cruise
Once everything checks out and you’ve installed the batteries, go ahead and fire it up. Watch for any smoke or fluid leaks, and listen for unusual sounds. While warming up, have a partner help you check all the exterior lights (headlights, turn signals, brakes, etc.). Take the van out for a spin and a road test, checking that the steering, brakes, and shifting work properly.

Meguiars Marine_RV Fiberglass Restoration SystemWash, Wax, and Wacuum
On your way home, stop at a self-service car wash offering a high-pressure underbody flush to wash any lingering dirt or road salt. Once home, give your van a thorough hand washing top to bottom with a quality car-wash soap, followed by a hand waxing. This gives you an opportunity to inspect the body and paintwork, and protects your finish from harmful summer UV rays. Use a quality RV or marine polish and wax on your fiberglass Westfalia roof.

If you didn’t vacuum and clean your Vanagon’s interior before parking it for the winter, do it now. Use a carpet deodorizer and a heavy-duty fabric refresher to eliminate odors. Vacuum the upholstery, followed by any other detailing inside and out. Polish and protect the dashboard and other vinyl areas with wipe-on or spray products designed for these surfaces.

Remove any mouse deterrents or traps from the van.

Safety First
Replace the batteries in your smoke- and carbon-monoxide detectors. Check that your fire extinguisher’s pressure gauge is in the green, and turn it upside-down to give it a few hearty shakes to loosen any compacted agent powder.

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink
If your van is a full Westfalia model, test all the camper appliances. Half-fill the onboard water tank and test the kitchen sink faucet. If you used RV Antifreeze in your water-supply system to prevent freeze damage, rinse and flush it out now.

Be sure to open the main valve on the LP tank, then light both burners on the stove to prime the supply lines. The Westfalia refrigerator generally is easier to ignite on LP if it has first been pre-chilled on 120-volt AC house current several hours or overnight. Follow the starting procedure in the owner’s manual to ignite the fridge.

Mr-Heater-Little-BuddyIf you use electric or LP space heaters for camping during the Winter or the shoulder seasons of early Spring and late Fall, test them now to ensure they’ll work when you need them.

Let’s Go!
Restock the van with any camping equipment, automotive supplies & tools, or other provisions you removed in the fall. Once you have your Vanagon recommissioned for duty, all you need is a tank of fuel, a cold six-pack, and an adventurous attitude.

See you on the highway!

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