Vanagon Sunset

Vanagon Sunset

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Van Weight

There are a ton of upgrades available to Vanagon owners nowadays and I certainly am interested in adding quite a few of these to my van as well.  I have an upgraded power plant that pushes my van along with lots of power, so I don't worry about the weight so much with regards to making it go.  I can put 4 people and a ton of crap in there and still cruise up into the mountains at 70mph.  However, stopping and turning must still be addressed.

I've spent a ton of time to make my brakes work the best they can, and they do.  I can lock them up if need be, but I typically drive as if I can't, in other words, I give plenty of space to cars in front of me and always assume that someone is going to give me a reason to slam on my brakes.

I've also added HD sway bars and better springs to help with the handling and it can swerve better than a stock van with less risk of a rollover.

I've seen a bunch of vans out there loaded to the gills with all kinds of "stuff" and I don't always get the impression that they've thought about weight distribution and how it affects handling.

Did you think about weight distribution when you loaded the van, keeping heavier items down low and lighter items up high?  This comes into play with regards to cargo pods and stuff that is your cargo tray and on your rack.  
Weight behind the rear wheels can affect your rollover potential drastically, so it's best to avoid heavy items to the rear, and always keep weight as low as possible.

In the case of a rollover, is your cooler or other heavy items secured in a way to prevent it from flying around and hitting your passengers?  You'd hate to see one of your children get hospitalized because of a head injury caused by a box of ?? that was laying on the floor.   It could happen. My Engel Fridge weight about 50lbs empty.  I was sure to strap that thing down to protect my son who sits just a few feet behind it.

Enough of the darkness and doom.

With regards to braking forces... I try to think of my Van as more of the "backpacking" version of camping, so when I research new products, I try to take weight into consideration.  I try to keep it light and not carry unnecessary stuff, water, etc.  It requires more planning sometimes, but worth thinking about.  An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure in this case. 

For instance, if you're road tripping with other Van folks, check and see what they are bringing.  It might make sense to collaborate so that you're not doubling up on things just to "be prepared".  On my last road trip, there were a few tools I didn't toss in because I knew that my buddy had his and vice versa.  Water is heavy, so you might not need to fill your tank completely.  Is there water where you are going?  I got rid of my stock tank and installed a 6 gallon portable jug and I carry an extra 4 gallon jug sometimes when I think I'll need it.  Haven't run out yet.

I've seen guys put 6 gallon containers of fuel up on their roof. 6 gallons of fuel is about an additional 50lbs of weight up high that is going to help put your van on its side when you swerve to avoid the dog.  I know it sounds cruel, but I'm going to hit the dog and not take the risk of of hurting my family should that ever happen.

I drove commercial 15-passenger vans for about 8 years and the one thing you learn, is don't swerve unless you have to.  Eventually, the company I worked for moved away from 15 passenger vans because of all the reasons listed above.  We were always very careful not to overload the rear of the vans with weight.  There's tons of information online about passenger van rollovers and safety, much of which can be applied to our beloved Vanagons.  I suggest to troll around on the intrawebs and take some notes.  I hate seeing posts from people who have learned the hard way.

These vans are awesome, but lets not forget that they aren't modern 
sportscars and need a little extra attention when driving.

Some reading/resources:

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