Vanagon Sunset

Vanagon Sunset

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Parts Skimpin' vs. Peace of Mind

When I did my engine conversion in January, I dove in feet first.  I had never done one and was scared to mess it up, so I chose to do it right by buying some of the best parts available.  I went with the Rocky Mountain conversion kit with the whole kit and kaboodle, then went through my entire cooling system with new parts, fuel system, CV's, you name it.

After I had spent XX+X on parts, I was starting feel guilty and bad about the "no holds barred" approach.  One of the last things I needed was a good starter and had heard that the TDi starter was the way to go, offering more torque for the 2.5.  So I ordered up a conversion plate from RMW and started shopping for a starter.  The Bosch SR0408X is the go-to starter for this adapter plate and it comes out of late 90's/early 2000's VW Golf/Jetta, etc. but they can be pricey.  Since I had already spent my retirement on the motor conversion, I thought I'd save a little ($100) by using a starter from the wrecking yard.
Rocky Mountain Westy TDi Starter adapter plate

My local VW wreckers had a used starter for $90 and a 6 month warranty, so I figured, what the heck, why not.

So, I get the starter mounted up, motor installed, everything plumbed, wired, etc, etc and he (Ferdinand) fires right up almost instantly.  Awesome!   I proceeded to get him all dialed and road ready for the Spring Break road trip we had planned.

Motor and trans ready for install
Fired up and running great!
April comes and we head out on a 1600 mile trip throughout Death Valley, Southern Nevada and Utah.  9 days of fun, backroads, camping, hiking and exploring.  I didn't have one problem with the Van for that entire trip... not one.  Completely stoked about how things went down and glad that I spent the money I did on the van when I did.

We roll back into our hometown, pull up in front of the house and I shut the van down.  We opened the garage and then I went to fire it back up to back into the driveway and ... click. Nothing.  Hmm.   Well, at least it happens now, right?

So, I let it sit for a bit, we unloaded it where it was and then I tried it again, and voila, it fires right up.  This happened periodically over the period of the next 2 months, only when hot, the notorious "hot start" issue that I had read about.  I chased wires, check plugs, added dielectric grease, but couldn't nail down the exact cause.

Finally, my wife drove the van once or twice and experienced it in traffic when she accidentally stalled it and almost got stranded a few times without knowing what to do, so I needed to figure this thing out.  I suspected it was the starter, or potentially a bad cell in the battery, so I had my friend take a look at it and he did some tests and concluded that it must be the starter.

So, that's when I realized that the 6 month warranty had just expired a few weeks earlier, (I was out of town for few months during those 6 months, so it came up fast) and I was going to have to buy a new/remanufactured starter.  I shopped online and ended up getting one for about $200 (60 of which was the core deposit).

Bosch SR0408X Remanufactured replacement 

So, it arrived and my friend offered to put it in for me while I was away for work, and the problem is now solved... it was definitely a bad starter.   So, to sum things up... you can save some money here and there on your van, but be prepared pay the price down the road.  Just don't let something small be the determining factor for your road trip success.  I tried to save $100, but it ended up costing me and extra $100 in the end all said and done.  Lesson Learned!   The van gets, what the van wants... eventually.

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