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Cooling System Overhaul: A $3 Hose Takes Out a Fresh GoWesty 2.3 Liter Engine!

We get the phone call just about daily, “How much for a fresh GoWesty engine installed?” And I have to say, “Well…..that’s a trick question!”

The common misperception is that if you stick a rebuilt engine and transaxle in an old Vanagon, you somehow end up with a rebuilt Vanagon. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if it is reliability you seek, and the engine in your Vanagon is running strong and is not leaking oil or coolant, you are better off spending money on the systems that keep the engine alive; fuel delivery, fuel injection, ignition, exhaust, and most importantly: COOLING SYSTEM.

I see it all the time. We buy a Vanagon for re-sale from folks who have just HAD IT! They have been let down numerous times, right in the middle of their vacation, and are convinced there Vanagon will never be reliable. Even after spending thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars, it just lets them down. And when I go through their stacks of invoices, I begin to understand their point of view. It goes something like this:

1996: Fresh engine, one hose

1999: Fresh engine, two hoses

2004: Fresh engine, one hose

Wow, I guess these VW engines just don’t last… WRONG. I have always said, “If you can keep oil and coolant in your waterboxer, you can’t kill it!” The typical life expectancy from a wateboxer, baring any trauma due to loss of coolant or oil, is around 200k miles. By that time, they are just plumb worn out.  The problem with Vanagons is this: The newest one was built back in 1991! Even a low mileage Vanagon is OLD. And every cooling system part, every hose, every plastic junction is OLD.

This fact bit us in the behind in the summer of 2007. We installed a fresh 2.3 liter engine in a customer’s Westy, Mike’s ‘89. We did our absolute best to insure everything that needed replacing was replaced. We know from experience which cooling hoses and plastic parts get worked the hardest, and those are always replaced. But in this case, one hose we had NEVER seen fail did just that. See photos.

This is a $3 piece of hose, and technically is not even part of the COOLING sy stem; it is a heater hose. You see, the heater system on water cooled vehicles uses the coolant. So, not only are all the coolant hoses exposed to heat and pressure every time the engine warms up, so does every heater hose and both front and rear heater cores. Every time the engine is started cold, warms up, and cools back off, every single part of the cooling heater systems gets hot, pressurizes and expands, then cools off and contracts. Just think about how many times this occurs in 17-25 years!

So, this hose, which looked fine from the outside, was rotte n on the INSIDE. It burst, all the coolant ran out, and the FRESH 2.3 LITER GOWESTY ENGINE MELTED. There was only about 2500 miles on it…

Mike came back to us, and said, “Hey, you guys are the experts. If you told me I needed to replace the entire cooling and heater system, I would have!” Good point.

So, we gave him another fresh GoWesty 2.3 FOR FREE, installed it FOR FREE, and sold him a completely new cooling and heater system. And, ever since that day, whenever we install a fresh GoWesty engine, we ALWAYS recommend a completely fresh cooling and heater system. No exceptions! And, now you know why. It may seem we are just trying to “up sell” the job. But that is simply not the case. We just want to sell you only ONE engine…

Back to the original question, “How much for a fresh GoWesty engine, installed?”. Well, with or without a new cooling system? And, how many engines do you want to buy?

Cheers,
Lucas.
 


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