The importance of properly breaking-in a fresh engine cannot be overstated. This is especially true of BIG vehicles with small engines, as is the case with the Vanagon. How closely these guidelines are adhered to will directly affect the life and performance of the engine, and will minimize any problems especially in the short-term. In general, if an engine is broken in properly and exhibits no problems during the break-in period, it will likely never develop a problem.
During the first 1000 miles of engine life:
1) Allow coolant temperature to come up to normal running temperature before applying half throttle.
2) Avoid full throttle application.
3) Do not exceed an engine speed of 4,000 rpm.
4) Do not use cruise control or maintain a constant engine speed for more than 10 minutes at a time.
5) Maximize warm-up cycles; the more times the engine is brought up to full operating temperature and allowed to cool fully, the better.
6) Change oil and filter at 1000 miles, per warranty guidelines.
During the first 10,000 miles:
1) Monitor oil consumption carefully; check oil at EVERY gasoline fill-up.
Note: The distance between the two notches on the dipstick is NOT one quart. Adding a full quart when oil level is at the bottom notch WILL result in over-filling, very high oil consumption, and possible engine damage.
2) Keep the oil level closer to the lower notch than the upper notch.
3) Use 20/50 non-synthetic oil (any brand). Please switch to synthetic oil as soon as oil consumption has stabilized.
After 10,000 miles and for the life of the engine:
1) Avoid applying more than ½ throttle before coolant temperature is up to normal, which is about the middle of the gauge.
2) Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT good for the coolant temperature to stay at the low end of the gauge. If you notice your coolant temperature is not coming up to normal it is cause for alarm—get it checked out.
3) Use only the top quality synthetic oil of 10/60-weight.
About oil consumption:
It is normal for an engine to consume oil. Following the guidelines above will have a direct effect on how much oil the engine will consume—forever. The factory specification from VW is that up to one quart per 1000 miles is “normal.” The oil capacity of a waterboxer is 5 quarts. These engines have a “wet sump,” and as long as the oil pump pick-up does not starve for oil, oil pressure in the engine will be the same regardless of whether there is one quart of oil present or five; it makes no difference. In general, if no oil has to be added between oil changes, that is what we consider to be “acceptable.” That equates to around ½ quart per 1000 miles. That means that at 3500 miles, the engine will be no more than 2 quarts low.
NOTE: This is a guideline, not a specific step-by-step instruction sheet. What is even more important with regard to engine life (long life!) is that all of the systems keeping the engine alive be thoroughly overhauled—especially the cooling system. It is also critical that you avoid detonation by using the best fuel you can buy. For more information, please read the following articles:
• Cooling System Overhaul: A $3 Hose Takes Out a 2300cc Engine!
• Engine Replacement: What Does GoWesty Charge for That?
• Gasoline Grade: Which Should I Use in My VW Van?