When we found Gurt she was a wee bit eager to start. We found her with a dead battery, so we replaced it. But as soon as we connected the battery, much to our surprise, she would start to turn over without the keys even close to the ignition. When we would put the keys in the ignition, turn it to the “on” position and give her some gas she would turn on. We found her after not being on the road for 8 years, so her even turning over was a good sign for us.
After seeking help on forums, calls to automotive repair shops we decided to start by change the starter. This is not the hardest job, but there are a few tricks that will definitely slow you down if you know them.
Difficulty – 3.5/5
Time Needed – 1.25 Hours
Click here to find out how to change your Vanagon’s Fuel Pump
You’re going to want to start by looking over the starter. We did this by jacking up our rig. We backed it up to a high point with the engine bay overhanging. With our van jacked up we crawled under. Looking at the bottom of the engine by the transmission you will see the starter. It’s a little hard to access, but it looks like the picture below. There will be a bolt on the bottom of the starter, and a 16 mm wrench will be needed to unscrew it. It will be a small one, about an inch long.
Next, you’re going to want to look at the top of the starter from the back of the van through the hatch. You will just be able to see it – this is the bolt that you’re going to need the 8 mm Allen wrench to unscrew. We did this with me under the van and Samara laying in the van with the Z-seat folded down. I guided her to the bolt with my hand.
This is when you’re first analysis is going to come in handy. If it looks like your starter is from the factory you’re going to need some WD40. This bolt is long – around 6-8 inches long. And the part that we didn’t know is that there is a nut on the end of it. We spent an embarrassingly long time spinning the Allen key not knowing why it wasn’t loosening. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are spaces where the transmission joins the engine. I found it hard to keep my hand on the nut when taking it off and replacing it, making extra sure that it didn’t fall into the crevasses. Also, you’re going to want to be careful not to snap this bolt. Ours was very rusty in the middle and took a little finessing to break free.
Once both bolts are taken off, the starter should pull out. Make sure that you don’t bend it as it’s taken out, which is easier said than done with the long bolt in your way. Also, be careful of the wiring. On the right side (looking from the bottom facing the rear) there are going to be two wires attached to the prongs on the starter. These are for the starter ignition. It is worth noting that our Westfalia is an automatic (the wiring could be different for a manual). Take note of the placement of the wiring. They should go back on the same way they came off.
Replacing The Starter
Once the starter is out it is literally the reverse of how it came out. I found that balancing the new starter on my chest as I plugged the wires in worked well. You’re also going to want to put the long bolt in before you hoist it into place. Now you are ready to put the starter back in. Just like taking it out, put it in straight and flush it up. I found it easiest to hold the starter with my right hand as my hand tightened the small screw at the bottom with my left hand. Then I put the long bolt in and put the washer on and tightened the nut at the back, again being careful not to drop the nut into the transmission.