On our way back from Victoria we stopped by my parents in Red Deer for a quick visit before heading home. Slug had been running really well (slowly, but well) for us the whole time. Getting it inspected before purchasing it, the folks at Tony’s had thought it was in pretty good shape other than the usual things.
Well, about 10KM south of Red Deer one of the usual things happened and we had a big coolant leak. Not just steam, but it was dripping off of one of the exhaust headers. Up until now the coolant had been topped right up so it was strange to be empty all of a sudden, and the dripping was a cause for concern. Water-cooled Vanagon’s are notorious for problems with the cylinder heads, so I was worried there was a crack somewhere.
I called my dad to come take a look. I’m still hesitant to stick my hands too far into the engine bay, but thankfully he wasn’t. He quickly found that he could get a whole finger (!) into the coolant hose exiting the right cylinder head. How this hose hadn’t split open on any of the slow, hot mountain highways on our trip is beyond me, but it must have been the stop in Red Deer, long enough to cool down, followed by the quick jump up to highway temperatures that did it.
It would be pretty hard to find Vanagon parts on a regular day, but a holiday Monday was out of the question. Thankfully Canadian Tire was able to help us find something close to what we needed, with the right bends that we could cut down to match the head on one side and the firewall terminal on the other (that splits off up to the radiator and the heater core). Off we went, my dad driving us there and Wilma in tow. (Wilma! What a champ on the side of the highway. Monique made sure she was okay the whole time, and watched oncoming traffic. Feet from the QEII isn’t a fun place to be elbows deep into a car.)
After we got the new hose in place, which required figuring out the right and wrong ways to get the airbox out, we topped up the coolant and confirmed there were no new leaks. We also figured out that (note for other Vanagon owners) the temperature warning light just means that the coolant tank is below half full, not that everything is melting.
After that, Slug made it back to Calgary just fine. In addition to replacing the original fuel lines, another usual thing that should be done to any old Vanagon, now we get to look forward to replacing the rest of the coolant lines. We couldn’t have figured this out without my dad there to help us though. Thanks Dad.