Interior non camping Dashboard removal
This is a fairly easy job as far as Vanagons are concerned but be ready to spend the weekend.
Before you get started with this project you may also want to order those darn 11 clamps at your VW dealer. They are VW Part number 321 819 059 and you will need them to reseal the heater unit. Having the Bentley guide will also be helpful.
Below are some basic instructions for doing the job:
Disconnect the battery: You will be working without the dash and with exposed “hot” terminals so it is best to disconnect the ground connection. To do this move the passenger seat forward, remove the plate under the rear of the seat protecting the battery and loosed the ground connection. Pull the ground wire off the terminal and fasten it so that it does not flip back and touch the battery terminal again.
Instrument cluster removal: Pull the instrument panel off and remove all the wiring. There are 4 Phillips #2 screws holding the plastic tab of the instrument cluster. Be careful, these tabs can get brittle with age. They will break and shatter. Wiggle your hand behind the speedometer and unclip the spedo cable. Just squeeze the connector and it will come out. Next pull out the switches by pressing the tabs to release them from the cluster. The cluster should lift out and remove the big wire connector plug. This will provide you room to get under the dash board. Put the cluster in a safe place that you will not sit or lay other components on.
Vent lever removal: Release all the vent levers. If you pull on the blue and red rubber knobs they will work off the lever. You will be able to see the mounting nut after the instrument panel is removed. You may have to remove the front and rear heater fan switches as well. Also remove any auxiliary wiring on the dash that you may have added on.
Radio: Remove the radio – you are on your own here
Remove the Glove box: – press the retaining tabs and lower the box to the floor board. Slide it off its pivot. Be careful not to press the retaining tabs to much or too hard, they could be brittle and break.
Syncro dash plate: (Applies to SYNCRO Model) Remove the Syncro dash plate and Differential lock switch(es).
Steering column: Remove the two bolts holding the steering column to the dash frame. These are safety bolts without a head because it is meant to snap off when the bolts are torque at the factory. I used a pair of vise grips and was able to turn these bolts loose. I replaced them with normal bolts. I think they are a thread of 8x1.25 mm and 25 cm long. The steering column will drop to the driver’s seat and that is ok and out of the way.
Dashboard attachment: Unbolt the dashboard – a. 6 or 8 #2 Philips head below the windshield b. 4 big bolts along the door jams. You will need to be able to open the doors wide enough to get your screwdriver/bolt driver in there
Dash removal: Ok the Dash should be loose and ready to pull off. a. Lift it up slowly and check what else is still wired and connected, like the cig lighter or AC switches, You will have to unplug all. b. I did it by myself but with an extra person it sure is easier to lift and pull the dash out one side or the other.
Review the heater unit: With the dash out you can now see the heater unit shell.
a. Fastening clips: Check to see if there are black metallic clips (11 of them) snapping the upper half of this heater together. This is an indication that your heater has been pull out and separated once before for service. If there are no clips then this is the first time this heater unit is being serviced. There is a smooth factory mold gluing the upper and lower half of the heater unit sealed from the factory. You will have to run a blade or knife along this edge to separate the two halves. Make sure that you order the 11 clips available only at the VW dealers. It will be tough on a Sunday afternoon to find these at NAPA. They cost about $2 or so. VW part number 321 819 059
b. Heater unit support: Ok the heater unit is held in place by 4 fat #3 Philips screws inside the cabin and 2 #2 from outside by the headlights. You will have to remove the front upper grill to get to these. Once you remove the grill you will see against the firewall just the Phillips head holding a felt or soft washer. These should be the upper supporting screws for the heater unit. They may be rusted to where you cannot get your screwdriver into it. Just work it and don’t strip it or rush this part. On the inside the screws should be easier. You may need a long Phillips
- 3 screwdriver.
c. Coolant hose removal: You will also need to remove the coolant hoses coming up from the housing. Be neat and try to capture any coolant drips before they get to the rug. I used lots of newspaper rags and paper towels. Not too much came out when I did this, but the heater core is full of coolant so when you take the actual heater unit out be aware that some coolant may drip. I put a couple of corks in the pipes to keep them as sealed as I could.
Removal out of the van: Ok the disassembly is complete you are ready to take the heater unit out of the van for the service. Again plug the coolant pipes and hoses to not loose too much coolant on the front rug in the van.
Servicing the Heater Unit: a. Separate the two halves: with the heater unit in your work area (or garage floor) you can now separate the shells and get to the fan motor. See the seam between the two shells and try to run a knife or a blade along that seam. Be patient and work it slowly to not damage anything internal and yourself. Refer to the Bentley instructions if need be. Again make sure that you have the VW engineered clips to buckle these two halves once you are ready to re install.
b. Replacing the Heater Fan: With the two halves split you can now service the fan motor. I recall that it easily comes out. You will probably have to remove the squirrel cages from you old motor and insert them on the new motor. It may take a very small Allen wrench for that… don’t know? Forgot? Mark the orientation of all the parts to fit back in place properly and in the right direction. Refit the new fan motor and test it out with a 12-volt source. Make sure it works and spins in the correct direction.
c. Wiring the Heater Fan: The wires are connected/soldered to the big green resistor. This is what provides the 3 fan speeds. You will also note the three or four wires coming from the switch to the big resistor. Do you soldering tricks and remember where the yellow, brown, black wires go. If the big green resistor is cracked or blackened it may need to be replaced as well. Test it out on all three speeds.
d. Heater core servicing: You may choose to service other components of the heater unit such as the heater radiator core of the vent flaps. You can check the heater core for any leakage, which you could have smelled as sweet maple syrup prior to taking this job on. There should be signs of corrosion if the core is leaking. You can remove the heater core and flush it out or look for any signs of leaks. In which case it would be very very wise to change the heater core as well since you have it all out and can do it right. List vendors sell this unit for around $100.
e. Vent Flaps Servicing: While you are at it, check the foam seals around all the flaps. These are usually burned out after 10 + years in service, and may need to be replaced. I made all the replacement seal from foam pieces that I had laying around from old packaging. Go to a hardware store and check out the foam material in the heating and air conditioning section. They usually will have some material that will work. You cannot get this from VW so you have to custom make this. The important flaps to check are the lower flaps. This seal is what stops the outside from coming into the cab and warming up the Van in the summer time.
Reinstallation: OK you are done. I'm done, I can’t think of anything else at the moment. Refit the heater flaps, the heater core, the fan motor and cage, the resistor and reassemble the two halves using the 11 clips. Refit the heater unit in the van, refit the coolant hoses on the heater core. Check the vent cabling to ensure that all works well inside the box. Refit and remount everything in reverse order and you should be golden.
Fill the coolant and bleed the circuit as described on the list or in Bentley. Flush the air out and you are set.
Joel Cort Joel.firstname.lastname@example.org or Joel_Cort@yahoo 89 Syncro Westy Rochester NY.
Other Considerations From: Frank Condelli
Don Spence wrote: Anything else that should be looked at while I have the dash out?
Don, I just did one this week and have a few more coming in for the same. Seems to be a never ending problem with the Vanagon. It's a long tedious job but not complicated. Recommendations: glue some kind of plastic cap over the exposed end bearing of the new fan motor unit. This will extend its life. VW thought it was "cool" to leave it in the dirty incoming air path ! More "German" engineering. Look at all the flaps in the heater unit. More than likely the foam seals on them are toast. Replace them with peel & stick foam insulation stripping found at your local hardware store. The plastic foam seal retainers on some of the flaps can be discarded as more than likely the foam you procure will be too thick to allow them to be reinstalled. Not needed as long as the new foam sticks well and that's gonna depend on YOU cleaning the flaps well ! Clean both halves of the heater assembly as best you can. I found a large laundry tub filled with hot water and all purpose household cleaned and a plastic bristle brush worked quite well for this. Look at the heater core for signs of leaking. If you find any corrosion spots the core is leaking and needs to be changed NOW ! After you have cut or broken open the heater housing to get at the fan & motor assembly you will need to glue it back together, use black silicone RTV for this. There are clips available somewhere to clip on the tabs around the circumference. I do not know where to get them. I use small flat head sheet metal screws on each tab, pre-drilling a small hole before threading in the screw. Test the unit for operation before gluing the two halves back together. You want to know if the step resistor is working before you reinstall the unit ! The one I worked on this week had the step resistor in the heater assembly. Test all the heater cable controls before reinstalling to make sure they open and close the flaps in the heater assembly properly. The cable that operates the heater control valve in the coolant line can only be tested and adjusted after you reinstall the heater assembly, don't forget to check its operation both at the lever controls and under the spare tire where the valve is. If the valve is leaking as many do now is the time to change that also. Before reinstalling the heater assembly clean up the fire wall area where it attaches. Any flaking paint or rusting here should be dealt with NOW ! Now is also a good time to clean up and repair any wiring, instrument lights, ducts or anything else that needs attention. Good luck and have fun getting heat your heat back !