Category Archives: Upgrades & Modifications

Seeing Red

So my van has gearbox issues! But no reason to stop chipping away at the things that have annoyed me until that can be fixed. Basically, the gaps in my wheels aren’t massive because of the style of alloy, but annoying all the same to see the rusty drum behind. So yesterday / today I jacked the van up, popped the wheel off and set to realizing my goal. To paint the drum red.

Anyways, one thing leads to another, and before you know it (5 hours later actually), I’ve washed away all the mud, painted the trailing arms and stone chipped the wheel arch.

The finished article:

The replacement gearbox should arrive on Tuesday, along with new clutch and slave cylinder from Brickwerks (due to be fitted on Friday locally). Nothing like cutting it fine. We should be on the ferry for our Euro trip just over a week later. Lets hope there are no issues with the replacement box!😳

GPS HUD speedometer

My stock speedometer is woefully inaccurate. It used to read in kilometres per hour due to its European origin. To try and make it usable in some way shape or form, I fitted a Backlit Gauge Kit from Brickwerks.

The kit certainly adds that modern look to the dash and converted to MPH. However, I think in stripping the speedometer to installing the kit I may have upset the calibration of the device. That or it was inaccurate before I started tinkering.

Anyhow, knowing that it’s out by a good 10mph, and I run the risk of getting a speeding ticket I tend to use an app on my phone to accurately monitor my speed. This is all well and good, but a tad inconvenient.

With all of this taken into account I have decided to look at a Head Up Display (HUD) GPS speedometer. It’s cost me £38 from eBay.

I’m going to have it wired into the ignition live so it comes on automatically and test it on my dash pod. The other option is to plug it into the cigarette lighter (12v) socket but this is too messy a solution for something I want to work each and every time I use my van.

It’s yet to be delivered, but I’ll post up with feedback once installed 😊🖖

A New Heart For Wolfgang – Part 3

It took a great deal of effort and willpower not to email Brickwerks workshop asking for updates while my van was in for the engine swap . Simon had sent me a few photos of the progress in the first week, but after the bank holiday they had a lot on getting orders out for the webshop. I thought after the initial panic and rocky start shortly after I dropped the van off, the lack of contact in the second week was a good sign. The old adage ‘no new is good news’ gave me some solace that things were going smoothly. Besides, i didn’t want to know if there were any issues so thought it prudent to just sever contact until the latest possible moment.

Friday was the agreed collection date, so I emailed on Thursday morning to make sure it was a green light for the trip over to Honley by train. The reply was ‘yes, the engine has been running, sounded well but still needed a road test’. Attached was an image of the rear end of my Wolfgang with a new Brickwerks graphic on the exhaust cover. This I thought was really cool as these guys are the bees knees when it comes to this particular type of van! It adds an element of kudos for people to know this van has been breathed on by people that really know what they are doing!

Wolfgang’s bum adorning the new Brickwerks graphic 🙂

I responded for them to keep me posted in case of any issues, and ask if could I have the bill by the end of the day to avoid the look of shock on my face at the counter when i came to collect. 🙂

Friday morning Mandy and I walked to Derby Train station from our home and caught the 9.40 train to Sheffield for the connecting train to Honley village. We arrived just before midday, and got to the garage shortly afterwards. Simon’s white Atlantic and another calypso Atlantic were spotted in the garage, which made for the usual full compliment of colours from factory if you include mine in cherry red. This seems to be the norm when I visit.

Simons White Atlantic and a customers Calypso gree Atlantic

The finances were sorted out, Angus (the mechanic) gave me an overview of the work done and off we tootled. First stop was the garage over the road to fill up with diesel. Before I went to pay I noticed a pool of coolant leaking from the engine under tray. So we headed back to the Brickwerks to point out my findings.

The New 1.9TD (AAZ) Engine

Angus was just about to sink his teeth into a pasty for lunch . Credit to the lad, he set to fixing the issue straight away.  We spent the time chatting to Michael in the reception about the shop, garage & camp sites . This resulted in me purchasing a few extra parts for the van in the form of a new snorkel for the airbox, and a pair of door mirror plugs. Close on two hours later Angus returned to say it was fixed and explained that the LDA boost controller (a component that enriches the fuel as the van accelerates), was actually pushing against a plastic union attached to the cylinder head which induced the leak. So we left for a second time just as he sank his teeth into his pasty 😅. What a star!

I was a little apprehensive on the way home after the earlier problem.  I could tell that the engine has a lot more torque than the old worn out 1.6TD unit. The slightest incline had a massive impact on speed requiring down shifts into lower gears with the old engine. This new power plant was noticeably better. I could actually change up the gearbox as i climbed the hills out of Yorkshire into Derbyshire. I stopped at a car park to check all was well. Water was gushing from the under tray, and it looked like the injectors were leaking. This was really concerning and i had visions of having to drive back to Brickwerks again. I stopped and thought logically about this! The water was clear, and i could see no obvious leak from anywhere. What appeared to be leaking injectors could just be water boiling off after Angus had washed the pink coolant from the engine with fresh water. This could have pooled in the foam sound proofing attached to the inside of the under tray, which was still seeping out some time later. I hoped this was the case and we continued towards Derby, keeping an eye on the temp gauge and warning light. No cause for alarm as we pulled up to Mandy’s parents house in Ashbourne. I checked the back of the van and not a drop of fluid was seen to be leaking. My diagnosis was correct. Nothing to worry about 🙂

We eventually arrived home at 6.30pm with 65 miles now on the new engine. On reflection,  the day had been pretty stressful. So once the old engine had been removed from the van and put in the garage, and the fridge had been switched on for a camp over at the weekend, it was a case of feet up and crack open a beer.

The Old 1.6TD (JX) Engine

Mandy and I were up at 8am the following day. We had breakfast and started loading the van with the camping gear required for the weekends trip to King’s Linn. We chose the campsite via mainly due to the distance. It was approximately 100 miles away from home, which would mean another 200 miles on the new engine by the time we got home. I needed to get to the magic 500 miles needed to run it in before I took the van back to Brickwerks on the 5th May for an oil & filter change and general check over. This round trip would put the total up to over 270. Happy days!

The weather was excellent all weekend. No rain, plenty of sun, but chilly with the northerly wind. The drive to Norfolk took us just over two hours. We arrived at the campsite at midday.

King’s Lynn Caravan and Camping Park

I was in a really good place and positively buzzing about the way the engine was performing. We pitched the van, turned the radio up and chilled for an hour or so. It was only going to be a matter of time before I got restless and wanted to tinker. Fortunately, I had something to occupy myself in the form of the new snorkel. The original one had perished and this was brought to my attention by Brickwerks during the engine swap. It sounded like it wasn’t going to be a particularly difficult job so out came the screwdrivers and away i went.

Half an hour later the old one was out and new in. Another job ticked off the list 🙂

In the evening Mandy and I went for a walk around the local village of North Runcton. Very picturesque with some amazing properties and fabulous countryside.

As the sun went down we headed back to the campsite.

The temperature dropped and by the time we got back to the van it was pretty chilly. The night heater went on as soon as the van door was opened. Great end to a fantastic day.

The following morning we headed of to Hunsatanton. It was only 15 miles down the road on the coast. We parked the van on a side street and walked to the shops where we had a coffee, then moved onto the beach. It had been many years since i had been to Hunstanton. 1983 was the last time or there abouts 🙁 .

‘Sunny Hunny’. AKA Hunstanton Beach 🙂

We perused a market, and brought a small surf board bottle opener for the van, then decided on a steady mosey home around lunchtime which included a stop in a lay-by for a coffee and a sandwich.

We arrived home around 4pm. We had had a great weekend, and i couldn’t fault the new engine. It hadn’t used a drop of oil, and it hadn’t leaked any fluids (which was pretty much the opposite to what I had come to expect from Wolfgang). We just need to get a few more miles under our belt for the first oil change and we are good to go for the up and coming month long trip to Europe. Wolfgang has a new heart and clean bill of health at last 🙂


A new heart for Wolfgang! – Part 2

Sunday 9th April was a gorgeous sunny day that lent itself perfectly to using the van as a base for a family outing at Calke Abbey. Its quite unique in the location we live in as much as the owners (National Trust) allow you to park on the grass fields surrounded by trees and woodlands which forms the long driveway up to the historic house itself.

Pitched up at Calke

All in all it turned out to be a very busy day, but in the back of my mind i knew that this would be the last trip in the van with the trusty 1.6TD JX engine that had provided us with so many great journeys since ownership. Getting really sentimental, i guess you could say that we were not the only people to benefit from the trusty power plant, so it makes sense to show its penultimate day in a great light.

Pitched up at 9am waiting for family

So we got back from Calke, and proceeded to rid the van of anything that wasn’t appropriate for the journey the following day. No camping equipment required, but lots of new and refurbished parts in readiness for the trip to the garage in sunny Yorkshire.

Monday we were greeted with another fine day weather-wise, but this was all predicted by the met office so no great surprises, but welcome all the same. We left Derby for Honley just after rush hour and arrived at our destination at 10.30am. The visit to Brickwerks has become an annual pilgrimage. This was our third time and with each visit address increasingly more expensive issues to get Wolfgang back to his former glory.

After a brief conversation with Simon and Micheal, Mandy and I tootled off thinking I was just lacking a fuel pump bracket. This didn’t concern me massively. However, by the time we had walked the short distance to the train station, and got on the train to depart home, emails were telling me the list of missing parts were increasing exponentially. My lack of research, and my over simplification of what could and couldn’t be used from the old JX unit left me in a bit of a sticky situation.

Parts required:

Intermediate shaft pulley.
Intermediate shaft flange.
Intermediate shaft pulley bolt and woodruff key.
Brake vacuum pump.
Oil seal housings for both ends of the crank.
Flywheel end – seal
Timing belt rear cover.
Timing belt upper cover.
Timing belt lower cover.
Oil filter head.
Oil cooler.

As a recap, I brought a second hand engine from eBay which was similar, but not the same as the engine i needed to put in my van. It was from a later model VW van, and slightly bigger in capacity to the one i had in my van (1900cc) This was an acceptable exchange for the 1.9TD AAZ i needed back from the engine shop. I stripped it back the core engine and sent it away to AW Engineering for checking.

ABL ready to be shipped to engine shop

Feedback was positive for the returned unit, and my new engine (AAZ Code) was returned to me at a later date in a polythene bag. This is where it stayed in its packaging until we arrived at Brickwerks.

My van only had four days allocated by Brickwerks to get the old engine out, and new in. If things over ran it would put them in a sticky situation for there future workload. Mandy and I were looking forward to a little shopping and a meal in Sheffield on the way home, but my mind was now on trying to get the missing parts to the garage. With such an early spanner in the works the day had become a little stressful.

With so many parts required i contacted AW Engineering who provided the engine. I knew they were big with VW engine re manufacturing, so they were a good place to start in terms of providing the sheer quantity of parts i needed to keep things on track. Long story short, after numerous emails and phone calls, AW had accumulated a ‘kit’ of parts required to complete the install. £300 was the sum required to purchase bits and have them shipped to Brickwerks.

The following day images of the progression started to arrive via email.

Turbo spacer required for 1.6 to 1.9cc
Porting on inlet manifold
The engine, manifold and turbo

On Wednesday I had notification that the extra parts had arrived from AW, along with this photo to say that ‘It’s in the hole’ 🙂

In the hole 1
No idea what this is but it looks clean and shiny at the same time 🙂

So that’s where we are at the moment. I’m in a happy place because its really looking fantastic.

Next – A New Heart for Wolfgang -Part 3


A new heart for Wolfgang! – Part 1

Wolfgang was purchased back in October 2014. Since that time we have  used the van for all of our main holidays, and hope that this will be the case for many years to come.  All part and parcel of owning a 25 year old classic is the never ending list of things to do to keep it in working order. I have chipped away at cosmetics, creature comforts and the run of the mill stuff to keep him roadworthy.  Although changes have been made to drastically  improve the handling with suspension improvements and maintenance, there has always been an issue with it’s lack of ability to climb hills.

During a service in 2016 by Brickwerks I asked if they could check the engines compression. Unsurprisingly it has been diagnosed as being on the poor side of what should be expected. This twinned with the fact the fuel pump had proven difficulty to adjust left me feeling that there was only one possible route to give me the reliability I need for any confidence in future trips. An engine change.

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last year we made the decision that 2017 would be the year we would commit to a month long trip in Europe. Both Mandy and I explored the avenue of taking time off unpaid to realize our dream so we didn’t have to exhaust all of our annual leave in one fell swoop. This was swiftly agreed by both our employees. Happy days 🙂 .

Shortly afterwards I started asking questions on forums and social media about the best route to go down with my van and its engine. I will not lie, the van had already cost me more than anticipated from time of purchase, largely due to being neglected by the previous owners. So the cost of an engine change was something I hadn’t factored in at this stage in my ownership, which meant I had to be realistic with the budget i felt i could manage.

There are a multitude of different engines that would fit my van, with many of the more modern alternatives providing much better performance and economy. As tempting as it was, I knew that choosing one of these engines would make for a more involved installation, and as a result more costly. Also, a more powerful conversion would require changes to the gearbox to enable it to cope with the extra power, and this was really not an option I could entertain with my budget.

All of this taken into account, I decided to plumb for the  slightly larger capacity 1.9td (AAZ) engine as a replacement for my current 1.6td (JX). The extra capacity should give a little more grunt up hills, which will be much appreciated. The almost identical engine configuration would mean that many of the parts involved to fit into my van will already be available from my old engine. That said, getting a good second hand AAZ with low mileage would prove difficult as these engines were produced in the 90s. Many would have high, or questionable mileage and history. Not really a chance I wanted to take from a reliability stand point.

After much pondering and research I chose the only option I felt comfortable with, which was going to be a re-manufactured unit. This is different to a recon engine where the parts a just inspected and replaced if necessary. Re-manufactured is a total strip down and ground up rebuild with all new parts. So with all of this as my criteria for the future power plant, I contacted a company that had an extensive history with re-manufacturing VW diesel engines (AW Engineering Darwen). I was told that an AAZ  would cost £2100. However if I had a unit to exchange it would only be  £1500. I’m all for saving money if there is a route to doing that, and the £600 discount on an engine with an exchange sounded very apealing. I wasn’t in a position to part with my current engine as we had plans to use it right up until i had the conversion, so the only possible option would be to source another unit.

So i spent a couple of weeks on ebay , pre loved and gum tree in search of something that looked like it would tick the box. I eventually found an ABL in Birmingham from a VW T4 Van for the sum of £180 which was promptly collected.

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ABL Engine in trailer shortly after collecting
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ABL Engine in trailer shortly after collecting

Not knowing the history of the engine I wasn’t sure if it would be an acceptable exchange unit. Basically it had to be salvageable by the engineering company. It was a gamble, but It did come complete with Turbo and fuel pump so I could always sell these on to recoup some of the cash .

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ABL Turbo and inlet manifold
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ABL Fuel Pump

I spent the next day or so removing everything to get the engine in a state where i could make an assessment. It wasn’t looking good…

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Looking bad for the ABL
Buggered Bore and Piston

Big scores in the bore and a pretty badly melted piston pointed towards an injector fault on one cylinder. I sent AW an email with the above photos and they said it would still be worth sending it to see if they could do something with it. I was a little apprehensive as I thought the bore was too damaged, but took the plunge on getting a courier to collect and deliver the engine for £40. So this was £180 engine + £40 delivery = £220 of my hard earned cash. Fortunately it proved not to be a waste of time. I received an  email from AW to say that they had managed to turn the engine around, which meant and I would get my discount off a replacement engine 🙂 .

So all of this was July 2016! I wasn’t really in a position to buy the engine back then, let alone have it installed. I knew that this would all take place in 2017 before our Euro trip. So I got an agreement with the engine re-manufacturers that it would be some time in the future before i would be buying the engine. That didn’t stop me looking for other parts. I saw a turbo, brand new on Facebook for £200 which was less than half price so snapped that up.

New Turbo
New Turbo

Also, I managed to get a second hand sump that I would clean and use as a replacement for the dirty one on the van, and a fuel pump i would have reconditioned.

Sump, Fuel Pump, Turbo and Turbo Bracket
Sump, Fuel Pump, Turbo and Turbo Bracket

So this is pretty much where things stayed until February 2017. We hadn’t spent any time planning the Euro trip because the finances for the engine transplant and all that went with it started to unsettle me. A decision had to be made, and after a little financial juggling we were back on track. Brickwerks were going to be my chosen engine installer, and a date of April 10th was arranged for the drop off. I knew they had the credentials to do an excellent job as they had done all of the work previously on my van. I also got in touch with AW and ordered my engine which arrived about a week later. I had a few other parts that i should have had fitted by a my local garage last year, but for one reason and another this didn’t happen. So my intention was to have everything sorted in one go.  So the parts had started to pile up..

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Fuel Tank, Engine, Sump, PAS pipes, Coolant Pipes, Turbo

The fuel pump was sent away to Diesel Bob for a check and possible recon. This turned out to be quite expensive at just shy of £400 including postage and VAT. You can see by this picture, its just like new and a work of art so maybe it’s justified? 😉

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JX Fuel Pump

I also managed to source a brand new AAZ rocker cover…result!

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So the install date for the engine is approaching, and we are well on the way to planning our Euro Trip with places like Troyes, Anncey & Dijon (France), Lauterbrunnen (Switzerland), and Venice, Garda & Verona (Italy).

Next – A new heart for Wolfgang! – Part 2