Category Archives: Upgrades & Modifications

A new heart for Wolfgang!

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
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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).

Check back for further updates….

Dual Power Fridge Vent (CVC)

12v Cigarette lighter + 2xUSB
12v Cigarette lighter + 2xUSB

Some time back I had replaced the original rusting fridge vent for a stainless one with a 12volt socket incorporated. This was obviously an upgrade, but since I had installed my solar panels we have not had to use electric hook up and this will be the case for the foreseeable future. The knock on effect of this is that we don’t have a 240volt option for charging phones tablets etc. So the single socket we were relying on in the stainless vent just wasn’t enough. It looked nice, but function was more important now.

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Seeing the Campervan Culture ‘multi socket fridge vent it looked like it would answer all of my prayers. The grey is a good match for the later Westy interior in the Atlantic, and installation was pretty straight forward, daisy chaining one socket on to the next with the main feed from the leisure battery (fused at 20A) .

CVC 12v Fridge Vent Socket
CVC 12v Fridge Vent Socket

So here is my installed unit with a splash of red from my braided USB cables courtesy of the Pound shop (they were £1 before you ask 😉 ). We have only done a couple of weekend getaways since installation, but it’s already come in really handy!

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Lower Fridge Drawer

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Knowing I had the extra space below the new Waeco Fridge , and not wanting it to just get used as a lazy storage area where things would get crammed and look messy, I decided to make a drawer. This was always my intention, but rather than be prescriptive and methodical from the outset, this had to be fluid in its design. Basically the slide out chopping board established the height the fridge needed to sit in the aperture available. It wasn’t until I had fitted the fridge that i knew the depth i had to play with for the drawer.  The ‘hole’ has been handy to store some tools for the last month or so, but items like these that should only get used occasionally, are far more suited to a less accessible area, freeing up this space for things that get used in a daily basis.

So the draw….Initially I was thinking of a drawer on rails. In fact i brought two pairs of rails, one for the chopping board which are utilized and effective at present, and the second set for the drawer. However, the slide out action of those particular rails is such that they only extend about 30cm out. For a drawer that has a depth that goes back far further than that it didn’t seem like an effective use of space if you can only access the front  portion of the draw. There are other rail systems that extend out double the length of the rail, but these tend to be quite deep in design and would take up quite a lot of the already limited space, making the draw a lot narrower.

So the solution was a far simpler one than having to mess around with rails. We found a very low profile storage box that had an insert for the top portion allowing small items to be segregated. Things like fuses, light bulbs, remotes for devices etc. The bottom part was shallow, granted, but this would be for our tablets, blue tooth speakers etc. We brought the box from Rymans, and if I am honest it was a bit of a stab in the dark in terms of the size . I’ve got a pretty good eye for judging space and to me it looked too deep, which actually turned out to be the case. However, when the lid was taken off it fitted perfectly. So we lost the lid, which probably would have become a bit of a hindrance anyway.

So the basic elements can be seen here.

The basic elements
The basic elements

It doesn’t get much more complicated than this and it took me best part of an hour to construct. The drawer handle had been brought at the same time as the handle for the slide out chopping board. The white thing in the photo above is the aluminum sheet with its protective film on (which was a slice of a larger sheet that a friend got me for another project). All that was required to complete the construction was a small spacer to bridge the gap between the internal tray plastics, and the extruded strengthening  elements surrounding it. This came in the form of a piece of hardwood that I found in my wood-store. Two holes were drilled in the Aluminum, wood and plastic tray to marry up with the holes on the handle. The screws for the handle needed cutting down a fraction, but all in all it was a really simple process.

Draw complete with top devider
Draw complete with top divider

This was all knocked together without having access to my van as it was in storage so I wasn’t 100% sure it was going to fit. I had used the original Westy fridge as a reference as this was in my garage, and a few photos of my fridge install from my phone.  However, I was relieved to find that the drawer fit perfectly 🙂

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At present the drawer is no more than a push under tray with a suitably matching front fascia on. I will most likely stay in place during transit, but I have acquired some very small, high power magnets. I plan to stick a couple of these on the back top edge of the aluminum drawer fascia, and a small countersunk head, ferrous metal screw at the corresponding edge of the framework on the lower fridge support. This should allow the drawer to locate shut with a nice crisp click 🙂

Aero fuel filler cap (Brickwerks)

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The moment I saw one of these fuel filler caps I knew I had to have one. It replaces a very bland component on the van with something that is far more eye catching and appropriate for such a high spec camper.

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This was not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. Quote Brickwerks website:

“This is not a cheap “stick on” kit, its designed for a T3, and sold exclusively by us in the UK. We wanted a kit that was easy and straightforward to fit using the best design and highest quality parts.”

Product Link: Aero Filler Cap – Brickwerks Shop

Fridge Upgrade (Waeco CRX50)

Fridge (Mobile)

My main reason for upgrading my fridge was due to the fact I had established a very effective Solar Install. It seemed silly not to take advantage of all of that free energy to power a compressor fridge. This type of technology is far more effective than the stock fridge at doing it’s job. It actually has a dedicated freezer draw which is great for Ice Lollys on a hot day 😉 .

Anyways, on to the installation: I wanted this to sit just below the slide out chopping board as I wanted to maximize the depth of the draw I am going to fit below it. So after some careful measurements i set to positioning a couple of pieces of angle aluminum to sit the shelf on. The shelf was then made by two pieces of marine ply. The first was the full width and depth required to seat the fridge on. The second was a slimmer piece with two holes drilled into them where the two front feet of the fridge will locate. This will stop the fridge from sliding about as there are no real fixings as such everything is having to be bespokely made. The two pieces were glued and screwed together and painted grey.
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After this i needed to find something that would provide padding either side of the fridge to wedge it in place. I wanted this to be something that wasn’t going to get affected by damp or humidity, but provide a nice gentle compression on either side of the fridge. After some time i decided that kneeling pads would be just the right depth to bridge the gap (the sort of thing you get for gardening). These cost me £1 each from Wilko :) . These were sprayed black at the front and they were screwed to the inside of the fridge compartment (two screws at the front and 1 at the back. each screw head had a large washer on it to pull the padding in and I tightened the screws up enough so that they sunk in and didn’t catch the fridge when being slotted in. The heads were also covered with a piece of insulation tape to be ion the safe side.
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Here you can see the fridge in place:
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From here on it was just about trimming the surrounding area. I brought angle aluminum from B & Q and cut and drilled to size. I had to make some bespoke brackets to mount the whole lotso it wasn’t straight forward. However, i’m pretty happy with the end result :)
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This has then been connected directly to the leisure battery with a 5 amp fuse in line. I really need to get an additional fuse board fitted as there are way too many connectors tacked on to the battery at the moment. I will seek to have this done professionally to get things tidied up :)
PS. There is a gap either side of the fridge of about 5mm. The finished photo here doesn’t show that and is a little miss leading. I feel this is enough of a gap to let air circulate and stop any rattles through vibrations :)

Anyways, here is the finished article after the lower draw is fitted.

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