Savannah’s Transformation

This section will be evolving over the next 9’ish months. I love that Savannah was original (besides regular maintenance) when we found her. Every time I “upgrade” something I feel like part of her 1987 German engineered soul is leaving us…but it was 1987 and I don’t want to break down every other town during van life. We still haven’t decided what Savannah’s final form will be. Savannah’s transformation is shaping up to be its own adventure.

The good news is that many online resources exist. I’ve learned a lot along the way so far, credit for Vanagon specific knowledge goes to GoWesty, Bostig (not sure if we want to put a Ford Zetec power plant in Savannah yet!), TheSamba, LiveWorkWander, SlowCarFastHouse and T3technique. For over land vehicle and gear advice credit goes to ExpeditionPortal.

While I was learning how to make Savannah a great travel partner I decided to tackle a few projects in Hawaii.

CV Joints: From what I could tell servicing VW CV joints is a right of passage for any budding VW DIY mechanic. I had no records on the last CV joint service and from what I could tell it had been awhile since a brave soul had completed this task. CV joints are a really messy project. Pro-tip: bring towels.

Front End: After purchasing Savannah and spending a few hours staring lovingly at her underside I noticed both tie rod ends and upper ball joints were shot. On top of that the steering rack boots were shredded! I insisted this be fixed before we took Savannah on any island adventures. Tie-rods weren’t that difficult…lower ball joints were frustrating and the steering rack boots were downright infuriating! I actually gave up, went to sleep and finished the steering rack boots the next morning.

Electrical Grounds: After pouring through my online resources I found that electrical grounds are vital to Vanagon health so I went all out and replaced them all!

Cooling System: The death of a vanagon is usually attributed to 2 things. One of them being loss of coolant which equals engine melt down. We plan to replace the entire system before our departure but so far have only replaced 1 hose. For extra insurance we did install an audible engine temp alarm system from GoWesty.

Fuel System: The second Vanagon killer is leaky fuel lines. We experienced this twice within the first few months of owning Savannah. Both instances weren’t hard to fix, eventually all fuel lines will be replaced.

Lights: Apparently back in 1987 seeing at night wasn’t a priority. We installed the interior light LED and high power headlight kits from GoWesty. I want to install the exterior LED kit from GoWesty but haven’t pulled the $190 trigger yet.

Starting: You can’t explore if your van doesn’t start. Two shots in the dark I took to increase the starting reliability of Savannah were upgrading the alternator wiring harness and install a hard start relay. The harness came from GoWesty and the hard start relay came from T3technique. Both had great instructions and I believe benefited Savannah.

RUST: What can I say…I know nothing about body work. Savannah is almost 30 years old and from what I can tell has minimal rust. We could see some seam rust so I tackled it head on by grinding away the rust (and paint), treated the rusted area and put some spray primer over top. I’m not sure if this was a good idea but what is done is done. Mabe I should have read this first.

Tunes: The 30 year old speakers didn’t cut it. I installed 4 new Pioneer speakers to replace the originals. The sound is clear, crisp and road trip worthy. We are still undecided if a subwoofer is needed.