Selling Your Vanagon – How To Article


by Ray A. Monigold, ASE Certified, VW Schooled
Service Manager – TEC Shop, Seattle, WA

Selling something is a lot like fishing – those who never have probably don’t want to and those who have don’t want to remember how tedious it is. But broken into easy to follow steps, selling your own vehicle can be fun – and potentially profitable.

1. DON’T PANIC – this is a common theme of mine, but an important first step. Remember, you are not single handedly sending your first born to the moon (or even faking it on a darkened sound stage). You have plenty of time (if you don’t, then PANIC because you, my friend, are in a real jam). Stay calm and follow the remaining steps.

2. KNOW THE MARKET – Use that internet thingy to Google the year and model of your Van. When the list of 12,598,246,123 hits return in less that .05 seconds, scratch your head – there are only about 10,000 Vanagons still REGISTERED in the U.S. today. Refine your search by including your zip code. Make a list or launch that spreadsheet that came with your computer. Come up with a high, low and average price. Do the same for condition. THEN look on Craigs List and the Samba. For a real treat check out GoWesty dot com’s used van listings and see what the high extremes are going for – who knows, you Van may be one of those rare types.

3. EVALUATE YOUR VAN – Pay to have a Pre Purchase Inspection done on your van. This will do several things. In Washington State the Private Party Seller is responsible for the vehicle to be generally safe, be able to pass the emissions test and the owner must reveal in writing any known defects – the well documented Pre Inspection will do this for you. ANY know issues that are revealed BEFORE the close of the sale, including the failure to pass emissions can be negotiated in writing and signed by both parties (again, letting you off the old responsibility hook).

4. PRICE YOUR VAN – Don’t under price your van – you will loose money and devalue everyone else’s vans. Remember that cause and effect are real – step on the blade of a garden shovel and feel the handle thwack you in the face (like Karma, man). Most shops that offer a documented pre sales inspection can help you with the value of your van. Once you come up with a good, fair price, move on to step five.

5. ARTICULATE YOUR SALE – Why are you selling the van? Be HONEST. Tell it in a brief story. Example – you are not going to put another penny in this thing. The last fix was nearly a thousand dollars and you’ve had it. Someone else can spent money on the dang thing! Now let’s turn that into a story – “This 1985 1.9 Vanagon was once our dream car. It took us on a lot of adventures. We recently paid close to $1,000.00 in repairs, but our life style has changed so now it’s your turn for adventure”. Truthful, but a bit more palatable. No matter WHAT your reason, people want to know WHY you’re getting rid of a perfectly good van. Then make a LIST of at least 15 things that the van HAS and NEEDS. Lead with the problems and include the milage. The list should START with a few more pieces of data like the year, model, engine and transmission. The list should END with the offer to share the Pre Sale Inspection and the price.

6. ADVERTISE FOR FREE – Take 4 standard pictures – Left side from the front, Right side from the rear, one interior shot and one engine shot. With these four shots you have the ENTIRE van covered. Make a flyer. Most every computer has a word processor or page layout application that has flyer templates. Choose the real estate template. It will have a place for a couple of pictures, a brief story area, a list of features and contact information. Do NOT use “OBO” that is a killer. Anyone who sees OBO will know you are unsure and can easily be talked down. Keep the flyer simple, uncluttered and only use ONE FONT, like Ariel or Helvetica.

To post your information on Craigs List and The Samba dot com, simply copy and paste your info from the flyer and use the same pictures.

7. GO FISHING – Arrange to park your van in a high traffic spot. Some repairs shops will do this as it generates business. Once the van is parked, flyers taped to the inside of each side window and a FOR SALE sign on the INSIDE of the windshield and back window, pull up a camp stool, take out that jerky you’ve been saving, keep your phone close and just wait. If you’ve been honest with yourself and have good exposure, you’ll be counting your cash in a month or less (OH, I almost forgot – ONLY TAKE CASH, period, no questions here and have a computer generated bill of sale with blanks for the buyer’s name and date ready to go. Do NOT sign your title until the green is counted).

8. ONE MORE THING – Be fair with potential buyers. Go with them on the first test drive and provide a little banter, this will ease the tension. Let them walk away if they want. Don’t beg and don’t make any offers about anything, just stay calm. If the buyer wants a second drive or wants “their mechanic” to look at it – do it (take common sense safety precautions, driver license, insurance card, keys to THEIR car kind of things. Things that make YOU comfortable – cause if someone wants to rip you off, you’ll be ripped off, its 2011). If a buyer makes you an offer, give it some thought. The best deal is the one where BOTH parties walk away smiling.

Go get ‘em tiger – I won’t wish you luck ‘cause you have the facts on your side.


Troubleshooting Your Vanagon Problems

Troubleshooting Your Vanagons Problems
by Ray A. Monigold, ASE Certified, VW Schooled
Service Manager – TEC Shop, Seattle, WA

“My Vanagon Won’t Run”

What does this statement say? Your vanagon forgot it’s Nike’s today? How about a pulled hamstring?

Instead of making light of a potentially bad situation “My Vanagon won’t run” let’s find a way to not only better phrase the situation, but maybe even find and solve the problem. We’ll use a series of steps that haven been proven to work best for many a year.

1. DON’T PANIC. This doesn’t mean don’t be cautious, apprehensive or even slightly fearful. It means don’t give up in a state of gloom and doom. Hang in there and follow along with the next steps. Do them methodically and in order – skip NOTHING unless directed.

2. BE SAFE. You MAY have to abandon ship and get help,  from Police, fire or passers by. If in doubt – get out – get help.

3. What is the Van doing or not doing – EXACTLY? – Come up with a concise problem statement. Let’s try one for “The Van’s not running.”
“I put the key in, turn it on, the warning lights come on, but when I twist it all the way to start I get no changes, no sounds from the engine.” Now THAT’S a good problem statement. From this we could probably narrow the issue to something about power to or at the starter. Let’s continue.

4. What was going on the last time the Van ran? Is this why the van won’t run now, because it blew up while you were driving? If so, our exercise is over. If not, let’s try to think back. Did the Van quit while you were driving? Did the Van quit while you were parking it and you just walked away? Was the Van running like normal and now it won’t turn over? Answering this question will help narrow down the problem even farther.

5. WHO WILL FIX IT? This is just as important as DON’T PANIC and BE SAFE. Sometimes it’s best to defer to a higher order (so to speak) – nothing wrong with knowing when to raise your hand for help. If this is the case, look at how much time (and MONEY) you can save by having a concise problem statement AND by having eliminated panic and danger (Steps One and Two). But make the call without trying to offer a diagnostic solution or suggested repair, rather talk about Step THREE.

5.a – Be careful what you ask for! There are shops that WILL do your bidding and charge you. For example, if you call and ask how much to replace the starter because your problem statement led you (and your friends or the internet) to surmise such, then the shop may be led in that direction, and look no further for another possible solution – this is called PRE-LOADING the diagnosis. But even worse – if you TELL the shop to install a new starter and they do and it still won’t start – you will own a new starter in a van that still wont start!! Let the experts exercise their expertise and in the long run you’ll save money. – GO TO STEP 7 NOW.

6. D I Y – While I resect people who know when they need help, I also hold the tenacity of the Do It Yourselfers in high regard. This is the hearty stock of the “We can do it” spirit that once made our nation great.

Now that you’ve cruised past steps 5 and 5a, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and “get ‘er done”. With a fresh problem statement, well healed tool kit and the time to do it right the first time, let’s take another look at STEP 4. What happened BEFORE the problem? Were there intermittent signs? Did the Van REALLY work “just fine” before the incident? REALLY? Maybe there was a noise, a hesitation on acceleration or that magical gut feeling that something wasn’t  just right. Was it electrical or mechanical? Was there a smell? A blinking light, a glowing light?

7. DO SOMETHING – OK, Step fivers and step sixers, it’s time for action – Motion equals Progress. Either call a shop or open your tool box. If you are a fiver – this is the end of the line pard, remember to stay calm, stick to the facts and demand a FULL explanation BEFORE any work is done – ANY WORK. Ask what diagnostics costs. When THEY tell you what the problem is and what the fix will cost find out about the GUARANTEE. When a shop says it is the starter and the job is $500.00, then repeat to them what they just said and remind them that you are NOT paying for a starter, you are paying $500.00 to make it START. And if it won’t start after a new starter, you will owe NOTHING if it costs extra to make it start. Some shops will do “incremental repairs” keeping you informed of their findings and costs as they go along. That’s fine IF that’s what they do. Just remember – a salad comes with  dressing. If the staff comes to you and wants to charge extra because they forgot the dressing you would not put up with it – so don’t let that happen at the shop.

8. ALONE AT LAST – It takes just three things to make a fire – FUEL (wood or gasoline) – IGNITION (match or spark plug) – AIR (like the out of doors or through the air filter). Gasoline engines are just fire machines. Each cylinder makes a fire every other time the crankshaft turns, that’s it. At 3000 RPM (average cruise speed of engines) a four cylinder car makes 3000 divided by 2 = 1500 fires in 4 cylinders = 6000 tiny fires (explosions) per minute (count to 6000 by ones in just a minute – go ahead I’ll wait)! Disrupt the electricity to the plugs, even briefly, or clog the air flow for just a minute or stop the fuel for a few strokes and NO FIRE FOR YOU engine. Further DEPRIVE the engine of any of these three while trying to start and “My Van won’t run”.

So the first thing to check for is the proper flow of electricity.

The last thing to suspect is a clogged fuel system as gasoline is more filtered than bottled water. But the DELIVERY of gas is done by an electrical pump and electrically controlled fuel injector nozzles.

Air is also controlled by the electrical control of the Throttle Position and Idle Air Control Valve.

Spark runs at about 15,000 Volts from a 12 Volt electrical system (how do they do THAT?).

We are now back to electricity. While EFI systems are sophisticated, they just make fires in cylinders 6000 times a minute at cruise.

Is electricity AVAILABLE at the battery? Use your Non Invasive Battery Tester.

Is electricity FLOWING? Use your test light with the key on to track the main feeds to the ECU, Fuel Pump, Ignition System and Engine Sensors.

BIG HINT – the main problems in Vanagons, like run-ability, quitting and hard or no start issues are caused by the IGNITION SWITCH. Test this FIRST.

No matter what the experts and the internet tell you, good troubleshooting is not quick. It is tedious and requires extensive knowledge of basic electricity and microprocessing circuitry mixed with the sometimes hidden knowledge of the car’s manufacturer. It is also best done with years of experience behind you.

EDITORIALIZING – WARNING – Some shops have chosen to charge to “diagnose” a car’s maladies. The basic OBD Scanner will only tell you the EFFECT of an issue, NOT the cause – “Bad O2 SENSOR, BANK 1 SENSOR 1”. The Oxygen sensor may not be bad, it may only be out of an acceptable range because it is flooded with oxygen from an exhaust leak, or covered in extra gasoline because of a vacuum leak at the fuel regulator. Neither of these issues are detectable by the ECU’s OBD. This is where years of experience and schooled ability come into play. This is why charging for diagnostics is a scam. You should be paying shop time for the repair, made by an experienced, trained technician who spent years working up to that position, not for plugging in a scan tool, looking up the code on the internet and getting “the most common cause” repair. HEY – YOU can do that, and usually after doing that you find yourself in a shop trying to get it fixed because “the most common repair” was not right – just the most common.

Do NOT shop price. Shop for a facility who is confident enough to be able to charge you to fix a PROBLEM, not replace a part. A facility with enough experience to not require diagnostic fees because they have the training and knowledge to confirm a problem BEFORE making a repair.

Finally, keep this in mind – to be a mechanic requires a $50.00 business license, a facility out of the rain and a charge account at a place that sells tools – NOTHING ELSE. The Federally Certified, National organization called ASE is a VOLUNTARY group. NO requirements are needed to work on your vehicle except as mentioned above. So use your head, not your wallet as the FIRST item in Troubleshooting Your Vanagons Problems.