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Camper van finance

Guide To Buying A VW Camper Van

This buyer’s guide may be of use to you when going to view the camper of your choice.

The thought of cruising around in one of these iconic vans is fantastic, but if you’re new to the world of VW camper vans, be warned, you have to be aware when selecting the right one to buy.

Simple Steps

Buying a camper is simple if you follow these simple steps:

  1. Inspect the body, look for rust, cracks, and recently repaired body panels
  2. Inspect the interior a loved caravan is often a working caravan.
  3. Inspect the engine for rust or leaks, we’ll tell you what to look for.
  4. Check the electrical systems, paying attention to lights, dials and looking for original wiring or home-made repairs.

Buying a VW Camper – Inspect the body

VW camper chassis are an area of concern and if required, the cost of welding can be high. For this reason it is advisable to buy the cleanest you can find.

The chassis has a number of key components: the two chassis rails which run from front to rear, the jacking points and the outriggers which run from the left to the right of the vehicle.  Avoid vehicles showing rust on any of these, and if they have been patched up, you have to check how good the welding is and to what the patch is welded to.  If the patch is welded to rusted metal then you have problems.

The front beam is a key area for the MOT.  If this beam, which sits at the front of the vehicle, is rusty or repaired with spot welding then this is an MOT failure, and therefore not safe.  Any welding done on the front beam should have seam and not spot welding; the front beam is an important structural component.

Check the body panels too. The corners of the windscreen, under the wheel arches, bottom of the doors and behind the bumpers are all common problem areas. It is also wise to check under the mats in the front to see if there are signs of rust.

VW campers with kitchens are also prone to rotting under the sink if the drain holes have become blocked.

Whether the van has a tin roof, a high-top or a pop-top, an inspection is always advisable.  Tin tops are prone to rust especially around the gutters; high-tops made from fibre glass can crack and let in water; and pop-tops could have problems with their mechanism, perished fabric and rusted arms.

Buying a VW Camper – Inspect the engine

Oil leaks are a common issue with VW campers so take a good look into and under the engine compartment. Ensure that you view the vehicle on a dry day, as some oil leaks may not show in wet conditions. Make the obvious checks of the ground under the vehicle (but be aware it may have been moved) and look out for unusually clean areas of the engine. If you do find a leak it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Don’t Touch’ but check out the source of the leak to ascertain the likely repair cost.

Check the oil dipstick; if the level is low, it can be an indication of either a leak or the neglect of the owner.

Check the timing/cam belt.  If this has not been changed recently, it can be extremely expensive to repair the damage if it breaks or requires renewing.  Always ask for proof of the renewal; some garages place a sticker on the engine with the time of changing; otherwise request the garage bill.

When turning over the engine, listen to the sound and watch the exhaust.  If there are unidentified sounds, knocks or smoke coming from the exhaust this is generally a bad sign.

Always check the head gasket.  There are a number of ways to check this.  First of all, open the oil filler cap and check the dipstick; see if there is any white residue on them.  Check the level of the water in the expansion tank before and after you test drive the van.  If the water has dropped, then this could be an indication that you have a blown head gasket.

Check all the hoses and pipes for any damage or erosion.

Check the gear box for any leaks.

Buying a VW Camper – Check the electrics

Check that all the internal / external lights and indicators are working.

Check that the wiring is in good order and not a homemade effort.  If the original wiring has been tampered with, then the only person who knows how it works is the one that put it in.  No manual in the world is going to help you with an electrical problem.

Check that all the dials work.

A common fault on the water cooled T25 is the temperature gauge. The light may flash continually, although there is plenty of water in the system.  This is sometimes down to the sensor not being cleaned; therefore, it can give the wrong reading.

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This does not constitute a quote, rates may vary depending on personal circumstances.