Vanagon diesel to Golf 4-cyl gas conversion

By Tom Gray

1.8L Golf engine

I took out the diesel engine (and put it in my uncle's '81 rabbit) and put in a 1.8L gas engine out of an '85 Golf (with 200k miles on it).

fuel distributor

I bolted the fuel pump & filter just behind the gas tank underneath the sliding door. I put the air cleaner and mass sensor on the right side, where the battery used to be (I had to lower the battery shelf). The battery went under the rear seat.

1.8L Golf engine

I had a lot of trouble with the injection hoses - I was too cheap to buy custom made ones at first, I tried to make some out of rubber hose and brake line. Big mistake - the soft rubber 'pulsed' and made the van shudder and backfire. I spent $80 for a custom made set and fixed all the trouble.

I also had problems with the wiring. The diagram in my manual was wrong. I ended up going to the dealer and looking at theirs. It was simple after that - my electric problem was that the wiring for 'cold start' injector was wrong - the diagram showed timer elements that didn't exist. I wound up wiring it directly to the starter (so that the cold start injector functions while the starter is cranking) and the 'thermo time switch'. Works just fine now.

1.8L Golf engine

Oh, another problem - I remembered to put in the pilot bearing for the input shaft to the transmission. However, the end of the crankshaft on the gas engine wasn't bored quite as deep as the diesel. The engine ran fine for 500 miles then started shaking, etc. I found metal shavings in the oil, and the motor seemed to bind when I turned it by hand. I took the oil pan off and found that the crankshaft was pushed all the way toward the 'front' of the engine (which faces towards the back of the van). I zipped the end of the input shaft and haven't had any trouble since.

Clearanced firewall

It's not as pretty as I would like it yet. The coolant expansion tank is tied up with nylon zip ties, I haven't welded up the hole in the left side firewall.

Exhaust system

I can go 70 on the highway (normally do around 65), but the engine really hums because of the low gear ratio. I had a muffler system built at Midas (about $150). I'm getting 20+ (plus very little, maybe 21) MPG.

Out Camping!

I'm taking the family north toward Indianapolis this weekend in the camper. Here's a picture of the van 'in action' at either a TN or KY campground.


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Tom Carrington