The Vanagon head gaskets
Note:My friend Steve from Boston is nowhere to be found (all I know for now is that he moved), so all my heads removing and gasket replacement pictures are gone (for now!!!) with the negative (same envelope). Most of my text is ready. If some of you guys have good pictures (digital or standard) of the procedure (step by step) I would use those for my site.  Anything you got would do the job for now (with many pictures I should probably be able to do something acceptable). Could you send those to me, I will give full credit to the author of course. I think the heads gasket problem is bugging a lot of people and I would like to do something on the subject.

About the Vanagon head gasket design: Itís poor!! It shows clearly that VW only added a water jacket to an already existing design. The hollow part between the sleeve and the water jacket (near head) should have been filled resulting in a flat mating surface with the head. With this kind of design a flat gasket could have been use. The removable sleeve system could have been kept but more difficult to remove.

So remember that with the existing design the importance of the torque sequence is crucial.  

The following are a few modified pictures of the Bentley for those that don't have this useful book.

When removing the head, the sleeve could be stuck to this one, donít pull the head too much (no more than 1.5 inches). If pull to much, you could end up with the pistons rings getting out of the sleeve. Putting the rings back in the cylinder is somewhat difficult with the engine still in the van. If stuck; take a big screwdriver with plenty of electric tape at the end and with a hammer tap this one gently all around, they should come off easily. I think that the inner flexible O- ring (core side) can be reuse. For sure for a perfect job it should be replace. That implies getting all 4-cylinder sleeves out!!! I donít suggest doing so with the engine still in the van.
VW call for a coat of sealant on the water jacket side # D000 400 01. Aply 1 to 2 mm (3/64-5/64) bead of sealant in the center of the water jacket. This one need to be clean.

Note:This sealent should also be use on the gasket-head side, use should put more sealant on the head side.

There is much speculation about applying sealant on the head side of the main gasket. Logically it should not need any sealant on either side! That the purpose of having a flexible rubber gasket! Whatever, VW and many good VW mechanics suggest the use of a sealant and that is only to extent the life of the gasket. The sealant quality and company should carefully be chosen. Many sealants wonít react properly with rubber on a long run.  And last but not the less, USE OEM GASKET. In my experience nothing come close to OEM product when talking about gasket. (Green arrow)
Torque sequence:
  1. Step1: Coat surface of cap nut with sealant.

  2. Step2: Torque to 10NM (7 ft lb)

  3. Step 3: Torque to 50nm (37 ft lb)

I put 55NM!!!


For a full precedure on removing the heads, click here ( )