In the rush to become a VW camper van owner, it can be easy to forget that your purchase is a big decision, and there are things you need to look for carefully before committing. Take the time to do a thorough inspection, and walk away if you are not happy.
You may want to consider buying a camper which was manufactured after 1967, when many enhancements were introduced. An earlier model may also be slower.
Rust is probably the single most important thing to watch out for. VW vans are often parked for months on end, and spend summers in damp fields, so corrosion does happen, and there are several parts which are particularly prone to rust.
While you can buy replacement panels for rusty bodywork, clearly the fewer you have to buy, the better. Check all over, but inspect the following areas in particular for signs of rusting:
Equally, of course, you’ll need to give the engine a once-over, looking for:
Be wary of vehicles where the suspension has been brought down. The ride may not be a smooth one, you won’t be able to access the underside for repairs, and visibility will be reduced.
Other things to put on your checklist include ensuring all heaters and controls work properly. Have a sniff inside the vehicle - if you can smell petrol, it often means the rubber pipes have to be replaced.
Check out the steering, too, which is a potential problem area, and the steering box. The steering should be direct and easy, without excessive play. On your test drive, go to a car park and turn the vehicle on full lock. If there is a banging noise, the steering knuckle probably needs replacing.
Brakes in VW campers are usually hardwearing and easy to repair if not. Look for scored discs on late models and vans that pull to one side.
Finally, check the van’s transmission.
No matter where you are buying from, or how many vans you have bought previously, work through this list methodically every time you make a purchase.
You can get further advice from any experienced VW repair shop which has been in business over five years. Ask for customer references, and perhaps view a model they’ve previously restored.