1990 Volkswagen Vanagon GL Camper 2.1 gasoline from North America


My water pump went bad four times in three years.

My alternator went out at 131000 miles

My rear window washer motor went out at 50000 miles

All belts.

Rear heater core.

All hoses.

All ignition wires.


Speedometer cable.

Gear shifter lights.

Sink on-off valve.

Refrigerator priming pump.

Driver door window opener.

Cigarette lighter.

Fuel pump-which is expensive!

Window drapery hooks, broken off.

Sink drain fittings undr car blown out.

Refrigerator exterior vent cover blown out.

Seat belt covers blown out, will not attach.

Driver dash board cover broken at screw attachments.

Exterior door handles falling off, need re-screw attachments.

Ignition wires keep slipping off the distributor cap and coil.

General Comments:

This car has character, and for a do-it-yourself guy, I love it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 27th January, 2005

6th Jul 2005, 22:36

The mileage done in one year is uncommonly high. But so is the list of things "gone wrong". Having used VW Vanagon many times before, care in usage could be accountable for some of the damage. For example "hooks in the curtains" and other such itemsw. My experience with Vanagon's, even rental ones, good and reliable.

31st Mar 2007, 12:25

I've had a 90 VW camper since 92. Yes, all of those things can be issues. I'm on #2 rebuild of #2 engine. I sold it to a friend last year when I moved to Argentina. I'm back in the U.S. and am about to buy half of it back, the problems are worth the reward for me.

Buen Suerte.

19th Jan 2011, 21:48

My wife and I owned a 1971 Camper many years ago. The kids are grown. We bought a beautiful 1990 Vanagon GL Pop-Top last summer. It has new paint and replacement parts done along the way. We are only the third owners. We had a tune-up and check-out done last August, then took it on a 3,000 mile journey and had no problems. The key: it was kept up all those years.

We've added many upgrades (too many to list) such as inverter, aux battery, new sink water faucet & pump. In the shop now getting new fuel lines, new coolant lines, auto trans cooler, wheel bearings, brakes, and checks for anything else that might be needed.

We are lucky to have one of the best VW mechanics around. You don't buy one of these and not expect to keep it up and that costs money. We keep our other cars up along the way (which costs money as well) and we keep them until they won't run any longer. We aren't wealthy people either.

We also have a 1987 Porsche 944 & a 1971 TR Spitfire -- and keep them well maintained, and will drive them anywhere at anytime because we are confident in their mechanical condition. We have a newer SUV and keep it up as well (it now has 75K miles on it and runs great -- another keeper).


1990 Volkswagen Vanagon GL 2.1L from North America


Fun, cool, huge following, poorly engineered and extremely overpriced


Master cylinder went out. Automatic transmission cooler failed causing tranny fluid and water to mix. Months of cooling system flushes to try and remove tranny fluid. Automatic transmission just started slipping severely in 3rd and reverse. Recurring cooling leaks at almost every joint or hose. Still loosing coolant and not sure where it goes. Engine has a bad "flat-spot" when it's cold. Rear window washer won't spray. Interior always smell like propane. Belts like to fall off, or get burned up really quick. Torn CV and power steering boots.

General Comments:

I always wanted a camper like this. In the 2000 miles I've driven this, I've had to be towed twice, have put lots of money and countless hours into making it solid and reliable. I think it's coming around, but it's been a love hate relationship. I won't be putting another automatic transmission in it. Stay away from the ATs! These vans are a lot of fun, but you must know how to work on cars or you better have good roadside insurance, or not leave the zip code.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 22nd October, 2004

13th Oct 2005, 16:18

GoWesty recommends replacing the AT/coolant heat exchanger every 10 years to avoid the inevitable breach and mixing of coolant and AT fluid. When it happens, you'll have to replace both systems (tranny and coolant components) - flushing will not get all of it and the coolant seals will fail.