Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

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Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby ViveEnElMomento » Sat Jul 02, 2011 3:49 pm

This is my first burn so as many 'firsts' I don't know exactly what to expect (which is the best part of course). I am planning on road tripping down from Toronto, Canada with a few fellow canadians. I am driving down in a 79 VW bus which has an air cooled engine.

As I understand it, upon arrival and to a lesser extent on departure, there are lengthy lines of vehicles (1-2 hour waits and upwards)?? Also as I understand it, air cooled engines are cooled by the flow of air over the engine.

So my understanding to this point makes me believe that; lines of stopped traffic = little to no air flow = no cooling of the engine = bad things happening.

so question 1) is there a "better" time to arrive to help avoid tremendous lines of traffic. (hoping to arrive on the 29th)

question 2) if the backlog of cars is inevitable, are there any tricks to keeping your air cooled engine from over heating?

Thanks in advance for any tips or tricks that might help :)
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby Playa+Tom » Sat Jul 02, 2011 3:57 pm

Talk with the people in the VW Bus Camp. They are very experienced with VW buses on the playa.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby jkisha » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:55 pm

We had someone with one of those older VW Campers two years ago. It over-heated on exodus from the long waits in line. Pulsing on exit should help that. We always come in early, so I don't know how the traffic gets close to opening.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby TomServo » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:03 pm

I would plan your arrival and departure, around cooler times of the day. As for your journey through the desert, They sell scooops, for the side vents on your van. My old band toured in a VW bus, and had overheating problems. We had installed a thermostat before the trip. So, we cut square pieces off a 5 gallon bucket, and bolted them behind the vents. The engine ran nice and cool the rest of the trip.

Or, if you can afford it, an external oil cooler, with mounted fan and a high capacity oil sump, works great. Oh, and you'd need a stronger oil pump with this set up.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby unjonharley » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:21 pm

TomServo wrote:
Or, if you can afford it, an external oil cooler, with mounted fan and a high capacity oil sump, works great. Oh, and you'd need a stronger oil pump with this set up.



I installed a oil cooler on a 69 vw.. Worked great.. Also had gauges for Motor temp, head temp and oil tempture installed..
Would pull over and read awhile after a long climb..

Still I would plan on running nights and morning. Plan arriving at night.. Coming in Sun night would not be a good time for the VW
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby MikeGyver » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:35 pm

As suggested already an External oil cooler is your best bet at keeping it cooler, it can be costly but a new engine costs more. Coming while the suns down could help a little, but if your sitting for an hour or more with no good air flow the cooler air will only help so much. I suggest looking at VW forums (if you haven't already) and seeing if they have any better suggestions. TheSamba.com is a good one
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby TomServo » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:11 pm

They make external coolers, with electric fans.....good for idling.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby ygmir » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:18 pm

what TS said.........and, you can increase oil pressure and volume with a stronger spring on the oil pump plunger, located near the crank pulley on the bottom of the case.
The whole system is sold as a kit, and, with remote, externally mounted cooler, and electric fan, you're in pretty good shape. Not super expensive, either.
and, when you put this kit in, it also eliminates the oil cooling tower, inside the shroud, which is the bane on number 3 (IIRC) cylinder.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby TomServo » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:32 pm

Some Baja racers use "In line Pumps" I think.....in addition to the stock pump. Not 100% about that though.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby maryanimal » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:10 pm

TomServo wanted to write: VW's LOVE the desert!

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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby SnowBlind » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:23 pm

ViveEnElMomento wrote:As I understand it, upon arrival and to a lesser extent on departure, there are lengthy lines of vehicles (1-2 hour waits and upwards)??


Just FYI, IMHO it's the other way around, the departure (a.k.a. exodus) is worse than the arrival. The arrival is spread out over 5 days (or more, since some people have early arrival passes), while the exodus is concentrated into 1-2 days. That said, more people have been arriving earlier in the week every year, and in particular the Sunday Night / Monday Morning inbound traffic is bad.

For exodus they have been trying to implement a 'pulsing' system the last two(?) years. Basically they stop parts of the queue completely for a while. That way, rather than inching forwards a few feet every minute, you will sit for longer period of time, and then move a larger bit in one go. That should help you guys on exodus (if the pulsing works at that time).

My Advice:
For departure, if you can stay till Tuesday, you won't have any problems leaving. Sunday and Monday are both bad. Definitely worse during the day, so if you can leave in the middle of the night, or very early in the morning, you will have shorter lines (and colder air).

For arrival, Sunday night is bad, I would think the lines are shorter Monday morning or midday, but then the air will be hotter obviously. Kind of a trade off.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby SnowBlind » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:25 pm

ViveEnElMomento wrote:(1-2 hour waits and upwards)


Oh, and during the worst times, definitely upwards of 2 hours.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby Playa+Tom » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:18 pm

Just get in line in front of someone with a good bumper.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby TomServo » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:52 pm

Playa+Tom wrote:Just get in line in front of someone with a good bumper.


VW brakes don't rely on the cooling system.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby essjay » Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:47 pm

SnowBlind wrote:
ViveEnElMomento wrote:(1-2 hour waits and upwards)


Oh, and during the worst times, definitely upwards of 2 hours.


I spent five hours in Exodus one year. :x You probably should not leave after the man burns, nor Sunday morning.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby Trishntek » Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:20 pm

Having had air cooled engines on bikes and a VW bus, I can attest to the attributes of an oil cooler and a deeper oil pan with heat sink fins on it. You can also run the heater full blast to help dissipate heat from the exhaust side, which helps at least keep the compartment cooler. You can also rig more 12V (or 6V) fans in the engine compartment.

Pulsed traffic should not be a problem at all since you drive a mile and wait an hour; drive a mile and wait an hour,,,, etc. Make sure your engine is clean! Greasy dirt is an excellent insulator. When you get stuck in traffic, open the back hatch. Make sure your valves and timing are spot on the mark. Everything helps,,,,,
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby ViveEnElMomento » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:37 pm

Thanks for all the advice. Going to definitely look into an external oil cooler.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby TomServo » Mon Jul 04, 2011 9:15 pm

anything worth doing..is worth overdoing

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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby crstophr » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:26 pm

I've owned and worked on several air cooled VWs. You may not even have a problem. The air cooling is driven by a big fan that blows air across fins on you head and cylinders. This fan turns even at idle and should by design provide sufficient cooling for your engine under a range of temperatures. These engines were originally designed for desert conditions.

Get an oil pressure and an oil temperature gauge installed ASAP. Then go drive. Learn what these gauges do when things are "normal". Get a sense of what your oil temps are when you're running around in stop and go city driving and consider this "normal". Then when you're out on the playa you can compare to see if you're out of the normal range. Without gauges how would you even know when you're starting to overheat? Try just letting it idle in the sun for a long while and see if it starts to get unreasonably hot.

Oil coolers are wonderful but keep in mind that the radiator they use may only work while you're moving. Unless they come with an additional fan or otherwise sit in the airflow of the fan in your engine that may not do much sitting at idle.

Most importantly! The thick rubber gasket that circles your engine compartment (between the fan shroud and wall) is critical. It separates the air blow the engine (HOT output from the cooling fan and engine exhaust) from the cool outside air coming in to the top of the engine compartment. If this is missing or in bad repair you'll end up sucking the hot fan exhaust into the fan intake when sitting still...
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby junglesmacks » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:38 pm

SnowBlind wrote:
ViveEnElMomento wrote:(1-2 hour waits and upwards)


Oh, and during the worst times, definitely upwards of 2 hours.


2 hours would be pimp. I did a solid 5 hours last year during entry early Monday from 3am-8am.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby The Bee » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:51 pm

Also, make sure you have a good battery. On exodus when traffic is pulsed, you'll be running the starter motor frequently, but the alternator won't have time to recharge the battery.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby junglesmacks » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:02 pm

whoops.
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby Eldon McMullen » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:11 pm

I've driven and worked on VWs for years. They are designed to run hot. But you can overheat them. Most people will run the engine way to slow. they are made to turn fast. the faster the blower turns the more air runs past the cylinders and heads. If its hot and you are forced to go slow gear down so that that engine is not working as hard. a tack is the most important thing to have on a VW next to temperature gauges. 250 degrees is just about the right temperature. 350 is not to high for a while. cleanliness of the engine is of utmost importance. If it really worry's you ad a set of injectors for water spray Into the fan. Just takes a little bit of water to bring the temp right down. You didn't say what years you had but most overheating was cured by the mid 80s. Mac
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Re: Keeping an air-cooled vehicles engine cool in traffic??

Postby scruffyboy » Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:33 pm

O.K. This is probably going to go against ALL the "stuff" you've been hearing about the VW air-cooled engines but hear me out...
Volkswagen did not and would not, build an engine that would overheat in STOCK form. These engines have been around for a good long while and have been operating all over the world under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, in stock form.

The problem(s) most owners experience have more to do with poor maintenance, shoddy repair and crappy after-market parts than anything Volkswagen ever did.
One of the problems is sourcing good engine parts. Nowadays a lot of replacement parts are crap right outta the box! Another problem is finding a really good mechanic that actually knows a thing or two about these beasties. This detailed explanation is from a guy that's been doing this for a number of years;

http://haysvwrepair.com/operating-temperatures/

I have had a few VW campers over the years (I'm an old fart so I've gone through one or two) and have schlepped my latest, an 82 Westfalia, out to Playa for the last 5 years. Mine does NOT have an additional oil cooler (more places to leak) Fuel injection (can't find decent parts anymore) or a paper air filter ( I have twin oil-bath air cleaners sourced from a 50's vintage bug) I DO have an oil temp gauge and a head temp gauge. They were installed by the previous owner so I just left them in. They've been checked against an IR sensor. The head temp reads about 100o hotter than the IR and the oil temp reads about 50o above the IR. And remember this; VW NEVER put gauges on any of their air-cooled engines! Why? They never needed to!
Coming up over the Sierra's fully loaded? I've never gotten into the "danger" zone on even the hottest of days. Traveling out past Reno? No problem.

Here are a couple of do's and dont's I follow these days;
I don't flog my van up to 80 MPH and hold it there all day long. It simply will not do it. Period. (Except maybe the backside of Donner Pass :D )
I can't stay up "in the saddle" for 8-10 hours at a time anymore so I end up stopping more often for longer periods.
I maintain my van scrupulously (might not look like much but it runs real good! Stops good too!)
In short? Proper maintenance by a qualified mechanic and you shouldn't have any problems at all.
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