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1979 Type 2 VW Bus

I am 18 and I just bought a VW Bus to drive to college and be my car. I have had some trouble with the power, and I was wondering what upgrades I could do to it to give it more torque, horsepower, bottom/top end. Also when i turn sharply to the left I get this like grinding noise and i cant figure the problem.

It does not have power.  Trying to get more by modifications will likely cause problems elsewhere. If you really need more power, I suggest a different vehicle. 

The grinding noise could be a wheel bearing. 

Good Luck

The VW bus never had much power and never will. You will need to learn to drive accordingly. It will get you from place to place, just at a bit slower pace. This is not a safe car, so going slower is a good thing.

You may need to upgrade the carburator. There are lots of aftermarket carbs and manifolds for VW’s. Otherwise there are bore packages that include new cylinder pots, pistons, and heads that increase displacement a few cc’s and add a bit of power. I don’t think they will help that much.

Get the current motor running the best it can run. If it is solid and has good compression on all cylinders just fine tune the ignition and carb(s) as best you can to get it running good. VW air cooled motors run hot and some cylinders can be ok and others burned out. Compression check all cylinders to be sure which are good and which might be scored and have low compression.

Yea Im not wanting it to run a 10 sec .25 mile lol, but id like it to go faster than 20 up a slight incline. Thanks for your advice this far. Also I was wondering what kind of price range my bus could fall into it if i decide to sell?

The bus should run faster than 20 up a slight incline so the first steps should be to check the ignition timing and run a compression test; with the latter being the means to determine if the engine is getting weak.

That being said, a bus does not have a lot of power to begin with and you’d be lucky to get a 25 second quarter mile much less than a 10 second one.
The engines can be built up to produce a fair bit of horsepower but this means a complete overhaul and a ton of money.

The best move would be to sell this thing and buy something that is reliable and ho-hum for college; say a 90s era Buick.

It’s difficult to say what it would sell for because there is a limited market and prices can swing wildly. Add in the fact that it lacks power and the price drops even more.
(If you have the timing checked make sure that it’s by someone who knows the VWs. It’s very easy to put too much timing advance into one of these and cook the pistons out of it.)

Joseph and Uncle Turbo have both pointed out that these had a hrd time getting out of their own way even when new.

However, the VW Bus subculture has evolved a ready supply of aftermarket products at affordable prices including rebuilt engines. If it were mine and the rest of it were in good shape I’d consider a rebuilt and upgraded replacement motor. That’d be your best bet IMHO.

But drive very carefully until you learn this vehicle’s limits.

Selling price is a crapshoot. In my area perhaps $100 on a good day. In Nevada likely far more. The roads in my area are all hills with curves, not the best place for one of these, especially when the roads get slick in the winter.

Did it perform like it does now when you bought it?
Major mods to motor or replace with porch motor is your only choice that will make enough difference.
Like others said tune it up good and drive it and enjoy.
Check rear axles for noise.

You can do all sorts of mods, but you’ll never get any real power. VW buses just aren’t fast, and they shouldn’t be.

If you’re really serious you could think about an engine swap. Putting 6-cylinder Corvair engines in VW buses used to be a popular swap.

I’ve seen Subaru engines mounted in buses, too. Figuring out where to put a radiator can be a problem, but you’d have more hill-climbing power this way.

Of course, either of these engine swaps will cost a lot of money and make the vehicle very difficult to sell, neither of which is a good thing.

If you really want a more powerful vehicle I suggest you sell the bus and buy a more powerful vehicle.

If you’re going to keep the bus for a while, the best thing you can do is find a copy of the book “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive.” This is a great book for VW owners, and it’s fun to read.

Hey this OP is asking about a VW Bus with the Type 4 engine and F.I. and a catalytic converter.Some of you are answering as if its a carbed dual port 1600,its not. I don’t remember exactly when VW went to water cooling for their bus engines but it was very close to 1979. If this is a water colled engine I don’t think there is very much aftermarket support. Just get it running as designed.

I have found that VW buses of this vintage have a perfectly acceptable power level when everything is operating as designed,and that should be your goal.

If you must you could put in a 2.0L Porsche 914 engine with big jugs,a cam, dual webbers and some serious head work. Then you can worry about emission testing,hopefully there is none. 250hp can be had from this set-up.These engines were heavily modded for off road use when the Type 1 engines just could not be coaxed further to put out more hp.

For the “grinding” could it really be “rubbing”? look at possible areas for the tire to touch the boby. With a “new to me” vehicle you will want to do a wheels off brake inspection,perhaps the source of the noise will become evident upon this inspection.

These buse are a great improvement on the 60’s era buses,just not the same animal.

I’m 50 years older than you are and you sound like you belong to my generation. The VW buses were popular with faculty members when I first went to college. Maybe you can start a new fad and college students will begin driving minivans.

How far do you have to travel to get to your college? If this is a cross country trip, you should have started last spring. With a little luck, you may make it in time for the next semester. If you are determined to take the VW bus, then do a couple of things: 1) find out what the grinding noise is when you make a sharp left turn. It could be a wheel bearing on either side or it may even be a tire rubbing the fenderwell, particularly if someone put an oversize tire on the VW. 2) Find a VW club and/or ask around and seek out an old VW mechanic. An old VW man might know some ways to restore some of the power to the engine. 3) Don’t overload the VW even though it has the space. When I look out my office window on a college move-in day, I see students and their parents ariving in U-Haul trucks or trailers bringing all kinds of stuff—big screen televisions, little refrigerators, etc. Just take the minimum. When I went to college, my dad opened the trunk of our five year old 1954 Buick and said that I could take to college whatever would fit in the trunk. I took the important things: books, records, music, my horn. I left the non-essentials behind: towels, wash cloths, razor, change of underware,etc. Don’t overload the VW bus.

Most important: Have a VW knowledgeable mechanic check your VW before you make the trip and drive prudently. I made the 350 mile trip to graduate school in my 15 year old 1947 Pontiac that I bought for $75. I replaced a couple of tires before I left, installed turning signals (turning signals weren’t standard equipment in those days) and limited my speed to 55-60 on the highway. The interstate system wssn’t developed in those days. Your VW isn’t a good interstate vehicle–be extra careful if you need to travel the interstate.

Far as I can tell, this is still aircooled, the ‘wasserboxer’ started in '83. As other said, mods will likely cause problems, but much might be gained by making sure it’s fully and correctly tuned, and that compression’s good.