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Why won’t my van start?

Category : General · by Nov 13th, 2011

I need your help. And I am counting on you and the power of the Internet to fix an issue dear to my heart.

I have a gorgeous 1966 split-screen VW camper van. And rather cruelly I have left it on its own for basically a year at my mother-in-law’s house because the practicality of having it in the heart of San Francisco is not great (plus we never use our other car anyway).

To cut a long story short, I was starting up the van every few weeks, and asking my mother-in-law’s husband to do the same. But, inevitably, the frequent start-ups lapsed for about three months and when I next tried to start her up, she refused. I thought it was the battery, so I got a man from AAA out to start her up – he said the battery was fine and drove off. The van hasn’t started since.

So today – finally – I decided to have a big stab at getting the van started. I bought some petrol/gasoline to top up the tank (it was low); I connected my portable jumpstarter to the battery to get it to kick in; I even give the top of the carburetor a tap in case the float valve was stuck. To no avail, the van won’t start.

I recall once when this happened when I was living in LA, a wise old mechanic turned up and told me about a trick to add a small amount of gasoline to the top of the engine (where, I don’t know) and that would help it kickstart itself. I have searched online for this tip and found nothing.

This is where you come in. I recorded my efforts to start the van. And I’ve posted the file here. What you can hear is me turning it on next to the engine, leaving the device (my iPhone), going to the van, starting it up, turning it off, starting it up, turning it off, a car driving by and me returning to the engine.

I just know that there are plenty of people out there that will know *exactly* what this sounds means. And I am trying to find just one of them. So please help me out and link, post, whatever this to anyone who has some VW know-how. And you will get a very appreciative Kieren.

Why not just go to a garage?

1. I’ve got to get the van there
2. Most garages these days have no idea about old vehicles like this
3. I want to fix the issue myself – a big part of why I have the van in the first place

So come on social media / Internet / humankind – help me out.

[audio:|titles=Car engine not starting]

You can download the MP3 here.


(4) comments

10 years ago ·

Through the power of social media / facebook from a bloke in Australia (with a 1978 kombi)… here are my thoughts:

Seeing as the engine is turning over (quite strongly) in all likelihood you’re missing either fuel or spark.

Starting Fluid is what you’re after (I believe it’s called something like “Start Ya Bastard” here in Australia) – this link should help:

That will allow you to work out what’s missing – fuel or spark – very easily.

Personally I’d probably drain the tank (seeing as it’s old, and as you’re in the US, poor quality gas) and try with some fresh stuff.

Actually, I just came across this link – this is a pretty good overview seeing as getting your bus started is probably only one of a few things you should consider.

Anyway, in short, your bus shouldn’t be too tough to start sounding like that. Start with new fuel (completely new fuel) and the starting fluid and see where that takes you.

Good luck…

10 years ago ·

Its so pretty. Good luck.

When I used to own old VW’s, all bugs, and they did not start I did one of several things including staring at them for a while until something came to mind (sometime it took hours but I was in the right frame of mind for such contemplations) or used one of the old VW manuals I had. But this was in the age of ARPANET and DECNET. I somehow though that the bugs knew that I might do damage if I really tried to do something and just knowing the manual was close by would start to behave. But it might have just been our state of mind. As for real help, you might be able to find some of those old manuals on e-bay and as for the state of mind, I expect the van still has it, and you do live in SF.

Jim Prendergast
10 years ago ·

I have absolutely no mechanical skills whatsoever but that is one sweet looking van. Real Beauty.

Pearl Moran
10 years ago ·

Hey Kieren…I was reading your post on your VW camper and OMG! I am smiling right now…because I want to tell you….Pop-start the darn thing! (I’ve had a 81 VW Jetta, and a 76 VW Beetle! A girl just knows these things : p ) Well….when all else fails and it won’t start….then you must—-pop-start it! : ) Good luck and I hope you get it running! P.S. I liked your video it was so cute and your little girl is so adorable !

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