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Electrical & Mechanical Projects

Headlight relays

Instrument cluster LEDs

Odometer repair

Third brake light moved  

Ignition switch replaced  

Rear heater removed  

Bike rack light  

Heater T’s removed  

Interior LED lighting  

Suspension & brake lines


USB outlet

Headlight relays & high-power bulbs

Instrument cluster LEDs

Product: GoWesty high-powered kit (the old 80/100W version)

Date: April 2010

Comments: And I thought my '86 Cabriolet's two sealed-beam headlights were bad before relaying them!  This van’s headlights were so bad, the auxiliary lights were brighter!  Best upgrade on any old VW!  If you want brighter headlights, add relays to the headlight circuit, no matter the vendor.  And if your lenses are cloudy, clean them with some isopropyl alcohol.


Product: SuperbrightLEDs.com LED bulbs

Date: May 2010

Comments: The LED swap is highly recommended... unless you like the dull, yellow look (left photo).  Click here for details on which LEDs are needed.  Removing the cluster is required only if you're replacing the clock and warning light bulbs. Cluster bulbs are plug-n-play and are polarity-dependent (i.e. if they don’t light up, reverse them 180°).

While I was in there, I cleaned up the reflectors using my Dremel:

Odometer repair

Third brake light moved

Product: Paperclip

Date: April 2011

Comments: The night before Adventure 4 the odometer quit.  Before leaving for Adventure 5, odometer was repaired using a paperclip to put tension on the main shaft (problem was that the gear on the opposite side kept popping out of its mounting hole).  Update: Thousands of miles later, it's still working!  Update 2 (Dec. 2013): Odometer quit again about 7,000 miles ago.  Paperclip is still holding strong; this time it appears to be a problem with the worm drive gears (the black ones) down inside the assembly, which I don’t care to take apart out of fear of wrecking something (it’ll get sent off to Van Cafe one of these days for a hopeful repair). Update 2017: Speedometer is now dead.


Product: A lot of folks have asked what brand this light is: No point in telling you because it's no longer available.  The equivalent, however, is this one.

Date: March 2012

Comments: The third brake light (that came with the van) fell off the rear window for the third time and I had enough.  Moved the light to the body, above the rear shelf, using a commercial-grade Velcro-type product.  It's been stuck in place ever since.

Ignition switch replaced

Bike rack & Hitch Haul light

Comments: At every initial start-up, the starter had a delay in engaging.  Since the starter is a PITA is to get at, decided to replace the ignition switch first... problem solved.  Of course, dumbass me, I didn't get the turn stalk back on completely, which resulted in the horn honking as soon the key was turned (but the contact tab was loose too, which Dad fixed with some epoxy -- see pic below).  Much troubleshooting later, problem discovered. Click here for a DIY guide for replacing the switch.

Date: December 2012

Product:  Recon 26418RD 15" Mini Tailgate Bar (available via Amazon and elsewhere)

Date: Spring 2013

Comments: I noticed right away after using the Thule rack that people did not react in a timely fashion when I had bikes loaded up, so I immediately set out finding a light for the rack. First one I found wasn't really up to the task; this Recon light most definitely is. Found out it uses a flat-4 connector (which the van has), so I bought it.  Fits and works perfect!  Drivers (for the most part) now react quicker, and don't stop as close.  My Thule is a 4-bike carrier; the light bar sits on the pads for the 4th bike and held in place with the rack's rubber straps. Makes for easy plug-n-play; bikes can be put on and taken off without removing the light.  (Running lights shown in photo; entire bar lights up when brakes are activated and each half blinks when turn indicator is activated.)

Rear heater removed



Comments: Over the past few months I've been having to top off the coolant tank on a semi-regular basis, but never found any visible leak (not good).  Then, upon packing up to leave Buses By The Bridge, noticed a wet spot in the nice new sand. Looked down to find bright green liquid dripping off the left side of the van (odd).  No coolant lines are on that side; since the van was angled back a bit and considering the odd location of the drip, I checked the rear heater: puddle of coolant underneath it. Once home, rear heater was removed (core was leaking and covered in dog hair).  Why not replace it? Heater has only been used once, and that was simply to test it.  Storage space is needed more than the rear heater... at present (parts will be kept, just in case).  Click here for a DIY guide for removing the heater (temporarily or permanently).  Block-off plate was made out of some aluminum I had in stock and painted gray to sort of match.

Date: January 2013

Heater hose T-fittings removed; coolant hose replaced


Comments: Was adding quite a bit of coolant during the two-week trip to Syncro Solstice and back, but no visible leak ever presented itself.  That was, until shortly after returning home from Moab: Ran some errands, got out of the van and walked towards the back.  Couldn’t help but notice large drops leading down the driveway and out into the street.  Looked under the van to see coolant cascading down from about where the rear heater hoses had been.  I knew immediately what was wrong: The wimpy caps I had put on the T-fittings (taking the easy way out) had cracked and split open.  So, had to do what everyone recommends: Replace the T-fittings with straight fittings.  Would be an easy job if not for those damn plastic pipes!  While under the van, I took the time to replace the kinked cross-over hose (added a spring support to the new hose) and temp-II sensor (which was original and leaking).

Date: June 2013

Interior LEDs


Products:  Pre-wired flexible LEDs (found at auto parts stores, online stores, etc.); magnetic reed switches (normally closed; SonicElectronix.com); cord cover; Blue Seas fuse panel; NTE touch-dimmable LED light bars;

Date: 2013 / 2018

Comments: Wearing a headlamp to do dishes got really old. Inspired by The Samba folks, I added LEDs. The original set-up was replaced in 2018, with lights added to the fridge and closet (seen above). Details below.

2013: 100cm light strips in natural white inside aluminum housings with frosted lenses from SuperbrightLEDs, iTouch dimmer switches: One replaced the factory fixture, one was mounted over the rear seat (A/C plenum was removed for better airflow, which made mounting the light really simple). Two 12" strips of waterproof LEDs were stuck to the stove lid above the sink, wired to an on/off switch (wire was run through a gray vinyl cord protector).

2018: Light fixture above the kitchen was replaced with a natural white NTE touch-dimmable fixture. LED strips above the sink were replaced with a 12" NTE touch-dimmable fixture in natural white. Strip above the rear seat was moved to the "spice rack" and another NTE touch-dimmable fixture (in warm white) was mounted above the seat. This allows a light to be turned on/off while standing outside the van, which is much  more convenient. All of these NTE light bars are 12V, thus, the transformer was simply cut off and the wires connected directly to their respective power sources. Because these are touch-sensitive and can turn on by LED strip movement, the bar end caps were removed and the strips hot-glued to the housings. The lenses were also hot-glued in place. While NTE makes these with frosted lenses, Fry's Electronics (which is near my house) does not stock them. The light bar over the rear seat is blinding with a clear lens, so before gluing it in place, it was removed and a light coat of white paint sprayed inside for a DIY frost job, which worked rather well. The fridge light (4" strip) is wired to a 9V battery, which resides in a small plastic case and is Velcro'd to the left wall, near the top.

New suspension & brake lines


Product:  GoWesty progressive zero-lift springs; Bilstein front shocks; brake lines, bushings & ball joints from Van Cafe

Date: July/August 2013

Comments: Van handled craptacularly and nose-dived with every stop (it also dropped a 1/2” with lightweight me getting into the driver’s seat).  An alignment check revealed potential suspension issues, so time to replace springs, front shocks, ball joints and bushings (Dad gets credit for the work).  Van’s handling is now 180° different!  It also sits about an inch higher; it still fits in the garage, so that’s a-okay with me!  New brake lines (not pictured) have made a slight braking difference, but still have to tap the pedal once in order to get a high, firm pedal.

Radio replacement


Product:  BOSS head unit with AUX/USB/SD inputs (no CD)

Date: February 2014

Comments: Van came with an ancient Blaupunkt cassette whose LCD display was dead and had no modern amenities.  Replaced it with a Kenwood CD/AUX/USB head unit (luckily the van already had an adapter harness, which made things easy), but the f***ing demo display would never shut off, no matter how many times I followed the instructions to the letter; not only that, the menu was overly complicated.  Lived with it for a couple of years and couldn't stand it any longer and replaced it with a Sony CD/AUX/USB.  The Sony was good, but like Kenwood, Sony insists on making the damn demo display the default setting and, while it actually works, it's a PITA to shut off.  My Cabriolet has a Kenwood that I want to dump, so I decided to search for a non-CD head unit for the van (never listen to CDs in it) and found a BOSS for cheap at SonicElectronix.com (Crutchfield lost my interest eons ago… they suck for options).  Didn't realize it until I was installing the BOSS that it came with an SD card slot, which I'm using exclusively.  It's short, it's simple (no damn demo display!), it's got a slightly classic look to it… I love it!

12V outlet swapped to USB


Product:  Blue Seas dual port 4.8A USB

Date: April 2017

Comments: Van came with a 12V outlet installed in the kitchen cabinet.  Because most electronic devices I carry are charged via USB, I finally swapped out the 12V outlet to a USB outlet, which was plug-n-play.  This particular USB outlet does not have an LED, so it does not use voltage 24/7.  The outlet is wired into the Westy display panel, which is wired to the auxiliary battery.