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Subaru engine removal 101 - Jfoto

Subaru engine removal 101

August 25, 2010  |  2 Comments  |  Leave a comment

The engine in Buster (our 88' VW Westfalia) was on its last legs and we needed to find a replacement. After lots of research we decided to go with a Subaru motor instead of a rebuild Vanagon engine. They are a much newer design and parts are much easier to come by. We found our donor, a 2003 Subaru Outback, at a towing company in Midland, Ontario. It had been in an accident but only the rear end was smashed in. the engine bay and passenger compartments were fine and we were able to start and test the engine before buying the car. As part of the deal we had the towing company deliver the car to Sue's brother Roger and his wife Jen's farm where we had plenty of room to work on it.

The smashed up donor car back at Sue's brother's farm where we will remove the engine and other bits. The smashed up donor car back at the farm.

A few days after the donor car arrived we started to strip it down, getting anything we didn't need out of the way and disconnecting everything from the motor to get ready to hoist it out. It was important to find an entire working car rather then just buying a motor from a wreckers because we needed so many other components from the car. The parts we needed from the donor were the engine, ECU (computer), engine wiring harness, starter, flywheel, and a few relays.

Getting the donor engine ready to be hoisted from the car. Getting the donor engine ready to be hoisted from the car.

Several days later we had the engine ready to be lifted from the car. Our plan was to use the front end loader on Roger's tractor to lift the engine from the car. We rigged up a chain to the engine and after three or four attempts and a lot of prying the engine finally came loose and was lifted from the car. We set the motor into the back of Rog's truck and the next day he delivered it to our place.

Hooking the motor up to the front end loader. Hooking the motor up to the front end loader.

With the engine out of the way we then turned out attention to the wiring harness which proved to be more difficult then removing the engine. Who knew. My dad offered to come help for this part of the job and by the end of the day I think he was wishing he hadn't. It turned out that the entire (and I mean ENTIRE) dashboard had to be removed form the car in order to get the harness out in one peice. This being my first Vanagon-Subaru conversion I wasn't sure what parts of the wiring were needed and what parts could be scrapped so I wanted to take it all. I was going to have Tom Shiels (the guru of Vanagon-Subaru wiring harness conversions) build my harness for me so I decided to bring everything to him to have the job done and let him throw away the parts that weren't needed. Tom just happens to live in Burlington, Ontario which was super convenient for me. I visited him before starting this project to get his perspective and to see his Vanagon-Subaru conversions first hand. After driving his 2.2 litre Subaru-powered Westy I was sold on the conversion. That's when I started my search for a donor for Buster. Anyway, after several hours of head scratching we finally managed to get the wiring harness out in one piece, all 30 lbs of wires, relays and connectors. We threw the whole conglomeration into a box for Tom to sort through.

Hoisting the donor motor out of the Subaru with Rog and Jen's tractor. Hoisting the donor motor out of the Subaru with Rog and Jen's tractor.

When we finished removing all the parts that we needed for the conversion we turned our attention to the other working parts of the car that we could sell. We pulled the transmission and the two good wheels from the driver side and the roof rack. I was planning on taking the rest of the drivetrain but getting under the back of the car proved harder difficult because the back end was so smashed in and we were working outdoors on a gravel driveway. In the end we decided to only take the tranny and leave the rest. A few days later a local wrecking yard picked up the remains of the car.

The donor Subaru motor arriving at our home where I'll do the rest of the conversion in my tiny garage (yeah). The donor Subaru motor arriving at our home where I'll do the rest of the conversion in my tiny garage (yeah).

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Jim Van Dam
September 5, 2010
Glad you made it back from Mexico. Looks like you have an interesting project to keep you out of mischief for a while. I have changed out engines, but never a conversion. Should be fun. Cheers..........Jim
September 6, 2010
Thanks Jim. Yep, made it home and then a few months later the engine in the bus went kaput. We decided on a Subaru motor for the perfect fit and horsepower. I'm almost doubling my power. We've hoping to have the project done by Thanksgiving when we have a campsite booked in Killarney Provincial Park.
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