The statistical reality is that 98% of the GoWesty rebuilt engines are totally trouble-free. This is not surprising since we do the same exact thing every time, to every engine we build—some 3000 through the end of 2020. Of the 2% that have an issue, it is typically something very simple-usually just a minor oil leak. Less than 0.5% are serious enough to require repair and/or replacement. Some of the problems we have experienced are simply human error, or a defective part that was out of our control—neither of which can ever be totally eliminated. Our warranty covers all of these issues, every time, without question. So, why is there even a question about the legitimacy of our GoWesty engine warranty? Answer: almost all warranty claims we receive are denied. What?! Read on…
Back in the 1990’s, VW's had its own waterboxer overhaul program going, in Canada. It ended miserably with an overall failure rate of close to 50% and VW pulled the plug as quickly as the law would allow (they were required to provide factory-built, replacement engines for a certain time after the end of vehicle production). We took many of these engines apart and could see many areas where they did not do nearly the quality of work that goes into a GoWesty long block. For example, they continued to use the original VW cylinder head castings that were known to have a design flaw. Another example is that the VW long blocks were incomplete—and left some systems impossible to test, and up to the tech to finish assemble. That was definitely one factor in their high failure rate. But it did not explain why it was so bad.
I have always said of the waterboxer, “If you keep enough oil and coolant in a waterboxer, you cannot break them!” After disassembling over 3000 engines, the evidence to support this is simply overwhelming. The engine design is solid . But NO engine design can survive in the absence of proper lubrication or cooling. In fact, most of the Canadian engines we disassembled were either run with little or no oil, or were (almost always) overheated—they had not failed due to a defect in parts or workmanship on the part of VW of the engine long block itself. There were factors beyond the part that VW was responsible for that were causing early demise, some probably simple installation errors (the Vanagon was an odd-duck compared to the other VWs the dealer -trained techs were accustomed to work on), but mostly it was cooling system malfunctions. You might be thinking, “Wait, they supplied the entire engine, how could any engine failure not be their fault?” Here is where some terminology needs to be explained.
What VW was, and GoWesty is supplying is the engine long block. It is the main part, but only a part of the entire engine assembly, not the entire engine. Onto the long block many of the vehicle systems have to be transferred, like the exhaust, engine management, intake, electrical, and cooling system. The VW program ended many years ago, back when the average Vanagon on the road was around 5 years old. The GoWesty long blocks we are building today are going into Vanagons that are as much as 38 years old! It is no wonder, then, that almost all of the warranty claims we get are due to a failure in a system outside of the long block that we are simply not responsible for: the cooling system. You might be thinking, “But how do you know that?!”
After witnessing first-hand the catastrophe that was the VW engine program, we not only learned how to improve on the many things they did not do right. Indeed, they did not do themselves any favors by leaving off some key parts that could have easily made their success much more guaranteed. For example, we always put a water pump and all long block mounted coolant pipes so we can check for any coolant leaks on the long block itself. We always put oil filters and coolers on as well, so we can spin the engines and check for good oil pressure and oil leaks. VW just crossed their fingers and hoped they got it right and/or that the tech knew what they were doing and finished the long block correctly. We crossed no fingers. We made a thorough list, and crossed off each line on the list, one at a time! We also added a key tool that would tell us, in no uncertain terms, if the engine was overheated: overheat-indicating melt tabs.
We put two of these on each cylinder head. One of them melts at 225 degrees F, and the other at 250F. If one is melted, that means the cylinder head got over 225F at the surface. If both are melted, it means the surface of the cylinder head exceeded 250F! Naturally, every time we get a warranty claim we insist on a high-resolution photograph of these melt tabs. Invariably, they look like this:
There is no way on this planet for these tabs to melt like this unless the engine was overheated. No way. You might ask, “But, GoWesty engines are larger and more powerful, maybe the Vanagon cooling system just can’t handle the extra heat.” We know this is not the case because we have run these engines in our own vehicles, under extreme circumstances to include grueling 24 hour endurance racing and 1000+ mile Baja rallies in blazing temperatures and waist-deep silt. Then there are all the engine swaps people do that subject the Vanagon cooling system to way more heat than any waterboxer could. Then of course there is the fact that if the cooling system were not up to snuff, most if in not all of our engines would overheat, not just a relatively small percentage—and we would have stopped building them long ago!
So, now you might say, “But, how do you know that these tabs are the chickens or the eggs?” We get this question quite often. The idea being that something went wrong in the engine first, which then caused the overheating to occur. The evidence presented is that, what typically fails when an engine is overheated, one (or more) of the pistons. This is because the aluminum piston gets too hot, expands more than the steel cylinder—and the aluminum is smeared all up and down the cylinder. The thing is: As soon as a piston fails like this, compression is lost and the engine makes less, not more power—and the demand on the cooling system decreases. So, if the piston were to have failed first (due to a defect), the cooling system would be less strained, and the melt tabs would most certainly not be melted. That is how we know.
Even though almost all of the warranty claims we get are denied because it was not due to a defect in parts or workmanship on the part of GoWesty, that does not mean we follow the denial with, “tough luck, take a hike!” On the contrary, we always put our best foot forward, as a gesture of good will, and do whatever we can to reduce the financial and inconvenience impacts on our customers. But, we simply cannot take blame where no blame is due, and that really rubs some folks the wrong way—no matter the evidence.
Bottom line: The GoWesty Engine Warranty is most definitely legit, and more importantly: so is our integrity and our desire to make things right, every time—no matter whose fault it is!
Read more about these melt tabs here:
Overheat Indicating Melt Tabs: The Whole Story