Q: Should I use the "universal" oxygen sensor I see all over the place? It seems like it'll cost me a lot less than the right one.
You might think, "Wait a minute, I can get a genuine Bosch oxygen sensor from the other guys for a fraction of this price. What gives?" Don't be fooled. GoWesty is not trying to gouge anyone on oxygen sensors. The other guys are selling "universal" splice-in-type units. It's true that they are genuine Bosch; in fact, we used to use them in our own shop ("used to" being the defining phrase!). We have found that the three-wire splice-in Bosch oxygen sensors don't work on 1986-91 Vanagons. That is, sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't, especially in wet conditions. That is worse than if they never worked.
If that were the case, you would know for sure the moment you put it in. But what happens is this: You think you need an oxygen sensor because of certain symptoms, you replace it, it works, then it runs crappy again. Now you are sure it is not the oxygen sensor because, "Man, I just replaced it!" Time goes by and, you guessed it, NO WARRANTY on the one you bought. On top of that, you start replacing a bunch of other more expensive stuff trying to cure the problem. Trust us: this more expensive, direct-fit, non-splice oxygen sensor is cheaper than what a less expensive, splice-in unit is going to cost you in terms of time, inconvenience, and the cost of replacing other parts that are not the problem. What's that saying again? Oh yeah, "There is never time to do it right, but always time to do it twice!" Be smart and do it once! These direct-fit oxygen sensors will eliminate any oxygen sensor-related problems for 60,000 miles. This is not a place to try to save money!