I felt complete and utter despair. I knew our ‘93 VW Eurovan was probably going to break down at some point on our 3-month trip but I did not expect it to happen just 2 weeks in. It just was not supposed to happen yet. We had plans…
The most frustrating part about seeing the pool of coolant underneath the van was that the next 8 days were the only days we had really planned out for our 3-month trip, otherwise we would just be “blowing in the wind”. We were supposed to spend time climbing in the City of Rocks National Park in Idaho and then head to the Dirt Bag Family Festival put on by the non-profit The Adventure Mamas Initiative. But now there was no way we were going anywhere without running the risk of something more serious happening to our van.
We were stuck in McCall, Idaho which, all things considered, is really not so bad. It is located on Payette Lake right near Ponderosa State Park. It is a beautiful area, but the major downside is that it is not the best place for finding a mechanic that will look at an old VW. After scouring the town to see if someone would work on our vehicle, it became clear that no one wanted to touch a 1993 Eurovan. Our only hope was driving the two hours to the capital of Idaho Boise.
Van Life is a funny thing. One minute you feel complete bliss and the next minute you’re pulling your hair out and wondering why you thought it was a good idea to drive many, many miles in such an old vehicle. At least that is how I was feeling. Why did I think it was a good idea to go on a 3 month trip with 2 little kids in an old vehicle that could break down at any turn?
I tried my best to hold it together for the kids. The last thing I needed was for them to be upset about the whole situation. I turned to the one source I thought could solve all of our problems or at least be a place to share my woes – VW and Van life facebook groups – and shared our coolant leak problem with the communities. Soon we had an outpouring of support and some members gave us various suggetions including adding Barr’s Stop Leak to our cooling ystem.
We had a solution. Or at least a potential solution. A little bit more research on Stop Leak and off we went to the local Napa to buy a bottle. After spotting additional oil leakage and doing some additional research we went with the heavy duty head gasket stop leak.
By the time we sorted everything out it was late afternoon and we were still unsure whether to use the stop leak and risk driving 2 hours to a mechanic in Boise. The kids were starting to get tired and whiny so we decided to drive the 5 minutes to Ponderosa State Campground for the night. If this Van problem was going to suck up the rest of our money for the trip, then we should least enjoy one last night of camping.
The next day my husband and I decided to try out the Stop Leak. While we were hovering over the hood, a neighbouring camper came up and asked if we were having problems. He started talking about an old VW bug that he owned back in the day. After explaining our problems he said he did not know much about fixing cars but could come and take a look.
This angel knew more than he let on, and spent 45 minutes checking out our van. He was able to pinpoint the problems and assured us that the stop leak was working and that we would most likely make it to a mechanic 2 hrs away in Boise. Feeling relieved we thanked our Vangel (Van Angel) and decided it was time to get moving again.
We made it to Boise and the next day went in search of a mechanic to fix Dusty. My heart sank again when finding a mechanic proved more difficult than we anticipated. One repair shop old us that they only looked at vans that were 1980s or older. The next place only repaired Eurovans that were 1995 or newer. It looked like our luck was not going very well until we reached the third place – Boise European Motorworks. They said they would take a look for us at the end of the day. I guess threes a charm when it comes to VW Van repairs.
The mechanics found multiple coolant leaks but managed to fix everything within 3 days. They had to bypass our heater core because of multiple cracks. Losing our heater core leaves room for a whole other post that will be coming up in the next few weeks. With our wallets ~$400 USD poorer we were back on the road heading for one night in City of Rocks (instead of five). That said, we had a blast climbing that one day before heading off to the Dirt Bag Family Festival. We were once again riding the Van Life high. What’s an adventure without some low points to really make you appreciate the highs? In the end, we wouldn’t have it any other way!