by Ron Salmon
Vanagon oil filters by design have a different pressure and flow characteristics than those used on Golfs, Rabbits, etc. Most aftermarket filters use the same "generic" design for both, and this can damage your engine, plain and simple. According to Mahle/Germany, the original oil filter (and piston, cylinder, etc.) supplier to VW, "When you use (a Golf oil filter) for your car (VW Tranporter/Vanagon) you can get problems, when you start your car. The motor is too ong without oil...and the pressure bypass is different. Please use (the correct Vanagon-specific filter) to get no damage to your car or motor." This is right from the horse's mouth, so to speak. I have also seen proof of it with my own eyes (and ears): vehicles with lifter noise or even severe knocking on start-up, that went away immediately when the correct filter was installed. Even if the situation is not so severe that it causes a knock in your engine, it can certainly be harmful to your engine in the long run.
Only two filters, to my knowledge, are specifically designed for the Transporter/Vanagon engine, with the correct characteristics that Mahle speaks of. One is the Mahle (also sold under the Knecht name), the other Mann (also an O.E. supplier to VW). Bosch is sometimes but not always comparable to the above two brands. In some markets, they are selling a good German filter (probably in fact made by Mahle or Mann). In others they are simply repackaging some U.S. made filter, whose origin cannot be confirmed. (Therefore I don't sell them, given the good availability of actual Mahle and Mann filters which are always the same.)
This means that if you want to be sure of preventing damage to your engine, you should stick with either Mahle/Knecht, Mann, or the VW brand sold by the VW dealer (which is generally either a relabeled Mahle or Mann).
These filters do not cost $9.00 as one list member has suggested. I sell them for $3.99 to $4.29 apiece, depending on the application. In my opinion this is a no-brainer. It's kind of silly to even take the risk of buying a filter that can potentially damage a $2000 engine, just so you can save perhaps one dollar on an oil filter.
The Bus Depot, Inc.
[posted to Type2 on 10/17/99 -- prices and availability subject to change]