1) Inspecting the engine

•The first job is to check for oil leaks, but remember, always inspect a vehicle in dry weather.  Leaks of all kinds are hidden when the vehicle and road are wet.  VW campers are prone to leaks, but it is always wise to identify what their origin is and how serious they are.  Check the ground where the vehicle has been standing and look closely under the engine to see if areas have been suspiciously cleaned. 

•Check the timing/cam belt.  If this has not been changed recently, it can be extremely expensive to repair the damage if it breaks or requires renewing.  Always ask for proof of the renewal; some garages place a sticker on the engine with the time of changing; otherwise request the garage bill.

•When turning over the engine, listen to the sound and watch the exhaust.  If there are unidentified sounds, knocks or smoke coming from the exhaust this is generally a bad sign.

•Check the oil dipstick; if the level is low, it can be an indication of either a leak or the neglect of the owner.

•Always check the head gasket.  There are a number of ways to check this.  First of all, open the oil filler cap and check the dipstick; see if there is any white residue on them.  Check the level of the water in the expansion tank before and after you test drive the van.  If the water has dropped, then this could be an indication that you have a blown head gasket.

•Check all the hoses and pipes for any damage or erosion.

•Check the gear box for any leaks.

2) Inspecting the body 

•The main area of concern for the VW camper is the chassis.  If this requires welding, it can be extremely costly.  So it is advisable to get the cleanest van you possibly can get.

•The chassis has a number of key components: the two chassis rails which run from front to rear, the jacking points and the outriggers which run from the left to the right of the vehicle.  Rust should not be present on any of these, and if they have been patched up, then you have to check how good the welding is and to what the patch is welded to.  If the patch is welded to rusted metal then you have problems.

•Internally: if you have access to view the floor internal plates, check for rust on the floor.  VW campers with kitchens fitted have a habit of rotting out under the sink. It is also noteworthy that the van drain holes can become blocked and pool water; this can lead to serious rust issues. 

•The front beam is a key area for the MOT.  If this beam, which sits at the front of the vehicle, is rusty or repaired with spot welding then this is an MOT failure, and therefore not safe.  Any welding done on the front beam should have seam and not spot welding; the front beam is an important structural component.

•The panels all require careful inspection as does the windscreen in the corners. Check under the wheel arches, check the bottom of the doors, and check behind the bumpers.  It is also worthwhile looking under the passenger and driver’s mats to see whether any rust had crept in.

3) The roof

•Whether the van has a tin roof, a high-top or a pop-top, an inspection is always advisable.  Tin tops are prone to rust especially around the gutters; high-tops made from fibre glass can crack and let in water; and pop-tops could have problems with their mechanism, perished fabric and rusted arms.

4) Electrics

•Check that all the lights and indicators are working.

•Check that the wiring is not DIY.  If the original wiring has been tampered with, then the only person who knows how it works is the one that put it in.  No manual in the world is going to help you with an electrical problem.

•Check that all the dials work. 

•A common fault on the water cooled T25 is the temperature gauge. The light may flash continually, although there is plenty of water in the system.  This is sometimes down to the sensor not being cleaned; therefore, it can give the wrong reading.