Used T5 Buyers Guide
Buying a used T5 can be a nightmare, there are some main things that buyers should be wary of and go forearmed with some practical knowledge before being taken in by some con artist. There are so many scams and tricks on ebay and the like that I would recommend never using these sites if possible and if you have to, pay cash, don’t offer a deposit and view the van in person with a mechanic before handing over a single penny.
This guide is not intended to be used as a full list of things you should inspect when buying a vehicle, I’m not going to tell you to look at the windows for cracks or inspect tyre tread depth, you should be doing that anyway no matter what vehicle you purchase, it is designed to help you uncover problems and issues when buying a used T5.
Lets start with big things I will try to break the van down into areas so its more practical to carry out your inspection following a logical course.
- Exterior Paintwork – The classic scam is to respray a banger with a fresh coat of paint and then sell it for £3000 more than its worth (that’s how much a good spray job is) they won’t have paid that though, and they will tell you they have, now a good respray will include inside all the doors, under the bonnet, and all the parts will be taken off and the van will be coated in full before all the parts are replaced, if this is not the case you will know as soon as you open the doors and bonnet etc. As the paint will be a different color or shade. Be wary of this scam as a fresh coat of paint can hide a multitude of sins skin deep. Inspect the wheel arches; is there any rusting under there that’s creeping into the bodywork? Also look at the bottoms of all the doors or tailgate, the T5 bumper is badly designed and allows water to pool, over time the doors drop and scrape on the lip, leaving exposed metal that then rusts and leads to issues. Check the front doors for the same, they drop and cause issues with the bottoms of the doors by rubbing on the sills. With the front doors there is a gap at the bottom that collects stones while driving, the doors then rub these stones against the sills creating rust spots, this will be evident or repairs will be evident if this has been the case.
- Exterior Roof – Yes get up and have a look, stand on the wheels and get an elevated position, people don’t often respray the roofs when getting a paint job, look for scrapes and dents from use, rust patches, mildew in the gutters at either edge. If the van has an awing rail fitted have look at the fittings, T5 roofs are notorious for leaking if awnings or roof bars have been attached, common signs that the roof leaks will be water in the passenger foot well running from under the dash and rust in the passenger door seals at the bottom. Don’t worry this can be sorted with rubber washers and or silicone sealant. Just be aware that a leak for a while will have done damage to the inside, which we will talk about later.
- Door handles – Look at the exterior door handles, these are not the best design and quite often break and stop functioning correctly make sure they all work including the sliding door and feel tight and not loose.
- Chassis – If possible look under the van, look at the exhaust and chassis is the heat shielding all in good condition? There is going to be some rust on an older van don’t worry too much about this as long as the exhaust looks sound and there’s no glaring problems or holes.
- Tyres and Alloys – Standard wheels or modded? If they have been swapped out for bigger wheels check there load rated, there is a plate on the inside of the alloy that tells you, normal swap is for range rover wheels which can easily hold the weight, if there not load rated its illegal so be wary, check the alloys for damage, the biggest that should be on the van is 22” realistically. Look at the tyres for wear and tear uncharacteristic to normal usage, i.e. uneven wear etc. This will indicate problems with tracking, camber or other issues and will need rectifying.
- Cleanliness – There are two schools of thought with an engine bay, I personally keep my vans engine immaculate, but be wary of this if the seller has done so too, he may well have OCD but he may also be trying to hide an oil leak or other problem, so just be cautious with this.
- Bonnet hood – Look at the bottom of the bonnet hood for rust round the rim, they tend to rust there quite easily on older vans.
- Battery – Look at the battery a new decent van battery is £114 from Halfords, does it look like the original battery? Average shelf life is 3-5 years on a modern battery so that should tell a story.
- Have a good look in the engine bay; it’s a lot harder to hide rust problems in here, as it’s not easy to paint, so get in there and look! If you have a mechanic get his expert eye on the case with regards to the engine itself.
- Engine parts – Right lets talk costs, new clutch and flywheel your looking at £650-£700 for quality parts fitted, how do we know if its due or issues with it, well start the engine up, if the flywheel is bad and you will know immediately as it will sound like someone is hammering erratically inside the engine, this indicates flywheel failure, however normally it will be the smaller subtle giveaways we need to check for, get in the van and rest your foot gently on the clutch lean your leg against the gear column, is there an erratic judder or tremor? This is another indication of impending flywheel failure. If you feel this the next step is a test drive to confirm and I will talk about the test drive and what to look for in due course. CLICK THIS LINK FOR A VIDEO ON FLYWHEEL FAILURE SOUND Flywheels are designed to have play in them (a degree of rotation) to absorb vibration during power transfer from the engine but the following link shows a failed Flywheel and what happens when the play becomes to great which creates the associated knocking. CLICK THIS LINK FOR A VIDEO OF DISASSEMBLED FAILED FLYWHEEL. Flywheel failure can ultimately lead to the flywheel destroying the Bell housing, this is very expensive!
- Cam Belt and Water pump – These should be changed together every 60,000 to 70,000 miles ask when they were last done.
- PAS pump – power Assisted Steering – OK we need to test drive to feel how the steering reacts and if we have issues with this so lets get in and talk through what we don’t want to hear and feel on the test drive!
- Fuse box – Near the battery, get inside and have a look if you can, look for damage or missing fuses etc.
THE TEST DRIVE.
- No Radio! Windows up to start with, get in, belt up and turn the key a quarter turn wait for the coil light to go out as this heats the glow plugs then once out turn the key. Ok leave in neutral and feel for that tremor through the clutch and gear column if its present we need to investigate further so were gonna start with that, drive to a hill and put the van in reverse gear, drive up it backwards if the van judders or tremors you may have flywheel failure, next drive along open road going up through the gears, listen and feel for a judder in the lower ratio of the gears that smooth’s out as you accelerate, again an indication of flywheel problems. These are your chief warning signs that flywheel is on its last legs or starting, if this is ignored it can cause serious damage to the engine costing thousands.
- PAS Pump – Ok lets play with the steering wheel, turn it from left to right to full lock feel for a tremor in the wheel, if this is present it may be the power steering or alternator pulley flywheel, both need investigating. While were playing with the steering listen for a knocking in the steering column, if there’s a knocking it means the column needs replacing unfortunately.
- Remaps – Ok has the van been remapped? This is when the ECU has been reprogrammed to allow the van more power ratio and increased torque and BHP a poor remap will often put massive pressure on the clutch, flywheel, turbo and associated parts, there will possibly be a judder much like the flywheel judder through the gears! ASK!
- Knocks and Rattles – Right this is why the radios off, listen for knocks and rattles from the suspension, which may have been modified, also the sliding door is prone to rattling and knocking if the rollers need changing. There’s to many possible sources to list but listen out and investigate!
- Brakes – Test em! Common trick on the T5 is to cut and splice the brake indicator wire on the front pads as they are prone to corrosion and faulty dash warning lights, if this has been done you will have no idea of the brake pad condition without regular inspection, its common so get it checked.
- Lights and Electrics – Test all lights for function and if fitted with electric windows and mirrors check these.
- Aircon or heaters – Check it, a fault with the older models means that the heater cabling wire that controls the heaters via the rotational knobs on the dash gets over rotated and stops working, its a messy fix! Ensure its working.
Ok that’s the main bits on the drive covered.
- Doors – Open the door and check the lower door hinge, the rollers on these quite often rust and fall off, its approx. £80 to repair this per hinge have a look!
- Door cards – Look at them and see what condition they are in, the internal grab handles are crap and often fall off, the outer is £8 the inner is £25 and these are often cracked. Also check the door cards are secured properly, they are held in place by three screws at the bottom and a number of VW push clips, if they’ve been off people tend to break the push clips and forget to put the screws back in, leading to annoying knocks and vibrations.
- Dash – Have a look under the dash at the panels there, are they all secured correctly, if they’ve been removed they are likely to be missing screws and loose.
- Aircon/Heating – Mentioned this before check it functions.
- Drinks holder – Check the drinks holder! They are useless and cost £50 to replace if broken.
- Fuse box – There’s one in the cab next to the steering column on the passenger side, worth a look to make sure there’s no obvious blown fuses.
- Glove box – Quite often the catch and lock have been forced have a look to see what condition its in.
- Floor – Right if there’s mats take them out, feel for dampness, and look for any signs of water ingress, the cab is prone to leaks through faulty widow seals, roof and door seals. While your there look under the drivers seat there are electrics there that control the locking, if they are wet or damaged your gonna have issues, feel around for dampness.
- Door seals – Check the condition of them, if they are old your gonna get leaks probably, look for rust colored degraded rubber in the bottom part of the seal near the foot well, this will tell you that something leaks!
- Lights – Check all your Cab lights function correctly.
- Seats and seatbelts – Have a good look at the condition of the seats, and then check all the seat belts and seatbelt stalks for condition.
- Wiring – Pop the right hand end cap of the dash off and have a look at the wiring behind the light module, a lot of bodge jobs take place here, if it looks like a snakes wedding investigate further.
- Cab ceiling – Have a look at the condition, recovering one will cost about £80 dependent on materials used.
I’m not going to go to in depth here, as there are so many different variations inside the rear possible, I will just cover a few basics…
- Sliding door – Look at the handle and lock mechanism these are prone to breaking, inspect the rollers, they rattle when lose and the door becomes difficult to shut, try closing it several times to ascertain the condition of the door.
- Sliding windows – If the van has them in the back, have a look at them and try opening them a few times, look for water ingress and mold.
- Rear doors/tailgate – Inspect them for signs of dropping and rubbing on the sills.
- Rear cab ceiling – Inspect for water ingress and condition.
Ok people that’s my guide, I hope it can be of some use to you, unfortunately a lot of this came from my own experience so I know how costly a lot of it can be.