Part 5 - Subaru EJ22 Engine Prep

In this article we will walk through the process we took to prepare the Subaru EJ22 motor for installation into the Vanagon engine bay. This may sound intimidating but nearly everything can be done with simple tools, but there is one specialty tool necessary for aligning the clutch. This tool can be found online or through a Volkswagen dealership.

Most of this step can be done right after removing the engine from the Subaru, but the last two steps will have to wait until you receive the SubaruVanagon conversion parts and have the aircooled motor out so that you can pull the clutch assembly. Follow along as we show how we prepped our motor for the SubaruVanagon swap.

 Overview and Approximate Time Needed :


Process Description

~ Time (hours)


Degrease and clean motor



Remove timing belt covers and timing belt



Replace front motor seals



Install timing belt and covers



Remove clutch and pressure plate or torque converter



Replace rear motor seals



Install adapter plate, clutch, and pressure plate



Install engine cross-member and exhaust






* Approximate Total Time =


*When you factor in rest and prep time, a mechanically inclined person should reserve a full day to complete this process.  For someone new to working on cars, this may take 2 or 3 days of work.


Tools you may need:

1.       Metric socket and wrench sets, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm

2.       Engine degreaser and parts cleaner

3.       Shop towels

4.       Wood hand clamps

5.       VW Clutch Alignment Tool (specialty tool)

6.       Large Sockets and 3" PVC Endcap for tapping in oil seals

7.       Large Sockets, 7/8" and 1 1/4" for crankshaft bolts on VW and Subaru motors

8.       Engine hoist with appropriate rated chain and appropriate size engine stand


Step 1: Degrease and clean motor

A good idea, if your Subaru is roadworthy and before pulling the motor, is to use a pressure washer at a carwash and degrease the motor in their stalls. They are designed to handle engine grease and this will help keep you clean and speed up the process once the motor is on an engine stand.

We didn't have that option in our case due to a bad transmission in our Subaru.

Step 2: Remove timing belt covers and timing belt

Lets strip the motor to access the timing belt and oil seals on the front side of the motor. This will also allow us to clean up the front side of the motor a little more. 

Step 3: Replace front motor seals 

I find this step really fun. This is where the buildup process starts and some real progress happens from here on out. This step ensures your motor will have the best chance at keeping the oil where it needs to be - inside the engine!

Step 4: Install timing belt and covers

This is an intimidating step to the newbie and experienced alike. If you take your time and keep the timing marks close to where they need to be you won't have any problems. The hardest part is making sure everything stays lined up while you snake the new timing belt around the roller bearings. As looking at the motor - TB has 44 teeth on the left and 40.5 teeth on the right from the crank to the cam sprocket timing marks.

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Step 5: Remove clutch and pressure plate or torque converter

Now we'll take the final steps to ready the Subaru 2.2L motor for installation into the Vanagon engine bay. Remove the clutch assembly from the Subaru to grant access to the back side oil seals.

Step 6: Replace rear motor seals

Now we'll clean up the back side and replace the rear main seal. Careful not to tap the rear main oil seal too far into the crank case - it could mean a trip to the Subaru dealership to pick up another oil seal.

Step 7: Install adapter plate, clutch, and pressure plate

These last two steps can be completed once the SubaruVanagon engine swap parts have arrived, and you've pulled the 1.9L or 2.1L VW Waterboxer or aircooled motor from the Vanagon.

Step 8: Install engine cross-member and exhaust

The last step to prepare the engine to slip into the Vanagon engine bay and mate with the transmission. Doing most of the bolt on of parts from outside the engine bay really saves time and busted knuckles. NOTE: One thing that has come to my attention recently is that KEP now offers a crossmember specifically for aircooled Vanagons. In this article, I used a KEP watercooled Vanagon crossmember. This seems to keep the motor slightly lower, allowing less conflict with the engine cover sealing lip. The aircooled KEP crossmember seems to place the motor too close to this sealing lip, causing issues with fitting the intake duct.


In this step we cleaned and prepared the motor for installation into the Vanagon's engine bay. The motor is now ready to mate up with the transmission and be secured to the frame with the engine mount. The next step will document how we cleaned the engine bay and placed the EJ22 into the Vanagon. Our Vanagon is starting to look more and more like a SubaruVanagon!