Part 6A - Installation of Subaru 2.2 Liter engine

You have reached the heart of the SubaruVanagon motor swap process. This article details how we put our prepped Subaru 2.2L EJ22 motor into the Vanagon. There are several steps to this process so we've broken it up into two major sections - Part 6A, and Part 6B. In part A we prepare the Vanagon for its new powerplant and install the motor. In Part B we will finalize the installation by connecting all of the bits that allow the installed engine to run.

Part 6A and Part 6B are part of one large article and I didn't want to lose any detail by trying to squeeze them into one page so we've broken it up. Follow along as we dive into Part 6A and all that is involved in preparing the Vanagon and moving the motor into its new home. 

Overview and Approximate Time Needed:


Process Description

~ Time (hours)


Removing items and cleaning engine bay



Physical installation of EJ22 into Vanagon



Installation of cooling system


Installation of exhaust system, optional item1






* Approximate Total Time =


*When you factor in rest and prep time, a mechanically inclined person should reserve a couple of days to complete this process.  For someone new to working on cars, this may take a few days. 1Optional item: Using Ford F150 or similar muffler instead of bolt on Vanagon application.

Tools you may need:

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

3.       Engine hoist with appropriate rated chain

3.       Degreaser such as Simple Green and cleaning rags

4.       Utility knife

5.       Drill with metal drill bits

6.       Angle grinder with cutoff wheel or hacksaw

7.       Funnel for engine coolant and motor oil

8.       Coolant catch basin and small diameter clear hose for bleeding coolant system

9.       Optional* Portable air compressor for pressurizing coolant system

10.     Optional* Access to a welder for exhaust work

Step 1: Removing items and cleaning engine bay 

In this first step we'll strip the Vanagon's engine bay of all the unnecessary items such as the computer, coil, and most of the wiring harness. We will then get it nice and clean and remove the orginal engine tin side skirts and modify the rear tin.

Step 2: Physical installation of EJ22 into Vanagon

Step 2 is a fun one! We finally get to see how the Subaru EJ22 fits into the Vanagon's engine bay. We'll mate the motor to the transmission and secure it to the frame. Take your time and enjoy this step - a lot of work has come down to this moment and deserves a mini celebration when this step is complete.

Now that the motor is mated to the transmission let's attach the motor to the frame and remove it from the engine hoist.

Step 3: Installation of cooling system

Now that the motor is in place we can start connecting all of the individual Vanagon systems. We'll start with the cooling system as that is one of the more complex systems and it helps to have room to work, especially with bulky radiator hoses and messy coolant. I look at this step more as art than a technical headache and try to create a good looking, functional system with minimal design changes to the factory Subaru setup.

We'll start with connecting the heater hoses and the radiator input to the Subaru motor then we'll move on to the complexity of the hot coolant output to the radiator and air bleeding.

Let's move the coolant bottle location and connect the hot coolant output from the coolant manifold to the coolant bottle and metal radiator input pipe. We'll try to show how elegant this solution is versus the coolant bottle at the middle-right of the engine bay where it tends to get in the way more often than not.

And now lets add a couple petcocks, fill the coolant system, and purge the majority of the air out of the system before our first start of the motor.

Step 4: Installation of exhaust system

With the KEP supplied exhaust header, the stock Vanagon exhaust will bolt right up. KEP also supplies a fantastic muffler bracket to support the weight of the exhaust assembly from the motor which is how Volkswagen designed the exhaust system to originally be. This is, by far, the quickest solution. In this step I chose to use a muffler from another application because of the beneficial characteristics to performance and to the comfort of the driver. The muffler chosen is from a 1996 Ford F150 with a 6 cylinder motor. Some modification is necessary but the benefits far outweigh the work involved in making this muffler work with the SubaruVanagon exhaust system.

First let's look at how to attach the KEP supplied heat shield and attach the original Vanagon exhaust system using the KEP exhaust header and muffler bracket.

Now we'll show you how we used the flanges from the original muffler and adapted the Ford F150 muffler to work in its place. Note - access to a welder is very helpful, but with careful marking you could take the bits and pieces to a muffler shop and have them weld the parts inexpensively.

Finish the installation of the EJ22 into the Vanagon by going to Step 6B on the next page. We document how we installed the intake, fuel, throttle, and wiring systems into our SubaruVanagon.