Volkswagen California Buyer’s Guide


The Volkswagen California is undoubtedly a remarkable and robust vehicle that will  provide many years of  adventure and unparalleled fun. However, despite its renowned reliability there are still things you need to know when considering your purchase.

While it is always important to check the mechanical workings and history of any vehicle prior to purchase, for this guide we are focusing mostly on the unique fixtures and fittings associated with the live-in aspects of a VW California, especially those pertinent to the UK market.


For the electric roof found on the California, check the buttons and operation of the overhead control panel used to lift the roof, this should operate with the ignition turned on, but there should be no need for the engine to be on. The overhead blind should move back and forth smoothly and stay closed when shut.

For the manual roof found on the Beach, check that all the clasps and closing mechanisms work and that the roof lifts easily. Check that no material has been snagged in the closing clips.

Check that the roof lifts smoothly and evenly on both sides; we would suggest checking this more than once.

Check that the roof is in alignment when raised, and look for any signs of damage on the canvas, especially behind the metal mechanism at the rear sides of the pop top.

There is an area, a type of band that naturally folds inwards when the roof is lowered, and if the canvas has been caught this is usually the place where damage occurs. This is not uncommon, but if there is any damage, assess whether you can live with it or not; the damage is usually minimal in this section and only usually affects the outside.

Please note that there are three layers to this section – the outer canvas, the inner plastic band and the inner canvas and it can be patched successfully. If the canvas is caught in other areas then this might be more of a problem and can be used to negotiate a discount.

Check the front band has not been caught causing a bend low down on the band. If it has it is not a major problem but it may cause the canvas to pop out when closing and this will require the operator to be more vigilant when closing the roof and guiding the canvas inward.

When the roof is open check that the roof has not been damaged by racks or surf boards etc. and there are no signs that is has be driven or erected under low hanging branch or low slung roofs.

Look down the profile of the roof sides to check for any kinks or bends. A small kink can indicate the canvas has been trapped regardless of whether damage has been done to the canvas or not. Most people are happy to live with a small amount of kinking, so it is up to you to decide if this is an issue.

There is a flexible light pole inside the pop top. Check that it is not loose or broken, that the fixtures are sturdy and the housing on the light are complete. This is a minor issue but replacing the stem can prove quite annoying.



Check the electric hook-up point. Check that the flap opens and closes and there is no corrosion or damage to the connection. If you get the chance to connect it up, the overhead control panel (above the cab) will tell you if it is charging the battery.

There are two water tanks. One for fresh water and one for the waste.

Look for signs of leaking around the exterior of the vehicle. There is a red lever located under the shelf in the rear cupboard in the tailgate that you release to drain the fresh water and another located under the sink to drain the waste water .

Allow some water go down the plughole to ensure there is no blockage, the water will run out slowly.

Check the tap for leakage and ensure that it is not loose and works properly.





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