04 Astro van 4.3, first timer needs advice

Hello everyone, I have been reading up on wood gasification on and off for a few years and have sat down and decided I needed to just start doing SOMETHING. Some probably know what I mean. The only issue is the budget. I am trying to minimize cost by reducing mistakes and trying to source free or cheap materials. I have some materials and a start to a design, but want guidance on if everything seems to be designed correctly.

Right now I have 2 water heaters, a 55 gal barrel and some exhaust tubing. Not much of a start, but I think a good one. My current plan is to use one water heater tank as a hopper, the barrel as the combustion zone, then the second water heater (or something else maybe) cyclone filter, next railing across the roof of the van and back to a condensation tank, and then to the second water heater (or a second barrel, not sure) hay filter. Then (finally!) to the engine.

The transplant is my 2004 AWD Astro van with a 4.3 V6. Its got 215k miles on it. The plan is to use an off the shelf cargo carrier in the hitch or possibly a custom built carrier so I can leave the gasifier on there and still pull a small trailer.

Can you use galvanized pipe for the “radiator”? The cheapest source of tubing I found for a different project was top railing (diameter of ~1 3/8") for fencing @ ~$1.30 a foot. I would of course grind off the coating at the ends for welding.

How is the condensation tank set up? Does the inlet just terminate as soon as it’s on the inside of the tank? I assume the outlet is just welded to the outside skin as well?

I don’t have very specific details yet, but if it sounds good so far I will come up with something.

Thanks in advance,


Welcome to the site Matt.
Lots of people here willing to help you and you will be told
1 buy Wayne’s book if you haven’t already and at least a 1 year membership. Lots of information in the book and on this site.
It will give you info on materials needed to build a gasifier.

Can you build a wood powered vehicle on a limited budget. Here they almost all are. My first was $1500 us and that included the truck. Wasn’t much of a truck but it educated me much more than I can say
Things I recommend that cost you nothing, find a local fencing company and see if they have a scrap pile they will let you look through.

Make friends with the local plumber as they replace various sizes of water heaters. Look for barrels stacked outside of various businesses and see if you can buy barrels for the deposit fee. Around here $20 for closed top.

Again welcome and I hope this helps


Hi matt Welcom too DOW.or drive on wood. im not as much of an expert as the other guys up here. So i will limit my confusion.Though a few more things as materiel and you soon off too a great start, i too know what you mean about building it right the first time, not that there is a perfect way, but i bought WAYNE KEITH’S have wood will travel book and it saved me a ton of mistakes that i would have made otherwise. As far as cooling rails i used those three inch range basket ball hoop stand yard pipe for the bottom of my side rails and some 1"3/4 pipe on the rest. Galvinized works ok once you get it welded. Thin wall pipe is lighter and cools better, it will rust out in few years if too thin. Its a lot of trade of on useing heavy material lasting longer, or lighter material and building simpler, and through away after rusting through on the lighter material. Allways limit the material when posible with any design.I ran my s10 truck with 4.3 motor and had enough power too go 50 too 55 mph. Though the v8 Dakota WK USES has been ticketed well over the speed limit, about 90 mph the dakota can GO.If you want too pull a trailer any weight much at all other than the back roads the Dakota v8 is a better choice.


The only thing I wanted to pull was my motorcycle with up to 2 motorcycles on it. Probably total weight up to about 1200 lbs with trailer.


Hello, and wellcome, Matt!

Gasification can be made skyhigh expensive or allmost free. Depends on the amount of scrap you have, your skill and imagination.

A WK gasifier is a good choice if you want a good prooven system. If you decide to go that route, buy Waynes book and follow it to the letter, you will be driving on wood fast.
But it does involve more work (welding) and might be a tad more expensive.

If you want a simpler faster way, a lmbert gasifier is a option. A good lmbert gasifier can be made in a day.

But in the end a big factor in your decision is wood. What will you burn? Chunks? Chips? Soft or hard wood?
This will dictate allso how you need to arrange the pipeing. Some fuels dont need a condense tank at all per instance…

If those materials you listed are what you want to work with, l wuld use both water heaters for the gasifier and the 55gal drumfor a hay filter. A hay filter can allso be a condensation tank! You can drain it dayly.

A cyclone that big wuldnt work wery well anyway, better get a smaller vessel say 6" dia vessel if you want to install a cyclone (not nessesery either).

So gasifier, roof cooler, hay filter, engine rout is simplest.


That 4.3 van would pull them on the trailer, Though it would be ok for short distance back roads, would work when hybrid driveing getting up too speed, around 50 too 55 mph depending on how well truck runs on petro, and allso how dry and type / size of wood you are useing, varies the power available.As far as WK gasifier being heavier, it can be if you use too thick of metal around the firetube design, that you will get when you get his book, after the redesign of the fire tube cooling system, its not much heaver if built with weight saveing in mind. The WAYNE KEITH design has a nice large reserve of power’ That keeps it from going intoo heater mode/or overheat mode. Is one of the main benifits of the design, The rest of the book is just loaded with great building ideas, and all kinds of tested and tried knowege, Notes.


Welcome Matt!
For short: Pictures give proportions!

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Good morning Matt and welcome to the DOW :grinning:

At the top right hand side of the page you may want to click on the LIBRARY . There are a huge amount of information you may want read.

Thanks Wayne


I bought the book and 6 months of premium membership , but I used an email address to purchase it that wasn’t the one that is associated with my account. I emailed the contact email at the bottom of the page, but I haven’t gotten a response. Is there anyway to transfer the membership? Also is it a printed copy of the book or is it an e-book/ pdf?


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Hello Matt .

The [email protected] should be the right address

Also you might try the phone at the bottom of the page.

Not a e/book but a real book .

Chris ( the one in charge of this ) has been very busy with new farm ,new baby and new job. I’m sure he will get right on it as soon as he gets the message .

Thanks Wayne


Ok. As most probably understand things happen and projects go on the back burner. I had been having problems with this van for a little while and once I got it to run right it blew a head gasket (or 2). I haven’t checked to confirm that diagnosis, but it overheats and loses coolant without leaving a puddle. So I haven’t decided what I want to do with the van now.

In the time since I was last here I started a new job farther away than before (~25 miles one way) and have been re-reading through Wayne’s book. I have taken up a different project lately, a 95 Mercury Tracer sedan (rebadged ford escort). My goal with the car is mostly just experimentation. It is not worth much and has some pretty bad rust in spots so looks and re-sale value are not really a concern. My two biggest goals are to learn sheet metal fab and car aerodynamics. I was thinking about trying to make a Keith gasifier for it since it is my experimental vehicle. Which leads me to my last question for this thread:

Should I try to follow Wayne’s design closely and use it on a similar platform as the Dakota? I have a 5.7L V8 carb swapped 95 astro that I keep as my hotrod. I could potentially use a trailer and get the experience from building it with that. However, I don’t want to keep it that way so it would only be temporary and would end up scrapped/sold. The other alternative is to experiment with the Mercury as the first build and go from there.

The Mercury currently has a 1.9l auto, but I have a 1.3l 5spd that I am planning on swapping in. Probably after this winter.

What do you guys think?

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Hello Matt.

I am afraid I can’t give much advise on the trailer or the car because I have never used eather . Have put about a half million miles on the trucks and really like them .
I just posted a video on the driving habit thread and I mention on there that I can’t think anything I would change if building another .


If it were me I’d put the gasifier on a trailer. Get my feet wet with the van because head gasket is blown anyway. If it gets full of tar no great loss? Maybe?
Then with that experience under my belt I’d look into a Dakota, gen set, or something else you choose. If you do this very much you will want a wood chunker. Its too much work prepping any other way.
My first project was a charcoal gasifier making fuel for a gen set. I plan to use that gasifier on my chunker when I get it built.


The van with the blown headgasket isn’t able to run long before it overheats. I don’t think I will get much from messing with it besides the building process.

Or were you thinking the trailer for the carb’d 95?

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I don’t know what your long term goals are. Its not important for me to know that, but you need to set a direction or none will know how to help you. Almost anything you do in woodgas will require fuel prep, so I suggest you build a chunker.

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Main goal is to learn. Mostly out of curiosity. I like the back up from gasoline too, but right now gas is pretty cheap (I wasn’t driving when it was less than $1 a gallon, so $2/gallon is pretty average for me). I want to put it on my daily driver, the mercury, but if it is worth starting in a well known area of larger engines then I would do it. It’s just the question of if it is worth it to take the time to build it for a vehicle I don’t want to gasify just for the experience.

Maybe a better worded question is, should I start in known territory with the v8 or is it easy to troubleshoot and experiment with the smaller 4 cyl?

I don’t want to get in over my head and end up regretting and abandoning the project. I enjoy the designing and fabricating of projects so it doesn’t bother me unless I am making no progress.

I just finished the ending of Wayne and Chris’ book with the chunker. Some ideas are in my head, but I don’t have a plan yet.


Well, charcoal gasifiers as @k_vanlooken makes them are about as easy a way to get started as you will find. This one I made mostly from parts of an old water heater.

And here is my Top Lit Up Draft (tlud) that I make charcoal in. You can see that the burn has progressed about 1/3 of the way down the tank because of the heat discoloration.

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Hi M_a_t_t,
Reading clear back to your 1st statement post May the 5th and now your subsequent post and responses you seem to be a fellow with too many options.

Maybe I can help you line these out.
The Mercury tracer is actually a Mazda co-production. The very best of the Escort series. This sedan has been woodgas proven once before. Cory? can’t remember his last name. Bumper mounted system. It worked. Then his also rusted car fell apart on him.
I’d scratch woodgasing yours. You’ll end up with a too small of gasifer system to transfer to your larger V-6’s and V-8’s.

Your V-8 is mechanical carbureted. Can be done. Has been done. But duel fueling a carburetor system gets you two throttle pedals complex to operate and you’ll still never have the power and ease of use flexibilities as many have now proven with a Port Fuel Injected system.

So you are down to your 2004 V-6 coolant drinker.
This is a cast iron heads on a cast iron block engine. One of the easier ones to work on.
This era of GM’s V engines suffered much from stupid thick plastic intake “gaskets” time, age and heat shrinking and then leaking intake manifold crossover passage coolant directly down into the cam valley then into the engine oil.
Get a good coolant system pressure tester pump. On a warmed up engine with fresh cheapest oil change pump up the coolant pressure and wait. Re-pressurize as the engine cools down.
Then drain the oil looking for coolant not yet oil circulated and mixed.
Find this. And you just have to intake remove and reseal with the aftermarket thick Metal replacement “gaskets”. Go slow. Clean well with brake clean. Use coolant safe sealer.
Ha! I had to do too many of these.
Hey. It’s just nuts and bolts, man.

Fix the 2004.
Woodgasifiy that with a rear hung external gasifier system. Use your MC trailer to trundle the bagged wood fuel you will need.
Then you will have a gasifer system transferable later to small E.F.I V-8’s when you decide to go for more cruising power and speed.

Steve Unruh

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I actually have 6 cars, so I’m not sure if I will keep the 04. I kind of want the awd van, but it’s definitely lowest on the totem pole. 2 of the ones that I’ve not mentioned could receive the gasifier from the mercury (if it does fall apart on me). I’ve got a 75 civic (1.5 4spd) and a 73 Fiat 124 special (1.4 auto). I also have a KZ1100 that could potentially take the gasifier :grin:

Being that I’ve got so many cars I also have a few too many projects so the gasifier is definitely a few behind in the queue. Research and a plan are free though.

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