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Old 12-17-2013, 07:20 PM   #29
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Unless you are very handy and find a suitable rear end in an auto salvage yard, replacing the rear end in a 19 year old van does not seem to be a very good idea.
My vote for a replacement vehicle is a full size V8 Ford or Mercury, 2005 or so. Many were owned by older drivers and have low miles. They are cheap and much more comfortable than your present vehicle.
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Old 12-17-2013, 09:48 PM   #30
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The weight distributing hitch that I use is a Reese 350 mini-lite. It uses friction pads on top of the A-frame to control sway and can be adjusted to tip 100 to 350 pounds back onto the front axle. The whole thing weighs only 35 pounds and doesn't squeak, moan, creak, or pop. It doesn't do anything weird when backing up, and really does well with ruts, dips, rock hopping and curb jumping. I do a bit of off-roading in my travels and it's never troublesome. It mounts close to the back bumper, and if I open the lift gate, I can watch the ball placement into the trailer coupler from the driver seat. I have mine set to put 300 pounds on the front axle. Its simple design makes hitching up and setting load-bars a two minute one-man job, and that's with a hand crank. I moved my propane mount back a bit to make it fit correctly, but Reese sells a pair of tabs to solve that issue bolt-on style.


Two minutes is not an exaggeration. Drop and latch coupler onto ball, wind jack like mad to full extension. Position load-bars, unwind jack like mad to preferred level of retraction. Done. It has a clean and neat, no-chains/clamps appearance. It only fits 2 couplers.


It's a marvelous little contraption, costs $350, and really does its dual function job of sway control and weight transfer. Works great for little trailers with up to 350 pound tongue weights. My tongue weight is 400 pounds. This works well for the 58%/42% nose heavy Caravan. Trailer spare tire and gear over/ahead of rear axle in van. Great handling, smooth and quiet ride.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:33 PM   #31
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If I were getting ready to head out on an extended journey with a vehicle like your van, I would consider replacing some of the items that might typically give trouble on aged, high mileage engines. Things like a water pump, alternator, perhaps starter. I would also ask a "good" transmission mechanic to give the trans a look over. If the front end has not been rebuilt, it very likely needs some work. Tie rod ends, ball joints, bushings, etc, should be looked over. I would also go through the rear suspension carefully ( bushings, etc ). As was mentioned, shocks all around. A complete brake job, as in either replacing or rebuilding calipers, and master cyl, and of course that would also net a total fluid flush.
...
All of this assumes the van is basically solid, with no or minimal rust, etc. If there is significant underbody rusting, then a thorough inspection of frame members and suspension attachment points would be prudent.
Thanks, that seems like a good list.

The van is solid, no rust, and has been well maintained except the paint is oxidized, but it's not peeling or anything. Over the years we have rebuilt the cooling system (radiator, hoses), it has fairly new brakes, things have been kept after as we needed to, regular oil changes and transmission services. It drives and shifts good. It has a small oil leak (as has pretty much every Ford I've ever owned). It needs new tires, which made us stop and pause, because we are searching for a car to replace my husband's everyday car which has major engine problems, and thought we could get an all-in-one solution, so we wanted to check that out before we went and dropped $500 on new tires. But right now, as ridiculous as it seems to drop more money into a 20 year old car, it is looking like a pretty good option.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:50 PM   #32
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Thanks, that seems like a good list.

The van is solid, no rust, and has been well maintained except the paint is oxidized, but it's not peeling or anything. Over the years we have rebuilt the cooling system (radiator, hoses), it has fairly new brakes, things have been kept after as we needed to, regular oil changes and transmission services. It drives and shifts good. It has a small oil leak (as has pretty much every Ford I've ever owned). It needs new tires, which made us stop and pause, because we are searching for a car to replace my husband's everyday car which has major engine problems, and thought we could get an all-in-one solution, so we wanted to check that out before we went and dropped $500 on new tires. But right now, as ridiculous as it seems to drop more money into a 20 year old car, it is looking like a pretty good option.
In my mind, the thing about spending money on an older vehicle like this is you need to realize, to make it work from a money standpoint, you have to accept the fact you are making a time commitment to the vehicle. In other words, it's very possible that you are putting more money into it than is is "worth" from a market standpoint, so you have to figure you will need to get your worth out of it by keeping it long enough to justify the money spent on repairs and refurbishing.
At least at this point in the process, you can say to yourself, most of the depreciation is done, the personal tax is likely very inexpensive, and it's old enough you can just carry liability insurance, so you save premium dollars.

There are all kinds of ways to justify buying a new or late model car, but the bottom line is it's almost always cheaper to keep repairing the old one until it's finally down to just being a constant problem child. Even then it's likely still cheaper to keer her.....but at some point the frustration level gets to us all.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:58 PM   #33
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It's still cheaper to keep 'er!
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Old 12-18-2013, 11:34 PM   #34
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We drove a Ford Flex last night and really liked it. I think it will be the perfect tow vehicle, in about 3 years when we can afford to buy one with cash
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Old 12-19-2013, 06:39 AM   #35
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IIRC from my time with Ford, you can keep the rear axle assembly, and simply change ring and pinion gears to something better suited to towing. You can also add limited slip at the same time. Just remember to use the limited slip additive, or it will shudder and groan every time you make a turn.
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