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#4470663 - 07/26/17 07:53 AM Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs?
redfishsc Offline


Registered: 07/25/17
Posts: 6
Loc: SOUTH CAROLINA (SC)
Hey all, looking for advice.

We want to add a second family hauler to our garage. We're on a tight budget so I'm likely to be buying something that has a lot of age and mileage.

I currently have (and am happy with) a 1999 Suburban and a 2003 Grand Am. Grand Am is in fantastic mechanical shape but it's just too small.

Because of our tight budget, I usually do our mechanical repairs. For example, I rebuilt the rear end in the 99 Suburban when the pinion and carrier bearings starting howling (really bad pitting). I swapped the gear ratio to 4.10 (best mod I've ever done) and added an Eaton Truetrac Posi.

Help me decide, and please speak from experience (especially if you're a mechanic or have worked on these vehicles before.

I'd just as soon get another Suburban, or even better, a Ford Excursion V10.....I like them and they are not overly complicated. But I think the wife would be happier with a minivan to in addition to the Suburban.

I have to have AT LEAST 7 passenger seating. Not going to pay more than $4k-5k for anything.

What should I be looking at, in such a low price range? Hard to find a Honda Odyssea. Toyota Sienna? Honda Pilot? Ford Freestyle?

I read mixed reviews of the Dodge and Kia minivans. I've always avoided anything made by Chrysler or Korea, but I could be talked into it, I think Dodge has really come a long way since the 80's and 90's.

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#4470675 - 07/26/17 08:13 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
HangFire Offline


Registered: 08/21/13
Posts: 2506
Loc: Central Maryland
Pilot is sportier and easier to park than an Odyssey, and seats 8 (as long as 3 are kids). I have an '05 Pilot. Both are very well supported by web forums. Forum piloteers.org guided me to an easy $99 DIY repair (3/4 and 4/5 shift sensors) that fixed the "Blinking D" transmission issue causing a lot of Honda 3.5L owners to trade-in their car or replace transmissions (based on bad dealer diagnosis). Indeed, I strongly suspect my Pilot was traded-in years ago because of the blinking "D" issue, giving me the DIY guy a bargain. Maintenance is mostly very easy, or at least possible (rear spark plugs), on the Pilot.

Rough running 3.5L VCM (cylinder shutoff) has made for a lot of unhappy Pilot and Odyssey owners. There is a workaround (shutting that feature off), so that might be an avenue towards a bargain. Avoid Honda/Accura V6 through 2002 due to transmission design issues. '05 Pilots had internal corroding radiator issues leading to ATF/Coolant mixing, look out for that, also might be a gateway towards a bargain.

A friend has a Kia minivan that is getting up there in age and mileage. It needed some engine work just over 100K, I think timing belt tensioner or related, and a bunch of free recall work, but other than that it's been pretty good. Another friend has an AWD Sienna, got at 100K approaching 140K so far it's been really reliable. No V6 minivan is a joy for engine work.

I have nothing good to say about Dodge/Chrysler minivans. Many of my friends have owned them. All have dumped big bucks on repairs, many repairs are not anything I'd like to do.
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#4470681 - 07/26/17 08:16 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
Trav Offline


Registered: 11/20/06
Posts: 18866
Loc: MA, Mittelfranken.de
Toyota Sienna without a doubt. Very reliable mechanically where it counts, the engine and transmission, PS, cooling and heating/AC systems. Repairs are usually minor and simple enough.
I cant say much about Dodge but I wouldn't go near an older Kia or pre 05 Honda with a 10ft pole, ditto Ford unibody SUV's and minivans. In this price range your not looking at newer vehicles so serious rot of the unibody structure might be an issue with the Fords, the Honda and Toyota seem very good as far as rot goes.

The Excursion is great but wow what a horrible gas hog, what you pay in fuel you could add a fair amount to your purchase budget. I drove one of these things a 100 miles with a lot of downtown Boston traffic and it cost almost $40 in gas, no thanks I'll pass. I thought my Expedition was bad but holy cow compared to this is was an economy car.
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#4470693 - 07/26/17 08:28 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
Huie83 Offline


Registered: 02/19/09
Posts: 506
Loc: Minnesota
I think you could find a older Toyota Sienna, probably first gen in that price range. The 3.0 V6 and auto trans that are in those are tanks, they seem to run a long time even when neglected.

That being said, they do have a timing belt which needs to be changed out every 100K and *can* be sludge prone if the oil isn't changed regularly, just something to check.

We have a 06 Sienna, 3.3 V6 but same basic design as the 3.0. I just did the timing belt, water pump etc myself. A good Aisin branded kit, the OEM Toyota manufacturer, was $160. It took about 8 hours to do. I also recently did sway bar links @ 100K as they were clunking. Other than that, it's been solid the past year we've owned it.

Other than that you'd be looking at the generation of Honda Odyssey with the self destructing transmissions or a Dodge Caravan. My mother in law has a caravan and it's not too bad. The drive train seems solid even with higher mileage, but the van is rusting out ( typical of Chrysler vans) and slowly falling apart on the inside. They are definitely not the same caliber as a Sienna or Odyssey of that generation.

The ford Windstar is actually a nice van, it has the beefy 4.0 V6. The transmissions in those suffered from torque converter issues which destroyed the transmissions, usually by 100K. So, if you go that route, make sure it's been rebuilt or get it cheap and plan for it.

Honestly, you'll probably have to go look and see what you can get in your area for the budget and read up on each van's caveats, they all have some sort of weird issue. I waould agree with you though, minivans are nice to have around. We went and looked at Suburbans etc and the usable space and ride of a minivan can't be matched by a SUV.


Edited by Huie83 (07/26/17 08:29 AM)

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#4470710 - 07/26/17 08:50 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
ET16 Offline


Registered: 10/28/08
Posts: 1270
Loc: MD
They're old now, but Mazda MPVs can be good.

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#4470762 - 07/26/17 09:49 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
brages Offline


Registered: 02/07/13
Posts: 142
Loc: st louis, mo
MPVs are a smaller minivan than the Odyssey and Sienna from the same era.

The Jatco 5-speed transmission on those has a defect that causes them to slip early. It is actually DIY-fixable without removing the transmission from the vehicle.

Engine is a Duratec V6, good enough but our started leaking oil around the timing cover, never fixed it.

Pre 2005 Odysseys are known for transmission trouble. We have a 2005 and it's been pretty good. I like the 8th seat design.

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#4470763 - 07/26/17 09:50 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
KrisZ Online   happy


Registered: 12/23/06
Posts: 7465
Loc: Toronto, Canada
No personal experience, but I've read plenty of testimonials that the gen 4 (2001-2007) Grand Caravan models with the 3.3 engine are pretty much bullet proof, simple and cheap to work on. Just don't expect to with any races with one.
_________________________
2015 Dodge Grand Caravan-21k miles.
2006 Mazda 3-155k miles

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#4470806 - 07/26/17 10:25 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
Linctex Offline


Registered: 12/31/16
Posts: 6148
Loc: Waco, TX
I married a single mom, and soon after had another on the way...

Having a pretty strict budget-------

1) I bought a Polaris Predator with a fried wiring harness for $800. Just the insulation (mostly) was melted, so I could still carefully trace where the wires went. I got it wired properly & sold it for $2200

2) I bid on a 2002 Ford Windstar on ebay (with the 3.8 - - they didn't get the 4.0) with 99,000 miles for $2200. I lost, but the high bidder couldn't pay - so the seller let me have it for $2200

Drove that thing everywhere for a couple of years, saving for another one all the time.

3) 2.5 years later, I'm doing random lowball "make an offer" on various minivans on ebay, and found a 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan with 52,000 miles & offered $7222.22 (it was at a Lexus dealer in Houston - -???) and THEY ACCEPTED IT! (Book was $11,000+). With TT&L, I was out the door for under $8K in a newish 7-passenger vehicle with only 50K miles.

4) The Windstar was my work vehicle for a while. Did a little fixing on it here and there, but sold it 3 years later for $2100 and with 137,000 miles on it.
_________________________
"The evidence demands a verdict".
(Re:VOA)"it's nearly impossible to actually know the particular additives that are in there at what concentrations."

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#4470890 - 07/26/17 11:28 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: Linctex]
Canadastang Offline


Registered: 12/08/15
Posts: 261
Loc: Ontario Canada
There are a lot of [censored] minivans out there. A lot of them also have horrible safety ratings (looking at you Chevy Venture and Astro!), so take that into consideration when shopping.

I agree with Trav on the Sienna. I know a guy who's had three of them and he's put IIRC 300k km's on each of them with simple maintenance and minor repairs.

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#4470891 - 07/26/17 11:28 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
440Magnum Offline


Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 8754
Loc: Texas
No minivan will ever equal a Suburban for mechanical simplicity and long-term reliability. You just can't beat rear-drive in that regard. Front-drive is inherently harder to work on when things break (packaging) and more fragile (components are made smaller to fit the restricted space- PARTICUARLY driveline components inside the transaxle.)

But a 'burb will be an inefficient gas hog in comparison, ride rough, and generally be less user friendly to passengers, but its rugged.

If you're going to make the jump to a minivan, my first pick would be a Chrysler after the introduction of the 3.6L Pentastar engine around ~2011. They had a history of transmission problems in the 90s, corrosion in the early 2000's, actually got pretty solid in the mid/late 2000s with the 3.3 or 3.8 engine (but those will be aging out now...), and then really got back on top of the minivan game with the introduction of the Pentastar and the 6-speed transaxle.

Given your budget constraints, I don't see you getting into a 2011+ minivan that hasn't been "rode hard and put away wet," though. So in your case, I'd say the decision is crystal-clear for a Suburban. Excursion? Those are unnecessarily huge, and most had the godfrosaken 6-liter diesel from hades. One repair on that POS would blow your whole budget right there. If you can find one with the 5.4 gasser, just be prepared for a big fuel bill. Other than that, I'd actually pick that drivetrain over a pre-LS GM smallblock.
_________________________
'66 Dodge Polara & '69 Dodge Coronet R/T both 440/727
'08 Ram 1500 4.7/545RFE
'12 Challenger SRT8 392/6-speed
'99 XJ 4x4 4.0/AX15, '14 WK2 4x4 3.6/8HP

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#4470902 - 07/26/17 11:33 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: 440Magnum]
Canadastang Offline


Registered: 12/08/15
Posts: 261
Loc: Ontario Canada
Originally Posted By: 440Magnum

If you're going to make the jump to a minivan, my first pick would be a Chrysler after the introduction of the 3.6L Pentastar engine around ~2011.


Just watch out for all the cracked Pentastar heads

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#4470915 - 07/26/17 11:43 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
eljefino Offline


Registered: 06/15/03
Posts: 32632
Loc: ME
Chevy Venture/ Olds Sillhouette/ U-body vans, but get a $1000 special.

The intake gaskets were probably already done.

They rust out underneath but you're down South.

The 3.4/ 4T65 will remind you of your Grand Am.

The seats pop out real easy leaving a level load floor. I hauled ridiculously long boxes of vinyl siding with the fronts stuffed between the front bucket seats. ("Captains chairs")

Mine got 24-26 MPG. I paid $300, got 18 months out of it, and sold for more.

If you can't stomach that maybe a "short suburban" 2WD Tahoe.

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#4470919 - 07/26/17 11:47 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
slug_bug Offline


Registered: 01/08/13
Posts: 235
Loc: Michigan
My 2007 Grand Caravan has not been bad. With 162k it has never left me stranded. 2 water pumps, 1 alternator, and tie rods were replaced. All repair bills were relatively low which leads me to believe they are fairly easy for the DIY'er. The other expensive repair was to rear A/C unit. Mechanic said it was a design flaw where components are exposed to salt spray from rear wheel. Might not be a problem in salt free SC. It's burned a little oil since new, but, is now up to a quart every 1500 miles. The 3.8l is strong and the trans shifts like it is new. The power doors are not reliable, but, they work fine manually, so not an issue to me.
_________________________
2016 Miata 2.0l (12k)
2013 Fusion 2.5l(78k)
2013 Focus(56K)
2010 Linc MKX 3.5l(88k)
2007 Dodge Caravan 3.8l(177k)
2003 Merc. Mountaineer 4.6l(114k)

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#4470924 - 07/26/17 11:49 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: redfishsc]
eljefino Offline


Registered: 06/15/03
Posts: 32632
Loc: ME
^ And dodge vans are the new crown vic for cab companies. Their owners/ mechanics are a pragmatic bunch.

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#4470936 - 07/26/17 11:57 AM Re: Minivans for DIY repair folk? Or stick with Subs? [Re: Trav]
The Critic Online   crying


Registered: 08/30/04
Posts: 19800
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Trav
Toyota Sienna without a doubt. Very reliable mechanically where it counts, the engine and transmission, PS, cooling and heating/AC systems. Repairs are usually minor and simple enough.
I cant say much about Dodge but I wouldn't go near an older Kia or pre 05 Honda with a 10ft pole, ditto Ford unibody SUV's and minivans. In this price range your not looking at newer vehicles so serious rot of the unibody structure might be an issue with the Fords, the Honda and Toyota seem very good as far as rot goes.

The Excursion is great but wow what a horrible gas hog, what you pay in fuel you could add a fair amount to your purchase budget. I drove one of these things a 100 miles with a lot of downtown Boston traffic and it cost almost $40 in gas, no thanks I'll pass. I thought my Expedition was bad but holy cow compared to this is was an economy car.


Agreed. Any Sienna with the 3.0/3.3 is an excellent buy. Some items are a pain to deal with, but are not beyond the scope of any driveway mechanic. I cannot say the same about their newer 3.5.
_________________________
2011 Toyota Prius - 168k - ServicePro Dexos 0W-20
2007 Honda Accord 2.4 - 128K - Idemitsu 5W-20

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