Update, June 2011, 141K:
I replaced the front strut assemblies with new Raybestos brand quick strut assemblies (RockAuto: $215) because the front end became too jittery over bumps, and the handling in general lost its quality. There was also increased tire wear on the outside shoulders. It took me an afternoon and the handling is definitely improved. However there was a creaking sound when steering. It came from the driver’s side only. I suspected a bad strut mount, since the creaking appeared immediately after putting in the new quick struts. To cover the bases before crying foul, I re-torqued the strut mounting nuts and injected grease into the lower ball joint and outer tie rod end. The grease fixed it.
I replaced the sway bar bushings (O’Reilly’s: $25). That’s an easy job for the mechanic with a lift, not so easy for the DIY guy in the driveway. It fixed a remaining chassis noise.
The right front brake caliper was not sliding, but was easily fixed by removing the bolts and putting them back in.
Then I had the oil changed, one tire balanced, and a heat shield fastened ($50 for all).
Old issue: the Brake and ABS warning light are almost always on. The ABS control module is kaput.
A new issue surfaced and was remedied: I found one actuator rod of the Intake Manifold Runner Control Module (IMRC) disconnected and its plastic bushing gone. I have no idea when it failed, maybe years ago. The symptoms are slightly rougher idle and somewhat higher fuel consumption. To catch it, inspect it at every oil change. The unit sits on the passenger side of the engine below the intake manifold plenum and above the serpentine belt. I bought a replacement from the local junk yard ($50.00) and new plastic bushings from O’Reilly’s ($7.00). Comparing them, I found that one of my actuator rods was bent out of shape. It should lay flat on a table. It should be straight in the horizontal plane, but it is factory shaped when viewed from above. If I had known this I could have saved the $50. The van idles and runs as quiet as new. I even enjoy driving it again.
Observation: it is not a good idea to park this van under a tree. The leaves and other stuff will collect in the cowl area, and be washed down into a rubber discharge hose. This hose has a tapered end so it will clog quickly. The leaves will hold rain water and AC condensation water. This water will keep dropping on the subframe for extended periods of time, thus promoting corrosion.
Update, October 26, 2011.
The washer reservoir was leaking. Actually, a short rubber hose was leaking because a mouse chewed it up. After jacking up, removing the passenger side front wheel and some fasteners of the inner fender, I bent the inner fender back to gain access to the lower part of the washer fluid tank. I added water to find the leak, pulled off the rubber hose that leaked and replaced it with 2” of generic rubber hose. No charge at the local O’Reilly’s, premium washer fluid, $3.00.
I had persistent vibration at speed, even though I had the tires balanced recently. The left rear drum was the reason. I replaced the drums in fall ’09. There was trouble with the drums going out of round and O’Reilly’s turned the drums for me. On the left rear they did a bum job! The drum wasn’t centered on the lathe! I can’t believe how much this drum wobbled. Of course I didn’t have my receipt handy and O’Reilly’s didn’t have a record of me purchasing the drum. I asked my favorite shop to put a new drum on it ($90). At last the van is running smooth at any speed now, but the money I saved by doing the original brake job myself is lost.
One of the power sliding doors had trouble closing on its own. That meant I had to clean the bottom runners again. It worked as usual. However, I noticed rust on the right rear area of the bottom runner. The wheel well rusted through.
September 1, 2011: the van received the Recall 11S16 fix. They did not replace the sub-frame as I expected, they added “slip over, clamp down and cross your fingers reinforcements.” Boy that looks ugly. I will continue to monitor that sub-frame.
Rust will take over this van shortly. I purchased “Strong Arm Sprays” which is kind of a snake oil for anything metal. Google for it, it does miracles! (Disclaimer: Hey!) You will like the redneck character of the site. I used it on the rusty areas under the van and the other vehicles we own. Time will tell if it helps.
My sharp but bifocal eyes detected a slight leak at the power steering pump’s bearing seal. Back from my Aerostar days, I still had an open bottle with “power steering leak stop” of some kind on the shelf. I poured that stuff in and it immediately reduced the mechanical noise the pump makes. I can’t tell yet if the seal has improved, but it did work on the old Aerostar some 8 years ago.
I have to say that this van runs really nice at 145000 miles. No one will give me any decent money for it, considering the rust issues and the bad rep these vehicles have. So, it likely will stay with me until the engine or tranny die.
Update Nov 11/19/2012 at 159000 miles.
Nov. '11, 145000 miles: A slight misfire, harder starting prompted me to tune up the ignition. Plugs, wires and coil pack cost about $150 at O’Reilly’s.
I found a repair service for the ABS control module on E-bay as low as $55: Automotive Scientific Inc. However, I did not make the repair. It would disable the van for a week or so since the original ABS controller has to be mailed in.
149500: Oil change and transmission service with filter change: $250.
Jittery front end, excessive tire wear on the outside edge and notable bump steering required 2 inner tie rods to fix. The $350.00 bill includes a front end alignment for $69.00. Van pulls a little to the left and the steering wheel is slightly off center to the right. I took it back and they did a fantastic job this time around.
Nov. ’12, 159000 miles. My yearly miles dropped from 20K to 14K. The info-center beeps and says: “Check Left Headlamp”. It was burnt out. When replacing the Sylvania 9007, I noticed a production stamp: Nov 25 02. Does anyone think the new bulbs will last 10 years?
At the last oil change I added “Restore” to the engine. It made the engine run notably quieter.
The blend door actuator made that tell-tale clack, clack, clack sound again. It appears the original one lasted 3 years and the replacements last 2 years. Lifetime warranty replacement at O’Reilly’s free of charge.
I also replaced a cracked cornering light (not the turn signal) with a better one from the junk yard.
That’s not bad at all for an aging minivan. But do we need one as the nest gets empty? I would like to replace it with a car.