New van advice needed - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-18-2003, 03:13 PM   #1
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New van advice needed

Posted by Nancy D, of Ontario, Canada

Hi everyone
Well our 93 Aerostar van is on it way out. Needs some repairs that with its age and mileage are not worth doing.

So we're looking for a newer van, 2 or 3 years old. Ford, in one of its not so bright moments quit making Aerostars in 97 or we would not be in the dilema of what to get.

An Astro would tow very well but tend to like their gas and for 2 or 3 100 mile trips a year we don't need it.

We are looking at Chev Venture, Ford Windstar, or the equivalent Chryslar product. They all seem to tow 3500 lbs with the tow package.

Here's my question to anyone who owns one of these vehicles. What do you like or dislike about your vehicle? What about reliability? Gas mileage? Comfort?

We have checked out both the Venture and Windstar. Both 2001, same mileage, same price but the Venture was totally loaded. Every possible option while the Windstar had a many options but was far from loaded. We question how the Chev can have so much more for the same price? Do they skimp on something or are they cheaper built? (Chev owners I'm not being insulting just curious) Haven't made it to Chrslyer yet so don't really know how they compare.

The Venture has not only a trany cooler but an oil cooler with the tow package. Smart idea, but is this because they need to have the oil cooler to tow, not as tough (again just a question not a criticism).

We've always had Fords and no complaints what so ever. Both the 87 and 93 Aerostars have never let us down or left us stranded. Neither have required anything other than regular maintenance and have been driven hard and pulled some good loads on long trips.

Help! Any advice would be appreciated.
Nancy
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Old 06-18-2003, 04:30 PM   #2
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Posted by Paul E Henning, of Warsaw, Indiana

The major difference in what you're looking at is that the Windstar, Venture, and Chrysler vans are all front wheel drive. The Aerostar and Astro are rear-wheel drive. The only reason Chevy and Ford (until recently) have continued making these old-design vans so long is for towing. They are towing machines, plain and simple. The Chevy will out-tow the Ford, with the result being that Ford wasn't making enough to be worth it, so bye-bye Aerostar (that's not a slam against the Ford, just basic economics). The Astro isn't designed for economy, although it's not all that bad, considering. It is, however, pretty bad when compared to the front-wheelers.

Will you be happy with a front-wheel drive tow vehicle? Maybe. I sure wasn't. I had a Plymouth Grand Voyager 3.3L, and it was just lousy for towing. Wandered all over the place, and the transmission didn't hold up, even with a cooler. If you decide to go front-wheel drive, I'd recommend weight distribution bars, even if your trailer isn't all that heavy -- it helps keep weight on the front.

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Osmo the Great (Osmo is great - Paul is just so-so)
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Old 06-19-2003, 12:45 AM   #3
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2003 Astro

Posted by Eric C, of Johnstown, New York

Nancy...

About a month ago my worksite recieved a replacement vehicle, a 2003 Astro AWD. It's a great vehicle except... The front wheel wells cut into the floor space for your feet. I find that anymore than an hour of driving and my left leg gets tired and cramps from being in an odd position. I'm 5'9", so maybe if someone were taller or shorter it might make a difference. As far as equipment goes it's got some nice toys, and they look sharp too. Handles great. Decent off the line power. A/C can turn it into a rolling walk in freezer! Front seats are extremely comfortable except for the feet thing. Fuel mileage is horrible. Not towing anything we get an everage of 14mpg. And uhmmmm, well... price is astronomical... maybe where they got the name Astro.

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Old 06-19-2003, 08:11 AM   #4
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Posted by Nancy D, of Ontario, Canada

Hi Paul
Thanks for the advice on the Voyager. Actually a Chrysler product is last on our list anyways. Of course the rear wheel drive is preferable but limits the options to an Astro. Its wierd about the Aerostars as every place we've been to or phoned, when asked about any Aerostars they all say they have waiting lists of people wanting one.

Thanks Eric
Up until this past November the Astro was our definate choice for the next vehicle since there are no more Aerostars. Then the company my husband worked for was sold and closed and he has been forced into very early unaffordable retirement. He is currently working two part-time jobs with no holidays. So our requirements have changed. We won't be doing any long trips that would necessitate having an Astro and certainly don't need a pig on gas. If lucky, we will manage a couple of short camps at parks within 50 miles of home and will end up taking the car also which can carry some of the load.

The Venture, Montana, Windstar and comparable Chrysler's all tow 3500 lb with the tow package and all seem to be about the same level of comfort. We will get an equilizer hitch installed by the dealer we get the vehicle from. I think what we will end up getting will be one with the best warranty for the price.

Any Venture or Montana owners out there?
Nancy
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Old 06-19-2003, 08:48 AM   #5
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Posted by Paul E Henning, of Warsaw, Indiana

<<2003 Astro AWD. Fuel mileage is horrible. Not towing anything we get an everage of 14mpg.>>

Wow! Does the AWD really make that big a difference?! Yikes! My S-15 Jimmy, which is the same vehicle with a different body, and part-time 4-wheel drive instead of AWD, gets about 18-19 driving back and forth to work, and mid-to-upper 20s on the highway. I have the same engine and transmission as the Astro. My worst tanks ever have been just over 14 mpg, and that's towing a 3,000 trailer through the mountains. I am currently at 160 some-odd thousand trouble-free miles, and I'd buy another one in a heartbeat.

The major long-standing complaint against Astros is the foot-space for the front-seat passenger. You think it's bad now, take a look at an early Astro sometime! It was originally about 6" wide. But, yeah, that's a problem for a lot of people. The engine compartment is also difficult to access. But, it'll tow!

Do you feel you really need a van? You have a whole lot more options available in the small-to-midsize SUVs, and some of them have seating for seven.

I do have quite a few friends who have Chrysler mini-vans, and not a one of them feels like their transmission is working right. So, I guess my experience isn't isolated. A buddy of mine who retired from Chrysler says the plant down in Kokomo has thousands of dead transmissions in a pile out back. Our local transmission shop tells me he'd have gone out of business 10 years ago if it weren't for that Chrysler tranny. One of my friends just traded his Caravan for a Pontiac Montana. They love it so far, but it's too early to tell about longevity.

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Old 06-19-2003, 09:38 AM   #6
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Posted by Maggie O., of Virginia

Hi Nancy,
Sorry to read about these difficultys. Two part time jobs is no way to retire. Best of luck with the new vehicle.

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Old 06-19-2003, 09:42 AM   #7
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Posted by Nancy D, of Ontario, Canada

Yes we prefer to have a van. We need to be able to at times comfortably seat 7 people plus some cargo.
Haven't really given any thought to an SUV.

Basically I guess we just like the vans. It sounds like Chrysler won't even be an option. Since you mentioned it, yes we have heard of a lot of chrysler van trany problems. Don't need that regardless of how good a warranty they have.

Our friends have a 97 Astro and get 17 mpg towing a large tent-trailer loaded and 5 people....and their major complaint is footwell space. We've ruled the Astro out anyway for the next numerous years and then who knows what will be out there.
Nancy

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Old 06-19-2003, 11:30 AM   #8
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Towing vehicle

Posted by Joe MacDonald, of Whitefish, Ontario, Canada

I have a 95 Lumina Apv, the base for the Venture.
with the tow package came: oil cooler, tranny cooler, power steering cooler., air ride rear suspension.

I get about 30-35 mpg (Canadian) and about 25-30 when towing.
I put about 4-5000 miles on while towing each year.
my van currently has 223,000 Km's on it or about 110,000 miles.

It doesn't have quite the pep of a v8, but I like it, and I pull a 17 footer.
If the Venture holds up to the Lumina's standards, it should be a good vehicle.
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Old 06-19-2003, 11:48 AM   #9
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Posted by Nancy D, of Ontario, Canada

Hi Joe
Well I guess if a Lumina can tow a 17' Trillium the Venture should certainly handle a 13er. Thats also excellant gas mileage.
So your Lumina has the plastic body I assume. That was one of GM's better ideas but apparently they aren't plastic anymore. Must have lasted too well.

So do you have an equilizer hitch and what class of hitch, II or III. We have been thinking of going III if they are made for Ventures (or Windstars)
Thanks
Nancy

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Old 06-19-2003, 11:57 AM   #10
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hitching up

Posted by Joe MacDonald, of Whitefish, Ontario, Canada

The lumina could only get up to a class 3 hitch, the type with the flat draw-bar. I was a little worried at first, and thought maybe I couldn't tow what I wanted. After much research and discussion with hitch makers I got an answer that made sense:
The frame on the Lumina is stamped steel, not a heavy steel like a truck based frame. People were putting a class 4-5 hitch on hooking on to whatever they could move and running down the road.
after a short while of overloading, they would rip the hitch off their van, destroying the frame in the process.
I was also advised against the weight dist. hitch because as it transfers the weight forward, it too overstresses the frame.
I had a 13 footer, and it towed perfectly with barely a drop in gas mileage. and never used a w.d.h or a sway bar.
So far I've had no trouble with the 17 footer, and am debating wether or not I require a sway bar

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Joe

Last edited by: Joe MacDonald on 06-19-03 12:06:57
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Old 06-19-2003, 12:01 PM   #11
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Towing

Posted by Mike Watters, of Valparaiso, Indiana

My wife and I went through this a couple of years ago.

At the time, we debated between the Astro (I liked the available AWD for bad weather) and a Dodge conversion van.

The Conversion van came out the eventual winner. Part of that was based on price. Our 1500 Ram van cost a total of $20,000. For that we got a 3.9L engine (6cyl) and VERY comfortable seating. The downsides are: it's pretty big. Actually - it's shorter than a Dodge Grand Caravan, but it sure feels larger. Not great for driving around town all the time, but it rules the open road.

If we had to do it all over again - I think we'd likely have picked the Kia Sedona (it was one of the top contenders for us back then). It's front wheel drive (not the BEST for towing, but for a lightweight it's good enough), the FWD will give you better performance on slick, icy roads (we got to do a 360 last winter in the van driving around town...). In addition - the Kia has GREAT crash safety numbers (THAT is what would have tilted things in it's favor for ME if the numbers had been available). Anyway - the Kia wouldn't have the 2nd-row legroom of the full-size van (I can sit in our second row and cross my legs comfortably), but would be better suited to the around-town drives.

mkw
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Mike Watters
Vidi, Vinci, Veni -
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Old 06-19-2003, 04:13 PM   #12
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Posted by pjanits, of Schaumburg, Ill.

I'm not sure what the towing specs are for the Kia Sedona,I think it's around 3500 lb, but I do know it's the heaviest van in it's class. So that's better for the trailer to tow vehicle ratio. Probably why it scores so high in safety too.
We were looking at them but seeing as how at the time I didn't know what kind of trailer I would have I went for the Astro.
Then I saw the 13 ft. Burro and couldn't resist it.
Needless to say towing it with the Astro is effortless.
But maybe someday I'll get a 17' or , if it ever happens, a 21' ft Casita.
Ya never know....

By the way, my Astro gets 15.7 around town here 22mpg on the highway coming back from Fla. ( at 75 mph) and drops to 13.5 to 17 with the trailer.

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Pete

Last edited by: pjanits on 06-19-03 16:15:54
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Old 06-19-2003, 06:40 PM   #13
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astro info

Posted by Rock MacRae, of Calgary, AB, Canada

You can find some information on towing with an Astro at this site:
http://www.astrosafari.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi
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Old 06-20-2003, 07:06 AM   #14
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Thanks

Posted by pjanits, of Schaumburg, Ill.

Thanks for that site Rock,

While looking around in there I was surprised to see so many Astros with over 250,000 miles on them.
Makes me feel even better about getting one.

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