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New (to me) 1991 Aerostar.

Discussion in 'Aerostar Forum' started by Tony Oberkirch, July 13, 2017.


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    1. Tony Oberkirch

      Tony Oberkirch New Member

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      City, State:
      Mobile, AL
      Year, Model & Trim Level:
      1995 XLT, 4.0L, 2WD
      I've owned 2 Aerostars previously, a 1991 that was a dealer demonstrator, bought it from the dealer in December of 1991. Extended, 3.0L XLT. It was a good vehicle, other than the AC. The AC had multiple problems, and cost me several thousand dollars over the course of ownership. Finally the ex-wife had an offset head on collision with a dump truck while under the influence (one of the many steps she took in order to become my ex). She suffered only minor injuries, but it basically shaved off 6 inches of the drivers side from front bumper to rear bumper. Totaled, naturally

      My Second Aerostar is a 1995 I bought in 2005 with about 125,000 miles on it. Fabulous vehicle. Extended XLT with a 4.0L. I've probably put less than $500 in repairs on it, and I bought it on ebay for about $2400. 3 grand for 12 years and 90,000 miles, it's been a wonderful vehicle. It has developed leaks in the rear that drip onto the wheel well area in the back. The last time I replaced the windshield, the tech told me that this would probably be the last time the windshield would be replaceable due to the metal frame rusting out. The engine, transmission, and AC are all still perfect. But.. it was time to find it's successor.

      I live in Mobile Alabama. I searched for a low-milage Aerostar, and found a 1991 in Jackson, MS, 190 or so miles away. It met my want list: Extended, 4.0L, relatively low mileage at 109,000. The interior, except for some slight stains and a small tear on the drivers side, looked like new. Garage kept, the exterior was flawless, except for broken bumper covers. No big deal. Test drove it, checked the fluids, everything looked good. I bought it for $2400. It drove beautifully for the first 175 miles of the 190 mile trip home. On the way home, my brother-in-law was following me back home. He called me and said he noticed some smoke coming from the center underside center area of the vehicle. I had noticed some grime of some kind accumulating on the rear window during the second half or so of the drive home, but attributed it to road grime from the thundershowers we had been driving through. At the last red light before I got home, I noticed some white smoke, and the transmission hesitated before going into gear to pull away from the light. It was 1/4-1/2 mile to my home, and I got the van home. I checked the trans fluid and it was barely showing on the dipstick. I suspect the smoke was due to the trans fluid leaking onto or blowing onto the exhaust system. I added all the fluid I had at home, a little over a quart, and it shifted better, but it was still not full. But - the fluid showing on the dipstick did not appear burned, which I hope is a good sign.

      The previous owner, an old man who has since passed away (I bought it from an heir to his estate), had pretty complete service records. As I reviewed them (something I should have done before I agreed to purchase the van, but I was seduced by it's beautiful condition). The van has had multiple major AC repairs, major transmission repair, upper control arm bushings replaced twice (remember, this is a 109,000 mile vehicle. My 1995 with 215,000 has just worn out it's first set of upper control arm bushings), 3 or 4 front brake pad replacements, and some engine repairs (head gasket if memory serves).

      I've got a very good transmission guy who is very reasonable, and I'm taking the van to him on Monday to evaluate the Transmission situation. After that, I may take it to my mechanic (the guy who I take the stuff I can't fix to) and have him give it the once over.

      Two questions for the forum:
      1) I had a bad experience with my first 1991 Aerostar with respect to the AC. This one has some AC repair history. My 95 has never had an issue with the AC. Was the AC system in 1991 problematic? Did Ford get it straightened out by 1995? Or is it just my first and current 1991 Aerostars having isolated AC issues (made on a Monday maybe?)

      2) Given the information I have outlined, if you were in my position, would you keep this vehicle, or would you correct the obvious problems and get rid of it before the next one pops up, and go looking for another Aerostar?

      I'm 59 years old, and the extended Aerostar serves my purposes well. I'd like to find one with around 100k miles or less. Since it is not my primary vehicle, and I'll drive it 4000-7000 miles a year, if I can find a good one, it should be the last one I'll ever need, assuming that it makes it to 215,000 miles like my 1995 Aerostar has.

      I look forward to the forums response. I'll post pictures of the van this weekend. Thanks.
       
      Last edited: July 13, 2017
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    3. zenish

      zenish Active Member

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      City, State:
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      Year, Model & Trim Level:
      1991 aerostar xlt
      the front seal will dump out mass quanities of fluid if the trans gets too hot.it happened to me.had it towed home,added four quarts and its worked ever since.id add a larger trans cooler.
       
    4. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      60-90K mile aerostar vans show up on craigslist in AZ and CA all the time. There is a nice 91 extended van AWD with 68k miles for $2500 listed in the los angeles craigslist. I can't answer the A/C questions, I've had 3 91 vans that did not have working A/C when I bought the vehicles. 2) Past service or repairs is no guarantee of future reliability of any vehicle. If you did 86 that van for another, the replacement may have twice as much wrong with it in a short time after the purchase.
       
    5. BrooklynBay

      BrooklynBay Moderator & long time member. Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      It's very rare to see an Aerostar for sale where I live. I would fix what is needed, and not worry about future repairs. Keep in mind that these vehicles are not getting younger, and won't be around forever. Parts are getting harder to find each year. Local stores don't stock a lot of things that they previous had, and are a special order.
       
    6. Tony Oberkirch

      Tony Oberkirch New Member

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      Hey zenish, thanks for the input, I hope I have similar good luck. Let me ask you a question - what happened to cause your overheating? Were you towing something or some other harsh or stressful operation?

      I was driving on an extended trip - 190 miles or so - not towing. I figure that since I bought the van from an estate, and it belonged to an elderly gentleman, it may not have been used to extended highway driving. But cruising at 75, on a day with thundershowers to cool the highway down doesn't seem to be a situation that would cause a normal functioning vehicle to overheat.
       
    7. Tony Oberkirch

      Tony Oberkirch New Member

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      I put a 15oz bottle of K&W TRANS-X in and topped off the transmission fluid, and it shifted perfectly. I could not detect any leaks after driving it and parking it on the driveway overnight. I'm going to drive it this weekend and see if it leaks. I'm carrying the remainder of a gallon of transmission fluid and a funnel along with me, just in case.
       
    8. Tony Oberkirch

      Tony Oberkirch New Member

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      Thanks for the input Josh. I was more concerned about continuing issues with the repaired items, I didn't think for a moment they were assurances that I would have fewer/no problems with the repaired parts. Especially when there have been multiple repairs of the same issues on AC, front end, brakes, etc. I wish I could get to the western US to look at some of those vehicles, but 500-1000 miles (from Mobile AL) is about the limit of my comfort zone. I guess I could fly out if there was a real gem and arrange to have it shipped back. I don't think it would be a great idea to set off cross country and cross desert in a 20-30 year old vehicle that I was not intimately familiar with.
       
    9. BrooklynBay

      BrooklynBay Moderator & long time member. Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    10. Tony Oberkirch

      Tony Oberkirch New Member

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      I did, both before I bought the vehicle and after I got home. Also, the gauge came up about 1/3 of the way and stayed there, indicating normal temps. I don't believe she's running hot.
       
    11. BrooklynBay

      BrooklynBay Moderator & long time member. Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      Did you check the fan clutch? Sometimes the part might appear to be good but it could have excessive slippage. This was an issue in my 1988 van I believe. Spin the radiator fan by hand with the engine off then check to see if it stops immediately or if it continues to spin freely. A good fan clutch should stop spinning immediately even if you give it a strong spin by hand.
       
    12. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      The vent on the transmission maybe obstructed. If the van was only driven in the neighborhood to church on sunday it would never be a known issue. If the van is nice I'd keep it and fix the issues.
       
    13. Tony Oberkirch

      Tony Oberkirch New Member

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      Took it to my local guy, the spacer between the transmission and the engine (pilot bushing?) had broken. He said the seal had been replaced previously. He had to pull the transmission, so the bill was $300 - not too terrible. I'm just glad the trip home wasn't 50 or so miles further - I'm afraid the outcome would have been much different.
       
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    14. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      First thing that comes to mind is the separator plate, aka the dust shield. $300 bill is decent for the labor involved. Are the bushings in the transmission cross member in decent shape?
       

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    15. BrooklynBay

      BrooklynBay Moderator & long time member. Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      I've removed the transmission on my 1988 van a number of times. It usually takes over 3 hours to remove, then another few hours to install while working on ramps. I'm sure that if it would take a lot less time on a lift with 2 people working on it.
       

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