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What to look for in used early-mid 90s Aerostars.

Discussion in 'Aerostar Forum' started by Vagabond number 21, April 16, 2017.


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    1. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      I'm going to be looking at a couple early mid 90s XLT;s with AWD (or without) and the 4.0, for use as a camping-travel van Other than less than superb gas mileage, what should I be on the lookout for in vans of this type with between 100 and 200 K? What are the weak points? I don't expect perfection and do expect minor issues but I can't afford big repairs in the first year.

      Thanks!
       
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    3. zenish

      zenish Active Member

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      the weakpoints are blown headgaskets and auto trans that get too hot.a bigger trans cooler may save you rebuilding the trans later.also the 4.0 aerostars are a pain to work on because the engine is crammed up under the dash.also the long side windows on mine leak badly.
       
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    4. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      The auto trans and suspension bushings will be the things most likely needing attention. I've owned 3 4.0L vans and never had an issue with the head gaskets, every van the first thing to fail was the transmission. I don't think the gas mileage on a 4.0L is too bad. I was getting 21-23 mpg with the auto and 23-25 with the 5 speed manual I swapped in. I can go 550 miles before I need to think about buying gas. With the AWD vans, the electronics have a high failure rate with age and people unplug the controller as a permanent solution.
       
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    5. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      Yeah I notice that on the one I looked at. I havent pulled the cab panel to see what I could see, but having Previas in the past I'm used to difficult access. In those you have to remove the passenger seat, doorjam trim, peel back carpeting and 2 access panels to get at the plugs. Although once you get practice it only takes about 10 minutes.

      I don't care for any more head gasket issues, that''s what just killed my Previa. The AWD Aerostar I drove today shifted very smooth. Anything in particular I can look for to suggest pending tranny troubles in these? It does have 160,000 miles but seemed solid.

      And how hard is it to replace the a/c compressor? There is actually really good acsess to that but I've never worked on a/c before. The owner thinks he ruined it by adding too much refrigerant a few years ago.
       
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    6. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      For me there never was any warning I was about to lose the transmission. I'd troubleshoot the air conditioning system before throwing parts at it. What year is this van you are looking at?
       
    7. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      97. Whats the cheapest way to troubleshoot it? It may just be a leak. I think the owner should do it but not sure I can convince him of that. He might knock of a few hundred for it though. I priced the compressor at 139 aftermarket and 180 installation, but I think I could probably install it unless there's more to it than meets the eye. And I know I can recharge it for way less than a shop. But if there are leaks elsewhere...I know there are dyes you can inject but I've never done that and can't really do it unless its mine....

      I guess I cant worry about the tranny unless they always fail or unless it starts doing something worrisome.
       
    8. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      Test the compressor by putting a jumper (paperclip) in the connector for the low pressure switch. If the compressor doesn't engage, apply 12 volts to the clutch to see if it will engage, that will tell you if it is a minor repair or a wiring nightmare. If you have to replace the compressor it is a few bolts and the lines. To test for leaks and prior to charging the system you need to get the system under vacuum and monitor it with a vacuum gauge. A large wet dry shop vac can create enough vacuum to get the job done, I have had to do it in a bind. 97 has the 5R55E transmission. When you said early 90s I was thinking the A4LD. For the most part the 5R55E is an electronic version of the A4LD but upgrades were done by Ford that made it more reliable.
       
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    9. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      Another thing I noticed was the a/c was fidldy. It didnt work right away but then it did but sometimes after I braked I'd have to push the set/reset button several times before it engaged again. Is that a known concern?

      Also the check engine light didn't come on when I started it. I suppose this could just be a burned out bulb, but it could be something else too...
       
    10. Icuff4cash

      Icuff4cash Elite Explorer

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      Well i did work to the aero bomber.mine had the tow pack with trans cooler. Ive put big tires and ready for some xtra work. Mine has dual ac,make sure it works. The unplugged unit under the seat still gives you awd. Look at the transfer case. Most are cracked and will leak. Ford made them out of magnesium and you cant weld it. I coated mine with a sealer.went from a pint a montb to 1/2 pint in 3 months. Your going need monster tires for safety those 14" are under rated. Ive done to much reseach to post hers. Contact me if your interested in a camper van stuff ill tell you were to look.
       
    11. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      What's under the seat? I didnt catch that. The one I'm looking at has dual ac and both blowers work but no cold air. I do need to figure that out before buying. Also what may be hidden by non-functioning check engine light. I guess I can just do a code check and see if any show up.But there was not a drop of leakage anywhere.

      I am disappointed to learn about thye 14" tires but I dont do anything real gnarly off road. Nevertheless an upsize or lift might be in order, eventually. Right now I need a van that doesnt need extra money pumped into it because I wont have any for a while.
       
      Last edited: April 17, 2017
    12. Icuff4cash

      Icuff4cash Elite Explorer

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      The awd unit is continuously working, most units go hay wire. There's a relay under the drivers seat if it's unplugged you still have 4x4 but the locker won't work. If you drive an awd unit and it's hard to steer it's that relay just unplug it. The electrical system is shitty on these vans. It's exposed under the van so the wires get funky for the awd. My van cost 5 grand to have 2 new units done. You can go to 225-75-15 if you have an awd. There's really no lift per say. I got 1/2 spacers for front that will give me 1 1/2 lift in front and coil overs for rear. Josh drove my van those monster tires made a world of difference. I went from a 25.6 to a 28.9 and my mileage got better I went from a 3:73 to 3:33 just with the tire change. These vans are close to vw Westfiela so I'm going to finish my build or sell. It I have muscular dystrophy and I have a DMV hearing about them pulling my DL. Look for rust a lot are rusted mine is 99.5 clean. Except for regular Mantance I've been good. I got luck bought mine off original owner. Very clean. Have you seen my writeups and photos of the aero bomber. The awd is important check the transfer case for cracks Pm me or email me for more info if you need it.
       
    13. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      Where is your Aero Bomber writeup?
       
    14. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      Are you asking about the buttons on the steering wheel? I'd make sure the check engine light functions or that there are no codes before buying it. The 96-97 aerostar is obd 2 so any transmission or engine problems will set the light.
       
    15. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      Yes, buttons on the wheel to set the cruise speed, sometimes worked and sometimes seemed to not work but then it would work after a few tries. I'm definitely going to get the codes pulled since the check engine light wasn't working.
       
    16. Josh P

      Josh P Shaggin Wagon Elite Explorer

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      The buttons on my jeep for the cruise do the same thing, contacts probably need to be cleaned.
       
    17. BrooklynBay

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

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    18. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      I loathe ABS and unplug it as soon as I buy a vehicle. But what's "SRS", and how can I detect leaks on the ac clutch? I'm probbaly going to have the ac diagnosed & estimated at Ford on the one I'm considering now.
       
    19. BrooklynBay

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

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      The shaft coming out of the compressor leaks, and is hard to notice with UV dye because it's blocked by the front clutch. An electronic freon leak detector will be able to detect a leak in that area. SRS = Supplemental Restraint System = Air Bag.

      I'm surprised that your local Ford dealership will look at a vehicle which wasn't purchased from them, and is over 10 years old. The dealerships in my area don't even want to look at vehicles which they sold, and require warranty work. They don't even stock parts for vehicles older than 10 years old. They tell people to order older parts online or check junkyards.

      On a side note, I know three people who have always owned Toyotas, and will only allow a Toyota dealership to service their vehicles. They have never owned any other brand. It seems like they will work on any year regardless if you purchased it from them, and if it's very old. I'm not saying that you should avoid Ford, and buy a Toyota. On the contrary, I've never owned a Toyota, and starting collecting Aerostar vans in September 1992. I'm just stating the facts from what I've seen over the years.
       
    20. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      I've driven only Toyotas since 1993, with the exception of one Ford van (I think an early Aerostar) that didnt last long. If the right AWD Toyota Previa comes along I would buy it and my Aerostar search would be over. But they are getting hard to find in AWD under 200,000 miles, so I'm looking at Aerostars too. They aren't all that much easier to find but it doubles my slim chances.

      I always buy Toyota parts when reasonably priced, but I avoid Toyota dealers for service. I try to do all the work myself but I'm limited to tune ups and simple things I can unbolt and rebolt like starters, valve cover gasksets, alternators, driveshafts, brakes, things like that.

      I was given an estimate of $180 for installing an aftermarket ac compressor (in case I need one) by the Ford dealer, so I presume they will work on it. Thanks for the SRS explanation. I presume that would show a code if it was bad?
       
    21. BrooklynBay

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

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    22. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      Is that a situation where you just replace the compressor?
       
    23. BrooklynBay

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

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    24. Vagabond number 21

      Vagabond number 21 New Member

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      Well the guy with the AWD aerostar I wanted wouldn't come down to a reasonable price. No way I'm paying 1800 bucks for a van with a cracked windshield no check engine light and no functional AC in the desert. So I bought a Sienna, and that's probably as close as I'll ever come to owning an Aerostar.
       
    25. zenish

      zenish Active Member

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      toyotas have great reputations,
       
    26. boominXplorer

      boominXplorer Elite Ranger Elite Explorer

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      I just had a 94 Toyota Previa in my shop that was AWD and Supercharged. It was a sweet and unique ride for sure. Of course being a Toyota it required Toyota only Wiper blades at $28 each wholesale. Damn washer squirter mounts were built into the arms.

      Darn thing has great power for what it is, if I had a use for it I would have bought it off the lady for sure.

      Only thing I have to add about areos is don't get a 3.0, make sure it's the 4.0 engine.
       

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