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Old 05-04-2012, 01:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
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New member; few options?

Hi, everyone. My name is Drifter. I've come here because I'm trying to help out someone very dear to me. She's in a pretty rough spot right now; $400 to her name, her next paycheck is a week away, car insurance is due in 10 days and her car is blowing up (piston slap that has descended into a rod knock). I spent the last week looking at replacement car for less than the cost of a new engine, since a new engine costs twice what she paid for the car. I finally found a car with a low enough pricetag to suit our budget worth its value - perhaps even more than its value, since it was only $500.

Here's what we're dealing with, Ecomodders: A 1987 Ford Aerostar.

The Pros:
-1-owner van, regularly maintained since her late husband bought it as a birthday present for her in 1987
-Low mileage; the 5-digit odometer says 97,000 and as little as I've seen that thing driven over the years, I'm positive it's original.
-It has the 3.0L "Vulcan" V6. Multi-port fuel injection is far superior to the Cologne's 2-barrel carburetor setup
-It's rear wheel drive; less drivetrain drag than AWD
-It's a short-body. The longer Aerostars that were introduced in '90 were notably heavier.

The Cons:
-It's an Aerostar. They were never famous for outstanding fuel efficiency, although it does bear incredible efficiency in other departments.
-It's automatic. The driver does not feel comfortable driving stick vehicles, so we must deal with the mechanical losses of an AT.
-It's not a 2.3; Early Aerostars had the 2.3 Ranger motor, although they're nearly extinct today. Much better EPA ratings
-It's a van. Its body cannot be shaped or grafted like a sedan with a trunk by adding 'enhancements'.



Well, I hope you guys have something for me. EPA ratings on this beast are 15/20. She doesn't drive city or highway - she drives 'country' - 30 minute commute @ 35-45 MPH with about 8 stops. My goal is 30 MPG. I don't know if it's impossible, but let me know what I can do!

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Old 05-04-2012, 08:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Have the transmision checked out before you buy! The early aerostars had serious issues with transmisions going bad.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'd be more concerned with maintenance and keeping the vehicle running and safe than ecomodding it at this point. I'm thinking salt, corrosion of brake lines, control arms, etc.
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Underside of this heavy-class cruiser is C-L-E-A-N. I had a Ford specialist come with me to verify the van's mechanical shape. The transmission behaves exactly as it's supposed to and the fluid looks great.

The only real issue it has is a bad case of stale gas; intermittent pinging under heavy acceleration and she ran really rough on her first start-up in 1 1/2 years. Once the first tank of bad gas is cleared, that issue should go away. Fuel loses its octane rating over time so this is expected; but we're in no position to dump out $60+ worth the fuel, so in goes a bottle of Sta-Bil.

It's also getting a fresh 2K14 inspection sticker.
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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To start I would remove the roof rack if it has one. Then fit an airdam below the front bumper. Maybe side skirts next.
These are all mods that can be very inexpensive and easy to make. With the slow speeds you were quoting they wont be as effective as for sombody who drives faster.
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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If you haven't already check out the 65+ Efficiency Mods at the top of the page.

Be careful pumping up the tires, if they've been sitting for a year and 1/2 the bottom sidewall could be quite decrepit.

If it has stepside panels I'd remove those as well (came OEM on some models I think)
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:39 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Nope. It's a bottom-feeder Aerostar, not even an XL. I've got a ton of 'preventative maintenance' planned shortly after the purchase that will be performed over the course of two weeks; air filter change, fuel filter change, oil change, ATF and filter change, new belts, coolant exchange, radiator hose and cap replacement, chassis greasing and differential gear oil.

I was thinking about 'pizza pan' wheel covers perhaps, and maybe switching to 0W20 oil and this for the transmission:
amsoil.com/storefront/atl.aspx
I was also considering this for the rear end:
amsoil.com/a/synthetic-gear-oil

Being a van the engine compartment is cramped and heat dissipation is already a slight issue, so I don't believe I can block too many air openings. I'm thinking of using an underdrive crankshaft pulley; also, would switching to an electric cooling fan help?

Last edited by Midnight Drifter; 05-05-2012 at 11:44 PM..
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:37 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Do you have 25-30mph 50cc mopeds in NJ ?
Those are the least expensive motor vehicles to operate.

A V6 aerostar could cost a lot in fuel.
Hoping for 30mpg doesn't mean she's gonna get it.
The list of users with 50% over EPA isn't all that long.

At its EPA-rating, it's about 2 gallons per working day, even on that short commute.

Could you get a late 1980s, early-to-mid 90s Honda or Toyota compact for that price ?
She'd be looking at 30 - 35 mpg right away, with good hopes of doing 40 or better with some effort & practice.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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She's already in a Japanese subcompact hatch that's falling apart - mechanically and physically, and desperately trying to get out of it. The fuel mileage is great, but the cost to make the car both reliable and safe is multiple times the asking price for the A*.

Not to get too personal, but I suppose choosing the Aerostar would make more sense if I mentioned that the other problem is her living situation - which, while slowly getting better with her new job, is still pretty ugly. She's used the hatchback as a place to sleep a few times already in the past 6 months; it's not comfortable, and DEFINITELY not private. At least with some cheapo 2.5% tint on the rear and side windows, a makeshift curtain behind the front seats and a Craigslist mattress, the van makes a decent dwelling for her when she literally has nobody to turn to. I'd rather drop the subject there than go further into it, so yeah. It's not just transportation that this van will be potentially used for.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:45 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Celica Gts - '84 Toyota Celica Gts
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Thus the reason I keep my suburban. Hope everything works out for your friend.
Maybe remove the seats in the back.

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