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Discussion Starter · #141 ·
I've been doing some short test drives around the neighborhood to sort things and await my upcoming state inspection appointment. I'll need tires to pass but our mechanic agreed to inspect as it is and fail me for tires while also giving feedback on anything else the van might need, then let me get tires and reinspect for free within ten days. Don't want to spend 700 bucks only to have something more massive and daunting land on me.

One weird thing I've noticed in the drives is the inconsistent behavior of the oil pressure gauge. At first it was not registering at all but the warning light wasn't on so I figured the gauge was bad. Then on one drive I noticed the needle above the halfway point, evidently showing decent oil pressure. However, it rises and falls seemingly independent of engine revs. Might be rock steady at mid-gauge during idle or driving, then slowly drop to nothing (still with no warning light). Don't know if the gauge is bad or the pressure is, or the sender. I figure that if the pressure is really bad I'd know for sure by now by the sounds of an engine in distress.

Here it is in the Neutral Zone (not being worked on or having money spent on it).
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Discussion Starter · #142 ·
Grinding noise during a test drive led me to check the differential which was low--dare I say OUT--of gear lube. Began adding it only to find it coming out the front of the diff. Pinion seal leaking. Did not want to drive it to the shop like that so figured I could replace it myself and have found myself deep into the third member.

Is the pinion shaft supposed to have 1/4" movement side-to-side? I'd have expected it to be better supported inside and it looks like the bearing in there might be shot so a rebuild kit might be in my future.
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Discussion Starter · #144 ·
I'll replace the seat and retest, then proceed as necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #146 ·
New pinion seal installed with new gasket for the rear cover and three quarts of gear lube installed. Test drive revealed greatly reduced noise but it's still there so the bearings might already have been damaged. I'll drive it for a bit and decide on how to proceed.

I also bought a new trans filter and gaskets and some ATF+ so that'll be next if the nice weather holds.

My wife has only ever sat in the van so far, so I guess I need to take her for a spin and let her drive it to see how "normal" a van this size can feel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #147 ·
First run at state inspection resulted in the expected fail for the tires but also for front brake pads. Rear shoes squeaked by. Mechanic Jeff also test drove it and says the rear end is going out despite my seal and lube ministrations so I'll need to find a replacement. Once up and legal I'll give it a full tank and see how driving it goes.

The ABS and Brake dash lights are lit when running and he says that is the result of broken wires from the rear wheel sensor, wires I noticed while working on the diff. Van is back in the driveway after its big outing on Thursday.
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Discussion Starter · #148 ·
Well, this beast is finally street legal and road ready. I bought used tires, not something I've ever done or wanted to do this time, but that roaring noise is the sound of the rear end on its way out and I'll need the money for repair or replacement so decided that used tires would have to do. They cost less than half of what new would be and I'll put that savings to good use. Meanwhile, I also replaced the brake pads today and got successfully reinspected.
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There's still plenty to do mechanically. The diff needs fixing, or course, and a couple of gauges are inop (fuel, oil pressure), and those BRAKE and ABS dash lights need repair, plus several lesser things. Plenty to keep me busy, but the important thing is that this van is back from the dead! And it only took me two and a half months. Hooray!
 

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Discussion Starter · #149 ·
I finally began collecting camper pieces for the van today. Found a '70s carpeted conversion van and grabbed the swivel seats out of that one and the door-mounted spare carrier from another. Cold rainy garage kinda days coming, so I'll be able to clean them up.
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Discussion Starter · #150 ·
The swivel seats have been test-fitted. I de-rusted them and will paint then when everything comes back out for my upcoming interior attack on insulation and flooring. I also de-rusted the spare carrier and installed my new doghouse/console combo. The third seat is for the ten year old dog who is not expected to last forever, so we're building with an eye toward having that space available sooner rather than later; shower stall, maybe?
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I had only planned to post about the mechanical portion of the build and not the camperization, but what the heck.

Still trying to decide on how to progress with the differential rebuild. The howl from the rear end improved only slightly after installing the new pinion seal and fluid so I'm looking at repair or replace next.
 

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Discussion Starter · #151 ·
The van has been parked since January so I could concentrate on household projects. No lack of exciting carpentry, plumbing, painting and such things to keep me out of (and out from under) the van and otherwise entertained. Finally hit a slow spot when the wife has filled the workspace with some sort of curtain project and I had to amuse myself, so emptied out the Dodge--we were using it for storage to free up garage woodworking space--and I've been trying to do a couple of things to get it going.

Put the stock seats back in it since the others don't have good seatbelts and I don't want to drive without those, and something is finally being done about the rear end. I priced gearsets and rebuild kits and all the advice is to spend more for better parts and have a pro do the work. I do not disagree but since this is a budget build I started checking junkyards and found a decent-looking Dana 60 that should work. I paid the labor for them to yank the thing and I'll pick it up in a few days when they call me.
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I also found a few other pieces that I've been wanting for the van, a spare carrier for the left rear door...
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Fits nicely, is drilled for the 8-lug wheel and the right door swing clears it.
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And a 2" receiver hitch that'll come in handy for our utility trailer and probably a swingaway bike rack.
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I expect to have the rear end next week and I hope to have it in the van before the snow flies. Actually, screw the snow; I just hope it's not too cold to work out there.

Stay tuned.
 
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Looks like the van is pretty clean underneath, you can get a good idea the condition of the frame rails by looking at where the front rail Y's toward the front bumper, that is most likely the first place it will start to rust. Rusted frames rails are the weak spot on Dodge vans.

I have owned several Dodge vans, for the most part they are pretty reliable, and you can usually tell when something is starting to go bad, I would definitely snag a spare ECM for the van while they are still available (if you can get one now, they are becoming harder and harder to find) and keep it in the van in case the one that is in it now goes bad, along with a spare spark coil, crank sensor and pick-up coil, especially if you are going on camping trips or regardless. It is low mileage but one thing to keep an eye on is metal shavings accumulating on the crankshaft sensor causing a rough idle or misfire. Also, be sure keep the door hinges well lubricated / oiled, especially the sides and back, I am to the point now that I try and keep everything lubricated ( locks, door hinges, locking mechanism, ignition mechanism, hood latch, steering column, anything that moves ... WD makes a variety of lubricants now a days including a Dry Lubricant and a nice Gel Lubricant, trim parts are harder and harder to find, keep everything well lubricated and you should be fine, these vans are not built cheap ). If the engine ever runs significantly low on water to where the water pump starts squeaking then I would anticipate the water pump to start leaking shortly after. Also, leaky gear boxes are not uncommon in Dodge vans, I recently flushed my power steering pump and gear box in my '98 to hopefully extend their life, replaced the supply and return hoses as well, gear boxes are getting harder to find as well.

It is normal for the oil pressure gauge to move up and down along with engine RPM's, just nothing abnormally low.

Sure is a nice step bumper you have. : )
 

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Discussion Starter · #153 ·
Good stuff to know. I had not considered getting those spares you mentioned, but then I have not really been driving the van yet. That's all about to change.

I dragged home the replacement Dana 60 this afternoon, with the assistance of my bro-in-law, Jeff.
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Here it is in its temporary home while I figure out a hoist and build a dolly to drag it around on, in the garage for the prep portion and later across the gravel driveway to the van for the install. All this is being fitted in among other household chores and projects.
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It'll get done someday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #154 ·
While picking up the axle yesterday I also grabbed a right-door spare mount for the rear, and it (unlike the first right one I got) does not interfere with the left spare carrier. It won't let me fit two spare tires on the back but it will let me modify the right one to take a grille or fuel tank or something, if I decide to go that way.
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Discussion Starter · #156 ·
Much cheaper than you'd think, especially for an 8-lug hunk like this Dana 60 one. I had to pay $60 up front for the yard to pull it, then a couple of days later I picked it up and paid for the actual item; $138 for the axle plus $30 core charge, plus tax. I get the core back if I return my old one, and even though it would cost me more in gas and hassle I have no use for it once it's out of the van. It would only be in my way.

It is a pull-it yard, Southside Auto Parts, the truck and van location for Chesterfield Auto Parts.
 

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Much cheaper than you'd think, especially for an 8-lug hunk like this Dana 60 one. I had to pay $60 up front for the yard to pull it, then a couple of days later I picked it up and paid for the actual item; $138 for the axle plus $30 core charge, plus tax. I get the core back if I return my old one, and even though it would cost me more in gas and hassle I have no use for it once it's out of the van. It would only be in my way.

It is a pull-it yard, Southside Auto Parts, the truck and van location for Chesterfield Auto Parts.
That is a really good price. Did you happen to catch how many miles were on the van that it came out of ? Did you double check and make sure it had fluid in it ?

Those pull it yourself junkyards are pretty nice, make it a lot easier to get random parts for your vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #158 ·
That is a really good price. Did you happen to catch how many miles were on the van that it came out of ? Did you double check and make sure it had fluid in it ?
Digital dash with no display due to lack of battery. I did not check for fluid but it did not appear to have leaks and the pinion seal that was bad on my own van and had flung gear lube all over the underside was not matched on this donor van. I went with my gut because the rest of the van looked pretty good.

Also, I did not want to get underneath a big van supported on three steelies and start romping on the fill plug to check the fluid so I took a chance. I hope it pays off but, hey, it's only more hassle and expense if it does not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #159 ·
Got another wheel/tire combo so I'll have two spares in order to move the axle around once I get it out of the trailer. I also plan to carry two spares when traveling so this one won't go to waste.
 
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