Last Update: 8/01/2017

What’s the Damage to My Van, Mr. Mechanic Sir?

damaged van undercarriage, broken transmission
When ya use a front wheel drive van with 5.1” clearance as a 4WD, underside damage is likely, almost certain. Vanholio’s done learned this the hard way.

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Caused $2,000 Damage Last Year!

Last year, I spent almost 2 Grand gettin’ the oil pan and oil pump replaced on my Promaster City, gettin’ the front stabilizer bar straightened, and gettin’ new front tires. That’s because Vanholio just can’t help hisself …

See, I love gettin’ back on the back roads – them forest roads deep into the mountains. Mostly, they’re kept smooth by the Forest Service and such. But here and there, they get washed out an’ rocky. That’s when Vanholio should turn around, but he just keeps goin’. My van ain’t made for that shit.

After blowin’ $2K last year, I swore – SWORE! – I were gonna stick ta smooth trails. Well, I tried, but that lesson ain’t deep enough in my bones yet. So while I been more careful, I still been scrapin’ and bumpin’ the vans bottom here and there.

Gettin’ Van Inspected Today

This minute, Vanholio’s hold up in a Motel 6 while the van’s gettin’ looked over by a Class A mechanic. Oh, she’s drivin’ fine. Only thing indicators say she needs is an oil change. But that mechanic is checkin’ her head to toe to see if there’s a problem before there’s a problem. Keepin’ my fingers crossed!

He’s also installin’ a spare tire holder I got. The Promaster City only came with one a them Slime and 12v pump kits. So I’m rectifyin’ that situation with a real spare tire – full size!

Might Get a Lift, Too!

Turns out Mr. Mechanic’s inta offroadin’. He thinks a Jeep lift kit might work on the Promaster City. They might share the same suspension. He’s lookin’ inta it for me. If that’s the case, I might well get her lifted, maybe even get some bigger tires.

We’ll see what it costs, both in money and performance – if it’s even doable.

I’m hopin’ bigtime! I don’t feel much need for more power, but a few more inches clearance might save me some headaches. We’ll see what he comes up with …

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  1. So is it, like, the Renegade you might share suspension parts with (given their common Italian heritage)? Since Colorado is a huge consumer of Jeeps, it's full of mechanics who know about liftin' 'n' shit.

    1. The mechanic was thinkin' just that, however, it's not the case. He referred me to a guy he knows at a nearby dealership for other ideas. Bottom line is any lift is gonna have to be a rigged up deal.

      Turns out the van has no problems, by the way. Except the driver.

  2. Air bags, maybe?

  3. Grab an Astro AWD. Lift kits available, 2 speed transfer case swap available. Blueprints for skid plates and rock rails can be found online. Much tougher than any other non full size van.

    1. That'd be a hell of an undertaking, but it may come to that. Thanks!

  4. How rough of roads are we talking about and how much are you scraping? I'm looking at the City but we are regularly on rough sierra forest service roads. Not 4wd stuff, and our current toyota sedan does just fine since the vital bits are well tucked away. But we need to be able to make it through small washout, over ~5 inch exposed rocks, and deep ruts with careful driving.

    1. That sounds similar to what I deal with. The roads are decent, then you get to a little bit like you describe with the rocks and the washouts. I *usually* don't scrape, just once in a while. Probably paranoid after that big repair last year. Of course, part of the high cost was it was all dealer repair and MOPAR parts.

      When I did damage last year, I think I was taking on stuff that no sane person would without 4WD. (BTW, mechanic said no damage other day.)

      I'd be better off with a bit more clearance. The Promaster City has 5.1" clearance. If you do fine with the sedan, you'll *probably* do fine with the City. But a bit more clearance would be nice.

      I don't think ya'll need a true 4WD and all that. The City has gotten me up some shit common sense says shouldn't be possible. The engine punches above its weight and the suspension is great.

      So what's the answer? Don't know. If I were doing it over, I might go for something with just a bit more clearance, even a couple inches. 4WD or AWD'd be nice, but not essential. But then, the performance, efficiency, and dimensions of the City rock. No vehicle is 100% perfect. I might go for a Suburu Outback wagon or maybe an Astro like guy above suggested, but I sure as hell don't see a need for some kinda huge 4WD Suburban or whatever.