By on February 24, 2014

Marshall writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Here’s the situation: I own an 08 Dodge Caravan, 117000KM’s (Canada), bought used at 94000KM’s or so. It’s been good to us…but I have this feeling in my stomach that doom is pending on this van. I keep it well maintained, do my own work on it when I can. I am noticing more and more rust spots (underbody) and oil seepages under the hood (oil levels are good). It’s a base SE, no power doors or lift gate. Last time I did some brake work a bolt broke due to corrosion.

We have 2 kids and love the space of the stow and go’s and such. However, I’m no fool, this van is a liability in my mind. Am I overreacting?

Want to sell and buy a similar vintage Honda CR-V.

Sajeev answers:

Of course you are overreacting, this ain’t no Mazda!

There’s a chance that your average 6-year-old CR-V has less rust than your van.  Or perhaps what you see is a fact of life in places where there’s more salt on the roads than butter in Paula Deen’s kitchen.

Will a similar vintage Honda have less rust?  Maybe.  But, more importantly, will that less-rusty body last long enough to justify this effort?

More to the point, the CR-V’s resale is stronger than any base model Mopar Van: you’re gonna get hosed on this deal.  Are you gonna find a comparable CR-V for less than $1000 over than your van’s market value? Possibly, but vehicles this age all have problems (leaks you mentioned are commonplace) unless the last owner did a ridiculous amount of preventative maintenance, with reams of paperwork as proof.

That said, bolts on any older vehicle get far nastier with winter salt/rust on them.  Now IF you didn’t soak the bolts in penetrating oil and carefully break them free with a TON of patience and a dash of manhandling, well, you are partially to blame. That’s not hate: that’s me remembering the times I snapped bolts, kicking myself for overlooking the obvious.

So anyway…stick with the problems you know and drive the wheels off the Caravan. Literally.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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59 Comments on “Piston Slap: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire?...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Sajeev has it right. In the end, you will lose money on the deal to get into something else, and in the case of that something else being a CR-V, you will get a lot less room and all the problems that may arise in a six to seven year old vehicle. Unless you can get good money for your van, then maybe. To do it at a loss is foolhardy.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    If Marshall is right and his feelings of impending doom are realized I would like to take him with the next time I go shopping for a used car. I could sit him in various cars, “Marshall, how’s this one feel, go or no?”

    He could develop a whole new career. If you keep the Caravan, Marshall, keep us posted

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Cute answer, Sajeev, but maybe a touch too glib. Might you have suggested instead that he at least have all essential brake, suspension and steering components thoroughly inspected? If a bolt was compromised by corrosion, what else is also? I don’t know about others, but I would put the safety of my family ahead of all other considerations, economic included.

    • 0 avatar

      A third party inspection is a good idea, if Marshall doesn’t have faith in his assessments. I figured if he can do a brake job and look long enough to find rust on the underside, he wouldn’t need a second opinion on his brake lines, halfshafts, etc…but it’s never a bad idea to get that second opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “If a bolt was compromised by corrosion, what else is also?”

      I interpreted his words – as did Sajeev, I think – as a perfectly mechanically sound bolt broken because of excessive force applied *due to surface corrosion* locking it in place.

      The level of rust that would rust *through* a bolt or cause it to fail in normal use would be scary – but I don’t think this was that.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Yeah, over-reacting. A different car of similar vintage may have the same issues if it was driven in the same environment.

    Get that thing undercoated and oil sprayed! Lubricate those sliding brake components and but anti-seeze on the threaded components.

    Oil seepage? If it’s a base van, then you probably have a 3.3L V6. Anything that’s leaking will be fairly easy to replace, likely valve cover or intake manifold gasket.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Your bought-used Chrysler van has about as much resale value appeal as my bought-new 2012 Impala LTZ, which means you’re going to get hosed on ANY deal, especially towards a CR-V. The difference is that I did buy new, I love the car, I’m an Impala nut, and it’s been a very fine car with zero issues since I bought it, and I plan on keeping it a very long time, especially since I am retiring 2 or 3 years hence.

    Buying anything used, you take a risk. Sometimes you get a good one, sometimes bad. You pays your money and you takes your chance, as the saying goes…

    A CR-V is a great all-purpose vehicle – Wifey drives a 2002 model with 110K on the clock, and she has no plans on getting rid of it anytime soon.

    One thing I will warn you about, though – Sajeev can call me out on this with his knowledge, but my observations are that I see more Chrysler vehicles dead on the roadside than any other OEM – especially if they’re green.

    If stats back me up, buyer beware!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It’s well known that people who drive green Mopars are terrible with maintenance. Subtract those from the Mopars you see by the side of the road, and the remainder are no more numerous than any other make. Somebody should do a study of the attraction of green pigment to people who don’t maintain their vehicles. ;)

      The exception would be for early 2000-2004 models with grenaded transmissions, and even those would be still rolling if the transmission fluid had been changed every 30k miles (48,000 km). Has OP changed his recently? I’d be more concerned about that than rust.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Another CDN Caravan driver here, if the copious salt isn’t getting us this year than the potholes are, Toronto roads are just falling apart, and more -20C weather this week. Sigh.

    Anyway our vans are worthless now, and anything similar age may be no better so might as well keep driving until something major goes. Something to consider for your van (and for whatever replaces it) – Krown rustproofing**, it’s expensive but it works. Both our 2001 Focus and our 2007 Caravan still have their rocker panels, which is rare around here. Keep an extra can handy, and when you work on your van spray some into those hard to reach areas (except brakes obviously). Totally works.

    **I have no financial interest in Krown other than that I give them about $240 of my money every year**

    • 0 avatar
      Dave in Toronto

      + 1 Krown.

      It works.

      I have used it for years.

      Started after an uncle had a 250 000km Volvo 240 wagon smacked – we could see inside the rust free fender and see the layer of Krown. Have used them ever since.

      About the cost: I have had cars I have sprayed only once.

      Best eg: bought a new 2001 Altima, Krowned it once immediately. Sold it to my father after driving it for one year.

      My father’s cars all rust a lot…not sure exactly why, but I think because he never washes them.

      180 000kms later….no rust…..one application of Krown.

      That Altima was a well made car. Maybe it would never have rusted anyway. But my father really rusts cars out, he is a real “Drive it into the ground” kind of guy.

      Shrug – your mileage may vary.

      I have had lots of cars I have Krowned every year or every two years. Depends on the car and my plans for it.

      I have no affiliation with Krown.

      • 0 avatar
        joeveto3

        All this talk of Krown makes me want to drive to Toronto and get me some.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        +10000 on Krown.

        I use it on every vehicle that I buy from Day one, same with my Wife’s, Mother In Law’s, Father’s etc cars. The stuff creeps into every nook and crevice and displaces moisture. However, I apply every second year as I find every year is overkill, it really makes a mess as the overspray leaks off onto the gound…park on the street for the next couple of days after application! I also have a can of the stuff that I use for touch-ups. I have no affiliation either, but I gotta say the stuff is magic.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    May as well keep the Caravan for now, it’s not worth much more than scrap value with rust and (probably) a leaking head gasket.

    You should take this opportunity to save-up for a replacement. The Caravan is not worthy of anything beyond a minor repair, and those cars don’t age gracefully in Canada. $100/year in rustproofing would have saved you a lot of grief.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    Well, that’s part of having kids and one reason I don’t: You get stuck with minivans that are so boring and such a ripoff you are forever stuck with minivans. And that’s bad when you are having a mid life crisis and want a Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Bobin
      Three kids here, no mini van, a wagon for me and a Pilot for the wife and trust me when I hit my mid life crisis ( should be any day now) I will not be lusting after a Vette, nothing beats a van for what it is and how it is used, just not my cup of tea.They are cheap to get and can be kept for a third car if there is room for one.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      For some people, the car doesn’t dictate the amount of excitement they have in their life. My boring minivans have taken me, friends, famil and stuff to a lot of fun places.

      • 0 avatar
        schmitt trigger

        When my kids were young, we traveled all over the place in our ’94 Ford Aerostar. Those are some of my fondest memories we have as a family.

        Sold it to an in-law, same thing.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          +1 Loved my Aerostar, we went everywhere in it. At the time it had all the cool options that kept everyone happy and quiet, but the minute I didn’t need a minivan anymore I bought a Maxima SE, quite a departure for me. Little did I know the midlife thing was just getting started

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Yeah, the kids have been all over the country in our minivans and, occasionally, in minivans we rented at destinations. They’re all grown and out, now but whenever two or more get together at our house, one of them will eventually say, “Remeber the trip where…?”

          We still have a minivan, it’s so useful for hauling but it’s old I am getting to the point where I think I’ll give it up and get along with just my Corolla and a folding utility trailer.

          • 0 avatar
            joeveto3

            I love minivans. Even tough I don’t really have a need for one, I often find myself eyeing the Caravans and TC’s with Stow ‘n Go. They’re just so cool. I really don’t care what anyone says.

            And I do think minivan love will come back around to the mainstream. Crossovers will fall out of failure as the kids ageand have kids of their own. They’ll be desperate to look like anyone other than their parents. And so it goes.

      • 0 avatar

        Excellent point. I drove a ’00 chevy transport for years. Everywhere. In Europe. Loved that car. So many great memories.

    • 0 avatar
      DougD

      Actually minivans are perfect for dads who happen to be car guys just because they are so boring and worthless, they free up cash for other interesting things in life.

      Minivans have allowed me to continuously have motorcycles, electric guitars and antique cars during my entire dad career. No need for a mid life crisis, our family life is constant Monkees TV show..

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        All I know is that once you have more than 2 kids, there’s a minivan in the family. My older sister, after having her 2nd daughter, decided to have a tubal ligation and no more kids. She told me that as they put her under the general anesthesia, rather than count backwards, she was thinking, never a minivan, never a minivan, never a minivan….

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Being hung up on what you drive is a lousy reason to have or not have kids.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Especially since kids can be stuffed into pretty much anything. Of course, it’s no longer legal to stuff seven little leaguers into the back seat of a ’73 Chrysler Newport, with four in the front bench seat with the driver/coach.

          • 0 avatar
            BobinPgh

            Actually, she did not want more children for other reasons and she was not as child greedy as her husband is. She has actually told him that if he wants to have a boy, he is going to have to have it with another woman because she will not go through pregnancy/childbirth ever again, its just too painful. Of course, I wouldn’t know, but there never has been a minivan in her driveway.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Good point Doug.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Not to mention how many car parts they can hold. I went to a garage sale at Roush once and bought 3 sets of rims with tires just because the price was so good. I brought a Caravan I had at the time and was able to fill it with a ton of other stuff too. No minivan regret there.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          Suburban is the way to go. V8 under the hood with 4-Low and a nice commanding view point.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I had a 4×4 Suburban for many years, and it was a great vehicle too. I needed it for towing car trailers which a minivan couldn’t do. For general hauling though, minivans are more economical and can hold more stuff inside. Easier to live with if you don’t need to tow more than 3000lbs.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            Minivans having greater fuel efficiency over SUVs like the Suburban is a myth, sort of like midsize trucks being more efficient that full-sizers.

            A brand new Suburban will average around 17/18 mpg. Other than a Mazda5 or something small and strange, no minivan is going to any better.

          • 0 avatar
            Giltibo

            …but with its hearty appetite, it can very well eat you out of house and home…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Get an R63 if you can’t cope with a minivan being “boring”.

      (Corvettes? Boring.)

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Here’s my read on this:

    The OP does at least some work on his cars and I’d guess he has some experience with brake jobs and such and finds troubling problems with *this* car that are outside his normal experience.

    I don’t think he’s ever going to be comfortable with it and for that reason, presuming he can afford it, I recommend he unload it and get something else. If one doesn’t have confidence in one’s vehicle, it will weigh on one’s mind. He’ll be happier without it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Mr. Mehta is right. Drive the wheels of the van. In my area upgrading to a 2011+ Caravan wouldn’t be that expensive either. Pretty cheap on the used market and Jack Baruth approved.

  • avatar
    Reicher

    I would stick with the van. Just from the history of my family with the caravans, I know they can go quite a long way without major problems, especially when decently taken care of.

    2000 caravan – scrapped at 330 000 km, sad to see it go as the original tranny and engine were in it without rebuilds….dad scratched the whole side on a pillar though so it was getting a bit rusty haha.

    2002 Caravan SE 3.3L – they still own it at 240 000 km but now the looking to buy used 2011+ caravan or Journey

  • avatar

    As a sales guy I’ve never seen someone trade in one old piece of crap for another and not pay a substantial cost. You’re money is definitely better spent either on your van or saving for a new(er) one. There is no interest in swapping out an old used Honda for an old used Dodge at any dealership, including Dodge.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I have an 07 Element, same drivetrain as a CR-V, and at 140,000Km it doesn’t leak a drop. That said, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over a couple drips and a little rust. You’ll lose a lot of space going from a Caravan, and you’ll probably miss it with 2 kids. I’d get a few more years out of it and trade up to a newer model.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Don’t just sit there and let the rust monster get the best of you! Get some sort of oil spray on the bottom of your van, make sure to hit up the nooks and crannies of the subframes/suspension components. Obviously avoid getting anything on the brakes and exhaust. Used motor oil thinned with kerosene (washes off over time and stinks but cheap and effective) or Fluid Film (little smell, but pricier and long lasting). Apply with garden sprayer. Or Ziebart/Krown is actually a worthwhile investment IMO, if you have $400 or whatever it is to spend. I doubt the oil leaks are anything serious, get it diagnosed properly before getting spooked off from the car because of a minor issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Reicher

      Krown is amazing!

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        My 1996 4Runner that I bought last summer had a Ziebart undercoating done when it was bought new by the original owner, the coat is still present in the wheelwells, the frame, and the underbody. Even inside the fenders near the door jambs got coated, as well as inside the rocker panels (small drilled holes plugged with rubber stops). Frame looks clean enough to eat off of, my only rust is some minor surface rust on my rear diff and gas tank skid plate. To be fair the car has not seen a winter since 2002, I drove it sparingly during this brutal winter that we’ve had. Prior to the first snowfall I coated everything (particularly the backsides of my steel bumpers and frame) with Fluid Film. It held on great throughout the winter, my frame beads water droplets like it did when I first applied the treatment. Being from Upstate NY and growing up repairing rust and working on rusty cars, I take rustproofing very seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m reading up on Krown, should/does this get applied on old cars or just when they are new(er)?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      There are other chains and independent rust inhibitor services that are just as good in my experience and cost a lot less. There’s a shop I use locally who will apply undercoat (the thicker waxy stuff) to the chassis and underbody as well as the thinner penetrating oil (looks like ATF) in the doors, rockers, fenders and quarters all for $90 on cars. IIRC it’s an extra $10 for vans and trucks.

      I have vehicles I see regularly that have been in service in the rust belt year round for 10 years that have used this service every 1-2 years and have no signs of rust on the body or underneath. As a bonus, the undercoating keeps a lot of the chassis stuff from corroding, so it comes apart nicely once the crap is brushed off. Highly recommended.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Fluid Film is lanolin based, it thins to an oil when you heat it and stir it, sprays pretty well. Once it cools it is a waxy substance. I can blast my frame rails with a high pressure hose at the car wash and the fluid film is unperturbed. $40 for a gallon, it’s enough for one SUV’s worth of liberal spraying. I use a $10 Lowes hand pumped 1 gallon sprayer. A messy job, but very satisfying. You become intimately familiar with the suspension, exhaust, and fuel/brake line routing of your automobile. $90 sounds reasonable to have someone else do the work.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Guys,

        I have been back and forth over whether to get anything done to the Verano when it shows up.

        I hear that undercoat can be bad if the car is driven a lot, as it seals crap against the chassis . So, I was thinking to have them undercoat it right when it rolls off the truck, so its clean as possible, and then take it and have it Krowned, again because people swear by it. Krown in lieu of dealer applied rust proofing.

        So, is an immediate undercoating followed by Krown treatment a good plan?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Define “undercoating.” Yes, the rubberized stuff is not such a good idea in my opinion. It can flake off or trap moisture underneath. The oil/wax based undercoats will creep in and arrest any oxidation there may be, and will not flake off or chip, it sort of ‘re-seals’ itself if a rock dings it. I’d say Krown only, skip the dealer stuff if it’s rubberized undercoating. If the dealer uses a wax or oil based compound, consider going their route.

          My Civic came with a hilarious “anti-rust-electrode’ system (previous owner got it installed at this same dealer that I was buying it at). I have never seen a device more insulting to a person’s intelligence. Off to the trash it went within a week of buying the car.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Thanks gtemnykh,

            Sorry to everyone for all the questions. I have never purchased a new car before now, and I want to protect my investment, without spending money on unnecessary treatments or the proverbial “snakeoil”.

            I wasn’t aware there were two types of undercoat. Logically, I tassumed that the rubber type would be tough and durable, but the “sealing in bad” and “flaking off” doesn’t sound good at all.

            Calgary has really, really upped their salt usage this winter, its disgusting. -30 Celsius and the roads are wet.

            I have a short list of treatments I want to do to the car right away. They are based on both the large local salt amount, as well as the fact that I drive on the local highways a ton. Alberta highway 2 between Calgary, Edmonton and the oil patch, which I drive often, is notorious for high speed stones, gravel, debris, etc. Almost no one who leaves the city regularly has a windshield intact, and if they do, they are heavily pitted.

            So my list is:
            1) undercoat
            2) rustproof/Krown
            3) 3M protection film
            4) Diamon-Fusion

            So, first off I think I will try and find the petroleum or wax based undercoat, and also Krown.

            Does it matter what order I have them applied?

            The 3M is because of the aforementioned high speed ejecta from the large of amounts of big rigs travelling 65mph. That road is a menace. Does any body have any facts on 3M type protection film for the bumper and leading edge of the hood? I have heard its fine on the plastic bumper cover but it can trap moisture underneath on the hood and degrade the paint. Truth?

            The DIAMON-FUSION is something a friend recommended. Reportedly it is an optically clear, UV inert coating that prevents small to medium sized stones from spiderwebbing and needing to be filled, prevents or reduces pitting, and also acts like rain-ex, helping water bead off and clear the windshield more effectively. All of this sounds great but is it too good to be true?

            Here is the link.
            http://www.redlineap.ca/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=DIAMON-FUSION&category=Main

            Thanks in advance for any help y’all can offer.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Dave,

            Go for Krown (if it’s available in AB) and the 3M hood shield. Undercoating can do more harm than good, and I have no idea what that diamond thing is all about, but it sounds fishy.

            The 3M hood shield is legit. Honda offers it on some cars as an OEM part. The only thing special about the Honda version is that it’s pre-cut.

            I wouldn’t put plastic on the bumpers. They’re plastic anyway, so they won’t rust. Nothing much you can do about the windshield either. Odds are good that you will need to replace it eventually.

            Funny story about “anti-rust-electrode systems.” Lexus told their Canadian dealers that they could either be in the Lexus business, or in the fake rustproofing business, but not in both. I don’t think any dealer chose option #2.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I had an ’03 CRV that was sadly totalled in November. And I replaced it with an ’07. I wouldnt do that again…
    The CRV has loads of space in the rear seat, and is a great family vehicle. The 2nd gen was possibly less comfortable and a bit more noisy than the 3rd gen, but it felt more like a ‘real’ Honda than the newer one, and it felt lighter and roomier, even if the total interior space is smaller .They stretched the trunk a bit when they removed the outside spare, but the curved roof and non-openable rear window made it less utilitarian anyway. From ’05 (at least in Europe) it has all the safety expected from a modern car, and I can vouch for its crash safety. The 3rd gen is a great car (not very fast though), but I still miss the old one.
    I must admit though, I had to saw off the lower bolts for the rear dampers to change the springs and dampers as they were too rusty to move.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Newsflash- 6-8 year old CRV’s are pretty rusted underneath in the snow belts just like Mopar products or any others probably more so. A neighbor has a 2005 CRV that is so bad underneath that the shop told her to expect either thousands of dollars in repairs or a new vehicle purchase after this Winter. Everything from brake lines to a leaky gas tank to rusty floorboards and suspension components are bad or going bad and it only has 80K on the clock.

    The trick here is meticulous under carriage cleaning during and after each Winter and a good under coating to drench the floorboards and sub frame and keeping it from hitting the salt. I have seen some 2000-2002 cars so bad that they were literally flexing in two after being hoisted up usually sending the pissed off customer without there ride and having to explain to them that there trusty Honda/Toyota/Subaru etc is ready for the crusher. And some of these vehicles had as little as 60K miles on the clock!

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    I’m sure glad, I live somewhere that salt is not used on the roads. There should be a law against using salt, and not because of its effect on cars. The environment takes a beating from salt run-off.

    My first question is, why buy a vehicle used in the same environment, having the same age. Wouldn’t the Honda suffer from like corrosion? If you did buy a vehicle of a similar vintage, buy it somewhere they don’t use salt.

    If you have a stuck bolt, give it an overnight soaking, like Sajeev suggests, then use an air impact wrench set at a low operating pressure, rather then a manual wrench or breaker bar. Give it a few hits at low pressure, increase the pressure gradually till the bolt frees.

    Some bolts are not going to release, no matter the regime employed to free them. Just use that impact wrench to bust them off and be done with it.

    Use a chucked carbide Ball cutter or ball nose, end mill to prep the remaining material for centering a sharp drill bit, drill, and use that Eze-Out or similar tool for removal of remaining material. Chase with a thread tap and clear of chip material with air and bearing grease on a swab or the die.

    Using heat applied with a gas torch works in some situations. Be sure the bolt and surrounding material is completely cooled before applying torque.

    Forcefully tapping the head of the bolt can some times assist in removal. Don’t strike head of bolt with a hammer, use round stock or round chisel Helps if you use a pointed round center point chisel with a 2-pound machinist hammer or air-hammer.

    When I build a Flat Head Ford, the dual water pumps have a bolt inside the inlet. Those are always fused to the block, because so-called mechanics, dry fit those bolts when replacing the pumps.


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