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[note from Secessus – this page is updated as I find verifiable information. Problems listed (or not listed) below do not mean one is better than the other. I may have researched some more than others so far. Truly, I don't care what van you buy and live in. It's your home, not mine.]

All vans have issues

Everybody thinks their pet van is the best, and that all others will drain your wallet and/or leave you to die a gruesome death on the side of the road. As has been observed in a different context:

That is the way of us chili men. Each of us knows that his chili is light years beyond other chili in quality and singularity; each of us knows that all other chili is such vile slop that a coyote would turn his back on it.1)

In actuality, all vans have issues. The challenge is to find a van that meets your needs, not to find some mythically perfect unicorn that was designed directly by god, never breaks, never needs maintenance and runs forever on one tank of gas and one crankcase of oil. It's like dating: find a van whose weirdnesses don't bother you, and that you can personally live with.

On the likelihood of problems

Only a small percentage of failures occur on any particular vehicles; it's not like “this is guaranteed to happen to you!” It's more a list of things to look for, to be aware of. Forums and complaint sites list tons of problems because people with problems are more likely to post. It is rare to see a post saying “drove my van for a year and nothing happened!”. Beware of people who claim “the [fill in the blank] forum is full of unhappy owners!!!” without mentioning unhappy owners of their vans on their forums. Forum links are included below for further research. More popular vans are also more likely to have documented problems, as the ownership base of people who are passionate enough about the vehicles to actually post to ownership forums and meticulously document everything is larger as well.

With that being said, use extreme caution with modern Diesel engines. Tightening emissions requirements have lead to extremely predictable (and expensive) repairs.

Timely maintenance is likely to prevent or lessen the impact of the issues listed below. If your van has recalls or TSBs, try to have it fixed under warranty while it's still free.

You may also want to think about Total Cost of Ownership or average annual repair costs.

1A Auto video series

1A auto has a video series about the Top 5 problems with many popular vehicles. Select “show all” and scroll down to see if your vehicle is listed.

Chevy Astro

The Astro/Safari have a cult following due to their mid-size and available AWD.

Learn about this van on the Astro/Safari forum

  • steering knuckles that cut ball joint boots2)
  • door handles break off
  • 1998-1999 particularly hard hit by transmission valve body failures 3) “Less common problems are the failures of the transmission's fluid pressure (TFP) switch, failure of the transmission's “reaction sun shell” and failure of the transfer case shift motor.”
  • power locks fail: “grease them once a year with lithium spray in grease. The rear door lock may be fixed by drilling a hole through the piece of zinc to repair the piece that broke off.”4)
  • power windows fail - switch failure?
  • ABS controller failure
  • rough idle or misfires: “problems with the spark plugs, ignition systems and poor vacuum seals have been implicated in some cases”5) “Get a good [distributor] cap with brass contacts.”
  • idler/pitman arm failure
  • transmission output seal failures
  • intake manifold gasket leaking oil or coolant
  • 1984-early 1985 models may have oil pressure idiot light incorrectly wired to CHOKE indicator
  • fuel pump failure – earlier than normal fuel filter changes may help alleviate
  • P1870 This can be caused by wear of the bore for the TCC isolator and regulator valves in the valve body.
  • alternator failures
  • plastic radiator tank leaks6)

Chevy Express / Savanna

Transmissions are regarded as generally good, with lifespans like 120,000-180,000 miles on the 4-spd auto 4L80E and 130,000-200,000 miles for the 6-spd 6L90.7)

Learn more about these vehicles on the Express/Savanna subforum.

  • leaking intake manifold gaskets cause oil or coolant leaks around 100k miles.8)
  • fuel pump failure – earlier than normal fuel filter changes may help alleviate
  • stuck fuel injectors9)
  • transmission clutch regulating valve can lose pressure, throwing P0776, P0796, P2714 and P2723 codes.10)
  • worn valve seats may require head replacement
  • cracking rear door hinge
  • fuel level sensor failure (gas gauge sender)
  • paint issues

Chrysler Pacifica

  • the Pacifica has historically been slightly oversized in order to “package protect” (preserve space for) for AWD which finally came out in 2020.11)
  • 2004-2008 rust, especially in the engine cradle area12)
  • TIPM issues, as with the other FCA minivans since 2008.
  • approx 15k 2007 (?) models had faulty torque converters, causing shuddering while driving. Sometimes described as “like driving over rumble strips”.
  • hard shifting
  • some 2017 have engine vibration due to incorrectly-drilled balance shaft13)
  • 2017 hybrids may have defective inverter (recalled)
  • interior quality
  • paint issues
  • some fuel pumps shut off frequently while fueling the vehicle

Dodge B-series

Made from 1971 - 2003, and hardly changed in the interim. This can be a good thing, as known issues are stable over time. It can be a bad thing in that deficiencies are not addressed over time.

  • frame rust
  • rear track is slightly narrower than front track
  • extended body models can be unstable if overloaded behind rear axle
  • heater core issues

Dodge Caravan / Town & Country

Caravans may be available cheaper than T&C as they generally had fewer options (and less stuff to break).

Learn more about these vehicle on the Chrysler minivan forum.

  • Almost every variant of the 3.6L V-6 engine, even up until the very newest engines - cracked cylinder heads (usually the rear head closest to the firewall). Symptoms are similar to a blown head gasket - overheating, misfiring, frothy oil, etc. If addressed quickly this can be repaired, but if ignored for more than a few hundred miles it will ruin the entire engine.
  • 5th gen (2008+) electrical problems associated with the TIPM (power distribution) assembly. TIP fuel pump relay failures can be fixed with an external relay. HID installs can cause TIPM problems due to ballast interference. Rebuilt TIMP are available.
  • early 4-spd auto transmissions (41TE) had early internal clutch failure and limp modes caused by sensor faults.
  • use of non-spec transmission fluid can cause failure, with Dexron II being the worst offender.14)

Models with Stow and Go may have the spare tire mounted in a non-standard position.

Ford E-Series

Ford E-Series specific article

Generally very reliable, and 250,000+ miles can reasonably be expected without any major repairs. Relatively easy to work on and fix for the few things that do break. The exception being the diesel engines, however this problem is not limited to Ford.

  • To say that the 6.0L diesel engine “has problems” is being polite
    • This is the exception to the line at the beginning of the article that said “Only a small percentage of failures occur on any particular vehicles”.
    • The International VT365 (rebadged as Ford 6.0L Powerstroke)15) was put into the 2004-2010 model year Ford E-Series vans/chassis. It has the reputation of being one of the worst engines ever used in a commercial vehicle. Multiple $5,000+ repair bills are a guarantee, especially on vans that have spent a lot of time idling (ambulances).
  • Easy to steal
    • A flat-head screwdriver and maybe a hammer is all that's needed to punch out a door lock, and there's no computer chip in the keys so if someone can turn the ignition cylinder by force (again not hard, screwdriver and maybe pliers), the engine will start. It is highly recommended to install a hidden kill switch (the start relay and/or fuel pump relays are popular), and to reinforce your door locks with kits such as the Jimmy Jammer.
  • Ignition coils/packs failure
    • Characterized by a rough running engine and misfires on acceleration.
    • The parts cost $75-$150 and can easily be done in a driveway with simple hand tools. Expect to pay $300 in a shop.
  • E-150 ball joint failure
    • Characterized by rattling and clunking when going over bumps. If left unaddressed, the entire front suspension can collapse. Having the ball joints replaced typically costs ~$350 per side.
  • The E-150 was generally very under-built for its weight spec, and other brake/suspension repairs are common
    • Note: The E-250 and E-350 vans use much stronger suspension components, and do not experience this problem (at least, not in an endemic way and no more than any other van)
  • HVAC Blower motor problems
    • The blower motor resistor can fail every 3-4 years. Symptom is that the HVAC fan only works on one speed (usually high). Replacing it is cheap and takes ~45 minutes.
    • This applies to all of the gas engines that were installed in the entire range of Econoline vans from 1997-2008.
    • Replacing spark plugs on these engines is a delicate process due to the limited threads. It should be done using a very accurate torque wrench, they should be torqued to the Ford specification and not a single in-lb further.
    • 2V engine sparkplug issues may be addressed with Calvan kit or Timesert kits. tstechmind recommends the Calvan design.17)
  • 5.4L V-8 can experience oil pan gasket leaks. The part costs ~$20 but replacement runs about $1000, due to requirement to lift the engine.
  • 4R70E 4-spd transmission (found behind the 4.6L V-8 gas engine from 2002-2005)
    • While it's reliable in light usage, the transmission is generally “weak” and under-sized for the load application. It's advised to not do any towing with this transmission, and to keep build-outs as lightweight as possible.
  • 2005 – 2006 E-150 w/4R75E18) Transmission can experience slipping. Replace forward clutch drum and update ECU with program 06B06.
  • Sticking solenoid regulator on 4R10019) Transmission (P0715, P0716 & P0717)
  • 1996-2001 2v Tritons may have a nylon intake manifold that can crack and leak.20)
  • 2011 - 2013 5.4L 2V and 6.8L 2V Engine – Excessive Engine Oil Consumption (valve seals)21)
  • Leaking cylinder head gasket

Common problems on Ford engines not installed in vans, but might be in RVs and Trucks. (All gasoline van engines are 2-valve, not 3-valve).

  • 2004-2007 3-valve 4.6L, 5.4L and 6.8L can experience spark plug breakage or head damage during removal.22) Changing at 50k miles instead of the stated 100k and using anti-seize may help prevent seizure.
    • While these 3-valve engines were never installed in the vans, many mechanics recommend the increased change frequency on the 2-valve engines as well.
  • 2004-2011 3-val 5.4 Tritons with Variable Valve Timing can have timing chain, tensioner, or cam phaser issues – listen for noises at startup.23),24),25)
  • The 6.4L Powerstroke diesel engine was slightly less terrible than the 6.0, but not by much. Vehicles using it are considered “throwaways”. Most common vehicle-killing problems are failures of the DPF, high-pressure fuel pump or other emissions hardware, which are often cab-off repairs for a pickup truck26).

Ford Transit

Ford Transit article

    • 2018 and newer vans have omitted the Giubo completely.
  • Warped exhaust manifolds on turbocharged engines
  • Attempting to re-use the rear axle bolts after replacing or servicing the rear brake rotors will result in them breaking and the axle taking a horizontal exit from the van.
    • Not so much a design problem, but the result of a common mistake made by inexperienced mechanics (even Ford Dealership techs). Removing the rear brake rotors for replacement or resurfacing requires pulling out the axle, but the five bolts holding the axle in are single-use. Like head bolts, they stretch upon install and have to be replaced every time. Trying to re-use the bolts will result in the failures described above.
  • Boom/Hum/Moan Noise Or Vibration From Rear While Driving At Highway Speeds
    • Some 2015–2020 Transit vehicles equipped with rear wheel drive (RWD) and a U-joint at the transmission flange and rear driveshaft may experience a boom/hum/moan noise or vibration from the rear while driving. This noise or vibration is most prevalent at highway speeds (112-121 km/h [70–75 mph] for 4.10 axle ratio, 121-128 km/h [75-80 mph] for 3.73 axle ratio, and 136-145 km/h [85-90 mph] for 3.31 axle ratio) and may also be present to a lesser degree at roughly half of those speeds.
    • Addressed under Technical Service Bulletin 20-2214, installation of part number LK4Z-4A263-C (Torsional Damper Kit)
  • Transmission filter cannot be accessed for normal service; requires removal of front subframe which may be difficult due to seized bolts. Normal service is done by a fluid exchange machine at the Ford dealer.
  • Ecoboost carbon fouling on intake valves
    • Direct-injected engines like the EcoBoost can experience carbon build-up on the intake valves. Although uncommon in normal use, it could be more common for vandwellers due to idling for long periods to charge from the alternator. This requires removal of the head to address:
      • “The only Ford-approved course of action at this time is to replace the cylinder head, although “Manual cleaning with a brush and various carbon dissolving products has been used with great success on vehicles out of warranty.”27)
  • Ecoboost shuddering from plug fouling (see above)
  • Windshield gutter runoff can flood airbox – workaround.
  • Speed sensor failure causes limp mode
  • Water can drain on ECU plug; diverter installed at some point per Customer Satisfaction Program 15B39. Workaround using iced tea jug.
  • Cabin leak near passenger footwell
  • Transmission solenoid failure (SSM 45065) requires removal of transmission.
  • Heater core failure - TSB 18-2172. Flushing with Prestone Cor-Guard and refilling (as in the TSB) may be good preventative maintenance.
  • Leaking roof rack mount plugs28)
  • TSBs
    • 2015 Transit – Interior High Intensity LED Cargo Lamps May Emit A Low Glow When They Should Be Off – Built On Or Before 4/22/201529)
  • Body panels detach from interior bracing

Ford Transit Connect

  • 2013 - 2015 coolant loss
  • 2010 - 2013 2.0 L with 4F27E auto
    • slipping and no reverse due to leaking reverse air bleed capsule30)
    • torque converter problem causing slipping between 3rd - 4th
    • hard shifting due to failed accumulator

Ford Windstar

Honda Odysssey

Achilles heel: transmissions.

Learn more about these vehicles on the Odyssey Club forum.

  • 1999-2001 4-speed B7XA autos could chew up bearings, clogging fluid pathways31) Warranty was extended.32)
  • 2002-2003 5-speed BYBA autos could experience 2nd gear failures due to lack of lubrication, oil jet added under recall.
  • 2002-(2005?) 5-speed BYBA autos 3rd gear clutch pack failures could cause “As the clutch friction material abraded, it scattered bits inside the transmission case, clogging fluid lines and causing erratic shifting. Drivers might suffer slipping, poor or no shifts, or sudden down-shifts from fifth gear to second gear.”33)
  • 2018 9-speed auto: “TSB 16-087 - Transmission End Cover Leaks (9-Speed A/T).”
  • 2018-2019 10-speed autos have a recall for sudden shifting into park.34)

Mercedes Sprinter

Mercedes Sprinter page

Autel MD802 code readers are often recommended for those that do their own maintenance.

In general, the (before 2010) T1N models are simpler and often preferred for field maintainability.

  • Body rust issues until 2017 (?) - Metallic colors may have received better clearcoat.
  • 2008+ diesel emissions control:
    • 2008-2018 model years are particularly problematic due to the location of the components. They are very tightly packed and there isn't much airflow in the area, leading to heat buildup that eventually cooks the DEF tank/heater and exhaust particulate filter. This is made worse when subjected to long periods of idling.
    • The tight packaging makes the system very difficult to access for repairs/replacement, requiring sometimes dozens of hours of labor. Repair bills can easily run into the thousands.
    • For the 2019 model year, the system underwent significant redesign and anecdotal reports have been generally positive, with increase reliability and easier to access components. However it will always be an achilles heel of any modern diesel.
  • fuel injector "black death"
  • T1N: glow plug seizure in cylinder head
  • Service may be difficult to locate; not all M-B dealers can work on the Sprinter vans and some do not work on any vehicle over 10 years old.
  • Parts and hourly rate are expensive, particularly at M-B dealerships. Many repairs (especially regarding the emission systems on 2010+ vans) are locked behind proprietary computer systems that are only available at a dealership.

Nissan NVx500

  • 5.6L V-8 - Catalytic Converter Problems. When the catalytic converter fails, chunks of the honeycomb get sucked back into the engine which destroys it.
    • Listen for rattling in the exhaust, or Check Engine light with “Catalyst Inefficiency” code.
  • V8 + auto shifting issues (usually late shifting/slipping)
  • V8 #3 plug fouling from oil leak in valve guides or elsewhere - no clear info yet.
  • P0441, P0455 codes caused by gas evap sensor pulling out of the charcoal canister36)
  • P0448 code caused by dirt clogging evap valve/solenoid/canister, possibly due to vent location in wheelwell.

Possible workaround: blow out with air, reset code.37)

  • V8 can hunt/surge between 1000-1500rmp; fixed by ECU flash update.
  • V8 knock when starting that may or may not be problematic.
  • V6 plastic intake manifold can crack if hose clamp fitting is overtightened38)
  • water leaking in the front (sloped) roof section, due to windshield mounting, weld issues, or (in at least one case) condensation.39)
  • lowest MPG of all vans
  • inadventant pushing of the “Info” button can illuminate idiot lights.40)
  • white nylon gear shift lever spacer can fall out of steering column
  • 13.5“ roof rib spacing means rib-cutting to install normal 14×14” roof vents.

Nissan NV200

The NV200 is rated as the most reliable cargo van (any size).41)

Learn more about this vehicle on the NV Forum.

  • premature tire wear42)
  • wheels easily bent
  • 2014-2015 models somewhat higher rate of transmission problems
  • location and shape of the electric window switch43)
  • lower front bumper has no protection grill for radiator44)
  • airbag recall45)
  • ecoboost not available on LWB

RAM Promaster

Learn more about this vehicle on the Promaster forum or the Promaster article.

  • short headlight life (low beam). TSB 08-106-17 says to replace with L0000H7SLL Super Long Life headlamp bulbs Also see this comment about proper alignment in the sockets. Turning headlights off in daylight rather than using them as DRL often can extend bulb life to years.
  • Pentastar tick due to failed rocker bearings; replacing them too late can cause damage to the cam.
  • use of non-spec transmission fluid can cause failure, with Dexron II being the worst offender.46)
  • Per Kip, trans rebuild diagnoses are often failures of the solenoid pack, which “costs 400-$500 and can be replaced in 2-3 hours without having to take the transmission out”.
  • spark plug changes must be done with care to avoid damaging the spark plug carriers “tubes”47)
  • 2014 model known for squeaking brakes, sticking parking brake
  • marker lights leaking
  • P0750 transmission code may be from the solenoid pack, which can be replaced without removing the transmission.
  • the small bolts on the intake plenum can rust and seize.48) Solutions include waterproofing the bolts or cutting and installing an engine cover49).
  • a plywood or other load-spreading subfloor should be installed to prevent fatigue to metal floor. At least two cases of floor damage have been reported when the floor was repeatedly flexed in the same area.
  • the odometer cannot record more than 1 million kilometers (~620,000 miles)50)
  • diesel version transmission disliked by many
  • steering wheel is bus-like and not tilt-adjustable
  • seating is high
  • 6th gear is very high for MPG purposes; the PM will downshift to 5th on minor grades
  • some fuel pumps shut off frequently while fueling the vehicle
  • if the transmission-to-frame ground is loose it can affect the ignition interlock51)
  • video - how to assess a used Promaster

RAM Promaster City

  • recalls
    • ram promaster city vans manufactured september 26, 2014, to march 5, 2016. a low-voltage electrical harness connector by the front driver seat may be susceptible to water intrusion and corrosion.
    • 2.4L engines may experience oil consumption

Toyota Sienna

  • oil sludge buildup requiring engine rebuild or replace
  • V6 3.5L engine may have a faulty oil line causing sudden oil loss.52) LSC-90K
  • 3.5L 2007-2010 gen2 vans with the tow package may have a faulty oil cooler line. 53) TSB-0201-11, Warranty Enhancement Program ZE2.
  • broken weld in door54). Symptoms: failure to close or lock, noises.
  • 2004 - broken side door cable55)
  • VSC, Trac, and other dashboard lights may indicate misfire, leaking gas cap, emisssions, or steering rack56) issues.
  • On 1st Gen Siennas, the Integration Relay (“yellow box”) can fail, causing difficult to diagnose electrical issues.


  • DEF-equipped DEF issues, especially if idled excessively

most reliable

The most reliable van with lowest upfront cost, longest warranty, and lowest annual repair costs outside warranty appears to be the full-size Nissan NV or its minicargo sibling NV200.

Since only a tiny minority of 'dwellers own those vans we can deduce that absolute reliability is not the driving factor in our van-buying decision, no matter what we say.

lowest total cost

The cheapest vandwelling solution in terms of purchase price and yearly maintenance appears to be a used Dodge Caravan.57) They are cheap on the used market and even though they are not paradigms of reliability they do have low repair costs. The Town & Country variant is fancier so costs more and has more options to break.

Since only a tiny minority of 'dwellers own those vans we can deduce that absolute cost is not the driving factor in our van-buying decision, no matter what we say.

“has the reputation as being the worst diesel engine ever put into a pickup truck”.
4spd auto that came with 4.2L, 4.6L, & 5.4L
4spd auto in heavy duty 1997–2004 models
Meaning the entire cab of the truck has to be lifted up and off of the body/frame just to be able to access the parts that need replacing
possibly related to dimmer switch
Part number 04861773AA
“grand” or otherwise
rv/van_issues.txt · Last modified: 2024/03/31 15:03 by princess_fluffypants