I haven't posted here much since we got a little motorhome in 2008. But we do take the 1992 Coleman tent trailer out for a week or two every year, pulling it with a 1992 GM 3/4 ton van. Here we are camping in Jasper (Rampart Creek campsite near Columbia Icefields).
The pup is in pretty good shape, needing only a can of canvas waterproofing at the beginning of the season. The van shows its age in the old instrument panel but hasn't had any major problems. However, on our latest trip the heater core failed, causing an antifreeze smell in the cab and fogging the windows. A liter of coolant disappeared every hour on our trip. It seemed to be getting worse so I finally got a mechanic to cut the coolant tubes and bypass the heater. The weather turned warm so we didn't even miss the heater.
The cost to replace the heater core is over $700 and the tires are 7 years old. No doubt other things are waiting to fail next year. There is nothing as comfortable as that big van with almost fully reclining seats (though the driver's seat is pretty bad for me). We bought the whole outfit new in 1992 so it will be hard to part with. Is it worth fixing up for next year or should we pull that trailer with our newer minivan?
Up until last year our primary TV, grocery getter and school bus was a '94 Suburban K1500. Gutless compared to our Yukon XL we have now, but reliable as a hammer. Those TBI 350's will run forever. We had over 200,000 on it and it took us all over the country in comfort and without missing a beat. Granted I did probably pour more money in it than it was worth, but it was in great shape and will probably serve the new owners another 100,000 with little trouble. My vote is fix the van.
Until your last sentence I would have said to fix it. It doesn't sound like the van is your daily driver, and you have a motorhome which you use more than the pop-up so if you were thinking about replacing the van it may not be worth it since it doesn't sound like it gets that much use.
However, you have a minivan which can pull your pop-up. If it was me, I'd just do that. While the engine on your van may be fine, all the other components are 20 years old and generally don't last as long as the engine. As you say, once you do this fix, you will probably be nickeled and dimed by many more down the road. Then, you have to pay for and keep track of maintenance on an extra vehicle, and you have to pay insurance on the van. Since the minivan can do the duties of this van, and you can cut the record keeping, and the costs of maintenance and insurance of an extra vehicle, I'd say to use the minivan and cut loose the van.
Vehicles: 2011 Ford Fusion (for car camping), 2009 Suzuki Boulevard C50 (motorcycle camping) Tents: Boulder Creek Hunter Ridge 4 (cheap 4-season tent from Bass Pro Shops), Alps Mountaineering Vertex 4, Kelty Grand Mesa 6, Big Agnes Fairview 4
All the arguments make sense! Jeff makes a lot of sense. Besides, I think I would worry about driving far from home with a 21 year old vehicle with 260k on it. It might very well be the transmission next time and make us go home on a bus.
My younger mechanic friend brought the old girl back to life!
In half an hour he had the top half of the fan shroud out, giving easy access to the waterpump and various other things. Of course we replaced the belt and the thermostat. He found two bad bearings on an idler pulley and the tightener. Alternator sounding like worn bearings, too. $250 worth of parts and no cost for five hours of a mechanic's time. I did four tax returns for him and we were both happy with the exchange.