Van Questions From a Non-Driver (1 Viewer)

MolotovMocktail

Subverting from within
Joined
Oct 15, 2013
Messages
866
Age
25
Location
Bellingham, WA
Hey, friends. I've recently started considering going the rubbertramp route. I haven't driven since I failed driver's ed as a high school freshman so obviously my first step is to (re)learn how to drive (which is probably a good idea even if I don't end up traveling by vehicle).

I checked Craigslist for vans and buses just out of curiosity and found this curious listing for a campervan: https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/5522923877.html

The owner obviously doesn't speak English as a first language but here's what I gather: they bought the van to travel around North America. They now have to go back to their country and are selling the van for cheap because of a problem with the steering wheel. I shot an email asking what the "bug on the steering wheel" was and asked about the mileage on it and got these replies:

"It doesn't have any problems to driving but it has a friction just between the hang gear bar and the steering wheel. Because the bearing which split them is broken. on the road everything is normal, but to park you have to hold the shift lever driving with one hand while you turn the wheel with the other hand, not to jump from one gear to another by friction. changing the bearing, all fixed. max 200$
this happened a week ago and did not have time to fix it, but although not serious, I think it is important to fix it.
My flight leaves on Friday from Vancouver and I'm tests for surgery on the knee before returning to Spain. the skiing accident and bearing, all within a week of returning to my country is complicating me everything. otherwise, would fix this with time and continue to sell the car at 2500$"

"I bought the car in Santa Rosa California late October 2015 and this says 47000 miles but I don't now if is second round. The engine sounds really good and I enjoy the van all my trip to whistler.
the engine sounds great and this was my great companion in the best trip of my life traveling alone, from Santa Rosa to whistler.
treat her with love and all good check with a mechanic before starting my trip, I finally realized that this car can do many km more, but after 6 months traveling and knee injury is my time to go. I spent the end of December over 1500 $ in equip, I have receipts and is all new equipment. be a shame to finish giving her low with all new equipment, and all the km that remain to be done, for not having time to sell it for medical appointments, MRI etc ... I trust more in this car, with its simplicity, my modern car in Europe that gives me more problems and very expensive. for me it was worth it when I decided to make this investment 6 months ago."

The included doodads look kind of pointless but if you look at the photos of the interior it looks like a pretty nice conversion. The story about the sudden sale seemed a bit iffy but the emails make me think it might be legit. Here are some questions for you car-savvy folk:

1. The steering wheel thing: truly a $200 fix or a bigger issue?
2. The only car-savvy person I know is out of town right now. If I go check out the van (or any other vehicle), what should I look for?

Thought I'd throw this out there. I know it's kind of dumb to look for a vehicle when I'm not yet able to drive but if it's for real, it seems like this might be a killer deal I might not see again. Maybe @creature, @TMG51, or anyone else could give me some info? I don't know shit about cars yet so any tips would be great!
 
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Kim Chee

I deleted myself
Nothing says "roof leaks" like a bright blue tarp.

As for a "hang gear bar" there is no such thing I know of.

It took me a minute to understand what has been said: if the van has been in an accident and now you must hold the gear shift lever in gear when turning at low speeds to keep it from shifting by friction it will be an expensive repair.

Sounds like a steering column replacement (but you could probably drive like that for the rest of the life of the van).
 

TMG51

Wanderer
Joined
Jan 10, 2016
Messages
87
Location
Burlington, VT
Nothing says "roof leaks" like a bright blue tarp.

This was my first impression also.

I wouldn't say that's really a camper van either. It's an older Dodge that someone put an okay paneling inside and a ceiling fan. Vans like that are available for $1,500 all the time. I would get something a little newer in good mechanical shape if I were you. But you're right, learn to drive first... that way you can at least test drive the vehicle. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to pounce on the first thing you see, there are always deals out there. I looked seriously for my ideal van for a year before I bought this one.
 

beastcoast

Pilgrim
Joined
Sep 21, 2012
Messages
23
Age
31
Location
the northcountry
Have you looked into the older Toyota campers? My friend has this same model (http://vermont.craigslist.org/cto/5480533195.html) and its been a great home for him.
I'm currently traveling in a Toyota Previa, which I love. It's a minivan so you can't do much besides sleep it in it.I built a queen size bed into the back, with gear storage underneath and its been pretty luxurious.
Good luck driving! Happy van hunting!
 

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Sheeves

Pilgrim
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Messages
13
Location
Arkansas, USA
Hey again! I think you'll love the rubbertramping route. It's very rewarding in my opinion. In fact, after my recent stint hitchhiking, I'm in the middle of converting another van to hit the road in soon. This time a 1974 Ford Econoline. I'm actually working at an auto parts store now, which helps out a lot as I'm repairing and building the van.

Anyway, you're really going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel when looking for a $700 van. I'd honestly put a little more money into it and buy something halfway decent. I'd hate to put the time into a conversion but have an unreliable base underneath. Money is expensive, but you'll thank me when you're not paying for a tow truck later. That steering wheel bearing problem can likely be solved for less than $200 at a fair shop. If not, I'd just learn to live with it.

For $700, anything that solidly runs is a fair deal. I've had a couple of these cheap old vans. You'll need to expect a leaky ceiling, drafty windows and doors, a heater that can't keep up with the cold, fluid leaks of every type, and many cheap repairs to the running gear. Basically anything rubber is going to be in bad condition unless they've already replaced it. I'd at least get the brakes checked and wheel bearings packed after you first buy it. If the engine is strong and everything is spinning freely, you'll be relatively good to go. These old American vans are built like tanks and surprisingly hard to break. Repairs are cheap when they do break and parts are plentiful. You can live with most of these problems. Just keep an eye on all the fluids and the engine temperature constantly.

Look for bald tires, rust holes in the floor, make sure all the lights work (wiring is a BITCH), and most importantly, make sure the transmission shifts without drama. If the transmission goes, you might as well just give up. The engine should have a smooth idle and not misfire. When you first start the van, look to see if any smoke comes out the tailpipe. If you've got smoke, the engine likely only has 30,000 more miles left before you'll need to rebuild it ($1500). Look for fluid puddles underneath where it's parked. Take it for a drive and note how sketchy it is.

Just check to see how many of the many functions actually still work. That will give you insight into how the previous owner cared for the van. If they repaired every little thing, it's a good sign.

This is kind of rambly, but there's just a lot of info to give out at once. Maybe go check on it and report back with your concerns?
 

MolotovMocktail

Subverting from within
Joined
Oct 15, 2013
Messages
866
Age
25
Location
Bellingham, WA
Great info, @Sheeves. Until you posted I hadn't even noticed that the van's price had been dropped from $1500 to $700. The price drop is tempting but the seller is leaving town on Friday but I don't want to make a big decision like that in a couple days. I think I'm going to take @TMG51's advice and take my time until I find the right vehicle, even if it means spending a bit more money on it.

I talked to some friends who live in a converted schoolbus and they advocated for a bus instead of a van but a full bus overhaul is going to be a lot more complicated and expensive than a van conversion and a van would probably suit my purposes well enough anyway. Regardless, none of this really matters until I get a solid grasp on driving again so I'm probably going to put the vehicle search on the back burner until I've got that covered. :) Thanks again for the tips.
 

Psi em

Newbie
Joined
Aug 8, 2012
Messages
45
Age
38
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
I have a driver's license but I really don't know how to drive car. North Carolina has dumb laws that require license for automobile BEFORE you can get motorcycle permit.

Everybody who attempted teaching me to drive screamed like bitches, 'bout sh*t themselves, left claw marks in the seat.. f*ck 'em. Anyway, I used one of those PC gaming steering wheels with gas pedal, brake pedal and force feedback to drive 35-55mph around Need For Speed Carbon. Also got a hold of some British driver education simulation; wrong side of the road but still gives you a good feel for it.

Then took the driving test at DMV and my performance was flawless. I've since forgotten how to drive on 4-wheels but the licence is good for a decade.
 

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