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2001 Caravan - What is worth it?

After being rear ended, totaling my Chevy Cavalier, I had to scramble to find a car with my limited funds, and a 1991 ($400) Dodge Caravan fell into my lap. It has 116,000 miles, the fluids need to be checked before I drive anywhere, the headliner is falling (the , I had to replace the seal around the windshield, and the vinyl top pulled off to reveal rust holes through to the headliner (definitely why it is falling), as well as having a friend replace the brakes. I don’t need to last past this semester, but it is becoming a whole clusterfluff. I can’t afford much, but have metal tape over the holes (its working for now).
Is it worth it to take out and redo the headliner? There is no foam to even put pins into…

Just get a can of headliner adhesive and stick the headliner back in place. Cheap and easy. Get a can at your local auto parts store for $10.

Have all fluids changed, maybe get a new battery if you want the van to start in freezing weather this winter. On a $400 van, I’m guessing the battery is probably toast. (You can have it tested first at an auto chain store).

If you don’t immediately replace the coolant, and you live in a cold climate, first thing is to verify the existing coolant has a low enough freezing point to prevent engine damage in event of an early freeze.

I should add that $400 for an entire car is quite a deal, if you think about it. If you added up the value of all the working parts contained in this vehicle, if you had to pay retail for them at an auto parts store or dealer, it would probably be close to $10 K, maybe even more.

Not to lecture but as a teacher you should know the difference between “breaks” and “brakes”. There was a back to school ad in the local paper advertising a free “break” check-up. I thought that was pretty funny and let them know and the ad was changed the next day.

No point doing anything with the headliner until you get the leaks fixed. Normally headliner is material glued to a foam backing. The foam deteriorates to powder so there is nothing to glue back up again. Depending on what condition yours is in, some spray 3M adhesive might work. You can get new matching headliner material from out of Oklahoma for not too much money if you want to do the work. That’ll be another post.

As far as the holes in the roof, if you clean the rust off, using a fiberglass filler over it will do a better job of sealing the leaks. Then you can use a rattle can touch up paint to make it look nicer.

Headliners! Argghhhh!! My Corolla headliner has been a source of grief for 12 years. My current solution is straight pins, those like that come with when you buy a dress shirt, worked for 4 years now, but starting to droop again. Have to buy another shirt I guess. My Ford truck from the early 70’s has a headliner made out of some kind of thick plastic-like material, fiberglass maybe and it is mostly self supporting. Just is screwed to the side supports and roof in a few spots w/metal screws. Doesn’t droop, works great, easy to clean, never a minute’s problem… For 40 years. Same with the door panels, a plastic-like material just screwed on with metal screws. Who cares if you can see the screw head or not? It’s just a door panel in the car, not the Taj Majal!! In my view, in terms of headliner and door panel technology, simple is best. I don’t think Detroit and Tokyo and Seoul much care what I have to say about car design though … lol …

Thanks for the advice. I have to say, I typed it up in a hurry. It is actually a 1991 Dodge Caravan and I do know that is is brakes, not breaks. Whoops. We all make mistakes.
The battery is actually pretty new. I bought the van through my regular mechanic, who has serviced it since it was new. The leaks are small for the fluids, so I don’t mind topping them for now.
The 3M adhesive mentioned was tried, but because of the crumbling foam, it didn’t hold. I am just going to pull the fabric and paint the fiberglass headliner board.
The holes in the roof are next on the list, but that might have to wait for Thanksgiving break. I don’t think I have a long weekend until then.

Also, some were worried about the coolant. The previous owner lives down the road from me, and has been the sole owner, and has been driving it in the area since 1991.
And the oil is being changed at the end of the semester.

Were the holes in the roof a result of a roof rack that was removed? Rust usually starts at the bottom of the car. At any rate, a fiberglass repair kit (cost less than $10) will take care of the holes. After patching, apply some paint from a spray can. I would use a different color than the color of the car to show that you have done some work. (I had to have a cyst removed from the back of my neck. The surgeon said he could do the work without leaving a scar. I told him that I wanted a scar–if I had to go through the surgery, I wanted proof that something had been done).

Triedaq, I’ve been practicing for my trip to Germany next week “Guten tag freuline. Mochten sie meine narben sehen?” Mine are quite a ways down from the neck though.

As far as the headliner goes, if all fails, what I did once was make a couple long sticks, that could be stuck up on the headliner like a bow to hold it up. You can use anything long enough that you can form a bow with like stiff wire, etc. The car was over 20 years old and was just embarassing to have the headliner flopping around inside to be seen out the back window. I had no intention of fixing it and kept it out of my eyes anyway.

“Bitte ein Bier” is probably all you need to know!

True. We’ll be there for Reformation Day which I hear is one big celebration.