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97 Aerostar cargo van...recommended or not?

I’m looking for an old “beater” cargo van for use as an occasional road trip/camping vehicle. There’s a '97 Aerostar cargo van for sale locally. 120k miles on it; asking price is $850. Seller says needs front wheel bearing. Haven’t seen/driven it yet. Have read owner’s reviews on Edmunds and Kelly, and most of them praise the durability/reliability of the van. Many of the owners claim 200k+ miles.

All you professional mechanics: your opinions, please.

Owner’s reviews of vehicles are a good place to start, but they don’t tell you anything about the history of the vehicle in question.

If the vehicle you’re looking at has been properly maintained it might be worth buying. On the other hand, if it’s been neglected or abused it may already be on its last legs.

Does the current owner have any maintenance records?

I haven’t heard back yet from the owner, but will certainly ask for maintenance records, and would have the van checked thoroughly by a mechanic before buying.

Just wondering what others’ general opinions of/experiences with the Aerostar are.

Nobody has experience with Aerostars?

I had a 1990 Ford Aerostar and really liked it. It did have the engine replaced and the transmission rebuilt under warranty. However, after this work was done, I drove the vehicle to 125,000 miles and it was in good shape when I traded it. Of the 4 minivans I have owned, 1990 Ford Aerostar, 2000 Ford Windstar, 2006 Chevrolet Upander and 2011 Toyota 4Runner, the Aerostar was my favorite.

The Aerostar is based on the Ranger chassis as was my 92 Explorer.
It was my faithful unstopable workhorse, which I sold to my wife’s co-worker @ 140k when we up-sized.
There are truly times I wish I had it back again.

In good condition the Aerostar should keep on truckin’ .

PS–Also, has anyone experienced the “cam synchro” problem I’ve read about on the 3.0L engine?

I liked the Aerostar because it was more “trucklike” than “carlike”. Consumer Reports criticized the Aerostar for being more like a truck, but I liked its trucklike characteristics. I liked the rear wheel drive and the roominess of the interior. We drove the 1990 Aerostar on over the road trips in preferance to the 1993 Oldsmobile 88 we had at the time. The Aerostar was more comfortable for us.

We sell a few of those, but not a big concern at all considering the huge numbers of those engines.

A friend of mine had a 1986 Aerostar, not the best model year. He towed a camping trailer with it and had it for 300,000 miles. During that time only the transmission failed and the repair cost $2800 at that time. It was quite reliable, but that model was rust-prone.

He now has a Dodge minivan and no longer pulls a trailer. He believes this one will not last as long or be as reliable.

Thanks for all the input. I’m going to take a look at this thing on Tuesday and see what condition it’s in.

I bought a 1993 Aerostar (4.0L), Eddy Bauer model (leather and top of the line) in 1997, and now have 258,600 miles on it, with very little trouble. It is the all-wheel-drive version. It did wear out an alternator, a starter, and the A/C compressor, but I replaced those myself. I’m also on my third “clock spring” cable in the steering column, but they are not hard to replace.
Amazingly, the original radiator hoses are still in service, but it has blown a couple of heater hoses over the years. Not fun to replace the plugs yourself, but fortunately they very rarely need it. We’ve taken family road trips in it many times, including coast-to-coast and over the top of the Rockies in Colorado, and it has been great. Can’t say enough good about it.

Im guessing the person decided whether or not to buy the van after 6 years.

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It is still a valid and valuable recommendation of a reliable vehicle. I’ve known several people with Aerostars, and as long as the Aerostars are 1993-1997 and 4.0L, the recommendations have been positive. I still love mine. - Dave Bogardus “I have only proven it correct, not tried it.” - Donald Knuth

I had a lot of friends that did head gaskets on those. Sounds like it is worth a chance. Talk about taking chances and diamonds in the rough, went to police bike auction today, really wanted a police bike, nice raleighs, last year went from 75 to 125, this year I need one, only one in the auction and lost out at $150, my max bid. But daughter needed a bike for college, so I bought a Gary Fisher, for $24. Looked good, aluminum frame good parts, got some new tires for it and found it was made by Trek. Got it all spiffed up for college daughter, actually a very nice bike, and seeing $700 or so for a comparable, jees things got expensive fast!