An old van in the mountains?

I have a 1999 plymouth voyager with 88000 miles on it and I’m planning to go the mountains of west virginia with a carload full of people. Should I be worried about this and what should I do to prepare? Te van’s in pretty good condition, but she hasn’t been driven for a while.

Since the vehicle hasn’t been driven in a while, you should make sure it’s caught up on maintenance. The first thing to do is look in the owner’s manual. If the vehicle is nearly due, or past due, for any maintenance items, either by mileage or time, take care of those.

Also should check things like the fluids, belts, hoses, brakes, and tires (condition and inflation pressure), which are often not included in scheduled maintenance. If you don’t know how to check these items, have a more knowledgeable friend or a mechanic look at them.

Catch up maintenance, and check things listed above. If changing oil, I prefer to do that a few days before a long trip so that a possible leak will have time to show itself before going far from home.

Check the passenger capacity and weight capacity of the vehicle and make sure neither is exceeded. Be sure you’re familiar with mountain driving techniques, the owner’s manual will have information about this. A loaded vehicle on mountain roads will not perform as well as a lightly-loaded vehicle on level roads, so don’t expect or demand the same acceleration and performance. Don’t push the vehicle too hard.

And, aside from everything else, have fun.

You should be worried. I’m assuming your van will have to endure sharp uphill and downhill grades (each of which will go on for many miles) in an older van of uncertain maintenance that is pretty close to the end of it’s useful life, which hasn’t been driven for a while, and will be filled to seating capacity I assume by adults who are mostly overweight.

This is a recipe for disaster. Even if your van can manage the inclines, which it may or may not be capable of doing, depending on the size of your engine and torque, the brakes are very likely to overheat during long declines in a fully loaded and probably overweighted van.
I don’t know what kind of grades you might encounter, either uphill or downhill. I wouldn’t even begin to recommend what sort of preparation you should make to attempt this trip. Don’t even try it. Find a flat route if you need to load the van up. And have the van inspected for everything by a competent mechanic first.

Frankly it should not be a problem.  I would worry about snow or ice, but otherwise you should be fine.  Of course I am assuming the recommended maintenance is up to date.  If not I would highly recommend getting it done now.  Also make sure the brakes are in good condition.  I would have them checked.

Now there is one maintenance that you need if you have an automatic transmission and that is a simple drain, clean filter and refill.  For reasons unknown car manufacturers seem to want transmission failures.  BTW if you have a manual, the transmission should be fine.

Thanks for the help. I am a little worried about the long descents, but I’ll check the breaks first and I should be fine putting it in low gear and mostly coasting, no? what i am worried about is being able to get up the hills. It’s a 4-cylinder and, fully loaded, the acceleration isn’t the best. But the handling isn’t bad. On flat land, the handling (on a straight highway) is ok until around 70 or 75 MPH. Obviously I am worried about snow though. I dont think I’ll be able to make it if the conditions are bad.

Basically is there anything wrong with coasting long distances with a heavy load in low gear? And, in your opinion, does a 4-cylinder have enough power and will it be dangerous?

There’s something that sounds wrong with pleaseplymouthvan. Am I the only one who feels this way?

All seriousness aside; Can’t you get out of going there? I guess people do go on ski trips and they manage to come back.

Now it’s just a matter of supplies. Don’t bring Power Bars or your former friends will beat the heck out of you if you get stuck anywhere for more than ten minutes. I can see the headline now: “Body found stuck to tree with half-eaten Power Bars.” Cruel but defective. Golfers eat those things but then, they’re golfers. Golfers have a favorite sport, it’s called football.

A couple children’s snow shovels with a four foot wooden dowel between the shovel and the handle can move a lot of snow without causing back injury. I transform those things in my secret laboratory. They work better than those 28" shovels that “extend” to 34". Hunchbacks must love those things.

Don’t come looking for me, I will be hiding. I won’t be anywhere near West Virginia anyway.

Use the transmission to slow the car downhill, You can’t hurt it by putting it in first because it won’t downshift into a lower gear until it drops to a safe speed for that gear.

Having lived in both the Rockies and the Shenandoahs, I’ll first off say that. . .West Virginia hasn’t got any mountains. It has bumps :wink:

Your van will be fine, assuming scheduled maintenance has been followed. At most I’d get the cooling system and the brakes checked by a mechanic that you can trust (NOT Pep-boys or the like - they’ll claim crap is broken just to sell you stuff you don’t need). I drove a van as old as that in the Rockies with no issues. Acceleration uphill was slow, but then you shouldn’t be going overly fast on twisting roads with thousand-foot dropoffs anyway.

It’s not dangerous (assuming you don’t overload the car), but the car is old enough that there’s a chance of a breakdown, so be prepared for that with boots, gloves, and the right clothing.

As you say, it’s likely to be slow up the hills, but lots of other traffic is also slow going up the hills, so that’s not a big deal. Think about pulling over to let people pass if necessary.

Catch up on any needed maintenance, as already pointed out, especially brake fluid replacement if it’s called for.

How many people, total?

The only thing I will add is that since it appears that your van is going to be loaded down (maybe even overloaded) you should make sure that not only is the tire pressure correct and the tread at least half decent you should make sure those tires are not weather cracked ones.

Weather cracked tires, heating due to highway speeds, loaded down van, mountain roads, etc. could point to a blown tire at any time and a rolling ride to the bottom of a ravine.