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Prolong the life of my 2001 Odyssey for towing camper in summer?

My family and I spend 5 weeks every summer touring the country in our pop-up camper, pulled by our 2001 Honda Odyssey. My kids (now 11 & 15) have visited all the 48 contiguous states, and we still speak to each other! My problem is that the Odyssey now has 230,000 miles on it. Our great mechanic says it should easily make it to 300,000. We no longer really need a minivan for everyday life, and I put a lot of miles on it driving the kids around. We want the van to last for the few more years of summer trips that we have with the kids, so we’re thinking of getting a small, day to day car and garaging the van for summers. We’d like it to last, and maybe give it to my youngest in 7 years for college. We want to spend less than $20,000. My husband is 6’2". What should I be looking for? I’m completely helpless about car makes, years, cost, etc. Any help would be welcome!!!

You want a car for less than $20K so you can park the Odyssey and save it for the future? You really need to give more info on your needs for this new to you $20K or less car. One driver is 6’2" that’s all we know. Will this be a commuter car? A haul the kids to gymnastics car? Do you have dogs to carry? Do you think a sedan with a good sized trunk is going to be do the job?

For $20K or less you are looking at a used car, perhaps a car coming off a lease with about 40K miles and 3-4 years old. You might go to the Enterprise Cars for sale web site. There are a variety of cars on the site that are rental cars up for sale. It will give you prices and help you get more specific about what you want. AutoTrader.com is a good site to see lots of cars. For general research Edmonds.com has reviews and gives details like true costs to own and mpg numbers.

I don’t like this plan much. Just because your mechanic thinks the Ody will make it to 300K, it doesn’t mean that it is going to, or it is not going to need major repairs doing it (think transmission). And when you part the car, you are setting it up for aging while sitting. I will just keep driving the Van, save your money, and when the van brakes, depending on your needs buy a new car.
Also, in 7 years, you will know better if the kid going to college needs a minivan or a small sedan or maybe nothing depending in where college is.

A lot depends on the general condition of the vehicle right now, and a lot of that depends on the preventative maintenance (PM) schedule you have kept in the past. If you have had regular oil changes, coolant changes, transmission fluid changes and timing belt service, this vehicle could easily go 300k miles.

Hondas do develop oil leaks from the front seals, but the timing belt service should address these each time. If you are not using any oil, or very little oil, then you are in good shape. Just keep up the PM schedule. If you haven’t had the CV joint boots replaced, you might want to do a preemptive service on them. Once they tear, the axle will only last a month or two depending on the time of year that it happens in. Normally by the time you find out that they have torn, its too late to save the axle. But then sometimes you can replace the axles for about what it costs just to have them rebooted.

A vehicle will deteriorate faster if it is not driven regularly. If you are going to keep it, drive it at least once a week if not more. When they sit around, the seals dry out and fluids start leaking. You might try going with a small car to commute back and forth to work, but on the weekends, use the van exclusively, even for a short trip to the grocery store. That will keep everything lubricated and in shape. Just make sure to drive it somewhere every weekend. It could be your Sunday morning going to meeting car.

You could just drive it until a big problem occurs and buy another Odyssey. From a money standpoint, this makes the best sense. BTW, a new Odyssey gets much better gas mileage. Your 2001 gets 16 MPG city,23 MPG highway with an average of 18 MPG. A new Odyssey is rated for 19 city, 28 highway and 22 MPG average. You might also consider a Pilot or Ridgeline, but you won’t get the good mileage of the new Odyssey.

Perhaps you already know this, but Honda put a lot of troublesome transmissions in their cars from around 2001 to 2003. I’m pretty sure this includes the Odyssey. I’d be pretty nervous about using one with that many miles to tow, especially far from home.

At 40 grand for a new Odyssey, keeping the old one is still the most economical decision.

Our 2001 Odyssey is on its 4th transmission (all but one paid for by Honda). Still need to squeeze a couple more years out of it, so we try to take it out monthly for at least some highway driving.

Monthly isn’t enough, you need to do it once a week, at least for a short trip every week. You need to keep the seals wet.

A Honda Odessey is not a good tow vehicle, which you probably already know by now! One family on our street here had a tent trailer and took it to the mountains. The transmission (its original one) burned out and in view of the vehicle’s age of about 9 years it was not deemed worth fixing. They now have a Honda SUV which is more rugged. You are trying to save he exact wrong vehicle, which by your own admission has already gone through 4 transmissions. Some of those repairs, I suspect were due to towing a trailer with it.

The next breakdown will of course not be covered by warrranty.

If you are really serious about “squeezing” a few more trouble-free trips out of it, install a transmission oil cooler which will help keep the temperature down. That should cost about $150 or so. I have installed 8 such units over the years on various cars, but all of them rear wheel drive units. Having towed trailers since 1972, I have also never had a transmission fail.

P.S. Sorry, I thought Hokie Dad was your husband and you were on your 5th transmission.

I agree with Docnick on the transmission oil cooler and will add that you should have the dealer do a fluid change using the new Honda ATF, it is better than the Z1 fluid.