Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already.

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Rettax3
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Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already.

Postby Rettax3 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:44 am

As if I didn't have enough to do just working on the Berettas... :roll: My late-nineties Mopar mini-van (actually quite big by the old 'mini-van' standard I was originally introduced to back in the day, as mine can take a full 4'x8' sheet of plywood in the back, if I drop the rear seats out) has been in need of a tune-up, badly. It has been running great -I always have to be careful when leaving the lights or it chirps (or more) the front tires, and pulls loads (like towed cars :roll:) like it should, but it has been I-don't-know-how-long since it got some good attention, and the MPG has plummeted into the teens lately (I usually see around 23 MPG, higher on the highways and a little lower if I am towing around town). I have the 3.3-Litre V-6, not the biggest and not the smallest engine available. Bosch Platinums were in it, and the van has right around 200k on the clock, and I really do not know how long those plugs have been in there, as I never did a tune-up since taking ownership a few years ago. Ordinarily, it would have been one of the first things I would have done after buying a vehicle, but this one ran so good, and the rear plugs are such a b!t%# to replace that I was actually hoping I could wait until swapping in a newer-style intake/top-end, which doesn't require removal of the upper intake plenum to access the rear plugs. But, I just don't have money or patience to do that much work on it right now, and the plugs were really really bad, like the platinum center electrode was gone from four of the six plugs (I've never seen platinum plugs so badly worn before :search:). I also found a little insulator damage on a couple of wires due to age and abrasion, and a slight indication of light arcing on one or two wires too. I went with NGK fine-wire Platinum 'G-Power' plugs, mostly because I really like NGK plugs, and I've already tried the G-Powers before with very good results (in my '89 RS Camaro, with a Police-Special F/I 350 from an '89 Caprice, or my 'old' '88 Camaro with a Cross-Fire Injected 350, I don't recall which car I put them in :pardon:). Anyway, it looks like the Bosch's went into the van without the upper plenum being pulled, but I am not sure the plugs are accessible from underneath the van, and there is no reasonable way to get to them from the top without removing the plenum, so I am not sure what the previous mechanics did to get at those plugs. I discovered that there was a large steel bracket bolted onto the back of the plenum, whose job it was to anchor the alternator's wiring-harness and a grounding-strap. This bracket prevented the upper plenum from clearing the top of the engine, and had to be removed (again, the bolts are in the back of the over-sized upper plenum :roll:) before I could get the plenum out to access the bolts. Wait, what? Yep, catch-22. Asinine design. I managed to pull the bolts after loosening the plenum and cocking it off to one side then the other, but that bracket was then fired -it will not be going back in. The grounding-strap has been relocated to another bolt, and the alternator harness is now anchored to the heater-core bypass-coolant tubes against the fire-wall (which will have to be dealt with if I try to just drop the whole engine out the bottom of the van, so this was clearly a design of assembly-convenience rather than ease-of-maintenance -I am shocked to find this! :shock: [sarcasm] The EGR tube has also suffered an -ahem- "unknown" failure, I think something small, round, and copperish that cost exactly one cent might have found its' way between the manifold and the gas-tube -I hate EGRs and the gunk they deposit inside the intake manifolds... I was very tempted to port-match the upper and lower plenums while I was at it, but I already had too much time spent on the project for one day, and without working-over the rest of the manifold and upgrading the TB, I doubt I would see much difference, so I just didn't bother. Overall, it was an afternoon well-spent, and I feel much better about how I am treating the poor guy, but I still wish I had had the time and money to upgrade the top-end instead. Oh well, IIRC, the newer vans use a plastic upper manifold, and I would prefer to avoid that... And I have a really good discount on Fel-Pro gaskets through my work right now, so the upper plenum set cost me under $2, so I can't complain about that part of it, and with the bracket gone now, replacing those rear plugs next time will be a lot easier. Now, back to work on the Indy project from h-e-double tooth-picks! :wink:


1989 Super Charged 3800 Series II (First)Six-Speed Conversion GTU
1990 Turbo 3.4 Five-Speed T-Type
1990 4.0L 4-Cam 32-Valve V-8 Five-Speed Indy GTi (Rebuild Project)
1990 Stock(!) 3.1 MPFI Auto Indy
1995 3400 Top-End Auto OD Z-26

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1988GTU
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Re: Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already

Postby 1988GTU » Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:15 am

those are harder to find these days. The strut towers usually put them in the junkyard.


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Rettax3
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Re: Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already

Postby Rettax3 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:10 pm

I never heard of strut-tower issues on these before -mark up another thing to look out for. Usually it is transmission issues that end them. I still want to see if a 5-speed from a Duster or a Shadow V-6 car might bolt-up to my engine -then I can fab some mounts, a shift-assembly tower, and a clutch-pedal assembly, and modify a set of CVs for it. Or, I could just buy a five-speed or a six-speed Mazda 5... :roll: I don't think they have the carrying capabilities of my van though, and I really do like this thing. Well, hopefully it keeps going for me without major issues. :Bravo:


1989 Super Charged 3800 Series II (First)Six-Speed Conversion GTU
1990 Turbo 3.4 Five-Speed T-Type
1990 4.0L 4-Cam 32-Valve V-8 Five-Speed Indy GTi (Rebuild Project)
1990 Stock(!) 3.1 MPFI Auto Indy
1995 3400 Top-End Auto OD Z-26

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1988GTU
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Location: A town up north
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Re: Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already

Postby 1988GTU » Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:14 pm

I used to patch in the strut towers when they'd roll in complaining about a "clunk" and "bang" sound when going over decent bumps.

Good van if its rust free!


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Koots
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Re: Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already

Postby Koots » Wed Feb 19, 2014 2:35 am

I always wanted a 90's Dodge Caravan. I hate the early 90's design, though, compared to the later models IMO. I avoid most any minivan though, due to engine bay space/maintenance issues. I don't have any kids though, but a stripped down minivan would make an awesome road trip vehicle, while getting decent mileage. I'd prefer a full size van, but they can barely squeek past 20MPG even at the best of times.

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Plastic intake manifolds don't have to be bad. The LSX engines all have composite intake manifolds and can handle 15+PSI of boost (on 10-11:1 CR) with ease. I can't speak for other manufacturers though...



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Rettax3
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Re: Tuning-up a Mopar van sucks. I miss my Berettas already

Postby Rettax3 » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:15 pm

I really do like this van -we have had it for a few years now. It was owned by another family member since new, but a shop down in Florida did a fluid top-off to it. That shop sponsored a race-car, I hear, and some dolt mixed DOT-5 brake-fluid in as the 'top-off'. The DOT-5 is silicon-based, and it reacted very badly with the rest of the fluid in the system. The front pistons locked in the calipers when the seals expanded, the seals in the master-cylinder softened and started to leak, well, I was offered the van in exchange for replacing the entire brake system -new wheel-cylinders, calipers (and pads due to toasting the old ones), three hoses, a new master-cylinder and seal for the reservoir, and a replacement ABS module from the junk-yard, and a complete flush of all the solid lines. The previous owner got a few more years of service out of the van for only about $225, and I eventually got a free van (I did actually help pay for some parts, because I felt I was taking advantage, although a shop had quoted them something like $2000+ for the work). Win-win.

For the plastic intake on the newer vans, I don't like plastic because it has a tendency to warp under heat, even GM's otherwise reliable 3800 L36 has been known to have problems. I have thought many times about forced-induction on this van, and I am not opposed to doing it at all. But, I still don't like automatic transmissions much, and even though this van seems to be reliably working right, I do have reasons to seriously consider a five-speed (or six-speed) conversion as well. I personally wouldn't have any issues with dropping in a GM L67 3800 SC, like my GTU has but probably without the internal modifications or headers, but the engine runs strong enough that I would rather just bolt-in a Mopar manual trans and keep it Mopar if that is an option. I would have some concerns putting boost into a plastic manifold (LSXs not withstanding) if I can put a metal manifold on instead, but I've never had a problem with boost in the plastic intake of my Z-24's Twin Cam LD9.


1989 Super Charged 3800 Series II (First)Six-Speed Conversion GTU
1990 Turbo 3.4 Five-Speed T-Type
1990 4.0L 4-Cam 32-Valve V-8 Five-Speed Indy GTi (Rebuild Project)
1990 Stock(!) 3.1 MPFI Auto Indy
1995 3400 Top-End Auto OD Z-26


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