Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. Today we're talking vans. How are you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So big showdown Ford Econoline versus Chevy Express. And I guess there's a GMC Savannah in there as well, which is the better van?
Bernie: Which is a better van, while we're going to talk about a few issues of these vans, but I I'm clearly not going to come out and say one is better than the other. So if that's what you're looking for, you'll have to wait.
Mark: So what are some of the differences between these two brands?
Bernie: Well, they're essentially the same vehicle. I mean, they fit in the same category. They make cargo vans and passenger vans. They also make cutaway vans. And the cutaway is basically you have the front of the van and the frame, and then you can put a cube van box on the back or sometimes they'll put a bus chassis on the back, or even a motor home. Ford seems to be a little more popular in that area. They seem to be a little more utilized in that area, but, you know, those are some of the uses, but they're essentially the same category of vehicle.
Mark: So, well, let's start with engines then. What issues do you see in between these two vehicles?
Bernie: Yeah. So let's talk about engine and actually just to define that the model years, we're going to start from 2000 and up, you know, I mean, these vans have been around for a long time. The Econoline has been around since 1961. And, you know, for a version of a Chevy van has been around since, you know, around that time too. So we're not going to get back into, into the earlier stuff. Since 2000, I mean, Ford's, you can get these with V6 engines or V8s. V8s are much more popular and I wouldn't really recommend a V6 engine. It might be appealing in terms of, you know, better fuel economy, but they're really, they're generally overstrained and the Ford version, they had a 4.2 litre V6, not a good engine, head gasket problems, expensive, you know, not worth having.
The GM 4.3, probably a better engine, but, you know, again, kind of underpowered so it'll generally wear out faster unless you're hauling really light loads. So again, the question is like, which van do you want to get? Depends on what kind of loads you're hauling. And we'll talk more about that as we get on.
But let's talk about the V8. So, you know, Fords, and most of them come with the Triton V8. There's a lot of issues with these engines. In the earlier 2000 spark plugs with blow to these engines, because they didn't have enough threading in the spark plug, which caused problems. And often that would happen when you might be in a 15 passenger bus going up a hill with a load of people and all of a sudden boom, a spark plug pops out and you're stranded.
So not a good scenario. Nothing that's really in the maintenance world that you can take care of. It's just, it just happens out in the road. Then they fixed that and they put in spark plugs of a very unique design that would break off when you service them in the vehicle, costing a lot of extra money and grief. And then finally in around the later 2000s, they put proper spark plugs in and the problem was solved. So if you're buying anything from probably 08 and newer, you're not going to have that kind of spark plug issues.
Other areas though, with the Fords that we see, intake manifolds will leak, they'll develop coolant leaks. It's a plastic manifold usually you have to replace the whole thing. Can be kind of an expensive repair. And there's some issues, the Ford engine I have to say in their favour, because I'm talking about problems, it's a more sophisticated engine. Overhead cam, so you're getting more power and performance out of the engine than you would on a Chevy, which is a simpler design with push rods.
But there's more complexity with the overhead cam is variable valve timing, and they have problems with the cam phasers in that system. So, you know, if you're really good at changing your oil and doing good services, chances are that'll be fairly trouble-free, but usually, you know, by the time you hit a couple of hundred thousand kilo-meters, it's probably pretty near game over for one of these engines. So not quite as durable.
The Chevy's on the other hand, not all of those problems I mentioned, none of the above. They're just really pretty good, durable, solid engines. You know, being a van, of course, you know, doing any service on them is more complicated because you've got to remove that cover and get into servicing in strange ways. But things like spark plugs last an awful long time, so they don't need to be replaced very often. And I say, you know, as far as engines go, I would give the Chevy my winning vote.
Mark: Can you buy these vans with diesel engines?
Bernie: You can and we do service a few of them. I can't think of if we've ever done a Chevy, but Chevy, they're available from 2006 to 16 with a Duramax diesel. The Fords have had diesels in them for a long time, like way back before the 2000 model year. And, they actually have the 6 litre up to, I think it was 2014, which is, you know, they discontinued the trucks after 2008. So, you know, that's still available. I would not recommend a diesel unless you're hauling exceptionally heavy loads. Diesels need to be worked. That's really the bottom line with a diesel.
So if you're a say, I don't know, I'm just going to say a plumber and you've got like a lot of heavyweight inside your van and you're towing a trailer behind it, that would be a really good use of having a diesel powered van. But other than that, I really don't see a lot of reason for it. In all fairness, it seems like the diesels are, they seem to have less problems in vans than they do in the trucks. Probably because they aren't worked so hard, but when things happen, they're really expensive to fix.
We've got a lot of videos and info about diesels, especially the Fords. There's a lot to go wrong and they're more complicated in a van because they're harder to access. So you really need to think twice about getting a diesel in a van. That's my recommendation.
Mark: Yeah, so fit for purpose, make sure that you're fitting the engine that you're buying for the purpose that you're endeavouring to fulfill.
Bernie: Yeah, exactly. And I will say, Chevy is pretty much limited to V8 engines, but Ford has a V 10 engine as well, which is a monstrous gas guzzling engine. Now again, if you bought a cutaway van, you know, like putting the diesel in there, if you have a big cube van on the back, it makes more sense.
But if you're, and again, we're just talking about kind of a straight, regular cargo van here. The diesel definitely isn't the best option. Look at your purpose, your usage, how much weight you're hauling and that'll help you make the decision.
Mark: What about the transmission and the rest of the drive train?
Bernie: They're pretty much equal. I don't see a lot of problems with one being better or worse than the other, you know, they're both pretty durable. One thing that we haven't talked about here is what kind of van. These vans are, and it depends on what model, they're available ever from half ton to one ton chassis and actually some of the cutaway vans are actually even more durable, like, you know, 450s and 550s for say the Fords. But it really depends, you know, like what kind of a chassis you're buying, what kind of weight it'll haul and we can talk about that a little more in the steering suspension. But generally the drive trains, you know, I find them to be pretty much equal.
Mark: So let's talk about steering and suspension. How do they compare?
Bernie: You know, I'm going to give the edge to Ford on this one. And the reason for Ford is that it's a little simpler. They use a twin I-beam suspension, it's a simpler system. There's less steering linkage involved in a Chevy. So there are less parts to wear out. They do a ball joints that wear out. So do Chevy's, but it seems, and the Chevy's probably last a little longer than the Fords, but the, you know, the steering linkage is much less complicated, so there's less parts and less items to wear out. Not quite as sophisticated. The ride in a Ford is probably a little more truck like but I don't know if you'd actually ever really noticed a difference between the two. It seems like their components are a little tougher on the Ford than the Chevy.
Mark: What about brakes?
Bernie: Brakes are pretty much the same, but I will say that it seems like with Fords, the way they build their brake calipers, that they tend to need to be replaced almost every time you do a brake job. And the reason is not because the caliper seize up, but because the dust boots that they use on their brake caliper seem to be ripped. For some reason, they seem to last for one brake job. And then a lot of times we take the brakes off and say, Oh, the dust boots torn, and so the caliper needs to be replaced.
So I think on a Ford and you can expect to spend a little more money on brakes and you can on a Chevy. Although the calipers on Chevy's do need to be replaced from time to time as well. But you know, pads and rotor life is probably pretty much the same between the two vans.
Mark: Alright, let's go into fit and finish, how everything is put together, how it all feels and how about things like the doors opening and closing? How is that compare between these?
Bernie: Yeah. Doors are kind of important on vans because those are the kinds of things that are used a lot. And I can, I'm going to digress back before the 2000 model years, there were some Chevy vans that had really bad doors. I mean, the sliding doors were crap, you know, really badly built. As a matter of fact, I would say that if you are even looking at something older, it seems like Chevy and GMC vans really and their trucks in general really took a leap forward in quality around the 2000 model year, because there was a lot of stuff where the brakes for instance would not last very long at all. So they were really under sized for braking, whereas Ford really had a big edge back then.
But if we're looking at the 2000 newer, I mean, I'd say they're both probably pretty much equivalent in quality, fit and finish, you know, some of the passenger vans, of course we'll have nicer appointments than the cargo vans. But I can't say that one of them stands out to me a little more than the other.
Mark: Alright, so we've kind of covered everything. Which one would you buy?
Bernie: Well, just before I say that, I do want to just talk about drive train too. So there are half ton, three quarter and one ton versions available. And actually Chevy's, since I believe it's 2014, they don't sell half ton vans anymore. So, the question is like, what are you going to be hauling? That's the other thing to look at. If you're buying a half ton and you're going to be loading it with, 2000 pounds worth of weight, you're going to wear your brakes and drivetrain and everything out a lot faster than if you buy a one ton.
So just look at what you're hauling and that'll help you make a decision as to what you're going to do. Of course, if you buy a half ton and you decided to throw 2000 pounds worth of plywood in every six months. It's probably not going to hurt the van, but if you're doing it regularly, that's going to make a big difference.
So just something to look at. So which one would I choose? If I was going to buy a van, I'd probably buy a Chevy because I like the engines better. And that's my one thing. I'm a little more, a little more biased in that area, but I'm not saying you should buy one over a Ford. The key is just do your research. See what you like. You may have a preference to Ford, and there's really nothing wrong with that. But I think you might spend a little bit less money with a Chevy van than you would with a Ford. It's kind of marginal though. But you know, having a good reliable engine does make a big difference to me. It's one of the more expensive components in a vehicle.
Mark: I guess, as always, it depends on the vehicle you're looking at as well. Since we're talking about used vehicles, how's it been looked after? What kind of shape is it in? How beat up is it? Would make a big difference into what your choice is. And so it becomes really important to get a pre-purchase inspection so, you know what the heck you're getting into right?
Bernie: That is absolutely the most important thing for sure. Look at what you want, decide what you want, do your own research and then get a pre-purchase inspection to see if the is good, because it might not be. And if you can buy a vehicle that's got maintenance records as well. That makes a big difference too, because if you know the vehicle is well-maintained and someone's taking care of it, that can make a big difference to how much money you're going to be spending in the future on fixing things.
Mark: So there you go. If you want honest opinions that cut through all the baloney, all the we're better than they are, blah, blah, blah, Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to get maintenance and repairs and book your appointment, come in, all makes and models of cars. If you're not in the area or you just want more research, pawlikautomotive.com, hundreds of videos on there on all makes and models of cars and trucks and all kinds and types of repairs and maintenance. Or check out the YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair, same thing, hundreds of videos on there. Thanks for watching and listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Leave us a review if you like what we're laying down. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching and listening.