January 5

Ford Econoline Vans, How Reliable Are They?



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. How you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: I'm doing very well.

Mark: So, Ford Econoline vans. This is actually a request from one of our viewers. They wanted to know how reliable are they. So, how reliable are Ford Econolines?

Bernie: Well, I'd say, to put it simply, they're fairly reliable.

Mark: What do they look like?

Bernie: That's a good question. We see lots of them around. It's interesting, this vehicle's been around, actually since 1960, so let's just do a share here.

So this is a modern version of the van, they made them up to 2014. This is a 2009 model. Right up to 2014, they pretty much looked the same as this. But, if we go back a little bit, this is what they started out as. A lot smaller of a vehicle, and interestingly the engine was actually inside the van, so if you opened the side door here ... if you can see my little mouse pointer ... if we open the side door, you could actually find the engine sitting in there. We called it the doghouse, because it looks like a doghouse. And you could lift the doghouse up and you could service the engine. Usually they were six cylinder, or something pretty small, but it got you around. It's not a huge vehicle. But, as I say, they evolved back into this, with the engine located in the front. And the earlier ... part way through the generations, they actually had a very short hood. Most of it was still inside the front, but these newer ones, there's a lot more access from under the hood.

Mark: So, what are some of the common problems that you see with these vehicles?

Bernie: Well, let's talk about the 2000 and newer vans, because anything older than that we really don't see much of anymore. So some of the common problems with the vehicles ... they pretty much all have V8 gasoline engines, that's the most common configuration. Spark plugs, of course, been a problem with Ford trucks with the Triton Engines, with the spark plugs popping out of the engine, or on some, where they break off. So, spark plugs are an issue, and are difficult to access because it's a van. So, that's one of the issues. The other thing we find, a lot of them there's coolant leaks, I'm talking about the more major issues. Coolant leaks will develop ... a lot of times the intake manifold is made of plastic, and there would be a failure of the coolant crossover passage or thermostat housing that requires replacing the intake manifold, so that's a pretty major piece of work. You know, other than that, they're generally pretty reliable, engine-wise.

Mark: So I ... without all that space to work, I guess, working on the engines on these is really difficult.

Bernie: Well, it is. It is a lot more difficult than a truck, because you can access some of the engine from the front, and then some of it has to be accessed from the inside, so you have to remove a cover, which takes extra work. And then you usually hanging in one of the two doors to access the vehicle. So, yeah, it's definitely more work, so it makes a van more expensive to service than a pickup truck, generally. Things like a transmission or anything underneath the vehicle are all the same, or simpler, but the engine is more complex, time-wise.

Mark: And some of these vans had diesel engines, including the famous Ford six-litre. How are those?

Bernie: Yeah, they are available. They had 7.3-litre diesels, and the six-litres ... I mean it's a large engine crammed into a very small space, so it makes those complex diesels even more work. Personally I wouldn't recommend buying one unless you absolutely need the beefiness of a diesel. The good thing about them, we find with the six-litres, we never done a head-gasket job on one; although we've done many trucks. That's not to say that there aren't other shops that have done them, 'cause they do fail, but I think the failure rate on van six-litre diesels is lower than it is on trucks, simply because you can't really ... most people don't ever load them up like they do in a pickup truck, so they don't really get the wear-and-tear and the strain that you don on a pickup truck. Although, the pickup truck one should last ... shouldn't have the problems it does. But the diesels are a lot more work to do inside the van.

Mark: And like all diesels, change your oil very regularly.

Bernie: Exactly. Change the oil, service the fuel filters ... with anything. And that's same with a gasoline motor, too. Same thing.

Mark: So, what other issues do you see with these vans?

Bernie: Well, a couple ... we do see the odd electrical problem, and there's nothing really specific, there are just a few electrical issues that occur. Sometimes with the door locks and the windows and things like that, which are, again, not entirely uncommon among other vehicles. But they're a few electrical issues here and there. I found with the brakes ... I think the brakes are pretty well built on these vans, at least in the 2000 and newer ... so, pretty tough brakes, but it seems like the callipers on Fords, for some reason, need to be replaced ... I would say every brake-job, but frequently they need to be replaced because the calliper pistons ... the seal they use on 'em seems to ... the dust seal seems to break open for some odd reason. I don't know if it's the heat of the brakes, but ... they seem to need to be replaced quite often. So, you can almost count, if you have a Ford van, Econoline van, you may well be replacing the callipers every time you do the brakes. A lot of them had disc-brakes, front and rear, which is great. I mean, you get better braking with disc-brakes on the back than drums.

Mark: Sure. So overall, what's your verdict on the Ford Econoline van?

Bernie: Well, they're a good tough built truck, and as I've said, I talked about a couple issues. I mean, a diesel I'd avoid unless you absolutely have to have one. The gasoline engines, you've got your spark plugs, intake manifold possibly, and brake callipers. Other than that, they're really reliable. There's little else goes wrong. They're well built.

Mark: So there you go. If you have a Ford Econoline, and you're looking for service in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604)327-7112 to book ahead, they're busy, you’ve got to call and book ahead or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com, or our youtube channel, Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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