Home » Here’s My Idiotic Plan To Drive A Broken 240,000-Mile $500 Toyota Minivan 1000 Miles To Save My Ailing Coworker

Here’s My Idiotic Plan To Drive A Broken 240,000-Mile $500 Toyota Minivan 1000 Miles To Save My Ailing Coworker

Van Trip Ts
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I just bought a one-way Southwest flight from LA to St. Louis. Luckily, it comes with two check-in bags, because I’ve got a ton of tools I need to bring with me, as the trip’s purpose is to revive a dead 2005 Toyota Sienna Minivan that I bought for $500. I have exactly one day to turn it from “immobile, been sitting for years” to “ready to drive 1000 miles,” and my plan isn’t great. Hear me out.

The truth is, I’m not entirely sure what’s wrong with the minivan that a reader named Dave sold me for $500. When I visited him, he showed me that the struts are broken (like this), but as the vehicle has been sitting, there’s no telling what else might be wrong. I do know that it was his trusty all-wheel family drive minivan for years, but is no longer needed, so it just sits on the side of the road, awaiting a blogger to finally pick it up after over a year of promises.

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Well, the time has come for me to finally save this van and bring it to my coworker, Jason, who has suffered far too many automotive mishaps, and is in desperate need of a car that just works — you know, a Toyota (the fact that it has 240,000 miles and cost $500 doesn’t change anything, right?).

A week from Monday, I’m off with my tools to St. Louis, where a bunch of parts that I’ve ordered from eBay will await me. Here are those parts:

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Screen Shot 2024 01 05 At 8.01.36 Am

Now, do I necessarily need control arms and sway bar links and tie rods? No, but I will say that the odds of only the struts being bad are pretty damn low, and I’d like to have replacement parts on hand, just in case.

Screen Shot 2024 01 05 At 8.02.48 Am

I may have actually gone a bit overboard with front-end replacement parts, but I do think having a set of front wheel bearings on hand is a smart idea, so I snagged those as well. And I know, I know, many folks will say “damn, those are some cheap eBay parts,” and it’s true, but if I’m honest, I’ve had good luck with eBay front-end kits, especially for cars that aren’t driven a ton. Plus, those two purchases added up to almost the cost of the van, so they weren’t that cheap.

Screen Shot 2024 01 05 At 8.05.14 Am

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Above you can see my planned route. It’s 811 miles to VA, where The Autopian will be doing some exclusive testing on a secret test track, and another 110 or so miles to Jason in Chapel Hill. I look forward to hooning the all-wheel drive minivan around that track, but most importantly, to getting Jason a car he can depend on: a Toyota.

Will it live up to the hype? Will it solve Jason’s seemingly-unending automotive woes — the broken Ford F-150 flywheel, the seized beetle engine, the overheating VW Tiguan, the janky battery’d Changli, the MacGuyver’d Yugo? Will this minivan be the salvation he deserves, allowing him to stress less so that his recently-burst heart can truly heal?

We’ll find out soon. Hopefully I still remember how to wrench on rustbuckets.

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Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
4 months ago

The Internet: “Come on Tracy/Torch, just get a Toyota so you have at least one solid dependable back up vehicle.”

David: “Hold my wrench!”

The Internet:…..

Last edited 4 months ago by Shooting Brake
Clark B
Clark B
4 months ago

Looks like you’ll be passing right through Louisville, my neck of the woods!

WolffyWolff
WolffyWolff
4 months ago

I got a first gen Sienna from a CO-worker who didn’t wanna drive it back home to Virginia from NC. The strut mount crapped out in the same way, so he let it go cheap. I thought it might’ve needed new control arms and tie rod ends but they were surprisingly still tight and the boots still intact. The rest of the van was in awesome shape for it’s age. I get why folks like wrenching on Toyotas.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago

Just remember: you asked for it.

LBA Oak
LBA Oak
4 months ago

Meetup in Chapel Hill/triangle area?

Deathspeed
Deathspeed
4 months ago

Dude you are crazy, and I love it.
Beware of Detroit Axle – they will not honor their warranty unless you have the parts installed by a professional shop. Ask me how I know.

BloggyMcBlogBlog
BloggyMcBlogBlog
4 months ago
Reply to  Deathspeed

How do you know?

Deathspeed
Deathspeed
4 months ago

Damn, I didn’t think anyone would actually take me up on that. I wish I could make this cleaver or funny, or get enough attention to get them to change their policy.
I installed a replacement axle from them, which clicked instantly just like the old one. When I tried to get a replacement, they told me 3x “Hello, Thank you for contacting Detroit Axle. The order falls under warranty and in order for warranty to be valid, the parts need to be installed by a certified mechanic” even though the warranty page said NOTHIING about that. I reminded them that people purchasing parts from Amazon are most likely doing their own work, not taking to a garage, and that I had purchased bearing hubs and brake rotors from them before, but they wouldn’t budge. I ordered a new one from Bodeman and it has worked perfectly.
Now I will not even look at this brand, regardless of price and ratings, and I tell as many people as possible to stay away.
I buy lottery tickets in hopes of being able to go all Elon and purchase this company and fire whoever was responsible for the warranty policy.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
4 months ago
Reply to  Deathspeed

I wonder how they define “professional”. I have the piece of paper from school saying I’m a car mechanic but I’m not working as one. Would that count?

Deathspeed
Deathspeed
4 months ago

Damn I never thought about that! I have a friend who has that piece of paper but is working a different occupation and I borrowed his impact wrench for the job, so it’s like he worked on it.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
4 months ago
Reply to  Deathspeed

There you go!

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago

Well hopefully this van lasts him at least to next summer which is when I plan on replacing my 2008 Fit. My Fit runs great. But my kids need to learn how to drive and the Fit is stick… so not ideal. And it’s getting a bit rusty, but nothing that you can’t handle David.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
4 months ago

You should definitely teach them on the Fit. It’s small/maneuverable, has an honest clutch that won’t make you sorry you skipped leg day at the gym, has a five star safety rating and when they wipe it out, you won’t miss it too much. We taught our kids to drive in our ‘87 Maxima 5 speed and they still drive stick shift Jeeps (it’s not as though they had no seat time in real cars).

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

Part of the problem is I live in the city. So finding places and parking lots with no other cars around isn’t as easy as you’d think.

And I did do some lessons with my son in the Fit, but I believe in practice, first they need to learn how to drive on an automatic (like I did) and learn stick right after. Part of the problem is being in the city, as soon as I take them on the road, there would often be someone on our asses because he’s driving slowly because he’s learning.

It would be different if we were out in the country, but we’re not.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
4 months ago

We took the kids to the local Jr. College on Sunday (churches on Tuesday evening might do too). One trick was to have them start out at the face of a speed bump to improve their clutch skills.

A couple of days of practice in the parking lot had them confident enough to change gears and try the street (suburbs are best). Our daughter was accelerating down an on ramp to merge onto the freeway when my wife told her that the cars at the end are stopped. She said “they’re not supposed to be”.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
4 months ago

La contraire sir. The Fit IS perfect for teaching your kids how to drive. It’s old enough that they can screw it up a little bit, and new enough that they’ll be relatively safe. And you’ll be teaching them a valuable and dying skill. My father wouldn’t let us drive an automatic until we had mastered a clutch. I wish I would have done the same with my kids but I couldn’t find a manual to teach them on.

Last edited 4 months ago by Phil Layshio
Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
4 months ago
Reply to  Phil Layshio

[thick French accent] It’s “AU contraire”. Silly américains, butchering the French language.

Also, I’m fully on board with teaching kids how to drive stick. I’ve seen US roads, they have time to work on their clutch game on your straight AF asphalt.

Last edited 4 months ago by Manuel Verissimo
Marteau
Marteau
4 months ago

Was about to be that guy …
So funny to see americans wanting to look fancy by using french when they don’t know.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago
Reply to  Marteau

Mon Dieu!

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
4 months ago
Reply to  Marteau

To be fair, you find a shit ton of butchered English when French dudes want to be cool, or even worse, want to sound smart at work.

Marteau
Marteau
4 months ago

Fact

It'll buff out
It'll buff out
4 months ago
Reply to  Marteau

Gonna have to buy me a Poo-Joo, or a Cit-ro-en, and up my game, I guess.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
4 months ago

I know lol. Speech text, broken hand…

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago
Reply to  Phil Layshio

Part of the problem is I live in the city. So finding places and parking lots with no other cars around isn’t as easy as you’d think.

And I did do some lessons with my son in the Fit, but I believe in practice, first they need to learn how to drive on an automatic (like I did) and learn stick right after. Part of the problem is being in the city, as soon as I take them on the road, there would often be someone on our asses because he’s driving slowly because he’s learning.

It would be different if we were out in the country, but we’re not.

It'll buff out
It'll buff out
4 months ago

Actually a stick is ideal to teach them in. Much like flying a tailwheel airplane, they will have a much deeper unsdertanding of driving. Proper use of different gears, engine braking, what a handbrake is for, and best of all, if you disable the bluetooth, both hands will be full, and they won’t be distracted by their cell phones, while driving. 🙂

Scott Ashley
Scott Ashley
4 months ago

Isn’t wrenching on rust buckets like riding a bike? However less pleasant!

Whatawookiee
Whatawookiee
4 months ago

Ha! I actually did something very similar a few years ago. I had to take 6 other family members with me from Nashville to Phoenix one Christmas, and I was very disappointed with how much renting a van cost (not to mention how expensive holiday flights would be for the 7 of us). I figured I would find a cheap van, drive it on the trip, then sell it when I got back (famous last words…).
I came across an ’07 Sienna XLE with 190K, a dented fender, and a bad axle. I replaced the axles, changed the fluids, and got some new tires. That van was such a comfortable traveling companion! I liked it so much, I couldn’t bear to get rid of it, when we got back home. I eventually traded it to my brother, and he used it for a few more years until it started developing some transmission solenoid issues around 300K. It still ran like new, though…

Last edited 4 months ago by Whatawookiee
Gardenbolt
Gardenbolt
4 months ago
Reply to  Whatawookiee

07 transmission issues were the top complaint.
https://www.carcomplaints.com/Toyota/Sienna/2007/

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
4 months ago

Any car with 240,000 miles and “low stress” is a contradiction in terms.

Gardenbolt
Gardenbolt
4 months ago

i always consult the data before checking out anything used. it points you in the right direction for issues to look for.
https://www.carcomplaints.com/Toyota/Sienna/

Tim R
Tim R
4 months ago

If you have time in NC, I’m sure there’s some Autopians around here that would be happy to buy you (and Jason, but he’s probably on a heart-healthy diet now) a beer or other beverage.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim R

I second this, and if it turns out that more wrenching is needed when you arrive in the lovely Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle area, I’m willing to bet I could gather all the hands you could possibly need, maybe more than you want.

LBA Oak
LBA Oak
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim R

I third it. Would love a meetup or something.

STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim R

Tar Heel State Autopians: Unite!

GizmonicLoadingBay
GizmonicLoadingBay
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim R

Oh definitely, I’m in Chapel Hill-ishand would love to meet up, even finding some heart healthy bbq substitutions for Jason.

James Wallace
James Wallace
4 months ago

Be really careful in taking any tools with you in carry on. I had to fly out to Orange County to check out an airplane I was contemplating purchasing. The Twin Otter has a couple of things you want to look at very closely and you need a stupidly large wrench to access one item. So aside from my small few hand tools, I had 1 3/8″ combination wrench in my backpack. Big wrench.

I put the backpack on the conveyer to go through TSA scan. While I am waiting for my shoes and backpack a nice but physically enormous, like Brienne the Knight on Game of Thrones, enormous. Reaches into my backpack and pulls out the wrench.

In a very loud voice she proclaims, “Sir, your tool is too large!” So in an equally loud voice, I reply, “that is not what my wife says!”

Needless to say the entire line and all the TSA broke out in hysterical laughter.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
4 months ago
Reply to  James Wallace

I was in a line where a woman was bringing back a souvenir and got called out by an agent that claimed her snow globe had too much liquid in it. Let’s just say it started with “you freakin’ creep that’s none of your business” and descended from there. Good times…

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
4 months ago

DT, while you’re at Jason’s, are you going to fix the F150?

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
4 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Yeah, honestly this seems more like the ticket. Get the Marshal running right and it will provide a lot of miles of good service, even though it’s not a great family hauler.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
4 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

Better than the changli. He could probably fix a couple of the other cars while he’s there.

Space
Space
4 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

David said in the comments of another article that he was going to fix the F-150.

Drquest
Drquest
4 months ago

I live about an hour directly east of St. Louis and it looks like you’ll be passing through here! How cool is that?

10001010
10001010
4 months ago

This is an awesome and touching effort by Tracy but this van desperately needs a bumper sticker, “MY AORTA DISSECTED AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY MINIVAN”.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Autopian T-shirt?

10001010
10001010
4 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I’d buy that merch

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
4 months ago

I just drove a good chunk of that route in the other direction. Spent a week in DC over the holiday break. Drove down Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, then through WV, KY, IN, IL, MO and home to KS.

Michael Park
Michael Park
4 months ago

Please put a set of tires on it! That’s all I ask ????

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago
Reply to  Michael Park

I’m sure he will… a nice set of tires… a nice set of used tires… nice CRUSTY used tires… from China…

Michael Park
Michael Park
4 months ago

Tires so dry rotted the cracks spell out the DOT numbers in Roman numerals lol

Last edited 4 months ago by Michael Park
Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
4 months ago

This is a good plan. So it will obviously not work. I am curious to see what goes wrong.

Old Fart Parts Guy
Old Fart Parts Guy
4 months ago

Wow you got Busted Aorta an AWD minivan for $500?

Mocamino
Mocamino
4 months ago

I was wondering why you were taking a very much not direct route, then I read “…where The Autopian will be doing some exclusive testing on a secret test track…”. Now it makes (more) sense. With the parts you’ve bought plus a fresh oil change, I imagine it won’t have a bit of trouble. With that said, has the buyer reported on the state of the battery? Sitting for a long time not being used often equals “perfectly good battery went dead”.

I put Detroit Axle hubs on my wife’s Grand Vitara last year. They were among the least expensive hubs I could find. They fit great and we haven’t had a single problem with them.

Last edited 4 months ago by Mocamino
Sailin' Shoes
Sailin' Shoes
4 months ago

You’ll be fine; have T-100 with 418000 on the clock. Cheap fuel at Waddy truck stops, and remember you have friends here in KY, right KYFIRE…

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
4 months ago

Best of luck. I am sure any Autopians along the way will lead a hand, I am too far north and broken myself so cannot help.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago

I have had great luck with Detroit Axle so I think it’s a smart purchase.

As you know, my concern is with the brakes. Please check the rear brake lines where the plastic sheathing ends right before they connect to the rear hoses. They used steel lines and they very prone to rusting through. Working brakes make driving so much more pleasurable IMO.

Please do not hoon it! It’s a 240k vehicle on which you are pinning hopes of future reliability. It’s just not worth it. Heck, those rear coils are probably so floppy now I wouldn’t be surprised if rolled over in a hard turn (not really, but you get my point).

When was the last timing belt change? 240/90 = I sure hope it was done at or after 180k.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

This. No hoon van for saving Jason pls. As funny as it might be

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Disagree with no hoon statement. Would much rather things break in a controlled environment vs with Jason at the wheel performing an emergency maneuver to avoid a deer.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago

You make a great point. However, as we know, Jason does not actually avoid deer. He hits them, so no worries. 😉

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Maybe DT should install a bull bar on this van…

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Those rear coils can probably slinky down stairs now.

Wirelessandy
Wirelessandy
4 months ago

I swear if David had a TV show with this theme, I’d totally watch it.

Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
4 months ago
Reply to  Wirelessandy

Check out Vice Grip Garage on youtube he does this kind of thing. Sight unseen purchase of something old that hasn’t driven in years and he tries to fix it up and drive it home.

Last edited 4 months ago by Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
JDE
JDE
4 months ago

or Roadworthy Rescues on Motortrend, Same Derek, same basic show, just a little edited for TV.

It'll buff out
It'll buff out
4 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Derek is the best. The editing is much better on his You Tube Channel. Roadworthy Rescues just seems so “pre-canned”. They edit out to many of the quirks that make him so funny to watch. D.T. is gonna get you a real “Goin’ Ta Town Rig” with that Red Sienna, Torch.

Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
4 months ago
Reply to  It'll buff out

I agree. VGG on youtube is much better.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
4 months ago
Reply to  Wirelessandy

And we’re getting daily episodes no less! Between this story and yesterday’s about the $350 Jeep, David’s going whole hog with his return to majoring league wrenching.

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