Winterizing the ski van

It is getting close, ski season that is, so what better way to spend a day than getting the vehicle ready for winter? We have here a 1996 Dodge Ram Van with some awesome stripes. Sort of a Scooby Doo motif, thanks Starcraft!

Make sure it is running well and ready for winter driving:

It was unclear exactly which spark plug to use on the Mopar 318 (5.2L) V8. I went with Champion RC12LC4 plugs.  I may need to reevaluate this decision because the RN12YC or RN14YC are supposed to be the right ones…Google told me that the ones I used are for 98’+ engines, and the scuttlebutt is the RC plugs have a “longer nose” that the RN plugs (probably for emissions), so I am sticking with this plug, because hey, better = lower emissions?

So, I ended up performing a good deal of maintenance, and replacing the muffler, and the motor mounts, and a ball joint and, well that’s enough details for now.  As a new owner of this vehicle, it is unknown when some of these items were last done… Replace spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor (Mopar), check the vacuum lines and hoses, change engine oil and filter (Castrol/Fram) , change the gear oil in the rear differential (Lucas Oil), do a coolant flush an refill, perform the messiest job ever: transmission pan clean-out and replace filter / fluid. To change the transmission fluid (Valvoline +4 Synthetic) and filter (a 12,000 mile service) you need to take the pan down, and there is no drain plug.

What makes it messy is that the pan is overfull (the oil is fuller than the top edge of the pan when you go to take it off). Thus, the transmission oil drips all over and down from the whole edge of the pan, and it is a big pan in the a**. They (of the internet) say to take the bolts out so that one corner sags lower than the rest, but my experience was that once the oil started flowing, it came out form everywhere along the gasket at once. Next time I advise using a MityVac or other suction pump to pull the oil up and out of the transmission (at least enough to get the oil level below the top edge of the pan. Once the torrent of dripping slowed, I dropped the pan, but of course the pan was tippy top full of oil and more commenced to spill everywhere. I had a class I environmental nightmare, but I had an absorbent towels and such to contain the spill. I imagine this is what it’s like to be BP.

messy oil


Then PUT ON SNOW TIRES! (and check the brakes while you have the wheels off).

Items to carry: Jumper cables, tow-strap, sand, tire chains

Inside the van (where the sleeping is) we put in 2″ rigid foam insulation over the back two windows, and the rear side windows, put up a insulated drapery near the end of the bed, put a heat reflective space blanket under the sheets, and added a Camco Olympian Wave 3 ceramic heater. Importantly, we added a carbon monoxide detector, a fire extinguisher, and will be keeping a window open for venting. The furnace is a 3000 BTU model and consumes Oxygen, but emits no deadly CO.

Next I am mounting my new travel cases onto the side of the van! Drilling holes into the perfectly good sheet metal of the van is a bit scary, but here goes nothing. Pictures to laugh, cry, or go heck yeah  to follow…

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