We Bought A Camper Van … But Almost Didn’t Make It Home!!!
September 2, 2020
Yep, we bought a van, and getting it home was quite a debacle. Short version, right before the world melted down, we decided to buy a high-top Dodge van, but getting her home was … interesting …. to say the least. For those that want to listen to the longer version, we need to go all the way back to February, when the upcoming global crisis had still not taken hold and Lindsay was looking online for a high top van. You see, we had decided that this year, we were going to take a complete break from gardening and just camp as much as we possibly could. Getting the bus fixed by then was probably out of reach, and we wanted something smaller anyways as it would be Lindsay, the boys and myself doing all the camping since the girls would both be in college.
In preparation to save up for that goal, I had spent our savings on computers and parts that I could build into gaming PC’s and flip for more cash. A week later, before the computers had a chance to sell, Lindsay found our van six hours away, in Washington state on Vashon Island. She was super cute, had already had some work done and the price was high, but not outrageous. The problem is, we did not have that much available. We decided to reach out to the sellers, to offer a possibility. We would drive up that weekend to look at the van. If we liked it, we would put down a $1500 cash deposit, with the balance due in three weeks. If we couldn’t come up with the rest of the money, they would get to keep our deposit and sell the van to someone else. They were initially reluctant, for obvious reasons. After a couple of days though, they warmed up to the idea and we made plans to drive up there to look at the van.
We drove the six hours up there, met the owners and test drove the van. She had the typical old dodge sloppy steering, but other than that she seemed mechanically sound and ran great. We shook hands and then started on the six-hour drive home. Over the next three weeks, the world imploded. We all know the virus that raised its ugly head, and our plans were thrown into shambles. We rolled with the punches, managed to get the cash together, and woke up super early On March 13th to head to the airport.
Our new plan was to fly into Seattle, figure out the bus schedules and make our way over to the Point Defiance Ferry for a ride to Vashon Island and pick up the van. That is what happened, and though figuring out which busses to ride was interesting to say the least, we finally made it there. After a stop at the bank to get the money to pay, we headed south with our 1978 Dodge B200 high top van. The steering was sloppy, really sloppy, but she did pretty well, and we cruised south for the next four hours without any issues.
As we were coming over the bridge into Portland, we started to hear a noise. It got worse and worse, and we quickly realized that it was most likely the power steering pump, and we headed for the nearest pull off. I looked under the hood, and sure enough the power steering pump was hemorrhaging fluid from the shaft, it was definitely dying. We found a Midas oil shop that gave us enough fluid to fill it back up, and we headed for the nearest parts store. Now, we had to make a decision. We could either try to drive the last two hours without power steering or try to replace the pump in their parking lot. Driving a vehicle that is supposed to have power steering without it can be really tough in any vehicle, and it’s even worse when the steering is as loose as it was. However, they couldn’t get the parts until the next day, and I didn’t have any of my tools.
We decided to order the part and buy the cheapest set of tools they had to replace it with. The van had a mattress in it, but we had no blankets so we walked two miles to the nearest Goodwill and bought a couple of blankets then headed back to the van. That night, the temperature dropped, and it started snowing. The snow didn’t stop, and we woke up to a winter wonderland. The parts had come up, so I climbed under the van in the snow and the wet and started removing the power steering pump. It did not want to come out, and I had to figure out what I was doing, and it was freaking miserable.
I got it out though! The next step was to transfer the pulley from the old pump to the new one, so I rented a pulley puller from the parts store, and then I completely and utterly messed up. Instead of pulling the pully off of the shaft, I pushed it so far on that there was no way to replace it. Complete, utter failure. We called around, but no one carries anything like this for these old vehicles. You can get one on Ebay, which I eventually did, but there was no way to get one right then.
The only choice left to us was to try to drive her home. We packed up, and I got behind the wheel and tried to just get around the block, if I could do that, we would try to head home. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to do it. This began the last part of our journey, driving home with no power steering with a very sloppy steering gear. I am not going to lie, the first thirty minutes of that drive were absolutely terrifying. After I got used to it though, it went from terrifying to just tiring. I do not recommend driving like that if you can at all avoid it, but we did not have a choice, and eventually, finally we made it home in one piece. It has been three months now, and we have been putting a bunch of work into the van. When we got home, I ordered the pulley from Ebay, and got it installed. Shortly after that the water pump started leaking, or at least we figured out that is where the coolant leak was coming from, so we replaced the entire cooling system. If you are curious about that, we did a video on it that we will put a link to in the corner of the video, and down in the description. We replaced the headlights with LED versions that are super bright, and I just ordered the new power steering gear box to fix the slop in the steering. We got a really good deal on an aftermarket Sprinter seats that we are going to install, and we are just really, really happy to have her home.