Fair warning, this is a long post.
I have a problem here and need a helping hand.
Back in June, I took my '93 Aerostar XL (3.0 RWD shorty, auutomatic, Just shy of 180K miles) on a trip from FL to CA. Before I left FL, my mechanic checked it out, and except for a couple minor issues for a 12 year old van, (Loose shock absorber, muffler piping) not much was found, certainly nothing that would lead to a side of the road breakdown.
I must also add here that back in FL, the transmission fluid was pink and in good shape. No tranny problems at any time.
Well, about 2/3 into the trip, 40 miles outside of Albuquerque, I was asleep in passenger seat while the room-mate was driving. I was woken up with him yelling urgently to the sight of white smoke coming from between the doors and body, under the doghouse, and out the back of the van. A quick look at the guage cluster showed no abnormal guage readings or warning lights. I told him to pull over ASAP, and did a quick fluid level check.
Radiator: Quite low, it took a tad more than a gallon. No abnormal temp guage readings at any time, and the engine sounded normal at all times.
Oil: About 1/2 a quart low. Topped off. I expect some burned off due to the continuous driving. Not enough to set off the 'Check Oil' warning light.
Trans fluid: BONE DRY. I added what I was carrying, which was about 2 quarts. Of ourse it couldn't be that easy. As we pulled back onto the road (With me driving now), I saw a puddle of fresh trans fluid on the ground. Hoping against hope, I drove the van into the nearest town (Which happened to be Albuquerque). It drove fine from the side of the road, but became more labored as we neared the city. When we reached a motel, it was jerking and laboring.
In a state of shock, we rented a room and sat for about an hour, hoping to wake up I guess. I called my mechanic back in FL, and he said it sounded like I had a front seal leak or blow out. According to him, it was a relatively simple repair, at least as far as transmission repairs go, but since we were pressed for time, having a majorly important appointment in CA to keep, we opted to rent a car and store the van. We spent the night at the motel, and rented a car the next morning.
In the morning, while my room-mate was off renting a car, I got curious. Called my room-mate and had him buy some trans fluid on his way back. When he got back, I ran the van up onto a curb so I could lay under it and observe the transmission as he added fluid. None leaked out as he added it. Started the van and cycled through the gears, still no leaks.
We unloaded about 1/2 the van into the (much smaller) rented station wagon, and I followed my room-mate to the storage yard. During that 5 mile drive, the van warmed up to operating temp. Other than driving like it was slightly low on fluid, which was to be expected - We didn't add much - It drove fine. No major slippage, no hesitation, etc.
I posted all this to the Aerostar forum (see original thread
Time has passed, and I am greyhounding myself from CA to NM to pick up the van this Wednesday night. I expect to be there Friday morning.
I called AAMCO and inquired about getting my tranny fluid and filter serviced, they quoted me $69.95 plus tax.
The responses I got to this so far seem to indicate that I would be better off either getting the seal repaired, adding a transmission cooler, or both, before I leave NM, even with stopping every few hours, versus driving straight through.
While this may be true, I am on a severely limited budget since I am on disability. While I have access to some reserve cash should something go wrong, and I have AAA, I am not wanting to tap into it very deeply, if at all.
My goal is to get the van back to CA. Once it's there, I can tend to any major work it needs.
Is there anyone in the area who can give me some advice, and if needed, refer me out for some repairs?