Purchasing Advice Needed

02-19-2005, 06:25 PM
Fact: I want to buy an AllTrac Previa - S/C or N/A.

Experience: I owned a business 15 years ago that used the first generation ToyVans as delivery vehicles. They all made it 'til 225k -275k before a driver inevitably totaled the vehicle. Super-reliable but they skated like crazy during heavy wind or rainy/icy roads.

I never worked on one of them.

Justification: We just had our second and last [snip-snip!] child; we need the room. My wife has a Subaru Outback that we plan to replace with a 2002-2004 Honda Odyssey. Nice but sorta big bucks. I have a '95 Acura Integra 4-dr that I want to replace with a Previa.

The Previa will be my roomy commuter that can also handle camping, and a bevy of gear like my 17' sea kayak, whitewater kayaks, road bikes, and mountain bikes. Oh yeah, and occasionally two kids.

Skills (or lack of...): I am pretty comfortable doing minor maintenance to the Integra. A large web community of Teg enthusiasts makes getting advice pretty easy. I have adjusted valve clearances, set ignition timing, replaced brakes and rotors, oil changes, transmission fluid changes, replaced ABS accumulator, motor torque mounts, sway bar bushings, and performed fuel filter swaps and general tune-ups. [This being said, the engine position of the Previa intimidates me.]

I've looked at one Previa. I was all set to buy it until I got there!

'94 Previa All-Trac LE N/A $3500, 185k. Recently replaced "viscocity joint (??) and driveshaft." Privacy glass, rear air, power everything.

Exterior: Perfect - no rust.

Interior: Seats looked good. Carpet looked pretty stained and ragged. The driver's side third row had a giant gash in the vinyl on the seatback.


* The ABS light stayed on. The owner explained that her mechanic told her "a little ice melted in this area of the electrical for the ABS. He removed this little thingy and said that the light being on it didn't effect the brakes." Sure enough, the fuse was pulled for the ABS. However, I can't believe the mechanic wouldn't have simply swapped a fuse, so I am assuming the ABS system has bigger problems. Are there common ABS issues in the Previas?

* Vibration. At speeds of 70mph+ there was a front end vibration. It seemed more pronounced when slightly turning in one direction. The vehicle also pulled in one direction slightly at these speeds. I would guess it is only an alignment/wheel balance issue *but*! Are there other front end components ($$) that could cause this behavior? Tie-rod? Not, CV... right??

So, by the time we got back, I was a little less excited. It just didn't feel "tight" like I expected.

(Oh, yeah. The driver's side mirror kept flopping around in it's housing. I know, I know, just a little Gorilla Glue should fix the glass to it's remote actuator. It just added to that "loose" feeling.)

After I got back, I didn't raise the seat to look at the motor. I did, however, lift the hood where all of the fluids are checked. The belts looked great. But, there was a distinct oil smell - not really BURNING oil, just used oil. Looking underneath the van, there is a skid plate that appears to protect the engine just aft of the oil filter. This plate was sorta covered in used oil. Is this a normal by-product of a messy oil change? A valve cover gasket leak? (Are valve cover gaskets easy to replace in this engine config?) Is the oil drain nearby? Are there other major seals that might commonly cause this?

So... Am I being too skeptical? My last car before the Integra was a '87 Nissan Stanza Wagon (Micro-Van - dual sliding doors) and it felt more solid at 185k. Is this just normal? Should I keep looking? Is this a decent price?

I know there are no "right" answers for all of these questions. Only opinions. May I have yours?

04-14-2005, 09:50 AM
I havent even read the entire post but i work in a toyota shop in canada and i know from experience that the previa is possibly the hardest car to work on ever built. I had to do a throttle body service and i had to life the van up on a hoist. So my advise is if you dont plan to work on it your self then buy one because they will last forever but if you do you should look for an easier accessible engine. Ive also driven many previas and honestly they are one of the most roomier cars ever built.

09-07-2006, 10:54 AM
the valve covers and distributor o-ring commonly leak oil,but their not too difficult to replace,the abs systems's are not problematic as far i know,the light is currently on,on my 95,but it was immediately following a passenger side cv joint replacement,i have a feeling the moron broke the sensor.Previa's are generally extremely reliable vehicles I really wouldn't worry about servicing the engine,the only problems i've heard of are the head gaskets going just before 300,but figure it this way,any domestic van would've ended up probably needing both engine and transmission replacement long before then.

10-07-2006, 05:21 AM
If you see a vehicle you want to buy and are ok about it, then before purchasing have a pro look at it. Are you a member of an auto club? Some auto clubs offer this service at low cost. Some shops offer free inspections, example is Midas. If you have one locally, give them a call and find out if they are willing to inspect the brakes and find out why the light is on.

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