Warning to those looking @ the new "Ram" Vans.

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mallthus said:
JD’s data and experiences are, on surface, off putting. I’ve heard similar reports from a handful of small fleet operators. That said, the Promaster is simply the current generation of the Fiat Ducato. Its basic FWD architecture has been sold everywhere but the US for more than 30 years. There are some deficiencies with FWD, especially at max GVWR, which is why Fiat offers the RWD Iveco Daily for higher weight uses. This is not some “new and untested” platform and, given that more than 2.5 million Ducatos/Boxers/Relays/Promasters have been sold since the model debuted in 1981, there are clearly some things the ProMaster is competent at.

The demands a van dweller places on a van are not the same as those placed by a business operating the vehicle at max GVWR.

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Without being able to see the data myself and understand better the context in which it was collected, this is exactly my take as well. Not saying anything is being left out that shouldn't be left out, and certainly the information is helpful, but it's definitely not the whole picture.
Fleets do not care one iota about brand or model, their only concerns are controlling costs and down time.  Down time and repairs cost businesses money that could otherwise go to profits.  In other words they only care about the bottom line.  They gladly pay someone like JD to help them track the data so they can make informed business decisions with the express goal to spend the least amount of money.  The actual data and statistics are proprietary but they can certainly be had for the right purchase price...  Businesses pay good money for this information.  The free version is the readers' digest version.  JD offers us the info for free in the true spirit of goodwill to benefit the van community, and this is something to be graciously accepted just as if one were to receive any other gift.  Sure he's a bit cranky at times; but then who isn't?  However, it never ceases to amaze me when I see people discount information, question opinions and motives of the gift giver, and demand further data. 

JD's data is collected through tracking of repair records and costs for entire fleets.  Think of it like this, if you could talk with a single owner about their experiences with a particular vehicle, you'd probably listen intently and take the message to heart.   However, what if you could speak with a thousand owners at the same time and get the aggregate story, wouldn't that bigger picture carry even more weight?  I 100% agree YMMV depending on use and maintenance, but vehicle tendencies are very good to know when differentiating between brands and models, especially for those of us who buy used vehicles.  I for one respect JD's opinions as both valid and highly informed.  I also appreciate a condensed version vs raw data...  He's already done the work for us.  Of course, I acknowledge JD's opinions may not satisfy all.  But, I suppose for diehard skeptics there is always Google, and more research. 

Take or leave the information...  But please be kind in tone when posting in reference to any doubts or questions you may pose of JD and his opinions.  Remember, free is free...  Please don't look a gift equine in the oral orifice...
I am gentle as a spring morning...or...
(was it...Summers Eve, perhaps?? ;) )

People here have said, "but but but, JD, these Promasters MUST be okay for the "light use" a "typical" vandweller would put one of these through, right? Not everyone is going to beat them up like fleet use, right?"

You mean, gently use them like this van dweller:

(Video is of a Promaster getting stuck @ RTR I think. I would start out at around 1:15 for context.)

Ask yourself this: How easy is it to have this happen?

I am pretty sure this is a lightly loaded dweller-van, seeing very little stress on a daily basis.
How much stress was getting tugged out of this mud on this van? (No big American chassis under there...Fiat does it lighter.)

So is this Promaster owner subjecting the vehicle to some unreasonable act or feat it is not capable of...or would you call it just another day of BLM camping?

The reason I brought this up is...I was talking to one of the owners of a towing company this morning on an unrelated matter.
He asked me to hang on for a minute and I heard him dispatch a tow truck to a "red Promaster." (You KNOW I had to ask after that, right??? It was nothing but a flat tire. ;) )

Then he said, "you know you can't winch those without the doors being closed, right?"
I got goosebumps. Anyone know why he said this?

I'll give you a hint...mud can virtually "suck" a vehicle in and hold it with incredible vacuum-like force.
Even tiny Suzuki 4X4's, when buried in a mud pit, can snap tow lines like twigs because of the vacuum/glue-like nature of mud.

When your van is thinly made sheet metal and the tow truck guy hooks on to it...it can actually warp the body to the point where the doors will not line up right after being pulled out. (Once this happens, they can jig it somewhat...but it never really measures up again after being "wracked.")

Not sure how often it happened, or how badly the thing would have to be buried...but he got a bulletin on it, so it has to have happened more than one time.

So did this Promaster owner subject the van to "unreasonable off road activity" or was it just "another day of camping?"
It's pretty damned easy to bury one like this. Happens to most of us more than once in our lives.
yep once a uni-body gets tweaked there is no way to untweak it. you might get it close but it will never be right again. highdesertranger
"...mud can virtually "suck" a vehicle in and hold it with incredible vacuum-like force."

We had a surplus diesel Humvee up at the academy we used for training officers in off-road skills.  Awesome, go anywhere, do anything machine...  That is until you get a bunch of us academy instructors together to see what it can do.  We finally managed to get it stuck belly pan deep in the slimy mud of a swale pit.  Took a favor begged from the operating engineers union and a monster loader to finally get it 'un-stuck it'...  Vacuum had it sucked it down and it wasn't gonna budge otherwise.   New rule... no more driving the Humvee in the swale pit.
Thanks for posting this! I am often envious of those vans because I lose a bit of space with my Chevy and it’s aftermarket high top. I’ll not be envious anymore!
i had one of those h1 hummers. biggest money pit pos ever. only good thing was it was cool (and therefore i thought i was cool) for a while.

did go offroad like the beast it is, when it worked.
Thank you for the info, JD!

Don't worry about the people who can't accept accurate information. Guys and 'their' brand of vehicle is a constant source of amusement to me. Listening to the arguments between Mr. Ford vs Mr. Chevy is a real hoot, and makes the wait in line at the grocery store on Saturday a little less boring.
I deleted a couple of posts. arguing is not allowed. if you want to sing the praises of Ram vans start your own thread. highdesertranger
This is why when my Dodge died, I went back to Chevrolet......Ford just give me the shakes at times....Yes, I do like the looks of the Promaster, but not what I have read here and elsewhere.
Well everyone, as a new to the van living and getting ready to purchase (not my first car/truck) cargo van what I am getting from this thread is that we need to listen to everyone's advice, throw out the stuff we don't like, make our own decision and live with the results good or bad.
I've never cared much for that  "I-Beam" rear axle arrangement.  Recently I posted a photo of an old 1960 Ford E 100 of my Dad's.   It had an "I-Beam" front axle  which was worrisome enough.  When Dad handed it over to me he was quick to point out that if I went into the off road or some rough camp to be very careful not to straddle any tree stumps as the road clearance wasn't that great.  And I wouldn't want to put my head thru that great big picture windshield either if I ran onto an obstruction.  

Those Ram's just strike me as improved road vehicles only.   I can just imagine backing up after dark in one at a wilderness camp.
jonthebru said:
This is the sort of thing that scares me as I consider buying a used vehicle, especially one that I intend to use for traveling away from home. I just want things to work. The Promaster is really popular for van DIY builders. I guess the Chevy Express GMC Savana model shines the brightest as far as reliability.

The pricetag is about 10K less for a Promaster than the Ford or Chevy comparables. Not having a car payment was one of the deciding factors, and I bought extra service just in case the warranty was not enough. I was able to get a used fleet van and liked the dimensions for doing my conversion. I did not have to get a high top due to the taller height in the standard model. I wish there was more ground clearance at the back axle. I have not had handling or repair problems you are writing about. I mostly drive on mountain roads and a few freeways. The other deciding factor for me was the seats.  I cannot sit in Chevy seats anymore due to my back. ~     crofter
eDJ_ said:
 Recently I posted a photo of an old 1960 Ford E 100 of my Dad's.   It had an "I-Beam" front axle  which was worrisome enough.

Even though called the same thing, they are nothing alike.
You could lift that whole pickup by the front I beam(s) and not damage it.
Back into a curb with the paper thin modern "I beams" and they buckle.
Try jacking one up and they often become "triangle axles" LOL.
( ^^^This goes for many FWD vans. Not only Promasters.)
Glad to see this. I'm getting close to retirement age and am planning a van/camper to use as a long term travel vehicle. I was strongly considering the Promaster, simply because it's wide enough for a crossways bed arrangement. We are a long time Toyota and Honda family and I would have a hard time writing a big check for a Fiat/Chrysler.

I soured on GM after my wife's 2002 Impala ate it's transmission less than 1000 miles out of warranty. Then the GM bailout by the Govt didn't sit well with me either. So I doubt I'll be buying any GM products again.

I am currently driving a 2017 Nissan Titan S, the base model. Nissan put either a 5.6L gas V8 (or an optional diesel in the Titan XD) with a 7 speed automatic in all the Titans. I've had it a bit over 2 years now and almost 50K miles. Zero problems, but I didn't expect any as I'm pretty meticulous about maintenance. The Nissan NV vans use the same running gear (I think), if that's true I'd be completely comfortable buying one.

I must have watched a hundred of Bob Wells' YT videos, and many others. I've certainly learned a lot. Thanks
Thanks JD for the info.

Despite reading this thread and much other information on the net re Promasters, I just bought one about a month ago.

I got what I think to be a good deal on a good vehicle. I looked at it, my dad looked at it, we drove it. I took it to a trusted mechanic and we all thought it was great.

I'm not running freight nor was the previous owner.

I'm 4'4" tall (little person) and I got a '17 136" low roof (plenty high roof for me). I love my new place and wheels.

I'll report back if I encounter any issues. But for now, despite having read through this thread a few times before my purchase, I love my decision to get what I think is the perfect vehicle for me.

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Thank you very much for the valuable feedback. It really is super helpful to hear your actual reading of the data and help people make informed choices.

I found a 2000 Chevrolet Express with a 5.7L V8 with 49k miles for $8k. Seems like a pretty good deal, providing there was nothing wrong with that model year/engine. I've been trying to do research online, but haven't been able to find anything. I saw in your earlier post you said any Chevy Express V8 between 2001-2014 should be rock solid. What do you think about the 2000 model with the 5.7L V8?

Also, do you know where the best place would be to buy (or avoid) getting a Chevy Express? Some fleet liquidators? eBay? I'm patient and willing to wait for a good deal, but I'd like to make an informed choice. There's not much consumer-available info, so any pointers you can provide are very much appreciated.

Although I'm leaning towards the Express due to the reliability, two additional questions I just thought of:

1. What do you think about the Ram Maxi Wagon 3500 vans? I found a few single-owner, low mileage ones and am thinking about putting a high top on them. Do you have any input as to the reliability of the power train/electrical/etc?

2. Many of us here are also considering the Ford Transit. I've read a few threads suggesting that the Cyclone/Duratec engines have a design flaw with the water pump leaking and causing catastrophic engine failure:


Have you seen any data to suggest this is a widespread problem? What are your thoughts on the Transit in general?
There are differing opinions on the Dodge full sized vans.
They are the cheapest for a reason though...and we avoid them whenever possible, the exception being some Cummins-powered stuff. (I should say "THEY" avoid them. :) )

The 4.8/5.3/6.0/6.2 engines will serve you better than the 5.7 and use less fuel while doing it, delivering more power. That said, 2000 is one of the last 5.7 years and they are known to be one of the best small blocks. Make sure the year you are looking at did not have the cam issue.

Do the math on the MPG for yourself.
"LS" engines will show about 5% better MPG overall in real world use.
(Our own figures, including a lot of city idling on established routes.)

Any trucks with turbocharged low displacement engine should be avoided.
They are not for trucks. Ford knew this the first year they replaced the 4.9 inline six with that abortion of a 4.2 V6 unit and had instant widespread failures nationwide.
Rich does a great job explaining why to avoid a Ford in the video linked below if you have the time to watch it:

I would go GM or Nissan.
Make sure you go drive the Nissan van also.
They are on their own in how they drive.
Some love them, some don't.
You won't know till you try it.