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Sure, have your system pressure checked. Worst case scenario, thermostat could be installed upside down or a bad head gasket. Also check for water in the oil or oil in the water. If you don't know how to do this ask at your local parts store.
does the van stall going down the road or at idle? the won't change gears at 4000 rpm and the no start condition unless disconnect the negative cable sounds more like a computer problem. when the cable is diconnected the ECM and the TCM have to go thru a relearn process which can be some of your issues. have your mechanic do a quick learn on the trans module to see if it helps the shifting problem. the ECM on the other hand can throw out codes that can make you chase your tail and end up replacing every sensor and still have the smae problem. you may want to check for corrosion at the ECM connections.
Did you charge the battery after replacing the alternator? Is the check engine light on? If so, rent a code scanner and read out any trouble codes. That should point you in the general and maybe specific direction to help track down the problem. Hope this helps!
I beleive the fuel pump is in the gas tank, have someone go back to the gas tank and someone else turn the key on, if the pump is good you should hear it working, if you cant then youve probably burned the fuel pump up. When you run them completly dry of fuel it only takes about 1.5 seconds to burn the electric fuel pumps up.