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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions

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  • vnt07vnt07 Posts: 1
    I have a '96 Grand Caravan with a problem that the mechanics around here can not fix. At about 35,000 miles I noticed one day that the needles on the gages(RPM's,Speedometer and Temperature)would drop down to zero and then immediately bounce back up. I took it in and they replaced the Power Control Module. Two days later it started again. Took it back and they replace the Body Control module. Still no luck. This time it did remedy the problem for a few months. My son replaced the instrument cluster with one from our '96 Plymouth (wrecked by our daughter). The gages zeroed out a couple of times and then worked fine for about 9 months. We replaced the battery but it didn't help. It started out only having this problem a few times but it rapidly increased to where you can seldom tell how fast you are going. The boxes that light up around the letters telling you what gear you are in all light up to. Sometimes when I'm going slow if I give it a lot of gas and make it shift rapidly it will cause the gauges to kick back up. Is there anyone out there who is familiar with this problem. It's out of warranty now! 85,000 miles
  • egawronegawron Posts: 9
    I had the same problem with a 93 Dodge Grand Caravan - the gages would intermittently drop to zero and over time it happened more frequently and for longer durations. I took it to the dealer several times, but it never occurred while they had the van so they could never diagnose it. Finally the gages zeroed out for 4 days and I dropped it at the dealership before work. I got a call at work that the gages were working fine and they didn't see a problem. I explained it was an intermittent problem, it was in several times, and maybe they could take the dash apart and try to see if there was a loose connection or something. They did take it apart, disconnected the gage cluster, saw nothing wrong, reinstalled and told me try it for awhile and see what happens. I was told if it happened again, they would change the Power Control Module. Lucky for me, whatever they moved, reconnected or touched while checking it out solved the problem - it never happened again.

    So I don't now to this day what the real cause was. I would appear it was not a problem with the gage cluster or the control modules - I believe it was a intermittent wiring or wire harness connector problem. Since you already have had all the modules and cluster changed, there is a good chance you have a wiring or wire harness connection problem. These are extremely hard to find and fix, especially if it is an intermittent problem. A good auto electrical shop may have some luck, but it could be time intensive and thus get expensive.
  • We have had a GC with the 3.3, for about 3-weeks. It runs great and have about 600 miles on it. I am being careful on the break-in of the engine. We have taken a few short trips and notice that on hills it does'nt have alot of power. I am not really getting on it because of the low miles but I thought it should be a bit more responsive. It has the 4-speed trany, and it is always in "D" which is overdrive. is this the problem, should I keep in "3", or is this the norm, anyone else lend any advise or comments.
  • tbone14, We have a GC Sport w/3.3L. I have learned that in city driving, like when we were in DC, I used 3 all around the city or in heavy stop go driving or traffic. This way your tranny doesnt get overworked going 1-2-3-4 and 4-3-2-1 all the time. Just remember to swtich it back to D when you are back in steady driving. Shift also into 3 when you notice gear hunting on steep grades. I usually don't worry about gear hunting on grades on freeway driving because I always use the Cruise and the cruise does fine for me climbing hills. This is my 2nd van with the 3.3L and this engine does work alot and this 00 is our 3rd Chrysler Van. The 00 GCS we have is already a month old on the 27th and we have 7950 miles and we still don't have the license plates since we've been on the road the last 2 weeks and live in california. We are not home yet. We are 1400 miles away still. We will be coming up on our 3rd oil change as soon as we get home. Break in period by the way is only 300 miles. Otherwise great van and good luck with yours.
  • scannerscanner Posts: 295
    Egawron is actually trying to give some useful advise. ;-)

    RE: #521 Vnt07, Check the connections to the Body Control Module. Do you have an after-market alarm installed in your van? If so, check around the connections where they tied into you van's wiring.
  • scannerscanner Posts: 295
    Just in case you're wondering how to "check" the connections, have someone agitate the wires and connectors under the driver's side dash while another person keeps an eye on the temp and tach gauges. Obviously the van should be running while in park. Then come back and let us know when you have found the problem.
  • is a very durable engine, but does shift down a lot on hills. I found that by taking it out of cruise I could really do a better job of keeping it from shifting down. I did get the 3.8 on my 99 GCS and the increased torque really shows up in the hill climbing with no down shifting.
    You will probably have to live with that, but the engine is a good one and will last many miles..
  • I have a lot of helpful advice about Caravan 4 speed automatic transmission and electrical problems. I learned the hard way, I owned one for 120,000 miles!
  • Thanks for the advise on the gearing, it sounds like I just need to use the engine a little more. The manual does only give a 300 mile break-in, but I always thought that a 1000 miles was the normal break-in. I will try "3" for that around town stop and go... Appreciate the advise, and have a good trip home.
  • I like my grand caravan for its smoothness, ergonomics and handling, BUT reliability is just not good enough
    Trans went at 34000 miles and took 21 days in the shop to fix. tho they gave me a rental, I still had to pay every day for the insurance...no opt out... a clear scam to my way of thinking, since my insurance would have coverred the rental and I'm convinced it just lowered the true price dodge paid for my rental.
    Other repairs: Gas tank replaced, front suspension and struts failed, horn went twice,body weld leaked and was repaired with glue, not a weld, second transmission didn't always shift for the first few thousand miles, thjo not often and now seems ok...Dodge dealer says nothing can be done "they're all like that"
  • eickmeier,
    If you had the factory alarm system it would have gone off when the lock was raised.

    On a grander scale,
    I noticed that Dodge doesn't use the smartkey (like GM, Honda...). My Honda Accord also has an id coded into it's stereo to avoid a sucessful theft. i.e it won't work anywhere else, I can't remember if the Infinity in my LE has this feature. Anyway, doesn't this make the Chrysler product an easier theft target?
  • Acmeroadrunnr, the alarm system would have been useful, but... Unfortunately, as I understand how it works, the $280 worth of body damage would already have been done before the lock was raised sounding the alarm. At least it would have scared off the perp before attacking the radio. Also, stupid perps may steal a code-protected radio and then realize after the fact it is useless. Unless they are kind enough then to return it to you, you are still left with a nonfunctional radio.
    We now park the vans in the garage, which is where they should have always been in the first place. Some lessons you are taught can be expensive!
  • "Some lessons you are taught can be expensive!"

    I totally agree. My wife always leave the vent windows open, even though I constantly tell her to close them when exiting the vehicle. I guess it's just a matter of time before someone rips the window open and steals the Infinity. Only then can tell her I told you so...
  • Must be something about GC's sold in NJ. My '99, with 22,000 miles has had a strut, power steering pump, entire steering rack, clockspring (nothing to do with the clock) and brake master cylinder replaced. We also have unconfirmed (by the dealer) gremlins that have caused intermittent non-operation of the power locks, driver's power window and a/c.
    Had to call DaimlerChrysler directly to get a loaner car when they were unable to procure a master cylinder for eight days. Either there has been widespread failure, or DC does not properly maintain parts supply. But after patiently waiting two full business days without a car, the dealer apparently felt it was acceptable for the customer to bear the cost of a rental until the part arrived. Fortunately, DC felt differently and paid for the Enterprise rental. Most insurance policies give you the same coverage on a rental you have on your own vehicle, so "insurance" is not necessary. It will only preclude you from paying your deductible and processing a claim through your own insurance. The rental's insurance usually has a really high deductible, so the additional insurance allows you to basically walk away without paying anything, but I'm not absolutely sure. Usually, it's like you said; a way for the dealer/renter to offset some of the cost of the free rental, and you probably didn't need it. But the dealer/renter proposed it as if it was not an option, and they wouldn't rent the car to you unless you took it, right? If so, you can try to reclaim your $250 or so, but I don't know how much of a case you have
  • rbell2rbell2 Posts: 179
    Fade in . . . . .

    It is summer 1996, the family has grown and it is time to sale the trusty '88 Celica for a family-mobile. Unfortunately, the Previa was over-priced and unsafe and the Odyssey is too small. We drive every other van on the market and were very impressed with the design, lay-out, drive, and conveniences found in the Caravan. Knowing that reliability was a question mark, I dove in and we bought a Grand Caravan LE with the 3.3 liter V-6.

    During the warranty period, I got a new battery, a new cooling fan relay, a new windshield wiper switch, and had the door locks repaired. Overall, I was not real upset but was not 100% satisfied with these irritating repair inconveniences. Meanwhile, we are enjoying the conveniences and comfort it provides for a traveling family of four (five including the dog).

    It is September 2000, and the van just turned 60,000 miles. I have only spent maintenance dollars on the vehicle. I find myself bragging about my American car and how I might by another one in about 2 years. It is Wednesday night and I am out-of-town on business. My wife leaves for church in her trusty van. She slows at a stop sign and hears "strange noises" like she ran over something but knew she had not seen anything in the road. She puts it in reverse and backs up - she then sees "car parts" in the road in front of her. A neighbor pulls up and says he saw something dragging under the car. She finds the car still runs and is barely able to get it back to the house (about 1.5 miles and after picking up the "car parts"). It can hardly be steered and begins showing high temperature.

    I talk to her that night and she has it towed the next morning to the Dodge dealership. That afternoon I get the fateful call. The bolt in the belt tensioner that holds it into the undercarriage had sheared in two!! OK - so a new belt and tensioner, right?? Wrong!! This unfortunate incident somehow took out the power steering pump and water pump. Final damage totaled $974 all because a bolt sheared!! After expressing my dissatisfaction in such a ridiculous failure, I told my dealer that I would supply the two pumps which dropped the price by $250. Somehow, genuine Mopar Parts with weak bolts didn't seem worth the premium.

    Remember the wiper switch that was replaced during the warranty period? About 2 weeks before this failure, the wipers started doing the same thing - would not go into high speed wiping (only intermittent and low speed). I mentioned to the dealer to fix that also since it was there. They called that afternoon wanting 183 of my additional hard earned dollars so we could have high speed wiping again. I asked to speak to the service manager and said I would pay it because we intend on driving in the rain. However, I told him it had already failed once and that it was an apparent faulty design and if I was expected to pay for Chrysler's design flaws that I would quickly become a one time customer. After a call from Dodge to their HQ, the $183 was removed from the bill.

    All in all, I am disgusted but was glad that they at least replaced the wiper problem for free. 3/8" bolts should not shear at 4 years and 60,000 miles on a car that has been driven and maintained like this one was. Anyway . . . . . my wife was happy to have her van back.

    Next van purchase? My reliable '91 4Runner (120,000 miles) which landed me into a 2000 4Runner this past January is reminding me what quality is all about. The Sienna, though small, will get a hard look from me in 12/02 when my 4Runner is paid for. The final decision will be determined by the next 2 years and what else I spend on our Caravan.

    By the way, if you have an older Caravan, I would have the belt tensioner inspected for "weak bolts." It might save you $1,000!!!

    THE END!!!!
  • Sorry to hear about your misfortunes on your GC LE. How many miles do you currently have on the van and which engine? 3.3 or 3.8? We had a 96 GC LE that was brand new when we bought it. Before we got rid if it, we had 141,000 miles on it. Just about 80K miles, we brought the van to dodge to get the serpentine belts replaced since we didn't really trust a different mechanic. But to make a long story short, the dodge mechanic found the tensioner was about to go bad and an engine mount was about to go. We got lucky and caught the problem before we had any real trouble. I wasn't aware of the tensioner and engine mount going out until we had the belts replaced. We bought the van in Aug of 95 and got rid of it on the end of July 00 and got a 00 GCS. Like you, we are a Toyota family with 3 Toyota's in our home and a 00 Grand Caravan Sport. Only if Sienna was as big and value packed like the Caravan. So far we have 9500 miles on a 5 week old van and we haven't had any problems at this point unlike the 96 GC LE we had. This is our 3rd DC minivan and hope that this last year of the NS series minivan will do better than that 96 that was one of the first ones made. The first DC van we had was a 90 Plymouth Voyager SE. We put 275,000 miles on the original engine and tranny. That is the main reason we became repeat buyers. The Voyager we had was the last year for that design. If we got things straight, the last model year of a current design is usually the better built one.
  • In response to rbell2, I feel that the value of a vehicle is what you spend in it in it's entire lifetime. If you get a 'value-packed' car that winds up costing you more when things fail prematurely, it no longer is such a good value. :-)
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    I have tried to take good care of my 99 GCS from day one. The other day it ocurred to me that there is no way to flush/change the power steering fluid on a periodic basis.

    I noticed that the hydraulic lines from the pump to the rack run quite close to the exhaust and catalytic converter. Although there is some heat shielding, thermal deterioration of the fluid is inevitable. Also, unlike other vehicles, the fluid reservoir is only an overflow catching/ replenishment tank so changing the small amount of fluid in there won't help.

    Any ideas / thoughts on how to periodically replace the fluid would be very welcome. (Maybe even add a small cooler in the plumbing?)
  • vcheng: It would be possible with serial changes of the reservoir volume to replace most of the old fluid with new. Suppose the reservoir held 1/5 or 20% of the total volume. If this were replaced then there would be 20% new and 80% old. Drive for a week or two to mix the fluids and then remove 20% (4%new & 16% old) replace and have 36% new and 64% old, third cycle= 50-50, forth cycle 60-40 and fifth cycle 72%new and 28% old. That should do pretty well and pretty easy to.
  • I tried to replace the coolant on my 98 Caravan sport yesterday, however, I did not find the drain fittings or plug underneath. Anybody did the coolant service before and know how to do it?
  • enetheneth Posts: 285
    If it's like the DaimlerChrysler vehicles we've owned, there is no radiator drain - you have to remove the lower radiator hose to drain the coolant.
  • xingze cai: My '95 Caravan has a drain and 4" rubber tube on the bottom driver's side, however, I could'nt get it to drain and used the lower radiator hose as eneth suggested. Be sure to have a large drain pan or bucket since there is some pressure and it will squirt out to the side. Latex gloves also help. I also check with the antifreeze retailer about recycling and buy from someone who accepts the recycled coolant even if it costs an extra dollar or two. Do not leave old coolant where pets can drink it as it is a lethal poison.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    The drain plug on my 99 GC Sport is located on the driver's side of the radiator close to the lower radiator hose. It is whitish in colour, and can be seen with a little patience under good lighting. There is a little piece of black plastic tubing to drain water away from the splash shield. This can be followed back to the radiator to find the plug.

    After a drive, stop van and open all heater controls to maximum heat. Wait for the vehicle to cool off *completely*. Remove radiator cap. Crawl under left front and loosen drain cap. You may need to open it a good several turns before it starts to drain.

    Optional: Remove vent plug on thermostat housing to aid draining the block. There are block draining plugs as well.

    Hint: Don't follow the options.

    Hint: Antifreeze is toxic to the environment and should not be disposed off in storm drains. It is poisonous as well. Dispose off the collected fluid in accordance with local laws. In some communities, it can be flushed down the toilet. Please chack in your area.

    Wait for thorough drainage. Retighten drain plug. Refill with 1 gallon of a *phosphate and silicate free coolant* only. Fill remainder with *distilled* water. Recap radiator.

    Option: Use vent plug to purge air from the block as detailed in the Hayne's manual.

    Hint: Don't bother.

    Start engine and drive around. Check for leaks, and top off (this is usually required since I skip on the purge business.) Double check for leaks and level after about a week of driving.
  • Roy Jared and V Cheng,

    Thanks for the posts! By the way, before refill with new coolant, should I fill the same amount of water to flush it? Someone suggests to fill the water(about 2 gallons or so), run the engine for serval minutes, drain them all, then fill with new coolant.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    A flush won't hurt, but the way I figure it, if you keep on doing part-exchanges of fluid more frequently, a flush should not be required.

    I am big on preventative maintenance. By the way, I just changed the brake fluid on my van after one year, and it was already turning dark.
  • swobigswobig Posts: 634
    I'll agree with you, but at what point does all your extra maint. become too much?? I mean you can add extra PS coolers, change PS fluid, brake fluid, blinker fluid, and any other type of fluid, but how often do these parts fail?? Don't get me wrong - I'm not picking on you, but I've had car and trucks go 200,000 miles without doing some of these things without any problems. I can see replacing the tranny fluid early as these trannies are know to give some problems, but don't you think you could stretch the interval on some of the lesser critical fluid changes?? If it makes you feel more comfortable, then great - just trying to understand where your coming from...
  • xingze cai: I agree with vcheng. If I waited 3 or more years, I would drain, add water, drive, drain and add 4 qt coolant for 8 qt system. If I serviced 2-3 years ago then probably drain 4-5 qt and add 3 qt coolant and 2 water.

    Steven: The owners manual maintenance schedule is a pretty good guide, however, vehicles in "severe service" which includes most city commuting, need more than others. Also the cost/benefit depends on whether you do it or you pay for service. If you reduce the cost then more prevention is cost effective. Where I draw the line is the promotion of fluid "additives" to prolong life, improve mileage, etc.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    Yes, I admit I over-service, but I think it is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Mind you, I also drive my vehicles, shall we say, not sedately. Over-servicing forces me to keep on top of things.

    And besides, its a hobby as good as any other, no?
  • swobigswobig Posts: 634
    I need a muffler bearing, anybody got one???
  • swobigswobig Posts: 634
    was backing up a steep incline at McDonald's the other day and the van started shaking some. Don't know if you guys have had a similar experience, but with all these hills around here you can't help it...
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