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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,286
    The magnet is to capture metallic debris, and you did the right thing by cleaning it and putting it back. I think mine was towards the rear of the pan off to the passenger side, but I think any location towards the rear of the pan will do.

    For the filter, as long as you pushed it into all the mounting pins, and installed the O-ring correctly, it will stay in place.

    By the way, I added an extra Hayden transmission oil cooler to my van this weekend. I don't know what good it will do or whether it was really needed (The GC Sport has an auxiliary cooler), but I guess I just wanted some peace of mind.

    I think I have already posted how to install grease fittings above in this forum. I do it every 10K alongwith a tire rotation.

    I think I will change the coolant at two years. I haven't done it yet, but it seems to be a fairly easy job. Get a coolant checker (97 cents at Wal-Mart) and go by it if your van is older.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,286
    xingxe_cai: Please check my post #318 in this forum above for the chassis lube. (I also lubricate small parts like hinges, sliders, locks etc.)
  • eickmeiereickmeier Posts: 19
    Enthused by recent posts, I cleaned the throttle body on my '90 Carvan 3.0L V6 this weekend. This was done once before about five years ago for big bucks at the dealer when the van kept stalling at stop signs with the AC running. The idle had again gotten a little rough and I thought it would be worth a try. It cost all of $3 for parts. The throttle body gasket was a whopping $1.29, about $1.50 for carb/throttle body cleaner (on sale!), and a few cents to the state of Tennessee for sales tax.
    The Mopar site mentioned in an earlier post was helpful. It was an easy job except that I couldn't remove the AIS motor as suggested. It is held to the throttle body with two Torx screws. The first one loosened up nicely but the second started to strip before I could loosen it. I decided to leave well enough alone and cleaned the throttle body with the motor in place. I worked the inlet and the outlet for the idle air circuit well with the cleaner. There was quite a bit of carbon and gunk that got blown out. I am sure I would have done a better job if I could have removed the motor and the, get this for a great word, "pintel" that controls the size of the opening for the idle air flow. There also was a fair amount of carbon on the throttle plate and in the bore. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the result. The idle is now much smoother and it seems a little faster as well. All in all, it was a most gratifying and inexpensive job that took all of 30 minutes.
    Xingze cai, congratulations on your transmission fluid and filter change. I too was a little worried about the press-fit filter for the 4-sp. As long as you got it properly seated so that it didn't pull away from its mounting when unsupported there is no problem. The filter for the 3-speed is held in place by two Torx screws; I like this arrangement much better. There is no guesswork in getting it properly attached to the transmission.
    I also appreciate the nature of the recent posts. These have really been most informative and helpful.
  • eickmeiereickmeier Posts: 19
    To my surprise, my '99 base Grand Caravan with 3.3L V6 and 4-sp transmission came equiped with a transmission oil cooler. Late last year I decided to add an oil cooler as insurance against transmission failure and was ready to head to the parts store to buy one. Before I went I wanted to take a look at potential mounting positions and size limitations and, lo and behold, there it was, my factory installed transmission oil cooler. It is rather small but I don't plan to do any towing so it should be ok. What a surprise!
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,286
    All GCs have a transmission oil cooler in the passenger side of the radiator. The Sport models get an extra one in front of the AC condenser on the driver's side. (I am not sure about other models.) GCs with rear air get an extra condenser in front of AC condenser on the passenger side.

    It may be overkill, but I wanted to be cautious, so I added a third transmission oil cooler below the extra condenser and spliced it into the lines to the auxiliary cooler.

    Only time will tell if this thing will pay for itself. I have only a little less than 11K on the van right now. I hope that if I service the transmission regularly, it will last me longer.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,286
    The first oil cooler is on the DRIVER'S side of the vehicle, as is the second. Sorry about that, I guess lying under the van confuses me!
  • eickmeiereickmeier Posts: 19
    Vcheng, I am not talking about the in-radiator coolers. What I described was an auxiliary external cooler attached to the upper right portion of the radiator (as viewed from in front). It is about three in. tall, by 10 in. wide, by 3/4 in. thick and has hoses that run to the in-radiator cooler on the driver's side of the radiator. I know that there can be two in-radiator coolers, one on the driver's side and a second on the passenger's side. My van is a base GC. I guess I am still confused by your description.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,286
    I think there are several combinations possible. I am not sure about all of them. The Hayne's manual I have lists a cooler in the left of the radiator, plus an optional cooler that is in the right of the radiator, with lines between them running along the fan shroud.

    From your description, my GC Sport has the same extra outside-of-radiator oil cooler that your van has, which leads me to believe that the towing package replaces this second cooler with a bigger one (my van does not have the tow package).

    Does your van have the rear heat/AC? If so, there is an AC condenser, which is of course different form an oil cooler. This condenser is on the passenger side, in front of the man condenser.

    Let me try to make a figure. Assuming the front of the vehicle is towards the bottom of the screen (ie looking at the radiator from the top), my vans layout was:


    where R is the radiator, OC1 is the internal transmission oil cooler, MC is the main AC condenser, EC is the extra AC condenser and OC2 is the transmission oil cooler you and I already have on the van.

    With the cooler that I have added:


    Where OC3 is the Hayden unit, positioned BELOW the extra condenser, not in front of it.

    (I wish I had the time to take pictures, but I was working alone, and couldn't use the camera with dirty hands.)

    So, here are my guesses:

    For all vans:


    (assuming AC is standard)

    Per Hayne's manual:


    (My van doesn't have this.)

    For GCs with rear AC:

    ECECEC (?OC2OC2?)

    (But I think all of these have OC2 as well.)

    Please let me know if this is all gibberish, or if I have succeeded in getting my description across.

    Anyway, regardless of the factory equipment, my point was that I added an extra transmission oil cooler
  • hooferhoofer Posts: 43
    A while back we were talking about OBDII and DTCs, transmission troubles, and fuel economy. Here are some updates from my GC fleet.

    FYI on DTCs:

    I did the trip/reset/5 second trick on both my 1996 and 2000 GC (3.3L). They both do the "check 1,2,3", but these are not DTCs.

    My buddy the Dodge Service manager tells me that this is just a calibration for the gages and instrument cluster. Only the 96-97 models will spit out DTCs using the ON-OFF-ON-OFF-ON method.

    I haven't found anything else on this "trip" check, but remember reading about it somewhere. Will advise.

    I plan on buying a DRB, maybe one of the types that hooks to your own PC (

    Update on transaxle problems:

    I got the latest spectrographic oil analysis back on my 1996 GC and it now shows normal levels of silicon (dirt/sand) and aluminum (this is a complete reversal from the upward trend in aluminum and has me scratching my head). I will retest in another 1,000 miles to establish trends. I am pleased about the Al numbers. I looks like I got enough dirt out to stop the abnormal wear of the softer aluminum parts. Still not experiencing any tranny problems at 65,000 - crossing my fingers based on all the complaints I see about trannys.

    Chrysler changed the tranny filter and the 5 +/- quarts of oil that go with that on my 2000 GC under warranty, but refused to do a power flush. I put 1,000 miles on it last week, so I'll pull a sample and send it off this week. If I still get abnormal silicon (which I expect) I'll do a powerflush out of my own pocket and retest. I'll keep doing this until the levels drop to the normal level.

    My advice to any car owner, especially Caravans, is to do a transmission powerflush ASAP and then every 24/24 - 36/36 after that. I think that the silicon is chewing them up inside.

    The Penske shop close to me (in Kmart) has a tech that knows how to do these right (and knows to use the 2126 Chrysler oil) for about $80 which is 50% of the dealership price (the dealership got tranny fluid all over the front of the car too). Check around and find somebody who can do these RIGHT.

    Wherever you get your tranny work done, WATCH them put in the correct 2126 fluid. DO NOT let them use Dextron III.

    I still recommend spectrographic oil analysis. At $7.50 per test, it is cheap "insurance" and can give you a heads up on incipient problems before they become big, expensive ones.

    It looks like I may have headed-off two expensive transmission repairs thanks to the early warning I got from spectrographic analysis. You can order a 6-pack of spectrographic oil analysis kits for $45 plus tax ($7.50 each) from Get the 800# off their website. This is the best price I have found for this service.


    My 2000 GC with 4,000 miles only got 19.3 mpg on the highway last week. Of course I had a family of 5, car top carrier, boo coo luggage, and was averaging 75 mph. Oh yeah, the AC was on. Still, without the cartop carrier, my 1996 would get about 22-23.

    My 1996 gets 20 mpg around town vs. 16 mpg on my 2000 (again both are the 3.3L). I am still trying to figure out the disparity. Must be in the gear ratios or programming. Still being studied.

    best of luck
  • eickmeiereickmeier Posts: 19
    Vcheng, I now understand your oil cooler configuration. My van doesn't have rear heat/air so it lacks the second AC condenser. My oil cooler is in the same position as OC2 in your creative figure. I was also aware from the Haynes manual of the in-radiator cooler options and it seems an external oil to air cooler would be more efficient. I wonder if there would be a way to now monitor the transmission temperature with your tandem oil cooler arrangement to see how effective it turns out to be?
  • indydriverindydriver Posts: 620
    great info on the oil analysis, please keep it coming. I have a '90 that blew its tranny at 68,500--fortunately in the days of 7/70. I now have 130K on the van (62,000 on the 2nd trans) so I've been concerned about how long it will last. I have the tow package with the extra cooler by the way. I'm in the process of buying a 2000 GSC and I think I'll skip the analysis and just get the trans serviced at 15K. Why won't your DC dealer do the flush? Will my SM know what I'm talking about when I tell him I want 'The Flush'?
  • scannerscanner Posts: 295

    I've heard of 7176 and 9602, but what is 2126? Is this a typo? Doesn't the 2000 model year Chrysler minivans use ATF+4(9602) while the pre 2000's use ATF+3(7176)? Maybe this could explain some of the differences between the spectrographic fluid analysis with your 96' and 00'. I wouldn't worry too much about silicon contamination chewing up the transmission since the purpose of the filter is to trap any particles large enough to do serious harm. Have you ever tested pure ATF out of the bottle? I would be interested in learning what both types of ATF are made of. Does ATF contain traces of aluminum and other elements right out of the bottle?

    Also, the down side to flushing a transmission is the AT filter isn't changed.

    I figure an AT fluid and filter change at 15K miles to clear out anything left behind during manufacturing, then at maximum mileage intervals of 30K there after is a good idea. I change the AT fluid and filter in my 97' at least every 30K miles since I figure it is kind of like having your AT fluid changed once "in theory" by 100K miles since only 1/3 of the fluid is actually changed.

    The life expectancy of transmission fluid under "normal" conditions is 100K miles, but it's arguably too late to have it changed if you wait until 100K miles.

    Check out the following link. My owner's manual says the normal transmission operating temperature is 180 degrees.
  • cesarpcesarp Posts: 47
    Haven't herd of 2126 either and our 2000 T&C uses ATF+4 while the transfer case for AWD unit uses ATF+3. My local dealer recommends transmission fluid and filter changed every 30,000 miles for normal driving which they include any software update for the engine/transmission controller as well. I believe in the very near future ATF+4(9602), which is a half synthetic blend, will be used on older transmissions by updating the transmission controller. Does any one know what are the benefits of ATF+4?


    That is an interesting web site. The trans controller monitors the transmission temperature (don't know which year it begin) and I think it can be displayed using a OBDII scan tool. I'll be ordering an OBDII scanner soon and am curious if this is true and what temperature the factory consider "normal operating parameters".
  • hooferhoofer Posts: 43
    Yep, it was early, before my second cup of coffee. I meant Type 7176 ATF which is what my 1996 GC uses. The bottom line is to watch them put in the correct kind, not Mercon.

    The dealership should know what a tranny flush is (total transmission fluid replacement vs. just the filter and 5 or so quarts). They may not all offer it since it takes a special machine. My 5 Star dealer does.

    The Chrysler rep. didn't want to pay for any tranny service on a car with 2-3k miles. I had to b*tch and then he agreed to do the cheapest one to shut me up.

    As for the filter protecting you from smaller contaminants, I disagree. That is why I was getting wear metals and why they have disappeared now that the silicon is down to acceptable levels.

    The wear is going on at the microscopic level. It is the stuff that is too SMALL for the filter to catch that is circulating and causing the damage.

    Also, I did the filter change first on both GC's. Then the (multiple) flushes. I was told that this is a back-flush and cleans the filter media. Maybe some real wrench turner can confirm.

    I have taken a second sample from my 2000 and sent it for analysis. I will advise when I get the results. This will help to illustrate how just changing the 5 quarts is like taking a shower and putting your dirty clothes back on. The dirty oil contaminates the new. Yes it dilutes it, but not much.

    There are no real differences between the 1996 and 2000 analyses. They both have abnormal AL and silicon.

    As for testing a virgin sample to ensure that the lab is not reading additives (e.g. silicon can be an antifoaming additive in some hydrocarbon lubricants), no I have not. I have to identify the brand and type of fluid used, because they have to know that to account for different formulations. I was getting 262 ppm of silicon where the highest allowable under normal circumstances is about 40 or so ppm (I don't have my file right at hand, but 262 is WAY off the scale.

    Go to and jump to the lubricants site. They have all the MSDS for their products and you can see contents.

    best of luck
  • indydriverindydriver Posts: 620
    Just drove home a new DC Sport today, and lovin' every minute of it. I admit I am very impressed with the original research you are doing on DC engines and transmissions--your conclusions strike me as very logical. As the owner of three Chryslers now, '90 GV with one replaced trans and 130K; '99 300M with two open-heart transmission surgeries and 42K; and a 2000 GC Sport with 80 miles, I am all ears on ways to increase the longevity of these vehicles. My personal experience has been that Chrysler engines are bulletproof but the trannies leave something to be desired. Why are you recommending waiting for 24/24 for the first tranny service if you are observing "severe" and "abnormal" results? You've got me thinking 10K on the first tranny service and 1K, then 3K on engine oil. You mentioned you had found a trans service store you could trust. How do I go about finding same in Indy?
  • hooferhoofer Posts: 43
    I said:

    "My advice to any car owner, especially Caravans,
    is to do a transmission powerflush ASAP and then
    every 24/24 - 36/36 after that. I think that the
    silicon is chewing them up inside."

    I would give it about 1,000 miles and then go have a power flush done. I would change my engine oil at 1,000 too. Both the tranny and engine of my 2000 GC Sport (3.3L) had excessive silicon in them at 1,000 miles.

    Many places do full tranny flushes. Just make sure that they use the correct tranny fluid, many will try to use Mercon as a "univeral".

    If you want to be sure, then use the dealership. Will cost about $150. I found the local Penske (at Kmart) has a former GM Dealership SM who can do a good job for about $80.

    I still recommend the spectrographic oil analysis. It only costs $7.50 a pop. You can have the mechanics collect a sample when they are changing oil or buy an inexpensive pump and pump a sample out of the dipstick tubes. The test kits work on both engine and transmission (or any other petroleum based lube oil).

    Here is the link for the oil pump:

    You want the 12V DC fluid pump #OP-1 ($7.95 plus about $4.00 S/H < $13.00).

    best of luck
  • cesarpcesarp Posts: 47
    Just curious, does your 300M have factory auxiliary trans cooler?
  • I just put a deposit on a 99 GC LE 3.8 AWD with 6400 miles on it. Is there anyone out there that has a '99 with AWD or has knowledge of the AWD system? I'd like to know if it is a solid design or if it is problematic.

  • indydriverindydriver Posts: 620
    Indeed, there is an auxilliary oil cooler mounted in front of the radiator on my '99 300M.
  • cesarpcesarp Posts: 47
    I've a 2000 T&C Limited AWD and it is great vehicle. To my knowledge the AWD design is solid.
    The only additional maintenance for AWD system is the transfer case fluid change every 30K miles intervals. Gas mileage is slightly less than FWD (by 1 MPG in both city and highway estimates). I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) the 1999 model year calls for ATF+3 transmission fluid for both automatic and transfer case. Check the owners manual on this and let us know. The 2000 models require ATF+4 for automatic and ATF+3 for the transfer case. Of note, do not use ATF+4 on the transfer case. Here is an additional info you may be suprised, although the vehicle is an AWD system it does not affect insurance rates! The system works by providing 90% power to the front wheels in normal driving conditions for improved fuel economy and the remainder goes to the rear wheels. Whenever either of the front wheels begins to slip, power is automatically transferred to the other non-sliping wheels. This system works for both forward and reverse motion. My advice is although the mileage is quite low and is still under factory warranty, you should have the vehicle inspected by and independent shop (I like to use AAA). Good luck.

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