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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions

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  • I have noticed premature rust through situations occuring on 96-current Caravan Voyager vehicles.These seem as though they are coming through from corrosion within the wheel wells. It looks as though these could lead to serious conditions well before 80k miles on some, depending on use and environment. Rust is evident upon inspection of the tower in the engine compartment. Anyone back me up with similar situation?
  • Mine is right under the rear wiper switces on the dash, 95 Chrysler Grand Voyager, with all the toys. Maybe some do, some don't.
  • I have a 96 T&C Lxi, with 3.8L tow package, bought it brand new, luckily even at 110K miles i have not had to replace a transmission. But i have religiously changed transmission oil every 15K at the dealer with mopar type 7176 ATF oil. Along with these regular transmission services i have also had the major services at intervals of 30k at the dealer. according to the dealer what has been saving my transmission is the tow package that cools the ATF oil. I reside in San Francisco where there are many hills.

    BUT

    i have had a problem at 70k, the engine coughs, hesitates and die, the dealer at 70k said it was programming and flashed new programming and was fine.

    same problem is occuring now, but now it does not die but just as if it is skipping a beat and idling slower, the dealer said it was idle speed regulator and changed it, but the problem still continues.

    now i am wondering if it worth the hassle of maintaining these delicate machines because everytime i visit the dealer they have charged $700 to $3000, this does not include the regular 30k services or transmission services. I have spent about 10000 dollars since owenership of this van in repairs other than regular maintenance i am debating if it worth the extra hassle.
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    After about $12,500 bucks of money put into my old 1988 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE, I said enough was enough. Plus I was starting to feel uncomfortable taking road trips in it, never knowing if we'd make it or not.

    Those $12,500 bills can all be related back to my good 'ole local Chrysler dealer who claimed EVERY time I brought my car in, it would need 3,000 things fixed for a minimum price of $500. Amazing how when I found a good mechanic, those bills and problems stopped....

    Anyway, I traded my old van in on a brand new 1996 Town & Country LXi and after $120 of maintenance over the 4.5 years (not including oil changes or tire rotations) and 39,000 miles, I now have a 2001 Town & Country Limited.

    I will say while I probably should have gotten my 1996 van serviced according to the manual (although I always had it checked by my mechanic after the warranty was up), after 4.5 years and all me ever having to do was change the oil and change the battery for $120 bucks, my car was perfect. It had its rattles, but mechanically and "transmissionly" it was perfect (although my wipers went on by themselves but that was fixed under warranty). And my $120 battery bill was much nicer than my $12,500 bill on my old van.

    I say it's not worth putting any more than you've already put into it. You've already put more money into it than it's worth and doesn't sound like the most reliable anymore. If I were you, I'd start looking at a new car.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,710
    Has anyone had trouble with the door tracks on the side doors of the '96-'00 generation vans? I have a '99 GCS, and last winter the sliding doors started rattling in cold weather. The winter of '99-'00 wasn't that cold, but last winter was a bear. I mentioned it to my service writer (Tim at Walser Dodge in Bloomington, MN--he is GREAT, have been going to him with my Caravans for over 10 years) and he said it might be a faulty track and he would have both tracks replaced under warranty. That took care of the problem for the rest of the winter, but then today I noticed a bit of a rattle again (it just started getting cold here around Christmas, down near zero now). The van is still in warranty so I'm not worried about cost, but I'm a little concerned if the tracks have gone bad again in just one year. I owned a '91 Caravan and its door track was faultless for eight years.

    (My apologies if this has already been covererd, but I ran out of patience scanning 900 posts.)
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    Could it just be an adjustment problem. When things get cold they contract and I wonder if a readjustment of the door hardware would help. I wouldn't think the tracks would wear out this soon unless you are using if for a bus and opening and closing a million times.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,710
    That's what I thought the first time, that the tracks just needed an adjustment. I was surprised when the dealer replaced the tracks, leading me to believe they might be defective. In fact the service writer said as much, something like "there's been a problem with the tracks, and we've been replacing them with revised tracks and that takes care of the problem." Then there was my '91 Caravan that never needed an adjustment through 8 winters. The van is due for an oil change soon, so I'll see what the dealer has to say this time.
  • I had a fuel rail leak on my '90 Ply GVLE (manuf. 11/89) about two years ago. I started smelling raw gas in the garage after it was driven home and the garage door was shut. Luckily....no fires. I took it to the dealer, a new rail plus fittings were special ordered, at it was fixed for about $500 if I remember correctly.

    Re: trannys, the same vehicle had the "modified" Ultradrive and failed at 68,500 miles. Fortunately, this was when DC routinely gave out 7/70 warranties at no charge on every vehicle. I think I paid a $100 deductible for an entirely new trans 1500 miles before the warranty ran out. Now over 70K on the "new" trans and no problems. As a couple more reference points, my '99 300M was delivered from the factory with a faulty valve in the trans pump which was replace under warranty. Later, the solenoid for 2nd gear went out and certain black box electronics were replaced. Our newest DC vehicle, a 2000 Dodge GCS has been trouble-free for 20,000 miles.

    One final observation: I don't think I've ever heard of a Mopar engine failure in following several DC boards here for 3 years. My ownership experience with DC's engines has been flawless.
  • dkrabdkrab Posts: 77
    I don't know what Superman has to do with all this, but I can tell you that the fuel rail leaks are much more common than "debris falling from the sky aka Superman Story." If you own a DC van with the 3.3L or 3.8L engine (or any DC product with those engines), just be aware of the potential. Of course they don't all leak but they are fragile and if disturbed, are more likely to leak than they should be. And don't think that it only affects '96-'00 models. ALL DC products with those engines have the same fuel rail design. Not an alarm here, just a heads-up to be AWARE. My '91 DC van leaked fuel from the o-ring seals in question on the 96-00 models. I had fuel puddled up on the engine and you could really smell the fuel. If you pay attention and stop driving it if you smell fuel, you could prevent a serious event. It DOES happen, in spite of what Carleton may wish.

    Otherwise, the 3.3 and 3.8 engines themselves are very good. But if you have never heard of one failing, read on. Mine was blowing blue smoke at 58K. Rings siezed to the pistons. Burned a quart every 600-800 miles. the 7/70 warranty paid for it, less $100 deductible. Otherwise it would have been an expensive repair. But unlike the fuel rail leaks, I have never heard of another DC v6 with the oil consumption problem mine had. It must have been an anomoly. Same with the stuck lifter, but that was at 137K.
  • You know, brand loyalty is an interesting phenomenon. In my 20's, I drove nothing but Japanese cars and motorcycles. I refused to "buy American" if that meant accepting lower quality, reliability, performance, styling etc. I was really proud of ChryCo when I decided in late 1989 that their minivan was the best product on the market for my needs. I have bought nothing but ChryCo products since. I now find that I feel like an alien in a GM or Ford. I don't like their styling, the interior switches and controls are in the wrong place or work backwards....its like being in a foreign country. My wife and I are that way about vans. So, yes, people rationalize their decisions but that's human nature.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    Just go read in the problems forums for all vehicles. In DC forums, most problems are reported by "former" owners while in other forums they are current problems reported by current owners.
  • New to the board and am looking for guidance. Purchased Dec2001 a used 2001 GC ES with 3.8L. After parking in my garage for the last few weeks, have noticed a collection of soot under the van, just about mid-way. I peered underneath and witnessed smoke coming out from what appears to be a hole. Also noticed a slight drip which appears to be water. If the water is coming from a manufacturer-designed weep hole, then I suppose the dripping is a sign of proper functioning. However, regards the soot/exhaust, this is at least 6 inches in circumference and is thickening up. Am also experiencing a smaller amount of soot by the tailpipe as well. I had a 99 Windstar, have a 94 Accord, and have never experienced this situation. I am very hopeful I do not have an engine issue or a hole in the engine pipe. I've got an appointment with the Dodge dealer (this will be my first service experience with them)and am concerned abt getting a straight answer. The vehicle has 21K miles and is therefore still covered by 3/36. Appreciate any similar experiences and insights. Thanx.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    I had noticed a leak of water if I had not driven far enough to totally warm the exhaust system. I do not recall seeing any soot at the "weep" hole. Our muffler and exhaust pipe is all rusty now and my observation is that GM stainless steel exhaust and muffler on 87 R-10 and 91 Astro CL lasted longer than the muffler and exhaust will last on my 99 GC SE.
  • plrodplrod Posts: 13
    Anyone considering the purchase of a DC minivan should get the best, longest, extended warranty w/o deductibles available. DC has attractive looking products, we own two currently, but IMO the extended warranty is a must and cheap insurance given our experiences with these cars. Alternately, lease one for 3 years/36,000 miles and then get another one.
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 224
    plrod, I'm sorry to hear you have had a disappointing experience.

    Considering that warranty contract costs include money for repair claims, a broker's fee, underwriter's overhead and profit, they can hardly be cheap. The only customer to come out ahead has a headache for a vehicle and hassles with claims and down time even if the repairs are paid. Alternately, one researches vehicles with acceptable reliability, has a thorough inspection before purchase, does proper preventive maintenance and will over time have reasonable repair expenses. Oh, I also have a local independent mechanic who is very smart(he gets it right the first time) and very honest. I purchased my '95 Caravan, 3.3L, 2 years ago and so far have needed front brakes turned and replaced pads(lifetime warranty), $20 and $30, replaced a cracked windshield for $185, replaced the battery for $54(7 year prorated warranty) and replaced a couple of tires. I doubt an extended warranty would have paid any of these items. A failed water pump replacement and new serpentine belt was $179- maybe a warranty item. That is about .015/mile(.02 including tires), a very impressive low cost.
    If my van becomes a repair headache it would be sold and a better vehicle purchased and someone else can play the warranty game. At this point my wife loves it and I'm optimistic that we will continue to be satisfied owners.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    My niece and husband got a used 96 T&C LXi, live in central Nebraska and use it to tow a rather heavy trailer. They had transmission failure at 150,000 miles. My sister (mother of this niece with the T&C) got a used 86 Caravan and sold it when it had 170,000 miles...with no problems.
    How and where did the myth about DC minivans being less reliable than others get started?
  • emaleemale Posts: 1,380
    carleton,

    you are kidding right?? major and widespread tranny problems from the late 80s to the early-mid 90s are probably the main reason there is still a seemingly perpetual fear by some of dc minis to this day. there is no doubt that the recent minis are probably as good as any other minis out there...but nearly a half decade worth of bad trannies will be hard to wipe away, and there are only too many people out there willing to dwell on the past, if you know what i mean...
  • dkrabdkrab Posts: 77
    Carlton, I addressed the issue of fuel rail leaks because you so casually dismissed it as a made-up issue posted by non-DC owners. If people are reading this board to become aware of issues with the DC vans, then mine is an appropriate post. Sorry if you don't like that. By the way, the "phantom" is in control of the windshield wipers on DC, not sliding doors on brand H. They get jammed doors when not used just exactly right. Tranny clunks are posted by some, just like fuel rail leaks are reported by some. Certainly not all. The clunk (which is rare) won't cause a fire. And it hasn't been ignored for a decade by the manufacturer. I don't get your point. And you are correct, I just traded in my DC van. But I have 10 years of experience with it, more than you have with yours. That's not to say your input isn't sometimes useful, but don't try to say my input has no use just because I recently traded my DC van in on a different brand.

    Your fairly passionate about what you believe, so we have something in common. As far as the issue of brand loyalty, it is a strange phenomenon. I suffered from it with Volkswagen. Hey, I still like VeeDubs. I have owned 4 of them, and never had a major problem with any. I would definately buy another, but I am well aware that they have had bad reliability ratings. If folks are familiar with DC vans and like them, I certainly am in no position to question them. They are good vans, but like anything else, they have their weaknesses. That's what this board is here to address.

    On the issue of water dripping from the exhaust system and staining the garage floor, carelton is correct about it happening if you have not driven far enough to get the exhaust system hot. My van's original muffler just behind the catalytic converter did have a weep hole, and water would come out of it. It's normal. My original exhaust lasted 90K. Just try to run the van long enough to dry it out once in a while, or you will be looking at a prematurely rusted out muffler.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    With all the doom and gloom about DC minivan problems reported by former owners, I personally know and have met only 1 while all of the many other DC minivan owners have never had a major problem.
    Honda lovers can call it anecdotal or throw out any other epithet they want. The facts are that Honda reliability has not surfaced in the area where I live.
    Imagine, with the highly rated Honda, there were 4 Honda Accords that had major problems of a total of 7 Accords owned by people we personally knew in March, 1999. Honda lovers would like you to believe this fact was written by JK Rowling.
  • dkrab/carleton1

    Thx for yr comments on exhaust. To clarify, the water is dripping in 'front' of the muffler where the engine pipe connects, and straight down from that spot is where there is a mighty large collection of soot developing. My wife typically loads the kids, starts the engine, pulls out of the garage and drives away. Local trips are ususally long enough (5-10 miles) to burn off moisture. But maybe they are not...Any thoughts on the soot?
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    I just find it shocking that you know so many people with Honda problems and only one with DC problems. Makes me wonder if you got more than just talk and can prove it.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    ....And very few Honda owners will ever believe there are reliable DC minivans. Odyssey owners can cast disparaging remarks about my integrity all they want. I post in the Town Hall for the benefit of readers who are unaware that Odyssey owners make a career of being a professional troller to trash DC at every opportunity.
    Apparently it is not common for others to trust people as well as I do. I always trust anyone until facts prove me wrong. Sorry that dmathews3 does not feel as I do.
    For privacy reasons I have NOT written the last names of the 4 Honda Accord owners who had serious problems...nor the 3 owners who had zero problems.
    One is Sue B. who is my niece. One is Omar S. who is my son-in-law. A third is Natalie K. who was the paid baby sitter for our grandchildren. The fourth is Judy W. who is a neighbor.
    I have also written that since that time, I have not met another Honda Accord owner who has had problems...and I have talked with many. Judy W. who most emphatically told me "Do NOT buy a Honda" in March 1999, traded her 1991 Accord EX in on a NEW 2001 Honda Accord LX so apparently her anger at Honda was tempered by the memory of her earlier Accord LX that had no problems.
    4aodge, swampcollie, myself and many other satisfied owners of DC minivans have tried to be reasonable and all of us admit that the Odyssey is a very fine minivan with distinct advantages of which the Magic Seat and the new, more responsive, more powerful powertrain is quite an achievement. On the other hand, DC minivans have many nice comfort and convenience features that can not be found on an Odyssey.
  • enetheneth Posts: 285
    Anecdotes are fine - but the track record of the DaimlerChrysler vans isn't just in subjective opinion, it's in the:

    Recall of all the early vans with antilock brake systems, after years of court battles.

    Recall of millions of vans with defectively designed tailgate latches, after years of very public court battles and numerous injuries and deaths.

    Recall of almost all the 1996 models for leak-prone gas tanks.

    Recall of all the early vans with UltraDrive transaxles.

    Recall of 1.6 million vans with leaky fuel rails (delayed a year, after the recall of over a million LH cars with similar designs, years ago).

    DaimlerChrysler fans seem to forget that this line of automobiles was a history-making trend setter in terms of the market place - and that it is also history-making and trendsetting in that it's the most recalled line of vans in the industry. No other manufacturer of minivans has had so many battles with recalls, year after year, design after design - why is it that other manufacturers seem to be able to design safe vehicles from the outset, recall them where mistakes are made, without being forced to by the Federal government?

    Even if you forgive them their dismal repair history of most years until very recently, you've got to wonder whether the current generation will turn out as bad as the past generations where safety recalls are concerned.
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    Very well said but the DC boys will find some lame excuse for their point of view.
  • dkrabdkrab Posts: 77
    jjjbarb, if you are seeing smoke in front of the forward muffler, toward the middle of the car, I would have to guess you have an exhaust leak. Also, it should not be blowing that much smoke, even if it's still warming up. I have a hunch it's running much too rich, at least when it's cold. You'll have to take it in and have that looked at by the dealer. Could be something simple, maybe the throttle position sensor. The exhaust leak should be covered under warranty, too. Is it blowing smoke from between the catalytic converter and the forward muffler, or is it before the cat? Just curious; either way you will have to take it in.

    Maybe I fall into the "Honda Lover" category, but I have to say that there is some merit to the argument that past performance of a make of vehicle is a legitimate predictor of future performance. I think where everyone gets tripped up here is that some readers here take comments to mean ALL of one brand or another are BAD because of this or that problem. I don't think anyone here really believes that. There are many very reliable Chrysler vans out there. They don't all catch fire. They don't all have bad trannys, etc. (Unfortunately, my Chrysler van had both the tranny and fuel leak problems, but I am lucky that way). Taken as a group, though, the Chrysler vans have not had a stellar record. You do take a bit more of a chance when buying a DC van over a Honda or Toyota or some of the others out there. But it isn't a huge gamble, by any reading of the data. The current DC vans are very good. The 96-2000 models were better than their predecessors. And so it goes. Statistically, if you buy a DC van, you are much more likely to get a good one than a bad one. And if you like it, you are much less likely to be annoyed with the little things that do go wrong (this happens to ALL cars) than you would be if you bought a van you don't really like. Buy what you like! Be Happy!
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    I really don't care anymore about how much "dirt" you bring up about Chrysler's past, regardless of whether it's fact or fiction. You can continue to use past safety issues with a company that has obviously undergone serious restructuring within the last few years as a reason not to buy a current Chrysler product. I'm glad that makes you feel better about owning a Honda or whatever it is you drive as peace of mind is a very valuble and healthy thing.

    I don't care about how long Chrysler took to fix it's transmissions, breaks, door locks, or whatever else you want to throw out there. Why? Because I know that if you were to go out now and buy a 2002 DC minivan, all of the previous issues that were of concern have now been resolved (at least to the extent of my knowledge). I don't care how long it took Chrysler to fix it's transmission. Why? BECAUSE IT'S FIXED.

    Some Odyssey owners here can continue to badmouth Chrysler and claim they havent improved quality and they build "deathtraps" or whatever, but they do so knowing that is far from the truth. Just look at Consumer Reports, people here on this board, or even your own friend or neighbor who has a DC minivan. No one here has said Chrysler hasn't struggled with past safety and reliability issues. What car maker hasn't? But is that a reason not to buy a car from a company that builds some of the best products on the market (minivan market at least)? No.

    Bottom line, do whatever makes you feel best about driving an Odyssey. Just get the info straight and come to terms with the fact that Chrysler has changed along with the rest of the auto industry over the last 15 years. Whether you like it or not.

    -Adam
  • emaleemale Posts: 1,380
    one thing you all have to remember is that eneth=ralph nader.

    he (she) brings up some good points...but the trying to warn the masses against chrysler products is getting old...

    i say do your homework and get whatever the hell you want. there are no guarantees on anything...
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