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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • royallenroyallen Posts: 221
    Lee: Stalling, especially when intermittent is a challenging problem. Check this web page for likely problems that includes fuel filter:
  • My husband and I are van shopping-what a nightmare! We have narrowed it down to a Windstar SEL, Grand Caravan ES, or an Odyssey EXL;all 2002 models. I prefer the "truck like" feel in the Windstar and some of it's features. However, the reliability ratings on Consumer Reports are not good. My husband likes the Caravan for it's ride, looks, features. We both feel the Honda is probably the best bet for safety, reliability, insurance premiums, etc. Unfortunately, we find it the most boring in features and drive. I know, I know, it's a van, but it would be nice to have fun while driving kids here and there, running errands, taking long road trips, etc. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
  • real123real123 Posts: 20
    1) My '98 GC has 47k. In the morning, when cold and put in drive or reverse, it shudders or growls in the front. Several buddies were sure it was transmission, especially since it's a GC. The transmission place I went to is adamant that it's not the tranny. They actually reproduced this sound later in the day by pressing the gas and holding back with the brake. They claim something must be loose near the alternator. Anyone have any ideas?

    2) At times, after turning on the engine, most of the electronic gear in the car didn't work (power windows etc). Turning the car off and on again solved the problem. Any ideas on cause and the cost to fix?
  • enetheneth Posts: 285

    How can you simultaneously condemn Consumer Reports for a narrow sample base (numbering in the hundreds of thousands of members) and say that an even smaller base of consumers (your neighbors and friends) could possibly instill more confidence?

    Unless you have a significantly above average number of friends and neighbors, it is that anecdotal evidence that's useless as a prediction of reliability or chances of buying a lemon, not the data published by Consumer Reports (or J.D. Power, or any other organization that uses a sample base larger than the average person's friends or neighbors).

    That said, a neighbor just got a 2001 Dodge Caravan - it is far better built than anything I'd seen with that nameplate in the past. Daimler's influence is turning out to be a positive one - at least fit and finish wise. Still suspect is the sub-par automatic transaxle and electrical system for which these vans have been known for over a dozen years - it remains to be seen whether Daimler helped Chrysler figure out how to design an electrical system or finally fix the problems with the faulty powertrains.
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 237
    I agree with your worriers concerning the Chrysler vans completely.

    Having had three Chrysler vans so far, the 2001 has been the best in terms of reliability and fit and finish

    My 1988 Grand Voyager LE was awful until I found a good non-Chrysler mechanic. It had a myriad of electrical problems, but luckily no transmission problems, but that may be because the 4-speed auto didn't come out till '89 I believe.

    I paid $20,300 for the '88 Grand Voyager LE, but spent $11,200 over the eight years we owned it in repairs that my local Chrysler dealer said I "had to have done." The Chrysler guys would always say somehting like, "Yeah, sorry, we can't really let you out of here knowing you need new brakes, shocks, etc."

    It was at least $500 dollars every time we'd walk out of there even if we only brought it in for an oil change. Luckily, in the vans last three years, we found a good regular mechanic, and the $500 dollar maintenance bills stopped. Hmmmm, I wonder why.....

    The 1996 Town & Country LXi was good, but it did rattle in certian places, and the rear quarter windows came unglued, so the '96 was reliable, but had its share of quality issues, but at least those didn't cost anything, because by the time the warranty was up, all those little problems had been fixed. Also no transmission woes like three of my other fiends had on their '94 and '96 vans.

    And now the 2001 has had ZERO problems. It's been great, and the improvement in quality and luxury for that matter has been amazing.

    I hope Chrysler has gotten its act together, but only time will tell I guess. I've also learned it doesn't pay to drive a Chrysler till it dies after my experience with my '88. Now driving my Toyota or my son's Honda till they die are totally different stories....
  • calgcalg Posts: 53
    I'm just curious... what made you stick with Chrysler after the problems with your first two vans and your worries about reliability? Did you look around at other vans before buying your 2001?
  • I've recently purchased a '97 Chrysler T&C with the 3.3 and roughly 52K miles on the clock. Looking over the owner's records, I see that the steering rack was replaced at 20K due to a lack of power assist. The van has a bit of an unusual problem, though, that I'm hoping someone knows a little about. A "creak" can be heard upon acceleration from a dead stop, then again while braking, with the noise being more noticeable the harder the acceleration/deceleration. No real shudder can be felt through the column/steering wheel, but in my mind there must be some play in either the rack or some other part of the front suspension. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  • calgcalg Posts: 53
    but I would also like to hear dave210's reasons. It did not sound like he had just a few AC problems at 100,000 miles.
  • This is a repeat of a post that I made in another board but it may help real123 track down a similar problem. I hope it helps.

    I currently own a '95 Chrysler Cirrus and I have had a similar (not sure that it is the same) electrical experience. On a couple of occasions I have started my car and found that none of the auxiliary electrical systems worked. I first noticed it because the steering effort is increased (this car has electronic variable assist power steering). Upon turning off the car and starting it again everything worked fine.

    To get to the point, I have found that it is not an electrical problem, it is the ignition switch. Occasionally, the switch will not return all the way back to the run position from the start position. In the start position all of the auxiliary systems are overridden to route power to the starter. When the switch doesn't return fully the power is not restored to the rest of the cars systems. It is difficult to just bump the key back to the run position without killing the engine so I have found that the safest thing to do is stop the car and reboot.

    I hope this has been helpful.
  • My GC Sport is about 18 months old now, with about 34,000 miles. I have an appointment tomorrow to fix the only defect I've noticed: if the wiper switch is in the intermittent position when the van is turned off, sometimes it won't start up again (until the wipers are turned off and back on).

    I'm just wondering if anyone else has noticed this behavior? I almost cancelled the appointment because it is such a minor thing, but I'm going to have them check the brakes and adjust the headlights also.

    Otherwise, I can't find too much to complain about on this van: the headlights aren't as good as my wife's '96 Subaru, the horn button is hard to find, and retained power windows would be nice.
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 237
    At the time, we were having such problems with the '88 Grand Voyager, I was all set on getting rid of it for a '92 Town & Country. But I FINALLY realized all those bills that I kept getting from the AWFUL local Chrysler dealer mechanics were just a bunch of you know what.

    Plus in 1990-1993 when the major problems were happening, what minivans were there? Ford Aerostar? Ummmm, I don't think so. Chrysler was the only minivan to even really consider for us. And the Japanese vans were also too small and weird looking. (Mazda MPV, Toyota Previa, etc..)

    Once I started taking my van to an independent mechanic, the problems stopped. The van was reliable again, except for the one electrical problem that even my mechanic couldn't fix.

    Something in the inside of the car was draining the battery, so if you didn't drive the car for more than a day and half, it wouldn't start.

    After 8 years, Chrysler nor my mechanic could find where the electrical leak was. I felt bad for the dealer we traded it into. Boy, were they in for a surprise whenever they tried to start it up for a test drive.

    ANYWAY, the 1996 Town & Country was not unreliable at all. Mechanically and electrically it was prefect other than the phantom windshield wipers that we had fixed. All I stated was that it had its share of rattles and the back windows came unglued from its pusher that pushes the power rear quarter windows open. Nothing major, and after the first year, we had had all the rattles and quality issues fixed. Never once did I feel it was going to strand us or break down. While it had some first model year quality issues, it was still VERY reliable over the 4 1/2 years of ownership.

    As for being worried, I guess maybe a little, but only because I'm still waiting for my transmission to fail and all my electrical things to go haywire like many of my friend's have had with their vans.

    But after two VERY reliable vans and the one "misunderstood" van that was fine once we got it way from the Chrysler service department, I won't at all be hesitant to buy another one 3-4 years down the road.

    Another thing I've come accustomed to is the luxury and the style. I don't get the people who say minivans are supposed to look boring and boxy, but I like the sleek and rounded look of my old '96 and now '01. The triple-zone digital auto air, heated seats, memory seats, memory mirrors, memory radio presets, removable consol, homelink, power doors, liftgate, etc., can't hurt my decision to buy another one either...

    1988 Grand Voyager LE - traded in at 84,300 miles after 8 years
    1996 Town & Country LXi - traded in at 37,900 miles after 4 1/2 years
    2001 Town & Country Limited - 9,200 miles and perfect
  • calgcalg Posts: 53
    Even though we drive an Odyssey, I still look at other vans forums simply to get more information on what is out there and what issues or advantages other vans have. When we go to trade in our Ody in a few years, I just want to hear as many "real world" stories about other vans so that we can make an informed decision. Right now we are very happy with our Ody; it serves our needs very well. But in a few years if someone else comes out with a safe, reliable, comfortable, affordable, with a SPLIT magic seat van, who knows?
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 221
    In reply to Carleton's poor opinion of CR reliability ratings vs his experience and that of his friends,
    1. CR covers 200 and some models with over 500,000 survey reports per annum.
    2. An alternative reliability source (which I've previously suggested to Carleton) is the Edmunds used car reliability ratings which are quite similar to CR in terms of the CC vans vs Honda Accord (which Carleton wants to compare for the sake of arguing against CR).
    3. I bought a '95 Caravan in Dec '98 after reviewing CR in some detail and found one critical article in Feb '91 regarding high failure rates of the 4 speed transmission introduced in '89. To say "CR has trashed DC minivans for years" is a gross exaggeration. DC minivans have been rated in the top three in the April Auto issue of CR for the past 10 years.
  • jft26jft26 Posts: 35
    real123 --- I also have a '98 GC with a 3.3L
    V-6 that had the similar symptoms. When the engine was first started (cold) and placed in Drive or Reverse there was a shuddering or marble sounding rattling coming from the engine compartment. I was going crazy trying to figure it out. I finally took it to the Chrysler Dealer Service. It was diagnosed as a bad Serpentine Belt Tensioner. The Tensioner was replaced along with the serpentine belt. Problem solved!
  • real123real123 Posts: 20
    steeleng, On the electrical problem, I'm going to try out the possibility that it's a problem with the key. It could be that my lock was tampered with, because I can pull the key out while the engine is on. Perhaps that's the root of the problem.

    jft26, As far as the tensioner goes, I wonder why it causes shuddering when it's cold. In any event, if that's the problem, I hope my warranty with GE will cover it. I've wondered how good this warranty is. I suppose they wouldn't cover the belt,if it needs replacement.
  • vtec11vtec11 Posts: 7
    Hey all, this is my first post and i just bought my mom a 1998 Grd Caravan ES w/ 35k.

    It didn't come with an owner's manual (yet) so can someone tell me how to turn the fog lamps on. I can't see a switch or anything anywhere for it.. ???

    The lights are in the bumper, and arn't turn signal lights, so i am assuming there fog lamps.

    Also, how do you adjust the sensitivity on the automatic headlights.

  • crkeehncrkeehn Posts: 513
    I don't know if there has been a change in the last couple of years. My PT Cruiser comes with fog lamps. To turn them on you first turn on either the parking or headlights. With the PT cruiser the lights are controlled by a stalk on the left side of the steering column. To turn the foglamps on, you pull the end of the light stalk out.
  • vtec11vtec11 Posts: 7

    It was a good idea, i gave it a try, but it dosn't work. My stalk dosn't pull out. You can only press it in, and that's to spray water on the winshield...

    How do they work on caravan ????? Are they really fog lamps or just for show ?

  • I'm cosidering buying a 99 Caravan. What are the pros and cons of this year?
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 237
    If you know how to turn on the headlights, you'll be able to find out how the fog lights go on.

    You turn the dial-type knob right to either the "On" position or if you have it, the "Auto" position.

    In either setting you then pull out the knob to activate the fog lights.

    This was how it was on my '96 and is the same for my '01 van. Hope this helps!
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