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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: 237
    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: 18,628
    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: 18,628
    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: 221
    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.
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