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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • klh_akklh_ak Posts: 1
    I have an 89 2.5L Caravan that has had 2 heads replaced, the second one when the camshaft broke in two. Also replaced the engine twice, the second within a month, then replaced pistons when the cylinders scored and the pistons started slapping. It has a tendency to form an air pocket at the thermostat, which then will not open, and the engine overheats. The first problem was at about 80,000 miles. I don't know whether Dodge has redesigned the engine, but it's worth looking into. Other than that, the car has been very dependable.
  • scannerscanner Posts: 295

    Did you start to have problems soon after having your anti-freeze changed? Also, did the same mechanic perform all of the repairs on you van?

    Chrysler stopped using the 2.5L engine in minivans in 1995. Chrysler minivans switched to the 2.4L in 1996 which is based on the 2.0L. I've heard of some head gasket problems earlier on, but nothing lately out of the ordinary.
  • pjjqbypjjqby Posts: 3
    Are the tranny issues related to van size - long vs short wheel base, or is it to engine size - 3.0, 3,3 & 3.8. Do I understand it correct that the 2.4L w/3 speed tranny has no problems-other than it can't get out of its own way??
  • guynnguynn Posts: 1
    I noticed a lot of info posted on the older Caravans. I have an 85 model with 195,000 miles on it. Runs great. Only problem I've ever had was the carb., replaced it once and the van runs better than it did. I'm in the process of replacing the struts and battery cables. I've found the key to keeping it going is (of course) changing the oil often, but I have also had all the belts, hoses, plugs, and plug wires changed twice since I bought it. Even if it didn't look like any of these needed changed. I also make sure the gas filter is changed once or twice a year. I put a container of gas treatment in every other gas fill up. My mechanic says it will probably last longer than any of the new ones.
    I also have a 94 Caravan, with 64,000 miles. It seems to have developed a miss in the past couple of months. Anyone else having problems with that? The mechanic can't find any reason for the miss.
  • edwardh1edwardh1 Posts: 88
    Has anyone ever discovered exactly what the cause of the transmission problems is?
    Seems some aftermarket person/company would have a cure?
    What fails inside the Chtco xmission and what causes the failure/
    Parts too small?
    Plastic parts?
  • My Voyager transmission failed twice in two different modes. Being stuck in second gear evidenced the first failure (42K miles). The transmission was replaced under warranty. I don't know the actual failure mode inside the transmission. My guess would be that a check ball was stuck in the hydraulic control unit. A Chrysler dealer had serviced the transmission at 31K miles.

    The second time it failed (92K miles), I would put the transmission in gear and nothing would happen. When I increased the engine RPM, the transmission would engage with a clunk and the van would jump. Slipping clutch packs would most likely cause this.

    There is a belief that the wrong type of transmission fluid could have caused both of these failures. An excellent reference for transmission fluid that also lends credence to this belief is:

    At this site, Ford and GM ATF's are mentioned, the recommended ATF for Chrysler is conspicuously missing.
  • egawronegawron Posts: 9
    Since your first transmission was serviced at the Chrysler dealer at 31,000 miles, are you saying that both the factory and the dealer may have used the wrong transmission fluid and that may be why it failed?? Also did the dealer continue to use the wrong transmission fluid in the second transmission, and that is why it failed?

    I guess it could be argued that the special transmission fluid that Chrysler developed for the 4 speed automatic (after it had major reliability problems using dextron for which it was originally designed) may still not be the "right" transmission fluid. I am more inclined to believe that it was a poorly designed transmission from day one and still has reliability problems 10 years latter. This belief is shared by most transmission repair specialists - - just ask a few.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    Ok, my post is not timely, but may be helpful. Some of you may be interested in changing your own fluid and filter in your transmission, but are concerned by the messy aspect of the job.

    Here is a tip, get one of those hand pumps with clean hoses. You can carefully route the pickup hose through the dipstick tube and pump out about 4 quarts of fluid BEFORE you drop the pan. While this may take a bit longer, you will not have near the mess in your driveway to clean up.

    Hope this helps.

  • From what I have read dexron fluid can disolve the clutch material on Chrysler transmissions, that is why it takes several months for the trans. to fail after a fluid change.

    TBONER, While your method will change the fluid, at some point you will need to change the filter
  • lead to failure of all of them...that does not happen... i have never even seen a reliable number as to how many...someone had some number from consumers at 8% but I dont have a clue... It is impossible to have an objective discussion about it since the Ody guys will jump on such a topic and say that they are all bad and we DC owners will say no they arnt and we are back in that circle. All I know is that I have had no trouble with 3 DC vans and I live in a rural midwest area and have the trannys serviced at around 50k at the dealer. I do not tow and drive pretty much the speed limit. I do not have a transmission cooler.
  • I don't buy into the "wrong fluid" theory either. However, the information presented by Lubrizol (a reputable, neutral party) does present evidence for the wrong fluid theory.

    The 31K service was by Chrysler dealer A. The transmission replacement was by Chrysler dealer B. They may have used the same ATF, I don't know. If dealer A put in the wrong fluid, then the failure showed up 11K miles after the wrong fluid was installed. I'm not sure why the second failure would happen 50K miles later.
  • rmartin4rmartin4 Posts: 1
    I just purchased a 2000 Base Caravan with the V6 value pack (V6 3.0L) and the power package. I bought aftermarket alloy wheels and an aftermarket keyless entry system/w alarm. The car is for my wife. I love how it drives...compared to our 1998 Nissan know...smoother and higher seating. I just found this website though and am hearing all of these negative things about the Caravan...I am starting to get a little worried...anyone out there that can give a positive story and make me feel just a little better! I wish I came across this board before I bought the thing!
  • There are lots of positives. It's great to look at, has an excellent ride, has lots of features for the money. Enjoy your new car.
  • lots of us have had good experiences. Pick any van you want in here and go look at the postings. You probably wouldn't buy and of them. but the fact is that most of us with any brand go many many trouble free miles. I am on my 3rd DC van and couldnt be happier.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    Please read my post again. I said nothing about NOT changing the filter. If your read carefully, I said that you would pump out MOST of the fluid BEFORE you drop the pan.

    Less messy. Not less work!
  • cuadancuadan Posts: 13
    My parents bought a 96' Caravan, or whatever the year was when they came out with the new design. Two Words: Big lemon. Previous to that my family owned an 88' dodge Caravan. Still running at 250K....?? So I ask. Where has Dodge gone? They used to be pretty good. In fact, that 88' caravan went through hell and back and it's still running, but that dosent dispute the fact that all new Dodge products stink big time. My girlfriend's parents also own a 97' Caravan. Many problems as typical.
    Some of our problems..just for comparison :
    >>belts - needed tightening, and timing etc..
    >>brakes - ABS was getting funky needed checking out
    many interior plastics (especially air vents in rear passenger area) have been broken.
    >>flat tires etc..
    >>water pump failed - car needed towing and new pump
    >>bad front end alignment experiences. FWD is NOT the way to go with a van. rattles and rocks at 70+mph
    >>broken driver side window mechanism. (inconvenience of driving around with duct tape and a plastic bag since the window could not be rolled up in any manner)
    >>Still have problems on cold mornings (in florida that is) - belts squeak and whine, and it seems like fuel injection is inconsistent, producing occasional fits of mild acceleration at low speeds.
    >>Torque steering is typical and annoying as is with most large FWD cars.
    >>Steering column has at many times "locked" up, not allowing the driver to turn wheel. The scarriest thing is, this has happened at HIGHWAY speeds as well as around 5 mph and also at 30 -50 mph. This car is a potential death trap to my mother and is being sold as we speak.
    >>cant remember anything else off the top of my head but Im sure theres been more.

    My advice: Sell the thing while it still has ANY value (they depreciate like crazy), and get your wife a more worthy automobile. Do MASSIVE research before buying anything.
  • egawronegawron Posts: 9
    Joehedges. I am sure the Chrysler dealers used the correct Chrysler recommended transmission fluid in both your failed transmissions. My point is that indeed the Chrysler automatic 4-speed transmissions still fail even if you use the recommended fluid. That was also my experience. It remains a problematic transmission. Many erroneously believe that all the failures are related to not using the Chrysler recommended transmission fluid.

    Swampcollie - Poor design of the Chrysler 4-speed does not mean all would fail. It means that it is a marginal transmission. While it took Chrysler 10 years to get it to finally last past the original warranty period, it is still has long term reliability problems. Since it is marginal, failure depends on usage. It will fail much quicker if continually subject to heavy use, i.e. hot climate, heavy loads, stop & go city traffic, towing, etc. I only suggest that those who want to own a caravan past the original warranty buy an extended warranty and get rid of it before the extended warranty expires. With the history of the Chrysler 4-speed automatic, it is foolish to do otherwise. This is based on my ownership experience.
  • just the guy we have been looking for...the one that can tell us exactly what the % of failures is. If we are going on personal experience, I have had 3 with no failures...
    Unlike the rest of you, I am not allowed to name brands in here, however if you look at the problems forums on several other vans in here you will find plenty of tranny problems reported in here. And many right off the truck.
    I admit, the early 4 speed was a problem... i saw it.. I am not seeing it now. Go to car point. they list years after 93 as little or no problems. And, no, I dont know where they get their data.
  • dmori1dmori1 Posts: 1
    I am in the same boat as you are. I purchased a 1999 Plymouth Voyager base with the Mitsubishi 3.0L engine before I found Edmunds and wish I had found this site first. My Voyager/Caravan vehicle has run fine for almost a year. Bought it in May 99 and it now has 12,400 miles on it with no problems except for a vibration on certain parts of the freeway here. So far I'm happy with my mini van. I love the dark tinted security glass. See my posting under category #59 reply #296 and #297. I with more people in the 20,000 to 25,000 mile range would let us know how their vehicles are running.
  • jwmekjwmek Posts: 1
    I have a strange brake problem on my '98 T&C Lxi since new: 90% of the time I have to apply much more than normal pressure on the brake pedal to bring the van to a stop. The other 10% of the time only "normal" pressure is required but accompanied by a groaning noise from the front brakes. Brake fluid level is fine.

    Had taken the van to the dealership service twice for brake inspection and twice they told me the brakes are working fine and the poor braking is normal!?!

    Anyone with this or similar problem and what's the fix? TIA.

    Aside from the weak brakes and the useless headlights I am quite satisfy with my T&C.
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