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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems

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  • royallenroyallen Posts: 224
    Vernon, The trade concept seems feasable. Have you checked the trade value on Edmunds? If the dealer doesn't go for it, have you considered selling it yourself? The wheels, by the way, are easy to find at recyclers or $12-20 ea. If there is a problem it would be the change in rating by CR which just released the April '03 Auto issue. The T&C ('03model) is no longer "check" rated and the some '01 & '02 DC vans (not T&C) are now on the list of "Used cars to avoid" p.89. My '95 Caravan is also on that avoid list, though I couldn't be more satisfied with my experience. Roy
  • stockdoxstockdox Posts: 12
    My van has 37100 miles and has developed a transmission problem. I bought the car used with 35000 miles on it and it looked to be in good shape. Ran fine for just 2,000 miles then the transmission started to downshift harshly in overdrive. Thought the van was covered till 70000 miles but Chrysler said not your vehicle. Fortunately, the dealer threw in a 12000 mile warranty or I would be stuck with a big bill. When I took it in the Chrysler dealer mechanic he said not to worry it sounded electrical in nature and not mechanical to the transmission. I called back later in the day and found out that they now believe that it IS internal to the transmission and that they need to drop the tranny to check it out. Near as I can tell the vehicle was maintained to spec. seems like to me that Chrysler has not fixed its problem transmissions yet. Chrysler Corp is going to get an earfull on this one and I may have cause for a lawsuit against the dealer that sold me the vehicle in the first place.
      I will keep you posted.

    Jay
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    >I would like to go to a local dealership that is selling '02 T&Cs for around $16K, sticker price... Also, if this is a dumb idea, do any of you have any reasonable ideas for getting myself out of this dilemma?

    This is the part that I don't understand. Why would you buy ANOTHER Chrysler van? If you're on your third tranny, why would you give them your money again?
  • steelengsteeleng Posts: 71
    >This is the part that I don't understand. Why would you buy ANOTHER Chrysler van? If you're on your third tranny, why would you give them your money again?

    Good question. Maybe you should ask the same question to the quy on the Odyssey Transmission Problem board who is on his 4th Odyssey after having three transmission failures.

    In this particular case I have a feeling that it has more to do with the $16000 price tag. For that price he could get a brand new T&C or a '99 Ody with 50000 miles and a rebuilt tranny. Take your pick.
  • vernon3vernon3 Posts: 4
    My thanks to all of you who took the time to reply to my questions. Here are my replies.

    I called a local Chrysler dealership (not the one I'd be dealing with) and asked one of their salesmen pointblank what percentage of their sales were for sticker price, and he said very, very few. I then described my 96DGC, warts and all, and asked him what I asked this list, and he said "Sure - we can do that. No problem." Of course, this is a used car salesman talking, so I guess I'm still wondering a bit. It might have been his way of luring me to his dealership.

    >Have you checked the trade value on Edmunds?
    *No, because my banker said that Edmunds tends to "over-estimate" and that the NADA Blue Book gives a more accurate estimate. Their estimate for me was about $2500 trade-in value, $3000 resale.

    >The wheels, by the way, are easy to find at recyclers or $12-20 ea.
    *Sorry I wasn't clear. It's not the wheels that are dented, it's the fenders above the wheels. One side is dented, the other side is scraped; the side with the scrape has a loose headlight (it works, but you can jiggle it horizontally a little, and it aims a little high).

    I just got the April issue of CR, and my wife is studying it at home right now. I saw what you did about the '03 T&C not being "check-marked" and was not very pleased.

    >Why would you buy ANOTHER Chrysler van? If you're on your third tranny, why would you give them your money again?
    *Because this is not our first DGC. Our first one, a '91 model was ideal. Its only problem for the 1st few years was an inaccurate gas gauge (the tank was dropped twice to replace a gauge inside it). We traded it in on our 96DGC when it became apparent we would have to replace the entire AC system (front and rear), but that was back in '99. Looking back on it all, maybe I should have gotten a loan to pay for the new AC system, but seemed like paying for a repair that cost more than the van was worth at the time.

    >In this particular case I have a feeling that it has more to do with the $16000 price tag. For that price he could get a brand new T&C or a '99 Ody with 50000 miles and a rebuilt tranny.
    *You're right. I may go ahead and get a brand new T&C, if only for the warranties. I'm in central Texas, and maybe a Chrysler dealership in a small town not too far from me will have a new T&C for close to $16K, but the locals are all selling them for $26K and up, so I'm not very hopeful. Maybe $16K will get me a used '02 (it was advertised as that price last weekend).

    Thanks again - hope I cleared things up a bit.

    \/\/\
  • durdur Posts: 1
    My 98 grand caravan has just developed a whine that sounds like it may be in the transmission. I have 98k miles with no problems until now. It has been a great van and I would like to keep it but would like to have an idea what is wrong before I get it checked out by someone else. Is this the sign of bad things to come?
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    Here's some food for thought. Yestereday in the paper they were running ads about the T&C. 2003 T&C $28k vehicle going for just over $20k. this includes all rebates and matching down payment (upt to $750). I would seriously look into buying new instead of used if you ca swing the extra money. Also a new car dealer may be willing to give you more for your van since their sales are taking a huge hit.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    Have not read all 15 pages of posts--only about every third page or so. I have noticed, however, one piece of pretty interesting information. The vast majority of the problems are for 1996 to 1998 vans. One guy about 10 posts ago bought a used and badly abused 2002 T&C (as evidenced by the 35k mi in less than a year!) and is having problems, just about every one else has a van at least 4 years old. The vans since 2001 have different transmissions, and they do not seem to be showing up on this thread. My 1993 Caravan SE had transmission problems. I trusted that the new ones would be better, so in 2001 I bought a new Voyager. Nothing but flawless, smooth operation. Traded for a 2003 Voyager LX almost two weeks ago, took a road trip to the beach last week, and this van feels better than the 2001 model. All I can suggest is that to the owners of 1996 Caravans having problems and saying they will never own another Dodge product again are doing themselves a huge disservice. The new vans are very smooth and comfortable--and from what I can tell, the transmissions work great! They would not cover them for 70,000 miles if they thought they would have to replace them at 60,000 miles.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    You are right. My 2003 Voyager LX stickered for $26,010 and had a selling price of $20,588. Then, I got the additional $750 off when I put $750 down myself.
  • feldmanbdfeldmanbd Posts: 12
    I think one of the reasons the newer van transmissions may be reliable than the older ones is that I heard starting in 98 they began using different seals for the transmissions. And in 99, they started adding an automatic transmission fluid cooler. Burned tranny fluid (and Dexron) are definitely reasons for a lot of the failures. And the later vans are now using ATF+4. I've also read that Chrysler's warranty costs are down a lot from a few years ago. My guess is that Chrysler started beefing up the small electronic components and other parts that caused the larger problems and it's been paying off. People also have to realize that Chrysler is the first to go mass-market with a lot of innovations, notably the electronically controlled transmissions. Unfortunately the extended warranties don't appear to be helping Chrysler sell a whole lot more vehicles - but it's funny that it worked for the Korean car makers.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    Nothing suggests that the current models are any more reliable than the past. CR data, and EVERY OTHER CONSUMER SERVICE, suggest similar failure rates and still consider the DC van the highest reliability risk of any minivan, though Windstar (and Taurus) have similar transmission failure rates.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    >Burned tranny fluid (and Dexron) are definitely reasons for a lot of the failures.

    Definitely true, at least for some of the failures. I would run away from any shop that tries to put Dexron in your DC or Mitsubishi tranny.

    >And the later vans are now using ATF+4.

    I think they (DC vans and most Mitsus) all used ATF+4. Not sure though. I'd get the fluid from the dealer, or use one of the oil company's support lines to ensure I had the right fluid. You simply cannot rely on the guys at Floyds Service Station or Cheapie Lube.

    >I've also read that Chrysler's warranty costs are down a lot from a few years ago. My guess is that Chrysler started beefing up the small electronic components and other parts that caused the larger problems and it's been paying off.

    I havne't read that anywhere, but I certainly admit I haven't researched that much. I mostly rely on info from people in the business (independent tranny shops mostly) who fix trannies for a living.

    I have also heard (and seen on these boards) lots of complaints about DC trying to dishonor warranty claims and that they are no longer covering the "secret warranties" that were on some of the worst of the earlier models. This too could lower warranty costs. I'm not throwing stones. I admit that you'd have to review the data pretty closely to glean anything useful. Just not sure what it means without more info.

    >People also have to realize that Chrysler is the first to go mass-market with a lot of innovations, notably the electronically controlled transmissions.

    Maybe or maybe not but everyone has them now, and only DC and Ford have mucked it up.

    >Unfortunately the extended warranties don't appear to be helping Chrysler sell a whole lot more vehicles - but it's funny that it worked for the Korean car makers.

    I doubt that the extended warranty is selling the Korean cars. The Consumer mags so their reliability is up (especially Hyundai) and their prices are right. Long warranties are a sign of a distressed company. No one insists on long warranties from Honda, Toyota and Nissan but they sell just fine also.

    DC has cutting edge styling, easily the best across the board IMHO, and comfort, but they need to put some money into quality control and reliability.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    Your post may be all correct, but you can not argue that the vast majority of problems on this thread are listed for vans from about 1999 on back. The newer vans (esp. 2001 to present, the current design) are not here in any significant number. If the transmissions of today were like the transmissions of the mid nineties and before, the newer vans would be showing up in larger numbers by now. I also think long warranties play a big role in how a car line sells. Hyundai offered it and people took a chance. The buyers found the cars to be good and the sales have continued upward. I also think image and perception play big roles. Odyssey transmissions are famous for failing, yet people still buy them as fast as they can. If a DC van has a transmission problem, it gets chalked up to yet another junk DC transmission. I think the fact that Chrysler offers the 7/70 powertrain warranty means they believe the transmission will hold up over the years--at least the great majority of them will, anyway.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    No doubt that 99 or older are more likely to fail than 00-02s. But I doubt it has to do with anything other than mileage. DC has promised redesigned trannies several times, including, I think, 89, 93, and 98. Now the 98s and 99s are failing regularly, even by your admission. I don't remember there being any redesing after 99.

    >Odyssey transmissions are famous for failing, yet people still buy them as fast as they can

    I don't particularly like the Ody (especially the interior and pricing), but "famous for failing" doesn't square with the facts. All the consumer magazines rate it, along with Sienna, as the most reliable. Consumer Reports lists only one year, the 1998 Ody, as having less than exceptional transmission reliability. It is still rated better than the 98 DC. I personally believe all the minivans, except DC, Windstar, and EV, have sufficient reliability so that I wouldn't rule them out. (Its painful for me to admit that even the Kia is putting up acceptable numbers at this point.) Why do these DC threads always become Oddity vs. DC threads?
  • I've never posted here but have been reading for a while. I'm looking for a mini van; my second child is on the way. I need a vehicle that will double as a family vehicle and a truck (my truck was totaled last month :-(. I do a lot of woodwork and need something that I can carry 4x8 sheets plywood etc. Can the Caravan, or Grand Caravan hold a sheet of plywood? Can it hold it flat or does it need to lay across the wheel wells? All this anti-DC stuff is a bit much. Are the vehicles really that bad? I can't believe that they are complete junk . . . they sell so many. I've owned Honda, Toyata, Saab, VW, and a few American brands in my time. They all have some problems. If I buy a Dodge, should I expect some terrible transmission problems? I have to admit I'm getting cold feet reading this forum.

    Thanks in advance for your opinions.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    We have a 2000 Town & Country LX 3.3 with 61k miles and is still running great with no serious problems. It's been a great car and I enjoy driving it very much. The Town & Country has good style, especially for a minivan and stands out among all the drab, gray Odyssey vans around. If Chrysler minivans are such junk, then why hasn't ours fallen apart by 61k miles?
  • steverstever Ex Yooper, just arrived in New MexicoPosts: 40,540
    Hey Adam - been a while. Good to see you on Town Hall posting again.

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  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    There is no need for cold feet. The transmissions were re-done (along with the rest of the van) in 2001 and you should not have any problems. They back it with a 70k mile warranty because they feel the van will last. Remember, they sell hundreds of thousands of these vans every single year. They have sold millions of these vans over the years, so fewer than 300 posts on this thread should not scare anybody. This company invented this segment and has owned the market share every year as well. Go to the Dodge dealer and see for yourself if the van is big enough for your needs.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    Remember that Consumer Reports gets their data from the buyers. Buyers who do not want to admit that their beloved Odyssey is not as perfect as they just knew it would be. DC owners may be a little more harsh if a problem occurs because they will lay awake at night staring into the ceiling wondering why they did not do like their neighbors did and buy a "perfect" Odyssey so they could live thier lives trouble free for eternity. Go to any automotive site and read thousands of messages about junk Odyssey transmissions. Search the internet and get thousands of hits. DC sells many more vans than Honda does, so problems with DC should not surprise anybody considering the volume.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    Just looked at autosite.com and found the sales figures through February, 2003 (the most recent numbers they report). DaimlerChrysler sold 53,555 vans in January and February of this year (with 34,280 being the Dodge versions) versus 21,277 Odysseys sold by Honda. Two and a half times the volume should produce a few more problems, but I think DC holds its own pretty well.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    My '96 Caravan short wheelbase is just wide enough between the wheel wells to hold a 4' sheet of plywood, though the short wheelbase version is not long enough to shut the rear gate. I think, but am not sure that the long wheelbase version will hold the 8' long sheet with the rear gate closed. DC has had ability to handle 4' widths I believe from the first editions in 1984.

    I agree with uga91, you can't go too far wrong with the extended warranty they offer now. They have built 10 million of them, and are still selling well despite more competitors and many people switching to SUVs.

    Plus, if you are on a budget, I think you will find much better pricing with the DC vans than Odysseys and especially the new '04 Sienna. More choices on the dealer lots also, if you don't want to load it up with expensive options.

    My 96 has had no engine or transmission problems and is now at 65K. If you read everything posted, you'd begin to believe that they all fail prematurely, but in reality this is not true.
  • cadellcadell Posts: 10
    First post here. Agree with most of the messages here. My boss got an Odyssey a few years back and lost his tranny the first six months. Funny that this wasn't hyped in the media much. But it was a major problem with these vehicles. Consumer reports rates the Honda average as well as the Chrysler. Thought they seem to gloat over the Honda much more. AAA of Southern California lists the Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Chrysler and Kia as recommended. But, they too gloat over the Honda.

    I prefer the TC's smooth and quite ride. I fully believe that the fold away rear seat adds noise, which is not Chryslers goal. It's no new invention. It was a common thing in stations wagons in the 60's and 70's. I believe Chrysler would have put it in years ago if it didn't compromise something.
  • pat84pat84 Posts: 817
    The DC minivans are all built to accommodate AWD. I had a 96 without AWD. I noticed when it was up on the rack, that it had space for the rear drive shaft under the rear seat. It would make a folding rear seat result in a higher, less stable MV.
      I had transmission problems with my 96 at 72 K miles, and traded it on a 99 Odyssey. I got the towing package on the Odyssey for the transmission oil cooler to increase the reliability of the transmisson.
      The Odyssey transmission failed at 68 K miles. The first rebuilt tranny my dealer ordered did not have all the parts. The second was full of water and rusted. The dealer installed the third one. I could argue that I had 3 transmissions after my original. Don't believe everything you hear about Honda reliability.
     One other thing, that Honda audio system was pathetic.
  • uga91uga91 Metro AtlantaPosts: 1,065
    Thanks for the interesting story. Hopefully, you are up and running now, though!
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    Yes, it has been a little too long since I've poster here. It's good to be back. We've had two Chrysler minivans, a 1998 Grand Caravan and 2000 Town & Country, neither of which had any serious problems. I'm about to head off to college in a few months and I'm wondering if a used Chrysler minivan from 1999 or 2000 would be a practical vehicle for next year. Or perhaps a used 2001 or 2002 PT Cruiser?

    -Adam
  • steverstever Ex Yooper, just arrived in New MexicoPosts: 40,540
    Then offer to move your friends, and their friends. You'll make enough to keep yourself in gas and pizza all semester, every semester.

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  • OK. First post here. Let me lend my experience. I have had company leased Grand Caravans since 1994, traded every two years @ about 50K+. The ONLY transmission probs were the '94 with 3.0 V-6 and push-button overdrive. The problem disappeared after servicing the trans (my predecessor just changed the oil in the engine). The next was a '96 Grand SE with 3.0 V-6 and 3 speed auto (kind of a dog power-wise), and a '98 Grand SE with 3.3 V-6 and 4 speed auto. No problems. Serviced at 5K intervals. I currently have a '99 Sport (short wheelbase) with the 4-speed auto and 3.3 V-6 with about 50K. No. problems. My wife's company trades every 3 years and 50K+, using the base model also since '94. The first with a 4 cyl . The last two, base models with the 3.0 V-6 and three speed trans. No trans problems, and her company doesn't service but at 7.5K intervals. I personally am a "shifter", and like to use the trans for braking and avoid a multi-shift downshift by anticipating an uphill grade or whatever. No problems. My vife's company switched last year to Chevy Ventures. Aside from the On-Star, her fellow managers haven't been wild about them due to heavy maintenance and poor build quality, and wish for the Caravan back. My Goodyear service manager says he buys Dodge rebuilt transmissions direct from the Dodge distributor, "and they don't come back", so somewhere at Dodge, they've figured it out. A rebuild is about $2,600 - $2,900 installed. I haven't needed one. I'd love to put a crate Hemi in my '99 Sport, but that's another story . . . . So, there is some cold, hard experience for you.
  • My local Jiffy Lube manager observes that a ton of Dodges (all models) are leased, and somewhat poorly maintained by those driving company cars due to extended and "least costly" service intervals.
     I use Mobile-1 synthetic in the engine every 3K in my '99 Sport with 3.3 V-6 and 4 speed auto, and have used Lube Guard in the trans at the first service (30K) with a filter change. I intend to switch the trans fluid to synthetic at the next service (60k). I'll need to find a shop that can also flush the converter for a complete renewal of the trans fluid, and I think it will pay off in the long run. I used to work in a trans shop, and I'm in agreement with earlier posts. There is nothing worse than burnt trans fluid, both in the trans and it's "perfume". So, change the fluid, get a trans cooler.
  • steverstever Ex Yooper, just arrived in New MexicoPosts: 40,540
    Seattlebob1, check out the Where are the high performance minivans? discussion, and thanks for the reliability reports.

    Steve, Host

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    You worked in a trans shop? What do you feel about the suck it all out method vs. the multiple drain and fill method for tranny service. I use the DIY drain and fill method, usually three times within a few days and the fluid looks nice and new, but I've been wondering about the machines...
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