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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems



  • shawndsmshawndsm Posts: 1
    94 T&C 119K miles: Battery OK- All dash board lites on and OK - engine won't start. :sick:

    Is it the starter? Or is it something else? What kinda bucks to repair/replace if it's the starter? Is the starter something a novice with oil changing experience can replace? Or should this not be tried at home?

    Really trying to keep this on the cheap.
    As always, any assistance or comment is greatly appreciated.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,564
    Just because the dashboard lights go on, doesn't mean your battery is OK.

    If you want to diagnose the battery on the cheap, which is the way I try to do things first also, I would pull the battery, take it to a parts place (assuming you have use of another vehicle) that can test it. If it is bad, buy a new battery and install it yourself.

    If the battery tests OK and the engine does not turn over at all, it probably is the starter.

    Starters are usually not very hard to replace yourself, just take a look at it's location and judge for yourself if you want to tackle it. Usually just a couple of bolts and a couple of electrical connectors.

    You can usually buy a remanufactured starter at discount type auto parts places fairly cheaply with a credit for bringing back the old starter.
  • mmclmmcl Posts: 3
    These transaxles need all the help they can get. Consider this: this is the same transaxle (transmission) that started life behind a little 50HP simca or volkswagon engine back in the 70's in the L car series (Omni/horizon) and has been continually pushed through upward power revisions, first in the K car and then the first chrysler (american) fwd van, the voyager, which was based on the K car chassis.
    The power output, and the weight being pushed around, now, by 180 HP and upwards is just too much, no matter how they try and strengthen the parts. The transmission (Transaxle) now already contains an amazing collection of add-on brackets, locking devices and other patch-ups for whatever part failed last, and the list goes on.
    I too had a catastrophic failure of the differential on a 97 short,that I look after carefully. Every transmission shop in town knows about this weakness,and some go so far as to predict that every Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth
    van out there will similarly fail. As for the fluid, why would you take a chance. Up here (Kingston, Ontario) the dealer trans fluid costs the same or less than it does
    at any jobber, and you know you are getting the latest revision. I hate to side with Chrysler on anything, but the fluid does get revised. The same goes for the filter, get the right one, change the fluid a 40 000Km or 24 000 miles and you have done all you can do. I like to also flush the cooler, but that's just me being picky. I hope this helps. I'm sorry to say your transmission is bound to fail, but the proper fluid and filter might buy you a little time.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,564
    Equating the transaxle used in recent generations of Dodge/Chrysler MInivans with those of the original Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon is ridiculous.

    Don't post about things you know little about.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Ummm, not to be too much of a contrarian, but...

    I'll bet that there isn't a single design structure, component, sub-assembly or overall dimension that is common between the old VW tranny of the original OmniRizon and the 4-Speed AutoBox on either of my two 3.8 liter GCs (one from 1998 and the other from 2003). Wait, wait! I may have spoken too soon, I think that the knurled cap to the speedometer cable might be the same. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • masterpaul1masterpaul1 Posts: 421
    From what I have read here in Town Hall, a lot of the trans. failures from model years in the 1990's was due to wrong trans. fluid being used and heat from the engine/trans. not being able to escape because things were so tight under the hood. Also, I believe that you will have a higher trans. problem with any vechicle of the size of a minivan that not only carries passengers, but cargo and a trailer as well. Our van weighs 4260 lbs. w/o passengers. The GVW (Gross Vechicle Weight) is 5600 lbs. w/passengers and cargo. (We can only carry around an additional 1340 lbs. of passengers and cargo). We can only tow up to 1800 lbs w/o the tow package. Not to mention that our front axle should only have the combined weight of driver and front passenger of 300 lbs. and the rear axle is rated at 1100 lbs. I believe that todays Daimlerchrysler transmissions are better then the years prior to 2001 redesign and just as good as the competition and are very reliable. Even though some might not want to admit there wrongs/abuse of their vechicle. I do believe that you have a lot of people using their vans like trucks, caring all the weight around and even driving them like cars. Let me be clear, I'm not saying that is the case for everyone. As I have said before, time will tell and our van is now, as of this month, 4 yrs old. A trans. flush was done at around 34K and around 54K. No problems with the trans. whats so ever. :)
  • mmclmmcl Posts: 3
    Funny, I' ve worked on these things for 30 years, really worked on them, rebuilds, repairs, modifications, the works. Chrysler keep trying to strengthen parts but the defining and limiting factor is the size & shape of the trans case.
    If you don't want to get dirty looking underneath, crank the wheel hard left on any front-driver and look inside the left wheel well toward the transfer/idler case cover. Its a specific and unique shape, not used on any other trans. Its the same on the chrysler vans as it is on the neon as it was on the k/p/d cars as it was on the L Cars and their variants and as far back into the 80's as my service manuals go. Ask a trans shop, the outside dimensions of the case define how much and how big the stuff you can put inside, and that hasn't changed. Mistake I Think not, ,just a good memory based on a lot of hard work.
    Sure, the old first/reverse and intermediate bands are gone, and the electronically actuated clutches have given this transmission a (potentially) new lease on life, but
    every transmission shop has a pile of grenaded differentials with welded pinions, broken cases, shattered ring gears and frozen bearings to attest to the fact that you simply cannot continue to overload an already undersized design. My statement stands, the first engine in the L car was basically a Simca from Chrysler's European stable, a quick, and possibly more confident way for Chrysler to get into front wheel drive in North America in the gas shortage of the 70's. Chrysler subequently used a Volkswagon engine, and when they developed their own OHC engine it had to fit the existing transmission.
    And that seems to be the point in time where that transmission case became a constant in design. Chrysler do have a different fwd transmission design, which I believe is used in some of the high-end front drivers(Cars), but to the best of my knowledge has not been incorporated in the cab forward van, because its design uses a north-south engine arrangement, with the transaxle behind it.It took them 15 years to get their electronic trans controls half-way reliable, maybe they should just buy the raw product from Honda or Toyota and rebadge it, but come to think of it one of the first-year Dodge or Plymouth fwd minivans was a Mitsubishi, (Dodge I think), but I never worked on one.
    Chrysler's engineers are asleep on this one, or more likely have been assigned
    to future designs. In case you think I am ragging on unnecessarily about Chrysler, there isn't a dealer in Ontario (Canada) that can get replacement diffferentials, for these trans, the factory is back ordered about 600 units.And that's just the diff.I had to go to the aftermarket for parts.There seem to be a few other issues also with these units.
  • mmclmmcl Posts: 3
    Hi Shipo: Actually you might want to look closer (See Note 720) and you might be surprised, see if there is a neon econobox nearby and check inside the left fenders of both. Anyway I hope your 98 is better than my 97. It ran really well, no towing, no heavy loads, carefully, no make that METICULOUSLY maintained and wham-diff blew a hole in trans case, could have caused full power to one wheel, or complete drivetrain lock-up on a freeway. Fortunately I get worried about oil leaks and caught it in time to save most of the trans and with me taking it out and putting it back (Don't try this at home!) it only cost me about 1000bucks Can (about 400U.S.)
    Anyway all that cab forward stuff is nice, but with the trans out I found out that cab-forward means more parts forward-as in out where the salt is. My P.S. pump and pully were rotted away, p/s fluid was putrid from being overworked, water pump was shot, all at 100 000Km (60 000Miles) Sincerely wish you better luck with your GC's, would hope that your newer GC has a different style transmission.
    Want to hear a giggle (Just between me and You) Speedometers, or whatever that round thing that indicates speed is called nowadays have been electonically controlled for years, something about picking up signals from the VSS reluctor wheel. Anyway not to be picky, but the last car I had with a speedometer cable was a 76 Gremlin and it attached with a nylon clip, not a threaded ring.
    Anyway here's to us both for continuing to support Chrysler, I do get the lemons, a 73 Dart built during a labor strike, a couple of K cars - enough said - Best Regards
    and sorry for going on & on, I just like cars I Guess.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Hmmm, oddly enough, we traded my wife's Neon in on our 1998 GC. I've performed basic maintenance on both cars, and saw little if any resemblance between the two transaxles (other than the fact that they were both transverse layouts that is). Our 1998 has 90K miles on it, with minimal maintenance (as in seeing the inside of the dealership service bays at 30K, 60K and soon for the 90K service and that's it). If either the 30K or 60K service included a transmission flush, then the fluid has been flushed, if not, then I'm still running on the factory fill. This time around however, I will probably insist on a complete flush for the 90K service.

    A thought that might explain the lack of similarity between the transaxle on our old Neon and either of our GC's; does the transmission on the 3.8 differ from the unit on the lesser engined vans? I was always under the impression that all of the four speed units were pretty much the same regardless of which V6 engine was providing the urge. That said, both of our vans have not been lightly used or babied in any way, and both have been virtually bullet proof.

    Will the transaxle eventually go? Most likely. If either of them fail somewhere north of 100K, will I mind? Not in the least.

    Then again, I guess I don't get the lemons. Had a 1970 Challenger, a 1985 Turbo Daytona, a 1989 LeBaron GTC (with the inter-cooled turbo mill), a 1995 Neon Sport, a 1998 GC Sport 3.8 and the 2003 GC ES 3.8. Through them all, I don't think I paid anything out of pocket other than normal maintenance. The 1989 LeBaron, given its limited production nature did have two failures out of warranty, both the NipponDenso Alternator and the Fuel Pump (Mitsubishi?) self destructed, however, in both cases, Chrysler fixed them for free. Go figure.

    Best Regards,
  • peardogpeardog Posts: 4
    Well, I suppose I will tell my sob story regarding my Plymouth Grand Voyager SE (2000).
    The beastie, with a paltry 66,000 miles on it, decided that it no longer needed it's transmission this weekend. My wife was driveing in town and she heard a Bang..which she though was something like a blown tire. Well she parked a local store to get something..and upon returning saw a puddle of fluid forming under the engine area. She drove the 1-2 mile trip home.
    The Tranny fluid was Pouring out from underneath the engine when the car ran (parked in garage) . I threw 2 quarts of fluid into it prior to driving it ot my local tranny service place.
    They claimed something inside came loose and cracked the casing..Not sure of the terms casue when they stated best case scenario was $600 and worst was like $2200. I checked with Dodge in hopes that I was lucky enough to get a 7/70K warranty. Apparently they don't do that.. as standard.
    Is it me..or should we be sick of american companies not backing thier producst for the long haul. I mean Hyundai and Kia can back thier trannys for 100K or 10 years..but the big three cannot!!?
    I got screwed by chevy under the 3 yr /36K deal with the AC compressor dieing at around Dodge with the Crappy Trannys.. Time to go foreign I think. At least the base warranty will last the lenght of the LOAN!!!
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Regarding companies backing their equipment beyond a fairly typical 30-50K miles...

    You should ask the Odyssey and Accord owners in my neighborhood about their transmission horror stories. Of that group (2 Oddy's and 5 Accords), only one Accord hasn't needed a new transmission, it has a 5-Speed Manual. Of the remaining 6 vehicles, they have required collectively seven new transmissions, four under warranty, and three out of pocket.

    It is an established fact that the Honda transmission is, if anything, significantly less reliable than the Mopar unit on our DC Vans. In our case, we bought two new Caravans, one in 1998 and the other in 2003, and in both cases we were offered the option of buying a 7/70 warranty extension, and in both cases we declined the opportunity. So far, in almost 140,000 miles of combined driving, our total out of pocket for all unscheduled repairs has been a whopping $158 (two new Die-Hard batteries and a door switch).

    I'm thinking that you were most likely offered the option of extending your warranty as well. In the end, it all comes down to, "You spends yer money, you takes yer chance." We took ours, and so far at least we've come out ahead, you took your chance and you didn't. How is that Chryslers fault?

    Best Regards,
  • peardogpeardog Posts: 4
    I thought I "took my chance" when I put down 20K on a US made Vehicle. Not saying that others don't have problems..just when you have a vehicle that hasn't structurally changed (I mean my 2000 model at least) in years..and to have all those problems... You would think the company would have a recall or a discount prevention repair for customer goodwill. I know I have seen Chrysler has a redesign of the problem parts (not sure what it is) in the Tranny that solves most of the problem.
    I think what burns me is that lots of friends said don't buy the van because of past Tranny problems they have had with the model... but I decided to ignore them..and got burnt in the end.....
    And to say they Offered me an addon warranty and I should have bit..was like saying I should have paid another 5K and bought a Toyota. They coulda charged 15K for the van and another 5K for the 10/100.. How about that..? I just see the product life cycle becoming less and less when the prices keep going up..
    Thank goodness for my 1992 Ford 150 ..
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Hmmm, I'm thinking that your logic escapes me. You were warned about potential transmission problems (as was I), and yet you chose to buy one without an extended warranty (as did I, twice), which if I remember correctly was fairly reasonably priced somewhere just north of $1,000, and you got burned. I got that part. What I don't get is why you think it should be someone else's problem.

    The fact is that in this day and age, a decent automatic transmission should last for at least 100K miles. In reality, the vast majority of our minivan transmissions do, a few however don't. Is the difference environmental? Is it the driver, the maintenance (or lack thereof), incorrect transmission fluid, or simply the day of the week that the transmission was assembled? If all DC 4-Speed transaxles installed in V6 minivans failed before 70K miles, then I'd be quite receptive to your arguments, however, that just isn't the case. In fact, I read somewhere not too long ago that the number of DC transmission failures is actually a little better than the industry average. The reason that we hear so much about them is that there are just so damned many on the road.

    In the end, I suspect that you will find a sympathetic ear here and there, but none of that sympathy will get your transmission fixed.

    Best Regards,
  • rkjohnsonrkjohnson Posts: 2
    This is my first visit to this board and first post. I have a 1997 Town & Country Minivan that seems to be having transmission problems. It is most pronounced when the car downshifts from 2nd to 1st gear, or possibly from 1st gear into neutral when coming to a stop. There is a slightly audible sound and a small jolt in the car that makes it appear that the car had a problem making the gear shift and then just kind of jumps into the right gear. I know almost nothing about cars, transmissions, etc. and don't know what the problem could be. Any ideas? Also, if anyone thinks they know what the problem might be, any ideas on how to fix it and what the cost of repair might be? Thanks...
  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    It's easy to be so optimistic when you have had such good luck with your vehicles, with out of pocket expenses being near zippo...shippo.

    But, some people actually make informative posts of their experiences without necessarily wanting or even asking for sympathy.

    Anyone know when Chrysler went to the 7yr/70,000 mile powertrain warranty with the $100 per visit deductible. Thanks.
  • masterpaul1masterpaul1 Posts: 421
    I believe it was some time in late 2003. :shades:
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    How many miles on your '97? Has the trans ever been serviced? DO NOT have a quick oil change place service your transmission, or any place else that you cannot watch them use ATF+3 only. (not fluid from a bulk container with an additive to "make it just like ATF+3").
  • thain66thain66 Posts: 4
    On Saturday, of this past week, the warning light for the transmission on my wife's 2001 Dodge Caravan came on. I called Monday morning, first thing, to let them know that she needed to bring it in. Although I had placed some cardboard under the vehicle over the weekend, and double checked the transmission fluid, there was no loss of fluid nor was it low. The car has 73,000 miles on it and I've had the transmission serviced ever 30,000 miles at the dealership. Anyway, they tell me that she can bring it in on Tuesday and on her way to the dealership there is a large bang and the car screaches to a halt! This is an absolute joke and the entire transmission needs to be replaced. $2000-$2500 later and we can have the van back?? I wished it had just blown up for this is a terrible vehicle. I have driven the ford taurus line since 1985 and every 3 to 4 years I get a new one when I reach 140,000 miles. I've never needed a transmisson or anything major. This is a joke. :lemon:
  • a1na1n Posts: 1
    Do you get an audible click, and then silence? My '94 Caravan CV did that, it was the big copper contacts that the solenoid connects together, they were flattened out, at least on my Nippon-Denso starter that Mitsubishi favors. This happens on alot of Toyotas, too, same type of starter motor. It is possible to fabricate your own contacts out of 2MM copper plate, if you're REALLY on the cheap, but most people will just buy a new starter motor, usually in the $150+ range, including your core return. They're a bit steep.
  • rkjohnsonrkjohnson Posts: 2
    Thanks, 97xpresso. I have about 115,000 miles on the minivan. We had to replace the engine at about 100,000 miles. I don't know if the transmission has been serviced. We've had the dealer perform most of the routine service up until about 90,000 miles, after which we've been somewhat erratic in the servicing. Any ideas?
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