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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems

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  • :confuse: I own a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan with 223,000 miles and a 3.8 liter engine. While driving on the highway, I started to go down a steep hill and the steering wheel started to shake hard and irregular. I thought the wheel was falling off. The next day a Chrysler mechanic looked at it and said the wheels and all front end suspension components looked good and he could not duplicate the problem. I decided to drive the 90 miles home. 10 miles into it, the shaking started again. I noticed that it only does it when faster than ~30 mph and when decelerating. Applying brakes does not affect it. I drove it home. Can anyone tell me what this is? I am thinking differential pin after research but it sounds like that happens during acceleration and is more of a whine.
  • I am considering purchasing a 1996 Caravan from the original owner. It has 123,000 miles on it and he has the paperwork that it has been faithfully maintained the entire time that he owned it, including tranny fluid changes. I am not a Mopar guy myself so I need some expert opinions on whether or not you think this tranny will last. I guess my gut feeling is that if the tranny made it this long with regular maintenance and no failures that it should keep going for quite a while or is this just wishful thinking?
  • Which engine is in the Caravan? I would trust the 3.3 tranny combo more than the 3.8 tranny combo (personally). I've had both and I had NO problems what-so-ever with the 3.3 van, but the one with the 3.8 started having transmission problems at around 55-60K miles.

    Looking at most complaints around here, I think, proves my experience to be more common than not. Plus just remember, any vehicle with 123K miles COULD experience a tranny problem, not just the Caravan/T&C models.
  • I bought a 1997 GCaravan brand new and the engine snapped in half at 1,500 miles - then the trans went. Even new, Dodge just rebuilt the engine. After 8 months and hiring a lawyer, I obtained all my 8 months of payments back, minus small usage fee of the vehicle (that was in the shops for months) and bought another 1997 GCaravan - no problems except it ran a quart low of oil between oil changes (since the day I bought it - new). After 160,000 miles, I bought a 2003 GCaravan - total junk with parts going left and right. The transmission was rebuilt once and now needs it again. I haven't even paid the piece of junk off - two transmissions rebuilds, electric window motors, three power steering systems, constant rattles through-out because of the cheap interior parts, etc. I have had it with American made vehicles and am looking at Toyotas now. My advice, obtain a new vehicle under your state's lemon law and buy foreign!!!! (PS - my 2005 EC Silverado off the road truck was just as bad and I sold it last month)
  • I had the same problem!! The first time I had the transmission serviced on my 2003 Grand Caravan by the dealer (according to the Manufacturer's recommendation), I started smelling a burning smell - then my transmission started to jolt from 0 to first gear. This began at approximately 25,000 miles. Each time I took it to the dealer, they updated the transmission software and could never duplicate the problem. As I approached 60,000 miles, the problem got worse and did it each time I drove. With the warranty getting ready to expire, I left the car again with the dealer (more than a dozen times since this began) - again the dealer could not duplicate. I then drove with the mechanic and the car jolted 7 times! Thus, they rebuilt the transmission as a courtesy under the warranty. When I drove the van home - same burning smell. Same jolting - and now approaching 107,000 miles and the transmission needs to be rebuilt again, costing $2,300 or a remanufactured one at $4,200! Dodge refuses to pay - they will not warrant the work and only rebuilt it the first time as a courtesy. I am considering hiring an attorney due to the dealer not being more proactive in fixing the problem from the start and then not fixing it properly --- leaving me with a piece of junk or a hefty repair bill with no guarantees. I have had it with Dodge/Chrysler MOPAR - owned them since 1982!!!! DO NOT BUY one of these vans - you will regret it....
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "I bought a 1997 GCaravan brand new and the engine snapped in half at 1,500 miles - then the trans went. Even new, Dodge just rebuilt the engine."

    Sorry, gotta call a hearty BS on that one. If your engine really did "snap in half", then there's no way it could be rebuilt.

    "...and bought another 1997 GCaravan - no problems except it ran a quart low of oil between oil changes (since the day I bought it - new)."

    IIRC, your 1997 DGC called for a 7,500 mile oil change interval, and virtually any car will require a quart of oil over the course of 7,500 miles, regardless of manufacturer. FWIW, our 1998 3.8 liter DGC Sport uses a quart of oil roughly every 7,500 miles while our 2003 3.8 liter DGC ES uses a quart of oil roughly every 5,000 miles. In both cases I consider that oil consumption "normal".

    "...I bought a 2003 GCaravan - total junk with parts going left and right."

    Hmmm, completely different from my experience. Our 2003 DGC ES has 104,000+ miles on it, has the original transmission and virtually every other factory part still intact. To date, that van has needed two batteries, a front wheel ABS sensor, and that's it outside of regular maintenance.

    "The first time I had the transmission serviced on my 2003 Grand Caravan by the dealer (according to the Manufacturer's recommendation)..."

    Recommendation? What recommendation? Per your Owner's Manual, your transmission never needs service; it came from the factory with ATF+4 fluid which is considered a "Lifetime" fluid. Our 2003 is still running the factory fluid at 104,000+ miles, and it shifts perfectly and has no burning smell.

    The fact is that your experience is so incredibly different than the one we've had with our two vans of virtually identical vintage that I find myself wondering of you've used a little poetic license with your posts. :P

    From my perspective, our two vans, which are nearing 260,000 combined miles, have been models of reliability. Last time I checked, our total bill for unscheduled maintenance has yet to reach $3,000, which in my mind is pretty darn good for over a quarter of a million miles of driving.
  • I talked to the owner again today and he says it has the 3.0 V6, is that supposed to be a reliable motor?
  • This is a little off topic but I didn't see any forums related to suspension so I will post the question here. I went and looked at the 1996 Caravan with the 3.0 V6, the tranny seemed to shift fine and the fluid looked good. What bothers me is the clunking sound that I would hear whenever I hit a bump, it was somthing that seemed out of ordinary. There is also a line of rust breaking through inside the engine compartment along the top of the area where the strut mounts, this seems like a very unusual place for rust to start as it is not exposed to the outside. Was there a common problem on these vans with rust forming in this area?
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    The Mitsubishi 3.0 liter motor seems to be farily reliable, that said, it is a bit of an oil burner/smoker. That and it has a timing belt (which requires periodic replacement and that replacement ain't cheap) unlike the Chrysler motors that use a timing chain.

    Personally I wouldn't own one even if it was free.

    Best Regards,
    Shipo
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    The clunking may or may not be coming from the sway bar bushings. As for the strut tower rusting, that is a know problem with the Gen 3 vans. Some weren't properly prepared and have rusted to the point of failure (and a potentially catastrophic failure at that), and while Chrysler has released a repair kit for rusted towers that is apparently pretty good, I'd prefer to have a van like our 1998 that has zero rust around the strut towers.

    Best Regards,
    Shipo
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,414
    I have an old 1969 Ford Econoline that also does this; the problem on my van is tie rod ends and a bushing on the linkage between the inner tie rod ends and steering. It feels like the van is going to shake itself apart when it happens, but it will also continue even if I press the accelerator after it starts. To quiet it, I hit the brakes hard and jerk the wheel in one direction. Silly, I know, but beats fixing it right now when I only put a few miles a year on the old can.

    Good luck finding the problem; you might want to get a second opinion on it from an independent suspension/alignment shop.
  • tom166tom166 Posts: 31
    Hi; just checking to see if you have had any more updates. I'm still having the same problem and it seems to be worse in cold weather .
  • I had part 2 of the update done (I think it's the torque converter or something?). It's still doing it somewhat, but the weather has been so bad with slush and snow and cold (heater fan makes a lot of noise), that I have not been able to do a thorough assessment of the fix. Will let you know later on. My CAMVAP claim stays open for 90 days pass the maintenance done on the vehicle.
  • bmorrbmorr Posts: 1
    The transmission self-destructed at 97 000 km. There were no indications of a problem with this transmission, e.g., no shifting problems and no unusual noises. This vehicle has been well maintained according to the manufacturer's schedule and has never been abused. After traveling for about an hour at highway speed (approx. 100 km/h), the van lurched hard, lost speed and the check engine light came on. It jerked a few more times as I tried to get into the right lane in order to get off the multi-lane highway. Within a few minutes, I was on the shoulder of the highway with no drive power at all. It was a surprise to me how quickly all of this happened. I had one other vehicle in the past 20 years with transmission problems but I had some warning and was able to get it repaired before it was totally gone. The transmission has been replaced at a cost of about $4000. The diagnosis was that a gear had failed due to metal fatigue and the pieces from it destroyed much of the rest of the transmission. Has anyone else experienced sudden failure with this transmission?
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I had the transmission on our 1998 fail in a similar fashion shortly after a transmission service, however, the 1998 came with ATF+3 and required servicing every 30,000 miles (roughly every 50,000km), your 2002 came with a lifetime fill of ATF+4 and shouldn't need servicing at all.

    Per your post you indicated that you had the transmission serviced at some point. If that is true, who serviced it and what fluid did they use?

    Best Regards,
    Shipo
  • rhtransrhtrans Posts: 84
    Yea...about 3 million other people...lol. Those units are very deceptable to converter clutch failures which clogg cooler passages and in turn destroy the gear train because the lubrication to the gears comes from cooler flow. Spinning at 2500 rpm with very little lubrication can destroy metal very quickly and you wouldn't even know it till it was to late. Metal fatigue? More like lack of lubrication....
  • Well, it's official. Our 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan's transmission is going out. Just got the news. The vehicle only has 90,000 miles on it. I posted about it a few months ago, and I had to stop in to say my husband was right!

    Does anyone want to guess what the MSRP is on a "fully loaded" car like this? TOO MUCH! Not if it's only got 6 six years, and 90,000 miles on it.

    Whatever happened to the cars that would run forever? Oh yeah, America doesn't make them anymore... :cry:
  • maguymaguy Posts: 13
    At least you got 90K out of it. I just had my FOURTH tranmission put in my 2002 Honda Accord that I bought brand new in March 2002. I have 81K on the odometer right now. The first transmission went at 13K!! We actually just bought a 2008 Town & Country because I could not stomach another Honda even though the Odyssey is well regarded.
  • We own a Chry TC '01 minivan w/ 44K miles on it. It was bought used and is equipped as a handicapped vehicle. (Side door opens, car side lowers, ramp extends.) Car has been well cared for and all fluids reg checked. Today, w/ no warning the trans broke down...2 coughs and enough speed to get us to the road side before it stopped. It has NO trans now. There was a burning smell at the time. Trans is 6 yrs old and 44K miles, am I out of touch or is this par for the course? Chry said it had a 3yr/36K warr on "power train" so too bad for me. Do I have ANY recourse? 44K miles and the trans breaks totally as in: I need another trans for xxxx$/?
  • jsw3jsw3 Posts: 2
    I have a 2002 Chrysler minivan with only 40,000 miles on it and the transmission went, of course out of warranty. It was working fine, then the engine light came on and now we have go get a whole new transmission, something about the torque, pieces broke inside something.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    I just went back over the maintenance records for our '94 Caravan (which we no longer own). The transmission was rebuilt at 56,000 miles, but cost us zero because the power train warranty at that time was 7 months/70,000 miles. Over the next 121,000 miles (we got rid of the van when it had 176,900 mile on it), only work done on the tranny was a fluid change at 113,000 miles, and another at 160,000 miles as part of fixing a leaking transmission pan gasket. We never experienced any hesitation in shifts, "clunks" when downshifting, or any of the other symptoms that others have complained about.

    One of the options our van had on it was the towing package. In addition to a heavier duty suspension, that package also came with a transmission cooler, if memory serves me correctly. I think the transmission cooler has a lot to do with extending the life of the transmission fluid and, directly, the life of the transmission, IMO.

    BTW, this was the standard length van, not the grand.
  • Your front end shake sounds similar to mine in a 83 eldorado. After checking all the suspension components several times, and finding nothing worn out, I noticed alot of play in the front axle on the right side. The shake was noticible when driving on the right front. The axle did not make any noise while driving or turning. Replacing the axle solved the problem. On opening the boots of the axle, I found the outer bearing to be out of grease and burnt, but no broken parts. The inner bearing was leaking grease but very little. I would never have expected the axle to have this kind of symptom, because it felt like the wheel assembly was loose.
  • last night i had the oil changed and later my tranny started to shift hard or not shift at all. i took it and had the following codes pulled up.
    P0720-output speed sensor malfunction
    P0732 gear 2 ratio incorrect
    P0731 gear 1 ratio incorrect
    P0700 transmissio control system malfunction
    could they have kncked somethig loose or do i just have a separate problem going on ? its a 3.0 with 100,000 miles on it. thanks jeff
  • It's possible somethin got knocked loose...the po720 code can cause all the other codes. But...that sensor is notorious for having problems and going out at any moment. Probably a coincidence...change the sensor, will probably take care of your issues.
  • i took a look at it testerday and the clip that holds the wire on thatsensor is gone. i fixed that and put the battery back on and the service engine light is off and the tansmission is working perfect. could the wire have been partially pulled out or did the computer just reset and the sensor will go out any way ? thanks
  • I am sorry for your trouble. I have had a disaster with my 2002 Caravan. I am currently on my third transmission. The first went out at 51K miles, the second went out at 102K miles. What luck! Both were replaced by Dodge dealerships and both were remanufactured because there are so many failing they can't get their hands on a new one. The first under extended warranty, the second over $3,600 to me. I spoke with Dodge Corporate and they told me sorry and politely said go away.

    Dodge junk. I am considering my first foreign vehicle.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Yikes, what the heck are you doing to those transmissions?

    I ask because while we did lose one in our Gen 3 DGC with (a 1998 model), that one lasted 109,000 miles, and my suspicion is that it failed due to incorrect fluid being put in (it worked perfectly before the transmission was serviced).

    We also have a 2003 (with the same transmission that's in your 2002), and that one currently has 105,000 on it with nary a problem in spite of the fact that it is still running on the factory fluid and filter.

    FWIW, if you've been having your transmissions serviced by non-dealers, the sad truth is that many-many service institutions believe that there is such a thing as universal transmission fluid. Nothing could be further from the truth, if you don't have ATF+4 as the exclusive fluid in your transmission, it is almost guaranteed to fail, period, full stop, the end.

    Best Regards,
    Shipo
  • Has anyone had a problem with a whining noise from the transmission area after traveling on the interstate cruising at higher speeds 75/80. It will make this noise after you slow down and really hear it, its speed realated also. faster you go the faster the noise is after you start again. It will quit after you stop for a hour or so and not do it until I have traveled at a higher speed on the interstate. Very troubling. Its a 07 T&C LX. Thanks
  • dadto3dadto3 Posts: 17
    I have the exact same problem, I believe. I have an '06 T&C and commute on the interstate daily. After I've driven about 45 minutes @ 75 mph, I come to a stop and have a whining noise that gets louder as I come to a stop. Then once I accelerate again, the whine continues. I took it to the local Chrysler dealer and was told it's a common noise in cold temperatures. However, I hear the noise whether it's 2 degrees or 42 degrees. I'm still under warranty, so plan to take it to another Chrysler dealer.
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