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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems



  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    The real key in the T&Cs and GCs is to buy it with the 3.3 liter engine. The 3.8 is the same engine bored out further for more power but the transmission was not built to handle that extra power. The engine overwhelms the transmission.

    I would bet that is the same case on Honda automatics that fail. I'm actually wondering if anyone can build a decent minivan transmission for a big engine.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Thinking back on this from an empirical perspective, I've actually seen more 3.3 and 3.0 liter vans need new transmissions than the 3.8 liter motivated ones. True, false? Don't know, I don't have the raw numbers in front of me. That said, if you check, the model and revision number for the transmission fitted to the different engines ARE different, and I know for a fact that at least the 3.8 version (and maybe to a certain extent the 3.3 version as well) is a heavier duty unit than is sold on lesser engined vans.

    Specific to the transmissions in our two 3.8 liter DGCs, the one in our 1998 failed a few months after our local dealership introduced ATF+4 into the transmission for the first time. Was that what caused the failure? Many folks say "not a chance", however, there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. Either way, the original tranny on that van managed to go 109,000 miles (exactly) before it went Tango Uniform. The tranny on our 2003 is fast approaching 80,000 trouble free miles and given that it is a newer and more robust generation of transmission, my bet is that it will see the far side of 150,000 miles before it even thinks of acting up.

    The good news for DC minivans in the future is that the current 4-Speed transaxle is at the end of its life, and even if it has become a robust and long lived transmission, it cannot easily escape its stigma of being plagued by problems. A year from now the Gen5 DC vans should be on the road and by all accounts these new vans should be sporting an all new 6-Speed automatic gear box on many (if not all) models. Will that one develop a reputation of being more reliable? Only time will tell, however, it is my understanding that momma Daimler had a lot of input into the gearbox and that it should prove out to be a good transmission.

    Best Regards,
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    Do they even sell lesser engined vans anymore?

    What you are saying makes sense. Will note carefully if looking at Chryslers when replacing the Ody - which won't be any time too soon despite its 110K. I figure at this point I value no car payments over a new car.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "Do they even sell lesser engined vans anymore?"

    I believe that the 2.4 liter engine is still available on some SWB Caravans, although I haven't checked that one in quite some time. The much maligned Mitsubishi 3.0 liter V6 is thankfully long gone while the Flex-Fuel Chrysler 3.3 liter unit is still very much in production and in favor with many mini-van drivers.

    "What you are saying makes sense. Will note carefully if looking at Chryslers when replacing the Ody - which won't be any time too soon despite its 110K. I figure at this point I value no car payments over a new car."

    Same boat I was in earlier this year. When the tranny in our 1998 bailed I was looking at either a new van and payments (something I haven't had for quite some time) or spending $2,600 on a factory remanufactured unit for that van. Considering the fact that it only had 109,000 miles on it, has an engine in it that now at the 130,000 mile mark still isn't using any oil and has been otherwise generally reliable (I've spent something like $300 in unscheduled repairs beyond the transmission), I figured that the $2,600 was money well spent.

    Regarding the factory reman units, they are built to the latest engineering build (i.e. model year 2000 build or newer) of that generation of transmission and as such they are designed to use the new fully synthetic ATF+4 tranny fluid. Said another way, the replacement transmissions will most likely outlast the factory unit by tens (or even hundreds?) of thousands of miles.

    Best Regards,
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    $2,600 on a factory remanufactured transmission on an otherwise sound (especially the engine!) car is money well spent.

    The transmission in the Ody was a factory remanufacture from, I believe, 2004. We hope for the best there. Should there be a failure the old quote was somewhere in the $5 - 6K range! (This is why there is really something to be said about domestics - cheaper parts!) At that point I'd have to think about it. Another factor that I'd take into account is that the local independent transmission shop does really excellent work and cheaper than the dealer. I'd certainly consider him.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    When my neighbor told me that he'd had to pay just under $5,000 for the second replacement transmission in their Ody I didn't believe him, I was certain that he'd had other work done too. Based upon what you've said, he apparently wasn't pulling my leg. Oops! My bad. :P

    I think you're absolutely correct, if I needed a new tranny for an Odyssey that was outside the warranty period, I would almost certainly use an independent shop that offered a good warranty. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • Hi All,

    I have a 1998 Grand Caravan. A while back, we had the lower ball joints replaced, and in the process, my mechanic replaced both axels as well. He said they were a tad loose, and it was relatively inexpensive since he already had everything apart. Well, since then, I have had a small nuisance leak coming from the axel seal on the drivers side. I have taken it to 4 different places (no dealers though) including a transmission specific shop, and no one can figure out why the seal is leaking. The seal itself has now been replaced about 6 times. I was just wondering if anyone else out there has had the same problem, and if so, what the fix might be.

  • We bought a brand new 1996 Chrysler T&C (redesigned) and took the extended warranty. The transmission failed at around 50k and was replaced under the extended warranty.

    My wife loves her minivan so we traded in the '96 T&C in 2001 for a brand new Dodge GC ES and again took an extended warranty. At about 50k miles the transmission failed and was replaced under the extended warranty.

    Pretty sad, huh? These are the only two cars I've ever taken an extended warranty on, and it obviously was money well spent.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Honda, here I come!
  • w9cww9cw Posts: 888
    Here is my experience with my one and only Caravan: a 1994 Grand Caravan ES, purchased new in July 1994, with 160,650 miles currently on the clock. Up until a few days ago, the ONLY mechanical repair, other than brakes, serpentine belt, and plugs (normal maintenance items), was one starter motor two years ago - and, I replaced the starter myself at a parts cost of $77.

    The original 4-speed ECT is still shifting fine - no transmission replacements here. I change engine oil every 3 months/3K miles (Mobil 1 5W-30), and ATF every 20K miles.

    Re. the "Up until a few days ago . . ." statement: the head gasket on the front bank of cylinders on the 3.3L V6 began leaking badly on Saturday, so the Grand Caravan ES may have come to the end of its road. It's unfortunate, as the exterior and interior are excellent. The independent shop wants $1,500 to $2,500 to replace the head gasket(s), which is not really cost-effective. Their estimate is almost entirely labor, as the cost of a FelPro complete head gasket set from most parts houses is around $100. So, I may be spending my next few weekends doing this one myself!

    All in all, it's really been an excellent vehicle.
  • I'm sorry to hear about your misfortune. Was regular maintenance done on the trans. and was it by a Daimlerchrysler dealer? We bought an 01 DGC EX used in Sep. 03 with only 37K. We know have over 80K and no trans. problems. The trans. has been serviced once by a Daimlerchrysler dealer at around 54K. :)
  • Problem with the automatic 4 speed transmission on a 90 Plymouth Voyager; the transmission was rebuilt by a professional shop at 90,000 miles (the computer box was also replaced). At about 125,000, it started to act very erratic again - downshifting at about 30-35 miles per hour. I changed the input and output speed sensors and the transmission oil (using ATF+3 - the filter was not changed); the vehicle does run slightly better.

    Now, it runs fine until it warms up (about 10 minutes) and than it downshifts into low gear and stays there. In checking with the shop that originally rebuilt it - they said it would have to be rebuilt again.

    Is there something else I can do or change to fix this problem?

    What is the purpose of the drive positioning sensor?
    Could this sensor be causing the problem?

  • lovecdlovecd Posts: 50
    I used to change the transmission fluid with filter for my 98 Caravan myself, and the correct fluid type is ATF-3 7176. However, when I try to buy it again from the Dodge dealer last week, they no longer carry 7176 any more, instead they have ATF-4 now, but the price is more than doubled than ATF-3. Since my caravan doesn't need ATF-4 for transmission, I was wondering if 7176 still available in the market now. Can anybody give some suggestions?

  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    .. of third party licencees have it out now. Havoline at Wal-Mart is one choice. Mobil also has a direct ATF+3 equivalent too.
  • lovecdlovecd Posts: 50
    Hi V Cheng,

    Thanks for your reply! By the way, what type of fluid do you use now, Havoline from Wal-Mart or the one from Mobil? Thanks again!
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    The Havoline is a few cents cheaper per quart, otherwise I cannot detect any difference in the transimission.
  • Hi all,

    Hey I'm having problems with our van, it goes through periods where the check engine light comes on and at the same time the transmission won't shift out of low gear (3 speed auto). We went through the weekend trying all types of corrections including dumping the trans fluid and changing filters but it didn't seem to help. My wife went out this morning to take my daughter to school (which is only a few blocks away) and all of a sudden its working again. This has happened several times but with 90k miles I'm starting to get worried. I'm hoping that someone out there might be able to help me. Thanks.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    A 3-Speed Automatic in a 1999 Grand Voyager? Ummm, I don't think any such thing was ever built. Are you sure that you don't have a 4-Speed Automatic?

    Have you had either your dealership or a transmission professional look at it yet?

    Best Regards,
  • I ordered this one in 1996 with the 3.3, tow package, and 15 inch wheels. Oil changes at 3-4K intervals with Castrol. No engine problems or oil usage. Transmission has only been serviced with Mopar 7176 fluid.
    At 123,000 miles she is showing the first signs of transmission problems (other than a slow but persistent leak over the past 6 months). Just before I come to a stop or just as I start off, I get two hard clunks back to back. It does not happen every time, but maybe more when it is warmed up. It seems like it might be as the transmission shifts between 1st and 2d.
    Any cheap fixes here or just invest $2K in a rebuilt tranny and see if I can get 200,000 miles out of her? is a great vehicle. Only two water pumps and a body control module replaced in 11 years. Can you believe the original brake pads/shoes are still on it and in fair shape? :D
  • You are THE owner of owners!!!The reason that transmission has held up so well is that last sentence of yours. "Can you believe the original brake pads/shoes are still on it and in fair shape?" With 123,000 on a minivan, traditionally a vehicle class that has been known to go through some pads/shoes, THAT is outstanding! BTW, I'm with ya on the religious 3-4k oil change and the Castrol choice.
    Sounds like when it rains, that baby of yours stays in the garage. :)
    PS:I vote KEEP IT! You've taken such good care of 'er you'd miss 'er when she's gone.
  • It has low, drive, overdrive, not sure what you would call it. No I haven't been to the dealer yet, seriously dreading it, especially this time of year. I'm hoping that what is wrong (since the check engine light came on too) is a problem with one of the sensors or modules that determine when the car should shift. With all the trouble people seem to have with transmissions on this make/model I was hoping someone would have had these problems before and could suggest a possible solution that I can fix myself.

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