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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems



  • goatmealgoatmeal Posts: 11
    I only meant that it is very possibly a contributing factor in a lot of cases.
    The main problem with minivan transmissions is that they were designed originally for a front wheel drive 3200 pound car with much less wind resistence than a mini van and not for a 4000 pound van. Even GM vans which have the well built GM transmission do not last as long as the transmissions in thier cars. If they could put truck transmissions in these minivans our problems would be solved but these are bigger units and will not fit with the front wheel drive configuration.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    Right on, goatmeal. You got the point that the manufacturers do not want to admit. My DC/GC had one change with Dexron and failed 20K miles later but DC/dealer never inquired about the fluid used. They know that these trans are bantam weights. Until they design a suitable trans for this type of vehicle you just have to factor in the cost of a new trans every 40-50K when you compare costs. That goes for Honda, too, IMO.
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    I have posted this before. Our Town & Country is paid for. We figure that a $2,000 transmission every 60,000 miles is much less expensive than a new car payment. It is just a cost of owning the vehicle at this point. I am not happy about our repair history but I am not going to ditch the vehicle at this point. It is still cheaper to repair than to replace. Of course, this theory may end if my wife is ever stranded due to the van having a mechanical problem while on the road.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    I'd have a little more confidence in the reliability of your Town & Country if I were you. Unless, of course, it is a 1996 or 1997 model or a van of any year that has already had a transmission or other major mechanical failure. Our 1998 Grand Caravan SE 3.3 went to 70k miles without any problems at all and our current 2000 Town & Country now has 40k miles and is also trouble-free.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    Your comment makes me more optimistic but until most people report 100K miles with the trans I think there will continue to be complaints. Most cars get 100K miles on drivetrain without major repairs.
  • sweingastsweingast Posts: 28
    Lets start that a transmission should not fail at or before 80,000 miles. Given today's technology, any transmission that fails before 150,000 miles is a failure in design or workmanship unless caused by the driver.

    Using consumer reports, the new DC transmissions are better rated than the Honda since '99. However, DC's new transmission says that the fluid is lifetime under normal conditions and 48,000 miles under severe conditions.

    Given that the difference in maintenance in normal vs severe driving is 2 to 1 does that mean the tranny is designed to last 96,000 miles?

    Anyone out there with a 2000 with high miles?
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    Our T&C is a '96. And it had it's first transmission replacement at 59,000 miles.
    The van has 89,000 miles to date. We have thus far spent $3,300 on repairs. This would have been $4,400 had Chrysler not kicked in for half of the tranny replacement. Besides the tranny, we have replaced: upper and lower oxygens sensors, water pump, tensioner pulley, driver side window regulator, ECM for the wipers...
    At this point we have no a/c due to needing an $1,100 replacement of the evaporator. That repair will officially put us up to $4,400 in repair work. That comes out to 4.5 cents per mile thus far. I would say that is a bit high.
    But, like I said before, the van is paid for and it is still cheaper to repair versus replace.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    DC paid for my replacement AC evaporator coil (part only) although my van was older than yours. First customer rep turned me down, second said yes, even though repair was done at independent shop. Apparently, DC vehicles are suffering tremendous failure rates of AC evaporator coils not only in vans but in sedans and Jeeps. The labor cost for van is high, especially if you go to a dealer. The flat rate time is about six hours because the tech has to access the coil thru the dashboard, but I paid less at independent shop than what the dealer charges. BTW, I never heard of two oxygen sensors on a car and can only see one on my 3.3 engine.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    Most any post '96 car will have at least two O2 sensors. One upstream of the Cat and one downstream.

    The upstream sensor is for tuning the fuel mixure (Lean vs Rich) the second is to chech the Cat's efficiency. Part of the OBD-II requirements.

    My Contour and my MPV both have three cats. Two pre-cats, and one main cat. There are four O2 sensors total as they are upstream and downstream of the pre-cats built into the exhaust manifolds.


  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    Although I don't have Tboner's knowledge (and that is why we appreciate people like him here) it was an "upstream" and a "downstream" o2 sensor that needed to be replaced.
    Evidently the upstream sensor is easier to get to. That was the first one replaced but it did ot fix the problem. They went back in and replaced the downstream sensor.
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    So DC payed for the Evaporater part on your vehicle? I guess I will contact DC about it they same way I called about my transmission and see what happens. Thanks for the info!
  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    Well we have been racking up the miles on our 2000 GC and now are oficially off warranty with 38,000 miles. Keep in mind our van is an ex-Avis rent-a-car and we have yet to have a single problem. I change the oil every 4-8000 miles or so, and the last time into Jiffy Lube they said everyhting looked great although they wanted to sell me an air cleaner, no thanks just shake it out! That is it besides gas and windshield washer fluid. My brothers wife is REALLY racking up the miles on their 96, they are up to 90,000 miles with their only problem being the electric fan seized up and need replaced (about $300 I think). We both tow a large pop up tent trailer with out vans and drive with a lead foot. My dad no currently has 3 chrysler minivans, Gen I, Gen II, and GenIII w/AWD. He uses the old 89 for cargo w/o the seats, he's trying to sell the middle one, and the newer AWD is his regular van. Still no problems with transmissions there either and that 89 now has 150,000 miles on it (yes it's a 3.0 with the 4 speed OD). It does smoke a bit but it's not noticible once its warmed up. So it's been awhile, hows everyone doing? Been busy learning more about my new "baby" the Dakota R/T, so I've been hanging out at other web boards lately.
  • almost 130k on it and fast approaching its 10th birthday...we replaced the starter at 92k..thats it.. it is the short wheelbase if that matters..but it is the 3.3 with the 4spd.
    also have a 99 with a 3.8 and 4spd and 36k+.. it has been perfect..
    i know 2 people that have had tranny problems with DC vans, but know many others that have not..and I cannot figure out why.. seems random.. somebody knows the %..
  • jmklwckjmklwck Posts: 2
    I've heard all the discussions regarding incorrect fluids and let's just agree that the basic problem with the transmission is engineering design. There are just too many reports of the problem and it IS EXTREME. We had 100,000 miles when our transmission went out (we were lucky versus others that went out before 75,000 miles). I'd love to know how anyone got Chrysler to pay for even half the cost. I called their headquarters and was greeted by an arrogant individual that played ignorance of the problem. Heck, use any web search engine and you can find sites set up with thousands of reports. You can count on transmission, AC, and brake issues on 96 T&C's. I will never purchase another D/C product. I am one of those folks that tried Chrysler when they needed the support and they have FAILED miserably.
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 221
    Marty, Ever heard the saying "'No' is the first answer on the way to 'Yes'." So here's your homework. Get a copy of Consumer Reports Oct '99 at the library. Copy article on p. 20 "Hidden Warranties". Check out the web sites listed especially and
    Also copy the April '02 p.81 Reliability History which shows for the '96 T&C transmission problem rate >14.9%(black circle). The average (p.77) for '96 transmission problem rate is 2.0-5.0%(red half circle). If Consumer Reports has documented this problem surely Chrysler knows and any denial can be called dishonest.
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    I would guess that a transmission that went out at 100,000 miles would be considered "normal" or at least not extreme. Chrysler paid for 1/2 of my transmission repair but we only had 59,000 miles on the '96 T&C. I replaced a transmission in a Mazda 323 at 103,000 miles and figured that was just part of the deal. I know some transmissions last much longer but 100,000 is probably within spec.
    I am with you, we gave Chrysler a try and will never go back. Right now our AC is out and the left rear vent window will no longer close via the power button. You have to manually go back and turn the mechanism.
    The problems just keep adding up on our '96. But, like I have said before, it is paid for and cheaper to repair than to replace.
  • buyersoonbuyersoon Posts: 7
    Is it true that the 4cyl Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth minivans DO NOT experience the problems that the v6's do????
    I have gathered also that these minivans have AC problems?
    I am in the market for a used minivan. Am I right that post 1997 minvans are better?
  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    I'd stay away from 4 cylinder Dodges as that's a small motor in a big van and it has to work hard all the time just to move it. It would be like constantly towing a 2000 pound trailer with a v-6 model. The non-over drive automatics did have less reported problems but there are not near as many, so the chances of hearing about a problem is slim. Then again anything bolted up to a torqueless 4 cylinder is bound to last forever! 96 vans had more problems because they were the first ones after a major redesign. I'd say that the last years in each cycle are the best (1995 and 2000). Getting the first year after a redesign is always more challenging. My brother has a very loaded out 96 and has had hardly any problems though. His A/C wasn't working well, but it turned out one of the electric fans had a bearing seize up the whole fan assembly was replaced for $350. Now everything is perfect again at 90,000 miles. Personally I would try and stay away from the 3.0 v-6 as well. It is a OHC aluminum head and although that style of motor makes good power I think they are less reliable then a single cam/pushrod motor. 3.0 really will start to smoke after 100,000 miles (need valve guides) and it is more prone to warp a head or have head gasket problems. The 3.3's and 3.8's don't seem to have either of these problems.
  • linclee1linclee1 Posts: 1
    How do I know when the Tranny is going out? I just brought 92 Dodge caravan grand Se with 3.3 V6 81000 miles, the person brought it from a dealer with 70000 3 years ago, I saw a little tranny leakage some drips, I will tighten or replace the gasket and change the fuild.
  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    I wouldn't worry too much about the leaks unless they are causing you to add fluid all the time. There are several things that can go wrong with any automatic transmission. Problem is a lot of people get a complete rebuild when all they need is a specific part. Some signs that a automatic is getting bad is when you first put it into gear (forward or reverse) it takes a while for the transmission to engage the gear. People used to the quick engaging will pull the lever, and step on the gas causing the motor to race, then suddenly it does engage the gear with a nice "clunk" because the motor is turning 3000 RPM. If you keep this up the transmission will have a bunch of other problems in a short time. If you wait for the transmission to engage, even if it is slow, it will continue to operate otherwise normally for a long time. You can try changing the fluid with the correct type, and get a good Mopar replacement filter. The valve body can also be re built at that point. Another thing that can go wrong causes stalling when coming to a stop, that is that the torque converter remains locked up. Here again the fluid can be the problem, or the electronic controls, or the converter itself, but it doesn't take a $1500 rebuild to fix. Sometimes people notice their transmission "slipping", an automatic transmission is supposed to slip somewhat, as it uses a fluid coupling to the motor. Once up to speed then there is a mechanical lockup, and once again this is the torque converter. If the transmission is not locking up, the same cures would apply as above. Torque converters in the past never used to have the lockup feature, and it is more for gas mileage and extending the life of the transmission. Your van can live a long time with a non-locking up converter and it actually will have more power without the converter locked up. Sometimes you will just know your transmission is broke because the van will run but it won't move! Thats when you really need a new transmission! But you might want to make sure the parking brake is not on.
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