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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    At the time, we were having such problems with the '88 Grand Voyager, I was all set on getting rid of it for a '92 Town & Country. But I FINALLY realized all those bills that I kept getting from the AWFUL local Chrysler dealer mechanics were just a bunch of you know what.

    Plus in 1990-1993 when the major problems were happening, what minivans were there? Ford Aerostar? Ummmm, I don't think so. Chrysler was the only minivan to even really consider for us. And the Japanese vans were also too small and weird looking. (Mazda MPV, Toyota Previa, etc..)

    Once I started taking my van to an independent mechanic, the problems stopped. The van was reliable again, except for the one electrical problem that even my mechanic couldn't fix.

    Something in the inside of the car was draining the battery, so if you didn't drive the car for more than a day and half, it wouldn't start.

    After 8 years, Chrysler nor my mechanic could find where the electrical leak was. I felt bad for the dealer we traded it into. Boy, were they in for a surprise whenever they tried to start it up for a test drive.

    ANYWAY, the 1996 Town & Country was not unreliable at all. Mechanically and electrically it was prefect other than the phantom windshield wipers that we had fixed. All I stated was that it had its share of rattles and the back windows came unglued from its pusher that pushes the power rear quarter windows open. Nothing major, and after the first year, we had had all the rattles and quality issues fixed. Never once did I feel it was going to strand us or break down. While it had some first model year quality issues, it was still VERY reliable over the 4 1/2 years of ownership.

    As for being worried, I guess maybe a little, but only because I'm still waiting for my transmission to fail and all my electrical things to go haywire like many of my friend's have had with their vans.

    But after two VERY reliable vans and the one "misunderstood" van that was fine once we got it way from the Chrysler service department, I won't at all be hesitant to buy another one 3-4 years down the road.

    Another thing I've come accustomed to is the luxury and the style. I don't get the people who say minivans are supposed to look boring and boxy, but I like the sleek and rounded look of my old '96 and now '01. The triple-zone digital auto air, heated seats, memory seats, memory mirrors, memory radio presets, removable consol, homelink, power doors, liftgate, etc., can't hurt my decision to buy another one either...

    1988 Grand Voyager LE - traded in at 84,300 miles after 8 years
    1996 Town & Country LXi - traded in at 37,900 miles after 4 1/2 years
    2001 Town & Country Limited - 9,200 miles and perfect
  • calgcalg Posts: 53
    Even though we drive an Odyssey, I still look at other vans forums simply to get more information on what is out there and what issues or advantages other vans have. When we go to trade in our Ody in a few years, I just want to hear as many "real world" stories about other vans so that we can make an informed decision. Right now we are very happy with our Ody; it serves our needs very well. But in a few years if someone else comes out with a safe, reliable, comfortable, affordable, with a SPLIT magic seat van, who knows?
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    In reply to Carleton's poor opinion of CR reliability ratings vs his experience and that of his friends,
    1. CR covers 200 and some models with over 500,000 survey reports per annum.
    2. An alternative reliability source (which I've previously suggested to Carleton) is the Edmunds used car reliability ratings which are quite similar to CR in terms of the CC vans vs Honda Accord (which Carleton wants to compare for the sake of arguing against CR).
    3. I bought a '95 Caravan in Dec '98 after reviewing CR in some detail and found one critical article in Feb '91 regarding high failure rates of the 4 speed transmission introduced in '89. To say "CR has trashed DC minivans for years" is a gross exaggeration. DC minivans have been rated in the top three in the April Auto issue of CR for the past 10 years.
  • jft26jft26 Posts: 35
    real123 --- I also have a '98 GC with a 3.3L
    V-6 that had the similar symptoms. When the engine was first started (cold) and placed in Drive or Reverse there was a shuddering or marble sounding rattling coming from the engine compartment. I was going crazy trying to figure it out. I finally took it to the Chrysler Dealer Service. It was diagnosed as a bad Serpentine Belt Tensioner. The Tensioner was replaced along with the serpentine belt. Problem solved!
  • real123real123 Posts: 20
    steeleng, On the electrical problem, I'm going to try out the possibility that it's a problem with the key. It could be that my lock was tampered with, because I can pull the key out while the engine is on. Perhaps that's the root of the problem.

    jft26, As far as the tensioner goes, I wonder why it causes shuddering when it's cold. In any event, if that's the problem, I hope my warranty with GE will cover it. I've wondered how good this warranty is. I suppose they wouldn't cover the belt,if it needs replacement.
  • vtec11vtec11 Posts: 7
    Hey all, this is my first post and i just bought my mom a 1998 Grd Caravan ES w/ 35k.

    It didn't come with an owner's manual (yet) so can someone tell me how to turn the fog lamps on. I can't see a switch or anything anywhere for it.. ???

    The lights are in the bumper, and arn't turn signal lights, so i am assuming there fog lamps.

    Also, how do you adjust the sensitivity on the automatic headlights.

  • crkeehncrkeehn Posts: 513
    I don't know if there has been a change in the last couple of years. My PT Cruiser comes with fog lamps. To turn them on you first turn on either the parking or headlights. With the PT cruiser the lights are controlled by a stalk on the left side of the steering column. To turn the foglamps on, you pull the end of the light stalk out.
  • vtec11vtec11 Posts: 7

    It was a good idea, i gave it a try, but it dosn't work. My stalk dosn't pull out. You can only press it in, and that's to spray water on the winshield...

    How do they work on caravan ????? Are they really fog lamps or just for show ?

  • I'm cosidering buying a 99 Caravan. What are the pros and cons of this year?
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    If you know how to turn on the headlights, you'll be able to find out how the fog lights go on.

    You turn the dial-type knob right to either the "On" position or if you have it, the "Auto" position.

    In either setting you then pull out the knob to activate the fog lights.

    This was how it was on my '96 and is the same for my '01 van. Hope this helps!
  • crkeehncrkeehn Posts: 513
    Your car should have two stalks from out of the steering column. The right hand stalk controls the windshield wiper/washer. The fact that water sprayed suggested that you were using that stalk. On the left hand side of the steering wheel, you should have a multifunction stalk that controls the headlights, the dimmer and the direction signals. With fog lamps the end of that stalk should pull out, ie towards the door, to turn the foglamps on. With the PT Cruiser they work only when the low beams or parking lights are on.
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    The stalk on the left side of the steering wheel only controls the wipers, the wiper spray, the high beams, and turn signal functions.

    There is a a dial type knob to the left of the steering wheel on the dashboard near the driver's door that controls the headlights and fog lights. Next to that is the interior light dimmer switch.

    Hope this helps!
  • crkeehncrkeehn Posts: 513
    As I previously stated, I was basing my instruction on a 2002 PT Cruiser. My previous Chrysler Product was a 1988 Reliant Wagon, which also had the two stalks. I just assumed (yes, I know what they say.) that they carried the design through.
  • Believe it or not, you know why most of the 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan has zero problems for at least 25,000 miles, is because DaimlerChrysler in the US hired some Toyota workers, from Kentucky, to build Caravans for only 8 months. DaimlerChrysler is doing that because they want to find out if Chrysler minivans ran a design problem or manufacturing problem. After 8 months, DaimlerChrysler found out it was the manufacturing problems.

    Anyway, this comment I told you all is a secret.
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    A vast majority of Odyssey owners have NO problems. The biggest problem of Odyssey owners is carleton1.00001 and we have a better resale value and firm armrests that you don't sink into and your arm falls a sleep.
  • hey guys,

    thanks for your help.

    Yeah, you have to pull the switch out on the dashboard.

    I'm glad i have fog lights, and there not just parking lights or something.

    Is it just me, or did any of you notice even with the low beams and fog lights on, you can't see much at night.

    Can we replace them with better bulbs or something. How about those blue/white ones ? hehe.

    Also, has anyone replaced the bulbs in the fog lamps to a different color ?

  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    You've got to understand that the Chrysler vans do in fact have more problems than the foreign competitors such as the Toyota and Honda. I don't call power sliding door problems, unpadded armrests, and rattles qualification to call a product unreliable.

    I've had three and know the ups and downs of the Chrysler Corporation. I've stuck by them throughout the 14 years we've owned their products, but it's be stupid for me to say Chrysler produces completely reliable vans after my 1988 lemon, countless reports of bad reliability, 3 different families going through 4 Chrysler transmissions, Consumer Report's bad ratings up until 2000, and the poor resale.

    While the three or four people on your block may have had good luck, as I have had with the '96 and '01, facts don't lie. The Chrysler vans (pre 2001) were less reliable. PERIOD We'll see how the 2001's turn out. I'm hoping they'll be better. I know mine is.

    If Honda would come out with an Acura van, you bet I'd jump ship with Chrysler, just so I could have the dependably that my Toyota, my son's Honda, and my daughter's fabulous Volkswagen Jetta have brought us.

    Chrysler has lured us with their luxury, but if I was only interested in a mid-model equipped van, I'd go for a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey.

    My 1988 Grand Voyager - $11,500 in dealer charges on a $20,800 van

    My 1996 T&C - annoying rattles and quality issues

    My 2001 T&C - perfect
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    While Chrysler has and continues to have their fair share of mechanical problems with their minivans, the rate of problems has dramaticly decreased since the 1999 model year. Our 2000 Town & Country now has almost 31k miles on it and hasn't had any significant mechanical problems. Carelton is not alone when he says he knows of many people who have trouble-free DC minivans. There are three other DC minivan owners on my court and none of them have had any problems with their vans. In fact, one of my neighbors has a 1997 Town & Country LXi with over 70k miles on it and when I asked him how he liked his car he replied, "i like it, it hasn't given us any problems, and we have just about 70k miles on it."

    Not many Honda Odyssey owners can say that. Especially those who have 1999 Odysseys. I wouldn't exactly call having to have my transmission replaced THREE times good reliability. If you read through the Odyssey problem forum it's littered with posts of people who have had transmission, break, and quality issues with their vans. As far as I can tell, the Odyssey doesn't exactly represent the great Honda engineering and quality I have heard about.

    I'll continue to drive my trouble-free 2000 Town & Country LX and laugh at those who think buying a DC minivan automaticly means mechanical trouble. This is our second DC minivan and both have performed very nicely with ZERO problems.

  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    While some people may have had transmission problems in their 1999 Odyssey's, what about people I know in their Chrysler vans that have gone through numerous transmissions in there 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1996 vans?

    It is still unsure if Chrysler has fixed the problem with their 4-speed auto that has dated back to 1989, although post 1997 vans seem to be doing better.

    I can't really vouge for the bad transmissions (thank goodness) since I had the 3 speed in the '88 Voyager, and the '96 T&C 4 speed only got up to 37,000 miles until I traded it in. Although, one of my friend's Chrysler only got to 22,000 miles until it was kaput, so I guess I'm just plain lucky (knock on wood).

    I guess what I'm saying is, Chrysler has a very spotty past, although they seem to be much better. But Honda seemed to had fixed their transmission problems in one model year, where Chrysler had how many years to address the problem? Exactly. Plus the Ody has a new transmission now anyway.
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    If Chryslers have such good transmissions why is there a site here just for trans problems? Don't see any Odyssey site just for trans problems. How about the 2100rpm noise? How about those mushy armrests?
  • scannerscanner Posts: 295
    the Odyssey owners are still trolling the DC topics.
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    When you have nothing wrong with your van theres only one place to go to hear about problems.
  • dave210dave210 Posts: 238
    Since when did I say they had good transmissions? I was the one talking about how my friends have had problems with their transmissions.

    But I've been one of the lucky ones, and I will continue to support Daimler-Chrysler. Other than my first Chrysler van, my 1996 and 2001 were and are mechanically perfect, with the 2001 also being quality perfect.

    I'm not the only one who is in the niche that wants luxury and utility, because the LXi pre 1999 used to account for nearly 80% of the T&C sales. Now I'm not sure now what the figures are since with the demise of the Plymouth Voyager, Chrysler is now stacking rental lots with stripped base T&C's...something I DON'T agree with.

    Anyway, until Honda comes out with an Acura van or Toyota ups its size and luxury content, I'm sticking with Chrysler. I've had good luck with them, and if you can believe, I LIKE the gizmos, gadgets, style, and utility.

    That's great the some people think minivans should be modestly equipped with bad styling, but remember the days when SUV's were REAL trucks, and not luxury-like vehicles with such names as Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus gracing the hood?

    For now, I'm going to take my automatic triple zone air over a folding magic seat, but maybe in a couple of years, Honda and Toyota will realize there are people like me who would be happy to buy from those brands if they added just a little more luxury. I'm guessing that day will eventually come, most likely in the new 2003 Sienna. Just a guess.
  • crkeehncrkeehn Posts: 513
    Based on what I was reading on other internet sites, especially the Allpar site, they stated that a large number of the transmission problems were the result of using the wrong fluid. Apparently the 4 speed transmissions are very sensitive to the ATF used and the wrong one will really damage the unit. 2000 model year and newer should only use ATF+4.
  • dkrabdkrab Posts: 77
    I have a '91. Replace tranny at 58,000 miles. Serviced it regularly, never put anything in it but Mopar trans fluid as specified. Also had to have rings replaced at 58,000 because it was burning a quart of oil every 800 miles (3.3L). Chryslers 7/70 powertrain warranty saved me thousands of dollars. I wouldn't own a DC product without an extended warranty, period.

    Now have 137,000 on replacement trans, and it still seems fine. I'm getting rid of it while it still drives good. It will likely be fine for years to come; not every single Mopar tranny is bad. But it sure seems like too many of them are. I sure wish they would get rid of that tranny, but they are still using it in the new vans today. Maybe it's better now, but I would not bet 25K to find out.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    it is really a shame how the odyssey owners come into forums that have nothing to do with their vehicle and bash DC minivans left and right. i don't believe there has been a dc van owner come into the odyssey PROBLEMS (yes thats right, the flawless odyssey has problems as well) and bash the owners and their cars.

    no one here has said that chryslers transmission have had a perfect or even good reliability history. not even dc van owners like myself.

    however, there are many owners out there with dc minivans that have never experienced and serious mechanical problems, myself included. we have owned two of these vans and both performed flawlessly. not all odyssey owners can say that, even those who own 2000 and 2001 odyssey vans.

    if you like boaring, boxy, blan cars...go with the odyssey. if you want a car that is fun to drive, looks good, has plenty of features and creature comforts, go with the dc minivans. the choice is up to the consumer and most still go with the dc minivans.

  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    4aodge says: it is really a shame how the odyssey owners come into forums that have nothing to do with their vehicle and bash DC minivans left and right. i don't believe there has been a dc van owner come into the odyssey PROBLEMS
    You shouldn't make a statement that you can't back up. Ask carlton1 or a few others who are always there doing what we are doing back in self defence. Yes we have problems too, but not nearly as many as you do. Sounds like the new Caravans are better than old, except for a couple of big ones, really big ones, like leaking gas, but only time will tell.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    The odyssey owners would like to think every 2001 dc minivan out there will leak gas if it gets into a serious accident, but this is obviously not the case. There are so many more 2001 dc minivans on the road than there are odyssey vans and im sure because of the great number of them, a good few have gotten into some serious accidents. I have not heard of one case where a dc minivan has exploded or combusted as a result of a serious crash, contrary to what odyssey owners would like to believe. It's just another excuse for people who want to rationalize buying a boring, boxy, blan minivan. I really feel sorry for the poor odyssey owners who bought the van because of honda reliability and then have faulty accord breaks, transmission problems, and sliding door problems. what a let down that must have been.

    the three B's used to describe the odyssey...BOARING, BOXY, BLAN. I am quite happy with my perfectly reliable T&C. I have a reliable car that has some personality (yes, even tho its a van) and is fun to drive. too bad the odyssey owners have to live with the three B's.

  • dkrabdkrab Posts: 77
    Adam, maybe there are Ody owners posting on this board, but I am not one of them. Right how I own a 91 Ply G.Voyager with 137K miles on it. I am working on getting an Odyssey, though. There seems to be DC owners bashing Honda on the Honda boards. Hey, if that's what they want to do, fine, whatever.

    "Boaring" should be spelled "boring" (you got it right in one place, anyway). "Blan" should be "bland." Are you describing the DC vans? This is a DC vans problems board, isn't it? I know you are describing the Ody, just ribbing you. But you should know that there are thousands and thousands of intelligent, rational adults deciding every day to buy that boxy, boring Ody. I know, I am one of them. Let me tell you why. My 91 Ply G.Voyager, which I bought new, had the transmission fail before 60K. I was very careful with it, too, because I had heard of problems with them starting in '89. When I asked the service dept. about the problems with earlier models, they assured me many changes had been made and the unit was sound. Regular fluid changes, Mopar fluid ONLY. At 58K, it started dropping into 2nd gear at will. Sometimes it would never shift beyond 2nd. Chrysler replaced the trans under warranty. Now here it is, 10 years later, and DC is STILL using that trans. They say it's fixed. I am not going to be fooled twice. It is simply not as reliable as the average minivan tranny. That is a proven fact. As the 99 and newer ones get older, we'll see how the trend goes, but they will have to get the statistics from someone else. I won't be driving a DC. Other problems included paint peeling off, piston rings seized to pistons (chryco paid for that, too), AC compressor went out (and its big-time expensive), serptine belt tensioner keeps failing, can't keep it aligned, starter stopped, rattles, rattles, rattles. And that's the stuff I can think off off the top of my head.

    As for the Ody, I know it isn't perfect. They had some trans trouble, I know. But I doubt you will see a discussion about it still going on 8 years from now. Honda tends to learn from their mistakes and work on making real corrections. I have seen it myself, and not just from Honda. Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, VW/Audi, do it, too. Even Chrysler learns and corrects, as proven by the newest vans. I drove one, and it drives great. It's quiet, smooth, refined, much better than my 91. I would buy it, except for the fact that they still have not replaced the trans, and I did not care for their attitude in the past. But no car, van or truck from any maker is bulletproof. Maybe you have one that is serving you well. That's great, more power to you. Nothing wrong with getting your money's worth. I suspect, however, some of it is attitude. If you like your vehicle, you will be less critical of it when something does break. If you don't like it, you will complain. Human nature. You could have two identical vehicles with exact repair records, and the guy who likes his will say it's mostly trouble-free, and the guy who doesn't like it will say it's a rolling junk heap. I have had 3 Accords. One of them gave me trouble. But I liked it anyway. What helped me like it in spite of the trouble was Honda's attitude toward correcting the trouble. They were not condescending and did not try to blame me, they just checked out the problem and fixed it. When the paint peeled off my Chrysler, I thought I was never going to get them to make it right. Somehow it must have been my fault, they implied, asking if I had ever run it through a high pressure car wash, if I park it in the garage, etc. They knew they had a problem, they were even fighting a lawsuit over it, and I get that?

    So, I would not question people's judgement too harshly. Most here have spent the time to come to rational conclusions, even if they are not all the same conclusion. Enjoy your DC van. I'll enjoy my Ody when I get it.
  • i'm having a problem starting my van. i'll turn the key to start and just get a click, like it's a dead battery. well, it's not, and i checked the starter solenoid and it's fine. i'll turn it to start about 20 times and then suddenly, it'll start. doesn't matter warm or cold, same thing. ignition switch problem???
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