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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • It would appear that quite a few owners are
    commenting on the fact that they consider the
    headlights somewhat "dim". I noticed this problem soon after we purchased our slightly used 99 TC,
    since the light was actually worse than those
    on our '91 Grand Caravan and I was disappointed.

    A bit of an investigation showed me that barely
    12.9 volts of the 14.3 volts available were getting to the actual headlamp bulbs. (These are approx numbers from memory, but they are in the ballpark. Interestingly enough, one side had most of the drop in the positive side, while the other had it on the ground return.)

    Adding extra (thicker gauge) wires in parallel with all the supply and ground wires in all the low and high beam circuits reduced the total voltage drop to less than 0.3 volts, and made all the lights (low and high beams)noticeably brighter.
    Adding almost 10% voltage makes the lights "whiter" as well

    PLEASE UNDERSTAND that this is NOT a typical do it yourself wiring job. I am an electrical engineer with over twenty years experience, and regularly repair everything on our cars. Please do not attempt it if you are not familiar with wiring techniques used in automobiles, and know how to use wiring and wiring tools. It is very easy to have badly installed wiring cause an electrical fire.
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    This was a problem on the GM Trucks from 88 until they changed in 99. As a matter of fact there were kits from different companys that gave you new wiring to boast the power going to them. JC Whitney had a kit that even allowed you to have both the high and low on at the same time and they even had high watt bulbs too. I replaced mine with both the kit and bulbs. the 35W dim bulbs were replaced with 80Watt and the 55W high beams were replaced with 100W. When in the boondocks and I kicked in the brights it lit up the world. Instead of 2 55W's I had 2 80W and 2 100W bulbs. Wow what a difference. Maybe there are wiring kits for the DC vans too.
  • I'm considering a 2000 or 2001 Dodge Caravan. I'd like to know if the transmissions are better with these newer models.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    my 2000 chrysler town and country with the 3.3L engine is doing fine now with over 30k miles on it. i have three other neighbors with 99-00 year dc minivans and they have not had any problems with theirs either.

  • lmacmillmacmil Posts: 1,758
    Uneven pad wear is not normal and is a symptom of a caliper problem, most likely the caliper was not sliding freely on the pins. This is usually because the slide pins are not adequately lubricated. I saw this on my '96 Explorer but it was at 49,000 miles when it was almost 5 years old.
  • I am planning to buy a mini-van because I have 4 grandchildren from ages 0-10.
    Reading these comments really puts me off. I know nothing about "Vehicles" except how to drive them and what looks good to me. Good looks I've assigned to the Plymouth Voyager.
    As a Granny I can't afford to be sitting beside the road on the way to the mountains or to the beach (or grocery store). And I can't afford alot of time and money on repairs.I do need 7 seats to also carry the children's parents.
    Any sound advice out there???
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    svause: You will find better reliability comparisons on the Edmunds "Used" vehicle information section reliability ratings than from bulletin board posts. Also Consumer Reports April "AUTO" issue is a helpful resource and another web site is
    Alternate 7 passenger vehicles would be stationwagons with 3 seats. Having owned both a 3 seat wagon and a van, the van seems preferable (also much more recent vintage) due to upright seating, all seats face forward and better view at city intersections.
    One last point on reliability is that average reliability is better as time goes buy so our expectations are quite high for few problems and you are less likely to have a breakdown now than ten or twenty years age. Even so maybe you would like joining a travel club with mobile repair help like AAA and carry a cell phone. My wife has found this a great reassurance when on her own.
  • Adam,
    Thank you for the reassurance.
  • plrodplrod Posts: 13
    I believe to be caused by the brake lines traveling to the rear brakes rubbing against the chassis.
  • Thank Imacmil,

    That is what I believe also. They should not wear as uneven as these have. Even the mechanic said that but he didn't find a problem (something obvious that didn't hit him over the head) so naturally I am stuck with the bill.
  • We just drove a 2002 Dodge GC EX off the lot. We have barely more than 100 miles on the OD. The first thing I noticed on the drive home was the poor headlight pattern on the road. Other than that everything else is tight and problem free. Looks like the first accessory I'm going to buy is a set of replacement bulbs!
  • still cannot find the O/D off switch. i don't even think there is one on my vans. 91 grand voyager LE or 98 grand Caravan ES.

    does anyone know for sure ? see my previous post #867.

  • A few months ago, I posted some messages re: my experience replacing the howling roof rack on my T&C Ltd. Here's a quick recap.

    I went to Fullerton Chrysler (Southern California) after they told me to bring the car in. Once I got there, the first thing the Asst. Mgr. Of Service asked me is if I know the difference between a recall and a TSB (technical service bulletin). Basically, his point was that I have to pay for a TSB. I told him, not if the car is under warranty. He then said, "What year is your car?" He should know the answer, the model just came out (2001 model). He then asked, "Is it still under warranty? How many miles is your car?" How many people drives 36,000 miles in less than a year? The rest of the conversation does not matter. I knew then and there I do not want them touching my car.

    I then went to Huntington Beach Chrysler. Upon arrival, the first thing I was asked is if I have an appointment. I told them, No, when I called Chrysler Corporation, I was just told to bring the car down. (This is a lie, I did not call Chrysler Corp. I just read from these postings and by calling other dealers that I was to bring the car down). Nonetheless, his answer surprised me. He said, "We do not work for Chrysler Corporation. Chrysler Corporation does not pay us. We are an independently owned dealer." When he saw the look on my face, he retorted, You don't want to pay for this, do you? . Basically, he is upset that I do not have an appointment. Point taken, but on the other hand, I was not asking him to fix the car right then and there.

    A few exchanges later (and I want to point out, I still kept my cool because I just want them to change the roof rack) he calmed down, took the part number down and told me he would call me when the part came in. When it did, the work was performed and I was off on my way.

    When the survey came, I told Chrysler Corporation the work was performed as expected, but that I was surprised at how rude the Service Manager was and how I felt my business was not appreciated. I was happy with the work, but I was not happy with the way I was initially treated. I did write that after the initial unpleasantries, I was treated as expected.

    A few days ago, my ABS warning light went on. I called this same dealer to make an appointment (they were closest to my work) and was assigned to the same service manager. I did not want to deal with him again, but I had no choice. He said he can't see me until next Tuesday. I made the appointment anyway. I then called a different dealer and they were able to see me the next morning. I brought the car in and got better than expected service. The problem (rear wheel sensor) was fixed right away.

    A few hours later, the same Service Manager @ Huntington Beach Chrysler called me and said, :Don't bring your car in. We don't want you to bring your car in. Your comments on the Chrysler Corporation Survey cost me $300. What kind of response did you think you were going to get?" I was taken by surprise, I just said, "Okay" and hung up. I couldn't believe it. Do I have to go through this verbal abuse every time I want to have them fix my car?

    So I called their General Manager and told him what happened. His response was, "If you were not happy with us the first time, why would you want to come back?" Wow! This is new for me. I have never heard of a dealer refusing service to someone for writing a negative survey. After all, aren't surveys designed to find out why customers aren't happy? Apparently this dealer did not believe or want second chances.

    So, I called Chrysler Corporation again and reported what happened. Even though the person on the other end eagerly took down the report (he couldn't believe it either). I expect nothing to come out of this (and by the way things are going, I HOPE nothing comes out of this).

    I am not asking anyone to boycott the dealership. They seem to do good work and I am sure most people have no problems with them. I am still convinced I just caught this particular Service Manager at a bad time. I was thankful this happened. I now know for sure where not to take my car. And BOY, do I have a story to tell =)

    Does anyone know anyone else who has been blacklisted from a dealership? For writing a bad survey?

    Last but not least, I know none of you read my actual survey, but do you think I am fair in my survey, saying that I am happy with the work done but not the way I was initially treated?

    I know the dealer is upset because of the bad remark, but, do you think they are justified in asking me not to bring my car to them? (even though I no longer want to?)
  • I've never heard something like that before. A good business person wants the negative feedback as much as the positive feedback for just the reason you stated "...aren't surveys designed to find out why customers aren't happy?" I'm surprised an idiot like that is still in business. You have more patience than I do because I wouldn't have even given them a second chance for a few years at the very least (give them time for employee/management turnover.)

    Sounds like you found a good dealer anyway.

  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    Back in August, I said on this board that cruise control in our van quit working. Some one said he had the same problem with his horn/air bag light coming on, and the dealer replaced something in the steering column.....

    If you ever have inoperative cruise/horn/air bag light coming on, almost 100% of the time, the problem is with a part called "Clock Spring". It is a part that is located in the steering column, and its job is to make connection to all steering wheel electrical functions.

    At least '96-01 vans have weak springs and contact is no longer there after several years of use. If you ever have this problem, DO NOT pay for dealer's diagnoses work. Just very specifically tell the service adviser to replace the piece instead letting them diagnose and charge $70-100 for some item that fails all the time anyway.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    For what its worth....

    We are considering the purchase of a new minivan and have driven them all. My wife (who will be a major contributor to this decision) likes the Chrysler Town & Country the best. It is without a doubt the most comfortable and nicest to drive of them all.

    I am concerned about design and assembly quality and have heard about premature transmission failures with Chrysler minivans. I have been talking to the local transmission shops to get some idea of what they're seeing. I've also been driving by and taking notes on what brands are in the lot awaiting repair.

    Now supposedly all Chrysler transmissions are bad according to a lot of people that I talk to. This might surprise some of you, but I'm not seeing many Chrysler minivans at any of the area shops! Out of the 231 cars and trucks I've logged over the last 7 months at three shops, only 14 were Chrysler minivans. These were in the range of 1989s to 1996s. Nothing before or after those years.

    At two of the shops they said early 4 speed electronic transmissions had a seal failure problem that was very common. However, these same two shops said that newer versions were not a problem.

    We do know several people that have had transmission problems with their Chrysler minivans and in each case it was later determined that the wrong transmission fluid had been installed when the transmission maintenance had been performed. The bottom line here is do not use Dexron type fluid.

    The owner of the third shop did say that "Chrysler transmissions are junk." However, at his shop I could only count 2 Chrysler products over the same period. He said GM's were the best, and maybe they are, but 54 of his transmission jobs were done on GMs, another 22 were Fords. I noticed his personal vehicle was a Chevy Tahoe and I suspect he is unable to give me an unbiased opinion.
  • phkckphkck Posts: 185
    We too had the same dilema. What finally swayed us was the free powertrain warranty for 7 yr 100k warranty thru Dec 01.
    We enjoy the power doors and liftgate.
    The transmission failings seem to have improved and as you stated the proper transmission fluid seems critical.
    And as you have seen any make can have failures. In the last 2 months we have had family members replace transmissions on a Continental and Suburban. Luck of the draw I guess.
    Good luck in the mini-van hunt
  • I have a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan. It has recently started occasionally honking as if the panic button were pressed. The honking starts a few minutes after locking the van. The van does not do this every time it is locked, only intermittently. We took it into the dealer, who replaced and recoded the batteries on the keyless entries.

    I did not think this was the problem, because on some occasions it had started honking after we were well out of range of the van. Anyway, I was right, the van still has the problem. I took it back in today and they could not reproduce the problem (again, it happens only occasionally).

    I could not find the problem listed in a TSB or similar complaints. I have a friend with a Chrysler minivan that had the exact problem. They had the alarm disconnected. The Dodge dealer that that was not doable, because the entire system works together and disconnecting the horn alarm would affect the entire system.

    Does anyone know what the cause is or have any recommendations for repair? Has anyone else experienced this?

  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    dustky, it is a FACT that Chrysler has improved the quality and reliability of it's vehicles over the last several years. As for transmissions, it seems to me that alot of the problems occured in pre-1998 model year vans, although I have only a few problems from people I know who have 98-01 model DC minivans. Nevertheless, Chrysler has improved a great deal over the years and according to a service manager at a local Chrysler dealership, their transmissions for the 2001+ model years are "rocksolid."

    As for me? My family has a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country LX 3.3L van that now has 33k miles on it and has had no problems. The van still drives and looks just as new despite a year and 3 months of hard and sometimes very fast driving. There are three neighbors on my street who also have DC minivans (one neighbor actually has two DC minivans, a 1999 and a 2000 model, both 3.3L) and none have had any serious problems with their vans.

    I also agree that there is no other minivan on the market that has the comfort features and excellent drive/handling that the DC minivans have. Also, the free 100k mile warranty that Chrysler is offering makes buying a DC minivan now even better. Good luck with your purchase!

  • Try checking the door contact switches
    (especially on the sliding doors)they could be dirty, causing the interior lights to activate
    and setting off the alarm.
  • After researching all the minivan offerings, I purchased a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan about 6 weeks ago. To my wife ane I, no other van came close to the rock solid feel of the Dogde.
    I was concerned about transmission problems, but could find no real data that gives the Dodge a worse rating than others. Several negative articles were so biased, I totally discounted their value in our decision. We know several neighbors with various makes of minivans and have heard as many opinions as there are owners. I can say that the most loyal owners are the Windstar fans who also seem to be spending a lot more time and money keeping the things running.
    My past experience with FWD cars is limited to a 1996 Saturn and a 1999 Honda Civic. The Saturn has had no transmission trouble in 125,000 miles other than the GM clunk between first and second. The Honda at 48,000 miles is just off it's first rebuild on the tranny at $1,650. Anyone want a cute white Honda tin can.
    So far, the Grand Caravan is quickly winning over all drivers in the house, it's peppy, quiet, and fun to drive. Time will tell.
  • enetheneth Posts: 285
    It would appear that the 96-2000 models at least are turning into the DaimlerChryser version of the Ford Pinto story:

  • emaleemale Posts: 1,380
    the 41te tranny used in the dc minis is now a pretty decent unit. major internal seal upgrades were instituted in '96 and a significantly upgraded differential saw its way into the vans in late '99 or early '00. also, better electronic torque management and upgraded tranny fluid are now used. the dc mini's tranny is now at least on par with other trannys of the same type.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    Emale, the current improved status of the Chrysler 41TE transmission that you speak of is true but I doubt you will convince many Honda owners of that. Many of them still refuse to believe that Chrysler has improved their products over the years.

    As for me, my 2000 Town & Country LX with 33k miles continues to run great, and is still on it's origional transmission.

  • dkrabdkrab Posts: 77
    This leak did not first start with the '96 model. My '91 Plymouth Grand Voyager sprang a leak in exactly the place described in the article. Chrysler would not pay for a fix, even though they were recalling the LH cars with the same engine for the same problem. I paid $890 to get it fixed at an independent shop.

    Now it appears that Chrysler should pony up. Anybody else with a Chrysler van with the 3.3 or 3.8 engine have experience with this leak?

    On the transmission issue raised here, I hope DC has fixed the problem. It started with the "Ultradrive" in '89. When I bought my '91, I specifically asked what was done to correct the problems. I was told that new seal material and an added internal seal was the fix, and my new van should be just fine. It failed at 58K. Mopar fluid only is all it ever saw. I don't think they meant to lie to me back in '91. I think they really thought they had it fixed. They really think they have it fixed, now, too. Just like in '92, '93, '94, '95, '96.... Get the extended warranty, just in case. It may indeed be fixed, but I would be more comfortable with a couple more years of good statistics and reports, from more than just two or three regular posters on the boards here.
  • emaleemale Posts: 1,380

    my dad has owned two dc minis over the last 12 years. the first one, an '89 grand caravan, went through 2 transmissions in about a 2 year time span and 20k miles. my uncle bought that van from my dad when it had about 50k miles. as far as i know, that third tranny is still working.

    when dad sold the '89 he bought a '96 town and country lxi, which now has around 90k miles and hasn't had any problems...for what that's worth. there is no doubt that the tranny has improved significantly since the time it first came out and was dubbed "ultradrive".

    couple interesting things about the 41te. a mechanic friend of mine said that many of the so-called tranny failures weren't actually tranny failures at all, they were differential failures. the 41te has a diff/tranny all housed in one transaxle unit. i guess that with some abuse (such as excessive spinning, etc) it was rather easy to cause failure of the spider gears in the diff, occasionally the gears would actually pierce the transaxle casing when they broke...
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Chrysler aims to begin minivan recall by January.

    Chicago Tribune story

    SUVs, Vans and Aftermarket & Accessories Message Boards
  • I recently had my transmission pan re-sealed, and a fluid (ATF +4) and filter change in my 2000 Grand Caravan SE (50K miles). After the mechanic (a friend of mine) finished the job, he noticed another transmission leak. He recommended that I take the van to a Dodge dealer since I had the extended warranty. The dealer replaced the solenoid valve body which they said was leaking. When the guy from the dealership called to let me know it was ready, he said that the technician who did the job said the fluid was "dirty" and should be changed. When informed that the fluid and filter were just changed (2 weeks ago!), he just said, "Oh, ok." These shady business practices are why dealerships get the reputations they do. I try to stay away from them as much as possible. The total bill came to $314 which was covered under the warranty - $0 deductible (10yr, 100K miles)! BTW, my 2000 GC (bought used) has a three speed transmission, don't most have 4 speed trannys?
  • And NO WAY is Chrysler (now DaimlerChrysler) the newer version of the Ford Pinto Story...or the infamous TV created HOAX on GM pickups with the exploding fuel tanks.
    Most DC Owners would better spend their time worrying about debris falling from the sky aka Superman Story than fuel fires in DC minivans.
  • Scott,
    On your 97 Caravan, you have (somewhere) in your main wiring harness, a factory 'arm' wire, normally triggered by a double pulse to your lock circuit from your transmitter. Your circuit is reading that same type of pulse from somewhere else in the vehicle, my guess is a faulty lock switch on one of the doors. If not, check or replace relays, found behind the lower dash panels. Pull the face of the lower dash off, and trigger the locks, and listen for the clicks, you can't miss them. Cheap place to start. Next, pull the fuse to your power locks, and see if the problem continues. My gut feeling is that you will find the solve with one of these two ideas.
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