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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    Sounds too weird. I'd still report 'em - maybe that'll make the "real" dealer clean up his act anyway.

    Steve, Host
  • Hello all, just got back from a trip to Myrtle Beach (from Michigan). We drove 13 hours straight each way. Our '96 Plymouth Grand Voyager, with 101,000 miles, performed great as always.

    However we had one very minor issue that only seems to come up when we take "long" trips (usually more than 30 miles of 65+ driving). Transmission fluid appears to be lightly spraying (?) out of the transmission dipstick container. After being on the road for an hour or so we stopped for a toll booth - and smoke came out from under the front of the hood. I pulled over and looked at the engine and there was transmission fluid on the cylinder head cover (kind of pooled up in the "cupped"/flanged area by the bolts), on the hood of the transmission dipstick (the round metal piece just under the yellow grab handle), all down the trans. dipstick tube/container and over other misc. parts in that area. I checked the trans. level several times during our trip and it was always fine so it's not spraying THAT much fluid but it's still not normal for anything to be coming out...again, if it IS coming out of the dipstick. I've noticed this in the past when checking over the engine - that there is a little bit of fluid on the dipstick handle/hood. Always wondered how in the h*ll it got there but it was so insignificant that I didn't worry about it. It's still probably not a big deal since the van is mostly used for town trips but I'd like to get this resolved.

    Does anyone know anything about this? Is there a rubber seal of some sort in that dipstick that should be sealing tight against the tube? Is it possible that the fluid gets so hot that it seeks escape out the tube? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    ... may be due to too much fluid, or overheated fluid. Either one cannot be good for your transmission if allowed to continue. Check the level and correct if necessary. You may want to look into an add-on cooler if you want the transmission to last.
  • Thanks for the thoughts Vcheng. I did check the level and thought it was fine, but I'll check it again just to satisfy my curiosity. What would cause the fluid to overheat?

    The really strange thing about this is that, during this trip, we spent about 5 hours (each way) in the Appalachian mountains and the van/trans. worked fine. In addition about every three months we take the van on a eight hour trip to Wisconsin and it performs fine. Would I notice something in the trans. performance if the fluid was overheating?

    How would I go about a) finding a trans. cooler and b) installing one? Also, is there some way I can determine for sure if it's overheating before I try to fix the problem?

  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    First of all, did you use the correct method of checking the level: Drive for at least 20 miles, stop, run the gear selector through the detents 5 seconds each, shift to park, leave engine running, and then check the level on the dipstick (take out, wipe, reinsert fully, then take out and read the level).

    There is a readout of the transmission temperature at the OBD2 diagnostic plug, but a special scanning tool may be required. A third party temperature guage can be installed, but can be a lot of hassle.

    Transmission oil coolers run about 60-80 bucks and are fairly easy to install with a little bit of mechanical aptitude. Otherwise, chains like U-Haul and PepBoys install them for around 100-125 bucks.

    You may want to take it to the dealer, and have them check and document the "Clutch Volume Indices" (CVI) for each gear. This will give you an idea of the amount of life the transmission has left in it and may help you decide what to do. The dealer can also tell you about the operating temperature of the transmission too if you want. This could cost about $80-100.

    Also: Does your van have a Sport or Tow package, since it may already have an extra cooler?

    Then again, if it continues to work properly, and you keep an eye on the mess and the fluid level, and it is an old(er) van, you could just accept the status quo too.
  • Thanks again. I'll check the level properly. For the most part I believe I followed your procedure, but I must admit I don't know what "detents" is/are?

    We don't have the towing or sport package. Next time I have it for a transmission fluid change I'll bring this up w/my dealer if I can't solve it before then.

    Thanks for the great advice.

    - Rob
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    I returned from a business trip on Friday night and learned about a steering problem my wife had with our '99 GCS that day. She was driving along and all of a sudden the steering wheel became almost impossible for her to turn. She was able to limp into a nearby auto service place, where they replaced the serpentine belt and tensioner assembly to the tune of $244. (They also told her the water pump seeps coolant, so I'll need to get that checked.) Does this sound like a likely culprit of suddenly-hard steering, with no other symptoms?

    Now the fun part: the fan is under a DC extended warranty. The service place told my wife they called the nearby Dodge dealer where I have all my service done, and they told her the warranty expired at 36,000 miles. My extended warranty goes until 50,000 miles and is bumper-to-bumper. And the dealer knows that, because I know it's in their computer. Anyway, I'll call the warranty people tomorrow and demand a reimbursement.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    Strokeoluck: By detents, I meant each stop of the gear select lever ie move it to each position (P>R>N>D>3>L and back) stopping at each position for 5 seconds. Please post back as to what happened.

    Backy: The serpentine belt drives the power steering pump as well as other accessories such as the water pump, the alternator and the air conditioner compressor, so if the belt came off due to a problem with the tensioner, the steering would become hard, amongst other symptoms. Good luck with the warranty coverage.
  • beth33beth33 Posts: 4
    I have a '96 T&C, 45k. Two weeks ago took a trip thru a relatively high mtn pass, (4200'). Long hill climb or approx 6 miles and 3/4 way up van quickly lost power, to point where it would not climb anymore, (over distance of 300yds), & check engine light came on. Pulled over, put in 'P' and revved engine. Would not rev freely in park. Shut off and let it sit for 10 mins, then limped to rest area at summit. The check engine light now flashing. Turned off and let sit for 30 mins. Fluid levels normal, engine not overheated, no unusual sounds, (except for faltering engine). Turned back on and drove home with check engine light on. Was still running poorly, (stuttering, faltering, missing at idle).
    Took to shop, replaced plugs, plug wires, fuel filter, PCV valve, air filter. OBD said "trouble code 300-multiple mis-fires".
    $300.00 paid and van ran fine, until I went back to get my kids...Exact same problem on different hill in same high elevation area...
    Please help, I'm about to get fleeced but I gotta do the drive once a month due to child visitation reasons...
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    Thanks for the response. I was able to get $83 from the warranty, after the $50 deductible. They paid for the tensioner and sales tax on that part but not the serpentine belt or shop supplies. They claimed that no belts were covered. I asked what if a defective tensioner caused the belt to fail, but it was no-go.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    Thank you for the feedback. At least you got something from the warranty. Another hint: The bottom of the engine has a plastic splash shield on the passenger's side. Please make sure it is put on correctly. If not, driving in the rain or a through a puddle may cause the belt to come off.
  • mfahey1mfahey1 Posts: 419
    Sounds like it may be fuel delivery related which normally would mean that the fuel pump is going out. If you take it in for that, try to have the tank as empty as reasonably possible since they will have to remove the tank to get at the pump, not for checking it but if the pump checks out bad, then they have to remove the tank.
    I hope for your sake that the shop checked all of the codes and didn't just latch onto the first one.
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    Check the two small hoses that go into the radiator from the transmission the top one is located just below the radiator cap on the engine side of the radiator. The hose clamps could be loose or as it was in my case the hoses had to be replaced. I did it myself the air cleaner assembly has to be removed to work on those hoses. Cost about $25.00 for new hoses from the dealer.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    That is a good idea hayneldan, but I must admit I was going more by the description of the leak, and thus assumed that it is coming from the dipstick hole. I don't think the leak would be blown all over the engine by the fans or by the airflow at highway speeds, but it is possible.
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    That trans oil on my van was all over the engine and underside of my van,(a 96 also). I could not figure where it was coming from either. I cleaned the engine with one of those do it yourself car wash bays before I discovered it was coming fron the upper hoses. It's a inexpensive fix if it's where the leak is coming from. It only leaked at highway speeds with pressure in the hoses, only a few drops on the garage floor.
  • aanessaaness Posts: 2
    '98 Grand Voyager with 67,000 miles...the differential basically exploded because a press-fit pin slipped out. This is a manufacturing defect, and my tranny shop agreed. Chrysler even ripped me for $500 on a core charge on a Mopar remanufactured transmission because the case has holes and they can't rebuild it. (Ford doesn't tack on this charge, BTW.)

    A press-fit means it doesn't come apart. Apparently Chrysler doesn't think their transmissions should last a full 67,000 miles. I've never owned a vehicle with such a major flaw, and I will definitely never buy another Chrysler product. The '98+ transmission is supposed to be the improved unit, but my tranny shop said they see these fairly frequently as well. I highly recommend staying away from Chrysler products as their quality and customer service are pathetic.
  • Thanks guys. I'd have to agree with vcheng on this. The leak would indicate it's originating at/near the dipstick. I did have another trans. leak a few months ago coming from the pan underneath but the local shop took care of that easily/cheaply (tightened the bolts maybe?...I forget).

    But this one is different and the oil is confined to the immediate area around the dipstick. Since it's a "somewhat" rare occurence I'm going to see if my local corner mechanic can figure it out (he's usually the low-tech seen-it-all common sense guy) next time I take it in for some routine maintenance. If he can't solve it then I'll take it to the dealership and see what they have to say. Thanks for your thoughts guys.

    BTW, to the gentleman that said he'll never buy another Chrysler again: I don't blame you given your experience. Though I'm very pleased with our 102,000 mile '96 Grand Voyager there are certainly D/C lemons out there. The problem though is that ALL of the automakers make their share of "lemons" (leaving aside the high-ticket brands such as Mercedes, BMW...and I'm sure even they have a hiccup now and then). After having spent 7 years in the Detroit area I've heard my fair share of lemon stories. To provide an example, my father bought a Ford ten years ago...had problems they wouldn't resolve and he swore off Fords. Then he had a Chevy...had problems, etc. so he swore off Chevy. Finally he bought a TOYOTA Avalon - yes the flagship standard of quality - and he had problems (steel belts showing through on tires at 16,000 miles). Toyota wouldn't take care of him so he's now sworn off Toyota. In the meantime I've owned a Volkswagen, Ford, Pontiac and D/C and haven't really had any major problems with any of them. Since he actually takes better care of his cars (he used to rebuild Corvettes from the bottom up) I figure it's just the luck of the draw that he's had the problems and I haven't. At this rate my Dad's only hope is for a new auto mfgr. to spring up every three years or to start riding a golf cart to work!

    Best of luck,
  • aidtwoaidtwo Posts: 1
    I have a 1994 Voyager, 4 cylinder, automatic. Is there anyway that I can read the OBD? Is there a standard connector, connection or some other device to interface with the computer? Can I get a real time readout?
  • Ok, my wife got into the van and started it, put it in gear, started to leave, went to shut the car off, and could not put it back into park. Car is stuck in gear. Funny thing was that the van would roll backwards when taking the break off. So, first thing I thought of was that the transmission, and I am sure I am right. But I would like some input with this group. You guys seem to always help me save money when I think I know it all.
  • I got this light comes on during driving today on my 98 Caravan sport. Not sure what should I check before sending it to the dealer. Can anybody advise me here? Thanks!

    By the way, V cheng, according to your comments on checking the trans fluid level, after driving 20 miles, shift all gears, take out, wipe, reinsert fully, then take out, should the fluid reach between hole "warm" and hole "hot"?
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    ...should be between the two top holes. (there should be three holes, two closer together near the tip, where the level should be when cold, and the third one a little further along towards the top. The level should be between the top two hiles.)
  • estevensestevens Posts: 2
    I just started my battle with Chrysler. The Adapter plate that the oil filter spins up to has been re designed (in 2001) and could cause the oil filter to leak. In my case, the engine required a new "short block" and that cost me $5000. Chrysler would not cover it on warranty.
    A 2002 Grand Caravan 12,600 km less than one year old!
    I have put this issue on my web site for anyone to see. Go to if you want to know more about it.
    At this point, I will never by Chrysler again!
  • skip31skip31 Posts: 1
    We own a 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyager. We bought it used with 24,000 miles on it. At 69,000 miles the transmision "blew up". There was a 6 inch by three inch hole blown through the casing from the differential to the transmission. My mechanic said he had never seen anything like it before. Sounds like the same problem "aaness" had. When it happened my wife was only travleing about 35 mph which was a good thing since she lost total control of the vehicle. If she was on a major highway traveling 60mph she would have been dead or seriously injured.
    This is a dangerous defect and all the dealer and Chrysler were concerned about was that my warranty expired.
    Not many 1999's have 65,000+ miles on them yet, so I wouldn't be surprised to here of more incidents like this in the near future. Hopefully no one gets killed as a result of this defect.
    This is the last Chrysler we'll own. At least the japanese stand by their products. Once the warranty expires Chrysler doesn't want to hear from you. Unfortunately it will probably take a couple of deaths before they wake up and address this problem.
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    Try reading the Odyssey transmission problems board.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    What a joke. What is it with Odyssey jealousy on this board? Look at consumer reports or any other consumer magazine. On its worst year, 1998, the Ody transmission rated "average". All other years are excellent. Most years of the DC minivans are well below average. No year of the DC tranny is rated better than the Ody, although it appears that the DC trannies are getting better at lasting the first and second year without falling apart.

    Yeah, yeah. I know. Edmunds, CR, and all the consumer magazines are part of a grand conspiracy with all the transmission shops to make the DC van transmission look bad.
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    Please note, Consumer Reports incorporates data based upon replies from Consumer Reports subscribers, and includes entries only for those vehicles for which they recieved at least 100 responses in a model year. The 99-03 Odyssey is a bigger heavier van than the 98. Honda has extended the warranty on 2000 2002 transmissions and on a case by case basis but not all 1999 units. If you want to believe data based on at least 100 responses, be my guest. Let's compare numbers when Honda sells 10 million Odysseys. No joke no jealousy. Do you think the posters on the Odyssey transmissions problems board are lying?
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    Hayneldan, believe what you will. CR, JD Power, Edmunds, everyone comes up with the same results as far as I have seen. I'm not going to debate you further on this board. I probably shouldn't have responded in the last post. This board is about Chrysler minivan problems. It is not Honda vs. Chrysler.

    You've made very helpful posts in the past, such as your troubleshooting your transmission problems and fixing it for very little money. In my opinion, that's the kind of stuff these folks need.
  • steelengsteeleng Posts: 71
    mrnimmo - I really do not see a problem with hayneldan's comment about the Odyssey. The previous poster commented that at least the Japanese manufacturers stand by their products. There are a lot of Odyssey owners that definitely do not feel that Honda has stood by their product. Yes, Honda has now extended the warranty on their transmissions but those who first started having problems were being stuck for $5000-6000 for rebuilt transmissions.

    By the way mrnimmo, I am curious as to why you frequent this board. I thought that you stated that you do not own a Chrysler and have not for some time. I do not have a problem with you coming here I am just curious.
  • mrnimmomrnimmo Posts: 271
    I am waiting for news of the next caravan. Rumors suggest a small diesel and perhaps vito platform. I'll be one of the first to buy flock back to DC at that time.
  • filkofilko Posts: 1
    We own a 96 Dodge Grand Caravan and after having been stranded with our 3 children a number of times along with the number of times it has been in the shop for repair - I can only say "never again". My husband has worked with Chrysler directly on a number of occasions on paying for the work to be done but in the case of our 3rd transmission replacement at 96,000 miles, Chrysler told him "it is now time for you to pay". BAD RESPONSE CHRYSLER! We have paid dearly in terms of time! Unfortunately the dealer would not help us out either in terms of part of the repair or working with us in terms of trading the broken van in for a new one. Chrysler nor the dealer would stand by their vehicle. Sadly to say, the dealer offered us only $1,500 for the vehicle. After paying $2,500 to get the transmission re-built, all of the dealerships we have tried to unload the vehicle on would only give us $3,000 - sad to see when you look at the resale value of Honda's and Toyota's! Anyway, the warranty on the re-built transmission bought us enough time for the arrival of the 2004 Toyota Sienna.
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