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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems



  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    Definetly chage the fluid. The Wynn's flush scares me though. What fluid do they use to flush it with? Will all of that fluid disapear? A '97 was originally equipped with ATF+3. I would use ATF+4 which is backwards compatible to ATF+3. Do not get this service at a "quick lube" place, as they use a "one size fits all" fluid with an additive to make it "just like" ATF+3/4. Personally, unless you get this done at a dealer, I would be present when they re-fill your transmission to insure proper fluid is being used. Ask to see the pan after it's dropped to check amount and type of debris on pan magnet.
  • Does anyone know the RPM range for fourth gear in a 3.8 T&C minivan?

    For example: cruising on level highway at 60 MPH - what is the average RPM. I just had a transmission oil change and it now appears that I am running at a higher RPM than before. Cruising at 60 MPH level highway -- I am at 2200 RPM, I recall being under 2,000 RPM. Any thoughts? Thanks.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Three separate thoughts:

    1) What model year are you talking about? We have both a 1998 and a 2003 with the 3.8, and off the top of my head, I cannot remember if they display the same RPMs at any given speed or not.

    2) When you saw the 2200 RPM reading, was the van warmed up? I ask because given my current work location, I'm up to my normal 65-70 mph cruising speed within a minute and a half of engine start. What I've noticed is that for the first few minutes at speed my RPMs hover somewhere over 2500 and then drop to more like 2200. Clearly what is happening is that once the transmission is warmed up the Torque Converter locks up and drops the RPMs accordingly.

    3) Who performed your transmission oil change? Are you absolutely sure that the proper transmission fluid was used? I ask because I've heard that if the incorrect fluid is used the various computer controlled clutches will enter a never ending engage/disengage/engage cycle (and destroy the transmission in fairly short order). Assuming that is the case, then logic would suggest that the RPMs would rise somewhat given the constant slipping of the clutches.

    Best Regards,
  • Thanks for the reply. The T&C is 2001. The engine was warm (10 min. of driving). I may need to take it on a longer drive to see if the torque converter is locking up.

    The trans oil was changed at a Chrysler dealership. Hopefully, they used the correct oil. I did not double check but I expect that they should know their products.

    I recall that the normal RPM in 4th was less than 2000. I am wondering if other people experience the same or is cruising at 2200 normal. Also, can you feel when the torque converter locks up?
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I took our 1998 out this afternoon to warm up the oil prior to changing the oil in both of our vans (Mrs. Shipo had already warmed up the 2003 while running errands), and remembered to check the RPMs at 60 mph. Finding a flat place around here where I can do 60 is a bit problematic, however, each of the three times I was able to stabilize the speed at 60 (using the cruise control) I was showing about 1850 RPMS.

    So, for a 1998 DGC with the 3.8 liter mill, 1850 is the number.

    Best Regards,
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "Also, can you feel when the torque converter locks up?"

    - Feel? No.
    - Hear? Hmmm, maybe, depends if I've got the audio system on loud or not. If it's off or low enough, I can hear a slight drop in the note of the engine.
    - See? Yes. There is a noticable 400 RPM drop when the torque converter locks up.

    Best Regards,
  • I double checked my owners manual for 97 Dodge GC, AWD. It has ATF+2 all over the cover and inside for transmission and overrunning clutch. I'm wondering if ATF+3 supersedes the printed material that I have?

    Question: For 97 AWD, is the overrunning clutch a concern? Prone to failure? Should I service it as often as the transmission?

    ??? Is my failure described in first message a shift pack issue?

    Thanks, Mike
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    Your dealer probably dosn't even carry ATF+3 anymore, and definetly won't have any +2. ATF+4 is a superior fluid and is backwards compatible to the older fluids. I don't know much about the AWD system, but I would follow the maintainence schedule for "severe service", when it comes to the transmission, in your owners manual. ATF+3 is still available in parts stores if you wish to do the job yourself, but I would go with the ATF+4, which may not be available in your local parts store. Other posters always try fluid replacement first, before trying more expensive fixes.
  • Thanks for checking. My wife also pointed out to me the problem in the downshifting - it was loud and you can feel it so we took the van back to the Chrysler repair shop today.

    They were able to fix the problem. They told me that after the transmission oil change, when the car was started the computer sensed the low oil pressure in the transmission and put the trans in default emergency mode, thus causing the lock-up to cease and abrupt shifting in the gears. After reprogramming the computer, transmission problem was fixed.

    I am glad for the repair, I just wish that I wouldn't have to take it back twice for a simple transmission oil change at a dealership. :D
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    No problem, glad to help. :-)

    "I am glad for the repair, I just wish that I wouldn't have to take it back twice for a simple transmission oil change at a dealership."

    I'll fault the dealership for that one, that problem should have been caught on what should have been a mandatory test drive. Were I you I'd be inclined to make a little noise and see if I couldn't wrangle a free oil change or some such. ;-)
  • aapyeaapye Posts: 3
    Have had this van almost 17 months. And yes, my daughter was in the back, asleep. Not sure why she was left in it.
    As far as insurance coverage goes, I did not buy this van so I could increase my insurance rates, heh. Bought it becuase the last van we had was hitting 200,000 miles and I didn't want to be left stranded somewhere.
  • gregmangregman Posts: 24
    After "front pump" replacement on 2005 trans last year, I finally got to drive it for the first time at Christmas. Over small bumps I hear a little "clunk" sound. Ask wifey how long this has been happening, she says what noise.
    Got to dealership that did job and they have service manager test drive. He says "your front swaybar links are bad". I say "on a 2005?" He says yea, costs about $400. I do the job myself, and guess what, no change!
    Update, last week independant shop says front swaybar was left loosely attached when trans job was done and is ruined as well as new swaybar links I just installed! Total repair for new swaybar and links and front brake pads- $500.
    Really like the ride and comfort of the T&C as well as the stow and go seats. Hope this is the last problem for awhile.
  • johnny18johnny18 Posts: 4
    We have to Plymouth Grand Voyager SE '97' models. We have a large family. Mine has 116,000 miles, looks a little more worn, but works well. I have the 3.3L engine and added a hitch. I have periodically, (over 500 miles), pulled a trailer. I have replaced the water pump, brake lines and various other things, but no transmission. It seems to be fine. My wife's vehicle has been babied. Hers has only 86,000 miles on it and for the past 1-2 weeks, we notice that, (especially when it is cold), it does not always go into the gear it is positioned in. I noticed it in all the gears. Sometimes you can wait a long time and sometimes it just starts working. What do you think? Also, if I have to have the trans repaired, what should I expect in cost?
  • johnny18johnny18 Posts: 4
    I never really liked the way Dodge/GM dealers have ever treated me, (no personality and higher costs). I feel I may sometimes be charged for the whole component when it requires a simple repair. I since learned a second time that dealers will cheat you when they can.

    I bought one of my two '97 Plymouth Grand Voyager SE's from Rockenbach Chevrolet in Illinois. Several years later, when needing a brake job, I took it there. I was told I needed new pads/shoes front and back, new rotors, calipers and drums. I was told everything was well warn and sticking. I paid nearly $600 for everything. About 7 months and about 6,000 miles later the brake pedal was mushy. The diagnosis was a defective, (by contamination), master cylinder. I was told that the people doing my oil change topped off my brake fluid and contaminated it. Rockenbach wanted another $600 to replace the part.

    I went back to lube pros and discovered I missed my 3,000 mile oil change and that Rockenbach was the last service place to touch my vehicle. I mentioned this to the service manager at Rockenbach, and he said, "no, we are sure you took it somewhere else, we would never cause a problem, we are experts". I took the vehicle to Gurnee dodge. They diagnosed the same problem but only charged me $370 for the repair. I since evaluated things and discovered that it was Rockenbach that damaged the vehicle. It is now clear that it was a continuing ploy of theirs to bring in business. Of course though, I have no proof.

    Now that I had been going to Gurnee Dodge, and was treated nicely, I thought I was being treated fairly. That is, until our AC quit working on both vans on the same day.

    I realized that unusual seasonal changes, with both vans outside on that strange day, caused the seals to expand and contract, leaking out AC fluid. I bought the cheap repair kit from Wal-Mart and fixed my van's AC in 1/2 an hour. I tried to fix my wifes, but couldn't. I much later learned that this was because her van has a dual evaporator system and it almost always requires a professional recharge.

    Pep Boys wanted more money than the dealer to do an AC recharge. The Gurnee Dodge dealer charged a $133 fee. If the unit could not be fixed, however, the $133 would be applied to the repair if they performed the repair. Otherwise the money was not refunded.

    Since I was positive both vans suffered the same problem, but figured I just could not recharge the system for some reason, it was worth the $133. The dealer said they would put dye in the system with the recharge and determine if there were any existing leaks.

    10 minutes after bringing in the car, the service manager came to see me in the waiting room. He told me the evaporator was defective. He said that even though they fully recharged my AC, the evaporator was defective and would not work until it was replaced for $1,300. I asked if there were any system leaks and he said, "no, there are no leaks, just a defective evaporator". I chose to pass on the $1,300 fee, (for a van with 82,000 miles). When I got the receipt, it stated that the evaporator was defective because it leaked coolant. This seemed strange so I decided to see a private mechanic.

    Immediately after visiting the dealer, through a referral, I contacted a nearby private shop. Matt, the owner, mentioned that sometimes a dealer will replace the whole part when it can easily be repaired. Matt said that sometimes a valve sticks. He can look at the van free and tell me if it is fixable, (for under $100), or if it needs an evaporator. I could not pass up a free diagnosis. Matt looked at my wifes van 2 hours after leaving Gurnee Dodge. Matt immediately told me the evaporator did not have a stuck valve. He would charge the system to test it free, just to see. There was no evidence that 2 hours earlier any dye was ever used to test the vehicle's AC system. Since he could recover the coolant, it would only cost him 20 minutes of labor and he was not too busy.

    With me observing everything, the AC worked immediately and cooled the inside of the car by 40 degrees more than the outside. Matt decided to empty the system, add dye,(showing me evidence that it was in the system), and fully recharging the system. Everything worked fine and there was absolutely no evidence of any leak. I paid Matt $166 and received a free inspection a week later. The AC still showed no evidence of any leaks. 3 months later there were still no leaks. Matt guessed that since the dealer had few customers, they tried to cheat me to increase their revenue to cover the cost of maintaining their service team. I am now sure he was correct.

    I complained to a VP at the dealer who revered me to a service director. They gave me $133 credit, (to shut me up), however they still insisted there was a small leak their experts detected. I still felt cheated. I wrote to the Better Business Bureau and filed a complaint. They claimed that there was a leak or the system would still have had coolant in it. I told about speaking with an expert, and that seasonal changes can temporarily affect the seals and that the system had held a charge for 3 months after the visit to Matts without an incident. I stated that I would not be satisfied until Gurnee Dodge paid me back the $133 plus the difference in the cost I had to pay to Matt, totaling around $166.

    The Dodge dealer gave me a check for the $166, however they stated that this in no way acknowledges they did anything wrong! From now on I will buy cars from Carmax or a private party and I will never again use a dealer for servicing my vehicles.
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    Why not buy a new car from a dealer if you do your homework and get a good price? Then take it to the dealer for everything and anything while it is still under warranty. Once the warranty is up, I agree with you 100%, you must find an honest independant shop for repairs you cannot do yourself. It's one thing to gouge someone for needed repairs, but to invent non-exisiting problems just to rip someone off is inexcusable. Unfortunately these dealer rip-offs are reported across all makes, domestic and imported.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Well gang, this afternoon at 109,000 miles EXACTLY, I was pulling away from a stop light and felt a few jerks and then "Crunch, crunch, errrrP". The tranny was gone and the front wheels were locked. :-(

    I called the local constabulary, they called a local towing outfit and $125 later I was in the lot of a dealership near my main client (and also strategically near an Enterprise Car Rental outfit). The folks at the dealership insist that they'll take a look at it first to determine if it is fixable, however, given the nastiness I heard and felt when it went, I'm pretty sure that it's a goner. Just to be on the safe side they've already ordered a new (remanufactured) tranny ($2,900 installed, 3 year/36,000 mile warranty). I'll most likely have it back next Wednesday.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I don't think this van owes me anything, and even if the typical litany of things like the starter, alternator, water pump, radiator, master cylinder, et. all fail in the next year or two, it will still have been a damn cheap and reliable ride.

    Am I bummed that the transmission failed? Yup. That having been said, I've sort of been expecting this and given that all I was counting on was 100K out of the factory unit, I figure that I'm exactly 9,000 miles ahead on the next tranny. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    If your van's trans conked out at 109k, then I think I should sell mine at about 85k.
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    $2900 is a lot of money to sink into an old van. How much is the van worth? (before trans. failure) I agree a Mopar unit with the 3/36,000 is the only way to go, even as I cringe at the price.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "$2900 is a lot of money to sink into an old van."


    The dealership called today and confirmed my worst case expectation, the transmission case was full of junk metal. Gee, no surprise there. The good news (sort of) is that they said, "We've sharpened our pencil a bit and are going to do the job for $2,600." I thanked him and figured to myself, "Hey, $300 is still $300, I'll take it."

    What was the van worth? Well, That's a relative term. The Edmunds TMV shows it at $2,420 (trade), $3,284 (private sale), $4,422 (dealer retail), which means that the van wasn't even worth the price of the transmission before the transmission failed.

    That having been said, it is currently my main ride to and from my current client and as such I had two choices, 1) pay someone to take it off of my hands and then buy a new car, or 2) pay $3,000 (tow, rental car and new tranny) and get my car back by Wednesday. To me at least, it was a no brainer, the three grand required to put this one back on the road makes it the cheapest car going.

    The van has been a model of reliability and prior to this event it had cost me a total of $240 in unscheduled maintenance. The engine is good as it has been run on full synthetic oil since about 20,000 miles, and everything else works. It has new tires, newish brakes, it's already had its 100K service, and as I see it, the only things that are really likely to fail over the next year are the starter, the alternator, the water pump, and maybe the A/C, all of which are relatively cheap to fix.

    My business partner and I went through the decision matrix last night and as much as I would like to make the argument for a new A3, I just cannot do, yet. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Curious about the ATF that my local dealership will be putting in my new transmission, I called and they told me that they would use "Whatever the vehicle was specified to use when it was new."

    Really? :confuse:

    For some reason, I've been thinking that my 1998 DGC 3.8 originally came from from the factory with ATF+3, however, per the referenced post by 97expresso ATF+4 is both the better fluid and backward compatible. Do any of y'all have any reference DC documentation that suggests that ATF+4 should be used in a 1998 transmission?

    Best Regards,
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    If you go with the Mopar rebuilt, you will be getting the same transmission as if you had a transmission failure in a new 2006 model. Mopar does not even package ATF+3 anymore, there still may be some on your dealers shelf, but I think they would use the superior ATF+4.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    As our buddie Jacques Clouseau would say, "Zee plot, she thickens."

    If, as the dealer says (although not my normal service advisor, he has Mondays off), "You're getting a newly rebuilt 1998 transmission, built to 1998 specs and you are to follow the service guidelines exactly as stated in your manual, including the type of ATF", then according to two separate TSBs that I found (TSB# 21-006-01 and TSB# 21-004-04) the following rules would apply:

    NOTE: This bulletin applies to all transmissions manufactured by Chrysler except for 1999 and earlier minivans with the 41TE/AE transmission. This Service Bulletin DOES NOT apply to all AW-4 transmissions, Sprinter transmissions, Crossfire transmissions and WG bodies equipped with a W5J400 or NAG1 transmission (sales code DGJ).

    A new transmission fluid (ATF+4 - Type 9602) has been developed and is being used as factory fill for all vehicles with Chrysler automatic transmissions. It is recommended that all vehicles with Chrysler automatic transmissions EXCEPT FOR THOSE LISTED ABOVE be serviced with ATF+4.

    Furthermore, the older of the two (TSB# 21-006-01) builds upon the preceding by saying:

    ATF+3 should continue to be used for 1999 and earlier minivans because of the potential for torque converter shudder during break in.

    To say that I have a problem with the language in that last little bit is an understatement. So, which is it? When a statement says, "ATF+3 should continue to be used..." the implication here is that you have an operational unit that is not new, and yet the older fluid should still be used. With that in mind, it then says, "...because of the potential for torque converter shudder during break in.", which to me at least means that once the Torque Converter is broken in, ATF+4 would be acceptable if not preferable.

    I then ask myself, "Why would DC continue to remanufacture the 1998 vintage transmission to 1998 standards when that unit has undergone some substantial redesign for later model years?" Or, said another way, since the newer unit is essentially a plug in replacement (mechanically at least), why wouldn't DC simplify their inventory and manufacturing complexity by bringing all factory remanufactured units up to the latest standards?

    Then you chime in and say, "If you go with the Mopar rebuilt, you will be getting the same transmission as if you had a transmission failure in a new 2006 model." That supports my thoughts on the subject as well. I cannot tell you how much I hope you are correct. ;-)

    I'll call my regular service advisor tomorrow and ask him to give me a rundown of Whats, Hows and Whys and I'll report back.

    Best Regards,
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I just talked to my service advisor and according to him, I'm getting the latest build of the transmission generation that came in my 1998, effectively meaning that I'm getting a Model Year 2000 (last year before a redesign) transmission that does in fact require ATF+4.

    Said another way, my new transmission will not be a functional equivalent to either the unit in our 2003 DGC, or a new 2006 model. So, what they've done is simplify their inventory within transmission generation meaning that all replacements rollup to the latest engineering build of whatever generational model came in the vehicle from the factory.

    While I would have preferred the latest and greatest transmission available, I'm thinking that a 2000 vintage unit that is able to take advantage of the ATF+4 will certainly be good enough. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    A coworker of mine put a rebuilt transmission in his 1995 Caravan for a bit over $1000. Shipo, did you shop around to the independent transmission shops for a better price?
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I sure did. Given that mine wasn't rebuildable, the best price I was able to come up with was just over $2,000 installed (and with a crappy warranty at that). FWIW, the price of the transmission varies based upon the generation of the unit and the engine it is to be paired with. The four banger and Mitsubishi 3.0 liter V6 units are rather less expensive than the reinforced units designed to operate with the 3.3 and 3.8 Chrysler V6s. I did a little checking around last Summer sometime and IIRC, the best prices for a third party rebuild for the two versions of the 1998 vintage transmissions were right about $1,000 and $1,500, not installed and with only a three or six month warranty. Don't quote me on those prices though; I didn't commit them to memory or anything. :blush:

    For the $2,600 I'm spending I'm getting a factory remanufactured unit with factory parts that is brought up to the latest specs (Model Year 2000 in this case), AND a three year 36,000 mile warranty. Given that I have long since decided that I don't ever want to do another FWD transmission, regardless of whether it's swapping out an Automatic or a clutch replacement on a stick, a DIY job was out of the question. All in all, I think I got a pretty good deal. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    That explanation makes sense.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    It appears you finally got the correct information on the ATF.

    Actually, ATF+4 is compatible with 1999 and older 42LEs IF the transmission had been rebuilt after the year 2000. The prohibition for ATF+4 in older 42LEs (mini-van only) was really because of a compatibility issue with some of the seal materials, although I have had transmission technicians tell me they have used it with no problems.

    The Chrysler rebuilts are top notch, probably much better than the average rebuild in the field.

    Chrysler is about to phase out their supply of ATF+3 as the next generation ...ATF+5...will be introduced in the near future.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Yeah, it seems I finally got to the bottom of things. ;-)

    Do you have any understanding why the TSB# 21-006-01 stated that ATF+4 wasn't to be used in 1999 and earlier minivans due to torque converter "shudder"?

    Hmmm, ATF+5 huh? I don't suppose that would be for the next generation of automatics? Any idea if it's backwards compatible with ATF+4?

    Sorry for all of the questions, inquiring minds want to know. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "The prohibition for ATF+4 in older 42LEs (mini-van only) was really because of a compatibility issue with some of the seal materials, although I have had transmission technicians tell me they have used it with no problems."

    Hmmm, the 30K service on our 1998 was performed in late 2000, and the 60K service was performed in late 2003. I assume in both cases ATF+3 was used when the filter was changed. I had a combined 90K and 100K service performed last October, after which I did notice an abruptness in the transmission that I'd never noticed before. Said abruptness was most noticeable when the transmission would kick down a gear under light throttle, such as when cruising along at say 50 mph and then adding a little throttle to maintain speed while climbing a hill.

    As it was a fairly subtle change from how it operated pre-service, I didn't really think too much about it and only posted one brief comment about it last December. That having been said, it has been hovering in the back of my mind for some time now, and as such, when the transmission failed last Thursday, I wasn't really all that surprised.

    I don't suppose the potential of seal incompatibility could have been at least indirectly the cause of it finally self destructing? Any thoughts?

    Best Regards,
  • The transmission went out in my 1997 Town & Country LXI this past weekend. Has anyone installed a rebuilt transmission? The van is in very good condition and I have not had any major problems. I have 139,000 miles.
    I welcome any comments as to where to start looking for a transmission. I live in Decatur, GA a surburb of Atlanta.
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