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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems



  • sc00bssc00bs Posts: 87
    My neighbor (who drives like a bat out of hell) has 125k on her Dodge Caravan (not extended), I think its like a 95 or 97. In any event, other than regular maint. and recalls she has never had a problem with her van.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Our 1998 is basically the same, other than the tranny (which may have failed due to incorrect trans fluid), I've needed to replace the battery and battery tray and a single door switch. Not too shabby.

    Best Regards,
  • johnny18johnny18 Posts: 4
    My wife and I have had '97 Plymouth Grand Voyagers and like them. I would have prefered they had TV's for the kids though. Mine has just under 120k miles and my wifes just under 90k Miles. These are mostly city with some highway miles. I had to replace all my brake hoses in the front, as they all sprung leaks. Transmission seems okay now with flushing the transmission and adding a new filter. I do not care for some of the design however. Worse though is the gas prices. If it were not for the price, we'd get larger vehicles for our family. As it is I will get a commuter car. With the quality, I would buy a Toyota or Honda. In fact I believe you are lucky if you take a chance on a GM product and it works for a long time. I like consumer reports a lot. But I must agree here, if you do not know any history or condition and are not an expert mechanic yourself, I would not chance it.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    On the whole, our two DGCs have been some of the most reliable vehicles that we've ever had. Currently the two vans have a combined 177,000 miles on them and at our current driving rate, we will have a combined 200,000 by late September this year. As we bought both vans new and as I've done all of the service less the transmission service (too messy without the proper equipment) and spark plugs (ever try getting to the rear row of plugs on a transverse 3.8?), I have a good feel for these two cars and believe that they’re each good for an easy 200,000 miles or more.

    Given the fact that we have two kids in braces now and college for two looming on the horizon (with a possible stint in a (not even remotely cheap) prep school for one of the two), we are looking at keeping both DGCs for at least another year or two (and if the prep school thing happens, even longer). Since we are driving over one thousand miles per week, split almost evenly between the two vans, two more years equates to another 52,000 miles per vehicle. Even with the rising gas prices, and even though we would both love to drive something more sporty and economical (thinking Audi A3 2.0T 6-Speed here), the reality of the situation is that we can buy thousands of gallons of gas for our current cars and still come out ahead dollar wise as opposed to trading them in.

    Oh, and as for GM cars, no thanks. Not my cup of tea.

    Best Regards,
  • fish8fish8 Posts: 2,282
    I noticed this past Saturday that our '05 Touring rear hatch is not beeping when opened or closed. It used to make a beeping noise and now it just opens. Thoughts?
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    I don't know, but i'm sure it has nothing to do with your transmission. Get it fixed for free at your next dealer visit.
  • masterpaul1masterpaul1 Posts: 421
    It is very well possible that you turned this feature off. Check inside the owners manual and see if they give instructions as how to turn the beep warning back on. (We have a 01 DGC EX and have this feature.) :)
  • joe2222joe2222 Posts: 2
    We have a 98 caravan. The transmission has been rebuilt, but I am experiencing the same problems. I replaced the fluid, filter, solenoid pack, and the two sensors. It drove fine for a day then it happened again. Does anyone have an idea what it could be? I am about to lose my mind over this thing! It seems to be lagging while shifting, or just dies when in drive. It shifts hard in reverse, and drags through every gear. I need all the help I can get.
  • fish8fish8 Posts: 2,282
    Dropped off the van on Monday and they called me today saying that they have to replace some latch associated in the hatch that produces the buzzing sound. The buzz is NOT a programmable feature. The service rep did ask if I ever changed this feature. Apparently this is not programmable.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    Did you replace all these items as a do it yourself job, or did you have a shop replace this stuff?

    If a shop did the work, seems they should be liable for proper repair. If you did it yourself, mybe it is time to get it to an expert, at least for a diagnosis.

    Could it be you are having some other issue, like your brakes dragging or a stuck parking brake cable that is adding resistance to your vehicle down when trying to move? Bad CV joint, or wheel bearing? Did you use the right type of transmission fluid?
  • gregmangregman Posts: 24
    Thanks for that excellent tip, Mr Shiftright. I totally agree. I will consider putting one on any vehicle I own in the interest of extended life.
    Is there any way to know if my '05 T&C LX 3.3 has a cooler?
    I am unable to check and my wife doesn't understand.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,368
    I think it has a factory cooler which is part of the lower radiator. I was thinking of an aftermarket unit in ADDITION to the factory cooler or to replace it. These are often sold by vendors who sell tow bars, RV equipment, that sort of thing. Basically it's just a small radiator that is placed in the air flow to cool the transmission oil.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • ischiaischia Posts: 1
    Just bought a '92 dodge cargo van(shorty) Yup, the trans is going. A rebuilt unit was installed in Oct of '04. I was warned again and again that transmission problems are a given with these vans. Check the wrecking yards. Loads of nice,clean late model Caravans and Voyagers with? Yup. Bad transmissions. Too bad as there is nothing like them on the market except Japanese vans. So sad Dodge doesn't offer a manual trans as their automatic is WAY to fragile and light for the job(7 passengers at 200lbs?,do the math) and if any of them have change in their pockets you won't make it 2 blocks. Dealer help? Don't make me laugh. It was "you need a rebuild,that will be $90 please" Stay away from these vans at all costs. They didn't get their bad reputations from a few "Lemons" that could have slpped by quality control. My van has a rare body style so I might be able to get a few bucks for it, but not much. Dodge should not spend a dime on advertising until they correct the infamous "Bad Trans" rap on their products. It would be money very poorly spent, for sure. The Edsel. The Pinto. The Corvair. The Dodge transmission. So goes the American automobile industry. Sorry,you will have to wait, as the restroom is occupied and there seems to be line forming.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I'd appreciate it of you could you please list the names and phone numbers of the bone yards that you checked that had "loads" of Chrysler minivans needing only a transmission. I might be interested in buying a few.

    Best Regards,
  • ntbillntbill Posts: 20
    You're talking about a 92 model. Look at those from 2001 and later and you will see much less problems. Well, it seems to. I have a 2005, so it's still relatively new. Years will tell. :)
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    Did the '92 trans last until 10/04? How many miles did the 12 year old trans last? Who did the rebuild in 2004? What was the cost of the rebuild? How many miles on the rebuild? The truck is now 14 years old. I agree the transmission is no where near the quality of the engine, but it is a very old vehicle with a questionable "rebuild".
  • I am looking to buy a USED (1990's most likely) Crysler or Dodge MiniVan/Caravan, and want to make sure the one we buy has a Decent transmission, I don't mind if it needs rebuilt because it has SO many miles on it, but I have heard some of those transmissons only last 40,000 miles or less-it was a REAL problem with constant frustation & $$ headaches. Can anyone who knows about the these Transmission problems, how to identify which transmissions were bad, please please explain. Is it all the 4 cyclynder ones? Thank you so much
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    The older Caravans with the 4 cylinder engine, actually had a very dependable 3 speed automatic transmission. The 3 speed also was available with the 3.0 V6 engine. The 3.3 and 3.8 V6's are much more dependable engines though. They only came with the 4 speed automatic transmissions which used to have a bad reputation. Since the 2000 model year, when they started to use ATF+4 fluid, they have become much more dependable. What you can lok for in an older model is maintainence records of regular fluid changes with ATF+3 ONLY on the older units, or a van that has it's transmission replaced with a Mopar remanufactured unit at the dealership. Any older 90's vehicle of any make is a crap-shoot when it comes to the transmission or any other mechanical issues that may be worn out.
  • willemwillem Posts: 16
    Hi overrunmama,
    (where the heck did you get that name from?)
    Those transmissions for the 3.3 and 3.8L engines are actually strong an sturdy transmissions, but they have to be treated with respect!
    You shouldn't go with the 2.4 (4cyl) and 3.0 L engines
    The othe rones are way more reliable.
    You never know when a transmission goes, but when you buy the vehicle it should shift nicely, up and (kick)down.
    Once you own one , you shouldn't spin the wheels (hard here in Canada in wintertime, unless you have wintertires and traction control.
    You also want to sevice the transmission according to the mfr's specs. I bring it to the Chrysler dealer for the appr. ATF + fluid every 50000 Km's (30K Mi) That's it
    My van has almost 300.000 Km's on it now and the tranny goes lovely!!!! Love my T & C
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    A couple of other prevention issues for '90s vans, the knowledgable owners added auxiliary coolers. These are like small (about 1/4) radiator looking fixtures between the front grill and air conditioner condenser with black rubber hoses connected to the radiator and transmission.
    Second, the overdrive will constantly be engaging and disengaging in city driving. It should be turned off unless you can maintain a constant speed over 40 mph.
    As others have said, if you don't use a dealer for service (I don't) you must know the correct fluid, ask for that fluid and ask to see an empty container after the service. Roy
  • ntbillntbill Posts: 20
    royallen wrote:
    you must know the correct fluid, ask for that fluid and ask to see an empty container after the service.

    I would add this:
    Don't use equivalent fluid, only use Chrysler ATF fluid that you can buy at your Chrysler dealer.
  • Thank you for all the advice on this, we have some friends who bought a Town & COuntry 2002, for JUST $1,200 at a Dealership with only 50,000 miles on it. That just sounded too good to be true. They have only had it a few weeks so far. I just have to wonder why this vehicle was sold this inexpensively. She got no history on it. But all vehicles after 2000 should have a new improved Tranny in it, maybe I will look for the newer ones then--if I see my friends have a good deal here. I might wait it out a year. We have a Suburban, hardy as a tank, but the gas is just too expensive. Thanks to all.
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    "JUST $1,200"??? or did you mean $12,000 for a 2002 T&C with 50,000 miles??
  • She told me just $1,200. That is why I am amazed too, I have to wonder what is wrong with the vehicle for that LOW LOW LOW price. It even looks good, seems to run good for them so far also. Only been a few weeks though. Our Suburban just broke down, so we really need to look for a Mini Van of some sort. My husband likes to do his own work, we can BUY this fluid from the dealer can't we??? How expensive is it ???
  • 97xpresso97xpresso Posts: 249
    ATF+3, still available at most auto parts stores, is for pre-2000 vehicles only. ATF+4 is more expensive, but MUST be used for 2000 and up vehicles. You could use ATF+4 in the older vehicles, but like I said it's more expensive. ATF+4 can be puchased at the dealer in quart or gallon jugs. I have heard Vavoline ATF+4 is just starting to show up in auto parts stores for around $4 a quart.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,555
    I think your friend is confused over what she paid.

    Even Chryslers don't depreciate THAT fast! ;)
  • pernaperna Posts: 533
    "JUST $1,200"??? or did you mean $12,000 for a 2002 T&C with 50,000 miles??

    Some people confuse "hundred" with "thousand". I'm sure this is what happened, since they bought it from a dealer. Even a salvaged '02 (wrecked and rebuilt) with a blown tranny and missing seats is going to be worth more than $1,200.
  • What did you find out? This is exactly what mine is doing, and I wanted input.

  • Is there a reason you dont suggest to run a synthetic in the transmission on the older minivans? I just bought a 98 Grand Voyager SE a month and a half ago and it had 130,000 miles on it. Two days ago the transmission went out and need to be replaced. That is when I found you guys and started to learn how bad the transmissions on these are. I thought that maybe running a synthetic might help it last longer.
    Also how helpful is it to get an extra cooler for the transmission?

    Thank you
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    That is when I found you guys and started to learn how bad the transmissions on these are.

    Most folks would not necessarily agree with that statement. Think about it, your van managed 130,000 on the original tranny (and mine lasted 109,000), is that so terrible "bad"? Said another way, every single Honda Odyssey owner in my neighborhood (where we now have four families with Odysseys) would absolutely LOVE to get 130,000 on their transmissions. My next door neighbors have actually had the best luck, they managed nearly 50,000 on their first transmission, nobody else has even made 35,000.

    Also how helpful is it to get an extra cooler for the transmission?

    There is a fair amount of empirical evidence to suggest that a tranny cooler will in fact extend the life of these transmissions. How much? Unknown.

    Regarding "Synthetic" transmission fluid, that might be the very reason why our transmissions failed. Consider the following:

    - In June of 2001 DC issued TSB: 21-006-01 which stated that the new fully synthetic ATF+4 transmission fluid was to replace the previous semi-synthetic ATF+3 effective immediately, EXCEPT for 1999 and older minivans. Per this TSB the reason for staying with the older ATF+3 was that "Torque Converter shudder" was a potential issue.
    - At some point DC started phasing out the production of ATF+3 and supplies started dwindling
    - Nearly three years after the first TSB (and after what one would assume was a considerable amount of further testing) in March of 2004 DC issued TSB: 21-004-04 that reiterated that ATF+4 was not to be used in 1999 and older minivans.

    So far so good right?

    - In 2005 I started hearing reports stating that DC dealerships had finally run out of ATF+3 and that ATF+4 was now the only transmission fluid stocked by DC dealerships.
    - In October of 2005 I had my 1998 transmission serviced (and my dealership used ATF+4)
    - Then in April of this year, DC issued TSB: 21-010-06 which states that ATF+4 is the only transmission fluid that should be used in 1999 and earlier minivans.
    - This Spring (within a few weeks of this latest TSB) the transmission on my 1998 DGC 3.8 failed, exactly 9,000 miles after it had been serviced.

    While I have absolutely no proof that the ATF+4 caused my transmission failure only a few months after it was introduced to my original transmission, I believe that there is a potential issue with the new ATF. Why? Well, I know for a fact that my transmission didn't reengineer itself to suddenly become compatible with ATF+4, and by all accounts, ATF+4 is still ATF+4, so what changed? While I don't happen to be a conspiracy theorist, I do find it ironic that roughly seven years after the last 1999 minivan (with a 7 year / 70,000 mile warranty) was sold, DC issues a TSB that is an absolute “about face” to what they'd been saying for the previous five years. Am I the only one that finds that little issue odd?

    For me at least, I opted to buy a "Factory Remanufactured" transmission, which happens to be built to the 2000 model year standard and as such is by all accounts "good to go" with the ATF+4.

    FWIW, oddly enough I'm reasonably happy that my original transmission lasted 109,000 miles, and as such am not at all upset that it failed. What bugs me is that I believe that had ATF+3 still been available last October, my transmission would not have failed.

    I don't know if this helps, but there it is.

    Best Regards,
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