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Chrysler Minivan Transmission Problems



  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    LOL the case you described above with a family replacing the transaxle in a Caravan three times before 70k miles also sounds like what some Odyssey owners here in Town Hall might experience and have already experienced with 99, 00, and 01 model Honda vans.
  • Post #3647 in Honda Odyssey Forum in Town Hall is just one of many examples of transmission problems with the Honda Odyssey. The writer stated that "My '99 Odyssey just had it's third transmission installed."
    The posting goes on to say the first replacement was after just 5 months. 2nd was at 24K miles. AND, the dealer kept if for 5 weeks while waiting for the new transmission.
    Just read in the Town Hall. More reliability problems are being reported by current owners of the Odyssey than are being reported by current owners of DC minivans even though DC sold 4 times as many DC minivans as Honda sold Odyssey.
    I buy a minivan for comfort. My sister's 2001 Odd EX is very spartan compared to our 99 GC SE. I really missed the complete overhead console with outside temp, compass, trip computer, padded armrests on the doors, automatic locking doors, etc. when I drove their Odyssey August 2nd this summer. Since it was 97 Degrees F when driving the Odyssey and 101 degrees F afterward when I drove our 99 GC SE on the same route, I did not need the separately controlled temperature for driver and front pasenger as we used full front A/C on both. Their Odd EX registered 34.9 miles for the exact course where our GC SE registered 34.0 miles. It is also nice to have the accurate odometer of a DC minivan instead of the inaccurate, bloated readings of the Odyssey.
    To be fair, the 2001 Odyssey EX is very nice, drove as nicely, and was as quiet as our 2 year older GC SE. Their Odyssey EX had more cargo space behind the 3rd seat to haul all their luggage to the airport and the front A/C fan has more speeds than the 5 speed fan of our GC SE.
  • enetheneth Posts: 285
    It'll be interesting to see whether, if there is indeed a problem with the Honda transaxles, it takes Honda the same length of time to address them as it did DaimlerChrysler. Remember that the unit in question on the DaimlerChrysler vans debuted for the 1989 model year - and it appears that it took ten model years for D-C to finally address the problems.

    The family I referred to isn't the only one that had problems - just about every owner of a Chrysler 4-speed auto, whether in the vans, the LH cars, or other models, has had problems. Our first lasted 18,000 miles before dying. An aunt had an Intrepid where the unit lasted 600 miles before requiring replacement.

    So, while it's possible D-C finally solved the problems, it still begs the question of why it took a decade to do so.
  • I have a 96 T&C with the larger engine -- I think it was 3.3, not the largest I think, I know it was made for them by Mitsubishi, may have been 3.5. I was looking for information on vans because my wife wants to get a new one, when I saw this.

    Our T&C has 49,000 miles only but about a year and a half ago with 39,000 miles the transmission went. Chrysler replaced it and as a "favor" only charged us for labor even though it was beyone warranty. Still, IMHO, there is absolutely NO REASON why a transmission should fail at 39,000 miles. I drove my Camry wagon 110,000 miles so I don't think you can blame it on driving style. Just an anecdotal piece of evidence.

    Any recommendations for replacement? I hate the handling (we call it "the whale") but need the three rows and cargo space. Wish I'd bought the Toyota Previa but didn't think it was worth the difference in price. Now I do but they don't make it--the Sienna is just my Camry wagon with a higher center of gravity.
  • Read about ATROCIOUS depreciation on a 2001 Sienna XLE as posted by a Sienna owner (name deleted by me...Forum is "Honda Odyssey vs Toyota Sienna"
    601 of 605 resale by ...Jan 20, 2002 (06:21 pm)
    I've been trying to trade my 01 Sienna XLE, leather, power door (1), fancy mirror, and that's about it. When I bought the car in Oct of 2000 it had an MSRP of $33.5k with none of the pie-in-the-sky adds like protections pkg or extra mile option (you know the stuff....high dollar low value adds that mean nothing at trade time). I can't get any dealer (trade) to budge a penny higher than 19k for my 12k mile, no dent, no ding, just-like-new 01 Sienna XLE.
    I bought this Toyota for many sensible reasons not the least of which is their reputation for great resale. And yes, I've shopped the car at enough dealers to believe 19.5k is about all anyone is going to give. While that kind of depreciation is not unusual for a Buick Regal, it hardly qualifies the Sienna as a car with "great resale". I did far better on my 92 Explorer, my 94 Jeep GC, my 96 Tahoe, and my 98 Expedition. Any opinions?"

    I have seen NO CARAVAN depreciate this much.
  • And here is posting # 1446 from that forum for your convenience:

    #1446 of 1556 I love Toyota's, but not the problems with the new vans by clnelson Jan 10, 2002 (05:29 am)
    I can't believe what I am seeing. I bought a new 1999 toyota sienna in march of 1999. It had about 5000 miles on it, as it had been a demo driven by the north east florida toyota president (so I was told). Immediately I was having poblems with rear tires going flat. It had firestone tires on it, but not those being recalled. During the first year I had the vehicle I was woking with the dealership about the tires and low gas mileage, oil problems- where when toyota changed it they said it was darker than usual. The oil problems increased to that it was smoking when starting and oil light always on and aways needing oil. Finally at the 1 year point they said it was sludged and not covered. My husband being a jet mechanic had to see this to believe it. To his surprise they were right it was sludged. But the oil changes had been done. We could prove 3 at the dealership and 1 elsewhere. One of the oil change toyota did was to have cleaned the engine. There had been more but receipts not available. There was disagreement as to when the oil changes should be done. Service mgr says 3000, Dealer says 5000, book said differently(7500) . This was between the service mgr, the dealership mgr and the owners booklet. When the service mgr said oil had to be changed at 3000 due to siennas being different and needing them sooner, I asked why the dealership had waited to do the 1st oil change at over 5400 miles (when i purchased it). I CAN ONLY TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES THE STORY CHANGED. So they said it would be 1600 to desludge the engine and to bring in the receipts and they would as a goodwill jesture cover half of the cost. then after the work was done, my vehicle was held for full payment. I paid the full amount on the condition that when the service mgr got back i would be refunded half. It didnt happen and per some advise I stopped payment on my check. Well I ended up paying the full amount with a guarentee that if it happened again (sludge). Guess what???? 20 months later i have an engine that blew with no warnings. And the mehanic says it has plenty of oil... well of course it does. My husband started 20 months ago changing the oil and filter him self with premium stuff. (ex: synthetic oil and premium filters) So in the almost three years I have had this sienna we are out 1800 for the sludge and looking at 5500 for a new engine. By the way the tire problem is that the axle has them wearing uevenly. New tires all the time. For those of you who love toyotas and think I am bashing them......wrong. I love toyotas. This was our 3rd toyota from the same dealorship. It was to be our van to the end ( we pictured 12 years and 300,000 miles like the old commercial and our last one). So I am not bashing toyotas but bashing the problem and lack of concern by toyota. How can so many people with receipts for oil changes be at fault. This is so sad, I really wanted to be jumping in the air with pride like I did with my last toyota when it had over 300,000 miles on it and still running so well that I sold it for 1000.00 ( the body had rusted but the engine was still strong)
  • enetheneth Posts: 285
    Conveniently left out is the fact that the sludge issue has resulted in 3,000 complaints out of 3.3 million vehicles sold by Toyota - less than 0.1%.

    At one point, the failure rate on the DaimlerChrysler transaxles was over 30% before 30,000 miles - and while Chrysler did recall the first year's production for replacement, it never did so in subsequent years when the units were almost as bad. It left the customers to twist in the wind.

    Which is worse: and automaker that stonewalls on recalling vehicles with a 0.1% problem rate, or one that stonewalls and never officially acknowledges a problem that affects over 30% of owners?

    Sorry, but for all the anecdotes quoted by Carleton1, the odds still favor Toyota and Honda by a wide margin. You're far less likely to end up with a sluge-prone Toyota engine in a Sienna, than you are to end up with a flimsy transmission in a 96-2000 Chrysler Group minivan.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    "Sorry, but for all the anecdotes quoted by Carleton1, the odds still favor Toyota and Honda by a wide margin. You're far less likely to end up with a sluge-prone Toyota engine in a Sienna, than you are to end up with a flimsy transmission in a 96-2000 Chrysler Group minivan. "

    Yea, that makes alot of sense, eneth. Thats why our 1998 Grand Caravan SE went to 70k miles without any problems whatsoever and our current 2000 Town & Country continues to preform flawlessly with over 36k miles on the odometer...
  • pjd58pjd58 Posts: 366
    won't admit there is a design flaw in their Sienna's engine(engine temp too high, causing oil to break down). The Toyota Motor group has lost my respect. They treat their customers with contempt, plain and simple. At least DC fixes their vans and admits when there wrong.

    I test drove a 2001 Grand Caravan and was very impressed with the ride, the quietest van on the road, and IMO the best looking. We went with the MPV, since my Wife wanted a smaller van and the fold down 3rd row. We love our MPV, but would have had no problem purchasing a 2001 Caravan. I would have never considered the Sienna.

  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    I'm glad to hear you left your test drive of a 2001 Dodge Caravan with a good impression of the ride and handling of DC minivans. We love our 2000 Town & Country LX that currently has 36k miles on it. However, an MPV is a wise choice for someone who wants an even smaller minivan than a reglar wheel base Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Voyager.

    Glad to hear you enjoy your MPV!

  • enetheneth Posts: 285

    Rarely does Chrysler Group admit or fix its problems until it is forced to, either by the NHTSA or by the court of public opinion. They produced how many - six million - minivans with faulty tailgate latches, recalling them only after being forced to? They produced an entire year's worth of faulty A604 transaxles - recalling them only when the publicity became so bad they had no choice - then produced another ten years' worth, doing nothing more than cutting the warranty from 7/70 to 3/36 because the per-unit costs were eating their shareholders' dividends alive.

    I've seen only one comment about the possible cause of the Toyota engine oil problems from a single mechanic - maybe that is the issue; maybe not. The problem is nowhere near as widespread as the problems with the Chrysler Group vans - peeling paint (never acknowledged), faulty head gaskets (4-cyl, never acknowledged), faulty transmissions (rarely acknowledged, but widely publicized), fire-prone fuel systems (that took over a year to begin recall repairs).

    Toyota's actions aren't commendable either - but if they're not, then Chrysler's actions are contemptible.

    If nothing else, at least your odds are better with a Toyota than with anything from Chrysler Group - which doesn't produce a single model of automobile with anywhere near the reliability record of even the worst Toyota model on the road.
  • jpelderjpelder Posts: 235
    Well, my mom now has 90,000 miles on her '98 grand tranny problem. I just traded my 2000 with 75,000 miles, not tranny trouble.

    I just picked up my 2002 Grand Sport, the transmission is noticeably smoother. I am looking forward to driving this van!

    While it is without doubt that chrysler had terrible caravan transmissions in the past (my mom had 2 bad ones), I really think they have improved dramatically.
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    We have a '96 T&C that has had its' fair share of problems and I have posted about them before. Our tranny went out at 59,xxx miles. I took it to a transmission shop I had used in the past. They told me to contact Chrysler directly because Chrysler had been covering the cost of the repairs due to high failure rate. I had no problem, Chrysler opened a file on us and then paid for 1/2 of the repair done at our dealer. We now have 88,xxx miles on the van and the a/c evaporator needs to be replaced. That brings the total cost of repairs on the van to $4,400 since ownership. And yes, this van gets regular service, most at our dealer. However, the van is paid for and it is cheaper to repair rather than replace, for now.
    These tranny problems seem to be hit and miss. Carleton is correct, some last forever and others go early.
    Try meeting and talking to people outside these boards who have direct experience. Our Chrysler dealership has been top-notch. Their Service Manager is a great guy and has been a real joy to know. He says the same thing. Some of the 4 sp. trannys go forever and some just blow early. They have a full time mechanic that does nothing but tranny rebuilds at their dealership.
    I also have received the same word from a transmission shop I have used. Some of the 4 sp. trannys go forever but way too many crap out early.
    I don't care about Honda or Toyota, that's not what this board is about. How come everytime anyone brings up possible problems with their Chrysler vans the same people jump in saying Honda and Toyota have problems also? That's great to hear but who cares. We are discussing Chrysler. Maybe these tranny problems are universal to mini-vans. Has anyone thought about that. These mini-vans we are discussing are basically a car with a bigger body. People use them to haul heavier cargo than a car and carry more people. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe the manufacturers need heavier duty components in the mini-vans.
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    I would be interested in having owners post just what symptoms their transmissions exhibited before being told they need a rebuild or new transmission. My 96 started slipping in reverse and when I looked into it it was low on fluid due to a loose clamp on the trans cooler at the top of the radiator. I cut 1/2 inch off the hose (rubber) and re connected the line. No more leaking or problems thus far. Could the plethora of supposed problems be due to loosing fluid??
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    You were lucky, if my trans was just leaking I would have gone for an easy fix, too. Mine just got progressively slower to engage reverse until it took about 15 seconds and then the dealer finally issued the death certificate and DC paid for a new one under the old 7/70 warranty.I was never asked about fluid changes or type of fluid used.
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    My tranny fluid level was fine also. I did not have a problem with reverse, my problem was with 1st.
    When coming to a stop, my vehicle would hesitate back and forth while trying to drop to 1st gear. It eventually got to the point where I had to physically put the gear selector to low after coming to a stop to force the tranny to 1st gear. Otherwise, we were always taking off in 2nd gear.
  • tltiedetltiede Posts: 1
    The transmission in my mom's 99 Voyager transmission just bit the dust - a torque converter problem, I'm told. I was able to drive it, barely, to the dealer yesterday. Along the way, it "whirred" when I applied the gas and "jerked" when shifting gears. I feel lucky we didn't have to tow it. Anyway, the dealer is suggesting a rebuilt transmission with a 36/36 warranty for $2,300. I called Chrysler to inquire about some relief. But, since the van has 77k miles on it, they said there was nothing they could do. I suppose this is a lesson learned. When we bought the van, we did little research before hand. Had I known about the poor track record of Chrysler products, and these vans in particular, I would have steered her elsewhere (note, the transmission is just the latest in a long list of problems she's had with this van). In contrast, when I bought a van for my wife a year later, I did diligent research before I bought a Toyota Siena. And, I couldn't be happier with the Siena - no problems! As far my Mom's Voyager goes, it looks like it'll be an expensive lesson.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    Don't give up so easily on DC customer service. I had one rep blow me off when I complained about AC coil failure and another pay for the part--over $200--on a 7 yr. old van. Try calling on different days, who knows, they probably have a quota!!

    I've never heard of that good a warranty on a replacement trans. Price is not too bad, either. Honda trans would cost you twice as much with only a 12K mile warranty!
  • goatmealgoatmeal Posts: 11
    From what I read it is very important to use only DCs brand of transmission fluid when changing it.
    I cant help but wonder if maybe a lot of these transmission problems are caused by using the wrong type of fluid. When a customer goes to anyplace except a Chrysler dealership who knows what they are putting in it. I would bet that at a lot of places if they have dexron in the hose that is what they use. As a caravan owner I will change my own tranny fluid or else make sure it is done at a DC dealership and the right fluid is used.

  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    Our Town & Country was only serviced at a Chrysler dealership right up until it went at 59,000 miles, so unless they are using the incorrect fluid there...
  • goatmealgoatmeal Posts: 11
    I only meant that it is very possibly a contributing factor in a lot of cases.
    The main problem with minivan transmissions is that they were designed originally for a front wheel drive 3200 pound car with much less wind resistence than a mini van and not for a 4000 pound van. Even GM vans which have the well built GM transmission do not last as long as the transmissions in thier cars. If they could put truck transmissions in these minivans our problems would be solved but these are bigger units and will not fit with the front wheel drive configuration.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    Right on, goatmeal. You got the point that the manufacturers do not want to admit. My DC/GC had one change with Dexron and failed 20K miles later but DC/dealer never inquired about the fluid used. They know that these trans are bantam weights. Until they design a suitable trans for this type of vehicle you just have to factor in the cost of a new trans every 40-50K when you compare costs. That goes for Honda, too, IMO.
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    I have posted this before. Our Town & Country is paid for. We figure that a $2,000 transmission every 60,000 miles is much less expensive than a new car payment. It is just a cost of owning the vehicle at this point. I am not happy about our repair history but I am not going to ditch the vehicle at this point. It is still cheaper to repair than to replace. Of course, this theory may end if my wife is ever stranded due to the van having a mechanical problem while on the road.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    I'd have a little more confidence in the reliability of your Town & Country if I were you. Unless, of course, it is a 1996 or 1997 model or a van of any year that has already had a transmission or other major mechanical failure. Our 1998 Grand Caravan SE 3.3 went to 70k miles without any problems at all and our current 2000 Town & Country now has 40k miles and is also trouble-free.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    Your comment makes me more optimistic but until most people report 100K miles with the trans I think there will continue to be complaints. Most cars get 100K miles on drivetrain without major repairs.
  • sweingastsweingast Posts: 28
    Lets start that a transmission should not fail at or before 80,000 miles. Given today's technology, any transmission that fails before 150,000 miles is a failure in design or workmanship unless caused by the driver.

    Using consumer reports, the new DC transmissions are better rated than the Honda since '99. However, DC's new transmission says that the fluid is lifetime under normal conditions and 48,000 miles under severe conditions.

    Given that the difference in maintenance in normal vs severe driving is 2 to 1 does that mean the tranny is designed to last 96,000 miles?

    Anyone out there with a 2000 with high miles?
  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    Our T&C is a '96. And it had it's first transmission replacement at 59,000 miles.
    The van has 89,000 miles to date. We have thus far spent $3,300 on repairs. This would have been $4,400 had Chrysler not kicked in for half of the tranny replacement. Besides the tranny, we have replaced: upper and lower oxygens sensors, water pump, tensioner pulley, driver side window regulator, ECM for the wipers...
    At this point we have no a/c due to needing an $1,100 replacement of the evaporator. That repair will officially put us up to $4,400 in repair work. That comes out to 4.5 cents per mile thus far. I would say that is a bit high.
    But, like I said before, the van is paid for and it is still cheaper to repair versus replace.
  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    DC paid for my replacement AC evaporator coil (part only) although my van was older than yours. First customer rep turned me down, second said yes, even though repair was done at independent shop. Apparently, DC vehicles are suffering tremendous failure rates of AC evaporator coils not only in vans but in sedans and Jeeps. The labor cost for van is high, especially if you go to a dealer. The flat rate time is about six hours because the tech has to access the coil thru the dashboard, but I paid less at independent shop than what the dealer charges. BTW, I never heard of two oxygen sensors on a car and can only see one on my 3.3 engine.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    Most any post '96 car will have at least two O2 sensors. One upstream of the Cat and one downstream.

    The upstream sensor is for tuning the fuel mixure (Lean vs Rich) the second is to chech the Cat's efficiency. Part of the OBD-II requirements.

    My Contour and my MPV both have three cats. Two pre-cats, and one main cat. There are four O2 sensors total as they are upstream and downstream of the pre-cats built into the exhaust manifolds.


  • arjay1arjay1 Posts: 172
    Although I don't have Tboner's knowledge (and that is why we appreciate people like him here) it was an "upstream" and a "downstream" o2 sensor that needed to be replaced.
    Evidently the upstream sensor is easier to get to. That was the first one replaced but it did ot fix the problem. They went back in and replaced the downstream sensor.
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