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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    I faintly recall that our '96 Caravan had a recall associated with the cooling fan relays. It may have applied to '97's as well. It was several years ago, so I don't remember the details, but I would guess you could check with a Dodge dealer and with the VIN they could see if all recalls have been performed on your van.
  • monty2222monty2222 Posts: 48
    Ok, the first trouble with my 96 GC, the motor on one of the radiator fans is very noisey when it runs. Dealers says it's a bad motor, must replace whole assembly (two fans/housing/etc.). Part is $320, labor is $180, so $500 bill. I found I can buy just the motor (new) from a parts place for $110, or a whole used assembly for $125. Anyone ever had this done. Maybe I should buy the part and have a garage mechanic put it in, or do it myself if easy access?
  • "Well today is the end of the road for my 53,000 mile 1996 Voyager. Despite over $8,000 in out-of-pocket repairs (not including 3 head gaskets ..."

    I dumped my 96 Gr Voy SE with 96K kms on it
    this past April as the extended warranty was expiring this summer. had to have been the most unreliable vehicle I have ever owned...fortunately I took out an extended warranty...and I made in excess of $6K Canadian in claims on that warranty...that was in addition to over 50 times in for service while under original manufacturer's 36 month warranty.
    Repairs included:
    new tranny, AC compressor twice, front wiper motor, rear wiper motor, fuel pump, water pump, ABS brake module, serpentine belt tensioner twice, emergency brake mechanism, heater blower motor, AC evaporator, AC condensor, front brake rotors rotted out in first 18 months, fuel guage sender, rear hatch power lock actuator, water pump..just to name some of the repairs.

    I now drive a 2004 Toyota Sienna LE minivan and
    I will never in this lifetime again ever purchase anything that has a Chrysler logo on it!
  • Hi Hater,
    I just wanted to give you a heads up on the Sienna. If thats a 3.0L V6 they have had much trouble in the past with the oil turning to sludge. I'm not sure if the problem still applies. For a while Toyota was doing the avoidance dance..blaming it all on the customer, of course.
    Last I heard They were working on a fix. Hope it doesn't affect you. There was alot of talk about it a year ago. It helps to do the oil changes often..3 to 4 thousand intervals. Good luck with the new van.
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    My 1970 Dodge van was my worst vehicle and I have never owned another Chrysler vehicle. Two of my 3 sons now own DC minivans and love them. The other one has an Odyssey. Personally I would go with the Sienna if I were to get a minivan. Good luck with your Sienna.
        Based on reading in the Town Hall, it appears that DC has made great improvements in minivan reliability in the past few years (AFTER 1996). Will report any problems either son's DC minivan may develop.
  • That is one of the many, many, many things I had go wrong with my 1996 Voyager. I noticed that when I turned off the car, the fuel tank needle would move back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. There were other strange things that happened to my gauges as well. I thought I had a poltergiest.

    When the dealer fixed it and I picked it up, it appeared that they had put some 25,000 miles on it while it was in the shop for five days. As it turned out, they had forgotton to flip a switch on the computer that changes the readout from kilometers to miles. After another four days, the dealer managed to get it fixed.

    I really don't know which has been worse--the dealer or the car.
  • Thanks. I was aware of the oil sludge issue and have been getting 3K oil changes at the dealer. Thanks to Cblake's rantings, I think we're all okay on this matter. I'm also going to buy an extended warrenty just in case.

    That said, my Sienna has not had one problem and has not been in the shop (escept for standard servie) for 1 moment in the 2 years I've owned it.

    In contrast, when I'd had my 1996 Voyager for tthree years it had been in the shop for two head gaskets (1 week one time, 10 days the next), a failed computer (4 days), two "induction services (1 and 2 days), a new starter (1 day), a new valve cover (3 days), a new alternator (1 day), a new sterio system (1 day), a complete brake overhaul (2 days) and four seperate recalls (1 day each).

    That is more than a month of time that the car was out of serve and 26 trips to the dealer (not counting service).

    Now that the van is 7 years old and has hit 53,000 miles, the tranny drops out. If I am a "Dodge-hater", then I have a right to be based on my personal experience.
  • It is fixable!

    I can get the kaput tranny (53K) miles rebuilt for about $1500. That means I'll be stuck driving this time bomb untill the next major repair. Based on recent history, that could be from two-weeks to three months!

    Will I never be free from this accursed monstrosity?
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    If you have a Sienna, why are you forcing yourself to keep and drive the Voyager? Fix it then sell it, and I would get a second or third opinion before sinking $1500 into it, it may be a simple problem. Do you trust 100% whoever gave you the $1500 quote? Hav you checked out getting a rebuilt one swapped into it? Might cost you less than $1500.

    Not too many people need to keep two minivans in the same family, right?

    In contrast we have a '96 Caravan with the 3.3 V-6, and have had no problems except AC went out and was repaired last year. Now at about 66K miles. Yes we took it back for about 3-4 minor recalls over the years, but no other problems. Have yet to even touch the transmission, not even changed the fluid or filter.

    Still even have the original brakes, but I am sure they will need replacement soon.
  • My wife drives the Sienna.

    True, we don't need two minivans, but we had to have one. That's why we bought the Sienna in 2001. We had to have one reliable minivan and we could not rely on the Voyager. Still, we needed a second car and, when irt runs, the voyager has always been (and still is) a nice drive.

    The ironic thing is that when I bought the car in 1996 I specifically picked the 4-cyc because the V-6's had such trouble (according to Consumer Reports). Beginning in 1996, that changed with the V-6's doing well and the 4-cyc's having tons of trouble. (I know that many people are happy with their DC vans, but I got a lemon and lemons leave a sour taste in your mouth.)

    I really don't mind having a second van (a.k.a) truck) when it runs. I'm just frustrated that it has costs so much to keep it on the road.

    I am taking it to a second shop for another opinion. By phone, the mechanic said the $1500 was "worst-case" and included putting an auxilliary cooler on the tranny if the tranny cooler coil in the radiator is clogged (whatever that means). He said it may not be, but he has seen this problem frequently with failed Caravan/Voyagers). He also said the tranny may not need full replacement. We'll just have to see.

    (The first mechanic wanted $2000 plus to replace the tranny with a rebuilt unit.)
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    How many of the problem Chrysler vehicles were purchased new by the current owners?
        My 1970 Dodge van was purchased new and was the worst vehicle I have owned. However, I kept it 6 years and the 76 VW Bus that replaced it for only 4 years. My 1999 Tracker was purchased new and had repeat problem with bearings in rear axle so I traded it off and got the 2001 Blazer. Still driving the 93 Ford F-150.
        I think a 96 or 97 Chrysler vehicle with major problems is NOT worth spending any more money on major repairs. Get rid of it. A 96 or 97 Chrysler product has virtually no resale value.
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    Since you got a 4 cyl based on Consumer Reports bad advice, maybe you should sue Consumer Reports for unreliable product (Consumer Reports recommendation to get a 4 cyl instead of V6).
        Suzuki has sued Consumer Reports for damages done claiming Consumer Reports rigged a test to make the Suzuki Samarai appear unsafe and then warning people not to buy it.
  • You've got a good point. The problem is that the van has only 53K on it and I hate to give up on such a low mileage vehicle (although about 1/4 of those miles are trips to and from the dealer.)

    The big question is should I still consider the car a 1996 van? Sure, the body is 1996, but all the mechanicx vary in age from 1997 to 2003. On average, its probably a 2000 car :)

    Seriously though, if I get rid of this car, I need to get a reliable second car. By reliable, I probably mean new (and under warrenty) and cheap--some sort of small cheap sedan.

    What kind of small sedan should I get?
  • ...when did I become a resident of the state of Israel?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Check your address in your profile - it says you live there and the flags pop up according to that address field.

    Steve, Host
  • Don't know how that happened, but I think I fixed it. I guess everything is Kosher now.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Maybe it'll take a while to refresh/reindex, but nothing looks changed in your profile. Yet ...

    Steve, Host
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    Best bet would be a basic Toyota ECHO without the very expensive Toyota options. The basic Honda Civic costs considerably more.
        Some people brag about Hyundai and Kia entry level sedans with a very low price and best new vehicle warranty in the business. However, Hyundai and Kia are notorious gas guzzlers in EPA fuel economy ratings.
        Based on your experience, you should not get another Chrysler product. I have a friend who got a new VW Rabbit that had so many problems he got rid of it after 9 months and just over 10,000 miles and says he will never own another Volkswagen.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,910
    We really should take this someplace more appropriate, like maybe the Low-End Cars board, but the comment re "Hyundai and Kia are notorious gas guzzlers in EPA fuel economy ratings." is so erroneous I had to comment. Hyundai and Kia are on par with almost all other cars in their class, particularly for the category that is under discussion--cheap sedans. There are a few exceptions, e.g. the ECHO gets better mpg than the Accent and Rio, and the Civic and Corolla get better mpg than the Elantra. But otherwise the Hyundai and Kia models are comparable in mpg to others in their class. hansienna, if you would like to provide some facts to back up your contention of "notorious gas guzzlers" please do so, for example, what other small cars far exceed the Accent, Rio, and Elantra in mpg besides the ECHO, Civic, and Corolla?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I haven't skimmed this board, but there's got to be some gems in it:

    Hyundai: Consumer Reports loves them!

    Steve, Host
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    But since the subject has been brought up, the Neon 5 Speed is rated 29/36 which exceeds Accent, Rio, and Elantra 5 Speed. The VW Golf GREATLY exceeds them at 34/45 with 4 AT and 42/49 with 5 Speed Manual. However, I would not have a diesel.
        Since this is a minivan forum, the Kia Sedona at a paltry 15/20 is very much a gas guzzler compared to the Caravan 21/27 with 4 cyl, the Caravan 19/26 with 3.3L V6 that has comparable power to the Sedona 3.5 L V6, and even the more powerful, much more spacious Grand Caravan with 3.8L V6 rated 18/25.
        Look at the more spacious Odyssey 3.5L with more power than the Sedona and rated 18/25 and the more spacious 2004 Sienna with more power than the Sedona and rated 19/27.
        Hyundai and Kia gas mileage is poor for the size engines offered in any Hyundai or Kia. However, Hyundai and Kia do provide a good warranty on paper....but reading in forums for the 2 brands indicates many dealers take too long getting the parts to honor the warranty.
  • ...and about the same distance per quart of oil :)
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,910
    This IS a minivan board, and besides it is worthless trying to have a discussion with someone who think's it's fair to compare the mpg of a diesel car to that of a gas-powered car, or who makes blanket generalizations (also non-true generalizations) based on skimpy evidence (BTW, I read the same boards). Back to Caravans.
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    The Caravan has more interior space than the Kia Sedona, gets much better gas mileage, and has fewer reliability problems for 2002 than does the 2002 Kia Sedona according to pages 93 and 96 of April 2003 Issue of Consumer Reports.
        The much larger Grand Caravan has the same EPA fuel economy rating as does the regular Caravan that has more interior space than the Kia Sedona.
       The Caravan has all red circles but 3 which are red half circles while the Sedona has 3 red half circles and one plain circle.
       For the BEST reliability, get either the Toyota Sienna with all red circles but 1 or the Honda Odyssey with same reliability. Sienna with more power rated 19/27 while Odyssey with the MOST power rated 18/25.
       Is the information in the EPA Model Year 2003 Fuel Economy Guide and April 2003 Consumer Reports considered "skimpy evidence"?
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,910
    No, "...but reading in forums for the 2 brands indicates many dealers take too long getting the parts to honor the warranty" is skimpy evidence, IMO, because I follow the Hyundai and Kia boards closely and don't see the problem you noted.

    Could we please get back to Caravans here, for Caravan owners like me and others interested in Caravans, and stop trying to make this a comparison board? There are already other boards for comparisons where you can post erroneous information such as the claim that the '02 Caravan and Grand Caravan have better reliability records per CR than does the Kia Sedona. The charts in their 2003 Annual Auto Issue clearly show the Caravan has a Below Average record, the Grand Caravan is Average (as is the Sedona), but overall (see p. 87) the Sedona tops both the Caravan and GC in predicted reliability. Also, the MPV vitually ties the Sienna and tops the Odyssey by a large margin in predicted reliability per CR. If you are going to quote a reference like CR, please try to post accurate information, for the benefit of people who look to these boards to help them make buying decisions.
  • hansiennahansienna Posts: 2,312
    Just go count the full red circles, half red circles, and empty red circles on pages 93 and 96 for the year 2002 which is the ONLY year one can compare since Sedona has no other history.
        IF a poster owns a Caravan, why is it not listed in the poster's profile?
        I believe Dodge minivans are not as reliable as Toyota and Honda. Problems posted in Edmunds problems forums do not support the idea that late model Dodge minivans are not reliable.
        Many friends who own Dodge minivans tell me they are reliable with very few problems.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,910
    My '99 GCS has been pretty reliable, with just a few problems over 4+ years: O2 sensor, battery failure (at 30,000 miles), and either a broken idler arm or serpentine belt at 42,000--hard to tell which broke first. Plus a few recalls, which were taken care of with minimal fuss by my dealer. Overall a positive ownership experience, especially due to the great ride, handling, and comfort of the van. But I will probably not get another one when my lease is up early next year, not so much for reliability but because several other vans have surpassed it since '99. In particular I really want a fold-away rear seat next time; that rear seat is pretty heavy to lug in and out of the van, even with the rollers.

    As for why my GCS is not in my TH profile, you'd have to ask the TH people about that, as to why they only allow one vehicle to be listed. My Elantra is my daily driver, so I list that one. The GCS is my wife's daily driver; I get to drive it on weekends, vacations etc. Since you asked me about this, I guess it's fair to ask you why you're interested in this board since you've never owned a Caravan and apparently have no plans to buy one, based on your TH profile.

    BTW, CR has made it easier for readers to figure out which vehicles are more reliable than others in their estimation than having to "count circles." They sum it all up for us in bar charts, which I referred to earlier. They also have check marks (or not) at the bottom of each vehicle for each year to indicate whether it's Below Average (blank), Average (black check), or Above Average (red check). I personally don't know why you insist on "counting circles" rather than just reading CR's assessments using the bar charts and check marks, but if that's your thing and you think you can come up with a reliability picture reading the circles better than CR can by using its raw data, go for it. But I prefer to use CR's assessment of their data vs. yours.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    You can add more about your fleet in the "And here's some more about me:" section of your profile.

    As I mentioned in the "main" Caravan discussion, my brother's '00 Caravan just got driven 5,500+ miles on a road trip (out here to Boise & back) and he's got over 60,000 miles on it now. No problems so far!

    Steve, Host
  • This thread is deader than a 7-year old Dodge!
  • tomtomtomtomtomtom Posts: 491
    I guess the DC vans have really gotten better when no one reports any problems...
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