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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • edwardh1edwardh1 Posts: 88
    I posted this in #272
    This is an interesting site:,

    it talks a lot about the DC transmission problems-
    and which must exist, for so many people to be
    complaining about them (three people I know at work
    with DC minis have had transmission failures),
    even considering that there are 600,000 DC vans
    sold per year to 125,000 winstars and 60 or 70 K
    each Honda and Sienna. Most of the DC failures seem
    at low miles 40-50K, then again they fail for the
    same owner 40K miles later. Transmission is a major
    part that should not fail.

    If Dextron fluid ruins the transmission, it was a
    serious design error for DC to market a product
    with that "risk" as they must have known that most
    people think there are only 2 kinds of fluid,
    Mercon and Dextron and that most Jiffy lubes are in
    a big hurry.
    Toyotas use dextron without a problem.
    The toyota forums are full of problems too, really
    biggies like the brakes squeal or the rear window
    washer dribbles - quite an order of magniture in
    inconvience and $$$ from the transmission problems.
    The other factor seems to be that the factory has
    not been responsive to a "fix", if the fix has been
    applied, it has received no publicity. That says
    either DC does not believe its a problem,
    (uninformed) or do not care. Why should they?? ,
    "you" keep buying their products
    But "you" have stopped buying GM products as much,
    as there market share goes down each year - so
    they are getting the message from Toyota et al.
    Especially Olds, sales of what 1.3 million in 1984,
    and 200K last year?
  • StrategoStratego Posts: 29
    Maybe this could be part of the problem, but does the Mopar ATF+3 cost more than Mercon and Dextron? If so, I have no doubt that some shops are cutting corners and saving themselves the extra cost. Maybe even some of the DC dealerships as well.
  • egawronegawron Posts: 9
    You are correct that the Chrysler 4-speed automatic has a higher failure rate then any other transmission ever designed. It has been that way for over 10 years - and they are still using the same transmission and it will still be the same transmission for 2001. Some improvements have been made to it - it will now last past the warranty period and averages about 50,000 before it self-destructs. This is a well documented and time proven reliability problem. Chrysler is well aware of it, but couldn't care less. Chrysler has learned that consumers are more interested in style/gadgets and will forgive reliability problems - especially when Chrysler had no real competition.

    As to why Chrysler designed a transmission that needed a special fluid, the answer is they didn't. The 4-speed automatic was designed to and was using Dextron. But after major problems with the transmission dying after 30,000 miles, Chrysler "fixed" the design flaws by developing a new transmission fluid Mopar ATF-3. With ATF-3 and other "fixes" Chrysler achieved their goal of getting it to last past the warranty period. Also Chrysler dropped the 7 year 70,000 mile power train warranty they use to offer - it was costing too much. That still leaves a transmission with major long-term reliability problems.

    All of the above can be verified by talking to any independent transmission repair shop.
  • can you explain my 93 with 110k?.. and where is this well documented documentation at?... just exactly what is the norm?.. would there really be the number of repeat buyers if what you say is true?... i know that the 89-90 trannys were a problem. and you complain about the chrysler warrenty... doesnt it match everyone elses?... why don't the rest have the 7/70?
    you say they average 50k..exactly where is that statistic from? I am sure that you did not just pull that number out of the air. You surely have some kind of data.
    tell you what. I have a 99. I will put up a $1000 that my tranny goes past what you call average. that would be even money since if 50k is average then half would fail prior to that and half after. well that is not exactly right. vans like my 93 would raise the average quite a bit..
    how about it?..wanna put your money where your keyboard is?..
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    to refute the old, tired refrain about how bad Chrysler transmissions are. Rather than repeat the old wives tales of Chrysler problem transmissions, people would be wise to read of NEW
    vehicles transmission problems in another brand ...especially if the vehicle has a V6 engine in either a sedan or minivan configuration. Check for yourself right here in the Edmunds Town Hall.
  • 2rcs2rcs Posts: 2
    People, People, People...

    My Wife and I have been shopping for a Mini-van for about four weeks now. Opinions about who makes the best ones are as varied as the makes themselves, but I have come to one conclusion. THERE ARE NO GREAT MINI-VANS!

    If you believe everything that you read Dodge, Chrysler, and Ford all have MAJOR engine problems. Mercury, Mazda, and Oldsmobile STINK in crash tests. Toyota is too expensive for what you get and Honda (and this is personal experience talking) is a mini-van that you can't even look in, let alone test drive, because all of them are supposedly spoken for already.

    I am beginning to look at this like the upcoming Presidential election...There is no good choice...only a better choice.
  • 2rcs2rcs Posts: 2
    Can you tell me what Dodge has done to fix the problems with their transmissions...this is the first that I have heard about it and you stated in earlier posts that there was a prob. I am curious what they did to fix this supposed defect.

  • just knew people with an 89 and they had a problem..fixed under warrenty.. i have no data whatsoever.... people I know with newer ones have not had any trouble... so you make a good point.. I have no place to refer you for any valid data. pro or con. I wish I did. I can only go by personal experience and that of people around me. You are right..this is a hard place to get good info... I started looking for a new van last summer and came here. Finally just went with test drives and what I felt was the best for the money. Actually, there are a lot of good vans. What you see here is the same people over and over bashing certain brands. I have even got to the point that i think maybe they are hired guns. I have friends with Windstars, Ventures, Villagers, and DCs. none have had any major problems. I am sure the Ody's and the Sienna's are fine also. You get a real exagerated view of problems in here. and you have no idea as to the validity of any statements. One thing you can pick out is that new models, while technilogically on the cutting edge, have more reliability problems. wish I could be more help, but you have reached the same point I did some months back. One piece of advice...pick a good dealer.
  • egawronegawron Posts: 9
    If you are looking for data on the reliability and mechanical design of transmissions, the best person to ask is an independent transmission specialist. I have spoken to a few, the following web site sums up almost exactly what they told me:

    As to a documented history of problems, one of the best sources are consumer groups. I would suggest you look at:

    I would also suggest getting the opinion of a lot of owners. Of course there is Edmunds and also:

    There is a lot of good documented historical information - past reliability is the best gage of future reliability. A 10 year history of the same problem should be enough to give anyone reason for concern/caution.

    I would strongly suggest, from painful personal experience, that if you decide to purchase a Chrysler, you get an extended warranty and sell the van before the warranty expires. Good luck.
  • hclelandhcleland Posts: 2
    Thought I'd see if anyone had any advice on buying a used 92 DC with 115,000 mi on it.

    It has had all the normal replacements (tranny, hoses, misc AC parts, Head Gasket) along with others (brakes, tires,etc) along with some nice extras such as new rollers for side door. Supposedly - top notch parts were used.

    All parts have low miles on them (highest is around 25,000 (tranny, and maybe the Head Gasket).

    I want something reliable that will go 15,000 mi per year for at least two years. Obviously it's hard to know, but what do some of you used car buyers look for when purchasing used cars. Any good used car buyers guides out there besides edmunds, that explain what to inspect, how to negotioate etc.

    Thanks for any help,

  • then attempt to discredit the publication. Usual silliness.

    Consumer Reports' survey shows Dodge Grand Caravan transmissions rated below average for reliability through 1995 (that's more recent than 1990, swampcollie; don't you think?). Still waiting to see what happens when more recent years rack up higher mileage. This is not "bashing" or "trashing." It's noting the facts, which some choose to hide themselves from.

    Still waiting for someone to give me a cogent reason to doubt the results of the CU survey.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    While you may not like consumer reports, I don't put much faith in the EPA either. While you may not like the preferences that the writer have stated, a good deal of what they publish is from the readers polls they perform.

    So what do we make of that? It probably demonstrates both extremes. Readers will probably either praise the vehicles or pan them. When I did my survey last year, I faithfully reported on the two vehicles we owned. I have to believe that most readers, if they do the survey will truthfully describe the ownership experience they had. Scientifically, the data is not as good as a random survey, but I'm fairly confident that given the sample population, the data collected is at least accurate.

    Since CR does not accept advertising, I really doubt they have much motive to slant the numbers for a particular vehicle in one direction or another.

    Since the automakers are required by the federal government to meet certain fuel standards (CAFE, I believe that is Corporate Average Fuel Economy) which I believe is administered by the EPA, I would suspect that they would engineer the vehicles to perform exceptionally well in that test environment. So the flaw with the EPA testing is the test is known and the manf. can prepare to excel at the test, knowing full well that real world mileage will be different. (Kinda like cramming for an exam. You don't really retain anything the day after the test, but you do pass :)

    I don't think CR does the same test, therefore it is not surprising that vehicles test by CR will deviate from the EPA figures. While we would like to believe that every government agency is infallible, I'm not sure you have solid ground to stand to support the assertion that the EPA's test was superior and more accurate to that of CR.

    Have you ever achieved, consistently, the EPA figures? Probably not. They simply provide a range you MIGHT expect. (Of course your mileage may vary :)

    Finally, would you like to discuss the details of those failures. Did those Honda transmissions fail at 25K miles or 125K miles? I could say I know of seven brand X cars with transmission failures, but without information about how and when in the lifetime of the vehicle they failed that sort of information posted about any vehicle should be discounted as anecdotal at best.

    And I haven't owned a Honda since 1990, but that one was pretty darn bullet proof. My point, I have no axe to grind or decision concerning Honda to defend, I just thought your discussion of Hondas and Consumer Reports was perhaps a bit prejudiced.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    I am looking at the Year 2000 Buying Guide and on page 74, it discusses digital cameras. So tell us what you are reading. However, if you look on page 271 of the same buyers guide I will quote the ENTIRE description of how a vehicle gets a recommendation.

    "The Ratings include only cars for which we have recent test results. To earn our recommendation--mark by a (checkmark)-- a model must perform competently in our tests and based on the model's history have at least average predicted reliability. New models that perform competently and, based on the reliability of other models from that maker, whose reliability should be at least average, are marked promising (up arrow). Twins and triplets--essentially similar models sold under different nameplates--are grouped in the charts below; each is marked with a (filled square) typically, we've tested only on eo fthese models. Overall mpg is based on our tests in a range of driving conditions. Tested model notes the items that can affect specific test results."

    Now turn to page 280 and you see the posted average reliablity based on trouble spot and year. Compare any vehicle you wish to this average and see if it is above or below average.

    Again, I don't think CR is hiding anything, the rationale is posted in black and white.

    Please tell us, what does CR have to gain by reporting erroneous numbers. The only revenue the get is from the readers. If the readers have any reason to doubt the veracity of the reports, they would be out of business. THINK about it.
  • from carleton1, because your questions are logical and rational. carleton1 simply cannot face the facts regarding DC minivan reliability in the 90s, and will post all sorts of amazing silliness in a vain attempt to discredit Consumer Reports. Rational people like you and me will recognize this easily and discount it.

    For example, he simply does not understand what CR is saying in the quote he cites in posting #244. What CR is saying is that the charts contain data for the model years 1992 to 1999, and there is no implication that a vehicle's reliability will not be noted if it did not exist for all eight of those years. carleton1's talk about "not following their stated policy" is just his usual red herring, and makes about as much sense as thinking that CR subscriber confusion over the inconsistency in whether a Taurus is a mid-sized or full-sized vehicle has caused the CR survey to reflect negatively on DC minivans.

    The reason CR "does not know about" the supposed Honda V-6 transmission problem in 1999 is quite simple: That there weren't enough problems reported to CR to affect the ratings. This is a classic illustration of why you can't go by the anecdotal evidence which carleton1 loves to cite, but have to rely only on statistically significant numbers, including reports from people who have had no problems. carleton1 cannot seem to grasp that concept, I regret to have to say.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    The subject says it all.

    Back to work, installing servers etc.


  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    carleton1: I am a little confused at your response to my reply to egawron. Do you like his references better than mine?
    As far as fuel efficiency testing, it appears that you like the EPA results better than CRs and therefore the EPA is accurate and CR is not only inaccurate but biased. Do you know something about the EPA test that you would share with the rest of us so we will see the light. My recall is that when the EPA test was originated in the '70s by an act of Congress requiring that it be done on a dynamometer simulating travel on a road and results calculated based on tail-pipe emissions. As a result the owners I know were not surprised that they did not get as good of results on the road as the EPA test reported. Maybe someone in the auto industry can explain if the EPA test has changed and if not why it would be better to test on a dynamometer measuring emissions than on the road measuring fuel consumed.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    You will need a PDF reader, but it is free, to read this document.

    I think the passage that is probably most telling in about the EPA's procedure is the following:

    "This formula is the equivalent of multiplying the fuel consumed per mile during the city test by 55 percent and multiplying the fuel consumed per my during the highway test by 45 percent and adding the result. SINCE WE DO NOT ACTUALLY MEASURE THE FUEL CONSUMED, we must perform the inverse and divide the fuel economy proportionately. This is known as a harmonic mean (sometimes called harmonic averaging)."

    Just to simplify harmonic mean if you drive 100 miles in the city and get 10MPG (10 gallons consumed) then drive 100 Miles on the highway and get 20MPG (5 gallons consumed) your average fuel consumption is NOT 15MPG, but 13.3 MPG. You used 15 gallons to go 200 miles -> 13.3 MPG.

    Now call me silly, but it seems that to get better EPA fuel economy results, you could "tune" the emissions.

    (The light bulb goes on in my head...) This may explain why Ford has so many Low Emission Vehicle SUV's. Perhaps, given the EPA testing methodology, this results in higher EPA fuel economy ratings for these vehicles.

    However, I believe this technique translates poorly into real world economy.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    You have yet to give a rationale concerning the possible motive of CR to bias test results.

    You have yet to give a cogent reason to doubt the veracity of the readers surveys.

    Therefore, I must conclude that you simply have an axe to grind.

    Since I clearly stated what CR states as there policy concerning vehicles that do not have a history covering all of those years the burden is on you to prove your assertion that CR is biased.

    Remember, in America you must be proven guilty. I do not tolerate vague, baseless accusations.


  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    No where does it state in the criteria that the vehicle had to have data for the entire range. They simply are making a reliability judgement. They have taken the average of ALL responses and compared the responses of each type of vehicle to the yearly averages.

    Are you saying the reliability figures are inaccurate? Or are you just upset your van is not on the best bet list. My van is not on the Good Bet list either, but I don't doubt the veracity of the figures.
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    You did not answer my questions concerning the possible motives.

    You have not yet provided any details concerning your seven Honda failures.

    I guess you just have an axe to grind.

    Sorry, I'm not yet convinced.


  • tboner1965tboner1965 Posts: 647
    You told us about seven honda failures, but you failed to mention mileage age of vehicle etc.

    To be fair, we liked our DC mini-van, but were not confident in the vehicle beyond 30K miles.

    Just look at all of those solid black dot on CR's reliability ratings for the DC vans.

    Now compare the years the Odyssey has data for year for year and tell me which one has the better historical reliability.

    The CR recommendation IMHO is based on the across the board performance of the Honda and Toyota model lines.

    But you have yet to suggest credible rationale or even evidence that CR has any sort of bias.

    I wish you well with your DC van. We found ours a very comfortable ride, but it made me nervous concerning what would happen after the warranty expired.


  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    The exact data has been posted several times in direct response to inquiries.
    Sue B., my niece,had the 1988 Accord with transmission failure at about 60,000 miles when Accord was 7 or 8 years old. I have tried to get more exact data but she either does not know or does not want to tell. She got the Accord as she heard Japanese built cars were reliable and did not like her Chevette (a Japanese built car by Izuzu). Thus her trauma with the Accord.
    Natalie K. with 1988? Accord was the babysitter of 2 of our grandchildren. We picked the grandchildren up about 2 times each week. Natalie had spent $4000 on repairs (Engine or Trans...I do not recall as it was about 1 year ago). She was told the other component was failing and needed another $3000 in repairs. Her parents bought it new and gave it to her when they got a new, later model Accord.
    Judy W. is a friend who has a 1991 Accord EX and she said her Accord has had problems of all types especially electrical and she was the one who said "Do NOT buy a Honda".
    Omar S is my son-in-law who bought a used 1984 Honda Accord after the engine and transmission were both overhauled at about 150,000 miles. I do not know why both components failed and neither does he as he did not own it at time of failure.
  • Karen_SKaren_S Posts: 5,095
    ...this topic is not for discussing the validity of other publications...nor is it for discussing OTHER is strictly for discussing Dodge Caravan problems.

    Thank you!

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    Edmunds Manager UGC Click on my screen name to send a personal message. Need help navigating? Check out Getting Started in Edmunds Forums.
    Need help picking out a make/model, finding inventory, or advice on pricing? Talk to an Edmunds Car Shopping Advisor

  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    carleton1: I think you missed a change in CR reliability ratings about 12 years ago. An open circle is NOT average. On page 77 of the April CR issue are "the average car" ratings with lots of red circles for '98 and '99 and several black half circles for '92. The '98 GC does have one rating below average with a red half where a red circle is average...Transmission. I would add that is on a survey completed in April '99 when these were under 2 years on the road.
  • subscriber, would someone who is describe CR definition of average?... i assume they take all similar vehicles of similar vintage and get an average from those reports. Also, how do they get their data?...I assume they make some sort of stratified phone survey among their subscribers.
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    Swampcollie: Here's what CR says
    On the 1999 Annual Questionnaire[a mail in form], readers were asked about "serious" problems that occurred between April 1998 and March 1999. We received responses covering more than 500,000 vehicles. ... The data used to create the charts are standardized to minimize differences due to varied mileage. On average, the 1999 modela included were 6 months old and had 3000 miles.
    Average is compared to all cars in the same model year.
    A red circle is for problem rates 0-1.99%
    red half circle = 2.0-5.0%
    open circle = 5.0-9.3%
    black half circle = 9.3-14.8%
    black circle = 0ver 14.8%
  • netflyernetflyer Posts: 1
    Just got out of my Dodge Grand Caravan, took a bath on it in a trade in, but I didn't have the heart to sell it privately. The van was nothing short of a piece of crap. 3 Transmissions before 10k miles, a broken speed sensor on the transmission at 20k miles. Burst transmission high pressure line at 30k miles. I owned the van for 14 months and it was in the garage for 2.5 months total. The lemon law in my state says you have to let the dealer try to fix the problem and as long as they are willing to keep fixing it you are stuck. This was my 2nd grand caravan, my first the transmission at least lasted for 60k miles. Why is dodge not getting the message? There transmissions are made of tissue paper. My brother in law works at a dodge part counter and he says they stock over 15 transmissions at any given time. I will never buy a dodge again, nor will anyone else in my family or circle of friends. Beware of Dodge Caravan's they are unreliable and will let you down every time.
  • carleton1, what Consumer Reports is saying is that Consumer Reports is rating vehicles from model year 1992 through model year 1999 on their reliability in the April 2000 issue. Vehicles don't have to have been available in *all* of those years in order to be rated. For example, how is it that they rate the 1999 Chrysler 300M when it wasn't available until the 1999 model year? Or the Dodge Avenger, which didn't exist until 1995? Or the Dodge Shadow, which died a merciful death in 1994?

    carleton1, you would look a lot less dull if you'd take the trouble to understand what CR does before you knock them. And, as tboner has asked many times now, why don't you tell us just why it is that kindly old Rhoda Karpatkin and her happy little CU family are out to get Chrysler?
  • I have owned two dc's, an 89 grand and a 96. both have had there faults. My 89 blew the head gaskets out twice(Dealer messed up the job) and my 96 blew up a transmission. I have read here about the transmission problems for years like mine. My transmission had the planetary gear explode. The problem i found out here is really not so much a design issue as a supplier issue ( this case was a bad cast which has been corrected). For all of some of the whining by the same people about reliability take a look at how many 100,000's of dc's are produced each year compared to each other manufactures. Throws a whole new spin on things don't it. And don't use one publication as your gospel of the vehicle. Get it from various sources including the manufature(NOT the dealership). They are willing to discuss it with you(I've done it). As far as alot of the problems I see here and experienced myself, I have found it is not the vehicle's fault so much as an incompetent dealer mechanic causing the follow on problems. I would actually consider buying another dc but this time shop for my dealer first. This will probably solve alot of reliability problems for many people.
  • Feel free to share with us reliability statistics from other sources, troublemaker.
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