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Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Minivan Problems & Solutions



  • After owning this Caravan for 3.5 months and having it break down 3 times. We said good by to it. Last Wed. night I had my daughter and her friend in the car. We were on the highway and had to stop for a stop sign. I pulled onto the next highway, got it up to 50 Km and clicked resume on the cruise. Well the thing would not get over 80 Km. I had the gas peddle right down. It then lurched and went into the next gear. I told my husband about this and we decided to take it in for servicing. He found the transmission to be shifting long and rough. At the service dept. We were told the van was in limp mode. They wanted us to leave it for a few days so we said ok. They also said they could not give us a rental( even though we had the extended warrenty that covers a rental) because Chrysler was cracking down on them. We left there and later decided that enough was enough. We told them, you have it, keep it. Yes it will affect our credit but we could not see putting up with this. I did alot of research into Canadian law and found that if Chrysler kept taking the van in for service but was unable to find a problem and fix it, they were doing what is expected and we had no other recourse. Remember, this was our second Caravan in 10 months that was extremely problem prone. Trading the first one on the second one had put our payments quite high.
    I am glad no one else on this board is having these problems. I am back to driving a 10 year old vehicle that I feel safer driving since I know it is not going to leave me stranded. I bought auto club membership and I have a cell phone.
    Good luck to everyone with your Caravan.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I've read that most Canadian provinces have warranty laws similar to our lemon laws down here in the US. You may want to contact a solicitor and see if you can get out of the deal with less harm to your credit.

    Steve, Host
  • Thanks Steve,
     I checked it out. The agencies that govern the auto laws have said we don't have a case. If Chrysler or the Dealership had refused at any time to take either of the vans in to the service dept. we would have some ground to stand on.
    Lemon laws here say that a vehicle must be in the shop constantly and or the dealership must refuse to service it any longer.
    Good idea though. I may contact one of those lawyers that specializes in personal injury and such. The kind that only gets his fee if he gets you some money back. We are not in a financial position to afford a lawyer especially if it drags on as it usually does. Thanks again.
  • mfahey1mfahey1 Posts: 419
    You didn't mention which engine you have but we have a 2001 with the 3.8L which I had in close to 10 times for a hesitation. When you would lightly step on the accelerator on the highway, it would sit there and just think about doing something. It acted just like it would if it had a vacuum leak.
    Anyway, about the 6th time it was in,they replaced the spark plugs and that improved it a little. Then they did the wires with the same result. A little improvement but the problem was still there. Then they replaced the coil(s) and it is finally much better.
    There were never any codes and we all know that without codes, the mechanics can't do anything.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,910
    The extended warranty (5/50) recently expired on my '99 GCS. It's two more months before the lease is up and I turn in the keys. I took it in for an oil change today and also to check on a squeal in the engine compartment, which had started in December (when the van was still in warranty). At that time, the dealer lubed a belt and the noise went away, for awhile. It came back worse than ever starting in January. When I drove the van to the dealer today, it was warm and foggy and of course there was no squeal. The good news is that the dealer adjusted the belt and the noise is gone again. The bad news is that a transmission hose was leaking. Cost: $220. The service writer tried to cheer me up by saying, "Oh, gee, and your warranty just expired, too!" :-P
  • gino45gino45 Posts: 52
    I would like to thank all those who offered advice regarding whether to purchase an extended warranty. I've decided to take my chances and not purchase the warranty. The $2000 that the dealer wanted seemed too steep for me. Just to end the confusion that I created regarding what's covered under the powertrain warranty- The warranty does not cover electrical componets such as the powertrain control module. It goes without saying that such items as power windows, electrical switches and alternators would only be covered under the bumper to bumper warranty.
  • gino45gino45 Posts: 52
    My Caravan has the 3.3L engine. I took it to another dealer this weekend. Guess what- they couldn't find any codes! At least this dealer mentioned that the injectors did not need servicing, unlike the previous dealer who wanted me to spend $230 to clean my injectors. The hesitation isn't noticeable when accelerating, but when idling. I do not think any of the dealers looked at the coil pack. Does anyone know how I can test the coil pack. Or should I have the dealer test it?
  • jboehmjboehm Posts: 44
    Sorry to hear about your GC troubles. I had the opposite response when I complained about my issues with my truck that I bought. While the manufacturer has the ultimate responsibility I think the dealership needs to help you out. I cannot believe that they would not give you a rental car. When I started having problems with my 3 month old truck the dealership bent over backwards to help me. Gave me rental cars, the General Manager sat down and talked to me to see what needed to be done. Long story short.... My truck was evetually repurchased back from me. Have you tried contacting Chrysler to find out what needs to be done to start the buyback process?
  • jboehmjboehm Posts: 44
    My 2001 Dodge GC now has 50k miles on it with very few problems. The only problem we have had is about a month ago we took it in to the dealership to fix a broken lock.

    Does anyone know if the foglamps are "aim"-able? The one of the drivers side is aimed VERY high, higher than the normal headlight. I haven't had a chance to take a look to see if it is falling out of the housing or not.
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    are aimable thru a adjustment screw located through the lens on Dodge vehicles and by a knob on the back of the lamp on Chrysler vans.
  • antonioantonio Posts: 12

    I am looking in to buying a used Caravan or Grand Caravan. I will mainly use it for my business in which I travel alot and haul a bunch of musical instruments. I am looking at a used Caravan because I am hoping to get something reliable, with lots of room and somewhat good gas mileage for under $10k. Any warnings, tips on buying a used Caravan? I am wanting to stay year 2000 or newer if I can find one in my price range.


  • davids1davids1 Posts: 411
    One recommendation.

    When you find a used van you like and think you are ready to buy, go to a (good) dealer and price a new one. You may be able to get into a brand new van for a litte more than a used.
  • gtahobegtahobe Posts: 42
    Get the Grand, "sounds" like you'll need the room.

    Pun intended.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Don't fret, Antonio, one day we're going to drum some manners into these guys.

    Get a sharp one, and make sure the spare isn't flat. On that high note,

    Steve, Host
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    I have a 96 Caravan that I keep at my vacation home in Florida. (Trailer, actually, don't get excited). I would rather have an Odyssey, Sienna, Quest or Mercury Villager, all more dependable than the Caravan, IMO. BUT, you can't find them on the used market, and if you do, you're really gonna pay for one. So, having rented Windstars, Ventures & Astros, the Caravan is the best design of the non-Asian vans, so I bought one. Unfortunately, the transmission has been replaced, and that is very common in Caravans.

    If you're hauling equipment, the Chevy Astro, GMC Safari is the toughest and heaviest design, and tend to hold up quite well, although they are the worst design, IMO for comfort and style. I hate them actually, but they run a long time and hold up to anything. Very durable.

    Stay away from the Windstar. May want to consider a new Kia Sedona. Pretty heavy van, and a great warranty. I would never own one, but I hear they are pretty decent. (Reason? KIA = Killed IN Action to me, can't handle that.)
  • royallenroyallen Posts: 227
    Antonio, I've had better than average luck with a '95 Caravan, 3.3L, and I'd be checking out Consumer Report April 04 Auto issue. Their picks for reliable used, $10-12K are '00 Mazda MPV, '97-'98 Honda Odyssey and '98 Toyota Sienna. Roy
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    >>> you're hauling equipment, the Chevy Astro, GMC Safari is the toughest and heaviest design, and tend to hold up quite well, although they are the worst design, IMO for comfort and style. I hate them actually, but they run a long time and hold up to anything. Very durable.<<<

    I have to disagree. While being overall less troubleprone as the Windstar, our company fleet has not had great service out of ours. Their cost of ownership is higher than the Caravan and the resale is abysmal. Besides being crude they just don't hold up as well as the FWD Chryslers. And they swallow transmissions at a higher rate. If you're going to keep a van for a long time be advised that they are the first to shows signs of rust. If you need to tow something and need extra space, my recommendation is to delete ANY mini-van and look at a mid-size SUV.

  • dalawdalaw Posts: 37
    Hi guys. I have a 96 Voyager with a 3.0L V6 and when I check the engine oil with the dipstick, it indicates that the oil is at the "full" mark on one side (the side with the "add" and "full" words on it and dipstick inserted so that the you can read the "engine" word), but when I turn the stick around, the level is on the "add" mark. I wipe the dipstick when i check. Which level should I follow?
  • hayneldanhayneldan Posts: 657
    Insert dipstick so tou can read it by looking at it from the front of the car.
  • dalawdalaw Posts: 37
    Yeah I inserted the stick that way, it would get stuck if inserted the other way. What I mean is that the oil level is on 'add' at one side and 'full' at the other side at the same time.
  • sxt4mesxt4me Posts: 7
    My 2004 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT after 5,900 miles needs a brand new transmission. And, the dealer says the thing is most likely going to be a refurbished from an 03 model. Hey guys, listen to the wife and buy the Sienna. I may have saved $3,000 but the headaches are not worth it. Should I go on? Take a really close look at what you getting. Cheap Plastic, poor performing AC (fogs up easy) and smells bad with use of recirculation feature. Andy, who in the world sits with the seat in a complete vertical position, which is the only comfortable position for the arm rests. Recline the seats a bit and your arms are pointing towards the windshield. I had to take off the arm rests and use the 1/2" drill to grind out a bit of plastic so the arm rests are more ergonmically positioned horizontally. We have the DVD Video and 6 disc DVD/CD combo. The thing is clustered up so badly you need to pull over to figure out what you are doing. After 4,900 miles the oil was 25% gone and severly black. I was required to use an engine oil cleaner before changing the oil. Can it be that the engine is buring oil this badly with so few miles. I would not recommend that anyone buy a Caravan. Nothing has changed but the new fold down seats for 05.
    I can go on....
    Anyone interested in purchasing a Nearly New 04 Grand Caravan SXT Bright Silver Metallic with DVD and Power everything?
  • tomtomtomtomtomtom Posts: 491
    I would return the car to your dealer and ask for a full refund or a brand new van. No way, a new car should be like this...As for the DVD video and 6 disc thing, I don't think it is dealer's fault, you should've known this when you chose that option.
  • sxt4mesxt4me Posts: 7
    You know, you don't really look at these kinds of things until you drive off the lot and actually start fidling with the knobs and controls. I have owned a lot of cars and this clustered design is by far the worst in the way of ergonomics I have ever used. The layout does look really cool though.
  • thirdonethirdone Posts: 1
    My 2001 Grand Caravan's driver's side rear sliding door has begun to sag (front edge hangs lower than rear). I took it to the dealership and he proceeded to tell me that I needed sensors in both doors and that was the reason they don't open and close properly and that he would have to have a body shop look at the sagging problem. The doors open and close fine, however the sagging door tends to apply pressure to the trailing edge of the driver's door. Has anyone here had this problem? Can it be adjusted by me?
  • tomtomtomtomtomtom Posts: 491
    Are they taking your van back?
  • May I ask what you paid for the SXT. Your scaring me, we're trying to buy a silver 2004 SXT Caravan. Dealer has one left on the lot, we are trying to get it for under $20,000 out the door with all costs included. Now I not sure I even want it.
  • dustykdustyk Posts: 2,926
    My company has over 3000 '01, '02, and '03 Chrysler mini-vans and have had very good service from them. Our GMs and especially our Windstars have had more mechanical problems, especially of the costly type. The newer the Chrysler mini-van, the better they've gotten.

    I find it curious that a person with fairly extensive criticism of things like "cheap plastic" and other ergonomic complaints didn't know about them before the vehicle was purchased. A transmission failure so early in a vehicle's life either indicates incorrect assembly or abuse. Few people I know will ever admit to abusing a vehicle.

  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    I generally trust Dusty on this topic. I used to run a small fleet, he runs an enormous fleet. That's even better than Consumer Reports! If Dusty says they're good, he oughta know.
  • Jason5Jason5 Posts: 440
    I've been moonlighting in the Grand Caravan section because I may purchase a 2005 GC SXT in the next few months. I've been back and forth between an SUV and mini-van. In the final analysis I think generally better gas mileage, space utilization, ride, and seating are pushing me toward a minivan. In the "less scientific" daughter loves the extra seats!
       DustyK--Several of your posts have struck a chord with me and I compliment you on your cogent comments. Many of us have taken issue with CR and it's flawed methodology and the unending stream of "Chrysler haters". Some of whom have resorted to changing names, emails and tactics to post at Edmunds. In my extended family we have had numerous Caravans, Intrepids, Neons, and Rams. Never have we experienced a transmission failure or other catastrophic isssue of any kind. Perfect? No! Competitive and reliable? Yes!
        In particular I felt compelled to share an incident that-while seemingly isolated--gives me concern. At about 45,000 miles, I had maintenence performed on my 2000 Intrepid ES at a local shop. Although I mentioned it to two service managers in EXCEEDING detail--I managed to get a transmission full of ATF 3 instead of ATF 4. When I paid for my service I noticed ATF 3 on the receipt. I called the Dodge Service Manager at my local dealer and put him on the phone with the technicians. Although the car had already been driven, they PUSHED it back into the bay, drained and flushed the transmission and put ATF 4 in. I think that may be much more common that anyone knows and may contribute to transmission difficulties.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Some of whom have resorted to changing names, emails and tactics to post at Edmunds

    Most unlikely. If you suspect someone of doing this, email a host. It only takes a minute to track down IPs, not to mention it's pretty easy to spot a clone when people have come back under a new name after being asked to leave.

    Steve, Host
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