Author Topic: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???  (Read 4659 times)

Offline Corner

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Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« on: February 26, 2009, 02:47:32 pm »
Hi all

I'm new to this forum so be as gentle to the noob as possible if you could please ;)

I'm currently looking to replace a 96 Grand Caravan (3.8L) which is on it's very last legs (transmission finally going amongst many other late life woes).  We have managed to get over 230K out of her with minimum aggravation given that we can be a bit on the casual side when it come to our car care.   I've been pretty pleased with both this and a previous GC and am considering one yet again. 


After reading many post on this forum I'm starting to think that we got really lucky, in that tranny problems didn't rear their ugly heads for us, with either GC, until very late in their lifespans. It seems to be  the single biggest warning that comes up on this site with regards to these vehicles.  Are they really as failure prone as  that?

My budget is in the $7000-9000 range and we tend to drive our vehicles to the end of their lifespans (we're definitely not 'flippers' by habit).  I will need to have a vehicle that can occasionally tow a small tent trailer on reasonable length trips (5K(ish) possibly).

I'm currently thinking of seeking out a 2005 or 2006 GC with the 3.8 L motor    but would welcome any and all input from you learned gents.  Other minivans that are on the edge of my radar would be an Odyssey or Sienna as they seem to get high praise on here a lot (but are generally a fair bit  more $$$).

Thanks in advance to any of you who take the time to reply.

Cheers

 

Offline ktm525

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2009, 02:50:30 pm »
Could you make the stetch to a new van? I think a Canadian value edition GC with the 3.3L is selling for under $20k. I rented one of these in Maui and was quite impressed. It was full of hard plastic and the doors required a hefty swing to shut but it handled well even when completely overstuffed. For schlepping at low cost it seems to be the choice.

Offline sirAQUAMAN64

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2009, 03:14:55 pm »
Chrysler ads in the Toronto Sun are advertising new '09 Grand Caravans from between $14,9 (!!!) and $16,9. Impossible to beat that. With the 3.3L, but still. Would think with that pricing pre-owned units with 3.8L's have to be a steal as well.
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Offline sly

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2009, 10:20:00 pm »
I heard about Caravan's trannys all the time, yet of all the folks I personally knew who had Caravans, only one had a problem. During the same period, my neighbour bought a Pontiac Montana and his tranny died at 15,000 km (no NOT 150,000).

A buddy of mine blew his Odissey's within 43,000km.

While getting my Villager's tranny oil change at a private transmission shop I asked if it was true that Caravan's trannies were very bad and the owner said:

"I repair twice as many Caravan's trannies as other brands, but since there are more Caravans on the road than any other brands put together, the maths are in favour of Caravans."

You decide.

Offline Trainman

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2009, 10:42:28 pm »
In your price range, stay away from the Honda's, they do have a trannie issue.

I would go to a reputable transmission shop and get their opinion, they should know.  And in the long run, it may not be the trannie that is the killer, maybe a weak engine design (some GMs come to mind) or safety issues.  And the imports will be more money to fix when they break.
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Offline 1TSX

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2009, 11:07:57 pm »
Previous gen Odysseys (99' - 04') have transmission issues...stay away from those.

Offline Thinking Out Loud

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2009, 07:52:37 am »
While getting my Villager's tranny oil change at a private transmission shop I asked if it was true that Caravan's trannies were very bad and the owner said:

"I repair twice as many Caravan's trannies as other brands, but since there are more Caravans on the road than any other brands put together, the maths are in favour of Caravans."


Similar experience with a local Midas shop while my previous car was in....I think there were two Caravans on the hoists and I asked the same question of the mechanic - same response.  His thinking was the transmissions were still 'car' trannies in a too-heavy-a-box vehicle.  His father in law went against his advice and wound up needing 2 trannies on his Caravan.

Some people suggest the tranny fluid needs additional TLC to avoid catastrophe....buying a used one, you have no idea of the prior owner(s) maintenance, and therefore a likely higher chance of nasty surprises.

Offline Corner

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2009, 12:36:18 pm »
Thanks for the input so far fellas.

Currently I'm not thinking of going the "new" route, but it is tempting.

I guess with any vehicle the future is a bit of a crap shoot.  All one can do is weigh up all the valid input you can gather and make the best guess at the time... as sly said "you decide".



"So, do you feel lucky today punk" I ask myself!  ;D

Cheers

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2009, 02:39:28 pm »
I have had several Grand Caravans over the years as sales vehicles. My favourite was a 2000 with the 3.8L engine. Sadly that was the one where the trannie fried itself.

I had another one with the 3.3L engine (2003) which had some trannie issues but the issue was wiring while the 3.8L van had a major mechanical meltdown (the trannie had to be completely rebuilt).

Other than the trannie woes I experienced these vans were great for the most part.

The best van I have ever had mechanically was a 2002 Toyota Sienna. The driving dynamics of the Grand Caravans were superior though.

Others in my industry have melted Grand Caravan transmissions as well. However this is better than some of the Uplander and other G.M. vans where some have had head gasket issues AND pooched trannies.

Are the transmissions better on the new ones in any way? It is the only real weak point in these vehicles from my experience. If you got a good enough deal on a used Caravan you could always bank some of the savings into an ING account or something just in case you ever did get a transmission woe.

Offline PJungnitsch

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Re: Are the Dodge Caravan trannies really that bad???
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2009, 03:07:39 pm »
Somewhere I've seen it written that much of the problems with Chrysler transmissions has to do with the electronic controls.

Low battery, etc will screw up the electronic controllers and they go on to toast the transmissions mechanics.

Here we go:

Quote
In order to extend the life of your transmission, have an expert read the engine computer trouble codes; the trouble codes should be erased and the electronic circuit failures corrected. This annual preventative maintenance costs between $25 and $40. Avoid driving with a weak battery or a defective charging system, as this can damage the transmission; its computer system needs a stable power supply to ensure that the right signals are received by the transmission solenoids.

http://www.apa.ca/template.asp?DocID=23