I been comparing early 2000's (2000-2002) minivans and
Dodge Caravans seem to have good value cost wise.
If the early 2000's Caravan are in good shape and has say 50,000 to 70,000
miles on it depending on the year....are they a good used buy? I am asking
as 7 years ago I bought a 1992 Dodge Caravan and it has run almost trouble
free the past 7 years I have owned it. It was in good shape when I bought it
at 75,000 miles back then. It now has 150,000...no tranny issues. I heard
some reports Caravans are poor tranny wise. Any opinions welcolmed on used
Caravans. I am very reluctant to buy a used Honda Odyssey...they may be
decent vans but the resale values are a bit high. About $15,000-$16,000
for a 2001. I can get a Caravan for the $10,000-$12,000
range for the same year, maybe even a bit less since so many are on the
My cousin worked at the local Dodge dealership in the service department for
a few years. I remember him saying they changed the type of tranny fluid to
one that was more heat-resistant and held up better, thus solving the big
problem with the older 4-speed auto. I believe that was somewhere around
2000? If you get one after that change that has had the correct type of
fluid replaced into it, sounds like you shouldn't have any problems as far
as that part of the vehicle goes. I can't vouch for much anything else,
I've not been around the newer ones at all...
This is true. Chrysler introduced ATF+4 fluid, I think it was actually
in 1998, and recommends it for retrofit into earlier vehicles that used
ATF+, ATF+2, and ATF+3.
But that wasn't the main fluid-involved problem with the four-speed.
The worst was, and continues to be, the insistence on the part of some
stupid people (including some alleged professionals at quickie oil
change places) that Dexron fluid is good for everything. Its friction
characteristics differ from Chrysler specifications, and since the
Chrysler transmission monitors itself for feedback on how the how much
pressure it takes to engage the clutches, the use of Dexron changes that
feedback and can make the transmission "think" it's malfunctioning.
Which it IS; a different fluid WILL make the clutches "grab" differently
than what the designers intended.
So in goes the Dexron, courtesy of the quickie oil change jockey, or the
cheapskate car owner who sees he can get Dexron at Wal-Mart for cheaper
than ATF+3 and especially ATF+4. Presto: transmission malfunction.
MAYBE, but not always, the problem will go away if the transmission is
completely flushed and all the fluid replaced with the right stuff.
Yes, it might be expensive, but it would have been LESS expensive not to
put the wrong stuff in there in the first place, only to have it all
pumped out and sent to the petroleum recycler. And it's a lot cheaper
than a transmission rebuild.
A lot of transmissions were ruined by a fluid change using Dexron. They
probably would have been better off left alone with the old
Chrysler-spec ATF+ whatever, than with Dexron. Chrysler didn't help by
saying you could use a little Dexron to "top up" if the transmission
needed a little bit of fluid. IMHO they should never have said that,
and should also have made the ATF+ fluids a different color; which they
finally did in the ATF+4, which I understand is not red.
I've gone so far as to entirely flush the 4-speed transmission on a used
Chrysler product, right after I got it; it was claimed the transmission
had just been serviced, but who knows what went in there? I consider
the $100 for the flush and the ATF+3 fluid to be a good investment, and
made sure when I had it done, that the shop used Chrysler-spec fluid
(the owner's son-in-law was the service manager at the Dodge dealer, so
I didn't have much doubt!).
Yes, the fluid debacle has no doubt hastened the demise of many a 604,
but it is important to note also that those transmissions have had
NUMEROUS upgrades since they came out, as have the controllers.
I think I remember the transmission shop telling me when they were
rebuilding my '88 that the 604 has had something like 23 upgrades
(internal), and the controllers have evolved something like four
So it's entirely possible that the later ones are quite
dependable--it's just that if you DO get one that croaks, you just took
a large hit in the pocketbook. The transmission is my foremost
consideration when buying a used one. If it has been rebuilt already,
that's a huge selling point.
I'm on my 3rd Caravan and have never experienced major problems other
than routine maintenace issues. Currenty driving a 2000 3.0L that I
bought new and is now in the range of 206,000 miles. No tranny problems
at all and a good reliable vehicle. Just normal wear and tear to deal
with. Key is to ensure you do the essential maintenance on a regular
basis - oil change, flush tranny and so on. I'll probably be buying
another one next year.
You're looking at 2000-2002's, so you probably don't care, but my 1996 has
had numerous things go wrong in the last 3 years or so:
2 water pumps; 2 transmission seals; master cylinder and brake booster; A/C
(twice); door lock mechanism; idler pulley; intake manifold and valve cover
gaskets; plugs/wires; sliding door mechanism; weather stripping falling
apart; power window mechanism (plus regular stuff like tires and brakes) Oh
yeah, and the air coming out of the vents smells like something crawled in
there and died. All of this happened before 85K miles. The good news is
that I've always used Mopar tranny fluid and aside from the two seals the
tranny hasn't melted down yet.
Anyway, for your sake, I hope they've improved the product since 96.
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