Used Caravans worth the risk buying?

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 market.
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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...
Wesley

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Wesley wrote:

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!).
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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 times(?) 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.
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snow wrote:

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snow wrote:

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.
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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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Yikes, my neighbor's 96 has 190K miles on it without those problems. Although his tranny did go out on him once a few years back.

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BTW, the latest A/C problem is the apparently infamous "leaky evaporator". $1000.00 quote to fix it.

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