1998 Grand Caravan

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Just bought a new to me van, 3.3L with O/D and 206,000 Km's, and hope to get some information. It's in great shape, no rust, runs well and gives no hint
to any engine/drivability issues at all. My question: Is there anything that is relatively common to this type of van that I should know about, any major problems, or recalls that I should check in to? Any replies will be appreciated,
Dave
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Watch out for your tranny. I know the 1991-95 dodge vans had major tranny issues. I am not sure if they got them fixed or not. I knew someone who put 3 trannies in thier's before they traded it off.
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great combination
we had the 3.3 / 604 in a 91 Dynasty and now in a 93 Voyager
check belt tensioner regularly for seizing of the pivot
change transmission fluid religiously; make sure there's an o-ring on the new filter
keep an eye on transmission cooler lines for leaks at the clamps

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Most of the nasty tranny problems from the early 90s were fixed by this time. The main thing is change that fluid! Take it to a competant tranny shop, and have the fluid changed. Depending upon the amount of driving, I would say every couple of years. This service is one where they drop the pan and replace the internal filter. DO NOT let them pressure flush the tranny. DO NOT let ANY shop lay a hand on that transmission if they want to put anything other than ATF +4 fluid in it. Dexron III with Lube-guard DOES NOT CUT IT. Make sure they drop the pan. DO NOT let them just drain and refill with new fluid.
The only other problem I have heard of in the late 90s was that there is a main pin inside which can wear and come loose. The car will run fine until the pin completely falls out. If this happens at highway speeds, then the force of the pin will cause it to blast through the side of the transmission casing. This is a VERY expensive repair.
I do not know if it is possible for the trans shop to inspect this pin when the pan is dropped, but if it is possible, then you might want to have it checked.
I have a 94 GC with that trans. When mine was rebuilt, a special bracket was installed which absolutely prevents this from happening. The pin may come lose and rattle, but it is NOT possible for it to cause any significant damage as reported above. DC knows full well of the problem, and is NOT prepared to assist customers unless the van is fairly new, and within some mileage limit (110,000 kms I think). After that, you are on your own.
The 3.3 engine is a total work horse. Periodically check the belt tensioner. With mine, the bearing for the tensioning wheel was starting to go, and squeeking quite loudly. That was around 165,000 kms. Replacing the tensioner is a fairly inexpensive repair. Probably cheaper than a tow! If the tensioner fails, you WILL be stranded and need a tow.
Have the front end checked periodically. One fellow locally had ball joints wear out prematurely which caused him a lot of grief. I have had mine regularly inspected, and have yet to come even close to replacing them - so I think this guy was just unlucky. In any case, better safe than sorry.
Other than that, enjoy the ride! I love my mini-van. It holds all my kids, all our stuff, has power to spare, and - touch wood - has never left me stranded.
Happy motoring.
wrote:

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Ok, I'm confused . . . .
Gary,
We ended up buying a rebuilt 604 and installing it after I started having some chest pains again. No heart attack, just a warning. Now we're like that guy in the home loan commercials, in debt up to our eyeballs. Btw, found out the one we took out was a rebuilt unit probably from AAMCO. . . but it lasted 40,000 miles with a 25 year old lead foot driving it in sunny Florida for 25,000 of those miles.
I got it programmed pretty easily out on a back road and it seems to be fine.

I have to either order ATF+4 by the case or go to Grand Juction CO to get it as no one will stock it locally. I can get ATF+3 locally. Is there a way to tell if the rebuilt needs the expensive stuff? The Mopar tag on the case says it was originally built in 95.

Is this something my car can have trouble with? I don't spin tires much anymore, but is it something I should avoid at all costs?

I wish I had this kind of control with my Lebaron. The detents on the transmission shift shaft figure out to be the same as for the vans, but the shifter inside has only P-R-N-D-3-1 positions."3" is a "sport" mode that won't shift into direct until over 50 mph.
Budd
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Yea, this we know :-)
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it
to
what did the paperwork with the reman say ?

yes
the
3 IS 'direct'
just use '3' when descending long grades and save your brakes

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"Dexron III / ATF+3" That's why it concerned me. The date of original manufacture for the transwas 95, an ATF+4 unit, but the rebuilder says otherwise. It's got ATF+4 in it and the upshifts are smooth and kickdowns clean and solid.

I was afraid you'd say that. Darn. My wife has decided to start driving again so I'll have to teach her to avoid tire spin.

My concern was for when I tow a small boat trailer in these mountains or a 1/2 ton trailer load of rubbish out to the transfer station
Thanks.
Budd
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On Thu, 9 Mar 2006 06:46:11 -0700, "Budd Cochran" <mr-d150@preciscom SPAM.net> wrote:>

With a transmission that age, you could probably use ATF +3. What I found is that most trans shops don't want to stock different kinds of fluid. Most shops in my area ONLY have Dexron III, and they add "lubeguard" for Chrysler trannys. I have onyl found one or two shops that have "ATF", and they refuse to stock both +3 and +4, so have decided to buy ATF +4. Not sure if they buy it in bulk or not.
My experience is similar to yours! I have a 94GC. THe original rebuild had Dexron III + lubeguard in it. It ran "ok" but not great. When I recently had the solenoid pack replaced, I had them drop the pan and replace the internal filter, and refill with ATF +4.
My trans now shifts like and absolute dream. Smoother than ever. No more "thump" when dropping into low gear while slowing to a stop. All running perfectly. From my experience, you can't go wrong with ATF +4. How expensive is it really when compared with the cost of pre-mature transmission failure??? ;)

Even though the torque converter is "locked in" to the mechanical system, this just makes it perform like the trannys did in the "old days" before the lock-out torque converter. There will be SOME breaking, but it will be minimal. Automatic tranmissions are NOT designed to provide engine braking like a manual tranmission is.
I agree with the advice though. "3" is the appropriate slection for towing anything through mountains. It will keep the RPMs up slightly and give you the torque you need. It will also prevent needless shifting of the trans under heavy load.
The plain fact is that putting load on the A604 transmission is going to shorten its service life, period. As refined as the design is now, it still sucks when compared to the old tranmissions that were tricked-out with a "shift kit". So much for progress and improvement.

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Gary's the group's resident trans expert, imho, though I believe he's no longer in the business full time. He's the one that pointed out to me the symptoms I was having ( second gear limp mode after trans warms up) was probably due to my son's use of Dex III / ATF+3 when he had it before giving it to me.
I'm in Moab, UT . . .that about 4 billion miles from anywhere unless it's time for Jeep Safari, Fat / Skinny Tire Festivals (bicyclists!!!) or Half Marathon. The nearest source in miles for ATF+4 is Grand Junction CO (120 miles, one way), unless I order it from SAlt Lake City Mopar dealerships thru a auto parts store like Car Quest ( $70 / case).
I'm on fixed income due to diasdability and I'm trying to save as much $$$ as I can to pay for that consarn transmission.

You may have saved yourself some grief or you may have delayed the enevitable .. it depends on how long the Dex III was in the transmission. In my case, there was a total of 1 1/2 quarts added over a 15 month period while my son had the car. I never had to add any.

Gee, for me, it's very expensive either way.
To be honest, I miss the solid shifts my 79 D-150 had ( 318, 727, 3.55:1) because the Lebaron is still on the learning curve. Around town, normal driving I can't feel the 1-2, 2-3 shifts and it doesn't hit OD / lockup until 40 or better. If I give it pretty good kick off the line then I feel the shifts.

Excuse me, but this is not my first car, nor is it my first automatic. 727 / 904 transmissions can be manually shifted to lower gears and do a creedible job of retarding on hills AS LONG AS YOU USE YOUR HEAD.

And it also shifts up more harshly and stays in lower gears too long for economy. Have you looked at gas prices lately? Currently $2.35 / gal and when tourist season hits $3 is not impossible here in Moab.

Agreed but since my son got the truck in exchange for the Lebaron, I have to use a trailer until I can find another truck and the money to buy it with. Being able to lock out OD and the installation of a big trans cooler would help a bunch. If I could, I'd plug in a trans controller from a Caravan, a shifter with all shift positions, and a huge trans cooler . . . .I've got the one from the D-150 out in my storage shed. It's as big as the radiator on the Lebaron.
Budd
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NewMan wrote:

Wrong. Have you ever read your owner's manual?
Matt
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oh, give me a freaking break !
the A604 uses NO over-running clutches
therefore, with the converter locked, it's like a manual

the advice was SPECIFICALLY about descending grades

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I agree, however when the accellerator is released the tcc disengages.
<snip>
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not in '3', it doesn't

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I'll have to try that. :-) Although none of the CV I've driven have had a 3 position. Must be on the new ones? Mine all had and have P R N OD D L, IIRC

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On Mon, 13 Mar 2006, Olaf wrote:

Go out and look, and you'll probably find you're misremembering. With a 4-speed automatic, the shift quadrant reads P R N D 3 L. With a 3-speed automatic, the shift quadrant reads P R N D 2 1.
GM does it differently with a 4-speed: "P R N [D] D 3 2 1", while Ford usually gives you "P R N (D) 3 1".
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On Mon, 13 Mar 2006 16:52:47 -0500, "Daniel J. Stern"

For the benefit of those who are new here and/or haven't been following the various Caravan transmission discussions, which of those two transmissions tends to have the most maintenance problems, in the early-to-mid 90's Grand Caravans?
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On Mon, 13 Mar 2006 23:56:58 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com wrote:

IIRC, the 3 speed tranmission is a GOOD tranmission. It has not had any particular problems that I recall reading about here. The only problem was that most vehicles were not equipped with it! ;)
The 4 speed automatic ( AKA A-604 or 41te in more recent years) is the one with the problems. It is also the most common trans found in the Caravans. Based on my experience, and what I have read here, I would say that earlier models (early to mid 90s) are the ones that had the most problems. Newer versions appear to be better, but you must be mindful of the high maintenence requirements compared with the older tranmissions. In the old days pretty much all you had to do was make sure the fluid was topped up, and that was about it. The tranny ran until it died, and that was somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 MILES. The A-604 is a nasty piece of work by comparision. You should change the fluid and filter every one to two years. It is NOT designed to do any particular amount of towing, and if not properly maintained will die at an early age.
My 94 GC dropped the tranny at approximately 130,000 km, or approximately 81,000 miles and it did so before the van was 10 years old. It had to be rebuilt twice - once at charge, and once on "warranty" before it was rebuilt correctly. Touch wood, I am about 30,000 kms into the second rebuild and all seems well.
Prior to owning this vechicle, I had all GMs. My old 68 nova went 130,000 miles before the powerglide started to have problems. The rebuild cost me $150, and another $150 to re & re. My old 79 malibu went in excess of 300,000 kms before I sold it. NEVER had a problem with the transmisison - ever. My 88 cutlass cruiser had almost 250,000 kms on it when I traded it in, again NO tranmission problems of any kind.
When you compare those numbers to the A-604, the A-604 has performed quite badly. It appears that DC released the design long before it was really ready, and has been using the general driving public as part of its R&D efforts at our expense. Having said that, this is water under the bridge. The newer incarnations of the 41te seem to be generally more reliable, and people are now acutely aware of the maintenence requirements, so things tend to last longer. Whether the reliability is up to snuff, only time will tell.
And, despite all that, I love driving my GC. Mine has the 3.3l engine - the total opposite of the trans! It is a rock, but that is another story. (just STAY AWAY from the 3.0l engine). It is a great vehicle that has - touch wood - never left me stranded. :)
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My wife drives a 1989 Caravan. Had the transmission replaced at about 95,000 the second one has about 50,000 on it. I do no maintence on this transmission other the check the fluid. My wife also drives it harder than I would. It is my experience that any transmission that makes it to about 100,000 in Phx, AZ is doing about all it can. I had Ford C-4's that only went around 75,000. Ford C-6 seem to go a lot longer.
Yes the caravan was never ment to tow anything.
NewMan wrote:

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