My 1997 Grand Caravan ES (3.8L V6 4 speed OD 139,000 miles) was
developing a transmission problem (double thump when shifting into OD,
even when just letting off the gas and then resuming gas), so I took it
to my local dealer for a fluid change and control module diagnosis. It
was quiet and drivable otherwise.
The receipt from the dealer shows they found "worn out/burned trans
fluid" and it came back with a two failure codes (P1798 and P1799, which
the service writer said were wear and damage indicators in the
In the final diagnosis of the service writer - it needs a rebuild or
Since the symptoms themselves seemed minor to me at the time, and not
thinking I was in desperate need of emergency repairs, I wanted to take
my time with the decision. So I drove it home and parked it for a week
to go on an out-of-state trip.
When I needed the Caravan the next weekend to tow my lightweight
one-bike motorcycle trailer on a short road trip, I went out on the
morning of the trip to the driveway to turn it around and hitch up the
trailer. As soon as it was running and I started moving, it made a bunch
of new noises - what sounded like quiet CV joint clicks at first, which
quickly turned into a nasty gnashing, clanking and rpm-matching clicks
as I rolled into the street in Drive. After about 10 yards it had
settled into a rhythmic clicking that was sort of like a much softer
version of shifting into Park while moving. As soon as I could get the
thing turned around, I got it back into my driveway.
So, now that it's not drivable at all - anyone have any recommendations
when it comes to which repair path to take?
Unless someone knows about some simple repair short of a complete
transmission overhaul - I'd certainly like to save some money if
possible ($4000 worst case scenario - new transmission and control
unit), and come away with the best high-mileage solution. I have no
desire or need to sell anytime soon, and feel fairly confident the rest
of the Caravan will get me to twice the current mileage before I tire of
My choices as I see them:
A. Keep the original transmission and have the problems repaired at
whatever the usual dealer rates are and have only the usual 90 day
dealer warranty on the repairs.
B. Replace the transmission with a remanufactured transmission (from
Dodge) and get the factory 3 year warranty on the unit.
C. Replace the transmission myself with a low mileage used/junkyard
procured unit with no warranty.
D. To change or not to change the transmission control unit.
E. If I can save some money somewhere, do some mileage-based maintenance
while the transmission is out (preemptive CV joint replacement,
front-end suspension and steering bushings and joints, shocks). None of
the parts mentioned are worn out completely, but feel worn enough that I
wouldn't mind the freshening-up).
F. Some 'hidden warranty' will cover the repairs and I won't have to pay
a cent for the repairs <grin>.
Anyone with some experience have a moment to help guide me?
I have the factory trailer pulling option that was supposed to add more
cooling from stock. How would I tell if my tranny cooler is sub-standard?
Where would they extend it to make it hold more? It hangs awfully low as
it is ...
It had been serviced twice on the normal service schedule by Dodge
dealers that I know of (at 60 and 120k) and there were no issues, so I
assume the right stuff had been used.
If this is the 'extreme' duty interval that has been suggested
elsewhere, I have no problem with it (for future reference obviously).
Decided to take some of the advice offered here and on some of the many
pages devoted to this problem, and disconnected the battery to retrain
Surprisingly enough, all the noises were gone.
My test ride around the block slowly but surely became a longer, until I
made it to a different DC dealer in town who had enough time to do a
trans fluid/filter/gasket chang ($103) on the fly, and then see if they
could get the same fault codes to show up on a test drive.
When they took the pan off, they called me into the service bay to see
what showed up in the pan. There was a 1/4 inch tall floret of grey
metal filings accumulated on the pan magnet, and one shiny piece at the
bottom of the pan about a 1/4 inch square and 1/16 thick that looked
like a chip off a much larger gear tooth. The fluid looked OK to me, but
I don't know what "burned" fluid looks like anyway.
The service writer offers me only one option at the time - the
$1800-2400 sliding scale of repairing the transmission. I'm still not
sure about that route, so I say to finish the fluid change as planned
and work up an estimate on installing a remanufactured unit.
They finish the job and the tech is in the office with the service
writer to back up the bad news - $2800 before taxes for the reman, but
it of course comes with the 3yr/36k mile warranty in stead of the 90 day
coverage on a rebuild.
I ask if they think there's any reason not to drive it away and see how
things worked out, and they say why not - as long as I have AAA towing
(100 miles) and they have a reman trans in stock, I would only be
without my car for the better part of one day after it could be dragged
in. If they sold the unit in stock before I could get back, it only
takes a day to get one in from Dallas.
I've been driving it now for two days with no problems or noises that I
can discern, after doing the gentle retraining method suggested online
(20-25 less than half throttle starts followed by 5-10 rolling 35 mph
I replaced the one cracked motor mount (front) today to make sure that
any shudder I might feel would be in the trans and not the mounting.
After an evening of surface street and freeway driving there's still no
unusual noises, shakes or shudders.
So, a quick check of the Dodge dealers nearby produced a range of prices
from $2600 to $2800 for the complete install of a Dodge reman
trans/torque converter and labor (without taxes) and turnaround from one
to three days (depending on when they could get the unit in from Dallas
and my drop-off schedule).
I'm satisfied that if I were to have the work done, getting a reman
trans and essentially a new car warranty on the work is worthwhile. I
can afford it too - I just don't like paying for work that doesn't NEED
That small amount of filings on the pan magnet, chipped tooth in the pan
and the 1/10th of a mile around my block of nasty noises before
re-training the transmission have me worried a bit, but that's offset by
feeling pretty darned good about how it's working right now (after the
The question now - is there any reason I can't just drive what seems to
be a perfectly fine operating car until the trans fails again, or should
I make a bee-line for the dealer that has the reman unit in stock and
get it in there pronto?
Thanks for all the suggestions so far ...
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