Dodge Grand Caravan

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Auto Defects > Dodge

January 2001

Dear Chrysler Owner:

Thank you for contacting the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) about your Chrysler minivan. Although conceived by former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca as the safe family van, it has been anything but safe and reliable since Iacocca left Chrysler. Among its many problem areas are defective anti-lock brakes, electronic overdrive transmission, tailgate latches, and poorly designed passenger airbags. When Iacocca was at Chrysler, he realized this van was Chrysler's bread and butter and moved to keep the Chrysler minivan at the head of the safety race and to remedy any defects that occurred. Now that Iacocca has gone, the Ford Windstar and Toyota Sienna have claimed the minivan safety lead and Chrysler defects go unfixed.

The most costly Chrysler minivan defect is anti-lock brake (ABS) failure on 1991-93 models which cost up to $3500 to fix. Faced with pressure from CAS, a national class action and a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation, Chrysler agreed to recall all 1991-93 minivans with ABS, provide a lifetime warranty on the pump motor and 100,000 miles on other ABS parts. The most lethal minivan defect is faulty tailgate latches which can pop open in low speed impacts. At least 41 deaths, many of them children, have occurred. Chrysler stonewalled an NHTSA investigation, agreeing only to a service campaign on all 1984-96 models. In contrast to the weak single latch in Chrysler vans, Ford's Windstar has two separate tailgate latches. Chrysler minivans have overpowered, horizontally deploying passenger airbags that trigger in crashes as low as 8-mph. At least 14 passengers, mostly children, have been killed by deploying airbags in Chrysler minivans.

Many Chrysler minivans built since 1989 have the A604, 4-speed electronically controlled Ultradrive transmission which was so trouble-prone that Iacocca had to launch a personal rescue in 1992 after CAS and Consumer Reports labeled it a lemon to be avoided. While much improved, the Ultradrive (now the 41TE) still needs watching. Another major defect is peeling paint on 1985-93's for which Chrysler pays to repaint for consumers who complain loudly, the sign of a classic secret warranty.

You'll find more information on these and other Chrysler minivan problems below and what you can do about them plus a complaint box. Your information will help us build a strong case against Chrysler on the defects we know about and help us spot new ones.

We need you to support the Center for Auto Safety in our fight for consumer rights and against poorly designed and unsafe cars. Your contribution is tax-deductible and entitles your to our quarterly newsletter, Lemon Times. Please submit the membership form along with your contribution and complaint. If you contribute $35 or more, we will send you the current edition of The Ultimate Car Book, by Jack Gillis. Every home should have this invaluable consumer guide.

Sincerely,

Clarence M. Ditlow
Executive Director

CHRYSLER MINIVAN FACT SHEET
Chrysler Technical Service Bulletins are listed in brackets below.

Air Conditioner/Heater: A/C clutch failure & improved clutch assembly design 1985-86 (24-01-85, 24-02-86); Coolant seepage at connectors 1995-96 (24-04-96A); A/C lines crack 1996-97 (24-15-96); Bump during A/C compressor engagement 1996-98 (18-19-97A).

Body/Paint: For info on paint, body noise or leaks, go to Chrysler Paint.

Brakes: 1991-93 w/Bendix 10 ABS can have total brake failure without warning & were recalled three times with 3rd recall including 100,000 mile warranty on all ABS components. TSBs include: Redesigned parts available 1991-93 (05-24-94), 1991-92 (05-14-92); ABS warning light comes on 1993 (05-10-93); ABS warning light stays on, antilock disabled 1993-94 (05-22-94); Brake pedal fails to release 1991-92 (05-08-92A); Rear brake howl 1996-97 (05-01-97); Rear drum water/snow ingestion & rust 1996-00 (05-10-99).

Electrical: Wiring harness damage causes various engine problems 1996-97 (08-38-97); Remote entry dies 1997-98 (08-39-97); Radiator fan relay fails 1996-97 (08-34-96); Airbag warning light malfunctions 1994-95 (08-07-98); Front W/S wipers self-activate or will not turn off 1996-97 (08-31-98A); Speed control does not maintain set speed 1996-00 (08-27-99); Poor AM radio reception 1996-00 (08-45-99).

Engine: Timing chain guide failure can destroy engine 1984-86 w/Mitsubishi 2.6L (09-02-85); Driveway stall, rough idle, power loss, hesitation 1987-97 w/3.0L (18-05-97); Timing belt damage 1996 (09-11-96A); Vibration, drill crankshaft to balance 1997 w/3.8L (09-10-96); New oil filter to prevent road damage 1996 w/2.4L (09-03-96); No start, cam/crank sensor failure 1997 (18-24-97); Head gasket replacement 1996-99 w/2.4L (09-05-08); Ticking at idle 1997-99 w/3.0L (09-01-98B).

Steering/Suspension: Saginaw & TRW steering units in 1984-86 prone to fluid leaks, rack & pinion failure; consumers report problems in 1987-89's. Chrysler sent repair procedures in 1983 TSB (19-01-83); P/assist loss with A/C or defroster on 1996-98 (19-01-97A); Steering column vibration 1996-97 (19-04-97); Front end pop, clunk, snap 1996-98 (19-14-97); Honk noise in parking lot turns 1996-99 (19-05-98); Rattle from rear over bumps 1996-98 (02-09-98); Squeaking from strut tower 1998-99 (02-10-98); P/S assist loss, serpentine belt comes off in snow/water '98-99, '96-99 (07-01-99, 07-02-99); Steering wheel click/rattle '96-00 (19-09-99).

Transmission: Column-mounted automatics jump out of Park. NHTSA investigated many 1981-90 Chrysler models; despite hundreds of accidents, closed investigation without recall. For info on trouble prone 4-speed electronic overdrive (Ultradrive or A-604 from 1989-92 & 41TE thereafter, go to Ultradrive. Other: Transaxle slips during Reverse engagement at low temperature 1989-95 (21-06-96).

Other: Fuel tank thud 1996-97 (14-09-96); CV Boot grease seepage 1996-99 (03-06-98); Accelerator pedal vibrates 1998-00 (14-03-99).

MAJOR RECALLS
Copies of recalls may be obtained from NHTSA's Technical Reference Division at 202-366-2768.

Brakes: 264,000 1984-85 - Proportioning valve failure increases stopping distance (85V-053); 10,000+ 1991 - ABS hose leaks, detaches (91V-191); 10,492 1992 - ABS pump leaks (92V-030); 277,000 1991-93 - ABS pump motor deteriorates (96V-099); 11,000 1997 - Master cylinder rear seals leak (96V-215).

Fires: 50,000+ 1984-85 - Engine compartment fuel line leaks (84V-150);4,375 1988 - Fuel tank leaks (88V-010, 88V-107); 200,000+ 1989-90 - Valve cover gasket leaks oil onto hot engine (89V-237); 3,000 1992 -Fuel tank mounting straps break (92V-147); 80,000 1996 - Rollover valve leaks (95V-236); 265,000 1996 - Static electric charge builds up on filler neck during fueling (96V-002); 1,163,000 1996-00 with 3.3/3.8L - Fuel injection rail O-rings leak (00V-268).

Seat Belt/Airbag: 200,000+ 1989-90 - Inboard front buckle straps fail (91V-053); 1,100,000 1991-93 Release button sticks on stalk mounted buckles (97V-148); 1,100,000 1991-93 Rear seat belt anchor clip comes loose (97V-149); 860,000 1993-95 - Inadvertent deployment (99V-113).

Steering:5,000+ 1992 - Upper steering column coupling bolt fractures, steering loss (92V-015); 500,000+ 1991-92 - Steering wheel comes loose (96V-229); 493,076 1993-94 - Steering wheels crack & separate at mounting (00V-305)

Other: Shaded Glass 10,800 1984 - Optional rear shaded glass too dark, passenger side mirror installed (85V-164); Steering Turn Signal 1,300 1991 - Turn signal indicator lamps fail (91V-041); Wheels 690 1993-94 15" stamped steel wheels have misformed lug nut seats (93V-098, 93V-215) 60 1997 Steel wheel damaged (97V-070); Seat track 20,000 1996 Dodge/Plymouth - Rear bench seat comes lose (95V-225); Child seat 200 1996 - Integrated child seat attachment bolt fails (96V-136); 25,900 1998 - Integrated child seat shoulder harness improperly routed (97V-231); 157,000 1996-97 Belt latch plate jams (98V-185); Tailgate 436,000 1992 - Strut bolt breaks (97V-079); Tires 25,000 1997 Lose pressure (97V-200); Headlamp 1,635 1999 label missing (99V-116); W/S wiper 1,200,000 1991-93 Left side fails (99V-189); Tailgate 1,800,000 1991-94 Support bolt breaks (99V-213).

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