1998 Dodge Caravan Transmission Problem

I have a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan SE, 3.0 liter 6 cyl. It has approximately 148K miles, bought it used from a local dealer. Several months ago I noticed a sort of thumping and jerking in the transmission while starting back up after idling at stop signs, etc. I had the transmission serviced at a local shop two months ago and didn’t notice any more problems immediately afterward, but just this week, the transmission now seems to be “stuck” in 2nd or 3rd gear when accelerating to higher speeds, and now the original thumping and jerking when starting back up after idling is back, only worse. Both of these problems occur only intermittently, but seem to be more evident when the car is running cold, or has sat for a while in between startups. I dread the potential news that it is not something “simple”, and that I will need a new transmission, which I cannot afford. I still owe $3000.00 on this van. I have heard that these models have something called a “solenoid pack” that goes bad shortly after 100,000 miles. I have heard that if the mechanic uses the wrong lubrication fluid on these models when doing the tranny service, that it will cause problems, but I looked at my receipt and it doesn’t say what type they used. Help! Any advice?

Well, the part about using the correct fluid is absolutely true. Chrysler/Dodge transmissions require ATF+4 fluid, and using anything else (such as Dexron) can and will cause damage. I’d have to imagine that the shop knows this, otherwise they’d be killing every single Chrysler transmission that comes into their garage. Is the fluid level and condition okay (no funny smells or colors)?

Before making any guesses or predictions of doom, take it to an independent transmission shop and have them scan the unit for codes (different than the Check Engine light scan). They’re the guys who will have an idea of what to do, because automatic transmissions are a beast in and of themselves. If transman618 sees this post and replies, listen to what he says. He’s the local transmission wise one.

You may be in for some expensive repairs I am sorry to say but hopefully it will be something pretty simple. I can only suggest you have a good shop look things over to see what could be wrong with the tranny. The info about the fluid is correct. Make sure the shop put in the special fluid from Chrysler.

The Chrysler trannys in late 90s vans had some real problems. Our new 98 T&C van blew out the tranny at 1,500 miles. It was under warranty forunately but it took two weeks to get it fixed at the dearler. Improvements were made in later years so there were less problems with them.

I would definately scan the computer first and see what the trouble codes are. Check with a local auto parts store, most of them will scan the computer for free. Post back with the codes and we will go from there. Relax, because these transmissions also have common problems which will put the trans into limp mode like yours is and can be fixed by replacing a sensor or two. Dont condemn the transmission just yet. Post back with the code(s).


I had a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan One day the check engine light came on and it went into limp mode. Stuck in 2nd or 3rd gear. I drove it to Autozone scanned it and there was a problem with an input speed sensor. I called the dealership and asked to speak to the transmission specialist and he says “Oh yeah you need…” He rattled off the part numbers out of memory. He advised I replaced the input shaft speed sensor and the output shaft speed sensor. Problem solved for about $40. Good luck.

Yep, you’re in “limp home” mode (hydraulically-controlled second and reverse only). Do as Transman says. Input and output speed sensors are a common failure point, but you are right about the use of the proper fluid. Use the wrong fluid and the clutches will be toast in 15K or 20K miles, with shifting problems (including “limp home” mode) well before that. I’ve owned 4 vehicles with this transaxle, and have gone over 200K on two of them without transaxle failure. They just have to be maintained properly and not driven like race cars.