1999 Dodge Grand Caravan Repair Costs

My car is a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan with 121000 miles that I bought 11 years ago with 18000 on it. Last week on the highway I noticed that the temp gauge had gone up to 3/4 towards H. I took it to a dealer who did an inspection and told me that the water pump, thermostat and rear head gasket were leaking coolant. Also that the transmission coolant lines and solenoid pack were leaking fluid, and that the front crank seal and the oil pan were leaking. To fix all of this, they want a little over $3,000.00, and I would get a 12 month/12,000 miles warranty on their work. Up to now, this has been a good car and (surprisingly) I like driving it. I know the car won’t be worth $3,000 after fixing it, but I am tempted to get it fixed. Your thoughts will be sincerely appreciated.

I forgot to mention that they also told me that the sway bar end links also need to be replaced. The $3,000 to fix the car also included the sway bar end links.

If the van is in very good shape otherwise and you plan to keep it for at least a few more years then I would say having the repairs done would be a reasonable thing to do. Usually having a newer car means you are making monthly payments and not having to make payments on a new car is a nice plus. At least with repairs bills you can figure those costs are spread out over time you used the vehicle without making monthly paymeents. The transmissions in the those vans were not real reliable so if you haven’t any trouble with it so far I would say you have done well.

I have a similair van and I enjoy driving it also. It is almost like driving a luxury car. Looking at your poster name is your other car a Sunbeam?

Thanks, Cougar. I really appreciate the reply. Now on fixed income at age 76, I can’t really afford to get a newer car and I like this one. I don’t have a Sunbeam now, but in 1959 we bought a new Sunbeam Rapier convertible and several years ago I had a 1967 Sunbeam Tiger II with the Ford 289. I wish that I had been smart enough to keep both of them.

I agree with Cougar. And in case you’re wondering, with that mileage (which is really not all that high) these minivans do tend to go for something in the $3000 range.

You might consider, however, having a good local, independent shop look at it instead. Dealerships are know to pad the list of “problems” and pad the bills. Then you could also ask this shop to do a general inspection of other systems to let you know if they see evidence of anything else looming around the corner.

Thanks. I have a good independent mechanic who looked at it and confirmed the head gasket and transmission leaks before I took it to a dealer, but he said that he’s too snowed under to do the work. I live just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Does anyone here know of any shop that they would recommend? I’ve read a lot of messages on this board. The people here are really great! Thanks again.

I would just add that if a head gasket replacement is performed that both should be replaced. When it comes to things like this the old adage about weak links in the chain comes to mind. Fix the water pump, the leaky thermostat and one head gasket and the next weakest point may give up.

You sure do not want to have this job done and then have the other head gasket start leaking a week later.

I live in OK but I’m a long ways from Tulsa and don’t know anyone personally in the Tulsa area who could do this job. The few mechanics in Tulsa that I know are motorcycle guys and would not touch a car.

Let me pose something here. Considering the 3 grand cost what about the idea of finding a used, low miles engine and having the engine swapped out?
Some salvage yards will even install what they sell and guarantee it.

Off the top of my head I can’t think of a yard in Tulsa that will do this but I do know one near Tulsa that I’m pretty sure would or could do this.
It’s 108 Salvage just north of Highway 51 and they’re located about 7 or 8 miles east of Stillwater, OK and about 3 or 5 miles north on (TA DA) Highway 108. Catchy name, no?

They’ve been around a long time, run a pretty good operation, and they may be able to help you out. I do not have the phone number but a net search should pull that up.
Hope that helps.

Can you fix the more urgent stuff first. Those would be the thermostat and the head gasket. I am not sure how bad the transmission lines and the solenoid pack leaks are, but these cars always have a minimal of this. The end links is another common problem. Maybe if you fix the urgent stuff and drive it around for a while, watching the fluid levels and such would give you some time to pay up for the rest.

You’re welcome for the help Tiger289 and hope all goes well with the van repairs. Here is a link to another area of this site that may help you find a mechanic in your area.

I can imagine having those Sunbeams still would be outstanding. At least you had them for a while which is more than a lot us can say.

The oil pan leak and front seal leak are question marks for me. How much are they really leaking? The oil pan is an easy fix usually. But these are areas where a bit of oil leak, or seapage, is common. If the areas adjacent to the oil pan and front seal is just a bit wet with some oily dirt it might not be a big deal on this older car. If the leaking is leaving drops on the garage or driveway then perhaps a repair is in order.

I’m not sure all these items need to be done now. I’d rather see you do both head gaskets while the motor is apart and defer some other less critical items for now.

Many many thanks to all who responded! You have given me the encouragement that I needed to do what I really wanted to do. I have managed to get some help on the financial end and I think that I will go ahead and try to get it all fixed. The $3,000 figure did include doing both head gaskets. You are a great bunch of people with a wonderful willingness to share!

Best regards Tigar289. Drive On!