2001 Dodge Caravan. Is it still safe?

I bought my van in 2011 from my dad’s former employer. It was a fleet vehicle and wasn’t in the greatest of condition when I bought it. In 2012 I was told that I had a leak in my oil pan from a mechanic. I never ended up getting it fixed for various reasons. A few months ago, I lost power steering in my van and have been driving since without it. My dad wanted to see if anything could be done to fix it and found out the van is completely rusted underneath and ended up puncturing a hole in the bottom when he tried to jack the thing up. I am really hoping to get a (new) used car but don’t have the money right now. I was wondering though how long would you expect I could “survive” with my car like this?

If it has so much rust that it can’t be jacked up without punching through, it’s probably unsafe right now. Was he jacking it on a correct place?

Apparently the on board rust preventive system, AKA leaky oil pan, didn’t work.

Good comments so far but I will add this: Have your Caravan towed to the nearest good, independent mechanic and have the van looked over completely. This vehicle has all the appearances of being too dangerous to drive.

It is good for you to be safe and cautious as you don’t want to hurt others and certainly don’t want o hurt yourself.

Get it to a mechanic for review, because before you junk the vehicle, know that the bad rust could be just in the jacking area.

I have a grand caravan too, of the 1998 vintage. I had a pro weld in a shock tower due to rust, and I cannot jack up the vehicle at one corner because rust has made just that corner soft. All of the other areas are still rock solid.

Certainly you should worry but it may not be so bad. Just have a pro check it out for confirm. good luck

I’ve had 2 cars that started to rust and could not be jacked up with the regular car jack. However, in a garage they have a 4 point lift with wide pads that distribute the load and can safely jack up the vehicle. So, if you have a flat, call the AAA and have the car towed to the nearest garage.

What I’m saying is your van is not necessarily a death trap, but the lack of power steering really concerns me. I would get that fixed, if anything, and then just drive the car and add oil as necessary. Don’t put any repair money into it otherwise.

Since it is a 2011, it can’t be completely rusted out and has probably several years of life left. But get the power steering fixed!

“Since it is a 2011, it can’t be completely rusted out and has probably several years of life left”

It’s actually a 2001 model that the OP purchased in 2011.

These Vans are known to rust and leak. They need more TLC after 10yrs and 100K miles. Have a mechanic put it on the lift and see what is the condition, most likely it is not road safe at this point.

The perfect Poster Child of the American made 100K mile Time Bomb. This was one of the vehicles we in the USA manufactured and designed to last EXACTLY 100K before things started to wear out completely. Like Seals, Ball Joints, Pumps, etc…I can recall looking at many USA vehicles of this Era and just shaking my head and saying to the owners…“Its like this car was actually DESIGNED to last precisely 100K” I’ve said it while under many a persons hood regarding US models.

While the Japanese vehicles seem to be made to the highest standard that money would allow…Many of the foreign vehicles Ive worked on and with seem to be made with much higher quality parts…and you can almost tell when holding some of these parts in your hand or looking at them. They were made the best way they were capable of NOT made to make it to a certain age or mile marker…this is why many of these vehicles last over 200K without the major and minor subsystems wearing out.

This Caravan is of the former school and not the latter.

I would do as Docnick suggested. Fix that PS system so the vehicle is liveable and spend little if anything on the other stuff if you cannot afford it. As long as the rust is not in any serious areas…Are you sure the jack was put in the proper location? I NEVER use the jack points that are of the type used on many uni-body vehicles…where they have jack points at locations where several pieces of sheet steel meet up in one location…these are usually weak and also are designed to be interacted with using the notched out factory jack that comes with the vehicle…and no other type of jack can be used.

The Power Steering shouldn’t be hard to diagnose and repair…Many times it is the high pressure hose that runs from the pump to the rack. Those hoses fail internally because they have to travel so far, are routed in a crazy way…and or are made of solid steel pipe that transitions to rubber flexible hose…and back to solid steel again… These fail in many ways and usually it is at those junctures of hose and solid line… These high pressure lines are common culprits and fairly easy to replace. Look into it, repair the system and then try to conserve funds after that. But to drive this vehicle with no PS when it was designed to have it…makes for a slightly dangerous vehicle as you cannot maneuver properly. I hope the vehicle isnt unsafe due to rust…if that’s the case there is nothing that you can do really… Not affordably anyway…esp if you don’t do that work yourself.


If you’re that concerned you really should have a decent mechanic put it up on a lift and go over it. The life you save may be mine . . . but probably your own, get it checked ASAP. Rocketman

QUOTING @“honda_Blackbird

"This was one of the vehicles we in the USA manufactured and designed to last EXACTLY 100K before things started to wear out completely”

Maybe that’s why I’ve owned, driven, and worked on so many of them with over 200K, 300K. and one with 420K. My current Caravan has 162K and needs nothing.

Do we know how many miles the OP’s van has? I don’t think s/he said. Since it is a former fleet vehicle, I’m betting it’s high.

Rust is regional. A car that survives 50 years in Ariz without rust could be rotted through in 5 years in NH… especially this last winter. And 2 years on Guam.

Get a second opinion. But if the second shop concurs, get this off the road ASAP. It’s unsafe.

Seconding the comment to get a pro’s appraisal of the rust situation.

fyi, it is possible to punch a hole in the floor pan – even a non-rusted floor pan – by placing the jack in the wrong place. Modern vehicles are designed to weigh as little as possible to improve the mpg, and the consequence is that they can only support their full weight at a very few places underneath. In most owners manual there’s a diagram which shows the allowed jacking points.

I’m betting the underside of the vehicle was never washed. In the rust belt, this is crucial. Fleet vehicles are supposed to get regular maintenance, but often get the bare minimums.

With respect, oblivion, washing the underside of a vehicle forces water into cavities not designed to vent, where it cannot dry, and in modern cars causes more rust than it prevents. I will grant you that this subject is controversial and debatable, but I strongly recommend against washing a cars underside. I know we’ll end up disagreeing on this issue, and I leave it to the reader to make his/her choice.

Really? MG? You have owned these with that many miles on the clock? I’ve never seen any last much past 100K here…all of them seem to fall apart and or the transmissions just give up…Tranny failures are what I’ve seen mostly I believe.

Hmmm Maybe these aren’t as bad as I thought they were…I just don’t see them last in any real way at all in my neck o the woods.


Our Caravan was a 2000, well maintained for the most part. Up to 100K miles did not need any repairs. After 100K miles it was a disaster. It was like a time bomb had gone off. Part after part needed replacement. This was the only car we have had that made our AAA membership worthwhile. Ours might had been an exception, but on the allpar forum, all were having similar issues. When we were looking for a replacement, the enthusiastic mopar fans on allpar talked us out of the Dodge Journey and the Jeep GC.

A local courier service has used several Chryco minivans for many years. They have the one with 420K (last time saw it). They have about 25 vehicles, of which at least a dozen are those minivans. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t keep buying them if they were not reliable. Their larger vans are a mix of Fords and Chevys, but no Dodges.

Friends of mine took off on a 4000 mile vacation trip in a Caravan that had 297K when they left, and over 301K on their return. They traded it a while later for a low mileage one with only 150K which was traded at 220K for their third one. I think it had just over 100K at the time. Obviously they’re not scared of Chryco minivans either.

I am a big fan of their 3.3 and 3.8L V-6s. I think the fans with the 4-cyl engines are under powered.