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2002 Dodge Grand Caravan Transmission Not Changing Gears

My 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan transmission suddenly does not changing in gear This happened when I was driving. The engine light came one and transmission seems to stuck in a gear. Acceleration is fine but the van slows down quickly if I let go the gas pedal. Seems like it stuck in a gear. How to I troubleshoot and is there anything I can do at home?

Thanks in advance for your advice.

A number of faults can cause the transmission to go into limp in mode (2nd gear). A failing input or output pinon speed sensor can cause this but on a vehicle this old that may be optimistic.

Cycle the ignition from off to run three times (do not start), after the third time leave the ignition in the run position, the fault codes will be displayed in the odometer display.

Many times a trans fluid and filter change cures ills, one can hope.

Have you checked your transmission fluid level?

Dodge van/ trans issues? Seems like I heard that story before.

Since the CEL is on this might actually not be a transmission problem altogether. You need to get the codes read as above post but I think the 2002 would not give you codes with the ignition switch dance. If you are not in CA or HI, the parts stores would read your codes for free.

Galant, I got the codes read free. It was about torque converter, first and second gear, etc. The auto part recommended me to bring the car to the shop for further diagnosis. However, the transmission was working fine next day. What I found out was my coolant was really low (half of radiator - not sure anything had to do with it?) I took Barkydog’s advise and took the van to have fluid drained and refilled, hopefully that was it.

the express oil tech said if the transmission has not been serviced before, I should not change the filter, it could shock the transmission and makes it worse. He recommended just drained and refilled fluid (he did it by vacuum), is this correct that transmission may be getting worse for servicing such as replace the filter? thanks.

You can’t drain this transmission without removing the pan. How much fluid did he replace by extracting it with vacuum?

Replacing the filter won’t harm a transmission however if your torque converter clutch is slipping the transmission will eventually fail. What were the fault codes?

Sounds like he used a fluid exchange machine. Draining and dropping the pan is the best way to do it. A clogged filter restricts flow and kills transmissions. Quick lube places are not the best place to get your car fixed. Dealers are not expensive for transmission service.

The service person was just lazy if you ask me. Changing a filter will not cause any problem it’s a fluid flush that will stir up sludge from the inner workings that may cause a problem. With a fluid exchange…if that’s what he did is fine… but with a problem tranny a new filter would be a priority to me.
He just didn’t want to get his hands dirty!!!


Don’t let those places near your transmission! In addition to an idiotic statement about not changing the filter, they probably used the wrong fluid, which WILL kill the transmission. ATF+4 for your particular transmission ONLY.

There’s much advice and discussion of these transmissions at, which specializes in Chrysler Corp. (now Fiat Chrysler) vehicles. ATF+4, no substitutes, is a key recommendation, for example. I recommend that site highly.

On my two such vans I dropped the trans pan and replaced the filter and fluid when I bought them and every few years thereafter, Seeing filter and the bottom of the pan are important to understanding if anything bad is going on inside the trans.

The tech who recommended against changing the filter was merely following his company line, relayed by the store managaer: “We have to make money with this vacuum machine we are leasing, so don’t anybody recommend other methods of transmission service, ya got it?”

Are you referring to

Uh, yes. My typo. Thanks for clearing this up, - excellent for Chrysler questions.

Yes, is a great site and forum. Kept our minivan on the road for a long time.

These transmissions are very picky on type of fluid used (ATF +4), so I will make sure the shop used the correct fluid or drain and refill with correct one (probably X 3 at this point). Also, these transmissions are well known for the shift solenoids going bad. It is a ~$100 part and easy to replace.

I bought my vehicle to another shop, the shop owner said dropping the tranny oil pan and replace the filter is the past. It was a solenoid sensor, I had it replace and the tranny is working good now. For the oil type, he said he would not be able to tell. I had to contact the other shop to find out what tranny fluid they put in. Thank you all of you to give me advice. This site and all the folks are outstanding.

I’d run from that place and find someone who will change the filter. My info shows a filter for this tranny.

I wonder if he was changing your engine oil, if you’d accept it if he said changing the oil filter is old school!!!


So was it the shift Solenoid as I mentioned above?

I would still make sure you have the ATF +4 and nothing else in there. If in doubt, change it.


Sounds like BOTH of the shops are lazy, when it comes to automatic transmission service

Pretty sad

Well, at least the second shop apparently diagnosed and resolved the problem

I would follow Yosemite’s advice and find a shop who will drop the pan, clean it, replace the filter and gasket, and use only ATF+4

It’s quite likely the first shop used some “multi” fluid which supposedly covers all bases

Galant - Yes, it was the shift solenoid. I will change ATF+4, another high $100 plus!