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2006 Dodge Grand Caravan death blow (A/C replacement) What now?

I paid $6K used for this gem, with all the extras: sunroof, power doors/windows, roof rack and tow hitch. We used the all-seats-stow-and-go to the max, hauling our stuff as we moved 4 times; throwing an inflatable bed in the back with our gear and driving across the country 6 or more times including OR to NYC while sleeping in the back.

Now, with my mechanic telling me I’d be throwing $$ away putting in a now-needed new A/C, Alternator and water pump, I have to face the prospect of letting her go. He says at 10 years old, it’s just going to keep costing me repairs at this point.

What new(ish) vehicle can I now switch to that allows me EITHER:

  1. the same van-camping/hauling experience with that same HUGE cargo area (WITHOUT having to actually remove seats manually),
  2. the next step up, which would allow us to tow a roomier 2-person camper (18’ - 24’?), and consequently likely have 4WD. Does this only mean a 1/4 ton+ pickup truck?

I really want to maintain the ability to drive around town and park in normal sized spaces, so no motorhomes ( Class A/C ) cuz they are just too big. A Class B campervan vehicle might be workable if it can park reasonably.

The CONS to our current Grand Caravan experience that I wouldn’t mind upgrading include:

  1. Better inside bathroom option than composting toilet
  2. In hot weather, it’s really uncomfortable to sleep in the back because of lack of ventilation, including when it rains, which means I can’t open windows much. Also, the only windows that roll down are the driver and passenger windows
  3. Also in rainy weather, getting in/out of the vehicle without muddying our bedding is difficult when camping.
  4. Ability to prepare our own food

How long have you owned it? 1 yr at $6k is 500/mo. Typical new car payment. U do the math on new minivan @$34k. If u had it for 3 yrs. that’s only 170/mo. Not bad.

Had it 2 years, put about 30K hiway miles on it.

Folks are on van#5. All 4 died after trans r&r. But they expect 200k on each. Maybe if they sold at 100k, they would have less issues.

If your Caravan isn’t rusted, it may be worth the repairs. If the engine runs well and isn’t burning excessive oil and the transmission is shifting properly, I would fix the air conditioning, alternator and water pump. I can’t believe, however, that all of these have gone bad at the same time. I would buy a tent and sleep in that rather than in the van. ,When I was a single dad, my son and I would throw our tent, sleeping bags and Coleman® stove in the trunk of the Oldsmobile Cutlass I owned and go camping.

I might add something . . .

If the ac compressor let go catastrophically, shooting metal debris into the system, it’s going to get REALLY expensive, because many components will have to be replaced

If the ac compressor or some other line is simply leaking, that’s a different story

If the evaporator is leaking, it could also get very expensive, as the dash often needs to come out for such repairs

The dash removal issue is what he cited as the expensive part. He said ~$2500 just for the A/C repair. Alternator and water pump another $1300. He suggested if I still want to fix the noise from the water pump leak and alternator going bad, I could take it to Pep Boys and get rebuilt parts maybe for cheaper so it’s still safe to drive long distances - planning another 2000+ mile trip in a few weeks. Incidentally, he declined to fix any of this saying he felt the vehicle wasn’t worth any of these repairs and he wouldn’t take my money. He actually handed me back my keys no charge after the alternator + water pump noise diagnosis. A/C diagnosis he charged $89 for the freon to check the system

A 10 year old Dodge caravan that needs that much work is a risky proposition. You don’t know what else is going to go next, and you might soon end up with a money pit.

I would take the mechanic’s advice and bail out.

Alt is 300? I thought dodge motors had alt on top of motor? WP is 1000? I don’t feel rich when I do that work on my cars. Hmm.


“dash removal issue” . . . so it is the evaporator leaking

BTW . . . how did the mechanic determine the evaporator was leaking?

Remove blower and resistor and take a peek inside, using a scope?

electronic leak detector?

ultraviolet dye and yellow glasses?

Considering the amount of work involved, I don’t like to recommend an evaporator, unless I’m REALLY certain it’s leaking

I agree if the van’s not rusty, and if the transmission is still shifting well . . . AND if the transmission has been serviced every 30K . . . it should be worth repairing

If all goes well, it should comfortably last another 5 years

“Alternator and water pump another $1300.”

This might be on the high side.
Try searching and asking on this minivan forum. They might be additional help.

The mechanic said he didn’t want to work on the vehicle and produced an inflated estimate to prove it. The alternator and water pump estimate is 25% higher than a dealer, he must be charging a lot of labor.

@Waterbuff - Thanks, I actually did cross-post there.

I might be a little sentimental when it comes to keeping cars, but when the AC on my wife’s 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan quit last year, I spent $1400.00 to get it fixed (test, compressor, evaporator expansion valve, accumulator, hose and complete charge with front and rear unit - the evaporator itself was not replaced). The van has over 207k on it now. The charge for the alternator and water pump does seem quite high. I agree with Nevada_545 - the parts aren’t that expensive and the amount of time to replace them isn’t that much. If rust isn’t a problem and the rest of the maintenance has been kept up, my mechanic says it should make it to 300k. I expect I’ll replace other parts on it before then, but it beats a car payment. There are newer vans out there (though very few good ones around $6k that have the features you’re looking for). Pickup trucks with a camper aren’t going to be very inexpensive, but based on your cons, that might be the way to go. For what it’s worth, my neighbors are still driving their '95 Caravan and they used it to tow their sail boat for decades.