CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Advice in buying a minivan--dodge 1998 grand caravan with 117K miles with 2 issues

Seller says:

There is no external rust, the only rust is on the top of the left front shock tower under the hood. Common problem with 1996 - 2000 Dodge / Chrysler Minivans because of their 2-tiered construction. We bought the car with this known issue in January 2008 and it has not progressed since we have owned the car. I have gotten repair estimates from $300 - $500 at Midas if I wanted to have it fixed, but it has not gotten to the point to be repaired at this point in time. The cost of the repair kit is anywhere between $30 - $100 at an auto parts store for the parts, adhesive, and bolts needed (comes in a kit). If I were handy I would do it myself for the price, but at this point the rust has not progressed to need repair but we can use this in negotiating the price it you are interested.

ABS light indicator is on - Meaning a new ABS Module Controller is needed if you want ABS. Part is $170 used and $230 for labor from Midas. This has been on for 3 years, but since I do not like ABS I have not fixed it. This was tested at Midas on 3/23/12 to be the known cause of the ABS light.

It is a 3.8L v6 transmission was factory replaced at 48K. I like the looks of the vehicle and also the price. Are the two above comments true that the shock tower is easily fixable and safe, then is it also safe to not have the ABS module controller fixed? (assume I am ok with regular brakes and do not require ABS)

Lastly, are there other questions I should ask or want to know about this specific vehicle (ie common known problems). Thanks in advance. Gene

While we haven’t had rust issues with our 1997 Town & Country (the Dodge’s cousin), I’ve read plenty of threads on the shock tower repairs being effective with the kits, along with seeing before and after pictures. www.allpar.com is dedicated to Chrysler products and has a minivan forum that discusses this. Other things to be aware of: The 3.8L engine is noted for its durability and has a timing chain, not a belt (a huge plus). Also, the transmission should always have the correct Chrysler ATF+4 fluid used…I’ve read repeatedly to never allow a place to use generic fluid with a modifier, it’s not the same and could shorten the transmission’s life. Overall we have been very happy with our Town & Country–it currently has 150,000 miles. One other thing: I would want the ABS problem corrected (but by an independent mechanic, not by Midas).

It’s all about The Money! It’s a 14 year old vehicle with some troubling “issues”…How much money are we talking about here??

3K

I would just drive it and keep an eye on the shock towers.

Ask if price is negotiable by 1/2 or a 1/3,

This vehicle is proper working order without the ABS light problems is worth $1500.

$3000 is insanity.

I agree with what Steve has said about the tower repair and allpar etc. esp the ATF4

Having said that, I have a 2000 3.3 myself, gave us a bit of headache a year ago, better now. I am in CA and there is no rust, car in great shape. I have not been able to get more than 3K for this car, so for a rusted '98 with non-functioning ABS, that price is steep.

These are relatively good vans, esp good value on the used market compared to Toyota/Honda. But also read my post here;

Where did I miss this thing about a price? The OP says they own the car, and I don’t see where he is selling it. The shock towers may need repair sometime, but the ABS can be left alone.
“Shut up and drive”

It starts off saying “Seller says:” It looks like the OP is quoting what the potential seller told him, then asking for advice on buying the van. He mentions parts estimates in the first post and in a later one he responds that the selling price is 3K. I agree it sounds like he can ignore the shock towers for the time being.

OK, I now see where the price was 3K. This is what thru me off—“We bought the car with this known issue in January 2008 and it has not progressed since we have owned the car.”

Thanks for the advice everyone. It gave me comfort knowing these two issues are not critical. I will get the shock tower fixed this fall, and appreciate the knowlege that I can pass on the ABS brake light (knowing I have standard brakes now and not ABS).

I did purchase the Van, albeit at the $3K. We have looked a lot for a low mileage leather vehicle and only a couple seemed to fit the bill. We are satisfied. Thank you all. Gene