Dodge Caravan Transmission Problems

Hi Click and Clack,

I have a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport with a 3.3L engine and ~ 58k miles of gentle use.

Out of the blue (meaning no symptoms of any kind), the transmission died a progressive death over the course of a 200 mile trip. At first it wouldn?t stay in overdrive, then it wouldn?t stay in 3rd gear and in the end it bound up in all gears.

A trip to our Dodge dealer revealed failed seals and clutches and they rebuilt the transmission in house (under warranty). This mostly fixed the problem.

Within days, the newly-rebuilt transmission started hesitating when starting from a dead stop. The was worst when the van was cold and improved gradually as it warmed up.

We took it back and the dealer disassembled the transmission revealing a defective part in the rebuild kit.

They rebuilt it again.

This improved the situation, but the problem still exists. Now that it?s getting colder however, the van stalls when we start from a dead stop, and this is worse when it is cold outside and better as it warms up.

Here is my problem: I have brought the van back to the dealer and they claim that there are no codes in the engine computer or the transmission computer. Because there are no codes, they cannot do anything. I reminded them that the van stalls (in traffic) and this is unacceptable. They claim that they cannot reproduce the stall nor find any codes.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where I?m frustrated with them, and they?re frustrated with me. I say that the transmission is still the common link, and they claim that a transmission problem cannot stall the engine. They also fall back on the ?no codes? means no problems argument.

Question: Knowing that you must get lots of letters about Dodge Vans, is the cold-induced hesitation symptomatic of anything? Also, what percentage of real engine/transmission problems fail to produce a code, even if there is a real problem?

P.S. My choices for Dodge dealers is thin here in Northern Indiana, so just going to another shop for warranty work is not the easiest solution.


I have no thoroughly intelligent or enlightening answer for you - but I figured no one else has said anything, so I’ll toss out a few thoughts and your question will at least get a bump.

First, one simple answer to one of the questions - I don’t know how common this is but it is possible to have an intermittent problem that doesn’t trigger any kind of codes in the computer. I’ve experienced this myself. For many codes there seems to be a certain number of times or amount of time that the computer has to read a problem before it decides it is one. However, I do think that the dealer is hiding behind an excuse of not finding any codes.

If that’s the way they want to “play” I would think about going over their heads and find some kind of a regional level office associated with Dodge and try to get somewhere that way. All along I would keep meticulous documentation and records of every visit and conversation both with the dealer and anyone else you talk to.

I would also consider taking the van to a really good local independent shop. Tell them the story, and ask them if they can test drive and run whatever computer diagnostics they have (a hi-tech shop would be good for this). You can likely get a shop to do the basic once over, including computer diags at the cost of only 1 or 2 hours of labor time (not completely insignificant, but it might be worth it). If they come up with anything you can then take that back to the dealer to try your luck with them again.

Also keep in mind that it is quite possible that, in addition to the trans problem you had, you might also or now instead have an engine problem - i.e. a whole other thing going on. So be open to the possibility that it isn’t necessarily the tranny.