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Minivan Issues - Possible Transmission?

I have a '99 Town & Country (180,000 miles)that keeps slipping gears. It started by slipping into first after accelerating too fast. Now, it’s progressed to the point where it slips into first also if I have to slam on my brakes. When the transmission switches gears going 40 or so mph back into first, the RPMs skyrocket and the only way to fix this is to pull over and turn the car off. Is my transmission done for? My mechanic won’t touch it and is telling me I need to see a transmission guy and that I’ll most likely need a new one. Is the cost worth it? Should I just start looking for a new car?

Hold on, first check your tranny fluid level. Follow the owner’s manual, typically you would check the fluid with the car hot and running, but not always. While you are checking the fluid, smell it. If it smells at all, the transmission has overheated and is shot.
If the fluid level is normal, you need a new transmission. If the fluid smells burned, same thing.
In either case, you should start looking for a new car. The replacement would cost more than the car is worth.
If however the fluid is low, add fluid and see if that helps.

When was the last time that transmission oil was changed and filter cleaned? Did it have a burnt smell?’s minivan site is a good one for Chrysler minivan questions.

Input and out sensors are often at the root of trans problems on these vans. Fluid level and type (only ATF+4 with the 3.3 and 3.8 engines - not sure if the 3.0 uses the same) are very important. My 99 Voyager with the 3.3 has not had trans issues. I do drop the pan every 2-3 years, replace the filter, and refill with about a gallon of new fluid. Hose clamps that carry the fluid near the radiator have needed to be tightened up because of a little leakage.

A mechanic who won’t touch it may be someone who does not know much about the transmission and does not have the time or inclination to learn. That means you need to find someone competent to deal with it. Reading’s pages about these trannies and posting your info there could be very helpful.

Has The “Check Engine” Light Come On While This Is Happening ? Do You Have The 3-Speed Automatic Or The 4-Speed ?

It would help for you to go with your van to a nearby national chain auto parts store like an Advance, Auto Zone, or other store that offers to read diaganostic trouble codes for free in their parking lot.

Write all the codes down in an alpha / numeric format, like PO703, etcetera. Post all the codes right here and we’ll give it a shot.

As Shanonia an others have indicated, having the correct, clean fluid is important, but after that is verified a seemingly trashed tranmission can sometimes have relatively minor problems. Shanonia is giving good advice about input and output speed sensors for example and we can check your codes for those and incorrect gear ratio codes, too. If you’ve got one bad sensor then replace them both together. This is not a complicated or expensive repair.

Get the codes read and post them here and we’ll try and help you decide whether the trans is toast or whether it’s just got the blues. We’re standing by for your response.


Thanks for the help…when the RPMs go high (and it drops into first) the light goes on that says “service engine soon”. I think it’s a 4-speed. And I haven’t gotten the trannie oil and filter changed since I’ve gotten it (about 100,000 miles ago) - B/c everyone says not to do it. Is it safe to assume that you all think I should be changing the filter/oil?
I’m going to head over to Autozone and see if I can get some codes.

You might take this T&C by a transmission shop and have the TCM scanned for codes. That is the best way to determine why the computer is going into ‘limp home’ mode i.e. second and reverse gears only. Finding the codes will narrow down the trouble shooting to sensor(s) or transmission fault.

If you do get the codes, please forward them to this posting – maybe transman618 will contribute his thoughts.