Transmission diagnostic Dodge Grand Caravan 1997

My trusted mech. said the Check Engine Soon error code is for transmission, take it to the dealer or transmission specialist. I don’t trust the dealership that I occasionally use so on his advise I took it to a national chain shop. Authorized 2 hrs for diagnosis, they came back & say, multiple code errors, the transmission control module and slow reverse solenoid pack have to be replaced, but they haven’t dropped the pan yet, which they need to see if there is internal damage. If they keep going, they’ll be able to tell more, but it’s $1,500 at the min. for parts and labor for the external controls as of now, depending on what they find in another hour or so, it could add up to $2,500 to 2,800.

My question, shouldn’t they have dropped the pan after 2 hours ($170) and be able to tell me exactly what require fixing or am I just being ignorant?

i owned one a few years back , enjoyed the vehical about a year b-4 transmission started going into what they called limp home mode , had rebuilt by reputable service , lasted couple months and again stayed in 2nd gear , they went through this thing twice and changed pack as well , this went on for many months , very unreliable might run fine for couple days then out of nowhere , from what i understand only fix was factory relacement , whole trans , sorry , but if you have a chance , dump it quick as you can unless you have a factory replacement for it , they reset my codes many times very erratic vehical , don’t get too upset with techs , tranny is junk , check caravan trans comlaints ! good luck to ya !

Before doing anything, I’d recommend you have the transmission looked at by a local independent trans shop. National chain stores make a habit out of simply replacing transmissions when even minor problems are present.

STOP STOP STOP!!! These guys are trying to get you to authorize a removal and tear down of your transmission, then what, you will have no choice to pay them for a rebuild since its already out anyway… See where I’m going with this. First of all, what codes were set ??? What were the symptoms which caused you to seek a mechanics advice?? Was it just a check engine light?? Do not authorize anything else with these guys. A 2 hour diagnosis should have included dropping the pan and examining it for any debris. Beware, because pretty soon you will be in to them for a rebuild, a TCM and a solenoid pack which will be well over $3000 I have been rebuilding transmissions for 25 years now and all I see here is red flags. Tell me exactly what trouble codes came up with the scan. If all you have with them is 2 hours diagnostic and the pan has not been removed, you might want to consider paying them for the 2 hours and tell them no thanks and good bye.


Good question. For two hours labor, the pan should have been dropped. The rest of the diagnostics don’t take very long.

As others have said, stay away from chain transmission shops. While some franchises may be good, on the whole, they’ll recommend a rebuild to everyone who comes in, and will often botch the job to boot.

The history of transmissions in the Caravan has not been bright, especially in the Grand. I had a '94 and had to put three transmissions in it in about two years - two by the dealer within about three months [I didn’t pay for the second one] and a third by a national chain [that shall remain naameless] about a year and a half later [they spent another two months cleaning up the mess they made]. After all this I come to find out that instead of rebuilding the transmission each time at about $2500 each, an independent shop could have installed a factory rebuilt replacement for about $1800 and would have come with a 3 year/30,000 mile warranty. Now that was 7 or 8 years ago, so it may be more now.

But here is the point. You didn’t say how many miles are on this van, but at 12 years I’m guessing it’s up there. Do you really want to invest this kind of cash in this van? You’re never really going to recoup that kind of expense from a vehicle that old. Maybe it’s time to cut your losses. My suggestion would be, pay the chain the $170 and limp that thing right over to the nearest used car lot and pick out the lowest mileage Honda Odyssey that you can afford. I little more out of pocket in the long run, but you’ll sleep better at night.

Thanks, everyone. It has served me well for 12 years but it’s falling apart so I did tell them to cease work, I just regretted even bothering with the diagnosis (was hoping for a less than $1k miracle job). The van is @ 150,000, the body control module has been acting up so I have display problem all the time. I was planning to drive it until it drops but this was my only vehicle and the oldest kid just got his provisional and gets on the freeway. At times the gear doesn’t shift smoothly, usually only when cruising between 30 & 45 miles but it’s sporatic. Finally bought a new Sienna for our family of 8 and will use the Dodge for 3 mile one way commute to train station until it fails. It’s a shame that we throw cars away like empty cereal boxes.

That body control module problem might actually be a solder problem on the back of the instrument cluster with relatively easy fix. Check on the forum section and they have instructions and pics on how to fix it.