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

Transmission or Junk It?

I have a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. 96K miles, a/c works, interior in very good shape, exterior has recent small ‘hole’ put into the rear bumper. Power window motor on passenger side needs to be replaced. Radio/cassette/CD player works, power sliding door, power trunk, digital display… all working. Someone bent the antenna into a lightning bolt shape, but body otherwise in very good condition.

Transmission went. TOTALLY went… gears are completely stripped, pump is shot, etc. Apparently it cannot have a rebuilt transmission put in; it needs a new one. Another CHRYSLER transmission.

I’ve been told that Chrysler Town & Country vans are notorious for their transmission problems. So… do I get another ‘new’ Chrysler transmission put in the van for approx. $1400-1500 and risk that one either going at any time OR driving my van into the ground by getting a lot more mileage out of it, OR do I junk it, OR do I try to sell it to a mechanically inclined individual??

If I could afford a new car or even another decent used car, I would do that. I can’t.

$1,500 sounds awfully cheap for an actual new transmission. I also don’t understand the comment about the rebuilt transmission. Are you sure you’ve understood your mechanic correctly?

Regardless, if money is tight, then fixing this car for $1,500 (or even somewhat more) is going to be the best choice here.

Yes, initially that was my first thought… and decision. It was cheapest to just fix it. However, if I’m simply going to get another (faulty) transmission put in there (that is, another Chrysler trans), then it’s NOT the cheapest if it might just ‘go’ again. I took it to two mechanics – the first one said he could put in a rebuilt for $1900 or $3200 for a new one. The 2nd mechanic, who has done all of my son’s repairs for incredibly low prices said he couldn’t put a rebuilt one in there, but could put a new Chrysler transmission in for approx. $1500. I just can’t put $1500 in, just to turn around again to put another $1500 in the next year or… whenever. I guess my point is that it is a big risk. I don’t know how much I could get for it the way it is, needing a new transmission. But I could save my $1500 and whatever I could get for it ‘as is’ and put it towards another vehicle in the future. Is it a risk worth taking? Or not?

Yes - all sounds a little strange. Who is doing this diagnosis? And how are you getting into a “new” transmission for only $1500?

Are you sure its not just the torque converter or pump that is blown?

No one can really say much about whether or not to keep it because there isn’t any info on how its been maintained over the years. All of those little things you mention would add up, but, in general has the van been neglected? It sounds like maybe - at least a little. In general, if a vehicle has been cared for 96K miles is nothing.

Chrysler minivan transmissions aren’t special, btw. Minivan transmissions are problematic.

The first mechanic’s prices are more in line with what I was expecting. I still question the information from the second guy.

In any event, a properly rebuilt transmission should give you enough miles to be worth $1,900, even if there is some kind of issue that’s making this transmission die early. After all, you did get 96,000 miles out of the original one.

I’ve been told by a few mechanics now that Chrysler T&C’s are notorious for faulty transmissions. I’ve been told by 2 mechanics that the gears are completely stripped and the pump is blown. When it broke down on the highway, it wouldn’t even go into park…my son had to keep his foot on the brake the entire wait for the tow truck’s arrival. That’s b/c the gears were shot, gone, stripped down…from what 2 mechanics have told me. However, whether or not it’s specifically the Chrysler T&C’s transmissions that are ‘special’ or whether it’s all minivans transmissions that are ‘special’ is a moot point here. What matters is spending a lot of money on another ‘special’ transmission that’s going to go.

There are lots and lots and lots of Chrysler minivans on the road with lots and lots more than 96K miles on them.

If it was me, and I had someone I trusted who would do a transmission this cheaply, and I hadn’t beat the crap out of the rest of the van, then I would fix it.

Back when minivans first came out, the Chryslers got a reputation for bad transmissions. After about the early-mid 90s they’re basically no better or worse than other minivans. (Have an internet gander at the early 2000’s Honda minivan transmission problems).

One of the most important things is that the pan is dropped and filter changed every 30K miles or so. Was your transmission ever serviced?

doree wrote:
my son had to keep his foot on the brake the entire wait for the tow truck’s arrival.

Does your parking brake not work?

correct observation… the parking brake did not work…

yes, transmission had been serviced.

You may wish to take a gander at the links below:

Please note the following line in above article: Transmission problems with the 2002 Town and Country Chrysler are very common. Most transmission problems range from losing gears, check engine light is on and most commonly that the van will not move.

And again:

I could go on…

Well, it seems that your mind is made up. So what is the question?

A new transmission is $3600.00, a rebuilt transmission is $2200.00. Mopar remanufactured transmissions (from the dealer) come with a 3 year/100,000 mile warranty.

A transmission failure on a ten year old minivan is nothing unusual. If you have the transmission replaced you may have to drive this thing for ten more years. Is that what you mean by risk?

I suggest that you Google “ETE Reman” and then explain to them your concerns about a rebuilt automatic. Ask them how their transmissions are better than others. You can’t buy directly from them but an installer can. They were recently featured in a news article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and appear to be a successful business as they are expanding.

You state the transmission has been serviced but that leaves a lot of openings.
How often was it serviced?
Who serviced it?
Did they use the correct transmission fluid? (pretty critical on Chryslers)
I ask this because most people don’t even think about transmission servicing until after the fact.

Note that in the link you provided that company states the major cause of transmission failures is failure to change the fluid regularly and not inspecting it.
You should also take many complaints on sites such as with a grain of salt as many stories are seriously one-sided with little or none of the flip side of that complaint being revealed.

On the tail end of OK4450’s comment I’d also add that it often seems that the internet provides a way for any owner of any car to find out that their make/model/year has some disastrous issue with it. It could be that 10 people have had a problem in the whole country - but they can all find each other now - but have no way of knowing they might just be in the .001% minority. The legends can spread like wildfire.

I actually have an Olds minivan with a 4T65E transmission in it. It does have fairly serious problems that are frequently found in them. But if you surf the web for a while you can get completely different impressions depending on what you’re looking for. On the one hand many people rave about it - greatest transmission ever; very reliable; bulletproof. On the other hand you can find the grumpy corners where all of the people who have problems find each other. Now the thing looks like a huge disaster.

It seems as though you have grown to despise this vehicle, so you should probably just find a way to get rid of it and move on. If this were not the case, I would suggest replacing the transmission with a rebuilt one and take proper care of it. There are different suppliers out there who will warranty them for at least three years and 100k miles. As for taking proper care of the transmission, change the fluid and filter every 30k miles or so and use nothing but ATF+4 fluid. Use of the incorrect fluid, including “universal” fluids or cheap fluid with an additive to “convert” it to ATF+4 is a very common cause of early failure of Chrysler transmissions. Also, be sure whoever installs the transmission flushes out the transmission cooler if you decide to keep and fix the vehicle.

I’d want to hear what Transman has to say if he ever comes back. I don’t know how much stock I’d put in a shop that says the gears were “grinded” though instead of “ground”. At any rate, if you are concerned, the best would be to go with a factory new transmission with the 100,000 mile warranty. $1500 is too cheap for a new one. Rebuilt maybe but not new. A van without a transmission is not worth much so you really need to fix it one way or the other.

Where I am in CA, the cheapest rebuilt on these would run ~ $1500-1600. They would tell you it is “almost as good as new”, well, time only will tell.

The engine on these vans is unusually strong, mine at 140K miles does not burn any oil. The electrical system is unpredictable without going in much detail. Were it mine, I would fix it and drive. That car, when not running is worth ~ $1200 at best. Doesn’t give you anything toward your next ride.

I have a feeling mech #2 is quitting you a “new” to you used trans from a junkyard at that price. Is this correct???