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Chrysler Repair/rebuild an old grand caravan? - don't want to buy a new car!


Hi Roland,
We love our 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan and would love to spend enough money to overhaul it rather than buying a new car.  It has 188,500 mi on it and is starting to leak fluids and make some bad noises in the engine.  There are some minor electrical problems (the electronic locks on the driver's side rear door no longer work, the passenger's side window sometimes won't roll up when we roll it down! - stuff like that).  It generally hasn't given us much trouble and we'd love to keep it.  We are pricing used cars and we would rather spend $5000-8000 to do a serious rebuild rather than buy a nice used minivan for $15,000 - 20,000.  Is this a good idea to spend a lot of money on an old car?  Or should we just cut our losses, ditch the 2002 Gr Caravan and buy a good used vehicle?  It seems that with older cars, it's not just the engine that goes - you can start to get drips due to old hoses/clamps and you're always liable to get strange electrical problems that are not easily fixed with a standard engine or transmission rebuild.  And if this is something we should seriously consider, is there a company that specializes in rebuilding Gr Caravans?  Like I said, we would be willing to spend a considerable amount if there were some guarantee that it would effectively give us another 100,000 miles.  Thanks for the help!  


Hi Mike,
It is timely that you asked this question as I just went through that issue with my '89 LeBaron coupe and decided to do the engine rebuild. I know the vehicle's history, strengths and weaknesses, and although I clearly won't be able to justify that the money increased the value of the car were I to sell it, if it gives me good service for a number of more years it will more than make-up for the depreciation and potential engine problems on buying a newer used vehicle or a new vehicle. Of course I have an emotional attachment in that it was first purchased by my Dad so there is a history there. (Why at 86 he chose such a low coupe model I can't fathom but it is very economical on gas due to the low wind resistance and modest engine).
The important point is to find a very good mechanic/shop, who will then contract for a local engine rebuild shop or buy from a rebuilder enterprise, the job of rebuilding the engine. The local mechanic ideally would know the Chrysler minivan and have excellent recommendations from clients. Do you have a local consumer survey publication that gets feed back from subscribers? The mechanic I found via that publication here in the SF Bay Area is doing a very satisfactory rebuild for me. He has confidence in the regional rebuilder's work which does have a 3-year or 30,000 warranty which ever comes first. But he clearly knows what he is doing in the R & R part of the job that is involved, and he is taking advantage of all the possible preventive maintenance that can be done with the engine and transmission out, at basically no cost except for the parts (hoses/engine mounts, etc.).

You didn't mention which engine and transmission that you have there, Mike. If you have the 2.4L then you might also have the conventional three-speed non-electronic automatic (it would have PRND21 choices rather than PRND3L choices that are used on the electronic transaxle).
Were that the case you might not need to do anything now because those non-electronic are longer-lasting than the electronic trans. If you have the electronic and you have gone 188k miles then you are on 'borrowed time' for sure.

My trans is not electronic so I am not knowledgeable about who to get to evaluate an electronic trans and who would be the best to redo that but I would avoid the nationwide rebuilders. But if it is and it has not been rebuilt by now it will no doubt come to need that before the rebuilt engine gives up so this would be the time to do the transmission as well. My 3-speed conventional automatic is running well and the mechanic said that when he drained the fluid and checked filter and magnetic pick-up that there appeared to be no reason to go inside of it. He did change out its three oil seals at this point and is not charging for the labor of that.
So if you can find the person to do the job with a high probability of success it would be worth doing. It may take some looking. My fellow runs his own shop and has maybe one other employee, and fortunately I have not had to push for a completion date or pressure him to get it done because I have another vehicle to use, as well as my bicycle which is what a 'drive' the most. I should get the car back by this weekend, about 3 weeks after agreeing to the job.
If by chance you are in No. California I will get the name of the rebuilder.
I hope your research into this choice proves satifactory.

Thanks for the rating and 'nomination'.

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Roland Finston


Free fast answer to your repair question about a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth car, minivan, SUV, or truck. Problems with electronically controlled engines and transmissions as well as body wiring problems are my specialty. This free troubleshoot advice forum helps you diagnose faults, minimize repair costs or do-it-yourself.

I answer questions seven days a week and respond to you in about 30 minutes. "Maxed Out" means I am answering another question, briefly unavailable, or asleep overnight, so try again later.

I have do-it-yourself experience (50+ years) and a library of 100 1982-2011 Chrysler factory shop manuals and 20 multi-manual Chrysler Corp. CD's.

I was voted "Top Expert" 2010-2015, here at AllExperts, and have answered 20,000+ questions.


Five decades as a 'do-it-yourselfer' on domestic and imported cars.

Yahoo Autos Group called The Chrysler Lebaron Club (co-moderator)

Advanced degrees in Physics/bruised knuckles

Awards and Honors
"Top expert" of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 here at Allexperts. Quickest "average response time" at Allexperts (currently no. 1).

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