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What Are the Main Problems and Complaints with the Dodge Grand Caravan?
From 1984 to 2020, Dodge made the Grand Caravan, a minivan that was Dodge’s version of the Chrysler Town & Country.
The Grand Caravan was not only a passenger van but also sold as a cargo van, though its main target audience has always been families with young children (and all the stuff that comes with them!)
In 2020, the Dodge Grand Caravan was discontinued, though the company reintroduced it in Canada in 2021 under the name Chrysler Pacifica.
But if you are in the market for a used one, you won’t have a hard time finding one. Worldwide, over 15 million of these popular minivans have been sold and are still in as high demand as ever before.
The Caravan is a seven-passenger van with a three-person bucket seat in the back and two sets of bucket seats, one in the middle row and one in the front row. Though the trim lines differ, most Caravans come with automatic windows, sliding doors and removable second and third row seats, offering ample room for storage and cargo when needed.
Safety features of the Dodge Grand Caravan are a huge selling point as well. Not only are 3-point seat belts standard in all models, for all passengers, but later models also include front airbags, side airbags and even headrest airbags in many of the third generation models.
As with most minivans, the Dodge Grand Caravan is long on accessories and features to make life easier for large families. Deciding which ones are right for you will be a decision you’ll have to make based on your budget, family size and different needs.
And though there is a Dodge Grand Caravan out there for everyone, there are also certain problems these vehicles have that may make you pause, depending on what matters to you and what you are comfortable with.
A mechanical issue or feature malfunction that may be a deal breaker to one person may not feel that way to another. Each driver is unique and each family has different needs, so you’ll have to decide for yourself which common complaint from other Dodge Caravan owners may make you pause before you purchase one.
For me, the above issues were more than I was comfortable with, given my family’s budget and situation. Let’s look at them more closely and see if they will be deal breakers for you, or if the Dodge Grand Caravan is your family’s next vehicle.
1. The Caravan Has a Shorter than Normal Brake Life
When I was looking into buying a Dodge Grand Caravan, one of the biggest things that concerned me were the reviews I read about the brake life and how frequently they needed to be repaired or replaced.
The Dodge Grand Caravan is well over 4,000 pounds when empty and that weight can obviously increase substantially when the van is fully loaded, be it with people or cargo.
A minivan needs to have a strong and reliable brake system and the complaints about the one installed in the Dodge Grand Caravan gave me reason to worry.
I am not one to buy a minivan for its looks. Granted, minivans have come a long way, but my main priority when I decided on a minivan for my main mode of transportation was safety.
The idea of a brake system that might be at all compromised made me scratch the Dodge Grand Caravan off my list.
Most complaints about the brake system had to do with brake pads being thinner than on other minivans and wearing out easily.
The brake pad is an integral part of the minivan’s overall system, as it engages against the rotor and allows the car to slow down. As brake pads wear, it becomes increasingly more difficult to bring your minivan to a stop.
Most brake pads are designed to last for anywhere from 30,000 miles to 50,000 miles, but you will start to notice some wear at around 20,000 miles.
Most owners of Dodge Grand Caravans complained that the brake pads in their minivans seemed to only last for about 10,000 miles before they began noticing less friction when the brake pedal was engaged.
Not only could worn brake pads cause safety issues for you and your family, but replacing them can be costly and replacing them often is hard on a family’s budget.
A set of brake pads (for two wheels) usually costs around $250 to $350 to purchase and have installed.
If you are nervous about having quick-wearing brake pads, or if replacing brake pads more frequently is not in your budget, you’ll want to consider this when deciding if the Dodge Grand Caravan is the right for you.
2. Malfunctioning Air Conditioning
Another big concern of mine when I was considering purchasing a Dodge Grand Caravan was the number of people who mentioned problems they had with the air conditioning not working properly.
I don’t know about you, but air conditioning is a part of life for me, especially since I live in the South and my kids and I spend a lot of time in the car during the summer months.
Though this problem has really been seen more frequently on models from 2011 to 2014, many customers have said that even in other models, the air flow is weak and even non-existent at certain times.
Sometimes an air conditioning unit can be low on freon, and a healthy dose of it will get everything back to running smoothly.
Freon is an odorless gas that is used to keep cold air circulating throughout a vehicle’s cabin. Getting your freon replaced is something that is not uncommon, especially as your minivan ages.
But with the Dodge Grand Caravan, that is not likely the issue. The air conditioning unit may just be less powerful than many people would like, and therefore may make the Caravan a less than ideal choice for those who live in areas where air conditioning is going to oftentimes be a big necessity.
3. Transmission Unexpectedly Shifting
Though having brakes that need frequent replacement is bothersome, and having an air conditioning unit that sometimes malfunctions is annoying, the third reason I opted not to buy a Dodge Grand Caravan is probably the most important…and the most concerning.
I am not a car expert, but I know that any transmission problems can signal big bucks at the repair shop. They can also mean having a vehicle that’s out of commission for an extended period of time - not ideal for a busy mom who relies heavily on her minivan.
A healthy transmission will make little to no noise when it shifts from one gear to the next. Sometimes, if you notice a slight hesitation in the shift or hear a low grinding sound, you may be low on transmission fluid or need to have your transmission checked out.
But a typical transmission will probably need no attention until your minivan reaches at least 70,000 miles.
In the Dodge Grand Caravan, many owners have mentioned that there tends to be a significant delay in the automatic shifting of the vehicle, particularly when the shifting happens between first and second gear.
Even after topping off the transmission fluid, the problem seems to continue.
Having a faulty transmission can be more than just a hassle to repair. Slow transmissions can cause your minivan to not respond as quickly in dangerous situations and can also make it hard for you to gauge the time it will take you to pass another vehicle.
If you’re like me and find an issue as big as a possible transmission problem to make you feel nervous, you may want to think abou a different minivan than the Dodge Grand Caravan for your next vehicle of choice.
About The Author
Working as a restoration tech on exclusively Mopar offerings of the late 60’s and early 70’s honed the skills to build what I consider the most prestigious make of American cars of that era. The iconic slant six, behemoth 426 Hemi and everything in between shaped my view on the automotive world. I’ve translated those skills towards vehicles that “everyman” has access to enjoy and Mopar influence still plays a significant role.Read More About Tyler Herndon