Automatic Transmission problem ??

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  #1  
Old 03-28-04, 05:35 AM
Day Nam
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Question Automatic Transmission problem ??

I have a 1998 Dodge Caravan: 4 cylinder 2.1L?. For the past week, I noticed that the automatic transmission appear to shift abnormally(rough) from 2nd to 3rd gear. Yesterday, things got worse. There was a definite jerking action when shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear but it shifted OK and the "service engine soon" light came on. The mileage on the car is about 100,000 miles. The reputation on Dodge Caravan transmission is not good. Is this a sign of a major problem? I have had all kind of MAJOR repairs on this vehicle and I am not about to commit another major repair. Any advise will be appreciated. Repair or trade-in or donate?
 
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  #2  
Old 03-28-04, 12:37 PM
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First off... If you have the 4 cylinder its a 2.4L. Chryslers reputation was not so good in the late 80's and early 90's with their transmissions, but the quality has definately improved. Before we say you have a major problem we need some more information here. First thing you need to do is go get the check engine light checked out. Go to like Advance or Auto Zone and get them to read the codes for you and then post them here. Dont purchase anything until you do. Next thing is what type of maintenance has been performed on the transmission? let us know this as well. Maintenance is very important. Has the transmission been serviced? If so, has it been done recently?
Hope this is helpful to ya,
Billy
 
  #3  
Old 04-03-04, 06:21 PM
Day Nam
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I had the "service engine soon" light checked out. The code is 0303. According to the manual, the code indicates that the 3rd cylinder is misfiring. A service technician has recommended a tune up. First I changed the spark plugs. I test drove 5 mins on highway and it appeared that the "vibration" and "lack of power during the acceleration" went away. However, the warning light remained lit. The next day, after driving on hwy for about 5 mins, the same problem ("vibration and no power"). The problem was most prominent at the speed range of 45 and 55 miles/hr. Lately the "loss of power" and "vibration" occur at lower speed as well. In both situations, the "vibration" occurs when I step on the gas pedal.

While I was at the service station, I also had the transmission oil level checked. It was low by about 3/4 qt. After the addition of the transmission oil, the transmission shifted smoothly from 2nd to 3rd. It appears that this problem may not be related to the "vibration".

According to my record, I had the transmssion flushed @70,000 miles at the local Dodge dealer.

Any idea or suggestion will be appreciated.
 
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Old 04-03-04, 07:15 PM
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Did you have the Service Engine Light reset after changing the spark plugs? When you have a code stored the computer goes into a kind of a safe mode to bypass the problem area and the light must be reset so that it can relearn its standard values. Just because you changed the spark plugs doesnt mean you have fixed the problem. There are alot of things that can cause a misfire code to appear. You should investigate it thoroughly before you purchase parts that are not going to fix the problem. A misfire will definately cause the type of conditions that you have described. That is why I told you to go get the light checked first. The fact that you were low on trans fluid could possibly mean that you have a leak somewhere. Check that out soon. If you continue to let it get low and run it that way then you are certain to shorten the life of that transmission.
Again, get the light checked out and reset if it is still the misfire code and hopefully the plugs were all you needed.
Let us know,
Billy
 
  #5  
Old 04-04-04, 12:22 AM
mike from nj
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if you have 100,000 miles on your original plug wires, they are about due for replacement. factory wires are a good quality, i can't vouch for any aftermarket brand as i usually throw them right in the garbage when i pull them off and the metal terminal is still on the spark plug(meaning the wire has broken). knowing first hand how tight the tops of the spark plugs are to get to on this vehicle, it would be a safe purchase to get factory wires.

if you have a trans leak, you need to address that pronto. look at the cooler lines where they meet the radiator, if the clamps have loosened up, cut 1" off the ends of the hoses and use the updated clamps from the dealer(the blue ones), they won't cut into the hose and cause a repeat problem.

little history lesson: your 3 speed trans has been out since 1978 in a fwd version, and is based completely on the rwd versions used since the 60's. in my opinion and in what i've driven, these things are quite reliable, if they are maintained.

what you and billy assumed, is it was the 4 speed, which had the exact problems billy described. problems when it was first released (1989), but through the years, is a better product and is used almost across the board in fwd and rwd now.


the light will go off by itself in a few days of driving ONCE the problem is completely fixed. it's the same on every OBDII vehicle everywhere. the computer monitors nearly everything constantly, if something is wrong....you get a light. if you fix it and it passes the test enough times without that failure....the light goes off.


billy is also correct in saying that quite a few things will cause that particular misfire code, i only mentioned wires due to the mileage. it could also be the coil pack, bad fuel injector, clogged screen on the fuel injector or any mechanical problems inside the engine.
 
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Old 04-04-04, 06:00 AM
Day Nam
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Lightbulb

A few more observations:
1) the "service engine soon" light flashes on and off I step on the gas pedal (very slow or no acceleration sometimes). The flashing light becomes steady after several seconds.

2) one of the spark plugs that was replaced had a lot of ENGINE OIL over the thread. Others were OK.

3) this morning, I wanted to see if all spark plugs were seated properly. The same cylinder with the oil-stained spark plug (old) exhibited the same oil stain on the new plug.

Could this oil leak contribute to the "mis-firing"? Where could the oil leak come from?

Note: the engine head gasket and the head cylinder were replaced at 60,000 miles.
 
  #7  
Old 04-04-04, 09:53 AM
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Thanks Mike, I tend to do that as I am so used to hearing folks bash the 4 speed trans and that is what I was basing my argument on. Wasnt thinking that he had the 3 speed.

DayNam..... The reason you have oil on that plug is because there is an oil leak at the seal on the top of the spark plug tube. There is a round seal there that is supposed to keep the oil in the valve cover. This is quite common, on all overhead cam engines.

The flashing light means that the code is catalyst damaging and needs to be addressed immediately.
Hope this is helpful,
Billy
 
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Old 04-08-04, 08:40 AM
Day Nam
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Smile

Thanks to Mike and Billy.

My car problem is off my back for NOW. The magic trick was the replacement of the plug wires. It surprised me that the plug wires were the culprit for the vibration since the wires looked clean and appeared to be in goood shape. The lesson I learned is that you cannot tell the condition of the plug wires from the appearance. Thanks gain.
 
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