1996 Dodge Caravan A Few Issues

Tiny
CHADDUKE
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 DODGE CARAVAN
  • 6 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 15,500 MILES
Hello,

We bought this van about two weeks ago, we were told it has a transmission leak and to keepthe transmission fluid at regular levels, when starting from a dead stop the vehicle often sputters and dies. Unless we absolutely gun it. Also when shifting from park to reverse or drive it makes a noise (not a bad noise but a consistent noise), also makes the same noise when the vehicle comes to a stop and is shifting to the lowest gear. We are also have problems with some of the interior electrical and a mechanic friend told us it's most likely the computers in the vehicle. Any advice on what may be causing this and/or how to clear these computers?

Thanks so much
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 1:48 AM

3 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi chadduke. Welcome to the forum. You'll have to elaborate on the electrical problems. Can't offer suggestions if we don't know what it's doing. The noise you're likely hearing is the solenoid pack for the transmission. They are "duty-cycled" by the transmission computer to soften the engagement of the clutch packs so they don't bang harshly into gear. Think of it as slipping the clutch on a manual transmission to get the car going. To simply turn on a solenoid which activates one of the gears would be the same as slidding your foot off the clutch pedal and letting it spring up quickly. Sure, it might go, but it wouldn't be very comfortable. Duty-cycle means the solenoid and valve are turned on and off very rapidly to slowly build up fluid pressure in that circuit. It is necessary to do it that way because solenoids can only be full-on or full-off. There's no in between like there is with a sink faucet. The buzzing or ratcheting noise you're hearing is most likely that solenoid turning on and off. It will occur during a downshift to first gear and when shifting into drive or reverse. Normally you won't even hear it unless you have the window open. It only lasts for about one second. If you think I'm describing a different noise than what you're hearing, find a similar Chrysler vehicle with the four speed overdrive transmission and see if it makes the same noise.

Hard to determine a cause for the sputtering. If the Check Engine light was on at some point, there will be a diagnostic fault code memorized in the Engine Computer that will send you in the direction of the problem. The MAP sensor is a good possibility for causing this type of problem but they normally fail completely within a day or two. The throttle position sensor could also be a suspect but they really don't give much trouble.

Caradiodoc
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 3:13 AM
Tiny
CHADDUKE
  • MEMBER
Thanks so much for the quick reply and for the advice. Yes the noise you mentioned is exactly what I'm hearing, I was also really looking for a noise or something of consistency so when I rolled down the window to hear closer thats when I heard it the most. If I'm hearing that noise is it ok and leave it be or should I have it looked at? Or do you know of any home remedies for this?

As for the electrical basically all interior lights and basic functions are not working. For instance the wiper switch doesn't work but the "temporary" wiper button on the wiper switch works. So when its raining we cant wipe the rain off unless we bump the side of the switch to engage two wipes and the wiper fluid.

Also I havent seen any check engine lights or anything just these symptoms I mentioned. For the sputtering I also heard it may be throttle body/air filter/intake type stuff.

Thanks again for your help on this, I feel like now I'm way closer to resolving these issues.

God bless
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 10:14 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
The noise is supposed to be there. When it no longer occurs is when you have other problems.

Look for a loose or blown fuse for the light issue. The interior lights are controlled by the Body Computer. The advantage to adding a computer to this otherwise simple circuit is the lights will turn off after 15 minutes to avoid draining the battery. The disadvantage is that every time you add a computer, you unnecessarily complicate the circuit and add to its unreliablity. The Body Computer on '96 and newer minivans has been by far the biggest source of trouble related to adding a computer. They also are very commonly the culprit in the wiper problem you mentioned. You might want to try plugging in a used multifunction switch, (turn signal switch), on the rare chance it is defective, but 99 percent chance it will need to have the Body Computer replaced. It is bolted to the fuse box above and in front of the brake pedal.

Check those fuses too. They often become loose in their sockets and will sometimes even fall out onto your ankle. There is another fuse box under the hood.

If the sputtering is consistant, your mechanic can connect a hand-held computer, called a scanner, with a record / playback function. That can be used to record about five seconds worth of sensor data when the problem occurs. He can play that information back slowly later to look for clues to the problem. Since the data travels through the memory in the scanner, the recording actually begins a couple of seconds before the button is pressed. This is one way to find engine performance problems that don't act up long enough to set a fault code. There can be other fault codes too that don't turn on the Check Engine light. He will use the same scanner to read those codes. Low fuel pressure is real common on GM products and will cause this symptom, but it is rare on Chrysler products. The fuel pressure is not monitored by the Engine Computer and won't set any fault codes directly, so it will have to be measured with a mechanical gauge if it is suspect.

Caradiodoc
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 1:24 PM

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