1999 Dodge Caravan Root cause?

Tiny
TAWARREN0260
  • MEMBER
  • 1999 DODGE CARAVAN
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 176,000 MILES
I noticed upon slowing to a stop that the van slightly lurched forward when downshifting. This happened several times before the check engine light illuminated on the dash board. The van continued to perform satisfactorily for the next 50 miles. I checked the transmission fluid - it was full and clean. The next time the van was driven, it would not shift out of second gear. What seems to be the root cause and what is the best approach to repair it?
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Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 AT 1:32 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi tawarren0260. Welcome to the forum. Staying in second gear is the default to "limp-in" that allows you to drive it slowly to a repair shop. The main cause used to be slippage in one of the clutch packs but with improvements in design over the years sensor problems are becoming the more common cause.

You must cycle the ignition switch off and restart the engine to get the system out of limp-in mode. In general, if it goes back to limp-in while driving, typically during a light-throttle upshift, you can suspect clutch plate slippage. That will require a transmission rebuild. If it starts out right away in second gear, a sensor problem is more likely.

Many years ago with the simple hydraulically-controlled transmissions, the shifts became sluggish with high mileage as the clutch plates wore down. You typically had a real lot of warning before a rebuild was necessary. With your computer-controlled transmission, the computer learns how much volume of fluid it takes to apply each clutch pack and it updates that information as they wear down. The result is it will apply the next clutch just a little bit sooner before it releases the previous one to maintain a nice crisp shift quality, ... Until the day comes when no amount of updating is sufficient to prevent slippage. When slippage is detected by the input speed sensor and output speed sensor, a fault code is memorized in the Transmission Computer, and it goes to limp-in. If you're lucky, one of those sensors is causing the problem, but if your transmission has never been rebuilt yet, you have about three times the mileage they normally reach before that is necessary. Other manufacturers have similar problems. This isn't just a Chrysler thing. Chrysler was just the first to develop this computer-controlled transmission and they are the most experienced company at making improvements for reliability. If yours does need to be rebuilt, you may be better off with a remanufactured unit from the dealer. It will have all of the updated and improved parts already inside it. To have an independent shop or transmission specialty shop install the rebuild kit AND purchase all of those updated parts would typically cost a lot more. Those are the people to see for estimates.

Caradiodoc
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Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 AT 2:31 PM

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