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prodarwin
prodarwin MegaDork
4/29/24 10:14 p.m.

Been searching for a replacement for my DD.  A few different warm/hot hatches have topped my list (GTI, Focus ST, Mazda 3), however they are A) expensive B) rare and C) I have renewed my desire to spend many weekends camping in the mountains.

So, what do I need to know about Caravans and possibly Transit Connects?  They are hilariously cheap compared to the above cars, and seem to be readily available.  Looking in the ~$10-15kish range  Questions that come to mind:

  • Any years particularly more reliable than others?  Any critical maintenance right around 100k I should be planning on? (remember I was previously looking at VWs)
  • Any options to avoid because they are not reliable (power doors, etc?)  <- I'd like to avoid those in general, but not sure that's a thing in the US.
  • Carplay or AA support is a must for me, so are there any that would present a problem there?  I'm fine with replacing the head unit, but if I do, I'd like it to retain steering wheel controls/integration.
  • Are any less hateful to drive than others?  Better transmission programming, suspension, etc?  Seems like there is a Caravan GT, but it looks like maybe its just an appearance package + wheels/tires?
  • Do all of them have stow 'n go?  If not, do the ones without it still have the same cavity in the floor?
  • Do all of them have rear seats that fold down into the floor/or the cavity that they would fold into?

 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/29/24 10:56 p.m.

I've written extensively in this thread: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/cars-sale/van-shopping-tiiiiimme/183785/page1/

And, my buying experience in this thread: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/the-next-big-thing-19-grand-caravan/173162/page1/

My buying experience was unique and unreplicatable (from a different era) but still in that thread there are some nuggets like trailer hitch and roof rack info.  

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/29/24 11:05 p.m.

 Answering on Mopar Vans only...

prodarwin said:

 

  • Any years particularly more reliable than others?  Any critical maintenance right around 100k I should be planning on? (remember I was previously looking at VWs)  2014+ because 2011 got the 3.6L engine and 2104 got the bigger brakes.  All covered in link #1 above.  
  • Any options to avoid because they are not reliable (power doors, etc?)  <- I'd like to avoid those in general, but not sure that's a thing in the US. 
  • Carplay or AA support is a must for me, so are there any that would present a problem there?  I'm fine with replacing the head unit, but if I do, I'd like it to retain steering wheel controls/integration.  Head unit is double DIN so replacement should be easy.  Cutchfield should be versed in how the save the steering wheel controls.  
  • Are any less hateful to drive than others?  Better transmission programming, suspension, etc?  Seems like there is a Caravan GT, but it looks like maybe its just an appearance package + wheels/tires?  Again 2014+ and trim levels detailed in link #1.  Only 1 drivetrain and 1 suspension offered in all trim levels
  • Do all of them have stow 'n go?  If not, do the ones without it still have the same cavity in the floor?  link #1, page 2
  • Do all of them have rear seats that fold down into the floor/or the cavity that they would fold into?  All have rear seat cavity.  Even the cargo versions called Ram C/Vs which have a flat floor have under floor cavity storage areas from where seats would/could fold into. 

 

 

Ranger50
Ranger50 MegaDork
4/30/24 6:32 a.m.

Make sure the 3.6 oil filter assembly has been replaced. Decent idea with horrible execution like most mopars.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
4/30/24 6:53 a.m.

Might be getting rid of my 2013 sienna soon. Thanks company car. 115k miles. But the whole floor isn't flat like stow and go. Which I would want if camping. 

Peabody
Peabody MegaDork
5/1/24 9:00 a.m.

I drove a very low mileage 2017 Caravan yesterday. Three things I noticed were that it's a really comfortable driving vehicle, you could eat up a lot of highway in it but, the air conditioning was weak (it was 60 and sunny, and the air was not overwhelmingly cool), and it was a little rattly in the rear section over rough road. Are these things normal?

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/1/24 9:20 a.m.

As for AC, I'd think the opposite for me.  The combo of front and rear AC (if equiped) turns the air over quickly and strongly.  

But, could be possible that the front was blowing cold and the rear was blowing hot.  I hear this is common.  I think the front and rear are separate systems..

 

Re: rattle. Even as an owner, I accept that its a product of mid grade manufacturing. 

Agreed that sustained hyw travel is easy.  

 

Above oil filter was mentioned.  It is a canister type filter located near the top for easy access which in itself is not bad but the lid o-ring is easy to seat wrongly resulting in significant oil leak into the valley of the V6 engine.  Re-seat correctly or an easily sourced fresh O-ring solves the problem.  That and some rags to soak up the spilled oil (ask how I know.)

The canister and lid is also plastic. 

SEADave
SEADave Dork
5/1/24 10:21 a.m.

My wife has a 2019 Grand Caravan.   The GC is a great road trip vehicle but it is not as quiet as I would like.  It has wind noise and little rattles here and there.    All that fancy stuff that makes it fold up like a transformer (stow & go) is very hard to make not rattle a little.   Also, I may have very high standards since my daily is an LS430.   

Go for as late model as you can find.  Certain things like the oil filter housing were improved in the later models.  

prodarwin
prodarwin MegaDork
5/1/24 12:01 p.m.

Pasting the model breakdown from John's other thread here:

 

John Welsh said:

The Dodge's came in 3 trims

  • R/T, later renamed GT is the loaded model
  • SXT (also SE) is the mid model
  • American Value Package (AVP) is the low spec model.

All trims got the same drivetrain but here is how they stripped the AVP.

#1: No rear hvac.  The only air comes out of the dashboard.  This means you might have cold/hot 3rd row passengers for a long time or at least until the air gets back there.  You'll be running the HVAC at max for a long time and the front people will be too cold/too hot so the 3rd row people can just barely get some comfort.  Pic from the ad, the black row under the HVAC control is where the rear controls would reside:

#2: Stationary sliding door glass.  Unlike the upper models, the AVP second row windows do not open.  Maybe not the worst thing but when combined with no rear AC, the only air you can add to the back is from the front windows. From the ad, the driver's door only has switches to open the front windows. 

#3: No tinted glass.  Also, not the worst thing on it's own but... Non-tinted glass means the sunlight will heat up the interior much more significantly.  You will welcome that additional heat in the winter but hate that additional heat in the summer.  Combine this with the other two issues and what you have is the max-hot interior with the least ways to get rid of that heat.  Can't roll down the rear-side windows and can't crank up the rear AC.   

It just amazed me that the AVP gave such disregard to interior comfort.  Because of this, I recommend the AVP to be the van to buy if you're just hauling cargo but not an awesome choice if you regularly intend to have 3rd row passengers.  

 

Here's an example of what has caught my eye.  Thre seem to be a bunch of these around, which is great.

https://www.pristineautoplex.com/details/used-2014-dodge-grand-caravan/103058515
$10,590  83k miles
2014 Dodge Grand Caravan for sale at Pristine AutoPlex in Burlington NC
 

prodarwin
prodarwin MegaDork
5/1/24 12:04 p.m.
Peabody said:

I drove a very low mileage 2017 Caravan yesterday. Three things I noticed were that it's a really comfortable driving vehicle, you could eat up a lot of highway in it

I'm going to try and drive a few this weekend, but one concern was the how tippy and squishy vans have felt to me in the past.  Is it like that?  I'm expecting a bit of a marshmallow ride, but I'm hoping there are some aftermarket springs or dampers that can correct that.

Peabody
Peabody MegaDork
5/1/24 12:30 p.m.

In reply to prodarwin :

I didn't do any freeway, only in and around the outside of town. It seemed pretty good, at least for what I was doing.

aftermarket springs or dampers

I'm trying hard not to think about that. I lower everything I own and know it could be awesome for 99% of what I want to do but a really bad idea for the remaining 1%.

prodarwin
prodarwin MegaDork
5/1/24 2:25 p.m.
Peabody said:

In reply to prodarwin :

I didn't do any freeway, only in and around the outside of town. It seemed pretty good, at least for what I was doing.

aftermarket springs or dampers

I'm trying hard not to think about that. I lower everything I own and know it could be awesome for 99% of what I want to do but a really bad idea for the remaining 1%.

I havent regretted lowering anything.  I'm honestly not looking to drop a Caravan a ton.  An inch would be great, but honestly I think I just want to make sure it has enough roll control that it isn't nauseating to drive like the Odyssey or Vue my wife had in the past.  A quick look at Rockauto MOOG springs, looks like the GT springs are significantly stiffer than stock by ~70% or so.

GT

Regular

Duke
Duke MegaDork
5/1/24 9:56 p.m.

In reply to prodarwin :

One other nice bit about these is that the roof racks unclip with a couple of thumbscrews.  Then the ends fold flat and the same thumbscrews stow them in little fairings built into the roof side rails. It's an elegant little feature.

 

chandler
chandler MegaDork
5/2/24 6:35 a.m.

You know you want to

Advan046
Advan046 UberDork
5/2/24 8:25 a.m.

Having driven the Caravans for many generations I will note that the 2017 -present Pacifica and Voyager models are significantly better to drive locally and long distances. I thought the Caravan RT had decent suspension tuning. But it is 2007-8 era suspension design.

The Caravan did go through a whole bunch of changes in its later years. You mentioned the need for AA and Carplay capabilities. This seemed to be oddly variable per model Caravan. Even when the media unit seemed the same they may or may not have the function as recent as 2017 models. I recommend you do some deep dives into how to quickly tell if it does or doesn't.

Be aware that the transmissions are wear items that require periodic replacement upon failure. I don't think Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis ever chose to rectify that issue. 

VW Routans are rebadged Caravans without second row stow and go. 

Good links to old threads. 

Peabody
Peabody MegaDork
5/2/24 8:32 a.m.
prodarwin said:  A quick look at Rockauto MOOG springs, looks like the GT springs are significantly stiffer than stock by ~70% or so.


GT

Regular

How do you know that?

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/2/24 8:44 a.m.

I'm surprised to learn of spring differences.

If looking for a larger wheel, the wheels from a Dodge Journey should be a direct fit and these optioned with AWD offered 18" or 19", maybe even 20". 

My opinion on the Routon is to avoid.  Sure, mechanically the same but front clip (hood, bumper cover, fenders, headlights) and rear clip (rear quarters, bumper cover, tail lamps and tailgate) are unique so no body panels interchange with true Mopars.  My fear is low body parts availability could be likely to insurance total your vehicle even with minor damage.  

Duke
Duke MegaDork
5/2/24 8:51 a.m.

Did the Routan have a Mopar drivetrain?

 

Ranger50
Ranger50 MegaDork
5/2/24 10:28 a.m.
Duke said:

Did the Routan have a Mopar drivetrain?

AFAIK, yes.

prodarwin
prodarwin MegaDork
5/2/24 10:47 a.m.
Peabody said:
prodarwin said:  A quick look at Rockauto MOOG springs, looks like the GT springs are significantly stiffer than stock by ~70% or so.


GT

Regular

How do you know that?

I just calculated based off the spring info shown there, which I found via Rockauto.

 

daytonaer
daytonaer HalfDork
5/2/24 10:48 a.m.
Advan046 said:

Having driven the Caravans for many generations I will note that the 2017 -present Pacifica and Voyager models are significantly better to drive locally and long distances. I thought the Caravan RT had decent suspension tuning. But it is 2007-8 era suspension design.

The Caravan did go through a whole bunch of changes in its later years. You mentioned the need for AA and Carplay capabilities. This seemed to be oddly variable per model Caravan. Even when the media unit seemed the same they may or may not have the function as recent as 2017 models. I recommend you do some deep dives into how to quickly tell if it does or doesn't.

Be aware that the transmissions are wear items that require periodic replacement upon failure. I don't think Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis ever chose to rectify that issue. 

VW Routans are rebadged Caravans without second row stow and go. 

Good links to old threads. 

Info for your consideration: the “new” Pacifica vans have significantly better crash test ratings vs. caravans. The transit connects are also a step down in crash ratings from the Pacifica.

 

I was in this market last year and narrowed it down to new hybrid Toyota van, significantly used Honda/Toyota van. (Base yota new off lot comparable prices to last gen used...) used Pacifica and used Kia. I toyed with and test drove transit connect.

 

I ended up buying a used Kia Sedona for 16k, average market deal and everything works fine. The carnivals hadn’t depreciated enough yet.

Peabody
Peabody MegaDork
5/2/24 11:21 a.m.

In reply to prodarwin :

I didn't see the number of coils listed so I'm not sure how you'd calculate that, and that's assuming that they're wound the same. It's not out of the ordinary for manufacturers to play around with coil diameter, number of coils and coil wind to get different results that aren't necessarily stiffer. One of them could be progressive and the other not. 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Dork
5/3/24 12:23 a.m.

We've had a 2014 from new, currently sitting at ~213k. 

It's not uncommon for things like the climate zones to be at polar opposite temperatures. We've had the passenger side blow full hot as well as the rear. It was awhile ago, but these issues were fixed at the dealership. Not sure how diy friendly it is. 

 

The transmissions are pretty meh and get confused about which gear it should be in. Likes to hold higher gears and then randomly downshift to like second. 

 

Speaking of transmissions, never, ever use the eco button. Or try it but make sure no other cars are around, because you'll be a rolling chicane. 

 

Get the bigger brakes. They really stop the van well. And check the front soft brake lines for rust jacking in this rubber sleeve Mopar uses around the metal connection. Could definitely be a bad time. 

Other than oil changes every 5k and the aforementioned HVAC woes, it's been super dependable. I've replaced the rear wiper motor like three times, though. 

 

 

prodarwin
prodarwin MegaDork
5/3/24 8:04 a.m.
Peabody said:

In reply to prodarwin :

I didn't see the number of coils listed so I'm not sure how you'd calculate that, and that's assuming that they're wound the same. It's not out of the ordinary for manufacturers to play around with coil diameter, number of coils and coil wind to get different results that aren't necessarily stiffer. One of them could be progressive and the other not. 

Fair, I was using the pictures as reference for coil #.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/3/24 8:53 a.m.

I have a 2017 GC GT, bought used in 2018 w/ 25K miles.  Currently at 141K.

Handling - acceptable. Once you get used to how it drives, it won't hold you back from being an idiot on twisty roads.  I have annoyed many a sports car driver with my van.  And that's with just a decent quality all-season tire.   The 282 HP from the 3.6 means the van has no trouble getting out of it's own way. 

The oil-filter housing assembly is arguably a weak point, being mostly plastic. However Dorman sells a metal version for reasonable cost.  The plastic heater hose Y connectors are also a weak point, but again - aftermarket to the rescue with metal versions. 

This all plays into one reason I like the Chrysler minivans - they made millions of them (especially this generation which stayed in production for longer than planned because they sold so well) so faults are known and sorted.  Plus, any corner garage has worked on dozens of them, so any repairs are usually quick and cheap. 

Right now, the only van I'd replace the current one with is a Pacifica plug-in hybrid as being able to run as an EV would be nice for a lot of driving I do these days. The hybrid would lose the middle stow-and-go as the batteries go in that cavity.  The seats are still removable, but they are also much nicer and more comfortable, which may be important if you actually plan to use the middle seats for carrying people.  The stow-and-go seats are somewhat minimalist by necessity. 

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