The Dodge Grand Caravan is synonymous with minivans and basically created the segment when it debuted in the 1980s.
It went through five generations before finally being discontinued in 2020 as crossovers completely took over the family hauler role.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the most common issues and problems Dodge Grand Caravan owners have encountered.
Table of Contents
1. Premature Brake Wear
The most common issue fifth generation Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler minivan owners encounter is premature brake wear and frequent brake changes.
This is very common on early fifth gen Grand Caravans from 2008 to 2012 because they had smaller brakes that wore out its components much faster.
Common symptoms of worn brakes include:
- Brake pad or rubber smell
- Warped brake rotors
- Squealing or grinding noises when braking
- Vibrations under braking
- Seized brakes
Here’s how one owner described their experience on the DodgeTalk.com forum:
“We have a 2011 G/C Crew Plus, love the van. It is just over 2 years old, and has 500 engine hours with 23200km on it. At 17,000km the brakes seized, all pads and rotors were replaced. That was on July 11th 2012. Today the rear passenger side seized, you could fry an egg on it, it was that hot.”
“At 30,000 miles, I was hearing some grinding during hard braking and the pedal was a little low on my 2018 Grand Caravan. When I brought it in, I was surprised to learn that the front brakes had 50% remaining, but the rears were nearly metal to metal and the rotors were pitted.”
Brake wear became less of an issue on the 2013 Grand Caravan and newer model years when HD (heavy duty) brakes became standard.
Many Grand Caravan and Chrysler minivan owners also just use aftermarket brake pads and rotors that are supposed to last longer.
A lot of early brake wear problems are also caused by seized brake calipers, so make sure the brake components are properly greased every service.
2. Electrical Problems
Early fifth generation Dodge Grand Caravans have a tendency to suffer from lots of electrical problems caused by a faulty TIPM.
The TIPM (Totally Integrated Power Module), is used in all Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Chrysler products.
It’s basically a black box that contains a circuit board and lots of fuses and relays. It controls a lot of critical electrical components ranging from the wipers, HVAC to the fuel pump.
One of the most common issues is that the fuel pump relay goes bad and causes hard starting and engine stalling problems.
When the TIPM’s solder joints and transistors wear out, strange electrical issues will occur such as the horn, locks, wipers and lights acting like they have a mind of their own.
Here’s how one user on DodgeForum.com described their experience:
“My 08 GC SXT 4.0 V6 started going crazy earlier this week. Horn blaring, wipers going, washer fluid squirting, lights flashing, etc. Sorry to be beating a dead horse here, but I have done some reading on the internet and this forum and everything seems to point to the TIPM (totally integrated power module) as the problem. My OBD II scanner return error codes U0141, P0883, and P0890, which kinda confirm the TIPM as the culprit. The vehicle is at the local dealer for a diagnosis, they said it probably was the TIPM with a $600 + labor cost.”
Another owner on the DodgeTalk.com forum had this to say:
“I came out to my 2008 Grand Caravan in a parking garage and noticed the rear wiper was halfway up. Knowing I wasn’t using it, I knew something was up. I got it, tried to start it and as soon as the key was in the on position, the front wipers turned on, the horn was honking, and the lights were on — basically like a giant short, if you will. It had to be towed. It was the TIPM that was faulty and needed to be replaced.”
Other owners on ChryslerMinivan.net also mentioned the following:
“I replaced the T.I.P.M. on my 2010 Caravan for the stalling and intermittent hard starting.”
“2016 Town and Country with 63900 miles died while being driven 3 times in one mile. Had local garage diagnose as a TIPM replacement. Quote was $583.00 TIPM.”
To fix these electrical gremlins, you’ll have to replace the TIPM. Rebuilt units cost around $300 to $800 depending on the model year and usually come with all the fuses and relays already installed.
If you just want to fix the fuel pump relay problem, there are TIPM bypass kits available that will allow you to replace the relay without replacing the entire TIPM.
Wiring problems and other electrical issues can also cause similar electrical gremlins and are also worth checking out.
3. Sliding Door Issues
Over time, the Grand Caravan’s sliding doors can develop issues and won’t open or close fully, or just do strange things.
Sliding door issues are common on the fourth and fifth generation Grand Caravan and Chrysler minivans,
Older models can also develop issues over time as the tracks and sliding mechanism wear out and get dirty.
A lot of power sliding door issues are also caused by faulty key fobs/remotes which do have a tendency to fail.
Here’s how a few owners on AllPar.com forum described their problems:
“2007 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. Passenger side front door lock made a horrible noise whenever you would lock the door. Went to Car X and they confirmed it was a lock actuator. AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts wanted about $100 for the part and I found it at PartsGeeks.com for 60.”
“I have a 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan Sxt. Over the last few years I have had issues with the power sliding doors, especially the drivers side. I have replaced the lock actuators on both sliding doors and the passenger side now works fine. The drivers side not so much. My problem with the drivers side is that whether you use the key fob, or the pillar button, the door will unlock and then make a noise like Woody Woodpecker and then die. If I pull the latch while it is doing Woody then it will slide open. Otherwise it won’t.”
“I have a 2012 Dodge Caravan, and recently it has developed a very strange problem. It has the power doors, and this weekend the right side door just started opening and closing by itself. I might say open the driver’s door, and the side door would open, try to close itself and then cycle thus for a while before It would stay closed. To make the issue even stranger, now the problem has moved to the rear door, and now it is opening and closing on its own.”
The first thing to check would be for dirt and obstructions in the tracks. These have to be clean and properly greased or lubricated to function smoothly.
If the wiring or the switches break, the sliding doors will have issues opening and closing on their own.
Underneath the lower track, there will sometimes be a series of switches and a wiring harness that controls the motorized opening and closing of the door.
In a lot of cases, disconnecting the 12-volt battery for 5 to 10 minutes to reset the BCM (Body Control Module) can also sort out sliding door problems.
The 2015 to 2017 model years also have a 15-year/150,000-mile warranty extension for their sliding door lock actuators.
4. Oil Filter Housing Leak
The first few years the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine was used in the Dodge Grand Caravan had lots of issues with leaking oil filter housings.
Aside from getting brittle and cracking over time, the oil filter housing can crack due to over tightening.
Cracks and leaks are more common in the 2011 to 2014 model years of the Dodge Grand Caravan.
Here’s how one owner described their experience on DodgeForum.com:
“Took my 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan in to the Dodge dealer for a routine oil change. Later in the day, the oil light and check engine light came on while my wife was driving, and when we checked, the dipstick was dry and there was oil everywhere, mostly on the driver side. The oil plug was still fastened securely, so that wasn’t the issue. I suspect the oil filter housing cracked when they replaced the filter, but they are still working on it. At least the dealer admitted it was likely their mistake and towed the vehicle for free and provided a free loaner.”
A new oil filter housing should only cost a few hundred dollars and will be a fairly simple install for any experienced mechanic.
Many owners also replace the stock one with an aftermarket unit made out of metal which should be more durable.
5. Rust and Paint Problems
Dodge Grand Caravans don’t have the best paint quality and lots of older examples have excessive rust problems.
Rust isn’t just a cosmetic issue on a lot of older Grand Caravans. The frame and underbody can get extremely rusted out and pose drivability and safety concerns.
In a lot of third and fourth generation Grand Caravans, the spring shackles can get so rusted out that the suspension starts separating from the frame.
Lots of fifth generation Grand Caravans also have issues with paint peeling from the aluminum hood.
Here’s how a few users described their experience on the ChryslerMinivan.net forum:
“So I work at a dealer and have seen many of these vans come and go. I’ve seen 2011’s already with rust on the doglegs, fenders, And seams of door and trunk, much like 4th gens. I have seen many with corroding hoods as well.”
“My 2011 hood has corrosion, I have rust in both wheel wells (not severe yet), and the door seams are starting to show signs of rust on both front doors.”
“I had paint bubbling on the front part of the hood of my 09 GC when it had 40,000 miles on it.”
To mitigate the impending rust issues, it’s important to wash the underside frequently whenever you drive through salted roads.
Applying Fluid Film or similar types of rust protection also keeps newer vehicles from rusting out prematurely.
If your paint only has minor damage, some touch up paint can improve the appearance of the vehicle and prevent future paint and corrosion problems.
6. Transmission Issues
Transmission issues and failures are fairly common for the Dodge Caravan.
Some of the more common transmission issues that have been reported include:
- Rough shifts
- Won’t shift to higher gears
- Fluid leaks
Here’s how one owner described their experience on ChryslerMinivan.net:
“Just began having some issues with my 2010 town and country 62te transmission with 135K miles about 2 months ago. Some slipping when it is cold and some slight shuddering when shifting( only sometimes). I took to a shop in which they said my transmission is shot and need a new one ($4000).”
Lots of 2011 to 2013 Dodge Grand Caravans, as well as the Chrysler Town & Country, had transmission shifting issues caused by bad software programming.
In a lot of cases, a PCM (Powertrain Control Module) software update can correct the issues. Although many have also reported improved shifting after forcing the transmission into a relearn procedure.
Many fifth gen Dodge Caravans can also suffer from transmission fluid leaks via the cooler lines. In the fourth gen Dodge Grand Caravan, fluid would often leak out of the solenoid pack.
This can cause the transmission to run out of fluid and get severely damaged due to lack of lubrication.
Since modern Grand Caravans don’t have a transmission dipstick, it’s important to check for leaks and make sure the ATF is at the right levels at every service.
Many transmission issues can also be fixed by a simple drain and fill of the transmission fluid and replacing the filter.
Dodge recommends replacing the transmission fluid every 120,000 miles, but every 60,000 miles is better if you want to ensure the longevity of the gearbox.
Many owners also neglect to change the transmission fluid after the vehicle has gone over 100,000 miles, so it’s a good idea to have it drained and filled if you’re the second owner of a high mileage Grand Caravan.
7. Ticking Noise
The 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar in the fifth generation Dodge Grand Caravan has had lots of reports of premature rocker arm failures.
The rocker arm is part of the valvetrain. Once it wears out, it starts hitting the camshaft and produces a ticking noise.
This is a fairly common issue on all model years with the V6 Pentastar from 2011 up to 2020.
It’s also common on lots of other Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles with the same engine.
Issues and symptoms associated with rocker arm failures include:
- Ticking noise
- Check engine light
- Loss of power
- Damaged camshaft
A few owners on the ChryslerMinivan.net forum had this to say:
“I have a 2016 R/T with a little over 100K on the odometer. I’ve already had to rebuild the transmission and now the engine is ticking. Internet sleuthing has indicated that this is likely a bad rocker bearing.”
“My 2013 T&C has 94,800 miles and just developed a very mild tick so I feel pretty confident that the camshafts will be okay.”
“My very well serviced 2014, developed the tick, at around 140,000km – 87,000 miles. All rocker arms, were worn, and replaced.”
It seems like Dodge didn’t really significantly improve the rocker arm design until much later on, so a lot of older Pentastar engines can still have problems.
A new set of rocker arms cost around $200. Including labor, the repair will usually cost around $500 to $1,000.
8. Ignition Switch Issues
Older Dodge Grand Caravans can suffer from ignition switch problems.
Early years of the fifth generation Dodge Grand Caravan from 2008 to 2010 had a recall because the ignition switch could be easily switched to the “Off” position while driving.
Many owners of fourth generation Dodge Grand Caravans also eventually have problems getting the ignition switch to turn as the lock cylinder wears out or gets too dirty.
In such cases, you can try spraying some WD-40 or silicone lubricant inside the keyhole to loosen up any buildup and lubricate the components.
If you do need to get the ignition switch replaced, the parts should only cost a few dollars and can be replaced by any experienced mechanic.
9. Coolant Leak
The plastic coolant fittings on the fifth generation Dodge Grand Caravan have a tendency to become brittle and crack over time.
One of the most common parts that fails is a plastic Y-pipe that’s just above the exhaust manifold and connects to some heater and coolant hoses.
This can develop a small leak in lots of older fifth gen Grand Caravans from 2008 to 2011 which creates a noticeable coolant odor.
Here’s users on DodgeForum.com described their experience:
“Brought in my 2008 Grand Caravan SE to the dealer today to take care of RECALL issues, and also had them check out a coolant leak. (The thing was smoking like crazy when I rolled in for service) I popped the hood and the service guy and I both saw the leak at the Y fitting like others have described, and the exhaust was burning the coolant away.”
“I had the same leak at the Y-connector on my 2008 Caravan. Dealer part and repair was way too expensive $300-400. So I just repaired it myself.”
Lots of owners replace the leaking factory Y-pipe with an aftermarket one made out of metal to avoid having to deal with leaks in the future.
An even cheaper way to fix this is to just use a T fitting from the hardware store and reconnect the hoses using clamps.
10. Noise from Rear Shock
Lots of fifth generation Grand Caravan owners have complained about noises from the rear when the shocks start wearing out.
Many describe the rear-end noise as a clunking or thumping, while others hear a rattling.
Some owners report having to replace their shocks at around 30,000 to 50,000 miles.
Suspension noise problems can affect all model years of the fifth gen Grand Caravan from 2008 to 2020.
Here’s how a few owners described their issue on ChryslerMinivan.net:
“The rear shocks on my 2014 non load leveling were replaced under warranty at 35,500 miles for making a constant noise even at low speeds. Best I can remember to describe it is a random cross between a squeak and a thump.”
“They’ve replaced mine twice under warranty, and I’m going to go for a third time. You’ll be amazed at how much quieter your van is with new ones. The rattling and rumbling is so near to subsonic that after awhile it is for the most part just background noise. Unfortunately, after 15K or so, you become aware that the noise is coming back.”
“I have a 2017 Grand Caravan that had 5 sets of rear shocks replaced because of a rattling noise.”
Dodge released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for the 2011 to 2013 Grand Caravan which recommends replacing the shocks if it’s making noise on uneven surfaces.
Replacing the shocks isn’t too expensive and costs between $50 to $200 a piece.
If the noise doesn’t bother you and the shocks still work well at dampening the suspension, you can just ignore it until you really need to replace the shock absorbers.
11. Low Safety Scores
It is worth noting that the Dodge Grand Caravan is not as safe as some of its competitors based on its safety scores.
Despite various safety features being available – especially on higher-end trims, the Grand Caravan performed poorly on crash tests scores for the driver.
In the IIHS’ small-overlap frontal-impact test, the Grand Caravan was given the lowest possible rating of “Poor,” although it did secure an overall score of 4/5 stars from the NHTSA.
Dodge Grand Caravan Pros and Cons
- Very affordable
- Second-row captain’s chairs
- Good overall reliability
- Lacks safety features
- Outdated tech
- Interior materials and rattles
What Do The Reviews Say?
“The 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan has flexible seating for seven, lots of cargo space, and a price that won’t break the bank. Nearly every rival is more appealing, though, since the Grand Caravan lacks the modern tech, safety and convenience features to truly compete.”
“The Grand Caravan is adequate from a performance perspective, which is all you really need from a minivan. Though it does little truly wrong from behind the wheel, it lacks refinement in both its powertrain and suspension tuning relative to its competition.”
“This is a minivan with enough luxuries and features to handle all-day drives. The ride comfort is acceptable, and its interior is loaded with comfort-enhancing amenities.”
“The Grand Caravan’s interior flexibility is its biggest strength. Once you step into the cabin, you’ll find there’s more than enough passenger room throughout.”
“There’s less attention to quality details in the Grand Caravan than all other minivans. Though some materials are acceptable, they’re matched with large swaths of cheap plastic trim. We question the durability of the complex second-row seats.”
What’s the Resale Value of a Dodge Grand Caravan?
Here’s a quick look at the base Dodge Grand Caravan SXT’s used pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.