Dodge Caravan

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The Frightening Safety Issue that Dodge refuses to deal with- DEMAND A RECALL BEFORE SOMEONE GETS KILLED!!
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I purchased my very first new car in 1999 from Pierre Auto Centers in Seattle, Washington. It was a Dodge Caravan 6 cylinder. I was excited as I was 5 months pregnant and assumed this would be a very safe family car.

My first service issue with the Caravan just seemed like luck of the draw. Something went wrong with the Output Terbine Speed Sensor. This happened twice, once in 2002 and then 4 months later. The van had 27,000 miles on it and was covered by an extended warranty- non-Chrysler as our dealer preferred a company called One Care. Keep in mind this is my first car. What's two Terbine Speed Sensors on your first car?! Little frightening to just suddenly decelerate on the freeway, but flashers and a good shoulder later... everything was okay.
I had already had Steering lines replaced due to a TBS on that and had the Solnoid Pack looked at as the Dodge, from the moment we got it, seemed to be shifting gears up and down even when in park or at a stop light- it would accelerate and then sound like shifting- the mechanic said it needed a Solnoid Update Kit but that warranty wouldn't pay for the repair as it wasn't hurting anything- just annoying.

It wasn't until May of 03- exactly one month off of Warranty by date- and 1000 miles under warranty by mileage (28,899)- that we started in with the so-far seven-year nightmare of the TENSIONER, TENSIONER PULLEYS and SERPENTINE BELT replacements at every 5000-25,000 miles. It has been non-stop since the car was three years and 28, 000 miles old.

The first service- Pierre Auto Centers- Seattle WA, 5/14/03- inv.# DOCS182734-- note on invoice "INSPECT SERP BELT TO SEE IF IT NEEDS TO BE RPLACED. "S" BELT IS OKAY, AC BELT IS DIRTY, AND THE BELT TENSIONER IS WEAK AND SHOULD BE REPLACED. REPLACED BELT AND TENSIONER.

AT UNDER 30,000 miles I first replaced the tensioner and belt.

On 9/25/03 I have invoice # 85767 from Courtesy Tire that notes "Check for belt squeak" as the belt was whining and I was concerned. He didn't find anything notable at that time. Mileage 35,813.

April 4, 04,Nov. 12, 04 I also had Courtesy Tire check the squeak,put on new breaks etc. They tightened the tensioner and suggested checking it every few thousand miles. I stopped driving it for a while-used my old Toyota P/U (25 years old, no problems still) instead. Began driving it again in March 2005-

At 55,000 miles the belt broke while on a trip. I had a local replace it not remembering that the new belt had only 20,000 miles on it. That was 12/30/05.

Less than 9 months and 20,000 miles later, I had the belt again replaced. This time by Firestone- 9/12/06- mileage 70,000- invoice # 060160. Two months later, Firestone replaced the belt again and the tensioner invice #060160B- They charged me to do this work, but took off the cost of the Serpentine belt from two months before. It hadn't even been 2,000 miles.

Ledoux Auto then came into the mix, putting a belt on in Mar. 07 @ 76,000 mile and again in Dec. @ 90,000 miles.

Note: It would be nice to use your same mechanic each time for these repairs, but when you are having a breakdown that stops every system in the car, you have to take what you can get.

By Feb. 09, the Serpentine belt again shredded @ 102,000 miles, this time I was barely able to limp it into a Chrysler garage off of the freeway in The Dalles Oregon. C. H. Urness Motor Co, service (invoice #) CHCS100351 diagnosed the problem as the Serpentine belt fraying- needs new belt and tensioner.

Six hours down the road from that repair, I was in Parkway Cherolet's repair shop in Deer Park Washington, where they, concerned about the tracking of the belt and the longevity of the repair, removed the a/c fan belt thinking that I stood a better chance of making it back to Salem Oregon if I wasn't stressing anything. When I got home, I parked it for a couple of months until I could save some more money to have it repaired again.

This time, Whithnell Dodge in Salem put on a new tensioner and replaced the belt again. They were good enough to charge me a cut rate since the tensioner was a Dodge part and since it had only been two months since the previous repair and since the mileage was now only 106,000. (invoice #34363).

I took the van in for breaks in June 09. Things looked good. An oil change in Sept. 09- still good. In March '10 replaced the ignition swithch, thermostat and gasket. 15,000 miles on the new belt and tensioner!

At 30,000 miles -- thunk, thunk, thunk. Serpentine belt is sheared. This time, Withnell Dodge in Salem, invoice #79850 wrote on the invoice- the following note: "Tensioner replaced here 4/9. Replaced belt. Needs pulley update kit- belt moves to side of power steering pump when started- temporary fix right now.

The mechanic suggested that I call Dodge as surely they would help considering the documentation and the fact that I had this problem since the car was one month over the 3 year warranty and still under miles when all of this began.

Also, there has been an update kit available through Dodge since 2005. How many times have I had this replaced and by how many Dodge Authorized Repair shops?? NO one thought to mention the Pulley Update Kit??? Out since 2005??? Hmmmm.

The Dodge Caravan has been recalled because of this issue in Brazil.
You can go on the internet and read hundreds upon hundreds of complaints with the same m. o. as mine.

I do live in the Pacific North West and it is quite rainy and snowy here. As you can see from my repair dates, the Serpentine belt was always shredding during our rainiest times of years so that would make sense as to other people mentioning rain/water as a factor.

When I called Dodge, the case manager basically said, "too bad, so sad, tell someone who cares." I asked him why they wouldn't do a recall, or admit to a design flaw (when the Dodge certified mechanics are saying just that) and yet they have created a kit that fixes the original tensioner system design". He offered me a free year's worth of oil changes instead of giving me a real answer- like why would I need to change oil on a car that has lost power steering on the freeway due to a snapped belt and has killed me and all the passengers in the van because I was unable to control it.

NO THANKS DODGE! I DON'T THINK THAT I WILL TAKE A CHANCE DRIVING ON THE FREEWAY IN YOUR SUPERSIZED FAMILY COFFIN ON WHEELS. A CRASH IN TOWN GOING 25MPH IS ONE THING- BUT MOST PEOPLE I HAVE READ ABOUT ARE SHELVING THE VANS FOR ANY REAL DRIVING UNTIL THEY CAN FIND AND/OR AFFORD THE FIX SINCE YOU WILL NOT DO THE RIGHT THING AND FIX YOUR DESIGN FLAW AND MAKE YOUR CONSUMERS SAFE.
MY ADVICE, BEFORE YOU BUY DODGE- BUY SOMETHING ELSE.
     
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trmn8r on 2011-02-22:
I don't agree at all that this is a safety issue meriting a recall.

When you are trained to fly, a fair part of the training is what to do in an emergency (for example the engine dies).

There is no such training for cars, and the obvious question is "why not?" The answer is, you pull to the side of the road as traffic permits. If that isn't possible, you put your 4-ways on and come to a controlled stop.
trmn8r on 2011-02-22:
IMO, the Dodge dealers that you visited after the TSB was issued (I believe your data showed in 2009, while the TSB was 2005) should have known about the pulley problem and informed you.

If this had been happening to me, I would have been scouring the internet at around the second or third incident. You have to do your own footwork sometimes. I hope it is finally fixed - what a nightmare.
Starlord on 2011-02-22:
Thank you, but I will stick to Dodge. Mopar rules!
Anonymous on 2011-02-23:
I had a 1999 Dodge Caravan also. It started falling apart from day one. Lucky for me it was the only vehicle where I purchased an extended warranty and got my moneys worth. A few months after the warranty expired I got rid of it. I'll never purchase another piece if trash from that company. I'm surprised your van is still running. You got almost 13 years out of it, you should be happy.
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Caravan knee buffer can cripple you
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
I was hit on the driver's side front fender and the knee buffer airbag deployed. I pinned both my lower lwgs back against the seat and I felt like my legs were on fire! I had to struggle to free my legs from the hot steel plate and mt lower legs began to bruise and swell immediately. Two weeks later I am still in pain daily and struggling to walk as my legs continue to swell daily from this massive crush injury. I also have a large deep tissue hematoma on the left aspect of each lower leg. These hematomas are visible externally due to the massive slowly draining blood blister that sits atop each one! I received more bodily injury from this "safety feature" than I did from the seat belt, driver's side airbag, and broken right hand. This knee buffer is deployed at 200 mph by a blast that creates enough heat to burn your legs! I actually thought my car was on fire due to the excruiating burning pain in my legs. These crippling airbags are in the 2005 and newer caravans. DO NOT BUY A DODGE MINVAN !
     
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FoDaddy19 on 2012-04-03:
Have you considered what might have happened had the knee airbags not been there? You may have ended up in far worse shape.
trmn8r on 2012-04-03:
This brings back memories of a coworker who hit a car that pulled across at 90 degrees in front of her as she was going 55mph. So essentially she hit a brick wall. The other guy died.

This was the days before airbags, and she would be dead if not for her seatbelt, which left a very noticeable bruise all along her chest, and I think her collarbone was broken by the restraint of the belt.

I understand you are blaming some injuries on these kneebags, but is there a possibility that overall you incurred less injury than if they were not there?
Anonymous on 2012-04-03:
I read an article that we shouldn't be driving with our hands in the 10 and 2 o clock positions cause if the airbags deploy, it can cause serious burns
MRM on 2012-04-03:
I heard! I heard!
Skye on 2012-04-03:
Little, yes we also heard that you are NOT supposed to drive at 10 and 2 anymore.

I never drove like that, too awkward. I like to hold the bottom of the steering wheel.

OP, I'm so sorry you were so injured.
trmn8r on 2012-04-03:
I never used 10 and 2, because I like to keep my hands free for the newspaper, burgers, and shaving.

Seriously, once I was reading a map completely unfolded and blocking my rearview, and when I pulled it down the whirly lights were in my mirror.

I made the mistake of setting the cruise 10mph above the limit. The trooper was not amused by any of this...
gw martin on 2012-05-01:
In my collision, the seatbelt restrained me perfectly, and then the "knee bolster" smashed my legs.

I had the same wounds in the lower legs, but it also shredded my left knee and I ended up with a knee replacement because of it. I read yesterday about a woman who's ankle was smashed by it as well.

My legs were also pinned to the seat and my vehicle didn't stop so we rolled on and had a total of 3 collisions - at least 1 was unnecessary and was caused by the "knee bolster"

Chrysler U.S.A. was advised of this in the summer of 2007 following my accident, as was Chrysler Canada.Neither were willing to talk and anyone who suffers because of this should sue the crap out of them. I am!

AC Parker on 2013-02-01:
I had a similar experience in a low speed offset front-end collision. The first thing I remember was an excruciating pain in my left shin. I reached down to feel it and found a sharp lump. I though I had broken my leg.

X-rays were normal and the ER told me it was just a contusion and to ice it and keep it elevated until it resolved in a few days.

That was in 2009 -- 4 years later it still hasn't resolved. The swelling did go down some over time, but the left calf is still noticeably larger than the right. I experience frequent pain, often unbearable, to the point I cannot sleep. I cannot let anything press against the impact area -- even lightly.

I have vascular damage in my calf which causes fluctuating pressure and a bubbling sensation. I have to keep my leg elevated when I am at rest and I am supposed to wear compression stockings to keep fluid from collecting in my foot, but they also put pressure on the impact area and cause pain. I cannot walk for too long and I cannot sit for too long or I risk fluid building up in my foot.

a few weeks after the accident, things were not improving and I noticed I had lost considerable strength in my left calf. My doctor had me go to a physical therapist, which I went to for several months, to equalize the strength in both legs. At the time, it was attributed to atrophy from keeping the leg inactive for several weeks. Now that the damaged muscle tissue has necrotised and you can see and feel a furrow where the edge of the panel struck my shin and calf muscle, I think the loss of strength was due to the impact.

I worry about clotting and I worry about losing my leg if I develop circulation problems later.

This was a bad design. They should have recalled it as soon as this flaw became apparent. They should have advised owners of the danger.

I would sue Chrysler, but they are protected from liability for any car manufactured and sold before the bankruptcy. Lucky me.
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