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Deege
 
  1995 Dodge Caravan 4 speed transmission problems - Posted: 04-19-2011, 12:40 PM
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Post #1

OK, so recently I bought a Dodge Caravan (3.0L V6) that had a whining transmission. It was the 4 speed with overdrive. Changed the fluid and filter and it ran just fine...was a little rough here and there but was told it was because the computer had to reprogram itself.

I put over 1000 miles on it since I bought it and it ran great and I knew the fluid and filter would probably need changed again because it was pretty dirty when I got it, and it was never flushed, just drained and filter replaced.

Was driving the other day down the highway and all of the sudden my RPM shot up like it was bumped into neutral. Pulled off the highway and it wouldn't go back into any gear...turned the engine off and back on, and it goes into drive...but only drive (no reverse), and it slips right back out of drive after a few seconds of driving (not sure if it's at the point where it's trying to shift into second, or if it's just slipping out randomly). Once it slips out of gear, it will not go back into gear without turning the ignition off and back on. Then it goes into drive...but only drive. No reverse. And it is first gear, not 2nd (like Limp Mode). I changed the filter again just to test and and it didn't fix it. Had some shavings in the pan too.

Don't know if my transmission got completely screwed while driving, or if maybe the solenoid or an electrical problem could cause this problem? It's wierd to me that turning the ignition off and back on can cause it to go into gear again. When I try to put it into reverse, it makes a noise that sounds a lot like an electric drill spinning freely...it seems to go into park, neutral, and drive just fine without that drill noise (until it slips out of drive, then the ignition has to be turned off and back on to go into gear again).

Anyone have any clue about these? Most mechanics and shops will tell you you need a rebuild even when it's a cheaper fix...though I'm not counting out the fact that it could be seriously damaged inside...but it was running extremely smooth and fine before it slipped out of gear. Fluid was pretty dirty again...could the solenoid be clogged? I have noticed, when it does go into drive, that ratchet noise that the solenoid always made doesn't seem to be happening anymore...it just goes into drive.

Any advice, ideas? Anyone that had the same/similar problem?
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StandOnCliff
 
 Posted: 04-19-2011, 03:45 PM
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Post #2

Shavings in the pan is the clue.
Chunks of metal is something completely broke. Combinations of copper,steel plate, is usually clutches wore out taking bearings with it, or other components. It's really hit or miss until it's taken apart to totally diagnose the damage.
All you should find in the pan is clutch material. Which is very fine looking dust, attached to the magnet.
Either case, your looking at a rebuild or one from a scrap yard if any shavings are found in the pan.
The whining in the beginning was most likely a sign something was starting to go. Clutches beginning to slip or bearings beginning to fail. Changing the fluid just prolonged the inevitable.

Checking for codes with a scanner may yield results. Checking fluid pressures is the true way too know.
Pulling the dipstick and smelling the fluid will give you an idea if it truly is internal.
If it has a putrid smell to it and is dark colored, most likely it needs rebuilt or replaced.
It should be red and smell just about the same as fresh fluid.
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Deege
 
 Posted: 04-19-2011, 04:57 PM
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Post #3

Yeah you could very well be correct (unfortunately).

However, I was told that a whining noise is usually from the pump...unable to suck fluid, due to a clogged filter.
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StandOnCliff
 
 Posted: 04-20-2011, 11:00 AM
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Post #4

It could have been. Basically it comes down to the previous owner never putting in fresh fluid or filter.
Anytime the transmission does weird things like making noise or slipping. Damage has been done. From there it's only a matter of time. The faster a repair is made the better the chances for survival of the transmission. I have to ask myself, how long did the previous owner drive this vehicle with it whining. Had he done something about it, as you did, as soon as it started, you wouldn't be in this situation unfortunately.
The other thing that should be said is the transmission filter is not the only cleaning device in a transmission. There is a screen that filters in the valve body and one in the pump. When the fluid gets nasty looking, these can clog with fine debri.

I got one I'm rebuilding now. He just replaced his transmission in January from a local scrap yard. His began giving problems which he neglected. When he no longer could move with it, he finally tried to do something about it. It was way too late. Not only 3-4 clutches were burned out, but other components were broke too. It was still rebuildable, but the cost for the parts and the kit cost more then one from a scrap yard.
Fast forward to last week. He brings it to me and it's slipping when it shifts to third. Same way the other transmission began to act before it totally went.
I check the fluid level and it's 4 quarts low .
It had an obvious leak underneath the vehicle. Fill it up and it's doing the same thing.
He still needs to get it home. I told him to put the shifter in second to lock it in that gear, so it won't upshift and try to use 3-4 clutch pack. Get it home and don't drive it again. Drive it easy with the fourways on. Keep your RPM's low. He listens this time.
We pull the transmission and find 3-4 clutch pack has gone bad. Nothing else.
The root of the problem. An aluminum piece that bolts the transmission to the transfer case had a crack in it. This is his third one, one being replaced by a dealer. The other being replaced when he did the transmission in January is what he tells me. I decide to look into why these are cracking. The root of it's failure came back to the same broken transmission mount he was still using. How this was missed is beyond me, especially through the dealer. I grabbed and wiggled the transmission and found it almost instantly.
The root of both transmission failures. Neglecting to check the fluid levels when you know you have a leak.
Had he just got underneath the vehicle to inspect the reason the first one broke, none of the problems would have happened.
A $20 transmission mount and fifteen minutes is all it would have took.
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