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My Dodge Grand Caravan is overdue its 60,000 mile service. Money is tight and I'm looking for advice. Should I have the full service as per the manual done at a Dodge dealer or should I go to a cheaper alternative. Also I have been told to only have the essentials done on the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle. So if you agree with the latter, what are the essentials and what can I afford to leave a while? The car is running great. It's a 2002 model.

I'd welcome any thoughts and recommendations. I live in Northern Washington State so if anyone has a particular service center to recommend please do so.

Thanks

Midge :help:
 

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On the newer vehicles I don't agree with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it theory." Since vehicles today have more electronics on them now than ever, you shouldn't ignore the suggested service intervals. However, you don't have to go to the dealer to have these services done. Find an independent shop that is trustworthy (ask friends or relatives whom they use) and go to them....you can save yourself hundreds of dollars.
 

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Midge said:
My Dodge Grand Caravan is overdue its 60,000 mile service. Money is tight and I'm looking for advice. Should I have the full service as per the manual done at a Dodge dealer or should I go to a cheaper alternative. Also I have been told to only have the essentials done on the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle. So if you agree with the latter, what are the essentials and what can I afford to leave a while? The car is running great. It's a 2002 model.

I'd welcome any thoughts and recommendations. I live in Northern Washington State so if anyone has a particular service center to recommend please do so.

Thanks

Midge :help:
Midge,

I have been in your situation, as far as the money being tight. So here is my advice for saving money and keeping your car maintained well.

I would advise somewhere between the full 60,000 mile service and the "if it ain't broke..."

Do not blindly go in and ask for the "60,000 mile service." (You know those cartoons where the character gets $$ in their eyes?) The 60,000 mile service could be different from one dealer to another, and it may include services you do not need, and may exclude services you do need. The important thing is to know what should be done and have them do only those things.

First, Look at your owner's manual for recommended service at 60,000 miles, and anything before 60,000 miles. Look at your records to see if any of that was done recently (or at all). Then make a list of what is recommended that has not been done recently.

Do not limit yourself to a dealer. Talk to people you know and get a personal recommendation of a good auto shop/garage. Give them your list and ask them for a price. Don't be afraid to go to more than one place to ask them their price.

There are some things you can do yourself and save money, or have a friend help you with.
  • Wiper blades can be had (all three) for less than $20, at Wal-Mart, and you can install those yourself.
  • Bulbs are easy to find, if any are out, and usually easy to replace.
  • You can buy an air filter in Wal-Mart for $10-$20 and easily install it yourself. Parts and labor to replace the air filter could be easily twice that.
  • You can also check all of the fluid levels yourself, and the dealer may charge for this.

Some things do not need to be "checked," or at least you should not pay someone to check them. For example, your front brakes will emit a high-pitched "screech" when they are close to needing replacement pads. When this happens, it sounds terrible, but it is not doing any damage. Listen for this and if you hear it, have someone replace the brakes. But don't pay someone to inspect the brakes. That is something that should be done for free.

Some things can wait. For example, if a dealer is recommending spark plugs, and you are not experiencing any driveability issues, maybe those can wait if money is tight. Also, often struts and shocks, if there is not an issue, can wait.

The most important thing you can do to maintain your car is to have the oil changed every 6 months or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. Yes, I said FIVE not THREE. Jiffy lube has drilled 3/3000 into our heads, but there is really no appreciable benefit to 3000 miles as opposed to 5000. Most manufacturers recommend 5000 or 6000 miles. (I use 4000, so that if I am a little late, I'm still under 5000 miles.)

Finally, Do not pay anyone for a "tune up." That is a term that used to mean something very specific, but now can mean almost anything.

Hope this helps. You don't have to be an auto mechanic to understand what your car needs, and you might be surprised at how much of it you can do yourself.
 

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Midge,

I would endorse everything mmahamm says above, and add two of my own.

1. It's critical that you follow the owner's manual instructions for changing the automatic transmission fluid and filter in this vehicle. These transmissions are very sophisticated, but also very sensitive to neglect. This should be done every 50,000 miles, and more often if most of your miles are stop-and-go. It is also critical that the fluid used is either ATF+3 or ATF+4, whatever your manual recommends. Using the wrong stuff will ruin your transmission quickly, completely and expensively. Whoever you choose to do this service for you, ask and make sure they use the right stuff. If they try to sell you on something else, or try to tell you something else will perform just as well, LEAVE! QUICKLY!

Your favorite quick-oil-change shop can ably perform a transmission fluid change. Call around for deals. In Michigan, most quick oil change shops charged $69 or $79 for this service, but here in Tennessee, the going rate seems to be $99. I have no idea why. It's the same service.

2. Every other year or every 40,000 miles is a good interval to have your cooling system flushed and refilled. There's two reasons for this. First off, your water pump depends on the lubricating effect of good antifreeze, and this lubricating property wears down over time and mileage. The second is to remove corrosive contaminants in the fluid that will eventually eat your radiator and other cooling system componants from the inside out. I would bet if you've been relying on dealer service up to now, they've probably already done coolant flush for you, so see when it was last done. If it's never been done, you're overdue, and this is one I would not put off. Again, this service is ably and cheaply performed at a quick oil change shop for around $50-$60.

Neither of these things is particularly difficult to do yourself, but they are very messy, and if you care at all about the planet, you have to arrange for proper disposal of the old fluids. That's why I prefer to pay someone else to do these two things for me, even though I do a lot of my own repairs.

By the way, the guys at the quick oil change place will try to up-sell you on wiper blades and filters and light bulbs and additives too. Politely say no, and like mmahamm says, do most of this stuff yourself for much cheaper.

Good luck!

Rick
 

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One more thing. Mmahamm is right on about struts and shocks. These do not need to be checked or inspected. When they need service, you'll feel it in the way the vehicle rides. My 96 Town & Country is up to 287,000 miles, and I just replaced the rear shocks for the first time (no joke, 287,000 miles on the original shocks, and they rode just fine). And then only because one got a hole in it from something hitting it, and all the fluid leaked out.

Rick
 

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Rick -

Good points!

I replaced the shocks and struts on my 95 GV when it had about 150,000 miles on it. They were soft, but not unsafe. When they got the back ones off, ohmigod the outside was almost corroded off! but they still worked.

I would add, and re-emphasize what you said about transmission fluid change. While the quick-lube shops will do this, AGAIN MAKE SURE THEY ARE USING THE RIGHT FLUID.

Keeping your car maintained and safe without overpaying, is truly an art. I just blew it because I had the Dodge dealer do transmission service last month, and I just now learned that as a certified pre-owned vehicle, that is part of the 124 point inspection service! I could have waited another 24,000 miles to do it!

Live and learn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the advice. I reckon you guys will save me a bundle without me having to put the cars well being at risk.

You've made my day!
 
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