2008-2020 Dodge Grand Caravan: common problems, engines
The Dodge Grand Caravan is a universal vehicle. It can be used as a daily driver, a family transportation, a work van, or a cargo hauler.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan.
It's also perfect for fishing trips and can even be converted into a camper. The Caravan has front-wheel drive and is powered by a V6 engine.
What are the common problems with the 2008-2021 Dodge Grand Caravan?
Many owners have reported premature brake wear. Electrical problems are fairly common, especially in 2008-2010 model years, including corrosion and other issues with the TIPM module, broken or chaffed wires in driver's and sliding door harnesses. Minor engine problems such as oil and coolant leaks and a failed thermostat are also frequent. Other problem areas include emission control faults, issues with the suspension and the air conditioner. Let's look closer at some of the common problems:
What can cause the Check Engine light with the trouble code P0128?
This problem often shows up as the weather gets colder. You may notice that Check Engine light keeps coming on and off. The scan shows the code P0128 - Coolant Temperature Below Thermostat Regulating Temperature. This code is common in the 2011-2021 Grand Caravan with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. In most cases, this code is caused by a bad thermostat. The thermostat is the key component of the engine cooling system. The main symptom of a bad thermostat is when the engine takes too long to warm up or the engine temperature drops when driving on a highway. Another symptom of a bad thermostat is when the engine overheats even with proper coolant level.
How much will the repair cost? A local repair shop or a dealer mayl charge a diagnostic fee, plus 0.8-1.0 hour of labor to replace the thermostat, plus the price of the part plus some coolant.
If you want to replace the thermostat DIY, it's a fairly easy job (4 out of 10, with 10 being the most difficult) You will need basic tools, a new thermostat and some extra coolant. Here are a few videos showing thermostat replacement
. Read also: Thermostat: how it works, symptoms, problems, testing
What can cause the Gas Cap warning and/or the Check Engine light with the code P0456 - small EVAP system leak?
There are two reasons that are more common: one is a faulty leak detection unit (aka Evaporative System Integrity Module or ESIM), the second is a fuel tank cap that doesn't seal properly.
The mechanic will have to do the EVAP system test to determine the exact source of the leak.
ESIM module (leak detection unit).
The ESIM module is not an expensive part. It's a small box (in the photo) that is attached to the charcoal canister under the rear side of the vehicle.
Mechanics commonly replace this part to fix the code P0456 in many Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler vehicles. Here is a Youtube video
explaining the repair.
A gas cap is cheap and easy to replace. In some rare cases if the fuel neck sealing surface is badly damaged by rust, it may need to be replaced too.
Other possible cases for the code P0456 include a bad purge valve, cracked or damaged charcoal canister or one of the tubes.
What can cause a sliding door in a Dodge Gand Caravan to get stuck closed and how to open it?
The sliding door gets stuck closed typically because of a problem with the door lock actuator. Sometimes it could be just a lack of lubrication or corrosion. To open the stuck door the door cover (trim panel) will need to be removed first. It held by one torx screw located near the inner handle and several clips. From our experience, we know that the clips holding the door cover are a lot easier to come out when the plastic is warm, so if it's cold outside you may want to run the heater for a while. Some clips may break, so you may need to buy a few extra clips. This video
shows how to remove the door cover. Of course it's a lot harder if the door cannot be opened. Once the door cover is removed, the door could be unlocked manually. Here is a video
explaing one way to unlock the stuck sliding door.
Sliding door actuator replacement.
Replacing a door lock actuator assembly at a dealership will cost 2-2.5 hour of labor plus the cost of the parts. If the cinch motor needs to be replaced it will cost additional 1.5 hours of labor or so. If you want to do it yourself it's a tedious job that involve a lot of small parts and will take quite a bit of time. Here is a video
describing the repair. We suggest getting this work done at a dealership.
What can cause the Check Engine light with the code P0520?
The most common part that can cause this code in all Jeep/Dodge Chrysler vehicles including the Grand Caravan is a failed oil pressure sensor. The service bulletin 18-034-14
advises to replace the oil pressure sensor if the code P0520 is stored. It's a straightforward repair; the bulletin quotes 1.2 hours of labor and the part is cheap. Is it an easy job for a do-it-yourselfer? We would say it's 3 out of 10 with 10 being most difficult. You will need a socket that fits the sensor and an extension. This great video
from Dave shows the shortcut to replace the sensor with the least amount of efforts.
What to do if there is a ticking noise from the top of the engine in the Grand Caravan?
The part that usually fails in the Pentastar 3.6L engine is a rocker arm, which is a small inexpensive part. However, if you keep driving with the noise, more parts will eventually end up damaged, including possibly the camshaft(s), which will increase the cost of the repair. For this reason, if you hear an abnormal ticking noise from the top of the engine, have it checked sooner. The Check Engine light may also come on showing misfiring. The repair is not an easy one, check out this video
, again, from Dave.
We would advise to have the repair done at a dealership. They may also advise replacing other rocker arms as a precaution (one camshaft has 6 rocker arms, with 4 camshafts in tota). It does make sense, since once the camshaft is removed, all 6 rocker arms under this camshaft are easy to replace. This repair will cost from $700 and up, depending on the extent of the damage.
How to update the Uconnect system in the Dodge Grand Caravan?
First, check if the update is available for your vehicle:
Visit the Uconnect Website https://www.driveuconnect.com/software-update/ and enter your vehicle's VIN. You can get the update done at the dealer or yourself. The website provides instruction on how to complete the update:
1. Download the available software update on your computer, and extract it onto a USB drive (min 4 Gb).
Start your Dodge Grand Caravan and turn on the Uconnect system. 3. Connect the USB drive with the software update to one of the USB ports in the vehicle.
Follow the on-screen prompts on the Uconnect system to initiate the update process. Do not turn off the ignition or remove the USB unitll the update is fully completed. If the update is interrupted, the Uconnect system may become inoperable.
5. Once the update is completed, the system will restart and be ready to use.
Check the Uconnect system settings to confirm that the update was successful and that you are now running the latest software version.
If you're uncertain or uncomfortable with the process, it's always a good idea to check with your dealership and get it done there for a fee.
What can cause an oil leak from the engine in the Grand Caravan?
The one part that is commonly known to cause an oil leak coming from the 3.6-liter Pentastar engine is the oil cooler. The leak could appear in the area between the engine and the transmission and could be mistaken for a leaking rear main seal (which is a lot more expensive repair). The oil cooler is the part that holds the oil filter housing. It could leak from the O-rings or from the cracks in the plastic. We found this video
explaining the problem and the repair. If O-rings
are leaking, they can be replaced separately, which is a lot cheaper. To replace the oil cooler, the plastic intake manifold must be removed. The dealership may charge you up to 3 hours of labor for this repair plus the parts. Here is one more video
of the same repair. The repair difficulty is about 5 out of 10 for a DIY enthusiast.
Electrical problems in the Dodge Grand Caravan
Problems with the door locks or power windows in the driver's or front passenger's door are often caused by broken wires in the driver's door harness. Here is a good video
from Eric O. explaining the diagnostic and repair of the problem with driver's door locks/windows. Skip to the middle of the video in you are just interested in the repair.
Similar problems with the lock/window of one of the sliding doors can also be caused by broken wires in the sliding door wiring harness. Here is a good video.
explaining the problem.
In either case, the door wiring harness will need to be repaired or, preferably, replaced. The part is not super expensive, but the repair is tedious, and if you are doing it yourself, it must be done with extra care, and the wiring needs to be routed exactly as it's designed to be.
Many electrical "gremlins" can be caused by a problem with the TIPM module. Many owners of older Dodge / Jeep / Chrysler vehicles are familiar with this part. It's an under-hood fuse box that includes some other electrical components. The problem with this module is that the circuit board or the connectors inside of it can get corroded as a result of moisture or become loose due to heat.
The part is available on eBay and other sites, priced from $100 to $500 (used or refurbished). It's not super difficult to replace, but the part number should be correct for your vehicle's VIN number. We found these YouTube videos
explaining the replacement of the TIPM module.
Honda Odyssey 2011-2017
2004-2010 Toyota Sienna
Is the Dodge Grand Caravan a good van to buy?
The reliability ratings are low, but it's much cheaper compared to, for example, a Honda Odyssey. It's also comfortable and versatile inside, Stow 'N Go seats is a big plus, and it has a good engine.
The 2012+ Grand Caravan boasts a 4-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA.
Another plus: there is plenty of how-to videos on most of the problems and many repairs can be done DIY if you want to save money. With good care this vehicle can last for over 170,000 miles, although it will need some repairs here and there.
The 2008-2010 Grand Caravan comes with a 3.3-liter or 3.8-liter V6 which is an old-school OHV (pushrod) engine. The 4.0-liter V6, optional on the SXT is a 24-valve SOHC V6 with a timing belt.
Dodge Grand Caravan 3.6-liter Pentastar V6.
The 2011+ Grand Caravan is equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which is a modern DOHC engine used on many Chrysler/FCA vehicles. It's a good engine that can last long with proper care.
The van life is becoming more popular and the Grand Caravan is one of the top choices to turn it into a camper. Check out this video
how the Grand Caravan is converted into a pretty comfortable camper. We also found several conversion kits sold online.
from Amanda shows even simpler no-built conversion with the addition of a roof-top box.
What to look for when buying a used Dodge Caravan:
Avoid high-end trim levels with complex features. The base model will be much cheaper to keep on the road in the long run. When checking a used Dodge Grand Caravan, check the history records that may indicate previous flood damage or accidents.
When checking the vehicle at the dealer's lot, listen for the engine noise. Avoid a car if the engine sounds too loud or there is a tapping noise coming from the top of the engine. It's a good idea to check the service records (if available) to see that oil changes were done regularly. Test all electrical features such as power windows and locks, A/C, heating seats, power sliding doors, etc.
When test driving a used Dodge Grand Caravan, watch out for any irregularities with the automatic transmission, such as delayed engagement, shift flare, slipping and harsh shifting. Sometimes a delayed engagement is more obvious when shifting into reverse. Before purchasing the vehicle, have it inspected by an independent mechanic. The condition of the subframe, brake lines, ball joints
and other underneath components is very important. Check the NHTSA website
will help protect the undercarriage and other underneath components.