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2003 Grand Caravan Sport with bad motor...Decisions...

4767 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  cvguy
Hello to All,

I'm new to this site and I've got a big decision to make so your help is very appreciated.

I've got an '03 DGC 3.8L with 95K miles on it. Recently had a problem with overheating - after a few different mechanics changed out thermostat and flushed out cooling system (lots of debris and foul-looking coolant even after two flushes), but overheating persisted, I finally found a good mechanic who figured out what was happening. The coolant temperature sensor and also the fan relay were both bad. He switched those out and the problem went away. However, last week I was driving along with no problems when suddenly the car bucked and I lost power- it still ran but it was making a sputtering noise and felt like I lossed compression/power. Had it towed back to shop and he thought it was the A/C compressor. He also found cylinder #4 was misfiring so he tried changing spark plugs, wires and ignition coil. The A/C was blowing cold air- it was fine. But Cylinder #4 is smoked. When he disconnected wire from #4 plug the noise went away. He drained the oil out and he said it was very thick. I'm wondering if the head warped from all the overheating? Or maybe seal is gone or could it just be a bad lifter or valve etc.??

He didn't elaborate further but said he has a guy who is interested in buying the car from me. He also said if I want to fix it he'll set me up with his engine guy and I can buy a new engine for around $700-800 and the guy will drop a new one in for $700-800 labor So we're talking $1500 or more to get a new motor in this thing but maybe have the transmission go next year or the PCM or a catayltic converter etc...

Or do I just move on? How much can I sell it for? it's got a one yr old (11,000 miles) set of Toyo Versado tires on it. Body is good except for minor scratches and small dent in bumber. Interior is good as well.
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Agree with just about everything mmahamm said above, however I think it would be worth a few more bucks to ask your mechanic to drop the trans pan and have a look at the fluid. It should be clean and red, and the pan should have just a minimal amount of sludge on the bottom and around the magnet. If, by some chance, there is any amount of metal fragments in the fluid/pan, then I would bail on it. If the fluid looks ok, clean the pan, button back up, and replace the ATF+4. If there is little rust on the van, I think it's worth the 1,500+ for a rebuilt motor. Can't imagine anyone giving you much for it with #4 blowing smoke.
A few specifics on the trans fluid check. You don't want your mechanic to just pull the stick and check the fluid, or siphon it out. So, what you want to ask for is a pan drop and trans fluid and filter change. This isn't a waste of money (unless you would have done that job yourself), because your van is around the normal mileage for that job anyway. Although you don't want to get him pi$$ed off by telling him how to be a mechanic, there are a few things about this job that have been reviewed many times on this forum, and are a fairly solid consensus. First, request that only the pan be dropped, and that amount of fluid replaced (5-6 quarts). Absolutely no flush. If he says he's very good at transferring all of the fluid out, I guess that's your call. Personally I wouldn't go that route, but others here are ok with full transfers (but not flushes). Next specify ATF+4 fluid only - no substitutes. If he rolls his eyes and tells you he's fully aware of that, you can apologize, but not every mechanic knows or cares about this, and you don't want to chance him being one of those. And finally, ask how the bottom of the pan and magnet looks. A bit of sludge is ok, but metal fragments would a sign that another big $$ job is right around the corner. You would also like to know that he cleans the pan spotlessly, and doesn't gouge the gasket area, but you would probably get hit you over the head with a wrench if you mentioned that :icon_lol:. Did you find out if there is any warranty on the motor?
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