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Discussion Starter #1
Hi - I'm looking for some ideas on what would be the best way to proceed with my van. It is a 2005 Town and Country, 3.8L engine, 191,000 miles.

I took my van in for service because a few days ago it began "chugging" and what sounded like misfiring. The codes I got read p0300, p0306, and p0032.

The shop that looked over the van diagnosed the problem as an internal engine issue and not anything a replacement of a sensor is going to repair. They noted: "#6 cylinder high leakage past valves. Vacuum gauge fluctuates - vacuum produced from tailpipe. Cylinder head valve train (valve not seating)." They do not repair these types of engine issues. The mechanic told me I'm looking at getting the top end of the engine fixed, but then if I do that, I've got essentially a new top end over an old bottom end.

I'd like to drive the van for another 5 years, and am willing to spend the money on an engine repair if I knew I could get 5 or more reliable years of service out of it. The mechanic implied it wouldn't be wise to put a new top end over an old bottom end. And I guess there's the question of how much life the transmission has left in it. The mechanic seemed to suggest it was time to walk away and get something else.

So I find myself at one of those vehicle owner decision points. I average about 30,000 miles a year and need the van to be reliable for a daily 26 mile round trip commute as well as multiple in and out of state trips. Do I repair the current vehicle? Pluses are the body is in good shape for a vehicle driven in the Midwest USA, it meets our needs, and in general, we like the van.

Anyway, if you can offer some guidance or share your experience if you've been in the same situation, I would appreciate it. Thanks in advance for your time.
 

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Tough decision.. If you have 191,000 on the orig transmission, that woiuld be a big check mark on the not worth fixing side. You can just about count on having to put a transmission in it before your 5 years is up. I would not do the top end on without a complete rebuild, again with 191,000 the botton end could go at any time. If you really want to keep it another 5 years, get the transmission gone through while the engine is getting rebuilt. Guessing you are looking at $3 to $5 thousand depending.. Tough decision...
 

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It's a tough decision to pull the plug. You know why a kind of life your vehicle has lived and have to figure the cost to benefit. A 9 year old vehicle wiht close to 200k miles, needing at least a thousand now and most likely another 2k, plus other assorted repairs would have me really thinking this one carefully. I would probably opt to go with not repairing it but I would go for a second opinion though.

An anecdotal story, got a call from a friend this morning that the car I "loaned" him 2 years ago caught fire this am while he was driving to work, I am in mourning. I spent many hours rebuilding the top end and spent almost every weekend maintaining it. Not sure if was electrical or a gas leak but its already at the junker. You never know what will pop up with an older car :( BTW, It was a 99 Alero with only 135,000 miles and she had lots of life left. R.I.P.
 

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The larger junk yards might be able to sell you a low mileage engine and transmission set. The larger yards work with local installers and guarantee parts and labor.
 

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"vacuum produced from tailpipe"?? This is a new one on me. Please, any of you professional types tell me if this is possible? At the very least I would take someplace else for a second opinion if this is actually what they said.

I do agree that having only the top end o/h at that mileage is not a good idea.

I'm facing almost the same thing with my '03 with 223K mi. I love this van and the body is in perfect shape as far as I can tell and the interior is above average.

When I'm faced with this inevitable engine death I'll have it o/h or find a good identical replacement at a salvage yard. From reading other forum posts I find that using any engine other than the same year may cause problems with computers and connections. This is one good argument for an o/h.

I o/h my '88 at 194K mi and have been very happy with it. One reason I did this is the body is perfect and it is a custom van. Cost about $3500, more than the van is worth, but I love this van!!
 

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These vans are plentiful, i'm pretty sure you are able to find a low mileage,used 3.8 with the transmission for $500 at the junkyard, and get it put in with a total cost of less than $1000.

When was the last time a tune up has been done? What do the codes mean exactly? is the van consuming oil? Open the oil cap when the engine is running and put your hand over it, if you feel lots of air or blue smoke then you have blow-by and the engine is worn or tired. But if you have done the right maintenance then the engine/trans should be in good shape for years to come. It'd be best to slap in a used engine then rebuild the current one if you're confident that's what needs to be done.

These engines and trannys are pretty reliable on these vans and i'm not surprised it made it this far. Some have gone 200+K miles on their original engine and transmission, without any major issues, and if you look at many signatures of members, you can see many of them are high miles. The 3.3/3.8 are really reliable and can go up to 400,000 miles.

Its up to you though, if it was me, and it really needed a top end replaced, i'd get a used engine and transmission. Much cheaper than a car payment, and it'd be a shame to get rid of a van with a good body.

Let us know your decision. Curious, has the shop done a compression test?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful replies. I am taking the van to another shop for a second opinion.

The dollar bill test that the mechanic referenced is described here:

When I first started working on cars, in the last days of points and condensers, we often tested for misfire by holding a dollar bill in the exhaust stream. If the bill was periodically sucked back toward the tailpipe, you had a misfire. If the bill was sucked out of your hand and into the tailpipe, you had a burned exhaust valve.
The above excerpt is pulled from this article. If you do an internet search, you'll come across more than a few discussions of the "dollar bill" engine test.

I did regular oil changes on this van at 3000 to 5000 mile intervals using Mobil 1 5w30 oil. Plugs and wires were replaced 6 months ago. I hadn't even thought of a salvage yard engine, I'm going to check that out just to make sure I consider all the options.

I'll post back tomorrow with shop #2's diagnosis.

Thanks again for the help.
 

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My friend just installed an engine with low mileage on a 2004 Van and it runs mint.
The scrape yard source one out for him. The thing is you have to have some trust and connection with the peeps at the scrap yard cos they all say low mileage.
This 04 was in rough shape body wise also but runs n sounds nice.

Good luck with your decision and 2nd opinion is always good.
 

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My friend just installed an engine with low mileage on a 2004 Van and it runs mint.
The scrape yard source one out for him. The thing is you have to have some trust and connection with the peeps at the scrap yard cos they all say low mileage.
This 04 was in rough shape body wise also but runs n sounds nice.

Good luck with your decision and 2nd opinion is always good.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I took the van to a second shop and got a different diagnosis. This shop did a leak down test, and said the valve leakage for cylinder six is 3%, which they said is still within specs. The mechanic felt he could resolve the driveability issue by changing the fuel injector for cylinder six, and also changing the upstream oxygen sensor (the p0032 code). I'll find out if he was right when I pick up the van tomorrow.
 

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Looking at the codes you pulled again, there are multiple random misfires and an Oxygen (A/F) Sensor Heater Control Circuit High. The O2 trouble code may be caused by one or more of the following:
•A short in the heater circuit in the sensor
•A failed O2 sensor heater
•Wiring/connectors broken/frayed leading to sensor and/or relay
•Failed PCM/ECM

Since they occurred with the misfire codes I would believe there is a short in a harness or a broken ground at said harness or your PCM has gone bad.
 

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That is sounding much better!!

Dollar bill test, never heard of it - no matter how old I get I seem to learn something new every day and I've been a shade tree mechanic for 65 yrs!!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Well, I am halfway to having a fully repaired van. The replacement fuel injector resolved the "chugging" or misfire. However my service engine soon light did come back on in under 2 miles of driving, this time with code p0132. The technician though there was possibility that the oxygen sensor code might return. He said sometimes it's not a simple as just replacing the sensor, there can be wiring or connection issues. I am going to take the van back to him next week to see if he can get determine what is causing the p0132 code. I'll report back with an update.

A search of these boards for error code p0132, seemed to indicate that Bosch oxygen sensors are a fail for this vehicle. The repair invoice did not list the parts manufacturers, but the part number, 15122, resolves on internet searches to a Bosch part number.
 

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Denso or NTK oxygen sensors would be ideal. My van had one of each right from the factory.
As you have found, there are many threads on this. Bosch is nothing but trouble.

from the service manual
SYMPTOM
P0132-1/1 O2 SENSOR SHORTED TO VOLTAGE

WHEN MONITORED
Engine running for 119 seconds . Battery voltage greater than 10 volts . Coolant temperature above 80 °C (176 °F) .

SET CONDITION
The Oxygen Sensor voltage is above 1.29 volts for 30 seconds . Two trip fault.

POSSIBLE CAUSES
Intermittent condition
O2 sensor operation
O2 sensor signal shorted to voltage
O2 sensor signal open
O2 sensor ground circuit open
PCM
 

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Good you got a 2nd opinion. I was screaming "don't believe it" on post #1. These engines are rugged push-rod designs, not much different than the 4.5 L in my 65 Dart. Most problems are in the controls. I expect that swapping the fuel injector fixed the problem more from wiggling the wires. Did they test the injector off the car? All shops should have a little injector test rig - connector and 12 V battery (same connector almost all cars). A degraded fuel injector harness near the exhaust cross-over (behind and below the coil pack) is a common problem. Look for posts with photos. A simple 20 min fix w/ silicone electrical tape. Otherwise, your problems will continue.
 

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Some of these warning lights will go out after around 50-100 mi of driving after the batt has been disconnected for at least an hour.

This happened to me a couple of times but I forget exactly which one because there have been so many of them!!

The main thing I do is listen for signs from the van rather than worry about the lights!
 

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Bosch is the worst brand for spark plugs, O2 sensors, and basically everything lol. Glad you got a second opinion and your van is partially fixed without costing a fortune! That engine will last you long more.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The downstream oxygen sensor was replaced yesterday. The "service engine soon" light is no longer lit, but admittedly I have not driven much yet - time will tell if the p0132 code is gone for good now.

So to recap, the "chugging" and misfiring was resolved by replacing a fuel injector, and the oxygen sensor codes eliminated by replacing both oxygen sensors. Thanks for this suggestions and advice everyone.
 

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Even with the experience others have had maintaining and repairing these (and other) vehicles, unless working on these particular models almost exclusively or searching forums such as this, its easy to misdiagnose a problem. That would be acceptable if you do your own repairs as its just money on parts and your time but is not when paying approx. $100.00 an hour to have someone else misdiagnose and do unneeded repairs. I would never accept a "regular" mechanics first impression and if it didnt sound right , I wouldn't accept a "specialists" diagnosis at first glance either. I am not implying that anyone was trying to do unneeded work intentionally, I have beeen a shade tree mechanic for 30 plus years have tons of diagnostic equipment and skills but I can say Chrysler products are the most difficult to diagnose of anything modern that has OBD2 that I have worked on.
Glad this has worked out and seems that you saved a wheelbarrow full of money on this.
 
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