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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi

I run a landscaping business and I'm thinking of using Grand Caravans as vehicles for my crew. I like the capacity to seat up to 7 crew and the Stow-and-Go feature to create loads of storage space for tools, wheel barrows etc. We're currently using trucks but they are very expensive to buy and the gas consumption is crazy expensive.

One issue I wonder about it using them for towing. We sometimes tow sod or tools like tillers etc. I discussed this with a local independent transmission repair guy (in his 60s I'd guess) who has a whole career of transmission repair and replacement behind him. In his daily job, he uses his Grand Caravan to haul a vehicle trailer to bring in cars with dead transmissions. He told me that first of all it's key to replace the regular installed torque converter with a heavy duty one and maybe also, depending on the vehicle generation, the transmission drum. He said with this and adding a transmission cooler you can haul the kind of rig he has with no problems at all provided you keep the vehicle revs high. He recommended a maximum 5th gear and not towing at all in 6th gear. He said 5th gives worse mpg than 6th (but still far better than a truck) but in 6th you run the risk of breaking something.

So, here's my dilemma. He's a transmission guy - my crews aren't transmission guys. This is my vehicle, it's not my crew's vehicle. People forget and sometimes can't be bothered. So, rather than relying on my crew always correctly using the manual gearshift control, I wonder if there is a way either to require it to be driven using the manual gearshift control or to disable 6th gear entirely so the vehicle can't shift into 6th at all?

Thanks for any thoughts

Pavesa
 

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No method that I'm aware of. Even tuning can't touch transmission controls.
 

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Did the transmission guy mention:
  • changing fluid often?
  • using econ mode?
  • using cruise control?
  • heavy duty brakes / semi-metallic pads for towing
The Owner's Manual, or Chrysler Bulletins, likely says something about towing.

The newer vans have heavy duty transmission cooling, they tend to run below 180F under normal use. They have heavy duty brakes too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi Sienile and Jeepman. Thanks for the responses.

Jeepman, just to check, are you saying using econ mode and cruise control are good for helping the transmission and keeping it in good shape when towing?

I guess changing fluid often has got to help..

Interesting about the newer vans too. What date would newer run from?

I really appreciate your thoughts..
 

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Cruise control does a good job of shifting the transmission, some use it when towing, but would require some monitoring. The manufacturers may recommend against it though. Check the Owner's Manual.

As for econ mode, not likely, some don't recommend using it at all. With cruise control on, maybe. Again, check the Owner's Manual.

Some heavy duty features became standard in 2014, I believe.

Econ mode is off when specific gear selection is used.

Owner's Manuals are available from Chrysler's web sites in .pdf format.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi Jeepman, thanks for the guidance, it's very helpful.

Another thought.. would putting smaller rims on have the effect of reducing the gearing of the car? Moving from a 17" to a 15" rim would reduce wheel circumference by 12.5%, effectively lowering the gearing of the car by that amount (I think?). Is this a crazy idea?
 

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Probably a crazy idea as it will throw your speedometer off. The circumference is what matters, versus rim size. You will be holding up traffic. :) Stick with the OE rim size that works.

Some info from the Owner's Manual for my 2016 DGC:
When frequent transmission shifting occurs (such as when operating the vehicle under heavy loading conditions, in hilly terrain, traveling into strong head winds, or while towing a heavy trailer), use the Electronic Range Select (ERS) shift control (refer to Electronic Range Select (ERS) Operation in this section for further information) to select a lower gear range. Under these conditions, using a lower gear range will improve performance and extend transmission life by reducing excessive shifting and heat buildup.
Electronic Speed Control — If Equipped
• Do not use in hilly terrain or with heavy loads.
• When using the speed control, if you experience speed drops greater than 10 mph (16 km/h), disengage until you can get back to cruising speed.
• Use speed control in flat terrain and with light loads to maximize fuel efficiency.
The Fuel Economy (ECON) mode can improve the vehicle’s overall fuel economy during normal driving conditions. Push the “econ” switch in the center stack of the instrument panel and a green light will indicate the ECON mode is engaged. When the Fuel Economy (ECON) Mode is engaged, the vehicle control systems will change the following:
• The transmission will upshift sooner and downshift later. The transmission will skip select gears during shifts to allow the engine to operate at lower speeds.
• The torque converter clutch may engage at lower engine speeds and remain on longer.
• The engine idle speed will be lower.
• The overall driving performance will be more conservative.
Some ECON mode functions may be temporarily inhibited based on temperature and other factors.
 

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You won't fit 15"s on it. Brakes won't fit in them. If you have the HD brakes, they won't even fit in a 16" wheel. Going smaller tires on a tow rig is dumb, but if you do that will require calibration or traction control will be disabled. You could gain a small torque advantage this way, but mileage will suffer.

Definitely do not use ECO when towing. That will shred your transmission by holding gears too long before downshifting and upshifting early.

Cruise can be enabled in manual mode and could help with mileage.

How heavy are you planning on towing? These things have a bone stock tow rating of 3,500 lbs. I wouldn't take it on the highway with anything more on it no matter what upgrades you do. Stopping is just as important as pulling.
 
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You are correct. IMO, the factory 5th gear is too low and its OD 6th gear is too high -> for the weight and wind drag of the van. Its engine/transmission/wheel combo is much better "optimized" for the lighter weight and less wind drag Dodge Journey vehicle.

For Chrysler/Dodge 5th gen vans:
  • Always run Econ switch = off. Econ = Off when towing / hauling heavy weight stuff as well...
  • Need 17" rims with HD (larger size) brakes. HD brakes on 2014+ Must have for hauling / towing trailers without brakes.

Yes. You can use 17" rims with smaller size rubber. Instead of factory 225/65/17 I now use 235/60/17 - which is 1.54% smaller. This is my summer time tire size and it work great. For winter, I use 225/60/17 which is 3.2% smaller size than recommended factory. This works for me. Especially since I drive slow ground speed during winter months anyway. Remember the smaller size rubber you go, it most often has less weight rating. Always best to get 102 or 103 weight rated tire - often found in the XL (Extra Load) SUV tire class. This works for me... IMO... Not perfect but better than recommended factory tire size....

Note: If you plan to manually put its transmission into 5th gear during each towing / heavy weight hauling task, I would install 235/60/17 102 rubber. This works for me.

If wondering, 4 of my 5 trailers have full electric brakes IMO, any attached trailer over 2,000 lbs needs its own brakes (on the trailer). Especially for the panic stops (that always happen when you least expect it).
 

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For folks who don't already know, the DGC's transmission can be manually put into 5th gear (which I often do when large trailer towing &/or heavy weight hauling) by simply driving slow and bump the gear shifter handle to the left. "bump it" a few times and you'll see the MAX gear number appear on the dash display. I know, simple known trick for some folks. But some folks do not know how to force (lock) its transmission into a desired max gear. Hope this helps as well..
 

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For folks who don't already know, the DGC's transmission can be manually put into 5th gear (which I often do when large trailer towing &/or heavy weight hauling) by simply driving slow and bump the gear shifter handle to the left. "bump it" a few times and you'll see the MAX gear number appear on the dash display. I know, simple known trick for some folks. But some folks do not know how to force (lock) its transmission into a desired max gear. Hope this helps as well..
I believe that's the Electronic Range Select (ERS) referred to in Post #8. Interesting enough, Cruise Control still works when Electronic Range Select is used. Econ mode, of course, doesn't work with ERS engaged, so selecting 5th gear, for example, would disengage Econ mode immediately, if on.

I don't believe the 8 and 9 Speed transmissions (Wrangler and Pacifica, for examples) have ERS. :(
 

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Pretty sure he knows that. He's trying to force it to automatically go in manual mode and limit it to 5th.
 

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Using ERS just limits the highest gear to use. The lower gears still come into play automatically, as needed. A great design, I think.
Manual downshifts can be made using the Electronic Range Select (ERS) shift control (refer to “Electronic Range Select (ERS) Operation” in this section for further information). Moving the gear selector to the left or right (–/+) while in the DRIVE position will select the highest available transmission gear, and will display that gear in the instrument cluster as 1, 2, 3, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi

the weight I typically see us hauling, including trailer weight, is about 1,500lb, occasionally it might go up to 2,500lb. Yes, I know about ERS, it really is a great feature, and so usable. My concern is that for crew, being crew, the easiest thing is to hop in and drive and forget to set ERS to 5th. If there was some way to ensure that the vehicle just never used 6th that would be my ideal world! Could the 4-speed version be a better fit for what I need?
 

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For the 62TE, 5th gear is 1:1
For the 41TE, 3rd gear is 1:1

The 62TE six-speed automatic transaxle was based on Chrysler's existing four-speed automatic, with two new primary gear ratios and a secondary ratio for passing at highway speeds. The first gear ratio was much lower, to increase standing-start acceleration; and the differential was beefed up to handle more power.

I can't see the 41TE doing what you want either. The 62TE seems to be the better choice.
 

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Thing is, it doesn't auto shift the way you would like in manual mode. It will hold gears to near redline before upshifting and will hold them to about the point ECO would when decelerating.

In my experiences using manual mode, the transmission appears to shift between 4 and 5 while set to 5. Dropping too low in RPM will change the displayed selected gear to 4 and seems to downshift to 3. The "shift" in 5 might be a difference between TCC lockup and unlocked as it doesn't change RPMs a whole lot, but enough to notice a jump in the needle.
 

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Hi Jack99

It looks like you use Grand Caravans regularly with trailers. What kind of weight do you haul with them?

Thanks..
He said 1,500-2,500 lbs, which is well within the tow rating of 3,500.
 

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I tow 1,500# -2,500# with my '05 van quite frequently, zero issues. Sometimes up to 3,500# but that is for short distances only. The last thing you want to do is let the 'electronic brain' decide which gear to use or to go into Econ mode. The engine can be reved a little higher and trans runs cooler if you use manual shift mode to your advantage and keep the revs to at least 2,500 or better. Also, ATF+4 is your friend.
With the single leaf spring on the '05 your first task would be to beef up the rear spring rate substantially, as it is far too soft for any type of real load past the mid point of the van
 
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