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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone I just inherited a 2006 dodge Caravan, I put a bed in the back and it served me well during the summer rock climbing season. In the winter however, I drive a ton of ****ty, snowy, and steep forestry service roads, I managed this fairly well with a VW golf, good winter tires, and chains last winter, but I occasionally lost bits of my underbody trim to hidden rocks and deep snow. However the golf was great handling, had great traction, and generally felt planted at all times, I have this sinking feeling that the caravan will not...
  • I am wondering if anyone else uses their van on ****ty steep unplowed roads (with winter tires) and how there van does, or how you think it would compare to a VW golf.
  • I am also wondering if there is a good place to pickup a skid plate for the vulnerable oil pan and transmission.
  • I am also wondering about lifting (leveling) just with strut spacers for about 1-2" of extra ground clearance so I sit higher up on the snow and do less plowing, which was a problem with the golf. Where can I do this, is this a good idea? Im an okay home mechanic and im willing to curse a lot to get a job done.
  • Should I keep the caravan or sell it and get an SUV.
Thanks!
 

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Sounds like a 2001-2004 AWD Grand Caravan/Town & Country would be a better fit for you. If good tires and front wheel drive will get it done for you, then you can lift it.

When you say Caravan, you mean it's the short wheelbase without stow N go? It makes a difference, because someone put in front struts for a van with the long wheelbase (Grand) and the front sat way too high for them. Another member had a short wheelbase and put in some used 04-08 Pacifica struts and it lifted the front enough for him. If you have a front wheel drive, you can lift the rear with simple blocks and longer bolts between the beam axle and leaf spring.

If you lift it too much the CV angles get too far out, the alignment changes too much and you get tire wear and vibration on takeoff (like me). I need to correct it by dropping the front subframe/drivetrain 1-2 inches to match my lift. I try to get front lift parts from junked handicap ramp vans (with ramp out the side door), such as strut spacers and bolts, subframe and motor mount spacers.

The front of my van sat too low when I got it, so I ordered strut spacers. Then I found out at the junkyard that Pacifica struts will fit because they shared the same upper strut mount and steering knuckle measurements. I put the strut spacers AND Pacifica struts in my van. The old struts were FCS quick struts and sagged badly, and I believe they were actually for the short wheelbase vans so my van was 1" lower in front than it should have been. The new parts gave it 2" of lift from stock, or in my particular case 3" from where I started. With that combination, Moog sway bar end links for a 2003 Ford Windstar fit perfectly. I put on some Ford Explorer wheels with 235/75R15 tires for the off road look.

Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Vehicle


The rear was already high with the multi-leaf spring packs (AWD and cargo vans only use these) and then I added some half-leaf helper springs and removed the rear bench seat and spare tire (moved spare inside). It gets through the snow and down bumpy old roads okay. 😁
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This is awesome, I am looking to do it as simply as possible, I totally agree that AWD would be ideal but im going to try and make what I have work, if I am switching vehicles I would just go to an outback or forester.

It is the regular caravan, short wheel base. Can I get away with just adding the strut spacers in the front only, say the 20 or 30 mm spacer (from Tema unless their is another place to get them) just to get the front more level with the rear to get a bit more clearance? The rear of the van looks dramatically higher then the front already. I have been told that 2" is generally the max you can do (with any vehicle before things start getting out of alignment). Do you ever need to do anything steep? how do you find the traction if so, the logging roads out here (vancouver island) can be very steep.

Sounds like a 2001-2004 AWD Grand Caravan/Town & Country would be a better fit for you. If good tires and front wheel drive will get it done for you, then you can lift it.

When you say Caravan, you mean it's the short wheelbase without stow N go? It makes a difference, because someone put in front struts for a van with the long wheelbase (Grand) and the front sat way too high for them. Another member had a short wheelbase and put in some used 04-08 Pacifica struts and it lifted the front enough for him. If you have a front wheel drive, you can lift the rear with simple blocks and longer bolts between the beam axle and leaf spring.

If you lift it too much the CV angles get too far out, the alignment changes too much and you get tire wear and vibration on takeoff (like me). I need to correct it by dropping the front subframe/drivetrain 1-2 inches to match my lift. I try to get front lift parts from junked handicap ramp vans (with ramp out the side door), such as strut spacers and bolts, subframe and motor mount spacers.

The front of my van sat too low when I got it, so I ordered strut spacers. Then I found out at the junkyard that Pacifica struts will fit because they shared the same upper strut mount and steering knuckle measurements. I put the strut spacers AND Pacifica struts in my van. The old struts were FCS quick struts and sagged badly, and I believe they were actually for the short wheelbase vans so my van was 1" lower in front than it should have been. The new parts gave it 2" of lift from stock, or in my particular case 3" from where I started. With that combination, Moog sway bar end links for a 2003 Ford Windstar fit perfectly. I put on some Ford Explorer wheels with 235/75R15 tires for the off road look.

View attachment 64095

The rear was already high with the multi-leaf spring packs (AWD and cargo vans only use these) and then I added some half-leaf helper springs and removed the rear bench seat and spare tire (moved spare inside). It gets through the snow and down bumpy old roads okay. 😁
 

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I have 1.25" spacers up front which amount to 2" of lift up front, with 2" blocks and longer shocks in the rear.
I'm running 27" ATs.
My van is a tank in the snow, it will plow it's way through until the snow lifts the drive tires off the ground.
Automotive parking light Wheel Car Vehicle Tire

That was over 20" deep.

I take my van everywhere and laugh at those who think they need AWD to go places.
 

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Automotive tire Tire Tread Camera accessory Bumper

Custom machined 1.25" aluminum spacers.
Tire Automotive tire Vehicle Tread Bumper

2" blocks, longer u-bolts, and longer shocks.

No issues with CVs or vibration using stock axles. I have found you have to watch aftermarkets though as they make some "longer to account for mount wear", those cause issues with CV binding.
 

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2002 Chrysler Town & Country Limited AWD 3.8L
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I’m in the middle of putting 06 Pacifica struts on my 02 T&C AWD. Measuring to the front fender well height, I got 30 1/8” stock, 31 5/8” strut swap only (no tire change yet). That’s 1.5” before I put 30.5” A/T tires on and start cutting :D
 

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I put on some Ford Explorer wheels with 235/75R15 tires for the off road look. ... It gets through the snow and down bumpy old roads okay. 😁
That is a bad-ass looking minivan. I'll bet some youth who don't know of minivans will think it is the coolest "cross-over" with that sliding door. Might look even tougher on a short-wheelbase minivan, except they have different wheel bolt patterns so would have to find other cross-over tires which fit. Of course, check your alignment after any such changes in the front end (rear is fine since solid axle), especially "toe-in" which you can get real close using a tape measure or a straight-edge sighting at the rears.
 

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That is a bad-ass looking minivan. I'll bet some youth who don't know of minivans will think it is the coolest "cross-over" with that sliding door. Might look even tougher on a short-wheelbase minivan, except they have different wheel bolt patterns so would have to find other cross-over tires which fit. Of course, check your alignment after any such changes in the front end (rear is fine since solid axle), especially "toe-in" which you can get real close using a tape measure or a straight-edge sighting at the rears.
Thanks! The short wheelbase 4th gen vans still have the same 5x4.5 bolt pattern as the long vans.
 
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2002 Chrysler Town & Country Limited AWD 3.8L
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Here it is: LT245/75R16 Pirelli Scorpion AT Plus @36 psi (about 30.5”) on stock wheels.
Drove it home with them on, (Pacifica struts already installed) but needs a bit of trimming. rear bumper bottom corners. Rear area of the front fender wells need seams flattened and clearance in the mud flap area. Front of the front wells is easily pulled forward a little Away from light contact.
For most of you, 30.0” should probably be the maximum to avoid significant rubbing. Do your tire spec research. You now have another data point for reference.
 

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The alignment ended up pretty close to spec. Front camber came in at +0.7 and +0.9, with the spec being -0.3 to +0.5. Van was unloaded and low on fuel. Normally have 4-6 people, gear, and much more gas.
Eccentric bolts were maxed out. The bolt holes in the strut will need to be opened up a little to get them into spec. Easy mod.
 

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Aren't giving the squirrels much room to crawl up on your wheels. :)
 

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Here it is: LT245/75R16 Pirelli Scorpion AT Plus @36 psi (about 30.5”) on stock wheels.
Drove it home with them on, (Pacifica struts already installed) but needs a bit of trimming. rear bumper bottom corners. Rear area of the front fender wells need seams flattened and clearance in the mud flap area. Front of the front wells is easily pulled forward a little Away from light contact.
For most of you, 30.0” should probably be the maximum to avoid significant rubbing. Do your tire spec research. You now have another data point for reference.
That is some eye candy for me right there! :LOL: I think you now hold the record for the largest size tire fitted onto this generation of van. I was hoping 31" would be possible, but not without extensive trimming. Also depends of suspension setup and wheels/offset.

I've already flattened the seam in the floor/wheelwell area and reshaped/screwed the plastic liner back for clearance. I think I have pics of it.

Tire Automotive tire Asphalt Automotive exterior Bumper

Pounded flat, wire brushed and then primered/painted it. If I wasn't in a hurry I would have coated it with fibrous roof and foundation cement (a black gooey asphalt/tar-like coating) to seal it. I used the very bottom metal "skirt" to drill and put a couple of large head phillips interior panel screws through the plastic liner to hold it back.
Automotive tire Motor vehicle Hood Tire Car

Primer, paint and a little left over undercoating. Nothing really holding the bottom of this fender in anymore. :LOL: I have a pair of solid front fenders (color matching) waiting to go on after I repair the paint on the fronts of them (rust starting because of bumper cover clips).

Tire Wheel Car Automotive tire Motor vehicle


Here's what it looks like all put together. There IS actually room in there, I swear! :ROFLMAO: I reformed the plastic with a heat gun, but since it was April it was too cold to really get it formed enough. I'd recommend summertime, letting the black plastic sit in the hot sun before heating (or place next to a space heater). I also have spacers on my wheels to fit them, so that takes away some of the clearance here. Hope that helps!!
 

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This is exactly what is next for me. Does the plastic really need to be stretched? I didn’t note any spots the tires were rubbing that weren’t already up against metal. I may use small wheel spacers to help with clearance to the frame rail area.
 

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I have 1.25" spacers up front which amount to 2" of lift up front, with 2" blocks and longer shocks in the rear.
I'm running 27" ATs.
My van is a tank in the snow, it will plow it's way through until the snow lifts the drive tires off the ground. View attachment 64098
That was over 20" deep.

I take my van everywhere and laugh at those who think they need AWD to go places.
I had to drive a Caravan with a 4-inch lift, it was an AWESOME feeling. In fact very pleased that the van sat just as high as many of the SUVs on the road.

BUT, the only trouble with the raised van was the head winds hitting into the front. It required 2 hands tight on the wheel and to keep correcting the steering. The winds indeed were strong and going over 50mph was a struggle.
I made mention to the owner that the van needs a taller deflector under the front fascia bumper to reduce the wind lift under the front end.

So, has anyone with a lifted van experience the frontal strong winds yet?

Being out here in the mid-west, strong winds are very common. I would love to go lifted due to the snow troubles out here.
 

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I don't notice any more issues with wind than prior.
My lift actually tightened up body roll due to more preload on the sway bar, which makes it feel more stable.
Ah, I understand now, your van is older than a 4th gen. Different setup.
 
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