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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hm... when the dealer said that my van was "1 in like... 5", I thought he was just ribbing me... but the more I look around, the more it seems like he wasn't joking at all...

My name is Chris. Sheena is my wife, and "Cara" is what I named my Mini... that's right, I'm the daddy, and I DRIVE THE VAN. I love my van. The name "Cara"... well, just think about it.

I have a 2000 Dodge Caravan base
2.4 liter DOHC
31TH (A413) tranny
113" Wheel Base
5x100 wheel pattern
Dual sliding doors
Gray interior, White exterior/black trim

I have lots of things that I'd like to do with this van, listed in the mods thread, mostly. There are also things that I didn't list there b/c I'm still looking into them for overall cost and worthiness.

Back Story:
When I picked up Cara, she was headed for the junkyard. With only 120,000 miles, the engine had been replaced once, she needed a hood, passenger side fender, headlight, bumper cover, and she was developing rust on several of the removable parts... When I found her, she had been parked, mercilessly, in a rear driveway, out of sight.

Looking in mostly decent shape, for a 2000 M/Y, I just knew that I had to have her. I had been looking for something a little more safe than my 1989 Honda Civic sedan to tote my wife and child in, anyway, though I was (at the time) leery about getting a minivan. If I had it to do over again, though, I'd never look back.

You see, in the last 7000 miles, there has been quite the bond built between myself and Cara. I think my wife is getting suspicious, but that's a story for another time.

So, in the beginning, I spoke with her previous owner. The man's wife had apparently been driving behind a truck hauling debris from tree-cutting. Incidentally, she was following too closely, and a piece of brush fell off the truck, went under Cara, and promptly removed her oil filter and filter extension. Of course, being slightly shaken, and totally oblivious, the woman drives on. Well, she didn't really "drive on"... she only made it another couple miles before Cara just said "enough".

Fast forward - engine was replaced, so now the mini has 115,000 miles on it, a used engine of unknown origin, and the original (never serviced) transmission. Approximately 5000 miles on the "new" engine, the thing starts overheating like crazy, and making a loud "knocking" noise, within minutes of starting it up... Cara really doesn't like these people, I thought... (She was almost called "Christine" for that reason alone.)

Fast Forward again - I contact the then-current owner, speak to him, and arrange that he NOT take Cara away to the crusher. I offer him $250 cash (more than the junkyard would have given him) if he'll hold her until I can come get her, which will be approximately 2 weeks. He agrees.

I go up, we jump her, I drive her to my father in law's house, conveniently placed 3 blocks down the street, where she'll sit until I'm ready to do some fixing. I "knew" right away that I'd be replacing her engine again.

2 weeks go by, I don't touch her. I get back up that way on the 3rd week, and figure I'll start playing doctor. I run through the diagnosis procedure after speaking with the previous owner again, and finding out the actual reason he wanted to sell the van in the first place, was that Krise Tire in Troy, PA, told him that he had a blown head gasket, and it would cost him $1100 + parts to replace it. Not knowing anything about cars or engines himself, he decided he'd had enough.

After learning this, I start going through the diagnostic procedures to check for a head gasket failure.

  • Check for oil leaks around the head (check)
  • Check for oil in the water (check)
  • Check for water in the oil (check)
  • Check compression for uniformity (check, pretty much 155 across all four cylinders)
  • Spray aether around head while running, listen for rev up or die off (check)

I have noticed that she's overheating even when just sitting idle... (good thing she came with a full tank of "diagnostic" fuel.) but the coolant lines are not getting hot... the heater isn't working... it's blowing, but it's cold only... the heater core lines aren't hot... trace back, trace back, trace back... nothing.

Pulled the heater core. Ice in the core... (this would explain the freezing cold "heat" setting.) defrosted it, pressure checked it to 50 PSI, reinstalled it. Pressurized the lines, both sides, and heard gurgling, no blockages, so no ice in the engine block. Start it back flush it w/ a garden hose and a flush kit... of course, with the ice cold water, it never over heats during this time... cut the flow, and it's almost instant overheat. "What the **** could be wrong?"

To recap:
Cleaned/tested heater core, works fine now
pressurized heater core lines into engine, both sides, air movement was fine.
Tested radiator cap and radiator, both fine.
engine runs, starts fine, no issues except overheating... and a loud knock from the block.
"Mysterious leak"... oh.. this is new... great - I screwed up something...

Oh. Wait. Coolant pumps leak when they're bad... and the hoses aren't getting hot... and I'm overheating, even when driving at high speed (30+), and the fans work, and OF COURSE!!!!

Yeah, that's right... $45 water pump, $40 timing belt... and I've got a 2000 with less than 150k for under $500 invested. Pfft :p The knocking noise? That was from the water pump shaft occasionally catching the sheared off impeller and smacking it against the housing... no damage to the housing though.

I love my van. With the only remaining engine problem being the EGR control solenoid, which I have in the back right now, I'm getting 27-29 MPG, and I haven't looked back since.

Here's to great times with Cara. And hopefully, great times on this forum!:beerchug: Cheers!
 

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Well sounds like quite a story there, and thankfully one van saved. I have a distaste for white cars, but for the money you spent, it is a good deal. Welcome to the forums, hopefully you'll enjoy your stay, as much as you seem to already be enjoying the van. :hi2:
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
TBH, Cara and I have spoken about this... I included the wife, too.

We've decided on either a nice OEM Blue (one of the CTC's I saw had it), straight Charcoal, or *maybe* an ACR-type paint job... w/ the stripe. Unlikely though, as it would draw lots of unnecessary attention.

We had also decided that the SRT-4 exhaust would be too annoying for a daily use vehicle, boosted or not. It would probably end up getting changed once Cara started noticing the looks she'd get from it.

The SRT wheels, however, will be nice addition, and Cara would love to have some shiny shoes.

We're leaning more toward the Charcoal... with a darker interior color as well, possibly black (yes, everything will mostly have to be custom, I know.)
 

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:hi2: all and welcome to the Chrysler Minivan Fan Club Forum.

Here's some suggestions / tips that may be useful in keeping Cara going:

Haynes Manual:
- inexpensive, about $30.00
- gives replacement / repair procedures
- gives maintenance schedules
- gives torque specifications
- gives fault codes
- gives information on regular maintenance
- gives information on tires
- gives information on body work
The manual is a worthwhile investment.

Library Information (ARRC):
Another good source of information can be accessed as follows:
- Go to http://www.oplin.org/databases/proxy2/proxy.php?doCardCheck=1&txtCardNumber=123456789
- Go to the following Library from the drop down list and submit it.
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
- Go to ALL EBSCOhost Databases and click on it.
- Go down to Auto Repair Reference Center (ARRC) and click on it.
- Submit your YEAR and take it from there.
Note: If info isn't there for your year / model, try another year or similar model.

Signature:
Including your vehicle model, year, engine size and odometer reading, with your signature, will help tremendously with getting good feedback (less guesswork).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ooooo. I actually bought a Hayne's manual the week before I went to get her. I have one for every vehicle I've ever seriously thought about buying. I also have some for friend's cars that I've worked on.

I actually one day plan on having the whole library of them.

I noticed that if I ever wanted to put power window/lock doors on her, the wiring is already there... in the door jambs, that is. I prefer the base model though... less weight from unnecessary "goods" that don't impress me anyway.

The one thing that I'd love to have though - a Tach. Wouldn't you know that none of the 4cyl 3rd gens have one? And the 6cyl ones won't work, obviously. So I may end up with a whole new cluster of aftermarket gauges, just so I can have the tach. LOL.

I like my Mini just that way... stripped down and ready to go! :)

I'll work on my sig and profile on a day that I don't have so much to do, in a few days to a week, probably. Thanks for the tips though!

You might notice from my posts in the future that I do things slightly different when it comes to performance... my performance metric is my gas mileage... Every mod I make, for the most part, is a means to that end.
 

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Welcome to the Club :hi2: and enjoy!

I was surprised to hear that such a Caravan was ever manufactured :Wow1:
I never heard of a 4 cylinder Dodge Caravan after 1988 in Canada! I most love 6 cylinder engines but for local use would be a great gas saver, isn't it? What is the MPG for your beauty? :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Actual - 27-28, average
EPA (new) Estimate - 20-22 Combined.

I get 30% better than EPA on a regular basis, and plan to make that figure much higher.

I'm rather disappointed that the 6 cylinder models and the 4 cylinder models are so close together as far as fuel mileage ratings, but I know that most of that is from the torque loss of a 4 cylinder, and is partially due to the (un)aerodynamics of the chassis.

This is something I plan on partially fixing, as time and money permit. I'd love to get into the mid 30's with it. (I don't consider 28 even "good".... )
 

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welcome to the forum from rainy England..............:beerchug:
 

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We had also decided that the SRT-4 exhaust would be too annoying for a daily use vehicle, boosted or not. It would probably end up getting changed once Cara started noticing the looks she'd get from it.

The SRT wheels, however, will be nice addition, and Cara would love to have some shiny shoes.

We're leaning more toward the Charcoal... with a darker interior color as well, possibly black (yes, everything will mostly have to be custom, I know.)
I've actually got Flowmaster 40 Series Performance Exhaust on my 2000 Chrysler Town & Country, same generation but different engine. It has a really deep throaty growl to it that makes people go "omg... really?" It's funny and I love it.

I'm looking to upgrade the wheels eventually to 18" rims, but getting slimmer tires so I can't mess up the speedo. Don't be afraid to upgrade your van, it's fun! Plus, all the cool kids are doin' it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Here's some help when you decide to change tires, but are wanting to make sure the speedo doesn't change.

http://www.miata.net/garage/tirecalc.html

Best wishes. Good history, great plans. Welcome to the forum. :ThumbsUp:
Oh yeah, I got that LOL. I'm running 225/50R17's now. I got a set of brand new Michelin MXM4's for $150 :D They're $240 each retail at Wally World.

Consequently, I had Wally World mount/balance the rims/tires, and they gouged my wheels. The manager gave me a free set of 245/45HR17 Douglas tires (about $600 value) b/c I can't get the rims I have any more.

Here's pic:



They're TSW R-Evo wheels, 17x7 in white, with 225/50VR17 rubber. The van handles more assuredly now.

Basically, it went from :cry: around a corner at 40 with 205/70R14 tires, to :headbange around a corner at 50+. :ninja:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
News for Cara!

Long story short, I had a conversation with someone, and was going to buy a 4 cylinder Mercedes engine (about 40 HP) for ~$150... until he just gave it to me, and it DOES RUN!

So, now I'm going to get a transmission from a Neon Highline, make an adapter plate, and get it all ready to bolt in before I actually do anything, b/c I hope to have the engine out and the diesel in the engine bay in the same day.

It's still going to be a bit before I can get it done, b/c I need a tranny, clutch kit, etc... but having the engine is a BIG step forward... that was the hardest part to come by.

It's about a 40 HP - was used in a Refrigerated trailer as the refrigerant pump motor. I even got the radiator with it, which I will use for a cold water A/C system in my house. (There's a spring-fed creek by the spot where I plan to build my house, and it runs constantly at or below 55 degF.)

Anyway, 40 HP is more than I need to power Cara... it only takes ~30HP to make her go 65 MPH, and I don't go that fast.

I get the added benefit of being able to burn free fuel (waste oils), I get better fuel mileage in general, and I'll still have enough power to haul stuff around! I even have the easy option of adding a small turbo to the diesel engine to give it more power and possibly make it even more efficient!

I'd say this is a good deal all around, and after the diesel swap, I'd expect to see 50+ MPG, given my driving style.
 

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News for Cara!

Long story short, I had a conversation with someone, and was going to buy a 4 cylinder Mercedes engine (about 40 HP) for ~$150... until he just gave it to me, and it DOES RUN!

So, now I'm going to get a transmission from a Neon Highline, make an adapter plate, and get it all ready to bolt in before I actually do anything, b/c I hope to have the engine out and the diesel in the engine bay in the same day.

It's still going to be a bit before I can get it done, b/c I need a tranny, clutch kit, etc... but having the engine is a BIG step forward... that was the hardest part to come by.

It's about a 40 HP - was used in a Refrigerated trailer as the refrigerant pump motor. I even got the radiator with it, which I will use for a cold water A/C system in my house. (There's a spring-fed creek by the spot where I plan to build my house, and it runs constantly at or below 55 degF.)

Anyway, 40 HP is more than I need to power Cara... it only takes ~30HP to make her go 65 MPH, and I don't go that fast.

I get the added benefit of being able to burn free fuel (waste oils), I get better fuel mileage in general, and I'll still have enough power to haul stuff around! I even have the easy option of adding a small turbo to the diesel engine to give it more power and possibly make it even more efficient!

I'd say this is a good deal all around, and after the diesel swap, I'd expect to see 50+ MPG, given my driving style.
Could you post some pics?:ask_wsign
 

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Great story...I think my wife gets jealous when i spend time with my other (van):wub:...welcome to the forum. :thumb:
 

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News for Cara!

Long story short, I had a conversation with someone, and was going to buy a 4 cylinder Mercedes engine (about 40 HP) for ~$150... until he just gave it to me, and it DOES RUN!

So, now I'm going to get a transmission from a Neon Highline, make an adapter plate, and get it all ready to bolt in before I actually do anything, b/c I hope to have the engine out and the diesel in the engine bay in the same day.

It's still going to be a bit before I can get it done, b/c I need a tranny, clutch kit, etc... but having the engine is a BIG step forward... that was the hardest part to come by.

It's about a 40 HP - was used in a Refrigerated trailer as the refrigerant pump motor. I even got the radiator with it, which I will use for a cold water A/C system in my house. (There's a spring-fed creek by the spot where I plan to build my house, and it runs constantly at or below 55 degF.)

Anyway, 40 HP is more than I need to power Cara... it only takes ~30HP to make her go 65 MPH, and I don't go that fast.

I get the added benefit of being able to burn free fuel (waste oils), I get better fuel mileage in general, and I'll still have enough power to haul stuff around! I even have the easy option of adding a small turbo to the diesel engine to give it more power and possibly make it even more efficient!

I'd say this is a good deal all around, and after the diesel swap, I'd expect to see 50+ MPG, given my driving style.
40hp diesel, hm but how much torque? that's the real thing to worry about, and I'm guessing from where its coming from its a non-turbo, why not just pull a Davidsfarm (youtube star) and put a TDI Jetta motor and trans into Cara lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
40hp diesel, hm but how much torque? that's the real thing to worry about, and I'm guessing from where its coming from its a non-turbo, why not just pull a Davidsfarm (youtube star) and put a TDI Jetta motor and trans into Cara lol
B/c putting a TDI setup in Cara would cost far more... I don't have that kind of cash, especially with my newborn Son.

I'm going to nickel and dime the engine to a Highline 5 speed and build the mounts from scrap, probably. Then when it's all done, I'll just drop the old stuff and bolt in the new stuff, using the parts of the OEM wiring I need to run everything, but leaving it able to be reversed, should I ever sell her. (Highly unlikely.)

Torque is never an issue when comparing a true diesel engine to a gas motor. That diesel probably has better torque in it's short rev range than the OEM engine has at it's peak, and even if it really needs more torque, I'm sure I can just add a turbo... it's not like a gas engine... I can "just add a turbo" LOL...

Diesel torque comes from the injection cycle... the fuel keeps getting injected through the burn stroke, not just in one event. Since the explosion keeps getting fed while it's expanding, there is still more and more pressure that can build up in the cylinders, meaning more and more torque, just by injecting more fuel. Diesels don't have a "throttle" perse, which isn't to say that you can't control their speed, but is to say that they're pulling in 100% of the air that they can handle 100% of the time, and only metering the fuel injection timing and amount to control output.
 

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I'm going to nickel and dime the engine to a Highline 5 speed and build the mounts from scrap, probably. Then when it's all done, I'll just drop the old stuff and bolt in the new stuff, using the parts of the OEM wiring I need to run everything, but leaving it able to be reversed, should I ever sell her. (Highly unlikely.)

Torque is never an issue when comparing a true diesel engine to a gas motor. That diesel probably has better torque in it's short rev range than the OEM engine has at it's peak, and even if it really needs more torque, I'm sure I can just add a turbo... it's not like a gas engine... I can "just add a turbo" LOL...

Diesel torque comes from the injection cycle... the fuel keeps getting injected through the burn stroke, not just in one event. Since the explosion keeps getting fed while it's expanding, there is still more and more pressure that can build up in the cylinders, meaning more and more torque, just by injecting more fuel. Diesels don't have a "throttle" perse, which isn't to say that you can't control their speed, but is to say that they're pulling in 100% of the air that they can handle 100% of the time, and only metering the fuel injection timing and amount to control output.
I don't blame you really for nickel and diming it, as not everyone has a ton of money to spend, I was simply throwing that idea out there, and you probably will have to build the mounts out of scrap, as I don't think anyone makes motor mounts that will fit lol. The wiring I could see as being an issue, more so in the transmission area since you would be going with a 5 speed, but I'm sure you have got those things either sorted out, or are in the process of thinking of how to bypass it.

from your post you do sound like you know a thing or two about diesels, and yes a diesel can have more torque in its short rev range than the OEM engine. the thing is that your 40hp diesel engine might not have enough torque for your own liking(though it may have enough torque for your liking), though if this proves true, you can just add a turbo like you said lol.

Really the way a diesel engine controls it engine speed is the through the pump, there is nothing to really stop the air from coming into the engine, unless you've got a turbo, then your pushing that air in harder lol.

But when you do get around to doing this do please post a how to (with pictures) of swapping the gasser for a diesel, and I'll be interested in seeing how high of mpg you'll get (that davidsfarm guy claims 57 mpg imperial on his diesel van)
 
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