Monday, September 12, 2011

Of Struts and Chryslers

Two weekends ago I had opportunity to drive my wife's van (a Dodge Grand Caravan), which I don't do very often.  This vehicle is 11 years old, has 155,000 miles on it, and is really starting to show it's age. But it still runs well.  She had been complaining about the front struts not being right and making strange noises, but I had not really driven it to see what she was talking about.

During this drive, which was about an hour of about 80% interstate and 20% surface streets getting to and from the interstate, I couldn't believe how bad it was.  It seemed that every ripple and tar strip in the road was going to bounce me off the road.  I called the mechanic on Tuesday and had it in Wednesday morning first thing.  Well, this began my education in the foibles of Chrysler minivans, circa 1996 to about 2004 (which I think they call "Gen. 2")

Wednesday after lunch the mechanic calls and says that the top strut mount is completely rusted through, and there is no way he can put a strut in there.  This is the spot in behind the wheel well where the top part of the strut attaches to the body/frame of the van.  Of course, I am now having visions of having to purchase a new vehicle for my wife in the next few days.  Then I remember a little tidbit of information I got a couple of months ago.  In my mind this is an example of how God acts in our lives and we don't even notice it.

At that time, we had had several major storms go through in the space of a week or so, and there was some serious water on the road.  My wife had driven home from her mom's after one of these storms, and upon arriving at home told me that the "transmission light" was on, and she was afraid the transmission was failing.  Well, what it really was was the "Check Engine" light, so I took it over to the local auto parts store and had them put their code reader on it to see what was going on.  It was nothing more than an oxygen sensor.  The clerk asked if we had driven it through any water lately (which obviously my wife had during the storms) and said that this was a common thing to happen.  During our conversation he said that he had owned a couple of Grand Caravans and had really liked them, but they had a problem with strut mounts rusting through.  My ears perked up at this and I told him I had a lot of rust on one my mine, and he told me that Chrysler had so many problems with it that they had made a little kit that you could install to fix it fairly cheaply.  Well, I filed that little bit of info away for later use, little knowing that I would need it really soon.  But God did.

So, back to the present, I mention this to my mechanic, and he says he will look into it, and lo and behold the dealer has a kit and so he is going to go ahead and see if it will work.  A day and a half later, after installing the repair kit (which he said worked better than he though it was going to), two new struts (completely shot, fluid completely out of them), a new tie rod on one side, and $1500, my 11 year old van now rides and handles like it's almost new again!  And I'm not making another car payment for the next 4 years!

On Saturday, wife goes out to a friend's house.  She gets back around midnight, and tells me "the (power) window won't close on the passenger side door".  Well, I wasn't going to go out at midnight to try to fix it.  We have already had trouble with these windows, and the drivers side doesn't work at all, but now the other window is stuck in the full down position.  So the next day after church I get on the internet and start searching, and wouldn't you know, Chrysler has had window motor problems with their minivans for a long time as well.  Indications are that it is a problem with the brushes in the motor, but of course you can't just buy the brushes, you have to buy the whole motor.  But I also found out that if you hold the switch in the "up" position while slamming the door, the window will move.  This did, in fact, work, and I was able to get the window up from the fully down and inside the door position to where I could pull it up and help the motor.  Banging on the motor with the handle of a screwdriver helped as well, and I got the window up.  So now the van is drivable in all weather conditions, not just when there is no rain in the forecast!

All I had to spend for that one was about $3.00 for the little door panel fasteners to get the inner panel put back on.

My conclusion is that cars are a pain, but I'm glad I don't have to walk to work.

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