Towing with a Grand Caravan - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-18-2016, 06:01 PM   #1
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Trailer: Boler 1300
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Towing with a Grand Caravan

I bought a new minivan this winter, a 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan. I didn't buy the tow package but I had the dealership install a mopar trailer hitch. This spring I ran all the wires for the harness and I actually think I am ready to hit the road with my Boler 13'.
Is anyone else out there towing with a 2011-2016 Grand Caravan? I would be thankful to know if you have the factory tow package or not and if you have added any aftermarket accessories.

Here's the backstory:
I have owned 2 dodge Caravans prior to this vehicle and I think they have been great for the price. However, last summer while towing my boler with my 2007 caravan I managed to blow my torque converter. I had high mileage 295,000km but I was still surprised. I did not install an accessory tranny cooler because I ran out of time and the Boler was below the tow rating.
I went into my dealership this week to ask about a tranny cooler and was told they had never added a cooler to a Grand Caravan. I know the new van has a separate portion of the rad for the tranny cooler and the parts rep said that was enough. Is he right?
I can buy a transmission cooler off of Amazon for less than $100 but is it worthwhile or am I being overcautious?
any thoughts appreciated.
Jay
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Old 05-18-2016, 06:19 PM   #2
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Check on manufacturer's web site what the tow package includes. If it includes auxiliary transmission cooler, then install it too.
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Old 05-18-2016, 06:35 PM   #3
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I was told something similar thing by a Toyota dealer, and two weeks later overheated the tranny on our Sienna climbing a long grade against a stiff headwind. Thankfully, electronic nannies detected the problem and sent the whole drivetrain into limp mode before catastrophic damage was done. I don't fault the dealer, really, as the weight of our 13' Scamp was under the 2000# rating of our no-tow-package Sienna. They were just going by the book. However the combination of triple-digit temperatures, a 10-mile 7% grade, and 30 mph headwinds overwhelmed the internal cooling capacity of the transmission.

You can get a second opinion from another dealer or a trusted independent mechanic, but my gut reaction is just do it!
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Old 05-18-2016, 07:23 PM   #4
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Grand caravan

I've had 2 Dodge caravans. A 2005 and presently a 2012. Neither had transmission coolers or a towing package. I had the hitches and wiring installed from a local trailer guy. Never had a problem over heating in the mountains or wherever. Great tow vehicles. Remember to always tow in 5th gear (2012). This keeps the tranny from continuous down shifting on even slight inclines. The gas mileage goes down a little in 5th ( 1 or 2 mpg) but it's much easier on the vehicle.

Swenny
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Old 05-18-2016, 09:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swenny View Post
I've had 2 Dodge caravans. A 2005 and presently a 2012. Neither had transmission coolers or a towing package. I had the hitches and wiring installed from a local trailer guy. Never had a problem over heating in the mountains or wherever. Great tow vehicles. Remember to always tow in 5th gear (2012). This keeps the tranny from continuous down shifting on even slight inclines. The gas mileage goes down a little in 5th ( 1 or 2 mpg) but it's much easier on the vehicle.

Swenny
Thanks Swenny, I appreciate the first hand experience too. I drove my 07 caravan in 3rd most of last summer and so I am looking forward to being able to drive in 5th this summer. Pretty sure that will be better gas mileage.
I'm heading east his summer so I won't have the same grades as my trip through the Rockies (Rogers Pass was a good haul!). This van seems a a bit more robust than the last, at least the new v6 is beefier.
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Old 05-18-2016, 10:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by sokhapkin View Post
Check on manufacturer's web site what the tow package includes. If it includes auxiliary transmission cooler, then install it too.
I know it doesn't really come across like I researched it ahead of time but I did, honestly. The trailer tow package only includes a class II hitch (got that aftermarket), trailer tow wiring (did that myself last month) and load levelling suspension (I considered stiffening up the suspension IF it needs it- so to be determined).
I'll be upfront with everyone, I have always bought a Caravan because it is cheap (bought the last 2 for $20,000 each whereas my friend has had 2 Toyota Sienna's at about $40,000 a piece). I drive them until their worn out.
They don't make the caravan anymore and the Grand Caravan is more money. I couldn't justify having to opt for the SXT Plus trim level - at the time an almost $5,000 upgrade just to be able to purchase the tow package.
So if I spend another $100 or even $200 on an after market transmission cooler I'm okay with that. I would like to know A) if anyone else has put one on a Grand Caravan or B ) if anyone else tows with a Grand Caravan without a Tranny Cooler.
so far the results are
A ) no response
B ) One vote yes!
I'll keep reading.
Jay
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Old 05-19-2016, 07:20 AM   #7
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A transmission cooler would be the first thing I'd add. I've had 3 Chrysler mini vans and had transmission problems with all of them when I only did rare towing of a utility trailer.
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Old 05-19-2016, 07:26 AM   #8
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I did beef up the suspension a little by installing overload shocks and now it handles the additional weight just fine with barely a dip in the rear end.
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Old 05-19-2016, 01:17 PM   #9
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There have been more tranny problems with the Grand Caravan probably due to it's higher weight.
I would add the cooler myself.

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Old 05-19-2016, 05:46 PM   #10
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I had a 1999 Grand Caravan, replaced the trans at around 100k. I now have a 2010 Grand Caravan, added the trans cooler, I felt it was cheap insurance! I tow a 1986 Boler 1300 or 16 foot bass boat.
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Old 05-19-2016, 06:43 PM   #11
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Thanks for the responses. I was already pretty convinced it was the right way to go (installing an accessory cooler) but when the service department told me it was unnecessary it just gave me pause. According to my wife I have been wrong before, so I just thought I'd check.
Jay
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Old 05-19-2016, 07:53 PM   #12
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[QUOTE=redbarron55;588235]There have been more tranny problems with the Grand Caravan probably due to it's higher weight.
I would add the cooler myself.

I agree for the cost its better to have than to have not. While I never owned a Caravan I did have 2005 Serbring GTC Convertible Which I did install a cooler and custom 3500 lb hitch I frequently towed trailers from 1500 to 2500 lbs from Los Angeles to Astoria OR, with no ill effects and not one problem I never had a break down. Just keep on-top of Maintenance and your foot off the floor on grades, its about enjoying the drive not how fast you can get there.
(Yes I know the Serbring was supposedly rated at 1000 lbs, the car never knew the trailer was even back there except on the steepest grades)
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:06 AM   #13
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Once transmission fluid reaches a certain point it fails causing the tranny to fail also. Here's a chart with failure rates at different temperatures.
Transmission temperature/failure chart.
For the record all cars with automatic transmissions come with a transmission fluid cooler, mostly integrated with the radiator. One of the information readings on my Silverado's console is transmission fluid temperature so temperature is very important.
Another thing is bugs in the radiator will cause overheating and those you see are only a fraction of them.

Joe
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:57 AM   #14
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Trailer: 2015 Scamp (16 Std Layout 4) with '15 Toyota Sienna LE Tug
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Romas View Post
...
For the record all cars with automatic transmissions come with a transmission fluid cooler, mostly integrated with the radiator. One of the information readings on my Silverado's console is transmission fluid temperature so temperature is very important....
Yea I have been following this discussion and noticed that there sometimes seems to be an assumption that if the tug does not have a secondary, external, (factory OR after-market) added tyranny cooler, then you should add one for towing. Not necessarily true. The original OEM tranny cooler might be plenty if it was designed for towing at whatever specs the manufacture gives you (as it has been in my Sienna).

And the best way to know, and also the cheapest way to protect your transmission, is to monitor the temperature. If you are lucky, you can use the Torque App with a cheap BlueTooth OBD2 adapter to accomplish this for well under $50.

But even if you have to get a professional to install a transmission temperature gauge, its the best thing to do first and before adding a secondary cooler that might not be needed and might even cause more problems. (Toyota told me that a added cooler on the Sienna would actually over cool the fluid and cause it to not work properly. I have no idea if that is fact or fiction however)

The only down side is if you find yourself in extreme conditions (hot day, steep grade, heavy load, etc.) and the temp goes up too high (for too long), you have to stop and let it cool down and maybe add a cooler when you can. Please don't wait until the vehicle computer tells you the tranny temps are too high.. by then damage may have been done and you should at least change the fluid ASAP.

One benefit I found with the temp gauge is clear evidence that towing in 4th instead of overdrive did in fact keep my tranny temps consistently at least 10-20 degrees cooler, even on flat and level highways.
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