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Old 01-25-2016, 10:44 PM   #1
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Dodge Caravan towing 17B

I am wondering if some experienced Escapers can help me. We are considering a 17B but cannot upgrade tow vehicle at present. We have a Dodge Caravan. Manual says it can tow up to 3500 lbs with tow package (which we would have to add). Escape website states 17 series is suitable for most Minivans. We live in Calgary which is basically the Foothills of the Rockies. While we wouldn't be traveling far there are hills. Any comments on whether my Dodge Caravan is suitable or not would be appreciated. David
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Old 01-25-2016, 11:06 PM   #2
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A lot of factors to consider. What year and model is the vehicle? How many miles on it? What does it cost to add "tow package" after the fact?
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Old 01-25-2016, 11:27 PM   #3
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I towed my 17B up and down lots of mountains (including to Calgary) with a Honda pilot rated at 3500. I think as the pilot aged and I loaded up the trailer more, it slowed a bit on the really big climbs - but not by much.
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Old 01-26-2016, 01:44 AM   #4
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We had a Dodge Grand Caravan in 1989 and towed a heavy tent trailer. When our tranny was being rebuilt for the second time I asked the mechanic why it was happening when it was stated the van could tow 3500 lbs. He took me in back and showed me the size of disks in the Caravan's automatic transmission and then showed me the same from a Safari van, which had disks the size of a truck's tranny (according to him). The Caravan disk were dwarfed in that comparison. It is possible that Chrysler may have addressed this deficiency long ago, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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Old 01-26-2016, 10:35 AM   #5
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Before my RAV4 I went through 3 Chrysler Minivans. I rarely towed; a utility trailer & a light aluminum boat on short 10 - 15 mile trips. All three needed transmission repairs. While I hear of others that have towed trailers within the tow ratings of the Chrysler vans, I wouldn't.

You might also check to see what is actually included in the tow package. While adding a transmission cooler is not too difficult, there may be other changes that only the factory can do.
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Old 01-26-2016, 11:01 PM   #6
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We have a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan which came standard with tow package (trans cooler etc) and plan on using it to tow a 17B - by the way, we are looking for a good late model 17B to purchase... if anyone has one for sale. Last year, we used our van to tow a boat from San Diego to Victoria BC with no issues. The boat and trailer weighed approx. 2800 lbs. We are told by the dealer, the late model Caravan trannies will do fine if the tow and vehicle load are kept well within the 3600 lbs limit, the vehicle is driven sensibly and the transmission is serviced more frequently than non-towing driving will dictate. If anyone has any different information, please let us know - the above trip does not represent a lot of miles towing yet on this vehicle and someone may have a different experience after a lot of towing.
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Old 01-27-2016, 12:00 AM   #7
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We were told the same thing by the dealer, back in 1989. It was one of many things I've been told by dealers that were bogus. Another dealer told me my 1996 Ford F-150 was capable of carrying our boat and gear plus tow the trailer. The specs said so too, but in reality it was terribly inadequate compared to our later Toyota Tundra, similar specs.
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Old 01-27-2016, 12:06 PM   #8
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Lots of people tow trailers the size and weight of the Escape 17 with minivans, including us. The Chrysler minivans are the same size and have the same capability as the others in this category (primarily the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey). All are stable (due to long wheelbase and wide track) and have sufficient power.

Transmission durability is a potential issue with any vehicle - my parents had an Oldsmobile with a traditional TuboHydramatic that was famous for blowing up (some lightweight version used in the Cutlass). My greater concern with the Caravan would be that it's a Chrysler... but if you already have it and don't know the service department people by name yet then perhaps you have a good one.

One generation of Odyssey had lots of transmission failures (or "issues"), but the problem was fixed and is not relevant to other years. A similar situation can exist with any manufacturer, but if there has been a known problem with a model I would want to know that it was specifically addressed.

I just suggest looking at what "towing package" means. If it just means a hitch and wiring, then no problem - add them. In some cases it means a higher-capacity tranmission cooling system and maybe even other changes; as already suggested, this may not be practical to add if not included from the factory.
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Old 01-28-2016, 04:29 PM   #9
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We towed a 2006 Casita FD with a 2006 Grand Caravan. 5 years, 97000 miles, no problems. I traded the GC for the Frontier when I bought the 5.0.
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Old 01-28-2016, 05:24 PM   #10
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We towed our vintage 1968 Aristocrat 16 trailer with a 2004 Chrysler Minivan which came with a towing package. We went so far as over the Siskyou Pass, about 4000 feet, on I-5 in Oregon several times without a problem, and through Bend, OR. We had no problems with towing this 2600 pound trailer although it got a little slow on the longer grades. We decided to upgrade to a newer vehicle as the Chrysler was 10 years old and got a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with v-6 which has been an excellent TV. We had problems with earlier Chrysler minivan transmissions and used to joke that when we got to 80,000 miles, we should be ready for a rebuild. But no problems with the 2004. I surmise they improved their transmission engineering.
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Old 01-29-2016, 11:50 PM   #11
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Towing

Many thanks to all for their input. It has been very helpful. The key issue is the towing package. I talked to the Chrysler dealer and they said that a Chrysler approved package needs to be factory installed as it is more than the hitch i.e. increased oil and transmission cooling. I also talked to a hitch shop and they install transmission coolers so not sure if this would be enough.
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Old 01-30-2016, 08:50 PM   #12
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My experience with car dealers is they don't want you to know they don't know sqwat about towing with what they sell but are more than happy to say what they think you want to hear.
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Old 01-30-2016, 09:15 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MyronL View Post
My experience with car dealers is they don't want you to know they don't know sqwat about towing with what they sell but are more than happy to say what they think you want to hear.
Quote of the day
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Old 01-30-2016, 09:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MyronL View Post
My experience with car dealers is they don't want you to know they don't know sqwat about towing with what they sell but are more than happy to say what they think you want to hear.
I agree, but in this case this statement makes perfect sense:
Quote:
Originally Posted by mooredn View Post
The key issue is the towing package. I talked to the Chrysler dealer and they said that a Chrysler approved package needs to be factory installed as it is more than the hitch i.e. increased oil and transmission cooling.
I don't know about the Chrysler van, but starting with model year 2007 an engine oil cooler is a critical part of the Toyota Sienna towing package, and it cannot reasonably be retrofitted to an engine not originally equipped with it.

Speaking of people who will tell you whatever will make the sale:
Quote:
Originally Posted by mooredn View Post
I also talked to a hitch shop and they install transmission coolers so not sure if this would be enough.
Why would an aftermarket transmission cooler, not even designed for the vehicle, be adequate if the manufacturer of the vehicle thinks it is necessary to put in a substantially more extensive (and expensive for them to provide) system? If the "increased oil cooling" refers to engine oil, this is certainly more expensive and complex than increased transmission cooling (because essentially all automatic transmission vehicles have a transmission fluid cooler anyway).
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Old 01-30-2016, 10:13 PM   #15
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Company I worked for bought Chrysler products ( Caravans, Omni, Dart ) because they were cheap and the capital budget was always restricted. But, they seemed to have vast amounts of money in a maintenance budget for repairs. So, these vehicles were rotated through the transmission repair shop.

As far as I know, the fellow photographers who haven't taken the buyout are still driving Neons, purchased new in year 2000. That they leaked like a sieve, filling the trunk ( with about $30,000 worth of cameras and computers ) wasn't a problem until Nikon insisted on being paid for repairs.
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Old 01-31-2016, 01:21 AM   #16
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Company I worked for bought Chrysler products ( Caravans, Omni, Dart ) because they were cheap and the capital budget was always restricted.
That brings back memories, my wife worked for the same company and she always was driving either a Caravan or an Omni and, at one time, a Cavalier
Great deal for me as a spouse. Only had to take a test to pass their defensive driver requirement and got to drive the car whenever with free gas.

I have a brother-in-law in Calgary and a friend who commutes to Edmonton. Both drive Caravans and between them they tow, a fairly heavy ski boat, a heavy tent trailer and a heavy work trailer. The first time I heard they were going to tow over the mountains with a Caravan I thought "good luck". But I was wrong, neither has had any problems because of that.

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Old 01-31-2016, 01:29 AM   #17
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Which is why there is my pontoon boat on the car, and why I have such low miles on my RAV4.
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