By on May 4, 2015

Chrysler Town & Country

TTAC Commentator BCalgary writes:

Hello Sajeev!

Last summer I finished a 2 year stint in Scotland and moved back to my native Canada. My family is from Toronto, however, I received a job offer in Calgary so my wife and I packed up our belongings and moved out west. Since my new job didn’t start until September, we decided to take the couple of months we had off and do a dream vacation that consisted of driving across Canada while camping and kayaking at various points along the way. We ended up buying a well maintained 2005 Town and Country (3.8L) with high miles (269,000 km or 167,000 miles at the time) for the trip.

Fast forward seven months and it has 290000 km (180,000 miles) and I am at a crossroads as to whether or not to keep it.

The van itself has been awesome. My wife and I camp, kayak, go on road trips and sometimes sleep in it; perfect for all those things. We would like to get a couple more years out of it but it needs some work and I’m getting cold feet about dumping money into a 10-year-old high mileage Chrysler. Another complication is its registered in Ontario and needs to pass an inspection to be registered in Alberta. I’ve had a pre-inspection done and it needs a couple things I normally wouldn’t do on a vehicle this old (see list of problems).

I was hoping for fresh perspective from you and the B&B to help me decide what to do and also to diagnose some mystery problems. Here is what needs to be done or might need to be done in the future:

  • For the out-of-province inspection, it needs a new parking brake since the cable has snapped (quoted at 300$ installed).
  • New tire pressure sensors (again only to pass inspection). Cheapest I could find is about $55 each, so $220 before taxes and shipping plus $80 to get them installed.
  • For the past couple of weeks, a check engine light has been coming on intermittently. I haven’t had it diagnosed yet but I would have to address it to pass inspection.
  • It’s been cold here and noticed a small amount of exhaust gases coming from the middle of the van. It’s not loud yet but will probably need to be addressed sometime in the next year.
  • When I turn the front wheels to their extremes, the power steering pump gets very loud; sounds a bit like a whooshing (pitch going up and down) you would hear on an old radio as you are trying to tune into a station. It has been doing this for four months now but still works perfectly.
  • A creaking in the front suspension at low speeds. Consumer reports says there is a service bulletin for this, reading “2004-05 models may have a creaking/squawking sound from the front struts due to grease on the strut jounce drying out (02-004-05); they may also require replacement of a sway bar bushing (02-003-05).” The struts were replaced 30,000 miles ago so hopefully its just the sway bar bushings.
  • This one is a bit strange. If you park the car, turn off the engine and lock the doors while you’re still inside, an electrical buzz (like a short circuit) can be heard but goes away after a couple of seconds. All the electronics work perfectly so I’m not sure what is going on.
  • On very cold mornings (-10C or lower), there is a loud knocking coming from the engine when it’s first started. It goes away within 20 seconds, so I’m not sure if I should be worried or not. The engine feels good to drive; it hasn’t lost any power and gets normal gas mileage. The spark plugs were changed 20,000 miles ago (not sure if that’s relevant).

So there it is. Seems like a very long list now that I type it all out. If these problems didn’t make noises you would never know anything is wrong. It drives beautifully so we would like to keep it, but also don’t want to waste money on something that is on its last leg. Do any of these problems sound really serious? Should I get these items repaired or ditch it and get something a bit newer? Money is tight right now due to tuition and recent moving expenses so it wouldn’t be much newer, but I would go for something known to be more reliable.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for the detailed assessment of your concern. It makes this much easier – leaving more time for filler like “LS4-FTW” or to embrace Panther Love. Neither is a horrible idea…but that’s not the point.

Sell this van in Toronto and buy something new when you move to Calgary. Rent a U-Haul (if needed) and Uber yourself to a good vehicle in Alberta. Then again, that’s a long trip in a U-Haul or to ship all your belongings via courier. It’s gonna rack up some serious cash. Perhaps you could save money by putting it into the Chrysler’s successful registration instead.

Clear cut answer it ain’t: keeping or selling is rarely very easy, even on a depreciated machine. The question is: can you easily find another vehicle if you sell yours in Toronto?

I suspect, considering the stress avoided by shipping your belongings/air travel (the time value of money), the smart move is selling in Toronto and finding something new(er) in Calgary.

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: Registration For The Toronto & Calgary Minivan?...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    It’s a good runner and you say you want to keep it. More input needed. CE light can’t really be diagnosed without more info. I will say it is probably an intermittent 02, evap code, crank or cam sensor (just guessing here). Electrical buzz is probably one of the door lock actuators that is getting past it. Easy fix. The knocking? Well.. sounds like maybe oil is draining back further than it should. Has this problem persisted thru oil changes? You can sea foam the oil and see if it clears out any passages. Won’t hurt it. Also put an oil gauge on it to see if it knocks due to low pressure or if maybe something else is causing the knock. Loose exhaust can do that too (happened to me).

    I think with a little more info/work you will get a better picture and probably keep it.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Sounds like your loud knock could just be a lifter or slightly slack timing chain, before the tensioner tightens and engine oil warms up. I’d say use a high quality synthetic and see if that quiets things down. Exhaust leak and CEL may very well be linked, but get it scanned at an AutoZone or whatever the Canadian equivalent is and check the code online. An exhaust leak upstream of the second oxygen sensor could easily trigger check engine light linked to catalyst efficiency, or other havoc been wreaked as the car tries to inject more fuel to account for what it detects as a lean condition (extra oxygen in the exhaust).

    Power steering noise: have you checked the level? You’d be surprised how many noisy/’faulty’ pumps have been fixed by just topping off the fluid.

    I was able to find dorman replacement sensors for $24 a pop on partsgeek FYI.

    Tough call, but I’d argue the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Sounds like the drivetrain is solid, not sure that another cheap minivan would have any fewer issues.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This van has an OHV engine with a short little chain, I haven’t heard one on these make that kind of startup noise. The description of his noise sounds like a rod knock.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Ah right you are. Perhaps a $20 used oil analysis might shed some light on the situation?

        Timing chains even on these OHV engines can start getting slack and making noise:

        linkhttp://forum.chryslerminivan.net/showthread.php/20594-Timing-Chain-Slack

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          The chains can get noisy no doubt, but I haven’t heard one make a startup noise like the OP described. Usually they’ll slap around a bit at all times when running, not just at cold startup.

    • 0 avatar
      turbo ta

      With that amount of klms, the V6 knock is just a reminder it’s time to say goodbye. Vehicles from Ontario are usually rusty underneath at 10 yrs old so you’re going to have a tough time getting an registration inspection in Alberta. The engine light is the final straw unless its a cheap basic fix, which seldom happens on a Chrysler minivan at 11 years old.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I would say keep it, for the following reasons, money is tight so unless you hit a home run finding a replacement you will need to put some cash into it, 2, your T&C is not worth a lot of money and if you buy something newer , more reliable you are laying out more money, fix what you need to fix, not sure why you need the tire pressure down for inspection but maybe you do, so your about $600 bucks in to get it to pass, you have a van that meets your needs, and you can either deal with everything else later or make it a third car in the fleet/ beater, home depot ( or Canadian Tire) hauler. Do snow tires need the Tire system ,i fi not put them on for the inspection.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Well, I can answer one question: That sound when you lock the doors is the circuit that gradually turns off the interior lights over the span of a couple seconds. I have no idea why automakers do this vs. just turning them off. I’ve had a couple cars with this “feature” and they both make that noise.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This. This sound in Chrysler vans is always noticeable for some reason. That was my first thought.

      They do it because everyone wants dimmable lighting on everything. It’s luxurious.

      The dimmers on home lights also make a slight noise when they’re on, a “buzz.”

      • 0 avatar
        wibigdog

        My damn ’02 base Cavalier had this feature, and I hated it from the moment I brought it home brand new until I sold it 12 years & 200,000 miles later. Other than that and the cheap interior, one of the best cars I ever owned in terms of reliability and endurance (feels weird saying that).

    • 0 avatar
      BCalgary

      Good to know, I was concerned that I would wake up to a burnt shell one morning from an electrical fire. I’m surprised they chose a part that makes such an audible noise, it must have been a few cents cheaper per unit.

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    Just an FYI – on most Chrysler vehicles, if you cycle the key between “Off” and “On” (but not to “Start”) 3 times, it will give you the check engine code on the odometer. Then you can Google away

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Ordinarily, I have little love for Chrysler products but that is a praiseworthy feature.

      • 0 avatar
        ezeolla

        I am spoiled by it on my Jeep. When a CEL come on in my Pontiac which has a whole little computer built into the radio (trip odometer, average MPH and MPG, as well as an oil life calculator), I was shocked that I couldn’t get it to give me the code

  • avatar
    KixStart

    You need tire pressure sensors to pass inspection? I’m surprised. Plenty of 2005’s didn’t have that feature.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      PS: I’d keep it. Maybe some oil treatment could help quell the startup noise.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      I believe in many jurisdictions with safety inspections, if the vehicle was sold with TPMS, it has to be functional.

      I’m a little surprised, though, that all four sensors need replacement, unless the current or previous owner cheaped it on the last tire replacement and never had them installed at all. If he does decide to keep the van, though, I’d look closely at the treadwear on the current tires. Given the cost of the four-wheel TPMS installation, re-mounting and balancing, it might be worth investing in a complete fresh set of tires.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Price the TPMS sensors at Costco. I found them to be sensibly priced there, versus insanely at tire stores and Costco will sell the sensors on their own. Same thing goes for replacement lug nuts as well, if you find these little suckers being added to your quote for stupid $.

      • 0 avatar
        BCalgary

        I believe this is correct, since it came with it it must be functional. From what I understand Alberta requires all warning lights to be off at the time of inspection.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Sounds like you could probably get it through inspection for less than 1k, go for it.

    Make sure to use that block heater for those cold starts. Sounds like a bit of a rod knock. If it, only does it at -10 degree starts and is otherwise quiet, run it.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    Congratulations on your job offer in Calgary. And here I thought everyone was getting laid off because of the slowdown in the oil patch.

    My take on this is – fix whatever you need to get you that final 4000 km from Toronto to Calgary and then buy a used/new car there. You won’t be able to give away the Caravan in Toronto. Nobody buys American cars there.

    Here’s the interesting part – if you can pass the vehicle off as an Alberta original then you’ll be able to get $500 to $1500 more for it then you would if you fixed it up and sold it out east. Chalk it up to ‘local market value’. (Dating almost works the same way).

    Because of the low to non-existent amount of salt usage in Calgary, undercarriages and quarter panels tend to last a lot longer. However, you’re screwed if someone (like me) manages to sniff out that this is a eastern/central Canada car. In that case, it’s worth junk. Even if it doesn’t have rust penetrating any of the body work, one look at your non-cracked windshield and the rust in your undercarriage (control arms, brackets, bolts) will give it away. The registration check will be the final smoking gun.

    There are two ‘signature’ things that make a western Canada car, especially one from Alberta. One is the aforementioned cracked windshield, the other is rust patches on the hood. The undercarriage will be more/less fine (but very dusty).

    And in the off chance that you do buy another used van of that vintage, take the windshield/hood off the old and just transplant it (assuming its the same color).

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I was running a total in my mind, and to fix all the annoying broken stuff (assuming you do more than just the inspection requirements) you’re already at $2,000 minimum.

    Now, you’re not adding anything to the sale value really with these. And the inspection sounds like a pain (like doing most anything in Canada involving driving, from the sounds of things).

    So my advice is get rid of the CEL, and dump it. It’s a very old Chrysler with very high miles, there’s nothing particularly special or awesome about it which cannot be found in a different vehicle in your new locale. This thing is right on the verge of money pit status.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      Would agree with this. Even if you pass inspection it probably has more problems on the near horizon — thinking transmission as a big one if it hasn’t been done. These things seem to go for $1500-3500 on Craigslist Calgary, so maybe drive it out there and sell for under 1k as is and buy a lower mileage example or a completely different car.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      Agree. The Alberta inspection is a pain. I took my maxima out when I moved from Ottawa, ON to Canmore AB. 300,000 km is about the end of the road for those vans with Canadian winters. Sell it in Ontario!! People out west won’t buy vehicles that come from the east because of the road salt so I can be hard to sell there. Also, if you have already driven it across the country it’s probably roached. That’s a hard trip for high mileage vehicles. If it’s loaded up with stuff and it dies while you are driving out west it will be a hassle on top of the stress of moving and starting a new job. Finding a new vehicle on the fly in some small town limits your choices and you will habe to fit all your stuff that’s in the old van.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    I had a 2004, run for your life. The check engine light is a hose they have to drop the tank to get to (mine needed that twice.) The power steering noise is the rack (mine went through two of those too.) If you have a rear heater, that pipe will rust out and dump out your coolant. The blower motor died as did numerous resistors. I loved the vehicle, I would have bought another one if the one I had didn’t disintegrate when it was out of warranty.

  • avatar
    BCalgary

    Thanks for the replies. I am in Calgary now with the van but still haven’t switched the registration. I’m considering getting a new small car like a Micra or Mirrage on a long term loan to keep the payments low for the next two years while my wife goes to college, then paying it off quickly with her income once she is working again. The cost certainty is really appealing to me as random large repair bills will be difficult for us to manage with our limited cash for the next two years. Once my wife is working and we go to two cars we would keep this one and get a c segment hatch for kids and utility. But its still up in the air and I haven’t decided yet. The van is still on its original transmission which makes me nervous, did Chrysler sort out its transmission problems by then?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Chrysler are -still- having transmission problems in vans. Just ask Tom who writes here, who had his transmission grenade before what, 10k miles on a brand new 2013+ model?

      Get rid of it!

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ttac-readers-call-town-country-troubles/

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Why not contact these people and ask about the TPMS? You know, rather than rely on hearsay about all lights being out on the dash to pass inspeection. TPMS is not mandatory in Canada, Subarus don’t have them even on 2015 models. Useless things.

      Vehicle Inspection Program

      Alberta Transportation
      Main Floor, Twin Atria Building
      4999 – 98 Avenue Room 109
      Edmonton, AB T6B 2X3
      Ph: 780-427-8901 (dial toll-free 310-0000)
      Fax: 780-422-2721     [email protected]

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @wmba – agreed. TPMS is not a requirement in Canada. Most vehicles here tend to be USA spec so they come with them. Many tire shops are clueless to the requirements. They will parrot that if it came with it they have to put it back on.

        My local Costco tire department, Canadian tire and even the Toyota dealer knew about it and said you don’t need TPMS. My local Ford dealer said you needed it and most everyone else. At 40 – 120 per sensor I can see why various tire shops prefer to sell you TPMS sensors.

        • 0 avatar
          BCalgary

          That’s interesting Lou_bc, I had a garage that does the inspection tell me I needed them so I took it as gospel. I will contact Alberta transportation directly to make sure, I have a feeling now that I won’t be going back to that garage. I wish you could take your mechanic with you when you move to a new place

          • 0 avatar
            would-be gearhead

            If you want a reliable independent shop, try Fifty-Fourth and Fourth. Dale is the owner-operator, and is a trained and authorised Honda mechanic. He works on all makes, including two of my neighbours’ (former) Dodge vans.
            You won’t be sold anything not necessary, but Dale will let you know if things are getting sketchy.
            By the way, the comments about values of vehicles, in the West, as well as in T.O., are accurate. Same with transmissions.
            Dale’s shop is south just off Macleod Trail. 403-252-5905.
            Oh, yeah, the jobs aren’t vanishing because of crude prices, nor the new government!

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    You’re considering a Micra/Mirage? Just get an LoC and buy one of these:
    http://wwwb.autotrader.ca/a/Honda/CR-V/KELOWNA/British+Columbia/19_8593131_/?showcpo=ShowCPO&orup=2_15_8

    (you’d have to drive out to Kelowna, but it aint super far). You can just drive it back and go through the inspection. Or do the brakes and windshield yourself.

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