98 Dodge Caravan help please!!!!!!!!

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May 15, 2003
Long Beach
Okay, I feel like a complete idiot and that I'm going to be laughed at by you guys since I don't know anything at all about cars really. But I currently live in Saint Louis, Mo and I'm moving to Long Beach, CA and it's like a good 1800-1900 mile drive. I can't afford to go and get like a real tune up or anything and for the most part my car is maintained semi-regularly. My car currently has 94,000 almost 95,000 miles on it and uses 5w-30 grade according to everything. I put in some Castrol GTX 5w-30 along with 1 quart of the Lucas oil additive thing. I also changed the oil and air filter to a brand I never heard of. It had a really weird name and I can't remember it.. I got it from an advanced auto parts store and the guy said the oil filter actually has a better micron rating then a fram oil filter. And it was also cheaper then the fram one, so I don't think he would lie if he could make more money off of me right? I also added a bottle of the sea foam stuff to the gas tank. And this saturday morning I'm going to change my serpentine belt in it. What all should I do to my car? Or can I do that's not too expensive? i really don't need my car to die on me or not make it to California because I can't afford anything else. I trust this board, you guys seem to know what you're talking about. Please help me out, thanks. -Siege
Welcome to sunny southern california Forget the additives, for the most part they're all bogus. I would use at least 10W30 weight oil with a vehicle going on a trip especially with 95000 miles on the clock. If You're consuming oil, add a quart od 20W50 when it's a quart low. Oil is the safest oil additive, especially if it's the same brand that's already in there. The new belt is a good Idea, Take a good look at the radiator hoses too. If the battery is more than 3 years old, buy a new one. Keep the old one as spare if it's still good. (get a cheap charger to keep it charged). Check the water level in the battery to make sure the plates are covered. If it's been a couple of years since the coolant was changed , do that too.I prefer Zerex over Prestone (Half antifreeze, Half distilled water) Your cheap filters should be OK. Not that premium filters aren't worth it, but even the best of them are only marginally better than garden variety ones(I'll get arguments about that but thats my humble opinion) Make sure there's air in the tires (including spare) and the transmission fluid looks good and is at the proper level.Check the brake fluid and powersteering fluid. Keep your speed reasonable and you should make to Calif. in fine shape
Well...I agree with Ed. Forget the additives. But just remember... the thing you worked on last is usually the first thing to break. I assume you are taking your vehicle to get the belt replaced. Take it to someone who you trust and ask them to check the belt and hoses and antifreeze level. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Make sure your oil leves is all the way up to the full mark. Check the tranny oil level. (In an auto this can be a little complicated). If your car is not using oil-I'm not sure I would go with the 50 wt. to add.. but it won't hurt. Maaybe the 40 wt. (10W-40). Drive a little easy on the car if traffic allows. Good luck- let us know how you made out. [Welcome!]
Siege, I second the suggestions of the previous guys. The transmission fluid most of all, new belts if yours are old, you've changed the oil already so that's good. Bring a quart or two of what's in there just in case. A new pair of headlight bulbs is not such a bad idea (plus a spare just in case), make sure you have enough radiator fluid. Some strong coffee (it'll be a long drive), water to keep you hydrated, and just drive safely and be careful when going through the tornado alley areas. See you when you get here. Good luck! [Smile]
Actually I dug out the boxes and it is a Purolator air and oil filter that I got from the auto parts store. And as far as the lights go, I need to change them actually because one of the high beams is out. Wiper blades are a great suggestion too because these ones are awful. I've driven my car to Cali before but that was back when it only had 50,000 miles on it. And now it's 94,000 so I just want to play it out extra safe until I actually get their before I start driving all gung-ho like I normally do. What about spark plugs? How do I check if they are in need of replacement or not? Also all my fluid levels are good.. any other ideas? -Siege
If your engine's running OK now the plugs are probably OK. *#1* cause of tire failure- under-inflation! Ask any competent tire tech, they'll tell you. So, check your tires, if they look decent, just check with an air guage to make sure they're properly inflated. Do *Not* trust the "guages" built in to some air hoses. A little $1-$5 pencil type guage will serve just fine. Local WM's have one for $.97 that seems to work well. I'm still using a 20 year old Milton air guage. Coolant check & change, yup, good idea. While you're at it, check all the belts & hoses.
If you get the belts changed, ask for the old one. It may not be new, but by god it'll work if something happens. And yeah #1 cause of failure, underinflation. "I was just driving along and it blew up!" #2 cause of failure, curbs. Good luck with your trip.
Castrol oil is good, but 10W-30 will likely give you better oil protection towards the end of your drain period than 5W-30, but you are OK for this long trip. The auto parts store may very well have a higher mark up on the odd-name filters than the brand name, even the junky Frams. Next time, don't waste money on any oil additive. The best does no harm (except to your wallet); the worse do harm to the engine. Spend a couple of the bucks you save on a quality oil filter...WIX, NAPA, Purolator, Hastings, Bosch Premium are some good brands. As said, when the belt is changed, get the tires, hoses, transmission fluid, battery, brakes & brake fluid, etc. inspected. Has your cooling system (radiator, etc.) been flushed and the coolant renewed within the last two years? If not, do so. Rust and sediment from chemical decomposition will begin to plug your radiator and cause overheating, and depletion of the corrosion inhibitors will cause galvanic corrosion of aluminum parts as well as iron parts. Generally avoid quick-lube or quick-tune up places. Try to find a good independent repair shop and if their work is good, become a loyal customer. Of course, also try to avoid the helpful, sincere, honest mechanic who's kind'a dumb and doesn't know what he doesn't know. Best of luck, Ken
All good advice from the previous posters. I just wanted to add one thought: When you've been driving on the interstates in the past, what were the problems you saw other motorists have? Think about it. I've done tons and tons of long distance driving and the most common problems I've seen are: Overheated engines Blown tires Yeah, lots of things *could* go wrong but it always seems those are the two most common. So for you I suggest taking care of the systems that commonly fail. Coolant can be tested for effectiveness. If its marginal I highly recommend replacing it. A local shop can do this easily and inexpensively. Tires are more expensive but they are your #1 safety device. Closely look at the tread and sidewalls for excessive wear and damage. If you can possibly afford it, replace them. And by all means, make sure your spare tire is in good order and all the jacking equipt is there and working. Another important thing to check are the windshield wipers. If its been a year or so since you replaced the wiper blades, do that now. Shouldn't cost you more than $20 and a few minutes to do the job. Also buy some good quality washer fluid - not that blue juice garbage - and fill your windsheild reservoir. Don't forget to check and replace the rear wiper blade and fill that reservoir too. It seems like every minivan on the road has a wasted rear wiper. Finally, check all your lights and replace any burned out bulbs. They're cheap and easy to do. And you might avoid a ticket. Oh, one more thing: Wash your van before you leave and make sure all your windows are spotlessly clean. Driving long distance in a dirty vehicle with nasty windows is tiring and not fun. Get that windshield as clean as possible. Hope all this helps. Safe driving!!!
I've also got a 3rd generation Dodge Caravan. What engine and transaxle combo do you have?? The most common is the 3.3 liter with 4 speed auto--my combo. If you have that, then you MUST consider these two things--the belt tensioner and the auto tranny. Failure of the $40 belt tensioner is the top reason for road failure and a tow. It breaks or bends, the belt goes, and you don't. Have you had the van since new? Has the tensioner been replaced? No, then buy one and pack it in the van, so when it breaks on the road your mechanic can install it. The 4 speed auto tranny needs regular fluid & filter changes. Do that too. Be sure to ONLY USE Chrysler spec ATF+3 fluid. There are a handful of manufacturers of the Chrysler spec fluid, any brand should work. If you put anything else in it, it will fail. Guaranteed. Other than those, there aren't any other differences between the Caravan and any other car. No wear bars showing on the tires, be sure they're well balanced, proper pressure, check fluids, clean the windows inside and out, and drive. [ May 17, 2003, 01:13 AM: Message edited by: burnbomber ]
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