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Chrysler Minivans for the Young Man FAQ

by Brian Feldman | Minivan repairs | Main minivan page


I bought my first Chrysler Town & Country minivan
when I was 19. Many people ask, "Why would a young single person
drive a minivan?" A minivan offers a variety of
advantages over other vehicles, such as:

  • Low cost of
  • Low purchase price
  • Raised seating
  • Extreme comfort for
    all occupants
  • Large cargo area
  • Thoughtful design
    and features
  • Chic exterior
Low cost of ownership

Owners of a
Chrysler minivan benefit from low depreciation on used minivans, low
insurance rates, good fuel economy considering the size of the
vehicle, and ease and low cost of maintenance and repair. A three or
four year old Chrysler Town & Country with 80,000 - 100,000 miles in
good condition can be acquired for around $10,000. It may still
perform in almost-new condition and easily have another 50,000 -
100,000 miles before major problems occur.

Insurance rates are low because a minivan is inherently safe due to
its size and much of the time they are driven in a sensible manner
by sensible people. You can expect to average about 20 mpg in mixed
driving with the 3.8L engine, and perhaps 21 - 22 mpg on the
highway [2009 newer minivans have been optimized for highway mileage and may do much better]. While this is slightly more fuel than consumed by the
average sedan, one must consider the additional utility of the
minivan and remember that even with the extra fuel consumed it still
has a reasonable cost of ownership.

Since the Chrysler minivan is
such a popular and widespread vehicle, parts are fairly easily to
locate and relatively inexpensive. After all the expenses are added
up and depreciation is included, it is entirely possible and not
unreasonable to assume a total cost of ownership of around 30 cents
per mile for a nearly new, luxurious vehicle with enough space to
haul couches, large screen TVs, and furniture should the need
arise. Sure, you might be able to drive around a 12-year old
subcompact sedan for only 25 cents a mile, but you would be missing
out on all the extra utility, comfort, safety, and other benefits
offered by a Chrysler Town & Country. If you're going to be paying
for depreciation, registration, insurance, gas, and all the other
expenses that go with owning a car, you may as well spring for the
extra 5 cents a mile and drive something nice.

Low purchase price

While a new
Chrysler Town & Country can be purchased for between $20,000 and
$40,000, a used minivan can offer a great deal if you would prefer
all the options and features of a loaded $40,000 minivan but don't
have $40,000 to spend. A three or four year old fully loaded
Chrysler minivan can be had for around $10,000. Why are the slightly
used minivans so inexpensive? I'm not going to theorize about why
the supply and demand curves are shaped the way they are, but the
market price is what it is. A low purchase price makes it easier to
replace the vehicle should something happen to it, and lowers
collision insurance rates or may eliminate the need for collision
insurance. Plus, with a purchase price of only $10,000, you won't be
paying nearly as much interest on a new one as you would on a used

Raised seating

A higher
seating position than in a sedan is beneficial for several reasons.
Chrysler designed the minivan so that the seat was
at exactly the proper height for easy entry and egress from the
vehicle. You don't have to climb into the vehicle or stand up and
climb out of the vehicle. Sitting higher also allows for a more
natural seating position for enhanced comfort. Also, being higher up
allows you to see farther down the road, which makes driving a
minivan that much safer.

Extreme comfort for
all occupants

The raised
seating position allows for a more natural posture, as your legs can
hang lower than they would in a sedan. With quad seating, even the
center row occupants get seats that recline and have armrests.
Nobody infringes on anyone else's personal space. The long wheelbase
minivan also offers copious amounts of legroom, especially for rear
seat occupants. Dual or triple zone temperature control allows
people with different temperature preferences to get comfortable.
I'm not a selfish person. I want my passengers to be comfortable

Large cargo area

The beauty
of the 167 cubic feet of cargo space in a Chrysler minivan is that
it can be used to hold 7 people, large objects that would only
otherwise fit in a truck, or some combination of both and it can be
switched in a matter of seconds. You also don't have to worry about
protecting your precious belongings from the elements if they're
inside a minivan, tying them down, or carrying a mattress on your
roof and holding it with your arms while you're driving. See the
question on mattresses for a more thorough investigation of the
mattress issue.

Thoughtful design and

For a
detailed list of all the Chrysler minivan firsts and thoughtful
features that Chrysler engineers put into the minivan, the best
resource is
here on
. There are so many wonderful features I can't
even begin to cover them and if I did I wouldn't be able to give
them justice. Especially check out the links under 1996-2000
technical information.

Chic exterior

this is just a matter of personal opinion, but I think the Chrysler
minivan is the best looking of all of them and it has a nice shape
to it, resulting in a Cd of approximately 0.35.

Quick List of

  • Why a Chrysler minivan

  • Reliability of a
    Chrysler minivan

  • Fuel
    consumption of a Chrysler minivan

  • Performance of a
    Chrysler minivan

  • Women/dating and Chrysler

  • Vehicles other than Chrysler minivans

  • Customization and
    all other questions about Chrysler minivans

<a name="Why%20a%20Chrysler%20minivan"></a>Why a Chrysler
minivan and not a minivan made by one of the other fine auto

While a
number of other auto companies make minivans that are attractive
alternatives to the Chrysler minivan, there are several reasons I
had to go with the Chrysler. Both Honda and Toyota put together a
reasonable fairly well designed minivan. However, a used Honda or Toyota with similar options, mileage,
and age will be significantly more expensive to acquire than the
Chrysler. The Toyota is also slightly smaller inside than the
Chrysler, as is the Nissan Quest. The Quest also has a center
mounted instrument cluster, which would force me to take my eyes off
the road. A Ford or GM minivan would be
less expensive to acquire, however the interiors are not as
thoughtfully designed and the overall package is not as
revolutionary or as well thought out as the Chrysler was. I
recommend that everyone read "The Critical Path" by Brock Yates (and
check out this
) for more about the development of the Chrysler
minivan. Back in the early 90's when the 1996 redesign was being
engineered, Chrysler knew they would need a runaway success with the
minivan because of the dire financial situation of the company.

I heard that Ford has decided to
leave the minivan market!

Yes, it is
true, Bill Ford, Alan Mulally and company have decided to exit the minivan market.
Clearly this proves that building a successful minivan lineup isn't
something that every company has the capability to do. It's tough
work to develop a vehicle that meets such diverse needs and does it
so well. That's what makes the companies that can pull it off (like
Chrysler) so special. Heck, I would have helped Bill Ford lead the
minivan program for a reasonable salary... I guess he hasn't read
this FAQ yet. Ford has already introduced their Edge and Taurus X, and Flex. It will be
interesting to see how well these vehicles can fill the void left by
the absence of their minivan.

I heard that GM has also decided to
leave the minivan market!

As far as I
know, GM has no plans to refresh their current minivan lineup. I
guess now Alan Mulally and Rick Wagoner are going to have to start a
bidding war for me if they want my help with their minivan programs.

<a name="How%20reliable%20is%20a%20Chrysler%20minivan"></a>
How reliable is a
Chrysler minivan?

Without an
extensive database of repair information and ownership histories, I
cannot objectively conclude that one brand is particularly more
reliable than another in terms of breakdowns, minor annoyances, or
costs. From personal experience I can say that most of the problems
I have encountered can be solved rather inexpensively if one takes a
few moments to search owner forums and/or troubleshoot the problems
on their own. My hope is that if a vehicle was truly a piece of
junk, one owner would not keep it for 100,000 miles. If something
breaks, fix it.

If you're worried about catastrophically large
repairs such as a transmission failure, you can purchase an extended
warranty or service contract. And if perfect reliability is of that
much importance to you, perhaps you should live your entire life in
a padded cell because of the terrible things that could happen to
you while crossing the street to get the mail or going to the
grocery store. Reliability is one of a number of factors that should
be considered in the purchase of a vehicle - not the only factor.
Based on personal experience, it seems that most components will
last until 150,000 miles, after which point a whole host of things
will need replacing in short order.

Good reliability? You can't be
serious! I own/know of many Chrysler minivans with all kinds of

They were
all new and in great condition when they left the factory. The
problems you may be experiencing are likely due to the
ignorance/neglect of an owner, the negligence of a mechanic, or some
combination thereof. Try taking care of your van. It doesn't ask for
much. A nice, warm bath once in a while... an oil change every few
thousand miles... a fresh tank of gas each week... and a little bit
of care and attention once in a while.

What have you had to
replace on the ones you have owned?

tie-rod ends on the 1999-2000 model years have a life expectancy of
about 80,000 - 100,000 miles. With labor charges these are only $60
- $70 each to replace if you're getting a new set of tires and/or
the van needs to be re-aligned anyway. Heated seat control modules
on the 2000 model are about $35 each and needed replacing at 70,000
miles. Sway bar end links may need replacing around 120,000 miles
($300 for both). And transmissions may need an overhaul if you have
a nasty transmission fluid leak and neglect to maintain the fluid at
the proper level, allowing the transmission to overheat. Rear wheel
cylinders might need replacing around 100,000 miles.

My van asked
for an EGR valve and oxygen sensor at 112,000 in the process of
troubleshooting a drivability issue (turned out to be plug wires), as well as a fuel filter and a
serpentine belt at 117,000. A front brake caliper at 126,000. An
exhaust system for $400 at 140,000. And I tossed in
a new valve cover gasket and master cylinder that were probably not
in the best of shape from sitting around too long. I've also
replaced a water pump, belt tensioner, idler pulley, harmonic
balancer, fuel pump, and inner tie rods, all after 150,000 miles.
Power steering pump, reservoir, lines, and steering rack needed
replacing at 175,000 miles.
I had to replace a few headlight bulbs. I recommend against Sylvania Silverstars as I installed about 4 of these and they lasted me about
7 months apiece. And I
replaced the bulbs in the overhead console courtesy of
JKL Components

That's about
all in 125,000 miles of Town & Country ownership. Other than that,
just do your best to ensure that the person who owned the vehicle
prior to you isn't a complete idiot. Which most aren't. After all,
they did have a Chrysler Town & Country, didn't they?

Other common minivan repairs

Do the interiors on a Town &
Country buzz, squeak, or rattle after several years or 100,000
miles? Or 150,000 miles? What about the sliding doors?

No, the
interiors of both of the Town & Country vans I have owned have been
completely buzz, squeak, and rattle free. If the sliding doors
rattle or do not close properly with a gentle push (as opposed to a
slam) then you need to spend 5 minutes with a ratchet and socket set
adjusting the 3 attachment points on the sliding doors for fore-aft
alignment, up-down alignment, and seal compression. If you're
slamming the sliding doors, then you're mistreating your Town &
Country and you need help. All sliding doors will be quiet and
rattle-free when adjusted properly.

<a name="Fuel%20Consumption%20of%20a%20Chrysler%20minivan"></a> What kind of gas
mileage does a Chrysler Town & Country get?

In stop and
go driving with the A/C on in summer, 16-17 mpg. In mixed driving,
19-21 mpg. On the highway at a constant 72 mph with fairly flat
roads, you may get up to 24 mpg. Normal highway driving is around
21-22 mpg. The average of the one I drove was 20.37 mpg
over 104,000 miles (see the graph). This assumes Town and Country LXi,
1998-2000, all seats in, normally only the driver, nothing on the
roof, tires properly inflated, altitudes between sea level and 1500
feet, and 3.8L engine running on regular
unleaded fuel. It appears that the Town & Country gets better fuel
economy in warmer weather due to decreased aerodynamic drag because
of the lower density of air (as would most vehicles).

How can the Chrysler Town &
Country instantaneously calculate its fuel consumption?

You can
find some pretty cool stuff if you do patent searches on
Chrysler's patents. The Town & Country can calculate its fuel
consumption very easily in two ways. First, it knows the injector
pulse width and the fuel rail pressure is regulated to approximately
50 PSI, and therefore it can determine precisely how much fuel has
been injected into the engine. Second, it can use manifold pressure
and engine RPM along with factors like engine displacement to
determine how much fuel is consumed because under normal operating
conditions the amount of fuel burned is in proper stoichiometric
ratio with ambient air. For example, with the 3.8L engine on a 60F
(15C) day, the calculation boils down to:

Fuel gallons per hour (GPH) = engine speed (RPM) / 9000 * absolute manifold pressure (inHg)

For example, if you are
idling at 700 rpm and have 7 inHg of absolute manifold pressure
(approximately 23 inHg vacuum at sea level), with this equation you
would be able to estimate that you're using approximately 0.54
gallons per hour of fuel at idle. If you were going down the highway
at 2100 rpm and 14 inHg absolute manifold pressure, this calculation
would estimate that you're using 3.3 gallons per hour. 2100 rpm
equates to 70 mph when the transmission is in 4th gear, torque
converter locked, and this example works out to 21.2 mpg.

How accurate is that trip
computer at calculating fuel economy?

I have
constructed a database to verify this (available for
downloading) and based on 359 tanks of gas all recorded to the
nearest tenth of a gallon in my logbook (5000 gallons), the
trip computer agrees with the gas pumps to a degree of accuracy
greater than 8 gallons in 5000 over time (see the graph). I suspect some of the variability
stems from temperature fluctuation causing changes in the volume of
the fuel and heavy air conditioning usage appears to affect the trip
computer somewhat. I am still investigating this. It appears the
trip computer may slightly underestimate fuel usage in cold weather
in the city and slightly overestimate fuel usage in warm weather on
the highway based on the trends I'm seeing. Or perhaps I'm seeing an
accumulation of rounding errors since I only record my fillups to
the nearest tenth of a gallon. In either case, the trip computer is
very accurate tank-to-tank.

How much did you
spend on gasoline for your Town & Country?

My current record for one month (September 2005) is
$632.66 for 15 tanks of gas at about $2.88 per gallon.
My most expensive fill-up so far has been $58 for 17.5
gallons at $3.29 a gallon. One must take into
consideration that this month involved an unusually-high
5,000 miles of travel due to vacation, moving, and an
extreme amount of travel for business purposes. My
average cost per month for gasoline ran in the
neighborhood of $220.

It's people like you
that are responsible for global warming and using up all
of the world's oil!

I have taken a class at Carnegie Mellon in
environmental sustainability and I got an A. That makes it OK.

If you spend so much on gas,
what is your favorite brand?

Since I do
a lot of traveling, I've used many different brands of gasoline and
haven't noticed any major differences between them. And amazingly
the oil companies don't send me any "get well" cards if I haven't
bought a tank of gas in a week. However, I like Flying J truck stops
because they are always very clean and post their fuel prices for
each truck stop on their website,

Have you ever had a
bad experience at a gas station?

would think that putting gas in a vehicle is something that would be
very tough to screw up. Fortunately, 98% of the places I stop to
fill up manage to completely satisfy me. However, I have had a few
bad experiences. My inconveniences range from the seemingly minor,
such as not having squeegees or squeegee fluid, to major issues,
such as being closed when I'm on E and there's no other gas stations
around for 20 miles. Other bad experiences I've had include dirty
bathrooms, trash cans/squeegee buckets blowing into me (and
splashing) in high winds, having to wait behind a long line of
people, and trying to use a $5 Mobil gas card (back when $5 bought
more than a gallon). I had a really bad experience in northwestern
Indiana when the guy in front of me parked at the pump, went inside
to go to the bathroom and buy a bunch of stuff (presumably for his
family, which was waiting in the car the entire time), came out to
pump his gas, then finished up by going inside to pay. The worst
experience I've had with a gas station ever has to be at the Exxon
station in Penfield, Pennsylvania (intersections of Route 153 and
255). Of the three times I've stopped there, one time on Easter
Sunday, it was closed at 6 PM and I really needed gas, and another
time I stopped there my credit card was erroneously billed an
additional $81 and my gas cap was left loose. Update: this gas
station has gotten exactly what they deserve in the form of a
brand-new 24/7 Minit Mart with many pumps selling gas for 10 cents per
gallon less right across the street!

Why don't you save
some money on gas by getting a (cheap small car)?

My fuel cost per mile to drive has been more dependent on
the price of fuel over the past few years than the mileage of the
vehicle. Assuming a 20 year average price of $1.20 per gallon, it
would cost me 3.4 cents per mile for gas at 35 mpg, or 6 cents per
mile at 20 mpg. At $2.20 per gallon, it would cost 6.3 cents per
mile for gas at 35 mpg, or 11 cents per mile at 20 mpg. The cost of fuel in this case has increased
by 83%, but my choice of vehicle has increased my cost by only 75%.
A factor beyond my control has increased my costs by a higher
percentage than a decision I would be able to make. I would have to
sacrifice too much utility and comfort to go back to driving a small
car. Therefore, I'm going to continue to do everyone a favor by
keeping my consumption level consistent and providing an incentive
for oil companies to increase their output and auto manufacturers to
develop more efficient engines for large vehicles, driving down the
cost for everyone.

<a name="Performance%20of%20a%20Chrysler%20minivan"></a>How fast can a Town &
Country go?

The 3.8L
engine used from 1998-2000 puts out 180 HP at 4400 rpm. At 110 mph
in 4th gear with the torque converter locked, the engine would be
spinning at about 3300 rpm, putting out closer to 150 HP since at
its torque peak of 3100 rpm it will put out 240 ft-lb of torque. Assume a Cd
of approximately 0.35 and a frontal area of 31 sq ft. Also assume
reasonable losses from rolling resistance (Cd = 0.015), driveline, accessories, etc. and
flat level ground, and calm wind. Oh and air conditions at STP.
Based on the equations, you'll probably end up with a result of a
maximum speed somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 - 115 mph. Do the
calculations yourself. I went through many semesters of college and
paid many thousands of dollars to
get my mechanical engineering degree. If you're a good engineer like
I am and make proper assumptions and are careful in your
calculations, you'll likely end up within about 3% of the real-world
empirically derived value. I'm not going to stifle your
independence by spoon-feeding the calculations to you. If you're so inclined, you can use the fuel consumption equations
provided above to calculate that your fuel economy would be
approximately 8 mpg at 110 mph. Remember to add about 20% to the
fuel consumption because in this case you'd be running
wide-open-throttle, which is open loop, not stoichiometric.

What is the 0-60 time
of a Town & Country?

evidence suggests that under normal conditions the 0-60 time of a
Town & Country is somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 seconds with
driver and all seats depending on outside air temperature and fuel
load. A full tank of gas can add over 100 pounds and
skew the results. Note: this is quicker than a lot of cars! Chrysler
could have probably shaved some time off the 0-60 acceleration by
modifying the gearing slightly so the van would reach 60 mph in 2nd
gear. This makes reaching 60 mph in 10 seconds even more impressive,
considering that it includes a shift into 3rd gear. Also note that
the 0-60 time is only one measure of acceleration. Other important
factors to consider are the ability to climb hills without having to
downshift, which the Town & Country does very well due to abundant
low-end torque, and the ability to do a full-throttle downshift and
pass on the highway.

<a name="Women%20and%20Chrysler%20minivans"></a>Is it easy to get
girls in a Town & Country?

Yes. As I
mentioned previously, the engineers at Chrysler designed the seats
to be at just the right height so there is no need to climb or drop
way down to enter the vehicle. Most of them can just slide right in
to the front seat without much effort, especially if the seats are
leather - they're slipperier than the cloth.

No, I meant is it
easy to attract girls when you drive a Town & Country?

It's no
harder than it was in the Saturn that I drove before I entered the
wonderful world of minivan ownership. And I haven't seen any sports
cars out there with privacy glass and enough room for a bed in the
back. If I wanted to attract the type of girls that were only
attracted to a sports car or I felt like I needed to compensate for
something, I'd go out and buy one just for that purpose. Till then
I'm sticking with the minivan. Any girl who wouldn't date a guy that
drives a minivan isn't worth dating. I know this from talking to
some girls who said they would never date a guy who drives one.
You're probably better off without a woman if she doesn't appreciate
the benefits and usefulness of owning a minivan.

Have any girls ever turned down
an opportunity to ride in the Town & Country?

any intelligent ones. Some do wise up though after about the third
or fourth time. In my personal experience the ones that don't wise
up aren't worth wasting your time on and are best left to run around
the world bothering other people, especially if they're openly
prejudiced against 7-seater vehicles with sliding doors. If nothing
else, driving a minivan is an effective way to weed out those girls.

Why would a woman want to date a
minivan owner such as yourself?

There are
so many good reasons that the answer is almost too big for this FAQ!
But I'll try to formulate a brief answer. Driving and maintaining a
minivan demonstrates financial responsibility, practicality, logical
reasoning, attention to detail, and meticulousness, among other fine
qualities. The maintenance I've done demonstrates that I have
troubleshooting skills and that I'm mechanically inclined. My
ability to do performance calculations and create a web site about
minivan ownership demonstrate my technical skills and intelligence.
Parking a large vehicle requires careful calculation and spatial
orientation. I care about other people, as shown by the facts that
I'm sharing great information about minivans, I've helped people
move stuff, and everyone in my vehicle gets a comfortable seat. It
shows that I appreciate some of the finer things in life and that I
have some culture. I can read a map and follow directions as
evidenced by my road trips. I'm faithful to one brand of minivans.
I'm also willing to do what I think is right even if other people
think a young person driving a minivan is crazy. And to top it off,
I like to think that I'm decent looking and I can cook!

<a name="Alternative%20Vehicles"></a>Are you against people who drive

As long as
a person can afford their SUV and they stay out of my way when I'm
trying to pass, they don't bother me at all! And a few of the people
who own SUVs actually do need them. What authority do I have to tell
people they shouldn't be chasing their dreams by buying a huge rig
and an enormous house 50 miles away from where they work? It's not
necessarily how I'd spend my money, but I don't feel someone is
wrong or stupid for buying a vehicle that may be slightly bigger
than what someone else thinks they need. And if it were a truly
stupid decision, I think it would rank pretty low on the "stupidity
continuum," especially compared to some of the other things people
do these days to mess up their lives.

The auto companies are designing
a whole bunch of vehicles aimed at people in your (young) age
bracket such as Scions, the Honda Element, Nissan XTerra, Toyota
Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, Pontiac Aztek, etc. Why not drive one of

aforementioned vehicles are designed to be able to carry lots of
cargo, be very versatile and flexible, low in cost, cool, and fun to
drive. A minivan already has all these bases covered! Plus it looks
sleeker, it's available with a powerful V6, and you can find them
loaded with all kinds of neat features. What do you know... the auto
companies basically think young people need vehicles that do all the
things that minivans do!

<a name="Customization%20of%20Chrysler%20minivans"></a>If you're driving a Town &
Country, how many ways are there to arrange 6 girls in the remaining
6 seats?

Oooh! A math question! I like these! 6 * 5 * 4 * 3 *
2 * 1 = 720 possibilities.

Speaking of seats, is it possible to remove and the install
seats by yourself?

not exactly a bodybuilder myself and I am able to remove and install
both captains chairs and the third row unassisted. I have not
weighed the seats, but if I can do it, it must be possible, so
the answer to this question is yes. The followup to this is that
yes, it is easier to do with two people.

While we're on the subject of
seats, how do you keep your leather seats in such good condition?

The key to
keeping the leather interior (or any interior) in good condition is
to protect it from sunlight and ensure that the interior gets
cleaned once in a while. Most people are bigger slobs than I am so
they'll have to clean theirs more often. I recommend applying a
leather treatment product every 4 months or so. You can find these
products for less than $6 a bottle at any place that sells auto
treatment products and a bottle should last you for several
applications. For less than $50, you can keep your leather interior
looking nearly brand new for the entire life of the vehicle! This
will keep the leather seats and surfaces conditioned and prevent
cracking. I also recommend using a shade in the windshield when the
van is parked during the summer. The rear of the van has privacy
glass that reduces the solar intensity and helps protect the rear

Have you customized your van or
do you have any thoughts on customization?

I have
added one custom feature to my van. When I was removing the overhead
console to replace burned out bulbs, I decided to run wires from the
connector on the trip computer PCB to the windshield to provide 12V
for my radar detector - thus eliminating the long unsightly power
cable that was previously plugged into the power outlet near the
cupholders. What kind of customization would be neat? How about
5 comfortable seats in the back that are removable so you can carry
cargo and people? Better yet, how about those seats fold into the
floor? Wait a minute, Chrysler has done that already! Suggestions I
have received or thought up include the following:

  • Bean bag seats, a movie screen, and digital projector for watching movies
  • Leather couch
  • Refrigerator and/or
    wet bar
  • Wireless Internet
    connection so I could be online anywhere and everywhere (Chrysler did this for 2009)
  • Data logger to log
    all performance parameters of vehicle

  • Audio input jack to
    hook laptop up to sound system - Chrysler did this for 2008!

  • 120V power outlets
    integrated into van for laptops - Chrysler did this for 2008!

  • Turbocharger / Supercharger

  • Flame paint job

  • Turn around second row of seats and
    put a table in the back - Chrysler did this for 2008!

  • Hybrid or all electric powertrain (Chrysler did this in 1993)
  • And if I had a
    dollar for every person that mentioned "put a bed back there"
    I'd be able to afford a brand new van

I am thinking about putting a
mattress in the back. What must I consider?

Stopping to take a rest when you're too tired to continue driving is
a very wise choice. It's much safer than risking falling asleep
behind the wheel. Sleeping in the back of a minivan can also save a
lot of money on hotel expenses. And, like camping, having a minivan
gives you a lot of choices as to where you can decide to "set up
camp." For a couple of extra bucks you might be able to rent an RV
site to obtain a power hookup and water. But, unlike camping,
there's no fooling around in the dark trying to put together a tent
for the first time! And don't stop to sleep in a spot where it might
be illegal to park or you could get towed from.

Behind the front
seats there is approximately 96" to the tailgate, and the narrowest
width is 48". Of course the Town & Country was designed so that it
would fit 4' x 8' sheets of plywood. A twin mattress is
approximately 39" x 75". A double is 54" by 75". Clearly we can
determine that a twin mattress will fit very well, whereas a double
or larger mattress will not. Other sizes that will work would be a
twin XL (39" x 80"), a three-quarter (48" x 75" - whaddya know, they
make a mattress that's just the right width!), three-quarter short
(48" x 72"), and super single (48" x 84"). Unfortunately at this
time I do not have a recommendation for a three-quarter size
inflatable mattress. You should be able to
squeeze two captains chairs (unlatched from the floor) in front of a
fully-inflated three-quarter mattress. You will also probably want
to make sure that you have a minivan with tinted privacy glass in
the rear. For you budding entrepreneurs out there, maybe some of you
are already thinking that you could rent out the back of your
minivan as a portable hotel room to help pay for gas. And to think,
before reading this, you probably wanted a sports car...

Why would a single person drive
such a large vehicle? Isn't that a waste?

A minivan at 200 inches long and 78 inches wide
doesn't take up much more room than, say, a Honda Accord at 190
inches long and 72 inches wide. The minivan just makes extremely
efficient use of space. According to my economic calculations above,
driving a minivan doesn't cost much more than driving a smaller
vehicle. A waste would be unnecessarily spending money on something
that one doesn't plan to use. I plan to use all 7 seats and 167
cubic feet of cargo capacity on a regular basis. It's not like I'm
driving a huge SUV that gets 12 mpg that I never plan to go
offroading in. Sure, it uses a little more gas than a smaller
vehicle, but there are many bright engineers like myself (and maybe
you) trying to develop a solution for this so future generations of
people can drive enjoy driving minivans. And if there is
such a great surge in minivan popularity that a shortage arises, I'm
sure Chrysler would be more than happy to increase production of the
Town & Country so that everyone who wants one can have one.

There is something lacking in my
life and I feel the need to compensate for it by driving a sports
car or a large truck/SUV. Are you compensating for something by
driving a minivan?

As a matter
of fact, I am compensating for the fact that driving any other
vehicle would compromise utility, finances, power, comfort,
coolness, or some combination thereof.

I heard that brakes can greatly
affect the performance of a Town & Country. What do you recommend?

recommend a nice set of ceramic pads for the front and replacing the
rotors when the pads are installed. Ensure your lugs nuts are
torqued to specification (95 lb-ft) when the wheels are installed
and again after 25 miles of driving. This will not only prevent your
wheels from falling off, but it will also prevent your rotors and
wheels from warping as well. Ceramic pads also greatly reduce the
amount of brake dust that gathers on your wheels as compared to
non-ceramic pads. Also downshifting to 3 and L when descending large
hills to take advantage of engine braking will enhance the life of
your brake pads. My ceramic pads would have lasted at least 100,000
miles at the rate they were wearing.

What kind of tires do
you recommend?

My Town &
Country had a set of Yokohama AVID TRZ's, 215/65R16.
225/60R16s should also fit quite nicely on 16 inch wheels. If you want
premium performance from your vehicle, spend a few bucks and buy a
nice set of tires. You already saved yourself thousands by buying a
Town & Country. There's no need to squeeze out the last few bucks
from your operating costs, which could completely ruin the feel and
handling of your luxurious minivan. Check out
for pricing
and survey results. My first set of Yokohama AVID TRZ's lasted
53,000 miles.

But I can save a few bucks if I
buy a tire from a company like Goodyear instead. Do you recommend

would never recommend you buy a tire from a company that is in such
financial trouble and gets rid of its best and brightest workers
(see my biography) Would you
rather be buying from a company that is squeezing cost out of your
tire to try to break even because it refuses to change or a company
that makes a decent profit and is squeezing quality in? Why prolong
the inevitable? Chrysler doesn't even equip its new minivans with
Goodyear tires - they come from the factory with Bridgestones!
Apparently removing me and my enormous engineer's salary from the
payroll did not prevent Goodyear from losing $330 million in 2006
and $174 million more in the first quarter of 2007.

I can also save a few bucks if I
switch to Progressive Insurance!

Congratulations for you. Once again, see my
. Switching to Progressive
would cost me significantly more than I'm currently paying, and to
top it off, you'd think after my experiences with them that they'd
have the courtesy to stop sending me solicitations in the mail!
Seriously, if they claim to offer the rate quotes of so many other
insurance companies, they should be able to figure out that they
can't save me any money with their higher quote.

(A large portion of) Chrysler was
just sold by Daimler to Cerberus! What effect will this have on

I think
that being privately held and being freed from Daimler will allow
Chrysler the freedom to develop even better products over the coming
years. They'll be able to focus on building the cars they need,
without having to worry about brand overlap with Mercedes, and
they'll be able to use the parts they want to use, instead of being
forced to buy Mercedes parts when it's not appropriate. Without
having to answer to Wall Street, I am expecting that Chrysler can
concentrate more on designing the vehicles people want to buy than
worrying about quarterly earnings. If I had $7.4 billion, I would
have bought Chrysler too!

How do I program the Homelink garage door opener on my van?

Homelink's website
vehicle specific instructions for this.

If money was no
object and you could choose between a Corvette and a Town & Country,
which would you choose?

The Town &
Country. Duh.

As a minivan enthusiast, what
features would you like to see in the next generation of minivans?

Features I wanted that made it into the new
generation of minivans are highlighted in blue.

Here's a
list of things I'd like to see that aren't currently available:

  • Powered Stow-N-Go seats
  • More comfortable Stow-N-Go seats
  • Wireless Internet connection so I can be online anywhere as long as I'm near the van
  • MP3 player with USB connection for flash drives
  • 3.5mm audio input jack on sound system
  • More powerful, more fuel efficient engine (of course!)
  • Beverage heaters/chillers in the cupholders
  • Integrated power inverter for 120V outlets
  • Power tap on overhead console for radar detector
  • Parking brake release moved to more easily-reachable position (or release with
    foot pedal)

  • Autoshift capability
    with steering wheel mounted
  • Manual transmission!
    (it's not available in the US)
  • Cylinder
    deactivation (MDS)
  • Cooled seating
  • Tucker-style
    headlights for seeing around corners
  • Smart glass to
    automatically shade interior in summer when the van is parked
  • Heads-up display
  • Diesel engine (not
    available in US)
  • Programmable
    interface with body, powertrain, and transmission control
    modules so I could display whatever I wanted to on the
    instrument cluster or heads-up display
  • Flat panel
    instrument cluster with fully customizable displays

Where can I find more information
about all the cool changes incorporated into the next generation of
Chrysler minivans?


What is your opinion on the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country?

had the opportunity to check out several at the recent Detroit Auto
Show. While it is certainly a superior vehicle, I wish Chrysler
would have left a few things the way they were in the past and I beg
them to change these back and curtail further attempts to cut costs
by reducing features. Here are my suggestions:

  • Move my parking
    brake release back up to where I can reach it without bending
  • Bring back the
    windshield wiper defroster
  • Bring back the lit
    window and door lock controls on the doors
  • Enlarge the interior
    door handle so I can fit my whole hand in there
  • Put instantaneous
    fuel economy calculation back in the overhead console
  • Move heated seat
    controls back onto the seats
  • Put the coin holder
    back where I can reach it
  • Put the door back on
    the compartment below the cupholders in the front console
  • Do we really need a
    brake-park interlock?
Changes I like from
the 2000 model year:

  • Reconfiguring engine
    so rear spark plugs can be changed from the top
  • Larger headlights
  • Increased horsepower
  • Movable center
  • Power sliding doors
    and power rear liftgate
  • Stow-N-Go seating
  • Available Bluetooth
    connectivity for cell phones
  • Classier looking
    instrument panel
  • Three-zone automatic
    temperature control

When are you going to part with
your hard-earned money to buy a newer Chrysler Town & Country?

A confluence of factors is currently conspiring to keep me from
purchasing a replacement Town & Country at the moment. First, I am
now in grad school, so I am not making much money. Second, I have
hefty tuition bills to pay. Third, I am living in a city, which
means I don't need to drive much, so it would be pointless to spend
thousands of dollars on a newer vehicle at the moment. And fourth,
gas costs nearly $4 a gallon so I'm trying not to drive much anyway.
As soon as I graduate in December I expect the first three issues to
resolve themselves.

What is your current vehicle situation?

Currently I am driving a 1996
Ford Taurus station wagon. Sadly, others in my family were so
anxious to get rid of it that it was forced upon me when a massive
repair bill necessitated the disposal of my Town & Country. After
driving the Taurus, I can say that it does not hold a candle to the
Town & Country. The powertrain is rough and unrefined, the seats are
uncomfortable for a person with nearly average proportions (me), and
the interior is not laid out nearly as well.

I checked out the really cool programs you
developed for keeping track of gasoline and maintenance, and would
like you to do some programming for me.

Certainly! See my programming page
for more information.

I work at Chrysler
and I want your assistance designing and/or testing the next
generation of minivans. What should I do?


resume is right here
I would be more than happy to consider a position consulting for
Chrysler or any of the other auto companies.

"Chrysler" and "Town &
Country" are trademarks of DaimlerChrysler.

Last updated
6/29/2008 - Brian Feldman -

Minivan loss: update

Unfortunately my beloved minivan has reached the end of its useful
life for me. I have included charts and graphs of pertinent data for
the van's lifecycle.

What Happened

I went
out to the garage one evening to go to the grocery store and
discovered a large puddle of power steering fluid. The power
steering pump was leaking, the reservoir had rusted through, the
lines were corroded, and the steering rack was leaking also. The
estimated cost to fix this was over $1300, and so it is time for me
to search for another vehicle.

Life Cycle Analysis of a 2000 Chrysler
Town & Country, November 2003 - April 2008,
71,063 - 175,692 miles


Figure 1: Maintenance Costs
Per Month
- This includes both maintenance items and
repairs, along with a trailing-12-month moving average. Maintenance
costs began to rise into the ridiculous range in late 2007, which
almost initiated the search for a new van at that time.


Figure 2: Lifetime Gas Usage - As you can see, I spent more on fuel than I did to purchase the


Figure 3: Tank Deficiency - This shows the cumulative difference between fuel consumption
calculated by the trip computer and reading at the gas pump. Note
that there were a few times I did not fill the tank all the way, and
that the fuel pump was replaced around 164,000 miles. The cumulative
difference between the trip computer and the gas pump is
approximately 1 gallon in 1000.


Figure 4: Gas Per Month - Where's that missing $300 per month? I think I just found it.


Figure 5: Gallons Histogram - This depicts the
number of gallons I put in the tank along the bottom and how many
times I did it along the side. Luckily this value was never equal to
or greater than the capacity of the fuel tank.


Figure 6: Distance Histogram - Shows how far each tank of gas took me.


Figure 7: Cost Per Gallon
and MPG Actual
- This shows what a gallon of gas cost over
time plotted with fuel mileage and a trailing-10-tank moving average
in red. Note that while fuel economy fluctuated with seasons and
major life changes, in general it stayed fairly consistent
throughout the life of the van.

The total cost of ownership of the
van was $31,900 for 104,629 miles, which works out to $0.305 per
mile. This can be broken down into:

  • $11,900 - fuel
  • $9,000 - depreciation
  • $7,000 - maintenance and repairs
  • $4,000 - insurance, registration, and oil changes

There you have it - a complete
data-based history about the costs and ownership experience of a
Chrysler Town & Country. Considering that it took nearly $32,000 and
four and a half years, perhaps I should get a PhD.

Downloads to enhance your minivan (or other vehicle) experience

Gas Log - with this
Access database you can track all kinds of
trends in fuel prices, gas mileage, miles per
tank, calculate total fuel consumed over the
life of the vehicle, and make many pretty graphs
and plots of this data! Just put your data in
the "gas" table and you can run all the reports
and queries. I provided some sample data that
you'll want to clear out before you use it,
unless you're interested in my
driving habits. Want to produce the cool graphs
that I did up above? This is how I made them. This was developed by me as
Freeware for the common good of society. (Mac users can try this site.)
Vehicle Cost Log - This Access database helps you keep track of
your total operating cost per mile and calculate
future expenses. Just fill in the Depreciation,
Maintenance, Per Mile Costs, Per Year Costs, and
Vehicles tables (all other tables are
automatically updated by the program), fill out
the "Info" form, and then open up an "Operating
Cost Report." Again I've provided some sample
data. No, I do not own a fleet of three yet. I
only own one! This was developed by me as
Freeware for the common good of society. (Webmaster note: I use a spreadsheet for the same basic outcome.)
1024x768 Desktop
- You may not be able to
drive your minivan while you're at your
computer, but at least now you can look at one!
The original is a much higher resolution photo,
originally available on (which is down now), if you wish
to resize it for a different screen resolution.

2017 minivans

Repairs and performance

Chrysler 1904-2018

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