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Hi Allpar, I 'm a 50ish mom/grandma mechanical novice having car problems. I bought a used 1996 Dodge Caravan for the most I could afford (not much) because I really want a van, but It has SO many problems, probably the most pressing is that it won't pass emissions in WA., so I can't register or drive it; but also right now I have just water (*Must figure this one out before hard freeze!) in it because of trying to flush the rust clumps and thick brown sludge out of the radiator.The water pump is leaking badly. There is at least one broken bolt in the old waterpump and I haven't tried taking it off yet, but I think that is the next thing, but also need to get into the engine to replace VC gaskets, because they are fail and leaking on Trans wiring. Thinking that might be what is causing the trans not to go above 35 mph. Yes, I bought a van with transmission problems, thinking it just needed a fluid change. oops. Still think it might be a wiring or sensor or solenoid thing, not internal. Trans was rebuilt 50K miles ago.

So far,drained transmission fluid, took a bath in it (^@!%$ SO much fun....) it was a little sludgy in bottom of pan but not horrible, at least not until I compared the color with new.. replaced filter and flushed transmission using ideas from Allpar, pouring in while running in 10-15 second spurts of shifting into D from park. Refilled with atf+4, used over 13 quarts getting the old out.... end result clean fluid, but leaking pan from 2 stripped bolts in trans pan. Either my torque wrench is a POS, which concerns me, or they were already stripped? There was so much sealant on them hard to tell. Or the factory service manual torque spec is wrong. anyway I should have helicoiled them right? but instead they are in there just not really holding and so there is a drip. I rationalized this thinking after I get this on the road and legal I would drain the trans fluid again in order to put a drainplug in that fracking pan. Hating Dodge engineers over lack of drainplug and for cheesy bolts.

Tried to remove thermostat housing, for flushing cooling system before trying to replace water pump (heater doesn't work ) broke off a thermostat bolt there. I tightened the other one back down and have done multiple drain radiator and refil and run until it circulates and drain again, and most of the sludge is out but don't intend adding coolant until after waterpump surgery. Maybe that isn't the priority. Don't want to spend more $$ on a radiator until it passes emissions. I know the O2 sensor is one code, and several trans codes, Solenoid D, and general trans code. The trans wiring is still an oily mess, and Somewhere I read something about that can cause transmission problems. Not sure how to clean the wiring and connectors. Even getting the connectors apart is a huge challenge for me! I can't afford to take this to a shop, I think it would cost $6,000 for them to fix everything. But I hate that I seem to make this worse with the broken bolt BS everytime I touch it. Have to say though, that thermostat bolt was corroded almost entirely through, just a tiny bit of metal in the very core. Fixing it though... not sure. I'm in way over my head and don't know how to work on cars but I guess everyone that DOES know how starts out not knowing.

oh, also Van is smoking gray smoke now, which it wasn't before, and there is this small lemon/banana sized "Thing" with a bunch of wiring coming into/out of it, on the passenger side engine bay, that after the van warms up it makes one heck of a loud ticking sound. tick tick tick tick tick... Doesn't seem like van smokes until after that starts ticking. I have the air intake off, maybe that is part of it. Son suggested it is a "purge solenoid" but I know nothing about it and he is in Colorado..

Does anyone know anything about a Purge Solenoid or what is up with ticking one?

Onward, through the fog... and rain.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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I'm going to go ahead and move this to the general tech support and help subforum. Sorry about the trouble you're having, I do understand. I was defeated by a head gasket on an Inline-4 in a Stratus, it made me re-examine what I choose to take on.

Just to help everyone, what motor is in it? If it's the inline four then it'll be the 2.4L, if it's a V6 then it could be a 3.3, could be a 3.8. Knowing would help.
 

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Welcome to the forum for starters. Sounds like you have a lot of little items that do need to be taken care of, do them one at a time. Broken bolts are always fun and a pain, it isn't just a Mopar thing, it is all brands, water ones don't help, usually neglect in using just water makes it even worse. So, start with the broken bolts first, removing the water pump and thermostat hose, soak in solvent, then work on drilling them out, helicoil as necessary if it comes down to it, they aren't going to fix themselves or not leak otherwise. Cleaning the wiring for the transmission is a matter of pulling the wiring loose from the connector, a lot of them have some kind of a clip that is very tight that has to be undone, like a red plastic piece that unsnaps or a button that has to be pushed to get them to unlock, pull the tape off and clean, myself, I prefer something like laquer thinner. Let them dry, rewrap with, I prefer, 3m cloth tape (I get it from electronics stores), feels sticky, but stays together and doesn't come apart in oil like black electrical tape does. Stop the trans pan the same way as the others with either oversize bolt and a retap of the case to match, then drill the oil pan hole out to match. The banana shaped thing is a purge valve, takes vacuum when engine reaches temperature and helps maintain burn temperatures in the cylinders and sensor operation, computer controlled, funky, but, get a vacuum diagram, check the condition of the hoses, replace if loose or hard when squeezed, they are probably leaking at the connections if not cracked, so vacuum signal isn't operating properly, the clicking indicates they aren't able to route the vacuum properly and it is cycling to try to fix itself, which it can't with bad vacuum leaks, which may explain the smoking, too.
 

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TWX said:
Just to help everyone, what motor is in it? If it's the inline four then it'll be the 2.4L, if it's a V6 then it could be a 3.3, could be a 3.8. Knowing would help.
It could also be a 3.0, but the waterpump bolt make me think it's a 3.3 or 3.8 since those are the only ones with an external water pump.

Nico Le said:
Thinking that might be what is causing the trans not to go above 35 mph. Yes, I bought a van with transmission problems, thinking it just needed a fluid change. oops. Still think it might be a wiring or sensor or solenoid thing, not internal. Trans was rebuilt 50K miles ago.
You should post the error codes you received, especially the exact transmission ones. There are many poor rebuilds (especially those that use Dexron fluid plus an additive) that was junk by 50k miles. Even with the OBDII transmission codes, the problem may not be evident. If the OBDII codes don't help you need a sophisticated scanner that can communicate with the transmission computer. Yes, that will cost money but it will tell you if the transmission is junk and if it's time to cut your losses.

As for the radiator, if the engine can't run at the proper temp you can fail an emission test. NOx will be high if the vehicle runs warm. Do they do an actual tailpipe test or do they jut require the computer to be free of error codes?
 

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The grey smoke may be nothing more than the valve cover gasket dripping on an exhaust manifold. My Spirit smoked badly because of this with almost no oil consumption, you'd be surprised at how far a little bit of oil will go when you're making smoke. Unfortunately, the rear bank's valve cover is crammed up against the firewall. The 35mph limit sounds like you're in limp mode. It could well be a sensor, but we'll need codes to know.
 
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