9/02/2014

3 Common Problems - Chrysler Town & Country

We have recently become the new owners of a Chrysler town and country.  We bought a 2007 with 85,000 miles.  We are really happy with the minivan it drives well and is in great shape. Also we really like the flip down seats and all the space available in the back.  I really like the fact that a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood fits perfectly.
chrysler town and country, common problems, fix

There were 3 problems though after we purchase the van which needed to be fixed.  And after reading online about the Town and Country we realize that both problems are very common.  I also learned that both the Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan are the exact same vehicle.  I think they are made in the same factory and then they just replace different panels and slap a different logo badge on the hood.  But all the parts and inner workings of the minivan are the exact same part.  So everything i describe below is exactly the same whether you have a Town and Country or a Caravan.

Here's a video i made showing the three problems and how to fix them.  But for more details and additional pictures, continue reading.

Chrysler Town & Country - 3 Common Problems and How to Fix

http://youtu.be/Hx4DhTAjrdY
 
Problem 1
The first problem we had was with one of the sliding doors.  The electric push button didn't work.  Some people said they experienced problems where the sliding door would go part way, stop, and reverse.  Other people had the same problem we did, where the door wouldn't move at all when you pressed the button.  It didn't matter if you pressed the button on the remote or on the dashboard, the door would not move.  We could hear the auto door locks engage and disengage when the button was pressed, but there is no sound or movement from the door or sliding door motor.  We knew it wasn't with the remote, relay, fuse, or switch since the passenger side door opened and operated just fine. (as long as it was unlocked...see problem 3)

So after reading some more we determined that it could be a few possible causes.  Some people said they needed to replace inner motors or switches inside the door panel.  But by far the most popular cause for the door not working was a broken wire.  With the sliding doors there is a bundle of wires which run in a plastic chain at the bottom of the door.  It's a crummy design where all of these wires coil and on coil as the doors open and shut.  It seems to go bad for most people between 50,000 and 70,000 miles.  For us it was the driver side door which didn't work, I guess that means in a few years the same problem will happen with the passenger side door.

You can see from the diagram how the plastic chain coils up as the door closes.

I forgot to take a picture of the actual break in wire, but here's another person who had the same problem.  Luckily they only had to remove a few links of the plastic chain to find the break.


The fix is to crack open part of that plastic chain and look in the bundle of about 10 wires for the break.  The first time I tried looking for the broken wire I didn't find one.  I only opened about five or six links of the chain and didn't see anything. But after reading more about it I knew that one of those wires had to be broken inside.  And sure enough after I removed every link of the plastic chain I noticed one large wire which appeared to be solid, but as it was bent there was a clear break in the copper wire.  So I used electrical pliers and stripped the casing off the wire.  Here's what it looked like after i removed casing on both sides of the break.
chrysler town and country, sliding door won't work, won't open
  
Next I slid on plastic shrink wrap tubing which would protect the fix after I was done.  I usually forget this step and have to wrap it in electrical tape.
chrysler town and country, how to fix sliding door

I then got out my spool of solder, flux and soldering iron.  I used an old piece of concrete board to protect the other wires and give me easy access to where I would be working.  Remembering to coat the wires in flux, i then soldered the two wires together.   It wasn't pretty but it held together well.
minivan sliding door won't open, won't work, button

Now at this point since I remembered to put on that heat shrink tubing before I began I was able to slide the tubing over the damaged area and used a lighter to seal everything up.  Very professional looking.
car electrical wire fix, properly, heat shrink tube, solder

Here's what those heat shrink wrap tubes look like.  For electrical connections that might get water into them, they are great.
electrical heat shrink tube

I did realize that this 'rigid' point in the wiring could be a perfect place for it to break again.  It's possible that in a few years it will snap at the exact same point and I would have do the same repair.  But it's much easier and cheaper than some people who replaced the entire wire harness.

The funny thing is that Karrie's father has the exact same van and had the exact same problem with the sliding door.  One day when he was over I found the break in a completely different wire, soldered it together, and fixed theirs in about 10 minutes.


Problem 2
The next problem we had with our Chrysler Town and Country was with the interior dome light. There's two lights right above the driver and passenger seats. Neither of those two lights worked, even when we pressed the switch.  For this it could've been a fuse, but I looked in the owners manual and checked the fuse box and everything seemed to be fine.  Also there wasn't a specific use for that overhead dome light and nothing else in the car was out.  If it was the fuse not only would the overhead light have been out also the radio and some switches on the dashboard.

So we watched a video on how to remove the clear plastic cover plates.  They said to use a plastic shim and pop the plastic cover plates from the front not the rear.  At the rear there is a plastic tab which is where the cover rotates.  I got this little plastic shim tool several years ago and i've used it tons of times when working on the car.  It's rigid enough that you can use it as a prying tool, but it doesn't leave a mark and damage anything.  I use it later in 'Problem 3' to remove the door panel, but it was also the right tool for the job of removing the dome light cover.
plastic car trim removal tool

Once we remove the cover we pulled the light bulb down and noticed that they were burned out.  It was a bit tricky when we went to try and buy these light bulbs.  None of the auto parts stores had them in stock.  Even when Karrie went to the dealership they didn't even have them on file.  But luckily the guy noticed them on a shelf in back, he had 2 left.  We looked online and Amazon did have them for five dollars each, but it doesn't sound like a very popular part, even though they're in thousands of Chrysler and Dodge minivans.  It seems strange.

The part was Phillips 3M PC579. 
chrysler town and country, dodge caravan, dome light, light bulb, model phillips 3m pc579

It was a little tricky to install the light bulb.  On the sides there is a plastic wedge that needs to lock into place.  I found that it takes quite a bit of force to push and turn the light bulb before it actually locks to where it should be.  I was almost twisting to the point where I thought it would break the plastic before it settled into its correct location.  You will hear a snap, or click when it locks.  

The other funny thing is that Karrie's father also had this same problem too.  However his light bulbs were not burned out they were just loose in their connection.  I poped the cover plate off and noticed that they were loose in the socket.  I had to really twist before the light bulbs snapped into place.  Another bad design and common problem for the van.


Problem 3
The last problem we had is another common problem with the Chrysler Town and Country, and also the Dodge Caravan, the automatic door lock.  It's technically called the door lock actuator.  Specifically it's the "motor" which moves the locking mechanism up and down.

We didn't realize it until after we owned the van for a month, but the lock on the passenger side sliding door didn't work.  It didn't matter if we pressed the button on the remote or on the door.  All of the other doors would lock and unlock, but that door did nothing.  A big problem with that is you think the doors are all locked but someone could just come up and open the door.  Also if you manually press the lock button, then press the button to open the sliding door, nothing happens.  You have to manually lift the lock button for the sliding door motor to work. 

I probably should have gotten out the multimeter and checked the fuse, relay, wiring, etc.  But after reading how common it is for the actuator to break, i figured that it was the broken part.  The bad thing was that the actuator was $50-$60.  Fortunately Karrie had a 35% off coupon for Advanced Auto Parts, so she ordered the actuator.  Normally it was $60 but she picked it up for just under $40.

Here's what it looks like.  The white plastic piece is something you have to switch depending on whether you are replacing the drivers side or passenger side door.
chrysler town and country, dodge caravan, door lock actuator, sliding, rear, drivers side, passenger side

To figure out how to actually do the repair i did what i normally do, i looked for a video on Youtube.  There was only one where the guy replaced the actuator, and it was only on the driver side sliding door.  It looked pretty simple, remove the door panel, unscrew the actuator, install the new one, put the panel back on.

So one afternoon i started working.  I removed the door panel with my little plastic panel tool.  The same one i used to pop off the dome light cover.  I told you it's really useful.
plastic car trim removal tool

The panel and trim piece came off fairly easily.  Although i always think that i'm going to break the plastic when i'm doing it.  Here's what the door looked like at that point.
chrysler town and country, dodge caravan, remove door panel

The actuator was located at the rear of the door, it had lots of cables and wires going to it.  It's kind of covered up in the picture above, but it's on the far right side.

Again i tried pressing the lock/unlock to see if maybe something was just jammed.  But just like we noticed before, there was no sound or movement.  Then i figured, before i go any further, i should connect the new actuator and see if it works.  If i connected the new part, pressed the button, and nothing happened, then i would know that it wasn't the actuator that was broken.

So i unplugged the wire harness and plugged it into the new actuator.  This time when i pressed the lock/unlock the actuator lever moved back and forth. Here you can see the new actuator dangling down, just for testing.
chrysler town and country, dodge caravan, fix broken door lock, sliding, won't open

It was good knowing that we were right and it was the actuator that was bad.  Now i just had to install the new part and i'd be done.  Easy, right?  Unfortunately it was more complicated then i originally thought.

In the video the guy was able to remove the actuator after he took out 1 screw.  There was an access hole in my door panel, but the screw head was not visible.  I looked with a flashlight at every side and every angle but could not find the screw to remove.  I tried to pull off the old actuator but it was definitely held on somehow.

I realized that my only option was to remove the entire metal bracket which held the actuator, cables and door latch. All of those wires and cables go to the metal bracket.  I had to remove all that to get to the screw to remove the actuator.
chrysler town and country, dodge caravan, door actuator, lock

That meant that i had to go out of the van and remove 3 big bolts at the end of the door.  This is the point in the job when you are like "I think i'm getting in over my head."
remove sliding minivan door lock bracket, metal, won't lock

I was a bit nervous removing the entire thing, not sure if i could get it back together.  But after i got the whole bracket off i was able to see and get to the small screw holding the actuator in place.  I guess they just put the access hole in the wrong spot on this van or something.  Here's the old and new actuator.
dodge caravan, chrysler town and country, sliding door lock, actuator, fix, broken, won't open

I put the new actuator on and put in and then the screw.  At this point i missed something, but didn't notice it until later.  So i reattached the metal bracket and put the door panel back on.  Happy with the work i'd done, i wanted to test the lock to see if it worked.  So i pressed the button to lock and unlock the door.  It sort of worked, but the latch wasn't moving very far.  It seemed like it was caught on something. 

That meant that i had to remove the door panel again and figure out what was wrong.  It turned out that there's a metal pin that has to fit inside of a plastic channel.  When i slid the actuator into place, i forgot to make sure the pin was in the channel. The gold pin on the left should be inside that oval track.  Installing it properly meant that i had to do everything over again.
sliding door actuator, lock not in place, moving

So i had to remove the entire bracket again, remove the small screw again, reset the actuator with the pin in place, then put it all back together again.  This time it worked perfectly.  It was a little more work then i thought it would be, but not super hard.  Now the door locks and unlocks like new.  I'm glad that the 3 main things wrong with the van that we fixed weren't too difficult. 

So if you know anybody is complaining about either of these three problems you can tell them it's very common quite a fix.

16 comments:

iblee said...

Awesome info. thanks for taking the time to post it.

Anonymous said...

Great write up! Thank you very much! :)

Anonymous said...

Great write up! Thank you very much! :)

gringobus said...

as for the sliding door locks you can replace the motors in them for $10.00 for 2 do a search on the net or ebay for Mabuchi FC-280PT-20150 elec motor

Brian Tate said...

NICE!!!! I'm having all 3 of these problems with our T&C. Cant wait to pull 'er apart and put it together again! Great write up.

Ben Anderson said...

Thank you! We just HAD the sample problem with our door. FIXED. Who needs all those auto forums!

Ben

Unknown said...

I have a similar problem with my door locked. However the only difference is that my door is stuck shut. It looks like your daughter was able to be open slightly. Am I able to remove the panel with the door in the closed position? My local dealer so they would need to break my door off and put a new door on to fix the problem. I'm skeptical

Anonymous said...


thank you, great help.




jsanteler said...

Really dumb question. Did you try manually unlocking the door from the inside.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, this was a great help for me.

Michael Møller-Kristensen said...

So have you tried to replace the radio with an aftermarket radio, and how did you solve the problem with the CAN-bus
If anybody have replaced the radio I really need som infos how to replace the radio, since I get no sound from the new aftermarket radio

Cheers
Mike

shelly t said...

what can you tell me about lock on handle of sliding door, door will not move unless i hold button

Unknown said...

I have an 02 town and country my passenger sliding door will open by remote and inside buttons but won't close with ant of them it will close by hand when I push button I can great it running for a sec but doesn't move. Any suggestions?

Taylor Wilson said...

Thank you for your description of the problem with the door and window not working due to a broken wire in the chain. Saved me tracing it! It was exactly where yours was!

Adam B said...

Thanks so much! I had the same sliding door issue as you. Good as new, and only took me about 20 minutes. I used butt splice connectors instead of soldering.

Jacinta Howell said...

What is the actual part # for the actuator you ordered? I want to make sure we order the correct one. Thanks in advance!