November 6

2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Coolant Leak



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and we're talking cars. How are you doing, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today we're talking about a Dodge Caravan 2010 vintage that had a coolant leak. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, so basically there's coolant leaking in the vehicle. There's some steam coming out from under the hood. The owner had to keep topping the coolant up. So it wasn't like a gush, complete gusher, but it was leaking enough that he had to top it up and deal with that. So that's basically why the car came in.

Mark: So what sort of testing and diagnosis do you proceed with after being faced with that?

Bernie: Yeah, so first of all, a visual inspection to see if we can see anything. And then the second phase is to do a cooling system pressure test where we put the cooling system under pressure to strain it to find leaks because a cooling system in a vehicle operates under pressure sometimes up to 15 to 20 PSI. And if you don't see a leak at normal atmospheric pressure, just a little bit of extra additional pressure, we'll often find a leak. So that's what we did. And we found a leak. 

Mark: What was causing it? 

Bernie: So the heater system in this vehicle has some plastic attachments. The hoses go into two directions. They split. The hoses split and where they split, the plastic connector split. So, that's what we found. And so it was leaking right, there's an exhaust crossover pipe that goes from the front to the rear cylinder banks. Of course, it's a transverse mounted engine, so it's kind of front, yeah, front to rear. Yeah, that makes sense, yeah. I didn't say left to right front to rear, sorry. 

Anyways, it was leaking right on top. There's a covering over the exhaust pipe, but it, you know, it was very hot. So as soon as the coolant would drip, it would steam and be kind of stinky and blow steam off. So, in addition to the steam of the coolant, you're getting the steam of the immediate combustion of the antifreeze. 

Mark: Do we have some pictures? 

Bernie: Yes, we do. So these are our replacement heater hoses. And if you look under the hood of the vehicle, we're looking at the power brake booster where I'm moving my mouse pointer and the master cylinder ignition coils are here. That exhaust piece I was mentioning, that pipe, you can see the edge of it under here.

2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Coolant Leak

But these are the new heater hoses. We replaced both of them. It was actually only leaking from this one here, that I'm moving my mouse pointer on, but you know, with plastic getting old and brittle, it's better to replace everything. And I believe they were available in a kit as well. So they just come with both of them. But they're nice assemblies with spring clamps on them, covered in plastic protector. So these are the replacement units.

The broken pieces. There's one picture of the piece broken off.

2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Coolant Leak

And another piece here, that you can see the actual piece. It's busted right off. See, one thing is different about these is they're all molded plastic on this end. They don't have the spring clamp design. So the newer ones are modified and I'm not sure on the new ones. 

2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Coolant Leak

Actually, I should have looked more closely. I didn't do the install on them, but whether these pieces were metal or not, as opposed to plastic, which would make them certainly much more durable.

Mark: So are they so complex just to vent or put the liquid, the cooling, the heating liquid, heat, I don't even know what to call it, the coolant heating slash liquid to the right place in the vehicle to, you know, enable heating and cooling. 

Bernie: Yeah, well, actually, the reason these hoses have that split in them is because this, we called it a Dodge Caravan. It's actually a Grand Caravan. I don't know if Dodge even makes Caravans. I think they're all Grand Caravans. 

But anyways, it has a rear heating system. So this has a heater core in the front and back. So that's what the split is for. So if you have a Grand Caravan that doesn't have a rear heat, then you won't have this particular hose system.

It would probably a straight piece of rubber from the nipple on the engine to the heater core. So it more much simpler. So the rear heat is the added piece of complexity. But, you know, these engines are pretty simple for coolant hoses. I mean, there's some cars we work on where they probably have 20 coolant hoses. 

It's not a bad idea as a car gets older, especially if you keep it up to like two, three, 400,000 kilometres. If you have a vehicle that long. I mean, I had a Suburban, I think it had about 400 when I sold it. I had to replace the engine, at some point I replaced all the coolant hoses and the radiator, and it was a really good vehicle, really safe, reliable vehicle to drive because the hoses are all new. You don't have these items that are going to fail. 

But something like a Range Rover that has like 20 coolant hoses and half of them are buried under the intake. You could be looking at a 3,000 or more dollar bill just to change some hoses. So yes, there's value in doing it, but is it really worth spending all that money?

Mark: So were there any other issues with the cooling system? 

Bernie: No, that was it. There was nothing else. All the other hoses were in good shape. We talk a lot on this podcast about plastic pieces breaking and, you know, especially in cooling systems. So thank you plastic for giving us work to do. You know, it's. You have to be grateful for where your work comes from. But you know, plastic is useful for in certain ways, but you know, it's not the most durable material. And there are many items on vehicles that we replace that, you know, were once plastic that we are now replacing metal parts. There are aftermarket replacements that are much more durable.

Mark: So Dodge Caravans, the roads used to be crowded with them. And they're not quite as popular anymore, but how are the 2010 vintage for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're pretty fair, pretty decent. This engine's, it's the 3. 3, it's a little less complicated than the newer versions of 3.6 with the variable valve timing, but you certainly don't get the amount of power and economy out of it that you do with the more modern engine. But yeah, these are good. 

One thing we don't see much of anymore, if at all, is the transmission failures, which used to be common for at least 20 years worth of Caravans. You know, it just over and over year after year, it's like, if you owned a Caravan and you didn't have a transmission blow on it, that was like a rarity.

Mark: You won the lottery. 

Bernie: You won the lottery. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So overall, they're pretty decent. But like you said, you don't see so many of them anymore. There's a lot of competition from other vans. And I mean, Toyota Sienna's have always been way better, but they've also been like substantially more money.

So I've often thought, you know, if a Caravan's cheaper, you will spend more money on repairs, but I don't know at the end of the day, after 10, 15 years, whether the caravan was a better deal or whether the Toyota was, it's hard to say.. 

Mark: Yeah. If you're looking for service for your Dodge in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. You can reach them on their website You can book there actually, and you can call to book at (604) 327-7112. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. And if you're ever feeling not tired, you can watch all the videos on there. We've got over a thousand. All makes and models and types of repairs. We'll put you right to sleep. I guarantee it. Thanks so much for watching and listening. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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