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2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, Dash Lights Explained

Mark: Hi! It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and video series, and we're here Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. How are you this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: We're talking about dash lights. We're going through our little series on explaining what all these funny little lights on dashboards are. We're talking about a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and the dash lights. Tell us what all these instrument panel lights mean.

Bernie: Sure. Let's just get right into the picture. Though saying it feels like a ... I feel like a broken record sometimes because so many of these icons look the same and they are from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you're watching this series, of course, what's most important is what relates to your own vehicle. This is a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. It's a 3.3L gasoline-powered engine, which is pretty much, it's a couple different engine options, but there's no diesel so you're pretty much, I would say the lights in this are probably pretty much the same across the board.

We'll start with the red lights. As I mentioned in the past, the reds are the lights you want to take really seriously. They're meant to indicate urgent action is needed. However, I do find there's a couple here that are, at least one that's a little ... could be a yellow in my opinion, and on some cars they are. This light here that I'm circling, this is the airbag warning light. If something is wrong with the airbag system this red light will come on. Obviously, they don't want you driving without an airbag working but it won't affect your performance or drive in any way. It's just that if you get a collision there's a chance that your airbag won't be working if this is on. That's up to you as to what you want to decide to do.

These other red lights are certainly to be taken more seriously, many of them. This light here with the body with the seatbelt here, it just indicates your seatbelt's not buckled up. That action can be taken pretty quickly. If you have all your seatbelts buckled up and that light is still on, there's got to be a malfunction in the system. Usually, that's a very reliable light.

To the left, we have the battery, this light looks like a battery. This indicates low voltage in the vehicle system. It doesn't actually indicate there's anything wrong with the battery but usually it comes on when the alternator is not charging the battery. When the light comes on, chances are your car's going to be dead pretty soon. I would make my way to the ... as quickly as you can somewhere that you can have the vehicle serviced and repaired because you'll probably need alternator or maybe a drive belt. Sometimes when this light comes on, other lights will come on at the same time. Just be wary that that's something you probably going to need to service soon.

If we move to the right here, the oil can light. This is a very important light. This is a red light you would need to take very seriously. This indicates that there is no oil pressure in the engine. Also, of course, the electrical system can malfunction but don't take a chance on that. If this light comes on, check your oil first. If it's full have your vehicle towed in for service, it's very critical.

Same with this red light here, this is the temperature warning light. This is another one you really need to take seriously, indicating that the coolant temperature is too high in the engine. On this vehicle, it does actually have a coolant temperature gauge either to the left or right of the speedometer, I can’t remember. You can often verify it by looking at the gauge. If the gauge is, of course if it's high then you need to stop the vehicle immediately and have it repaired, towed in, get it repaired.

Up here, this is a brake warning light. Usually, it comes on with the parking brake on. When you release the parking brake, the light should go off. If it remains on, it can often indicate that your brake fluid level is low in the master cylinder, in which case you should have the vehicle inspected. You can look yourself and if you see fluid in there you're probably okay to drive it because it'll come on often when as brakes wear, the fluid will move from the master cylinder reservoir down into the brake calipers. It's not abnormal for the light to come but you should ... your brakes feel fine, have it inspected quickly within a day or two to see why that light is on, because if you're doing a fluid leak, of course, then your brakes will actually, pedal will fail. So it's important to verify what's going on with that.

This round light in the bottom, this is a security system warning light. If there's a malfunction in the security system this light will stay on. To the right, this is basically a power loss warning light indicating an issue with the electronic throttle or something that will cause the vehicle to run at reduced power mode. Again, that's a problem that needs to be fixed. There's our red lights. 

Let's move on to the amber. This is the tire, low tire pressure warning light. If this comes on, first thing to do is inspect your tire pressures. Of course, if you're driving and something feels bumpy or not right, go out and have a look at your tires because you probably have some that's flat. This, again, if all your tire pressures are good and the light remains on then there's a malfunction in the tire pressure warning system. Handy light to have though, because at least you know you're not running on a low tire and you can get it fixed.

Low fuel warning light goes without saying, put some gas in the vehicle. 

This one here, unfortunately, the picture is not to clear but it says ESPBAS. This is a brake assist system, electronic stability programming. Again that's like an issue with the traction control stability programming system. This is also a traction control warning light. If there's an issue with either these systems, this light will come on and needs some service. Same with the ABS brakes. Again, these are all add-on, safety add-ons to your brakes. The stability programming just keeps the vehicle theoretically stable when you're going around corners or making some kind of maneuvers where the vehicle might slip. It just adds a little bit of safety to the vehicle but it's not absolutely critical to the function, so that's why they have amber lights to warn you that something needs to be repaired in that system. Without the ABS brakes working, by the way, the vehicle will still ... should still brake normally, it's just that when you put it on the vehicle could skid.

Finally, our last light on the far right is the check engine lamp. This is a very misunderstood light, but it's actually more of an emission system warning light. When this light comes on, there's a malfunction in the engine or computer system that could cause your exhaust emissions to be excessive. It's not a warning that your engine level is, oil level is low, although sometimes low oil level can cause this because it's a variety of things the oil level can cause. If the light's on solid, take it in for a service soon. Soon meaning anywhere from same day or a week or two if it's running fine. If this light is blinking, however, that indicates immediate need for service because the engine has a misfire that could damage the catalytic converter and cost you more money. Blinking light, get it fixed right away. If it's just on solid, get it fixed soon. That goes through our entire 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan instrument warning light.

Mark: The check engine light, I'm sure that's caused you more concern than it really should've because there are so, so many ways that that can be triggered. Everything from not having the gas cap on to, you name it, there's many things. It becomes really difficult to diagnose at times, is that correct?

Bernie: There are times it's difficult to diagnose. There are literally hundreds of things that will cause that light to come on. As you said, the gas cap is often the simplest thing. If it does come on, check it, just loosen your gas cap off, tighten it, if it's really loose then that could be why the light was on. That's usually the simplest thing, but there are just a variety of different things. Sometimes, interesting enough, an engine could actually be running rough where clearly the exhaust emissions are out of whack or they would be out of whack and the light doesn't come on. I'm scratching my head go, "Why would that be?" Anyways, there are a lot of reasons for that light to be on, but, most importantly, when that light comes on, if the engine's performing well like it's running seems seemingly normally, it's not urgent to fix it. You should have it looked at but it's not ... you don't need to panic and freak out. If it's blinking, as I said, you got to fix it right away.

Mark: There you go. That's our little walk-through of the warning lights on a Dodge, the dash lights and the warning lights therein on a Dodge Caravan 2008 vintage. These lights will apply across most years of Dodge Caravans, is that right?

Bernie Pawlik: Yeah, they will, at least around this vintage of van. This is that square boxy style caravan. I can't remember what year they started doing that, but I think '08 is early in that vintage. Again, with your own vehicle as I always say, get get your owners manual out, have a look, but if you're looking at this video or podcast, have a look at the ... have a look at how this compares to your dash. If it's the same then take all our advice we're giving you here because it's all there.

Mark: There you go. If you need some service on your vehicle in Vancouver, the guys to see are the Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. You have to book ahead to have an appointment because they're busy. Two service advisors to help you out at all times as well. You can check out their website pawlikautomotive.com or our videos on Pawlik Auto Repair on YouTube, hundreds of videos on there, all makes and models of cars as well. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thank you for watching. We really appreciate it.

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, Coolant Leak Repair

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast and video series. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience. We're talking about a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan this morning, that had a coolant leak. What was going on with this vehicle, Bernie? Good morning.

Bernie: Hey, good morning. This Dodge Caravan actually had a very large coolant leak coming from the back of the engine. Well, in between the engine and the transmission. Pour some coolant in, and it would be dripping out almost as fast as you could pour it in. Not quite, but, almost as fast as. So, yeah, there was a very major leak coming from this engine.

Mark: So after you dried your shoes off, what was causing such a large leak?

Bernie: What we found, what I suspected, and it actually involves removing the engine from the vehicle to verify it, was that there was probably a frost plug that had failed. It didn't take long ... soon as I removed the radiator cap, note right away there was a lot of rust on the radiator cap, and sitting in the top of the radiator. The owner of the vehicle had told me that they'd recently replaced the radiator, and so something that ... it wasn't even an old radiator, had rust in the coolant. To me, suspicious immediately of ... it's probably a rusted out frost plug.

Mark: What is a frost plug?

Bernie: What a frost plug is, it's also known as an expansion plug. They put them in the engine block, the purpose, one of the purposes, supposedly, is to prevent ... if you had water in the cooling system, so this goes way back to when before antifreeze was invented, or used. If you had water in the cooling system, of course, when it gets cold out, water freezes and it expands, and as it expands, of course it'll crack the metal of the engine block. If you put these plugs in, these frost plugs or expansion plugs, these plugs are supposed to be pushed out by the expanding water, and prevent the block from cracking. In reality, that usually doesn't work. I've had many vehicles in the past where people have had water in the cooling system, it freezes and cracks the engine block. They don't actually work like they're supposed to, but they also do, apparently, hold the casting ... when they cast an engine block they actually hold some of the molds in place as well, so that's another reason, apparently, for having them, although I've never actually been in a foundry and seen a block cast, but that's another purpose for it. Nonetheless, they need to be intact. They're made of ... they're generally a metal plug made of a thin, maybe 16th inch think, millimetre thick piece of metal that's hammered, it's hammered and friction fit into the engine block. They are susceptible to rusting out.

Mark: Why had this frost plug failed?

Bernie: Bad maintenance. Clear and simple. Bad maintenance. And by the way, this part, a frost plug is worth about a dollar, just to put things in perspective. The labor involved in replacing it is huge. Let's just go into some pictures right now. Basically bad maintenance is what caused it. The owner had probably, it's a 10 year-old van, probably should have the cooling system flushed at least once, maybe twice in this age of vehicle, and I would suspect never had it done. Maybe there's a coolant leak at some point, they let it run with some water in it for a while, and it's a cast iron engine block, so it will rust up. We're getting some pictures. 

So there's the 2008 iconic Dodge Caravan, or popular as you would say. There's our first sign, before I even did any repairs on the vehicle, you can see the rust in the cooling system. That's a sign, right away, that there's a fair amount of rust throughout the cooling ... it never just stays in one spot, once it develops it tends to circulate around. There is a first telltale sign.

What's involved in this repair, is actually removing the engine and transmission from the vehicle, because it was leaking ... this is the bell housing area where the transmission bolts to the engine, and this is the rear frost plug. There's two of them, one here, one there. This is a cam shaft plug. This actually seals off an oil passageway. But there, where red arrow points, is a little hole that basically developed from the frost plug leaking out the coolant. When we look a little further, this is what the frost plugs removed ... and this is the kind of guck that was inside the back of the engine, the rust and corrosion. See, this is the back of the cylinder walls, these two areas, and this is just rust that had ... I stuck my fingers in here and dug a bit of it out, but that's basically the mess that was inside there.

In doing the service and repair I have a special flushing tool, and flushed all of it out. Still, once you develop this kind of rust, it's impossible to get rid of it all, but I probably removed about 95% of it in the process of doing this work. Just to look at things in perspective, after flushing out some of the heater hoses, this is what the coolant looked like. That's not yellow antifreeze, there are some antifreezes ... there are some antifreezes that have this colour, but this is definitely rusty water. So there's our picture show.

Mark: Basically, just from not flushing the coolant system, that would cause this much rust and damage in the interior of the engine?

Bernie: Yeah, as I said, my suspicion is that it may be that they ... well, first of all, it definitely didn't get flushed and serviced as much as it should've; and there was probably a time where it may have been low in coolant and the people had just put water in it for whatever temporary reasons. Maybe the temporary reasons were six months or a year, but between the two of those things, that's how the rust developed.

I actually purchased this vehicle from the owner. They didn't want to spend the money repairing it. So, essentially, they've taken a very good Dodge Caravan, with pretty low mileage, 150,000 km, and basically that vehicle is, to them, just junk. It's a shame, because one or two coolant flushes and some good maintenance, would be $200, $300. Not a lot of money. Yet, now they're out buying another vehicle. It really does pay to do your maintenance, especially ... if they'd paid for this repair, could be $3000 to $4000. Still worthwhile with the age of the van. It was otherwise in pretty good shape. Again, $300 or $3000, you know. As the Fram guy used to say, "You can pay me now, or pay me later." It's a classic example.

Mark: How often, other than too often, how often do you see these expensive repairs from lack of maintenance?

Bernie: From time to time we get vehicles in, and most of the times it's from people who haven't changed their oil enough, and the engine's just ... something's just blown up inside the engine. In all fairness, sometimes things blow up even for people who maintain their car well, but it's more often the lack of maintenance that causes these problems, or things that sludge up inside the engine, timing chain problems, rattles, cam gears. It's so important to change your oil and fluids regularly on modern cars. You don't need to do them as often as you did in the old days, I'm thinking 20, 30, 40 years ago, but with modern cars it's even more critical to do them when they're due or even sooner, just to ... it saves you a lot of money.

Mark: And Dodge Caravans have had a mixed, let's be kind, a mixed reliability record. Some years are pretty problematic with transmissions, and engines, depends on the motor. How is this generation of vans?

Bernie: These are pretty good. We don't see a ton of problems with them. It's been interesting ... with this engine I not only replaced the frost plugs, but I took the engine ... it had a couple of oil leaks, and I figured while the engine's out I may as well just re-gasket the whole engine, including the head gaskets, because you never know how hot this person got the engine, and I don't want to sell it to someone and find the head gasket's blown a month, or even a year.

Bernie: It's actually an incredibly simple engine, so there's not really a lot to go wrong with it. For reliability, the transmissions are definitely better than they used to be. Overall, they're actually a lot better than they used to be.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for maintenance and/or repairs on your Dodge Caravan, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, they're busy, or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of videos and articles on there about all makes and models. Of course, on our YouTube Channel Pawlik Auto Repair, same idea, hundreds of videos on all makes and models and types of repairs. Of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark, and thank you for watching and listening.

How Reliable Are Chrysler Cars?

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive, talking cars. We're going to talk how reliable Chrysler cars are this morning. How are you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing pretty well.

Mark: How reliable are Chryslers?

Bernie: Well, overall I don't really recommend them. You can often pick up a Chrysler car pretty cheap for a used one. There's a lot of issues from Chrysler Pacificas with rusting frame cradles, to Seabrings with oil sludging engines. They're just a lot of issues with a variety of Chrysler cars that I would just avoid, but we can talk a little more in depth about them.

Mark: All right. Well, let's start with the Pacifica. What's going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Chrysler just re-release the Pacifica in 2016 so we won't talk about those because to be honest I've never looked at one and our experience comes when the car gets a few years old. We'll look at the older Pacificas 2004 to 2009. A very nice car when it was brought out, but a lot of problems with these cars. Oil leaks, fluid leaks, rusted engine cradles are a big issue. I've actually never seen one, but I think we're in the West Coast in Vancouver there's not a lot of road salt. Back east it's a very common problem on this vehicle. Very expensive to repair because the engine could actually drop out of the vehicle so it needs to be fixed. There's a lot of electrical issues with the vehicles.

My overall impression of the Pacifica it's a really nice vehicle and it was created when Mercedes owned Chrysler. It was a really ill fated marriage, just a bad combination of a lower end car manufacturer with a high end car manufacturer, and they tried upscale the Pacifica, but they did it on the cheap. That's really the impression I get of the car. Things just break and wear out way too fast. If it was a Mercedes you wouldn't have many of these problems if any at all.

Mark: All right. What about the Seabring?

Bernie: There's another lemon. I'll have to say that the convertibles when they came out they were a really nice car. The one engine in the Seabring that's really problematic the 2.7 litre V6. It was a nice engine, runs well, but prone to oil sludging. This is an engine if you went 100 kilometres over the 5,000 kilometre oil change interval you're asking for problems. Of course, a lot of people don't know that. People get lazy, they don't change their oil, there's just a number of problems with the engine oil sludging and complete engine failures. Even those people who would maintain the engine well, the water pump is located inside the engine. It's driven by the timing change. It’s the only vehicle out there that has that. When the water pump starts leaking it costs a lot of money to fix. It's well over $1,000, a $1,000 or $1,500. You have to take the timing chain cover off to get it out so it's not really a smart design for a longevity of repair. Knock on wood, I own a 2001 Subaru Outback with a six cylinder. It's got an internal water pump. I've got almost close to 300,000 kilometres the water pump has never been replaced. I say knock on wood because it will go sooner or later. That's a reliable system. The Seabring wasn't so reliable.

Other things with some Chrysler products, Seabring it's the only one. The batteries are located under the fender. They're hard to get out so it costs a little more money to fix. Again, that's not the only car that has a hard to get at battery. For an average American car, people have an expectation things are going to be simpler and a little less expensive to fix. Seabring is definitely not one of those vehicles.

Mark: All right. That brings us to maybe the more luxurious 300 series. You see quite a few of these around. How are they?

Bernie: Again, they're not the most reliable, but I think they're a step up from the Seabring and the Pacifica. They've got a unique styling that people like. Again, we don't work on a lot of them. The ones we have worked on have been pretty reliable. A few front end steering issues, but overall the cars have been pretty good.

Mark: All right. We could talk about the Crossfire. It's a pretty unique vehicle. How are they?

Bernie: I'd say these are pretty decent. They're not very common. If you look at it, this vehicle is actually based on a Mercedes. It's similar to an SLK 320. It uses the same engine, same drive train. The reliability is pretty much the same, which they're a pretty good car. Yeah, they're good. The only issue I've seen ... I haven't actually seen personally, but just doing a little research is the rear windows apparently fall out of these cars. That seems to be the major complaint. Otherwise, a little more reliable. I got to thinking too, if you own a Crossfire where do you take it to get service? You could go to the dealer, but this car is really more like a Mercedes than a Chrysler. A lot of times I think you're best to seek out a good independent auto repair shop. A shop that's going to look for the best source for parts. If you buy things from the dealer they're often way over priced. I've seen this with so many of these marriages between different car companies. Ford and Mazda, Chrysler, Mercedes, often if you go to a Mercedes dealer you can get the parts for a lot cheaper than you can actually buy them from the Chrysler dealer. Just a little tip if you own one of these cars. Not saying ... Of course, we want your business, but find a good independent shop that can take care of it because they can look around for better options than the dealership. Quite frankly, a lot of dealers don't really know how to fix these things. Even the Jeep diesels their level of expertise is not as high as some other shops.

Mark: What about some of the older vehicles that are going to be on the used market like the Intrepid or the Neon?

Bernie: Definitely vehicles I wouldn't recommend. The Intrepid had a lot of issues with coolant leaks, steering, parts wearing out, electrical issues. They weren't fantastic vehicles. Neons, there used to be a lot of those cars on the road. We rarely ever see one. We had a client a couple of months ago that wanted, we did a bunch of work on it. The car is still chugging along pretty good, but certainly they're the kind of car they lose their value so much by the time they need some sort of major repair it's better just to scrap the car than fix it. With the PT Cruiser, now that's another. It's a little flashier of a car. That's basically based on a Neon. Again, same sort of level of problems. If you have a PT Cruiser convertible maybe you might want to fix that because it's a little more special of a car. Yeah, those are a couple of vehicles I would avoid.

Mark: Overall, Chrysler is not really doing all that great of a job?

Bernie: No. It makes me sad to say so because I'm a mopart guy at heart. My first car was a 69 Dodge Dart 340. I had a lot of friends who had fast Chrysler products from the late 60's, early 70's. They were awesome cars, pretty reliable, and fast, and fun, good looking cars. Even the Dodge Slant Six was a super reliable vehicle. I've owned Dodge vans with 318's they're bulletproof. Again, not fantastic performance, but good well-built, reliable cars. I think, unfortunately, Chrysler cars have just really gone downhill. I think they've really struggled to find who they are. They merged with Mercedes and that's gone. Now Fiat owns them. Their styling department and marketing department they've done some pretty amazing things, but the vehicles are really not great.

Mark: There you go. If you have a Chrysler vehicle in Vancouver the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. They might not think the reliability is that great, but they'll be doing a great job fixing them.

Bernie: Very happy to fix them.

Mark: These are the guys to see. They fix lots of them. You can call them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment or check out their website PawlikAutomotive.com. Thanks a lot Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark

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