2003 Dodge
5-Door FWD Sport

141,000 miles
3.8 Liter V6/5-speed Overdrive Automatic
4-wheel Anti-Lock Disc Brakes
Power passenger and rear door
Alloy Wheels/225/65R16 Radials
AM/FM/CD/Cassette Stereo
Dual-Zone Climate Control


Gifted to a Friend

December 28, 2020 - The van has been tremendously reliable and a very pleasant daily driver, with more amenities than any of my other cars.  However, three daily drivers are more than I need (OK, like I need seven collectible cars?) and Best Bud Chip was in need of something more comfortable and easy to drive than one of his MGs.  I ended up giving him the van today to make room for a 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity that I bought off eBay on Christmas Day.  I have the truck for large items, and the wagon still has good carrying capacity for smaller items. (And of course, I am fickle and like to change out cars). 
October 2, 2020 - One annoying design flaw of the van is the taillight setup.  They used an integrated circuit board and proprietary sockets that work great when the setup in new, but start to cause trouble when heat from the lamps eventually warps the housing. This is especially common with the brake light.  The socket area deforms so much you can't get the bulb out, and also creates pressure which messes up the electrical connection.  The aftermarket replacement just lasted a bit over a year, and I had to use a brake hone to cut away enough of the socket opening to shake the bulb out.  I ordered a new set, this time also getting LED bulbs to replace the incandescent bulbs that have been warping the housing.  Naturally, the driver's side, the one with the bad brake light, turned out to be defective and I sent it back.  I was able to clean it up and get the LED bulbs working for the brake/tail and backup light.  The turn signal thinks the bulb is bad because LEDs use so little energy, so I had to keep the incandescent for those. The LEDs create far less heat and are smaller, so I think I may have the issue solved.
August 22, 2020 - A flawless trip up and back provided nice bookends for a great weekend.  The van was quiet, comfortable, and efficient, turning in about 26 MPG for the trip - pretty good for a 17 year-old van with 140K on the odometer.  The EV Warrior got its award and I had a great time at the show.
August 18, 2020 - The van has been doing great - there was no trip to West Virginia, but after six months I haven't lost a drop of coolant.  Oil is right up to the level as well.  Looking forward to rolling up to Gettysburg PA with the EV Warrior in hopes of getting its Grand National award from AACA.  The once-a-year show is all outside this year with precautions in place that should make it safer than going to WalMart.
March 15, 2020 - I've been using the van a lot the past few months - a smooth trip to Hershey in October resulted in the Vespa getting its Senior award, though I discovered a radiator leak on the way back.  I've continued driving the van and adding a little coolant every week, but a planned trip to West Virginia next week prompted me to go ahead and replace the radiator.  What should have been a pretty easy job got a lot harder because of the 'zero effort' steering my parents had installed.  The electric pump for it was crammed into the nose of the van so tightly they had to bend the A/C condenser (top right).  That took out all play you normally have to disengage the radiator, fans, and condenser from each other, but I was finally able to work the old radiator out.  I swapped out clips, mounts, and braces from the old radiator and was able to get everything back together with no extra parts left over (other than the ones I replaced). The old radiator had a 1-inch crack just under the top radiator hose (left).  The new radiator was $108, and I was able to recycle the old antifreeze, which was clean and green.  Considering the extra effort required for the pump, I saved a bundle doing it myself!
September 24, 2019 - The van got a long-overdue bath and interior cleaning tonight,a nd I pulled the rack out to paint the wood.  Not really necessary, but it gives the assembly a much more finished appearance.  The anchoring to the seat points is very solid - I think the Vespa will be quite secure for the run to Hershey in a few weeks.
September 23, 2019 - With Hershey coming up and the Vespa to transport, I finally got busy with the transport rack.  I've had the basic idea in my head for a while, and pretty much winged it - no drawings, very little measuring.  Even so, it came out really well.  The Vespa's tires roll up the center groove, with the front tire able to ride up to the stop far enough for the kickstand to be engaged, then roll back into the front slot.  Then a cargo strap hooks into eyebolts on either end to secure the scooter in place.  The whole assembly uses J-bolts to lock down to the seat anchors. 
July 13, 2019 - The driver's side door gasket had come apart over the past 16 years, with scraps hanging on the bottom and the gasket torn away in the middle of the back edge.  A trip to Pick-N-Pull netted a perfect replacement for $5.99, and I installed it in about ten minutes.  Besides looking better, it will probably cut down a little on wind noise.
June 5, 2019 - The front tires on the van had plenty of tread, but they also had plenty of cracks in the sidewall and tread due to age. I decided to try Discount Tires at the suggestion of a friend and am very pleased with the tires and the service. One note of frustration - I noted the left brake light was out again.  When I got home, I replaced the bulb and socket.  This time it seems to be working steadily, but I will keep tabs on it.

June 2, 2019 - When I picked up the TC gas tank on Tuesday, the painter took a look at my bedraggled van and said "You really need to do something about that."  He had a point - the clearcoat was gone from the top and was peeling off the sides like a bad sunburn, and there were dents, scrapes, and dings all over it. However, given the usual expense of bodywork, I told him a repaint was out of my league.  It turned out he had some slack time and offered to clean up the van and make it look nice for a price I could not refuse. I left it with him Wednesday before heading out of town for a big car show and picked it up this morning.  What a difference!  If you look close in the image top left, you can see a big dent in the rear hatch and the large patches of missing clearcoat.  The passenger side door had a gouge (below left) and some scrapes, and the left side had scrapes all down it as well, not counting the peeling front bumper and banged up back bumper corners. Now the van looks new (below, right)!

May 18, 2019 - A few days ago my ever-vigilant neighbor said "Bob, I hate to say it, but I think your brake light is out again on the van."  Sure enough, the left tail light and brake lights were both out. The culprit was a contact built into the taillight body (above, left).  Attempts to repair it failed and I ordered a new set Wednesday for $47 delivered to the house.  (A used one from the junkyard would have cost $25 plus tax plus a 40-mile drive).  The new set arrived today and went in easily (above, right).  All lights working again!  Later tonight I decided to install new spark plugs and discovered the number 6 plug wire had a break (see inset right).  I picked up some new wires and went about getting it all done.  The front three were easy - however, trying to put plugs and wires on the BACK side of a V-6 in a minivan turned out to be something of a chore, especially when you are ham-fisted like me. (I think the designer put a lot of sharp clamps in there on purpose.) The old plugs came out worn but really good, and one wire had what might have been some burning. Despite working blind and cramped, the van started up and ran fine.   I even managed to put the new wires in the factory holders!
April 25, 2019 - A simple job turned into an evening of 'light' entertainment.  My neighbor told me the driver's side brake light was out, so I got a new bulb.  However, the housing had been deformed over the years and had closed up to the point the old bulb had to be broken out to get the glass globe through.  I used a brake hone to open the housing back up, only to have the hone assembly slip too far in and spread open.  After finally fishing it out, I got the new 1057 bulb in and tested the lights - only to find the right top taillight was out.  And that turned out to be the old round-style bulb!  The right taillight had been damaged in a fender-bender and replaced with an earlier model's light.  Happily, neighbor John had a new 1157 bulb which worked fine.  Except the backup light on the left was not working - bad contacts.  After finally getting all the back lights working, I replaced the overhead hatch light, and attacked the front map lights.  They just needed contacts cleaned and are working - so all of the lights are now functional - even the fog lights which I don't think have been turned on since the van was new!
April 20, 2019 - The van was tagged and titled on Monday, and I have been driving it every day.  It runs great, but has had some rough times appearance-wise.  I decided to attack the front bumper today with some crude, but relatively effective bodywork.  The paint was peeling off, and both sides had bad scrapes.  The left side was by far the worst (above left) so I sanded it, primed it, and painted it with DupliPanel. The paint is a perfect match, and while my efforts do not bear close scrutiny, the van looks much better.  The bumper was not prepped properly by the shop that fixed the front end in a fender-bender a few years back, and I would have to strip it back to plastic all over to do the job right.  Still, it looks pretty decent for $11.14 investment.
April 14, 2019 - This Dodge Caravan has actually been a family member of sorts since it was almost new.  My parents bought it when it was year old and it performed yeoman's duty as the primary driver and trip vehicle.  When we got a newer van for my Mom, the red van became my Dad's driver.  He was never much for cleaning, and also had a lot of minor and a few not-so-minor incidents that left the outside a little worse for wear.  The factory clear-coat is gone from the top and much up the upper body, and a badly-prepared replacement front bumper assembly has the paint peeling off on both ends.  However, the van only has 135K miles, and Dad was very particular about mechanical care.  It runs and drives great, and everything still works.  It mostly sat unused since his passing two years ago, but was eager to when I recently put it back into service.  Since then, I have driven it to work daily and used it to transport two scooters to a  car show in NC with nary a hiccup.  It even got 27 MPG on the trip!  The Dodge is officially joining the Caroholic stables tomorrow after a trip to DMV.

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