Tuesday, October 02, 2012

1999 Dodge Grand Caravan vs 2003 Chevy Venture

We have had a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan for many years. We did not buy it new, but it has served us for many years.

A couple of years ago we bought a 2003 Chevy Venture.

The Grand Caravan handles like a car. The Venture handles like a big truck.

Both vans have the option for 8 passenger seating. The Caravan came with a three seat bench in the third row and a two passenger bench in the second row. The two seats sit on the same width track, so they are interchangeable. We ended up getting a second three seat bench to increase the seating capacity to 8.

The Venture has a three seat bench in the third row and three single seats in the middle row. We generally have it with the middle of the three removed to have room for a cooler or whatever, unless we need eight seats. If we left in the middle seat we could fold it down and it has a couple of cup holders molded into its back that are accessible when it the fold down position. The single seats and then bench fit into different type tracks, so they are not interchangeable.

Both vans have power rear quarter windows. The Caravan has independent controls for each window. The Venture has one control for both windows. It is sometimes useful to be able to open one window if one child is hot and the other doesn't want the noise.

The Caravan's controls for the rear quarter windows are on the driver's door and is very handy for keeping your eyes on the road while opening or closing the windows. The Venture's controls are on a panel in a middle panel in the ceiling above the rear view mirror. You have to look up at the panel to open the windows, since all the other switches feel the same and the window switch is right next to an identical switch for the power sliding side door. The Caravan's switch is different from the other window switches and in a unique configuration.

The Venture has a power door, which can be handy, but an extra point of failure if anything went wrong. The Caravan has no power door.

The Venture keys come with a security chip in them. It prevents the van from starting if the chip is not present or functional. I tried to get a key made at Home Depot and they said they could not because of the chip and I would have to go to the dealer. All I needed was an emergency key to keep in my wallet to unlock the door if I lock my key in the van, but they would not. I went to the dealer thinking, as with anything at the dealer, it would cost 3 or 4 times more than at a hardware store or whatever. I went to the desk at the dealer and they said that the key would be $41. Home Depot charges between $1.50 and $2. I told the guy at the counter that he had to be joking and I would skip it. I don't need the security feature and there is no way to disable it. I am being charged a premium for a feature I do not want or need. My keys are wearing down and at some point I will have to pay for a new key. Why couldn't I just give him my chip from my existing key and let him create a new one and put that chip in it. I could then use the old key as the spare.

Update 11 Sep 2012
Venture fails me again
I was sitting idling with the radio on, waiting for my wife. After about twenty minutes I hear weird noises. I look up and the low battery and low fuel warnings are blinking alternating. I go to start the van and nothing happens.

I called a friend for a jump. While I waited I opened the hood and found no battery. I looked around and found what looked like a positive terminal coming out of the fuse block, which was sitting where battery should be. I could not find the negative terminal.

My friend successfully jumped it, even thought it took us some messing to get it to take a charge.

Yesterday I went to find a battery. Walmart usually installs for free, but it appeared they didn't carry that battery. I went over to Sam's club and they had it, but would not install it.

I went to Pep Boys and found that their cheapest battery was about 20 dollars more than at Sam's. Their charge to install a battery on a normal vehicle is 16 dollars. Because of the battery bring buried it was 40 to get it installed.

The final cost for this mess was about 160 dollars, just for a battery.

Update 2 Oct 2012
This post is kind of digressing into a rant about Pep Boys.  When it rained a week or so after having the battery replaced my wife turned on the wipers while driving down the road and a bunch of parts of the van flew out from under the wipers.  It appears as though Pep Boys didn't put the van back together and left parts laying under the wipers.

I figured since I paid for the install, rather than getting it free at Walmart or Sam's Clue, and paid more for the battery itself too, then I assumed I was getting a professional job.