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Hi,

I have 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan 3.8L with 310 000 km (193 000 miles), I've only had it for the last 4 months and 11k km, so I know nothing about its history. I've also read on bunch of other topics related to issues with shifter/transmission (not) engaging, but didn’t find anything exactly as my problem, so here goes:

Over the last few days the temperatures dropped sub zero (0°C) here in Calgary and I’ve noticed the same behavior each morning since:

On the first cold day, I got in, put in D, drove off. After few seconds noticed I have some more snow to remove from the windshield, so I pull over, put in in P, remove snow, and when I got back in and put it back to D, the transmission won’t engage (neither would reverse). I turned off the engine, started it back up, put it in D and drove off, no problem.

I’ve tried it again over the next few days and basically the same happens every time, with slight differences. Sometimes D or 3 would do nothing, but at L it would engage and then I can go back to D. Today I noticed after putting it in Drive that it engaged after about 2 seconds.

I usually only try this only once after driving about one block and then I go off to work; and after 15 minutes when I arrive and everything is up to temperature, I can go P-R-D back and forth endlessly. Fluid level is OK. Temperature each morning was from about zero 0°C to -7°C (32 to 20°F).


What would be the first, second, and maybe third thing to check or try? I’d like to avoid getting stranded when the weather gets even colder. :)

From what I’ve read, I think the shift solenoid could be the case, but that I’ve been wrong before, I can also imagine the shifter cable does not slide as it should when it’s really cold, but since the first Drive engage works every time, I suppose it’s not the main cause?

Thank you!
 

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This is common on these vans at those temps. IF the fluid isn't warmed up, the PCM (computer) will not allow it into gear. Restarting the van at times and then shifting right away can circumvent the PCM, but ... why is this there? To make sure the transmission will not blow-up while driving in the frigid cold temps with a cold tranny full of fluid. The casting can crack or the pump fail or the TC rips apart inside. The you are stranded with a huge repair bill.

Use only ATF+4. Nothing else as fluid in these vans.

Did you change the oil? Be sure to use the synthetic 5W20 for temps at zero 0 and into the minus realm. If syn 5W20 cannot be found, syn 5W30 would work too.
 

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You need to address this problem, is not normal.

If you have the correct ATF (ATF+4), then the filter might need to be changed.

Wait a little for others to respond, I never had that problem, others might.
 

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Further info. wwwDOTchryslerforumDOTcom BY Chrysler Tech (Super Moderator ) pulled from
Chrysler Workshop Manuals
power management > computers and control systems > powertrain control module > Component Information > Diagrams

ULTRADRIVE 40TE SHIFT SCHEDULES
The PCM has programming that allows it to select a variety of shift schedules. Shift schedule selection is dependent on the following:

Shift lever position
Throttle position
Engine load
Fluid temperature
Software level
As driving conditions change, the PCM appropriately adjusts the shift schedule. Refer to the following chart to determine the appropriate operation expected, depending on driving conditions.


Schedule Condition Expected Operation
Extreme Cold Oil temperature at start-up below -27° C (16° F) Park, Reverse, Neutral and 2nd gear only (prevents shifting which may fail a clutch with frequent shifts)

Cold Oil temperature at start-up above -24° C (-12° F) and below 2° C (36° F) - Delayed 2-3 upshift (approximately 35-50 kmh (22-31 mph)

  • Delayed 3-4 upshift 72.5-85 kmh (45-53 mph)
  • Early 4-3 coastdown shift (approximately 30 mph)
  • Early 3-2 coastdown shift (approximately 27 kmh (17 mph))
  • High speed 4-2, 3-2, 2-1 kickdown shifts are prevented
– No EMCC
Warm Oil temperature at start-up above 2° C (36° F) and below 27° C (80° F) - Normal operation (upshift, kickdowns, and coastdowns)

- No EMCC
Hot Oil temperature at start-up above 27° C (80° F) - Normal operation (upshift, kickdowns, and coastdowns)

- Full EMCC, no PEMCC except to engage FEMCC (except at closed throttle at speeds above 112.5-133.5 kmh (70-83 mph))
Overheat Oil temperature above 115° C (240° F) or engine coolant temperature above 118° C (244° F) - Delayed 2-3 upshift 40-51.5 kmh (25-32 mph)
  • Delayed 3-4 upshift 66-77 kmh (41-48 mph)
  • 3rd gear FEMCC from 48-77 kmh (30-48 mph)
  • 3rd gear PEMCC from 43.5-50 kmh (27-31 mph)
Super Overheat Oil temperature above 127° C (260° F) - All "Overheat" shift schedule features apply
  • 2nd gear PEMCC above 35 kmh (22 mph)
  • Above 35 kmh (22 mph) the torque converter will not unlock unless the throttle is closed or if a wide open throttle 2nd PEMCC to 1 kickdown is made
40TE
Since 2003 (2004 model year), the 41TE was replaced by a similar but cheaper and lighter 40TE transmissions in cars equipped with inline-four-cylinder, or naturally-aspirated engines.
Applications:

 

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Those temperatures are nothing; the trans should still operate fine. I only had problems (as did everyone) last winter during the polar vortex, when temps plummeted to -40F. My van didn't want to engage drive, and when it did it would hardly move (gear oil in the PTU/rear diff my van is AWD). I had to put it in "L" at first and drive slowly/take a longer route to give the transmission time to warm up before hitting a major road. I was using semisyn 5W-30 oil, and it wasn't enough to prevent oil starving and damaging the engine. I might have to try 0W-20 during the peak cold winter months.

I'd start by checking connections - electrical at solenoid pack, shift range sensor, speed sensors and the transmission computer (which is also used for engine in 2004-later). My vans don't want to go right after stopping for 2 seconds. If I try, it will engage hard if I give it gas. It seems to be how these transmissions age. It must sense braking and disengage the transmission, or maybe the sonnex valves are getting worn. I've just learned to have a little patience.
 
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My vans don't want to go right after stopping for 2 seconds. If I try, it will engage hard if I give it gas. It seems to be how these transmissions age. It must sense braking and disengage the transmission, or maybe the sonnex valves are getting worn. I've just learned to have a little patience.
Design intent, read the Allpar link posted. The EMCC has to catch up.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the ideas. The last few days the temperatures didn’t go below freezing and there were no issues at all.

The stuff about Cold Oil and delayed upshifts is definitely interesting and good to know, however probably unrelated. The first shift from P to D (or R) always works right after starting, and then I can go for as long as I won't let it go to neutral or manually (until the fluids warm up, after that everything works).

I haven’t touched the AT fluid since I got the van, I assume the ATF+4 is in, but god knows how old is it. I am going to do a AT fluid change tomorrow with a new filter and then will wait for another subzero night to see if it helped; and while I am at it I will check the connections

My vans don't want to go right after stopping for 2 seconds. If I try, it will engage hard if I give it gas. It seems to be how these transmissions age. It must sense braking and disengage the transmission, or maybe the sonnex valves are getting worn. I've just learned to have a little patience.
Yes, mine does that too, only when I am breaking really hard though. After I come to a complete stop, while still on brakes, I can feel the transmission re-engaging (same as being on a brake and shifting from P to D). When this happens early in the morning with cold fluids, I have the same problem as described above – it won’t re-engage and I am stuck in neutral.
 

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My vans don't want to go right after stopping for 2 seconds. If I try, it will engage hard if I give it gas. It seems to be how these transmissions age.
i've noticed that in general, new or old, automatic transmissions don't like jumping right back into action instantly after stopping or after slowing way down
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So I've changed the filter today (and put in 4 quarts of fresh ATF+4, duh). I assume the previous filter and fluid was still from factory, there was gray RTV sealing the pan, but I am not sure. There was also a lot of metallic gunk on the magnet, but not significantly more than what I saw on YouTube videos of others doing the fluid change.

I didn't notice any improvements in shifting, sound, or anything, but then again, there were no issues before, except the cold engagement, or lack thereof. So we'll see what it'll do next time on cold morning, Tuesday night should be -11C (12F).
 

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So we'll see what it'll do next time on cold morning, Tuesday night should be -11C (12F).
Keep us posted. Your learnings, like others, help others too.

How long did it take to complete the filter and fluid change?

Glad the RTV wasn't too messy.
 

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The change was quick but scraping the old RTV gasket from the pan and transmission took forever, but over all, about two hours total.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
So the new filter and half new fluid seem to have fix the issue.

Yesterday morning was -4 C, today -10C, and it now shifts right after starting without any issues.

I wanted to change all the fluids right after buying it back in June, but I kind of forgot about tranmission, might have even never even ran into this issue... Oh well, lesson learnt. :D
 

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My 2005 3.3L seems to not like the cold either. Fluid is recent and is certified ATF+4. When it's down around -25*C I find it takes 5-10 seconds to engage in drive. When the van was younger it had no issues right down to -40*C. I'm not sure if it's something internal in the transmission wearing out or whether it's the solenoid pack, and given the solenoid pack is pretty expensive I don't really want to change it on a guess.
 

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My 2005 3.3L seems to not like the cold either. Fluid is recent and is certified ATF+4. When it's down around -25*C I find it takes 5-10 seconds to engage in drive. When the van was younger it had no issues right down to -40*C. I'm not sure if it's something internal in the transmission wearing out or whether it's the solenoid pack, and given the solenoid pack is pretty expensive I don't really want to change it on a guess.
have you changed the filter recently? i could imagine the resistance of the filter on the fluid increasing exponentially with temperatures as low as that
 

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Make sure the shift gear linkage, on top of the transmission, is well lubricated. Fluid Film to the rescue.
:)
 

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have you changed the filter recently? i could imagine the resistance of the filter on the fluid increasing exponentially with temperatures as low as that
Unfortunately, yes the filter is pretty recent (less than 50,000km on it) and the fluid has been changed more recently because I installed a pan with a drain plug so that's easy to do now.

I wasn't sure if this was a really common symptom of a bad solenoid pack so I figured I'd post and see what you guys said. If it is, I'll be on the ready to replace that, otherwise I'll just pretend it isn't happening and keep changing the fluid every couple years and otherwise just drive the van until the transmission does something even worse.
 

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My 2005 3.3L seems to not like the cold either. Fluid is recent and is certified ATF+4. When it's down around -25*C I find it takes 5-10 seconds to engage in drive. When the van was younger it had no issues right down to -40*C. I'm not sure if it's something internal in the transmission wearing out or whether it's the solenoid pack, and given the solenoid pack is pretty expensive I don't really want to change it on a guess.
Where in the world you get such a low temperatures?

Lowest I ever been was -17 F. and 90 % of the vehicles in the parking lot didn't even started after a 8 hrs work. Mine started but broke down on my way home due to frozen gasoline. It was @ 2:00 am.
 

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Where in the world you get such a low temperatures?

Lowest I ever been was -17 F. and 90 % of the vehicles in the parking lot didn't even started after a 8 hrs work. Mine started but broke down on my way home due to frozen gasoline. It was @ 2:00 am.
You could have picked a better time to break down. Are you a night owl or something? :)
 

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My 2005 3.3L seems to not like the cold either. Fluid is recent and is certified ATF+4. When it's down around -25*C I find it takes 5-10 seconds to engage in drive. When the van was younger it had no issues right down to -40*C. I'm not sure if it's something internal in the transmission wearing out or whether it's the solenoid pack, and given the solenoid pack is pretty expensive I don't really want to change it on a guess.
That's very cold weather, getting down to the limits of 50/50 antifreeze and the Pour Points of motor oil (quasi synthetic and conventional, not PAO).

Maybe try running it in neutral for a bit and then shift into gear.
 
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