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Looking for a good, honest, reliable auto mechanic in Berkeley for our Dodge
Caravan. Have used Carlson Garage for years, but they have become very
expensive and not so reliable. Would like to find someone who knows what
they're doing, won't do unnecessary work, and won't break the bank! The
listings on BPN that I saw are quite old. Does anyone have experience with
Bauer's Auto Repair on University? Appreciate your help!
Car Repair Blues
I love Precision People's Car Repair
on San Pablo near Gilman. They're honest, don't
do unnecessary work, charge a fair rate, and don't talk to you like you're dumb if you
don't know cars. They worked on my VW Bug, and my Nissan.
I recommend Campus Auto
at 1752 Shattuck Ave. Their number is 845-8828. I have a
2000 Dodge Caravan that I have been taking there after the dealer told me I needed
$8,000 worth of work. My van isn't even worth that much. So I took it to Campus Auto
and they checked everything out that the dealer had said I needed done. They fixed a
few things that needed repair right away for $600. The other things were not
immediately necessary and we have been keeping an eye on them. They even showed me
under my car what we needed to watch. I feel they are honest and they do a good job.
And they are conveniently located for me. I usually deal with Pat. Give them a call.
My husband and I are in the market for a (used) minivan. He has
been researching them and come up with the Dodge ''Caravan'' as
being a good choice for us as far as safety, size and cost. He
is not home to ask, but I recall that he said that post-96s had
a better engine and/or transmission. I'd like to hear what other
peoples experiences have been with the ''Caravan,'' and its sister
vehicles, the Plymouth ''Voyager'', and the Chevy ''Town &
Country''. What is the good, the bad and the ugly on these
minivans? Thanks in advance for any helpful information.
Many Daimler Chrysler Vehicles have Generation 3 seat belt
buckles that, due to poor design can pop open without the
wearer intending them to be released. Tragically, this tends to
happen when vehicles are involved in sudden stops, turns,
collisions or rollovers - exactly when drivers and passengers
need their seat belts the most.
The Caravan, Voyager and Town and Country are all on the list
of affected vehicles. More information about the buckles can be
found at www.unsafebelts.com , and the list of affected
vehicles is at http://www.unsafebelts.com/known.cfm .
You may also, if you have or are planning on having children
who are in child safety restraints, want to use the car seat
compatability database available at www.carseatdata.org as you
select a new vehicle.
Sue Pavlik, Child Passenger Safety Technician
This is probably not what you wanted to hear, but it does seem
relevant to your search. When I bought my Toyota Sienna I got
lots of unsolicited comments and questions from strangers. One
day at the grocery store an older man congratulated me on my new
car (it still did not have license plates). He went on to tell
me how his daughter had a Caravan and how after a only few years
it had constant problems, and after pouring tons of money into
it, she finally gave up and bought a Sienna which had been
trouble-free since day one. He was very critical of the Caravan
and told me I would love my Sienna. He was right. Have you
checked Consumer Reports (or some other similar source) about
the reliability of used Caravans?
We bought (new) a 1998 Dodge Caravan and now have ~61K miles on
it. It has been ok for us- no major mechanical problems. The
mileage is poor-- 18/19 around the city and only in the low 20's
on long trips (e.g., to L.A.). The sticker suggested we'd get
better. One of the attachment bolts for a strut on the rear
tailgate broke about a month ago-- I've never seen that happen
in all the cars I've owned-- so, until we find a way to remove
the sheared off bolt, we have only one strut to hold up the
tailgate-- which is not enough. An example of poor U.S.
quality? The flexibility of a mini-van is great, but I'd
probably get something other than Dodge the next time.
I have one of those ''sister'' vans, a 97 Plymouth Voyager that I
inherited from my parents almost 3 years ago. I must say up
front that I have seriously resisted this car, dreading becoming
a ''minivan person'' and feeling like I don't need all the space,
but as time has gone on I've really become attached to my van.
I have had no maintenance problems to speak of, as I have one of
those post-96 transmissions. Currently I have almost 125,000
miles and the car is running great. I just had my parents out
here and schlepped 6 adults and 1 child all over northern
california and the car didn't make a fuss. It also hauls an
incredible amount of stuff -- my siblings and I have each used
it for several moves for all of our stuff including furniture.
The biggest pain for me is moving the seats around -- they're
very heavy and awkward to move and require two people to get
them in and out. And if you want more storage space, you need
to keep one of the seat out, since they don't fold flat like the
new vans, so you have to have a garage or storage space (though
my back porch works ok for this -- we consider it our porch
sofa!). All in all, if you want the extra space, I think it's a
We are in the market for a Dodge Caravan for our expanding family and would
love to get
some advice about where to buy it and get it serviced. There doesn't seem
to be a dealer
close to Berkeley (but we're new to the area and could be wrong.) I've
checked the website
archives and the info is from 1997, so we were hoping someone might have
had a more recent
experience. Thank you in advance!
There is a dealer called Smith Dodge on 12300 San Pablo
Ave, Richmond (Tel. 510 215 4720). They sell new and used
cars and do all kinds of repairs/services.
We actually bought our Dodge Grand Caravan from a Budget
Outlet in Napa. The car was a few months old, had few
miles, carried a three-year warranty and was not very
expensive. The warranty we already needed for some repair.
We had it done by Smith Dodge. They were doing a good job
and most of all they offered a cost-free taxi service
between my home and the garage. (This goes no further than
Gilman Street though.)
If you are looking for some older car you should try the
Internet (like parents' network marketplace) and the
We bought our Dodge Caravan in 1996 from Negherbon Dodge on Broadway in
Oakland. We were happy enough with the sales experience, but were unhappy
with the dealership service center. The regularly scheduled services were
quite expensive (and this was a brand new car!). When they told me I needed
a $600 brake job on my relatively young car, I took it to my old mechanic
at Griffen Motorwerkes in Berkeley (who i trusted) who told me there was
nothing wrong with the brakes at all. I never went back to the dealership
for service after that. As a caveat: the Caravan now has 72,000 miles on it
and needs a new transmission, which will cost around $2200. The AAA tow
dispatcher, the tow truck driver and my mechanic all told me that Chrysler
has a problem with their transmissions dying at around this level of
mileage. Just anecdotal information, but you may want to look into it
before buying a Caravan.
Smith in Richmond is apparently out of business, which is
sad because it was the only place where we got good
service. I agree with the earlier poster about Negherbon
being overpriced. Also, you have to leave your car there
all day, no matter what they are supposed to do with it.
Butler-Conti in Lafayette is the next closest dealer, but
we had a bad experience with them--they failed to diagnose
a transmission that was clearly breaking down, even after
we told them it was acting up. An independent mechanic
immediately spotted the problem. So, in answer to your
question, I don't know a local dealer worth going to. Does
We have a regular Dodge Caravan, 1994 I think, and we're on our third
transmission. The first transmission failed the week after the van was out
of warranty and we had to pay to replace it -- very expensive. We bought
the second one from a non-dealer, and it failed while still under
warranty. Seems to be a problem in the basic design.
We were also disappointed in the quality of the work done by Dodge dealers
during the warrantee period. I dropped it off with a problem, went to pick
it up as scheduled, and was told they didn't see any problem. I walked over
to it, started it up, said, "See!", and they said "Oh, yeah." My husband
now takes it to a Dodge dealer in Marin who does better maintenance work.
We're on our third Dodge Caravan.
We bought an '85 a '91 and a '98.
We had some transmission trouble at 72,000 miles on the second one, but
other than that, they've been very reliable.
We love 'em.
On a side note about the transmission, we took it to Aamco instead of the
Dodge dealer, and lived to regret it. They rebuilt it instead of replacing it,
and couldn't seem to get it right.
The main difference between the caravan and the grand caravan is that the
grand is about 8" longer, which gives you more cargo room, and enough space
haul 4'x8' sheets of plywood with the seats removed. Our second and third ones
have been grands.
When the kids were young, we had two bench seats, but with the last two, we've
gotten the "quad command seating" which gives you four bucket seats and a
rear three passenger bench.
We have a 95 Caravan and are thrilled with it. We got it
barely used (17000 miles). We're now just over 50,000.
We did have a few problems...a fluid leak which stained
some of the carpet, and have had to get brakes replaced
already (not too surprising for a heavy car). The built-in
child seats are a real plus, and it's great having plenty
of room for 6 or 7 people during multi-family outings. The
"Grand" is nice since it has room for groceries/luggage/
beach gear, etc. behind the back seat. I don't think I
could go back to my old Volvo wagon at this point.
I just bought a 97 Dodge Caravan - the short wheel base is what they call it
- not the Grand. I did research for months on it - mostly from Consumer
Reports, the internet, and by personally checking them out. The Grands were
rated unreliable by Consumer Reports. The Unreliable rating did not have too
many specifics. But they were quite clear about the simple fact and put it
on their Do Not Buy list. The short wheel base version however, was rated a
best buy - behind only the Toyota Sienna (the best but priced accordingly and
somewhat hard to get) and the Honda (a significantly smaller sized van).
There are 4 versions of the Caravan: The base model which in its truest form
has nothing extra, not even dual sliding doors. But, you can get them with
lots of extras - as I did. The SE model has most options that you would
probably want. The Sport model has things like spiffy stripes and moulding
and other items that didn't interest us. The LE has everything you could
ever want. The 1995 and 1997-1999 are all rated well. The 1996 had
electrical problems. I got a 1997 base model with lots of extras for $16K.
You could even do better than that. I got desperate. New ones are easy to
find, and you can probably get one with most extras you'd want for $21K.
Used ones in the short wheel base version are harder to find. I finally went
to Roseville to get one. If you want more info, feel free to email me and
I'll pass on whatever info you might need and the names and numbers of
several used car folks who get them all the time from auctions, etc. and can
do the legwork for you. We love ours. JoAnne (7/99)
this page was last updated: Nov 7, 2008
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