Fix it, trade it or tolerate it: The electric sliding doors on my minivan broke!

You may remember that we bought a Town and Country minivan when our youngest was born in 2007. It has served us well during the last six years. It has traveled numerous times up and down the East Coast and has crossed the United States three times. I’ve got about 84,000 miles on it.

But alas since November my electric sliding doors have been broken. They are broken in different ways. The left side will open when you hit the button but will not close when you hit the button. You have to slam it very hard into the front part for it to engage. The right door will pop open when you hit the button but only about 2 inches. So you then have to manually open it. You also have to manually close it. The doors are extremely heavy and I actually think the electronic mechanism is fighting against you as you try to open and close the doors.

So we finally took it into the dealership to find out how much the doors would cost to be fixed. They said $3400 to fix both doors. They would essentially replace every part including the motors and the doors themselves.

The car has been paid off for about a year but we have put in about $2000 in repairs in the last 18 months or so.

Michael says the Blue Book value is about $8,000.

I had planned to use the minivan for at least another four or five years. I like my minivan very much. I am happy with my car other than the freaking door. (I hurt my arm opening and shutting it when it first broke in November. I guess I’ve gotten used to it now.)

So here are your options:

  1. Fix both doors completely for $3400.
  2. Fix one door for $1700 – the side that lets out for carpool.
  3. Fix both doors half-ass where they will work better but may not be completely like new for $1700.
  4. Trade in the minivan for a 2-year-old used minivan and just pay the difference out of pocket. So you would have newer minivan with far less mileage and doors that work with no payments. (I’m not excited about taking money out of savings for this option.)
  5. Keep the van a few more years as planned and just tolerate the broken doors.

55 comments Add your comment

Greg

May 28th, 2013
5:25 am

Something that may help you live with it – there should be a way to turn off the electric motors on the doors so they at least aren’t making it harder to use them. If that doesn’t help, and you decide to keep it, then you should fix at least one of them. If you decide to replace it, seriously look at a Honda or Toyota. They are much less likely to need repairs than a Chrysler. We’re very happy with our 2010 Sienna.

homeschooler

May 28th, 2013
5:46 am

Agree with Greg. I just sold my honda with 175,000 miles. I drove it for 10 yrs and we never put a dime into it other than regular maintenance.
Having said that I just bought a Buick Enclave. Hoping it will last as long as my Honda but I’m a bit worried that it won’t. You shouldn’t have to be putting a lot of money into a car with only 84,000 miles. If you have the money trade it in. If it’s going to be a struggle, I agree with fixing one door.
Question.. Would you have to fix the doors to get the 8000 dollars out of it or would you have to lower the price?

Litt

May 28th, 2013
6:02 am

Why are you taking it to the dealer for repairs?

Take it to an independent shop. It may only need a switch replaced or a couple of electric motors, Nowhere near $3400.

Why the heck would the dealership say the doors need replaced? It sounds like they are trying to maximize their profit at you expense.

Mayhem

May 28th, 2013
6:14 am

I’d get the doors fixed. But definitely NOT at the dealer!

MomOf2Girls

May 28th, 2013
6:40 am

Agree with those who say take it elsewhere for a quote (although the trick is finding a mechanic who is trustworthy). Dealer quoted me $3,600 to repair the air conditioner in my CR-V, two mechanics quoted me between $900 and $1200. Once you’ve done that, decide if it’s worth repairing, living with (possibly by disabling the motor as Greg mentioned), or getting rid of it.

If you do decide to go with another minivan, don’t get a Honda if you are planning on towing anything. As much as my family loves Hondas, the Odyssey has notoriously weak transmissions, and even with a towing package, word on the street is not to strain the tranny by towing.

A

May 28th, 2013
6:42 am

First world problems! Don’t have a van and will never get one (sorry, just hate them), but if I had something similar, like power locks not working, I’d go to a trusted independent garage. We never go to our dealer unless we have warranty work since they will gouge you. We’ve found a great garage nearby with honest guys who charge probably half what the dealer would.

Miss Priss!

May 28th, 2013
6:49 am

Sweetie, I’m sorry, but I really don’t remember that you bought a Town and Country minivan when your youngest was born in 2007. Was I expected to?

Becky

May 28th, 2013
7:53 am

Like others said, go to someone other than a dealer..The only way I would ever deal with a dealer is if it was under warranty..That being said, I would try to fix it and keep it..

@homeschooler..I drive a 1999 Buick Century and love it..We bought it about 8 years ago with 29,000 miles on it, it now has over 150,000 on it and if I could find another one as good of a deal, we’d buy it in a heartbeat..So with regular maintaince, your Enclave should be a great vehicle for you..

@Miss Priss..Haven’t learned to read yet huh? She doesn’t expect you to, she just says you might and most of us have been on here long enough to remember it.. Thinking that you didn’t have a good holiday and that is why you’re so cranky..

becky

May 28th, 2013
7:59 am

WOW – saw where a lady needed a van for her disabled child – she didn’t have as many requirements as TWG does. Sometimes success breeds laziness. Open the flippin’ door or let your kids – oh that’s right, manual labor, not something you understand.

motherjanegoose

May 28th, 2013
8:00 am

We had a door lock actuator problem on my 2009 Malibu. I Googled it and found that other people had this too, once you went over 50,000 miles. I also Googled how to fix it. The dealer quoted $350 per door. Three were broken. My husband was able to pull the doors off and fix them with the parts totalling less than $100 for three.

I agree that you need to find a mechanic and not use the dealer. We do not buy brand new cars anymore. I look on Craiglist and try to find something with around 15,000 miles and it still has a warrantee. Many dealerships advertise there. We have had good luck with that.

We have a good mechanic who is near the Norcross P.O. He charges less than half of what the dealership charges. TWG, if you want the contact info, you could call him and maybe take care of it when you are in ATL? Not sure when you will be here.

My daughter’s 2002 Civic had a recall on it. We took it to the dealership. They made a list of several things they recommended to be fixed. My husband took the car to Norcross and they did not see the same issues :).

xxx

May 28th, 2013
8:02 am

6. Do nothing and whine about it.

Becky

May 28th, 2013
8:08 am

@MJG..Like you, thankful that my husband fix things also..A few yrs. back he drove a 2000 (not sure of yr) Thunderbird and a Marta bus knocked his drivers door mirror (electronic) off..He took it to a body shop, they quoted him $1500.00 to fix it..He went to a salvage yard, bought one and did all the work himself…Spent less than $100.00 on everything..

We also won’t buy a brand new car..Usually try to buy one 2-3 years old if we can find one..The above mentioned Buick was such a good deal (for us) that we couldn’t pass it up..

lakerat

May 28th, 2013
8:11 am

If you like the van and have no mechanical problems (engine or transmission) then get it fixed – 84,000 miles is really not a lot for a 6 year old van – unless you just want a new van, which is perfectly understandable…

K's Mom

May 28th, 2013
8:15 am

@Becky, we are going to try to get an Enclave for our next car. Glad to hear your Buick is holding up well.

We had REALLY bad luck with an independent mechanic last year. We ended up taking my husbands car to the dealer to refix the problem the independent “fixed” and spent less at the dealership. We had gotten tons of recommendations and their price was good, but we got the shaft. So, really do your research on an independent mechanic.

homeschooler

May 28th, 2013
8:20 am

Thanks Becky. Just fell completely in love with the Enclave and when I found one that was 2 yrs old with low miles I just had to get it. My husbands uncle drives one and had done all the research and told me it would be a smart buy so I ditched my “only buy Honda or Toyota” mentality and went for it.

I missed where Theresa said the dealer quoted that price. Totally agree not to go to a dealer for this. The whole equation changes if you’re looking at spending half that much to replace the doors. A private mechanic might be no where near that much.

Richard

May 28th, 2013
9:24 am

“4.Trade in the minivan for a 2-year-old used minivan and just pay the difference out of pocket. So you would have newer minivan with far less mileage and doors that work with no payments. (I’m not excited about taking money out of savings for this option.)”

And the car has been paid off for about a year? The screwup should be obvious.

Since too many people make this mistake, let me offer some advice to you and your readers: when you don’t have a car payment, keep making the payments to yourself! That way, when it comes time to get a new car, you’ve got the money ready to go. (My car was stolen a month ago, but it had been paid off for 5 years. All the money I needed for the down payment was right there waiting to be used. In fact, there was pleanty of money in there to pay off the new car all at once thanks to the gains in the stock market.)

Your statement also demonstrates a major lack of research. Do you realize how cheap it is to borrow money these days? You’re better off financing the car at insanely low interest rates (mine was 0.9% over 5 years) than paying cash up front. At 2% interest (easily obtained today), you’re only paying about $1000 in interest on a $20k loan over 5 years.

All that being said, your decision comes down to the resale value of the car. If the value will drop at a relatively fast rate, trade it now to maximize your return.

DB

May 28th, 2013
9:26 am

Another vote for an independent car repair shop. I’ve had good luck researching with Yelp! and Google reviews. Found several great ones that way in different towns around the country. Also ask friends and neighbors — often “everyone” knows of a great repair guy with a neighborhood clientele.

I liked my 1996 T&C, but omigod, what a POS when it came to repairs! Three transmissions later, I was DONE with that car, and sold it at 220,000 (luckily, my dad owned a transmission shop!) I loved, loved, loved my Toyota Siennas. Unfortunately, both were totaled (two in two years, by rear-end crashes) and I took that as A Sign that my minivan days were over. (Driving a Volvo station wagon now, and love it — yeah, I’m a suburban mom. Deal with it. :-) )

Doors are expensive — with the kids at the ages they are now, I’d be tempted to sell it or trade it in and get a nice used van with less miles. You’re going to be paying for it either way — why not just pay for a newer van?

FCM

May 28th, 2013
9:37 am

Richard is correct.

lakerat

May 28th, 2013
10:20 am

Also, is the KBB “value” of $8000 before or after the repairs? The answer to this should help with your decision.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 28th, 2013
10:26 am

We took it to one independent place first and they said they couldn’t fix it and to take to the dealer. I guess we could look for another body-repair type place that might deal with that.

On the loan for the cash — the difference would be so low I don’t think it would be worth getting a loan — When we bought the car originally we had five years no interest.

Litt

May 28th, 2013
10:47 am

Mmmmm? Auto body shops aren’t going to have the electrical expertise, which is probably your problem.

Replacing electric motors isn’t that big of a deal. I’ve done it many times on many different vehicles.

Sounds like the shop you took it too didn’t want to do it because they wouldn’t be making enough money on it or didn’t have someone who could chase electrical problems.

Techmom

May 28th, 2013
10:57 am

Definitely get another quote or two. Today’s cars are made to go a lot more than 85k miles assuming you do regular maintenance and keep it in good shape. I just sold my 10 year old car with 197k miles on it (and yes, it was foreign and I totally vote for you buying foreign next TWG). We’ve put about $2k into it over the last couple of years but since it’s been paid off for 5 years, that sure as heck beats car payments.

My husband was ready for me to get something else though b/c I put my foot down after his 3rd vehicle since I bought mine that he wasn’t getting another until after I’d gotten a new one. I honestly would have just kept driving the car until the “wheels fell off” since it was paid for and I work from home so don’t travel much in it. I lost that battle though.

catlady

May 28th, 2013
11:17 am

My former husband was great with mechanics, and he passed it along to my son. One time my son lost a gear with the transmission and fixed it with a bobby pin! Another time, while traveling, he fixed a hose problem with duct tape. His dad once repaired a tractor on a hayride with chewing gum! It is wonderful to have mechanically clever family!

I’d suggest getting a few quotes from repair shops your friends recommend. Then, do the cost benefit analysis again. 85,000 seems pretty unused to me.

interesting

May 28th, 2013
11:20 am

After a barrage of complaints about lack of professional pride,
TWG actually writes a couple of paragraphs and doesn’t cut/paste

Squeaky wheel etc. better than bleating sheep

real life

May 28th, 2013
11:38 am

I had constant problems with the window motors in my Toyota Camry when it turned 14. One by one they died. The dealer repaired the first one and when the others started to go I called a friend in another city. He told me to go to a scrap yard and buy the motors from them and then find a body shop that could replace them. Did that and paid less than 1/2 the cost per window than the dealer charged me. (Sold the car later that year and bought a new car but not a Camry.)

But the rule of thumb. When the repairs start approaching the value of the vehicle then it is time to get something else. With the $2000 you have already put in and now a potential $3400 you need to seriously consider if you are getting value for money. If it was me I would start looking at another vehicle. These problems tend to escalate and you do not want to spend more repairing it than the van is worth.
And good question topic today—something many of us can relate to.

Common Sense

May 28th, 2013
11:52 am

Just another reason to not buy into the hype of all the crap automakers put on cars these days. Electric and automatic everything has just made Americans more lazy. There are even people out there who can’t comprehend that automobiles exist that must be shifted manually (my wife ran into one a year ago or so). Bitch and complain about manual windows and manual door locks, but they work nearly forever without complaint. The old sliding door on my parents VW bus also worked like a charm every time (as did the manual windows, manual door locks, and manual transmission.

motherjanegoose

May 28th, 2013
12:23 pm

@Common…I love the convenience of electric windows, doors and automatic transmission.
I do still take a paper map with me. This to the dismay of my family as they use their phones and know I have a Tom Tom. I have personally been out in the middle of NO WHERE when my GPS does not have clue either. NOT fun, especially if my cell phone is not working. We have ATT and I have had dropped calls and no coverage in the weirdest places: last week on 85 south near Spaghetti Junction. What? Paper maps are handy…haha!

jarvis

May 28th, 2013
12:45 pm

I have a very honest and good mechanic. He’s in Marietta, so pretty central to most people in Cobb County.

Star Automotive: (770) 424-6741

Owner’s name is Mark. They are closed on weekends, but I will not take my cars anywhere else.

Techmom

May 28th, 2013
12:48 pm

Love driving a manual transmission car but they are hard to find in the metro area. I don’t sit in traffic but used to so I get it.

Anyone who travels to foreign countries should know how to drive a manual transmission as the US is one of the only places where automatics are “standard”. I taught my son how to drive my car and he took his driver’s test in it. The lady giving him the driving test was quite impressed that he did so well. It was either my smaller car or his dad’s extended crew pickup truck which isn’t exactly easy to parallel park. He has since taught most of his close friends how to drive a stick shift (good thing it was in the old car that got sold so I don’t have to worry about the clutch!)

motherjanegoose

May 28th, 2013
1:01 pm

@ Techom…I know how to drive a standard and can readily do so. I had several from 1982-1999. My son has a standard and I can drive it. I do NOT like to be stuck on the Atlanta interstate, in traffic, with a standard. That is why I do not have one.

My daughter is much better at parallel parking, than me. I tip my hat to her. I have driven over a hundred different cars in all 50 states but am not good at parallel parking!

Denise

May 28th, 2013
1:18 pm

@MJG – I got lost yesterday going from the DFW airport to my “home” (hotel) in FW and my GPS was USELESS because of the construction. I didn’t even know what interstate I was on at a certain point. I’m not sure a paper map would have solved ALL my problems but it would have helped for sure!!

cc

May 28th, 2013
1:36 pm

Trade it in for a Toyota. Sad to say but your Chrysler is not a high mile vehicle. A Toyota will last much longer and the quality is sooo much better! Also, you will have to go with rough book value on your current trade.

FCM

May 28th, 2013
1:56 pm

TWG–I blue booked the car (of course Michael has more knowledge of the actual car than I do) and it appears that the $8K is in perfect condition…You have to consider that those doors being broken are going to lower the value.

$2000 (past repairs) + $3400 (current repairs) is $5400. At $85,000 it may well need more work done going forward…Good condition was just over $6K…..

At that price, if you THINK it will need further repairs not to far down the road you should look at a new car.

I am talking from experience:

I put several thousand into my Windstar a few years back…my MECHANIC (nice guy who often didn’t charge me labor) told me when the transmission went to give it up. He said go get a Nissan, Toyota, or Honda, whichever you get the best load on. He said that at this point there was going to be more $$$ into the van than getting a new one.

FCM

May 28th, 2013
1:56 pm

The windstar was 7 years old and less than 100K miles

K's Mom

May 28th, 2013
1:58 pm

My dad helped me pay for my first car when I was in college and his three conditions were 1) I had to maintain good grades/stay out of trouble 2) had to have a part time job and 3) it had to be a manual transmission. I am soooooooo glad he made me learn. My boys will learn too!

This first car I had was a Honda and it had manual windows and the driver’s side window jumped the track in the down position and it was $250 to repair that, so manual stuff like that breaks too!

FCM

May 28th, 2013
1:58 pm

@ Denise while you are in FW go check out http://www.bjsbrewhouse.com/ The food is amazing and they brew much of the beer onsite…they also make their own root beer which is so yum!

FCM

May 28th, 2013
1:59 pm

@ K’s Mom, my parents added a 4th codition: You must have the insurance deductable in YOUR bank account at all times. They did check from time to time that we had it in our savings.

K's Mom

May 28th, 2013
2:37 pm

@FCM, that too, it was just not in the original outlining of the rules!

Denise

May 28th, 2013
2:40 pm

@FCM – Thanks! I will check it out. I’m feeling my way around FW. I wasn’t thrilled with having to move here but to stay employed, I did what I had to do. I have heard good things about BJ’s and a few other places. I doubt anything will be like ATL for me but I’m going to make the best of it. :-)

My car is a 2003 VW Passat. I put more into it than it was worth a few months ago but I was just not in the mental space to go car shopping. I was in the middle of moving, which was traumatizing in and of itself, and I just did not have the strength to buy a new car. I was struggling mentally and emotionally and the financial benefit for my move had not hit yet. But since I put that $2K in to the car, I should be able to ride it for a lot longer. I won’t need another car for a while and I can settle down and make a good decision on what car to get and when to get it. I wouldn’t make any decision in a chaotic moment, nothing with long-reaching implications anyway. So I may have made a “bad” decision to some but it was the best one for my situation at the time.

Common Sense

May 28th, 2013
3:23 pm

I found probably the only manual transmission Camry in the Atlanta area – and it came originally from a S. Carolina dealership. Bought it new in 2005. Because it was a manual transmission, it was fully assembled in Japan from Japanese parts and has NEVER been impacted by any of the recalls that plagued american-made Toyotas in recent years. Fortunately my drive has changed and I no longer sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If so, I would go automatic. My point previously is that with every convenience and every bell and whistle comes a tradeoff and yet another thing to break. Even my Camry came standard with power windows and door locks despite the manual transmission. Someday they will fail and it will happen far sooner than a manual alternative would have. Power opening and closing doors on a van just seem like a problem waiting to happen.

FCM

May 28th, 2013
3:36 pm

@ Denise, I admit it is the company my brother works for (not in the Dallas/FT Worth area)….but I honestly wish they would put one in Atlanta. The food was very good the 4-5 times the family has had it, and many times it is not with my brother there.

There is a really good upscale Mex place that does cream brulee to die for too. And an awesome pizza joint in Arlington. However the pizza place is often over run with college kids. :)

I have cousins and an Aunt in the Arlington area. Business associates in Dallas/Ft Worth.

motherjanegoose

May 28th, 2013
3:48 pm

@ Denise…I have been lost several times at DFW and trying to head out. Not sure if it has something to do with that airport or what. Hope you can get used to TX. I love it there but am pretty sure we will not be moving back anytime soon!
@ CommonSense…I absolutely agree with your point about things breaking!

cobbmom

May 28th, 2013
3:52 pm

After being the innocent party in two car accidents in 6 months (one totaled my car) my husband researched SUVs and bought me one without my knowledge or input. I knew nothing about it until he drove me to the dealership to pick it up. Nearly 8 years and over 200,000 miles later my Lexus SUV has never had anything except tires and oil changes. I would have never chosen the vehicle but my husband said the safety features, at the time, were not available on most other vehicles. I plan on driving the car at least another 5 years and hopefully replace it with another one. I’ve had numerous vehicles in my lifetime because I’m old but I’ve never owned one that was as reliable as this one.

Careful what you wish for, Denise...

May 28th, 2013
4:19 pm

…” I have heard good things about BJ’s and a few other places”…

Uh, cobbmom...

May 28th, 2013
4:22 pm

…with what you had to pay for that Lexus I would certainly hope it would last a “lifetime”…my sister has a Lexus 400 and has about the same time and mileage as you, and she still adores it, too…

motherjanegoose

May 28th, 2013
5:46 pm

@cobbmom…lucky you! My husband has never bought me a car. I have bought several for myself. I am certain your car is amazing. Out of my price range thought. Enjoy!

flwrgrl

May 28th, 2013
7:06 pm

Have you tried just googling the problem to see if it may be a known issue with that model, or if it could be something as simple as a fuse problem? I have found simple solutions to problems with both my car (Acura) and my husband’s truck (Nissan) that were reported on owner’s websites that the dealers did not even know about. My a/c issue turned out to be a fuse problem common to my model car when it approached 75,000 miles, cost $10 for my husband to buy fuse and replace. Dealership wanted to put new A/C system in. Several years ago my husband’s truck kept dying in traffic after getting hot when it had about 75,000 miles on it. He had it towed twice, dealership plugged it up to the machines after it had cooled off and said they couldn’t find anything wrong. I googled the issue “XX model Nissan going dead in traffic, dealership can’t find problem.” and turned up many other owners with the same issue, and turned out to be another simple fix.

SJ

May 28th, 2013
8:42 pm

@MJG I would be interested in the name of your reliable Norcross shop. My car needs some repairs, and I don’t have a trusted shop of my own. Thsnks!

FCM

May 29th, 2013
7:22 am

TWG I did a google search. There are 2 You Tubes on how to fix the 2007 T & C sliding door actuator. You may not think you (or Michael) is all that handy with tools on car. However, as many a single parent (or broke college student) can attest, you can probably do more than you think.

I have read many a Chilton to fix something on a car…I would think the You Tube would be easier than the Chilton. If that doesn’t work you do have college students near by…one of them may be able to fix it for you for much less than the dealer.