Emily Chung: Mummy Mechanic


How The Dodge Grand Caravan Fits Into My Busy Life

Mechanic, Child Car Seat Technician, and Mom

2013 Dodge Grand Caravan

When our clients bring in their Dodge Grand Caravan, I usually only have it for a 2km test drive.

When I got my hands on the new 2013 Grand Caravan to test drive, I put on almost 1,000kms in just under one week.

This minivan is full of family-friendly features and proudly claims to be the industry’s most versatile passenger and cargo vehicle. From our experience at the shop, Dodge Caravan clients range from young families and retirees to contractors and executives. But the big question is: would the minivan be versatile enough for me and my lifestyle?

Dodge Caravan

As a Mechanic

I'm interested in how easy a car will be for our clients to do some basic maintenance. I'm also curious about the mechanical aspect of the vehicle. 

The Caravan drove as I expected, given the award-winning engine: the 3.6L Pentastar VVT V6 was chosen by Ward’s Automotive one of the ’10 Best Engines.’ The minivan shifted smoothly and its pickup was responsive whenever I had to merge quickly with traffic. When you activate the fuel economizer button, the computer will manage your vehicle’s systems to anticipate what you need and provide you with the best fuel economy. The van takes regular unleaded gas and we got over 640kms per fill up.

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to get used to the size of this minivan, but thankfully, its windows are large and the blindspot areas are minimal. The 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan offers a 5-year/100,000-kilometre powertrain limited warranty.

Dodge Grand Caravan Steering Wheel

When it comes to driver customization, this van delivers. I personally like to sit as far back as possible from the dash and steering wheel as I can. I don’t want any chance of having the air bag deploy so close to me. I specifically look for the ability to tilt and telescope the steering column in every car I road test. This minivan has both features and — wait for it — pedal adjustment! This is fantastic! Since I’m shorter than my husband, I like the pedals up higher than he does. Traditionally, that would mean I’d be sitting closer to the steering wheel so my legs can reach. Not any more with the Grand Caravan.

Dodge Caravan Pedal Adjustment

Under the hood, the basic maintenance items were clearly laid out. The battery is up top and the Caravan has clear reservoirs, making it easier for you to check fluid levels.

Dodge Caravan Engine Under Hood

A great bonus is that the owner’s manual is in full colour with lots of pictures and diagrams to explain the features and how-to's of the minivan.

Dodge Grand Caravan Owners Manual Dash

Dodge Caravan Owners Manual

Just a note: if you’re used to the spare tire being in the trunk, surprise! In order to accommodate the Caravan's sunken trunk area, they relocated the spare tire underneath the vehicle at the centre console between the driver and passenger.

Dodge Caravan sunken trunk

As a Child Car Seat Technician

Did you know that approximately 80% of child car seats are improperly installed? I look for ease of installation and child-car-seat-friendliness in all cars I road test, as well as key features to keep our kids safe.

Installing a child car seat in the minivan was easy. There’s so much room that installing a rear-facing car seat behind the front passenger seat won’t compromise the seating position of the front passenger. The anchors are clearly visible, though you may need to use a pool noodle to get the correct angle for a rear-facing child car seat. In the case of forward-facing child seats, there are three rear tether anchors in the Grand Caravan, which is great for carpooling kids...or if you want to have triplets!

Dodge Booster Seat

The conversation mirror in the top centre overhead panel is a bonus because you can see your passengers in the back. It was much easier to talk to my kids and make eye contact with them using the mirror. We’ve had some cars come into our repair shop with mirror adapters on visors and suction-cupped to the windshield which is not safe as they become flying objects in a collision.

Dodge Caravan Conversation Mirror

As a mom

My husband and I have two boys, ages 5 and 7. Between taking care of my marriage, remembering which day is our kids' library, gym and/or pizza day, sorting light and dark clothes for laundry, finding time to pray daily, and managing my auto repair business, things can get busy!

I was immediately impressed by the cargo room and the Stow 'n Go system. The second row seats quickly fold down with one hand and the third row seats fold into the sunken trunk so that the entire rear of the minivan transformed into pure cargo room.

Dodge Caravan Cargo Space

I’m thinking: no wonder parents love these when it’s time to move their kids to the dorm!

Dodge Grand Caravan Super Stow N Go

Dodge Caravan Interior Cargo

The minivan had a lot of storage compartments, both in the centre console and on the inside door panel. It even had a ‘slot’ that I used for my umbrella—no more leaving that in the trunk and climbing through to get it when it rains! Yes, I do silly things like that.

Dodge Caravan Umbrella Holder

The rear liftgate was powered...OK, that is becoming more common on vehicles today. BUT, the Grand Caravan's liftgate ‘close’ button is in a considerate place — on the side of the rear pillar so that it’s at my chest level. In other vehicles, the liftgate ‘close’ button is commonly located on the bottom of the liftgate itself and I'd have to stand on my toes to access the button since the liftgate is up in the air. Good job, Dodge!

Dodge Caravan Liftgate Button

In addition to vented windows in the rear, the sliding doors feature power windows that move up and down just like the driver and front passenger windows. We got lots of fresh air in the minivan!

I’m guilty of overloading my trunk and I’ve had to push the door down to get it to close properly. Correction: I’ve had to slam, release and slam the door again to get it shut. The van has a ‘load to this line’ guide at the trunk so there’s no guessing. Load to that line and the liftgate won’t have a problem closing shut.

Dodge Caravan Trunk

You can only imagine how excited my kids were to watch their favourite cartoon on the built-in Dual Blu-Ray players. Also, there are power outlets galore in the Caravan. Aside from the usual ports for charging cell phones and other accessories, there is an HDMI input for video game systems.

Dodge Caravan DVD

Dodge Caravan Power Outlet

Overall this minivan held up to its reputation — versatile, family-friendly, and safe. The 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan starts at $27,995 CAD. 

Back to school chaos, car pool etiquette, what to love about minivans...
Find these stories and more on YMC's ‘Tales From the Minivan’ page.