Over the weekend, David Tracy, myself and my fiancée attempted to embark on a wrenchfest for the record books. Admittedly, we only managed to fix one Jeep because we found ourselves doing other stuff like hooning a Valiant and visiting a junkyard to look at a fire engine. While peering into the trunks of dead American iron, I got to thinking which car had the strangest place to position a spare tire. One van stands out as having odd spare placement for me: the Dodge Caravan.
Last fall, I bought a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan as a rally car that we can sleep in. It was one of the only running and driving vehicles for under $1,000 in my area, and its body was almost more construction foam, chicken wire and rust than actual steel.
Its tires were also complete garbage, which had me thinking about having a spare at the ready. Like anyone else would, I popped open the little hatch in the back of the Caravan’s floor searching for the spare. But there was a problem.
Since the Caravan and its Town & Country sibling had the sweet Stow ‘n Go seating, storage and skid plate system, the spare tire had to go somewhere other than where you’d expect.
(OK, the Stow n’ Go bins aren’t skid plates, but I sure used them like they were.)
Anyway, the spare tire was under the car, but not in the rear, as there were bins back there. Instead, Chrysler shoved the spare directly under the dashboard, suspended by a hoist. Check out the process of getting the tire down from BrandlMotors.
Normally, a car’s spare tire kit — if the car is even equipped with a spare — consists of a donut or full-size wheel, a dangerous jack, and a wrench. It’s a simple piece of kit and common enough that you could rob the bits from a car in a junkyard if you needed to.
But the Caravan? It was like a pickup where it had extra pieces to operate the hoist holding the spare tire up. You first assembled the hoist’s wrench, popped off a cap between the seats, stuck the wrench onto the fitting, then made about two dozen rotations.
If this were a pickup, you just removed the wheel from the hoist and went about mounting it. But Chrysler’s minivans? You now had to use a plastic hook attached to that flimsy hoist wrench to drag the wheel from its place deep under the van.
That’s why you have to turn the wrench so many times. You have to have a long line of cable to extract the wheel.
If you happened to blow a tire off-road or in the snow, chances are you aren’t getting that wheel out of there without a fight.
To prevent that, I extracted the spare wheel while the van had four inflated tires then threw it in the back, which defeated the purpose.
To date, I haven’t seen a weirder spare wheel placement on a car. I can’t imagine a mom with a van full of kids doing all of this on the side of a busy highway. Perhaps that’s why the Pacifica places its spare conveniently in the trunk, not underneath the van. Yet, at the same time I’m sort of impressed that this is what Chrysler came up with.