Dodge Caravan

How do you remove the spare tire from a 2003 dodge caravan when it is stuck for some reason in the hole that the plastic tire holder goes up into The cable comes down but the tire stays stuck up in?

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2007-08-12 00:03:20

The design of the spare tire winch has been the same from 1996

up to now, perhaps excepting Stow&Go minivans. It works as

follows. The nylon "stem" of the wheel holder has a collar that

gets caught by a spring latch inside the square tube protruding

downward. This is the tube which the cable comes out from. The

latch itself is a stamped piece of metal with two "claws" that

extend into the tube through the slots on its rear-facing side.

That piece is attached to the tube by means of a flat spring, whose

one end is riveted to the latch and the other one to the tube, some

3" upward. To operate the latch, there is a rod which pulls it away

from the tube (the claws have tabs on their ends so they cannot

come out completely). The other end of the rod is hooked to a

looped flat spring. The spring is shaped like a hose clamp with two

long straight "ears", and the round portion is pressed onto the

bottom end of the winch's main shaft. So, as you begin to unwind

the cable, the clamp/spring should turn together with the shaft and

pull on the rod, thus releasing the latch. And this must happen

before the weight of the wheel transfers to the latch throgh the

plastic holder (which would occur if the latch fails to move on the

first few turns of the shaft). Apparently, when the latch claws get

stuck in their slots due to dirt or rust, the shaft just slips

inside the spring. It could be a fail-safe feature to prevent the

parts from breaking, but it also easily prevents the latch from

releasing. Recently (as of this writing), I inspected the winch on

my minivan and the wheel was found to be stuck. The previous

inspection was two years ago. Back then, the latch did work and I

sprayed it with silicone grease. A stuck latch should be easy to

release if you lie down on your back and support the weight of the

wheel by pushing it up. If you can hold the wheel close to the

floor pan, there's enough room to reach the latch with a finger,

through the center hole of the wheel. If it's too difficult to hold

the wheel up, you can insert a long screwdriver through one of the

holes in the wheel and unhook the latch with it. It still helps to

at least partially support the wheel so its full weight is not

resting on the latch. This time around, I cleaned the mechanism

with WD-40 and then brush-painted the claws and their slots with

anti-seize, and also applied it between the flat spring and the

square tube, to make sure nothing holds it there. Do not lubricate

the spring itself, and the machined neck on the shaft where it is

clamped on. Now I believe that the winch has to be inspected and

serviced at least annually. Don't forget to pump up the spare tire

at the same time. Hope this helps.


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