Recall Alert: 2009 Volkswagen Routan

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Vehicles Affected: Nearly 19,000 model-year 2009 Volkswagen Routan minivans

The Problem: Road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition switch to move out of the Run position, turning off the engine. If the key inadvertently moves into the Off or Accessory position, the engine will shut down, causing a power loss to key safety systems such as airbags, power steering and power brakes, and increasing the risk of a crash.

The Fix: Volkswagen will begin notifying owners this month, and dealers will modify the ignition switch for free.

What Owners Should Do: The automaker advises owners to remove all items from their key rings, including the key fob, leaving only the ignition key, until the recall is complete. For more info, owners can call Volkswagen at 800-822-8987, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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By Matt Schmitz | August 8, 2014 | Comments (0)

Recall Alert: 2014 Toyota Sienna

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Vehicles Affected: More than 260 model-year 2014 Toyota Sienna minivans manufactured between June 17 and 24, 2014

The Problem: The protective cable sleeve of the shift control cable may have been damaged during assembly; this could cause the control cable to bind or separate during gear shift operation, causing incorrect gear selection. If separation occurs while the vehicle is being driven, the transmission gear selection may not match the indicated gear, and the vehicle may move in an unintended or unexpected direction, increasing the risk of a crash. In addition, when the driver goes to park the vehicle, despite selecting the Park position, the transmission may not be in Park, and the vehicle could roll away, injuring exiting occupants or bystanders.

The Fix: Toyota will begin notifying owners early this month, and dealers will inspect and replace the transmission shift control cable for free.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Toyota at 800-331-4331, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov for more info.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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By Matt Schmitz | August 6, 2014 | Comments (0)

Toyota Releases Details on Updated 2015 Sienna

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Toyota says the Sienna boasts a number of updates for 2015, including a more upscale interior and improved handling thanks to new suspension tuning. We'll see if that's enough for the minivan to get its swagger back, as sales are flat through the first six months of 2014 in a segment that's up 6.9 percent.

Related: 2014 Toyota Sienna: Car Seat Check

Toyota redesigned the Sienna's grille, and the headlights now incorporate available LED daytime running lamps, but the overall look is similar to the minivan's 2011-14 model years. The automaker promises more soft-touch materials inside — a good thing, as the current generation's middling cabin helped earn it a last-place finish during our 2011 minivan comparison. The updated Sienna gets Toyota's Driver Easy Speak system, which is also available in the automaker's redesigned Highlander SUV. It amplifies the driver's voice through a microphone up front to the third-row speakers so parents don't have to shout to anyone in the peanut gallery.

By Kelsey Mays | July 17, 2014 | Comments (11)

Recall Alert: 2009-10 Dodge Journey, 2008-2010 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country

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Vehicles Affected: Approximately 438,000 model-year 2009-10 Dodge Journey crossovers manufactured between June 29, 2007, and June 17, 2010, as well as model-year 2008-10 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans manufactured between Jan. 26, 2007, and June 17, 2010

The Problem: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reporting that a road condition that could jar the vehicle may cause the ignition switch to move out of the Run position, turning off the engine and disabling safety systems like airbags, power steering and power braking. This is an expansion of a previous recall, and Chrysler said the issue has been linked to two rear-end collisions.

The Fix: Dealers will inspect and replace the ignition switch for free. NHTSA is cautioning owners to remove all items from their key rings, leaving only the ignition key.

What Owners Should Do: Chrysler has not yet announced an owner notification schedule. Owners can call Chrysler at 800-853-1403 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 888-327-4236 for more information.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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By Jennifer Geiger | July 1, 2014 | Comments (1)

Minivan Stigma is Alive and Well

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There is a condition that exists in American suburbs, coast to coast. It is an irrational aversion to that most practical of family vehicles, the minivan.

In the first quarter of 2014, car shoppers voting with their wallets have chosen three-row crossovers over the minivan nearly two to one. Compared with the same time period a decade ago, minivan sales have declined more than 50 percent. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recently announced the Dodge Grand Caravan's days are numbered. The automaker plans to shed the Grand Caravan but keep its other minivan, the Chrysler Town & Country. It also plans to replace the Town & Country in mid-2016 with a new minivan as well as a hybrid version.

Read More #FamilyCarAdvice

If those numbers aren't concrete enough, we have minivan-stigma sufferers on our own staff, including our Chief Mom (and mother of three) Kristin Varela.

Below, she and managing editor (and father of two) David Thomas try to get to the heart of this decline.

By Kristin Varela | May 30, 2014 | Comments (7)

Family Safe After Deer Falls on Minivan

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At last count, Hawaii ranked among all U.S. states as the place where a motorist is least likely to hit a deer, with annual odds of 1-in-6,787. That in mind, the odds of what happened to a suburban Chicago woman and her family must be incalculably astronomical: A deer actually fell from above onto the minivan in which she and her four children, ages 5 to 13, were traveling, crashed through the windshield and came to rest near the middle of the vehicle's cabin.

Odds of Vehicle-Deer Collisions Dip

According to the Daily Herald newspaper, 37-year-old West Dundee, Ill., resident Heidi Conner was driving about 70 mph Sunday afternoon on a toll road near Hoffman Estates, Ill., when a 200- to 300-pound doe jumped from a highway overpass and became a dangerous, uninvited passenger. Conner was able to pull the vehicle over safely with the animal's mangled body lying between her and the passenger seat. The minivan — a 2004 Chevrolet Venture, last produced in the U.S. for the 2005 model year — was destroyed, but she and her 13-year-old son suffered only minor injuries, the newspaper reported.

As Cars.com reported in October, State Farm estimated that 1.22 million deer-related crashes occurred between July 2012 and July 2013, a 3.5 percent dip compared with the previous year. Still, deer-related crashes have increased in frequency by 2 percent during the past five years. Meanwhile, the average property-damage cost of car-versus-deer crashes during the last half of 2012 and the first half of 2013 was $3,414, a 3.3 percent spike from a year earlier.

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By Matt Schmitz | May 28, 2014 | Comments (3)

Recall Alert: 2004-2011 Toyota Sienna

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Vehicles Affected: Approximately 370,000 model-year 2004-2011 Sienna minivans originally sold in or registered in cold-climate states

The Problem: The spare tire carrier's splash protector could shift or fall off the vehicle allowing corrosive road elements, like salt, to corrode the cable that holds the tire into place. If this happens, the tire could come off the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash. This is an expansion of a previous recall.

The Fix: Dealers will install a splash protector and apply an anti-rust agent to reduce the effects of corrosion for free.

What Owners Should Do: Toyota has not yet provided an owner notification schedule; owners can call Toyota at 800-331-4331 for more information. 

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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By Jennifer Geiger | May 22, 2014 | Comments (0)

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon: First Drive

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New cars are expensive these days, there's just no getting around it. If you have a family to feed and a budget to keep, affording a new people mover to cart around your brood can be increasingly difficult. Ford thinks it has an interesting option for buyers who need the space and functionality of a minivan, but can't afford minivan prices.

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon: First Look

The new 2014 Transit Connect Wagon is the second generation of Ford's front-wheel-drive compact commercial van. Unlike the previous generation, Ford is trying a new tack with this version. While a cargo van version caters to the commercial market for delivery duty or small business use, the passenger-carrying wagon version will be marketed to retail customers as an alternative, less-expensive, fewer-frills "unminivan." How is this going to work?

By Aaron Bragman | May 16, 2014 | Comments (7)

Recall Alert: 2010-2014 Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Grand Caravan

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Vehicles Affected: About 644,850 model-year 2010-2014 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans manufactured between Aug. 25, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2013

The Problem: The vehicles' vent window switch in the driver's door armrest may overheat, possibly resulting in a fire.

The Fix: Chrysler will notify owners starting in June, and dealers will replace the vent window switch with a newer version for free.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Chrysler at 800-853-1403 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236, or visit www.safercar.gov, for more info.

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By Matt Schmitz | May 12, 2014 | Comments (0)

New Baby Sometimes Means New Car

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Sometimes babies are planned, sometimes they aren't. In my case, it's a little of both as I went from expecting one to expecting two children this summer.

With twins on the way, my family has entered extreme planning mode. Aside from getting double of everything ready around the house, my current family of three has to figure out how five of us are going to fit in a car this July.

More Family News

Big changes mean big challenges. The biggest automotive challenge is fitting three (or more!) child safety seats in a single vehicle, a feat not very many cars can do well. Check out our tips below for getting your car ready for that extra baby.

By Jennifer Geiger | May 12, 2014 | Comments (0)

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