This job was much easier than I expected. The procedure should work with all Chrysler Gen 3 minivans with the 3.8 liter engine and I think it works for the 3.3 liter engine also.
SAFETY WARNING - There is always the danger of being crushed by a vehicle falling or rolling from jacks or ramps. For your safety, use good ramps and drive carefully onto them. Put the transmission in PARK and block the rear wheels. If you raise the car with a jack, put the transmission in PARK and block the rear wheels. Use Jack Stands in addition to the jack.
There seems to be a problem on these vehicles with the serpentine belts jumping off. It seems to be worse when water splashes up on the pulleys. As the tensioners wear and lose strength, the problem is even worse. This photo set shows that the old tensioner pulley was out of alignment with the rest of the belt, and the new tensioner holds its pulley in alignment.
The angle of view is a little different in these two photos, but the old tensioner pulley was definitely out of alignment with the other pulleys, and from experience I know that it had gotten weaker. The new pulley is in nice alignment, and is actually hidden under the belt in the new photo.
I put this job off for more than a year because I thought it would be very difficult. I've tried getting to the tensioner retaining nut from the top of the engine, but that requires the removal of the alternator and its bracket. I gave up on that and had a mechanic make the swap. Afterwards he told me that he replaced them from below the engine with the car on a lift. (I had tried that too but quit in frustration when I took the wrong nut off - I couldn't find the one for the tensioner.)
I bought new ramps just for this job and found that it is easy to reach the nut and, using the combination of 15mm socket, U-joint, and a couple of extensions with a rachet handle shown in the photo, the nut was easy to remove.
Drive the front wheels onto the ramps (or use jacks and jack stands) and block the rear wheels.
Loosen the belt tension as shown here: Loosen Serpentine Belt Tension.
Review these photos and then crawl under the car with you socket wrench setup.
These photos show the back of the engine from underneath the car. They will give you an idea how to reach the nut.
This should give you some idea how difficult it is to locate and reach the nut that holds the tensioner to the bracket on the pulley side of the engine. The big arrow points to the general area of the nut. The small arrow indicates a section of tubing for reference in the next photos.
The nut is in view here. Again the big arrow points to the nut and the small arrow to the tubing.
The view with the 15mm socket wrench on the nut with extensions and U-joint. The arrow points to the socket.
It was also easy to hold the new tensioner in place from underneath the engine with my left hand while starting the nut with my right. I then used the socket wrench combination to tighten the nut, and the job was done!
I replaced the tensioner because the old one was worn and weak. The new tensioner came with the Gates double-sided belt system that has a grooved pulley for the tensioner and a grooved idler pulley. The double-sided belt was stiff and just barely long enough to reach around all the pulleys. I had to use various techniques to get the tensioner all the way to its stop before I could push the belt over the idler pulley. The grooves on the belt and pulley made it a little more difficult than slipping a slick belt over a slick pulley.
I looked at Amazon's listings on 2-13-13 and found these part numbers and prices: Gates 38379K Enhancement Component Kit - $101.27 (List Price: $207.99) This includes the tensioner w/pulley, idler pulley, and the belt grooved on both sides. I checked that it fits the 1999 Town & Country with 3.8 liter engine. It should be the same for all Generation III Chrysler minivans with 3.3 or 3.8 liter engines. I ordered a spare belt: Gates DK060956 Dual Sided Micro-V Belt - $50.79 ($84.99 list). The grooved pulley is also available separately: Gates 38009 Belt Drive Pulley $14.55 (list $24.99). Always double-check the suitability for your vehicle before purchasing.
NOTE: The Dorman shield shouldn't be installed on both the tensioner pulley and the idler pulley because then you couldn't get the belt on. (Although you might manage by installing the idler pulley with the slack belt already on it.) So use the shield on the tensioner pulley only. I installed the shield on the tensioner pulley one evening. The next day there was a lot of dew and the belt jumped off as I started the engine. (Didn't jump off after that and I finally installed the Gates double-sided belt.) Why did it jump off that morning? I believe the tensioner spring had gotten weak and also had some slop in its pivot so its pulley was out of alignment and the belt wasn't tight enough. That let the starting pulse on the belt produce slack over the idler pulley and the belt jumped off. That's only a guess.
This short video clip shows the components of the Gates two-sided belt and grooved pulleys.
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