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Dodge/Plymouth Neon

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  • Now that I think about it, the puddles under the car were clear and quite cool and only occured after the two times I used the AC. It must have been condensation and that makes me feel better. The code 32, however, has returned and I'm taking it in soon. Anyone know a decent mechanic in the DC area who won't rip me off?
  • buoyantbuoyant Posts: 128
    Actually, the people testing and writing articles about cars for CR are indeed engineers. If you doubt me, check their creds. It's easy to verify this if you read the articles carefully too. There's never any flowery prose or humorous metaphors like you'll find in a true automobile magazine, and mass appeal (read: BLANDNESS) is actually considered a virtue by Consumer Reports.

    And you might be interested to know that it is widely believed that the Ultradrive unit in my 1991 New Yorker with 175K on the odometer is completely original. I had it inspected before I purchased it and once by the guys at Aamco (it still operates with the fine precision of an Armitron watch) and the consensus is that it's not a rebuild. I'm thinking of contacting Chrysler to see if they're interested in placing it in a museum. Just think, I could be driving the longest-lasting Ultradrive on the planet.

    On a different note...

    Good luck finding a decent, honest mechanic in DC, Zapatista. And if you do, constantly shower him with gifts and praise so that you may never lose him. I have been living in the Twin Cities area all my life, and I've never found a truly competent mechanic or a shop I can really say I've trusted.

    So before you decide to fix your car, consider the complexity of the problem, its effect on the life of the vehicle and how much it bothers you personally. If it's anything more complicated than a brake job, alternator replacement or muffler installation and you don't believe it will adversely affect the life of a major mechanical component if it's not attended to, consider living with it. Warning lights can be covered with opaque adhesive tape and strange sounds can easily be masked by a stronger amplifier and more powerful speakers. There are usually other options than repair.

    After giving it some serious thought, if you still decide to fix the car at this point, do some research and try to find the shop most likely to be able to actually fix the problem you're having. For example, while places like Car-X may have the best deals on the "easy fixes", anything more complicated than a wiper-blade replacement can easily baffle their crack team of experts and end up costing you more money in the long run (not to mention the loss of your time). A shop that spends half its time advertising low prices is NOT the place to take your car if you actually need a problem troubleshooted (or is it troubleshot?). So save the $10 off coupon at Precision Tune for the next time you really know you need new spark plugs.

    Try to get a referral from a friend who has lived in the area for a while and if no one is of help there, pull out the phone book and pray for the best. I will give you this piece of advice in the event the inevitable happens though. Document EVERYTHING!

    It may not be in your power to keep auto repairs from being a major headache in your life, but you can make sure you avoid letting them become financial nightmares.

    Before you go in the shop, take out a clean sheet of paper and write down the problem you're having in the finest detail possible (e.g., if it only happens after the car has been driven at freeway speeds for 6 hours or if the moon is in its final phase, WRITE THAT DOWN). Then make two copies (one for your records, one for the shop). I know it seems completely anal, but you'll be happy you did this after you fork over $200, leave the shop and find the problem re-occurring 3 miles down the road. I speak from experience.

    ALWAYS make sure you charge ALL automobile repairs (to your credit, not your debit card). This way, when you find out your car has not been fixed properly (which happens 90% of the time if you wear a size 12 sneaker, drive a big Chrysler and think Depeche Mode still rocks), you have some means of recourse.

    At this time, you can go back to the shop and try to have them resolve the problem. And if they tell you to piss off, write them a letter and produce 3 copies (one for you, one for the credit company and one for the shop). State in it - explicitly - that you are disputing the charge as the services you requested from the shop (and for which you were charged) were never received. Send the letters certified mail.

    Why do this? Because if you pay with cash or write a check, you'll have to take the shop to small claims court if you ever want the problem resolved. When you pay with a credit card, you can dispute the charge and the card issuer will act as a mediator between you and the shop. And until the dispute is resolved, your card company can't charge you interest (so it won't drag-[non-permissible content removed] on the issue).

    About a year ago, I took my car into a less-than-honest shop in Burnsville because it was making an annoying clunk (still is BTW). I wrote the problem out explicitly when I took it in (detailing exactly when it made the sound - even noting that it tended to happen only on hot days when the car had been driven for a long duration). I ONLY authorized repairs that would fix the clunk (i.e., no new muffler, stereo speakers, air conditioner recharge, window tint, etc.). Unfortunately, you have to do this with some shops because it's much easier and more profitable for them to sell you $60 alignments than it is to troubleshoot actual mechanical problems.

    My ordeal began with the "mechanic" (this was an actual repair shop too, not some high-volume franchise muffler shop) replacing a couple suspension bushings and ended with him putting in four new struts (I should mention that the old ones were only a couple years old and were of much better quality) and aligning the car. The total bill for NOT fixing the clunk came to $548 (a staggering sum that I probably will never forget and that almost made me faint when I first heard it).

    And of course, predictably, this same shop that was so interested in fixing my car one week prior wanted nothing to do with me when they realized they had no idea how to actually fix the car. When I told them it was still making the same noise as when I first brought it in, they basically told me "TS". Their work was done, so to speak.

    Well, four months and several well-documented letters later, they apparently waved the white flag. I'm not sure if they ever answered my card issuer's letters (they avoided contact with me like the plague), but Citibank did a charge-back to the repair shop and cleared my account. Buoyant 1, Dishonest Repair Shop 0.

    So...long story short, finding an honest AND competent shop is not always possible. Just use your best judgment and be sure to cover your butt at all times.

    Ideally, your problem will get fixed and you'll go along your merry way. If your luck is anything like mine when dealing with the auto repair industry though, well...I just hope you keep good records and like to argue.

    A side note: my car still makes the clunking noise (I've learned to accept and live with it by properly adjusting the volume on the brilliant-sounding Infinity sound system), b
  • I work in Bethesda with people spread out from Pennsylvania to Fredericksburg. Where in the DC area are you looking? A friend's uncle has a shop in Rockville if that's good for you. If not, where? PG, Fairfax, DC (NW, SE, SW, NE), Loudon? I have a friend with a garage in Leesburg (The Tire Shop) that should treat you right.
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    on the Ultradrive. Sounds like like got a winner.
    I do believe C/R people are engineers....and elitists.I really think they have encouraged people to investigate products to the point of paranoia.And I am not saying I'm immune to it. Just take it with a pound of salt. Dave
  • 71Charger-
    I live and work on the Hill. I'm willing to take it anywhere that I can get back home on the Metro while they work on it. The code it's giving me is a 32--EGR System Failure. Some folks on the neons.org board have had the same problem and it seems to be a minor issue that sometimes just goes away (a la Buoyant's approach to auto mechanics) and other times is remedied for a maximum of $200 for a new sensor and labor, or something like that. Some even have decided to block off the EGR system entirely. If you have any suggestions of Metro-accessible shops that are trustworthy, I'd greatly appreciate it.

    Buoyant--Sounds like you and I live by the fate meted out to us by Murphy's law. I blame my Irish grandmother.
  • buoyantbuoyant Posts: 128
    I'd blame mine too, but since she's no longer with us I'll just blame it on the German one. Damn Germans.

    Out of curiousity, is the light coming on red or amber in color? Amber warning lights can usually be ignored (particularly if they come on intermittently) whereas the red ones signal impending doom.

    Personally, I would ignore any orange light signaling a malfunction in the emissions system.

    But if the light REALLY bothers you, invest $3 in an allen wrench, pop off the gauge cover and pull the thing out completely. This way you'll have that fresh finished look (no tape) and then you can take the $197 you saved and blow it on a new 20" Color TV, 120 Steak Chalupas or perhaps a ceramic kitty-cat if you're into that kind of thing.
  • Reed Brothers Dodge on the pike in Rockville, MD has always treated me well (except their body shop manager, but that's not where your problem is). It's a dealer and you'll pay premium prices but they are literally right next to the Shady Grove station on the Red Line. Carmax is right across the the Metro driveway from them. It's as far out as you can get on the Metro but I've never known them to do unnecessary work. I'll ask around at work when I can. These are pretty hectic days and I've been open-endedly (is that a word?) transferred to second shift. I'll see if I can get any other recommendations for you.
  • snowmansnowman Posts: 540
    Indeed We have very good experience with them. Their mechanics are very good.
  • I could blow it in a big way at dollar Bud night at any number of establishments around my office. That reminds me of a funny story about my boss, but back to the car...

    Thanks for the Reed Brothers advice. It's an amber light that comes and goes and I might give it a few more days to see if it goes away again. If not, I think I'll take it up to Rockville and maybe play some pinball at Jillian's at White Flint on the way back (why is it that there are no dart boards or pinball machines in this entire city? The things I miss about Minnesota......)
    Thanks again for the help.

    Open-endedly sounds like a discription of our newest made-for-TV war, "Operation Infinite Justice."
  • Before you spend any money on fixing an amber light it might be an intermittent problem in a wiring connection. At least eyeball your ground connections and make sure they look good. Pull apart and reconnect as many connectors as you can. There may be a small bit of corrosion in there somewhere. As the temperature of the wires rise so does the resistance. At a certain temp point you may be getting to where there is insufficient current flow through a connector giving a false fault reading. Saved me some money doing this when the temp gauge suddenly started going nuts in my Lancer.
  • You know, after going away, the light has come on again twice during pretty long trips, so maybe that's it. I hate to say it, but I have no idea where my ground connections are, where to look for them or what they look like. Is there a resource online--maybe a pictoral tutorial somewhere?
  • Look for where black wires are connected to the sheetmetal with, appropriately enough, sheetmetal screws. Usually on the back side of the radiator support, inner fenders, firewall and such. See if any look corroded. Or just take all you can find apart, scrape any crud (hate to load you down with this technical jargon) off the eyelets and where they attach and screw it back together. There are probably small ground straps on your motor mounts to maintain electrical continuity from the engine to the rest of the car as the engine is suspended in rubber bushings. These grounds are usually bare braided steel with a clip on each end that is just pushed on. Give those (if you can find them) a wiggle so the steel can bite through any surface rust. As for the rest, as I said, just pull connectors apart and put them back together. Just make sure you check for any tabs that have to be pushed in/pulled out to release them before you just yank on them. Broken wiring connectors are a major pain. You probably don't want to disconnect the grounds from the battery as that will kill your clock and radio presets.
  • Thanks for the detailed how-to. I'll give it a shot when it stops raining and report back.
  • Since this is my first post, I'll just stick to what I know. As the title shows, I own a 2001 Neon ES. 5 speed, of course. Doubt i could have made it with a 3-speed auto. Just over 8000 miles since I bought it on May 23.
    Anyway, Three problems I've had....One of which I've solved myself. 1. Bolt-on wheel covers make an annoying clicking/rubbing noise when the car is in motion. I believe the wheel covers rub against the wheel itself or the tire. Tightening didn't help in my situation. I solved this with a set of $40 wheel covers from Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart.... 2. Either the clutch slips or the engine hesitates every now and then. I was very suprised when my dealer couldn't duplicate the problem. I'm suprised they're able to muddle their way through oil changes. I've more or less decided to live with the problem until it does it frequently enough for me to demonstrate it to them myself. I know that if I tried it now, The car would refuse to play along. They seem to be tempermental like that. 3. It seems to like to attempt to stall or, on two occasions, to actually stall. The conditions were different in every instance of the problem. I tried a procedure from neon.org to use the on-board diagnostics to get stored computer error codes, but none had been stored. Interesting.
    After my previous 3 vehicles, I realize that all vehicles are going to have problems. I'm not one of those who whould sit here and refuse to buy another DC vehicle for the rest of my life for two reasons. The first being it's damned foolish to say, and second of all, I've "lurked" around this board for some time, and I've seen what is said about those who act so foolishly. I look forward to seeing if any of you have had, or have heard about, either of the last two problems. I've checked all recalls and TSB's, and I don't believe there are any concerning these problems. There are, however some things on the NHTSA site posted by owners about the stalling and, in part, the hesitation, clutch.

    Sorry for the lengthy post. I didn't realize that I'm probably in the contention for a record.
  • My neon is an SE model, not an ES. I basically have a base neon. No a/c, no cruise, no inside trunk release, only the essentials. The way I see it, there's less to break that way! See Ya Around
  • buoyantbuoyant Posts: 128
    From what I have gathered thus far from various research, I think Dodge has screwed up the '02 model line for consumers like me (YOU may be different).

    Someone please correct me if this info is wrong, but here's what I've ascertained so far:

    You can no longer get the ES without the spoiler (which is [non-permissible content removed]-ugly IMHO) or without the less-than-stunning alloy wheels. Also, the color Cinnamon is not available on the ES this year, it is replaced by almond.

    You CAN get an '02 SE in Cinnamon still (don't ask me why) and if you do go the SE route, you don't have to tolerate the iwannabeastreetracer spoiler on the back. You also get the old ES' standard 5-spoke wheel covers on the new SE (I like those better than the over-styled '02 ES alloys), but then you're stuck with the old base model's rather blase velour interior (and no upmarket diamond weave bezels on the dash or chrome interior door pulls) and the fog lights aren't even an option.

    So basically...if you want a Neon with an upscale interior now, you have to learn to live with the spoiler and alloys (both of which make the car look a bit too overdone for my conservative J.Crew tastes).

    Ugh!!!

    I guess if I really had my heart set on a Neon (I sure used to), I COULD get an ES and have the spoiler removed at a body shop and more attractive aftermarket 5-spokes put on to replace the factory ones, but it just isn't worth the hassle - or the added cost - to me.

    Personally, I've always felt that the reason for buying new over used was because you could get the car just the way you wanted it (color, transmission, options, etc.). If I didn't care about getting exactly what I wanted, I'd just go out and buy another used car - they certainly make more sense financially.

    I'd been planning on ordering a new Neon as soon as the Ultradrive on my current car finally crapped out, but I'm rethinking that now.

    One of the things I used to love so much about the Neon before was the ala carte option menu (e.g., I wouldn't be forced into buying leather or boy-racer plastic Pontiacesque tack-ons to get to options I really want - like the in-dash disc changer and the sunroof).

    With that gone, the Neon has dropped a couple places on my shopping list (from first to third to be exact). It's still a nice little car, but unfortunately, I can no longer get it done "my way". And that makes all the difference to me.
  • well in a quick trip to www.4adodge.com it looks like the spoiler is standard on the ES still but the wheels look the same as before. The R/T wheels look different, (nice IMO) maybe it's just that the alloys are standard on the ES now and they were optional before. I agree with you about ordering it your way, I think if it's an option on the line somewhere then it should be able to be ordered that way. If you want a red interior on a blue car then by god, it's your money (the dealer should just insist on a 50% deposit or something. If you want hubcaps and no spoiler on your R/T and paint the whole thing Cinnamon then you should be able to order it. They used to do whatever in 60's and 70's. The option lists were a mile long, you could chose between 20 colors in various two-tones and vinal tops which made literally hundreds of exterior appearance options possible. There were often 5-10 differnt motors and 3 different transmission choices. Them were the days, you can probably thank the imports for bringing the 'have it OUR way' package bundles to the commonplace. It is just to hard to have a car built to order overseas and then shipped here, it would take so long they would lose customers in the 3-6 month wait.
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    What if you only want cruise control but NOT power windows,brakes,locks and a bunch of other junk??? More small cars are coming STD. with those.
    Hopefully with the growth of Internet buying and ordering, the public can make it's needs known, eh?
  • I think we will see where more and more cars (even the low end ones) come with power windows and possibly with roll down windows not even available. It depends on the pre-production costs.

    If you offer only one kind of window system (or only one kind of any system), your development costs are less.
  • buoyantbuoyant Posts: 128
    I can certainly understand why they wouldn't offer 10 engine choices (namely the huge cost), but this spoiler thing really frustrates me. So much so that it will drive me into a different showroom when I'm ready for my next vehicle.

    At least on the old R/T (pre-2000) you could delete those goofy looking stripes that ran down the top of the car. So in my mind, you should be able to delete off the goofy looking spoiler on this new ES.

    IMO the new Neon design looks MUCH better without the spoiler, and I'd bet I'm not the only consumer with this opinion.

    What totally baffles me is why everyone is so nuts about spoilers nowadays. They serve no function on passenger cars (which don't go fast enough to benefit from them) and they add weight. The fact that Kia is slapping them on their crapboxes should tell you something. They are today's vinyl woodgrain applique - only there because some people think they look "neat."

    I was hoping that Chrysler would actually IMPROVE the Neon ES for '02. You know...more noise insulation, a tweaked engine with an extra 5 ponies, standard side airbags...something like that. They should've just left the damn thing alone.

    Regards,

    I.M. Upset
  • Frankly when I bought mine I didn't get a spoiler and didn't even think about it. None of the ones on the lot had them. I think I've only seen factory spoilers on the Plymouths in 2000. Although, much to my surprise, my wife was disappointed I didn't get one. She even suggested I look into getting one installed. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things. Although I agree you shouldn't be forced to take it except perhaps on R/Ts, ACRs and such specialty models. Maybe four inch exhaust tips will be next.
  • bruticusbruticus Posts: 229
    Love this car. I bought it in July 1998; the dealer (the son of a man my father worked for in the early 70s, but the dealer and my father aren't really friends) had brought the car in for his daughter in 1996; she drove 2500 miles and said she didn't want it, so it sat in the showroom/under the roof until my father saw it and recommended it to me.

    I just tipped over 60K miles with no mechanical problems yet except two:
    1: a couple years ago the odometer got borked somehow and started running too fast, and unfortunately there's no way to find out the real, correct mileage anymore, so the 60K showing on the numbers is almost certainly high. It doesn't matter to me, as I intend to keep the car until one of my younger sisters is old enough to drive. Either that or until I'm absolutely positive that getting a new car (wanna 2002 WRX) is the right thing. I can afford it right now, and interest rates are GREAT, but I work for a technology company, and you can all probably fill in the rest. ;-)

    2: Lately, the gauges have been mis-behaving. I'll be driving along and suddenly the speedometer quits registering, and the odometer stops turning (thereby making up some of the false miles!). If I keep driving, eventually the tacho starts acting up, and if I'm driving a LONG time the temp gauge will go haywire and run up to the top peg. I took it to a mechanic I trust (how many of THOSE are left?) who said that, as the car ages, the dashboard isn't fitting as tightly as it should, and there isn't enough "give" in the connections for the gauge pack to compensate. Anybody have any advice on this?

    Other than that, no complaints. Original engine, exhaust (altho the muffler is looking a little blistered lately), brakes, etc. I baby this car, with clockwork oil-changes and frequent vacuuming/washing/waxing.

    My father, who's an auto shop teacher, frequently attends car shows, and once ran into a Chrysler man who said ("off the record" of course!) that Neons are the epitome of the bipolar car: if you get one and put 10K or 15K miles on with no problems, you have a winner. If you suffer any major mechanical problem (alternator, head gasket, brakes, clutch) in that time period, you should trade it IMMEDIATELY, as the car is a bum-build.

    DjB
  • Since I am new to the group I wanted to introduce my car. After a lengthy and sometimes frustrating search I found a Neon with a 5spd transmission. My red '01 Neon SE came with Sport appearance group - 16" wheels/tires, spoiler, performance steering and suspension, A/C, cruise and CD player. Just what I wanted minus a sunroof. I found lots of cars with an automatic transmission and a sunroof, so I had to let the sunroof go.

    Just a few weeks after purchasing my car, my wife and I took a weekend excursion and found the car to be very comfortable.

    With 3K on my car I must admit I enjoy it much more than I expected. I just sold my 87 Mazda 323 that had about 180K - it was my first brand new car and I loved her. It was hard to see her go, but my new Neon helps me carry on.
  • Bought my daughter a 2001 Neon, we love the car. 15k, only problem was an automatic door lock that was noisy, got it replaced free.

    As the front end is VERY low, in going up the driveway, the front bottomed out and a black box about 12 inches cubed fell from underneath the passenger-side front fender. It appears to have been connected with a black hose, but the box is not air tight or contain any fluid. Dealer told me it was a " speed control box", but he didin't know what it was for. Four months now we haven't replaced it ($80 dealer installed)car runs great, same mileage, cruise control still works. What the heck does the thing do???? Should I get it replaced??
  • yositoyosito Posts: 55
    My son has a ´01 R/T, he loves the car, he bought it las November and the car has been truble free.
    It´s a sharp looking car, and the exhaust sounds great; it´s a blast to drive it.
    This is the 5th. Neon in our family, sounds crazy but they had been reliable.
  • 71charger71charger Posts: 116
    Don't know what it is either. You may want to try www.neons.org.
  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    I know on my 98 it was hard to change one of the fog light bulbs because a box that controls the cruise control was in the way. Maybe that's what the dealer meant by "speed control".
  • vocusvocus Posts: 7,777
    Cruise control and speed control are the same thing. What doesn't make any sense is that the cruise in the car still works without this box in the car. Call the dealer and ask for an explanation is the only thing I would say.
  • Someone tried to sell me a 2001 Dodge Neon SE. Because the owner got the car from a rental company, all the documents are gone. All I got is the VIN number, so I really don't know whether the Neon is really a SE or some other trim. I can only find the VIN decoding on neon.org up to 1999. Does anyone know how to decode the 2001 Neon VIN? Is there anyway to check whether the car is really a SE trim? Thanks for helps and comments!
  • Is there some feature on the SE that comes standard on it exclusively? I mean that you cannot get even as an option on another trim level. If there is such a feature and the Neon you are looking at lacks it, it is not a SE.

    Does anyone see a flaw in that thinking?
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