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TexasDude's avatar

What on earth is wrong with my car?

Asked by TexasDude (25244points) September 3rd, 2010

I have a high mileage 2000 Chrysler that is experiencing two unique, and strange problems. These problems will take a bit to describe adequately, so please bear with me.

1. Every now and then my car will randomly overheat. I check my coolant regularly and always make sure that my tank is filled to the appropriate level with the right kind of coolant. Usually, when I first start my car and drive for about ten minutes, the thermostat gauge will rise up to just past the halfway line and then gradually settle to just below it whether the air conditioner is running or not. If I get stopped at a traffic light after driving for a while, my car will gradually heat up until the gauge points to the second from the top line, but will drop back to the halfway mark or lower after I start driving again. When I finally park again, I can hear the coolant gurgling in the overflow tank and smell it in my car. It used to catastrophically overheat until I replaced the radiator cap. Several mechanics have taken a look at it and can’t figure out what’s wrong. I have no detectable leaks, either, but over the course of the week, the level of coolant in my overflow container will gradually decrease to below the minimum mark.

2. Recently, every time I start my car, the entire car will shake and vibrate violently for a moment while the engine makes a loud rumbling sound before settling on a more normal sounding “purr.” My RPMs have also decreased. While idling, my car now sits between 800 and 900 RPMs as opposed to 1500 like it used to. The needle also rapidly fluctuates within that range, but quickly goes up to 2000 RPMs when I reach 50 to 60 miles per hour.

What kind of issues could I be facing here?

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32 Answers

Ben_Dover's avatar

1. Did they check your thermostat?

2. Have you changed the plugs and rotor and cap recently…wires..and tune up?

Also fuel injectors may need cleaned…

TexasDude's avatar

@Ben_Dover, they checked the thermostat (which I thought could have been an issue) and apparently it is fine.

I haven’t checked the plugs or rotor and cap, or the fuel injectors, but I’ll look up how to do that. Thanks a lot.

WestRiverrat's avatar

1) I think you may have some sediment in your radiator that sometimes blocks the flow of your coolant. Try getting the radiator flushed. You can do it yourself but many areas have rules about disposing of the flush.

2) Have you checked the timing lately?

You can always call the Car Talk on NPR tomorrow morning.

TexasDude's avatar

@WestRiverrat, there is some orange-ish, rusty sediment in my overflow tank. I’ve had it flushed, but the mechanic said they can’t remove all of it. I have a feeling he’s wrong…

What is the “timing?” I’m not very well versed in automotive repair

Vortico's avatar

I own a 2000 Chrysler Sebring and constantly get the needle fluctuating you mentioned. It happens when I’m coasting on a level or very low grade road. This is probably the least of your troubles, and I’m not sure how to help you with those. :( All I can say is that you’re not alone with the RPM problem.

shego's avatar

Have you had your radiator cap pressure tested? That was the issue with my dads car
And for the vibrating violently, you might want to have your catalytic converter checked. It might be clogged.

TexasDude's avatar

@shego, the radiator pressure was fine. I’ll add checking the converter to my list. Thank you.

@Vortico, maybe it’s a Chrysler thing? This car has given me more problems….

BarnacleBill's avatar

If your coolant is going down, and you smell it, you definitely have a leak somewhere.

With regards to the shake thing, when was your last tune-up?

TexasDude's avatar

@BarnacleBill, my last tune up was about a year ago.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Timing is what regulates when the cylynders fire. If it gets off by a little bit it can mess up your performance a little more and the car don’t go. Usually there is a belt or a chain that controls the timing, but it can also be electronicly controlled now.

TexasDude's avatar

@WestRiverrat, alright, I’ll consult the manual or a different mechanic

Thanks again.

deni's avatar

Your second problem sounds like what mine was doing for a few years before the starter finally went. It always sputtered and wouldn’t start up right away and would rumble and shake. Every time I thought “dear god, this is it.” But it always started! You know, until that one day. But it wasn’t that expensive to fix anyhow.

TexasDude's avatar

@deni, awesome. Thank you. About how much is it to fix, if you don’t mind my asking?

deni's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard i am trying super hard to remember how much it was. i wanan say the total was around 140, but that was with towing too. so i think for the new starter itself and the labor was maybe 60, 70, 80? i could be totally wrong. i have tried to block all my past car trouble out of my head, lol.

TexasDude's avatar

@deni, my car has given me all types of various hell from day one, so I know how you feel. Thanks for the info.

blah_blah's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard :: A starter is super cheap and easy to replace on most cars. It is about 25–40 for the part and a six-pack of beer for labor. On most cars it is a 15 minute job to swap it out.

TexasDude's avatar

@blah_blah, I thought it might be because of the accessibility of the starter components. Thanks a lot.

blah_blah's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard :: On some cars it is a pain. Usually it isn’t. It is a pretty common thing to have replaced.

woodcutter's avatar

there might be a vacuum leak somewhere, That will cause lots of problems.

TexasDude's avatar

@woodcutter, I’ll add that to my list. Thank you.

john65pennington's avatar

Your cars thermostat needs replacing. the thermostate controls the amount of radiator fluid that surround the jacket of your cars engine. if the theremostat is inferior, what you have described is what will and is happening to your car. replace it yourself or have a mechanic do so.

TexasDude's avatar

@john65pennington, thanks for the tip. I actually just thought the thermostat measured the heat of the engine, not actually affected it in any way. Good to know. Thanks.

john65pennington's avatar

Fiddle, you are welcome. since your vehicle has many miles on it, chances are the thermostat has never been replaced. good luck.

ApolloX64's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Just out of curiosity does your car have the 2.7L engine? It would explain all the issues as it is historically the least reliable Chrysler engine ever made. Serious. Of course any engine can be unreliable, but the 2.7 is almost famous in that regard.
Anyways your issues do point to the thermostat sticking shut when the engine temperature gets too high, which is why a mechanic would be unable to tell if it is bad or good just by inspecting it. However my major concern is your coolant level dropping over time. That could be explained by cook-off around the cylinder jackets when the temperature rises above 175C, but there is a good chance your cylinder head gaskets are weakening especially if you’re in the high-mileage Chrysler club.
Coincidentally high-mileage Chrysler vehicles are absolutely renown for electrical gremlins.
Unfortunately there is no sure-fire way to “test’ cylinder head gaskets other than physically removing the heads which means you’ll end up replacing the gaskets and head bolts anyway. One good indicator however is a puff of white smoke out the tailpipe when you start the car which indicates coolant draining into the cylinders.
Also the others here are correct, new plugs, wires, air filter and fuel filter would definitely clean up your idle issues and a good intake cleaning would be a smart move too to get rid of the carbon build-up.

Jabe73's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Make sure all your belts are tight. Maybe your coolant pump is slipping.

woodcutter's avatar

@ApolloX64 Oh no. my kid just bought a 2006 Dodge magnum with a 2.7 L. They are also known for tranny problems. We tried to dissuade him from that car but he wanted a “sporty” station wagon? His old car was a ‘86 Crown Vic, 5.8L police package with a bad head gasket where the antifreeze would suck into the cylinder. That was an expensive repair, mechanic siting cop cars cost more to fix?

TexasDude's avatar

@ApolloX64, I’m pretty sure it’s a 2.5 liter V6. again, I don’t know much about cars

MeinTeil's avatar

Easy repair:

1. Remove radiator cap

2. Drive newer car under it.

ApolloX64's avatar

@woodcutter Ehhhh… after 2002 Chrysler did a redesign of the 2.7 and made it a little less volatile. I should think he will be alright with that Magnum however a car that big with the 2.7 will actually get worse mileage than one with a hemi V8 5.7L or the new(er) 3.5L V6, crazy eh?
An ‘86 Vic with a 5.8L should actually be super easy to change a head gasket on, not complex. It is a rear-wheel drive car, the engine bay is enormous, and the engine is either a Cleveland or a Windsor 351 which are both extremely easy to work on. Sorry to say but it’s more likely the mechanic was taking you for a ride. There is no difference between a cop car and a regular car when it comes to engine repair, especially when you’re working on something from back in the 80’s or 70’s. I could see it being hard to get the parts… except that Ford still manufactures it’s own head gaskets for the 351 series since they are ridiculously popular with racers. Also Mr. Gasket, Fel-Pro and Victor-Reinz all make head sets for that series too.
sorry for the late reply, no ‘net at my new place until next week and school is keeping me busy

koanhead's avatar

The rumbling noise sounds to me like water pump cavitation. This would be consistent with a clogged radiator. If it’s the original radiator I recommend replacing it. It would be best to replace the water pump at the same time.

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