Chrysler PT Cruiser Repairs & Tips
We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information or opinions presented here, or for any consequences of taking action based on them. Proceed at your own risk. Updated 4/2/2013.
Dedicated pages for particular repairs
- Axle replacement: a step by step guide with photos
- Camshaft sensor (cam sensor) repair - replacement page
- Automatic transmission repairs (at allpar)
- Computer codes for easier diagnostics
- Shifter/manual transmission troubleshooting
Some people have cringed at the cost of new keys, due to the anti-theft chip inside them. Locksmiths usually stock antitheft keys, and sell them at lower prices than most dealers, but you may have to program them yourself (according to the instructions in the owner's manual). You will need both original keys if you or the locksmith programs new keys; the dealer may be able to make new keys from just one but you cannot. Some Internet sources can supply blanks, including authentic Mopar ones, far more cheaply, but you still need a locksmith (or hardware store) to cut it, and if they cut it incorrectly, they're unlikely to refund the blank. Even at the $60-$80 some dealers demand, though, the anti-theft keys are cheaper in the long run than not having them — and paying extra for your insurance every year (or having your car stolen more easily).
Stuck rear hatch
You may have to crawl into the cargo area and gently remove the plastic trim panel pieces starting at the top, remove the 3rd brake light trim. Everything is plastic push pins, no screws. Warm plastic is less likely to break. A wide flat 'forked' pry tool is recommended to slip on either side of the push pin and gently lever the tool to release the clip from the hatch sheetmetal hole. You may also want light.
Continue with the pieces on either side of the rear window and finally pop the large lower panel enough to get your hand inside the hatch and manually release the latch. You may be able to free up and lube the handle and hatch latch to keep this from re-occuring. It may have froze up due to lack of use.
“ImperialCrown” wrote: ‘The problem with the Neon and PT front control arm bushing is that the rubber insulator is 'bonded' to a metal shell that is pressed into the control arm. In damp or salt belt geographic areas, the bond comes apart from surface rust developing between the rubber and steel. The rear of the control arm then drops down and rests on the crossmember resulting in a 'clatter' over bumps. It is never a dangerous condition and would never come apart as it is a captive assembly. The caster might change very slightly, but other than that it will not significantly affect alignment. I have shimmed mine with 1/8" plastic shims to keep it from rattling against the crossmember.”
Bob Sheaves replied: “The bushing shell adhesive is not the issue; XJ (Cherokee) and others have used them since long before Neon and PT. If the bushings were not preloaded, you would never have the strain of shear force against the adhesive to start with. You have to have a load to seperate the adhesive so the corrosion can start to begin with. Wear does become a safety issue when you let the metal parts bang against each other and wear through. ... Aftermarket ‘bushings’ that I know of all have the same issue, but worse, due to the stiffness of the urethane does not last as long as the stock rubber before wearing out due to this loading. The only way to effectively eliminate the issue is to use uni-ball (heim) joints, not bushings.”
Lower control arms and bushings
Richard Cranium wrote:
I just changed the the lower control arm bushings in my PT and the banging noises persisted. I didn't think much about it when I was taking the LCA's off but the bushings for the sway bar had became hardened. They are supposed to be soft, but road chemicals and the like harden them, which can cause noise.
Definitely check the sway bar bushings before you jump into the LCA bushing job.
If you still do the LCA bushings, get a press. They are impossible to get out otherwise, unless you want to burn them out, but beware, the sleeve that goes between the bushing and the control arm is sensitive to heat, and nearly all of the bushing replacement kits require that you reuse that sleeve. I accidentally scarred mine a little just from the flame of my soldering torch. The factory bushings are adhered to the sleeve and pin so you'll have to clean bushing remnants off of both. I don't know if they require cleaning if you can press them out.
The vertical bolt requires a 15/16 socket (rare size) and a breaker bar to get it loose. I used a 3' long piece of iron pipe and still had a difficult time getting the bolt loose. Don't worry if the nut inside of the frame seems loose, it's a cage nut.
To access the passenger side horizontal bolt for the control arm, you need to take off the engine mount.
Remember to check your ball joints before you order bushings. You can order a whole new control arm for less than the bushings + ball joints would cost, and you don't want to have to take the control arms back off to replace them when you could do it now.
Raven wrote: After a time, the spring in the radiator cap looses strength and no longer maintains the abililty to keep all of the water in the anti-freeze from escaping. The overflow tank doesn't replenish the loss and eventually it overheats. Badly. Like mine did at 70 mph! The cap double locks: when you think you have it closed you have to push it down hard and keep turning until it stops or you will have slight fluid loss again resulting it the same problem... It looked like a bomb hit my engine compartment; I thought it was big bucks but it was only the result of a bad cap. Maybe when people have their water pumps changed mechanics neglect to replace the cap and the overheating still exists.
Scotit1 wrote: “Be sure that the two speed radiator fan is working correctly. It is controlled by the largest relay in the black box under the hood on the drivers side. The fan may fail intermittently. It is controlled by the sensor near the thermostat on the passenger side which has a slide mechanism as well as a clip like the radiator fan to secure it. High speed operation can be checked by disconnecting the sensor, while low speed can be checked while engine is idling without disconnecting it. It is noticeable when standing in traffic as the engine will "stutter" while idling if it's failing intermittently. Check to make sure your oil change guys haven't been hanging their drop lights on the fan wires first!”
Middle dash panel replacement
Middle dash bezel (panel) peeling was a problem on some 2001 models; a service bulletin exists and a dealer might replace it for free (they do not have to). Replacement looks easy in the Chilton's manual: remove the climate control knobs, pull off the bezel ("middle section"). You can find replacement bezels in different styles from aftermarket suppliers - though they may be far pricier than junkyard or dealer parts.
One member wrote, “Don't place any hanging air fresheners in the center of your console! The oils from the air freshener takes the paint right off!”
Oxygen sensor replacement
There are two oxygen sensors, upstream and downstream; by comparing the readings, the computer can see how effective the catalytic converter is. The upstream one is somewhat more likely to fail. The computer usually tells you which one it thinks has failed; sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong.
You may need a special oxygen sensor socket, or you may not. Forest wrote, “ I have a 2004 model and the clearance between the tip of the sensor and heat shield was too close to use the socket (upstream). The downstream sensor was too close to the body for the socket so I wound up using a 7/8” combo wrench to remove both sensors!”
Run the engine for a minute or two, so the sensor and surrounding area will be hot and easier to remove without damage. This means you need to be extra careful that you don't burn yourself on the dangerously hot catalytic converter or exhaust manifold when working. Then disconnect the battery, jack up the vehicle, and place it securely on jack stands (or rent a hydraulic lift). Unplug the sensor (you’ll need to trace the wires for a while on the downstream one) and unscrew it with the special socket. The upstream sensor is on the top side of the exhaust manifold, the lower one is on the side of the catalytic converter.
Opinions on whether the PT uses an interference design or not vary. In any case, the timing belt tensioner design was changed in 2003 to provide greater durability. “Shadetree” wrote that he replaced his 2002 PT’s timing belt using a Gates kit purchased at a regular parts shop; the kit includes the old-style belt tensioner and an idler pulley (dealer kits include a newer design tensioner, but are far more expensive). The flat-rate cost is eight hours; it may take experienced mechanics less time.
“Shadetree” wrote that he differed from Haynes’ instructions by not disconnecting the AC lines or the exhaust at the manifold; he did remove the grille and radiator cross piece, but discovered neither was needed. He supported the engine at both ends and disconnected the engine mounts, allowing maneuvering the engine to access the timing area; and he unbolted the throttle body to keep it from going against the computer. Taking off the engine mounts may be more dangerous than the other method of making room.
Loss of dash lights/ radio LEDs
I found the cause for the loss of dash lights and loss of led on the radio/clock of my 2002 PT: moving the steering wheel up and down while adding side pressure (either direction) causes the lights to go out. Remove the bottom steering wheel cover; turn the ignition key on so the dash lights and the radio/clock led are on, but not the engine. Next move the wheel up and down slowly while applying pressure to the left and right to encourage an electrical open condition. If the lights go out you now can fix the problem as I did.
I used a small wire spring (3/16 to 1/4 inch diameter) to hook across the hinge point. Be sure to form the spring ends so they stay put on the hinge arms by moving the stearing wheel up and down. This will eliminate the winking light problem. Too bad the electronics designer couldn’t have used a short wire cable instead.
A weak point on many PTs, the wheel bearings can make a whining or growling sound which is hard to distinguish. “ImperialCrown” wrote:
The best way to diagnose wheel bearing noise is with the front wheels off the ground, chock the rear wheels, set the parking brake, keep the steering wheel straight, don’t walk in front of the vehicle and don't get under the vehicle, have someone run it up to 55 mph and listen to the left and right sides. Sometimes it helps to brake one wheel to a stop by holding a shop rag against the tire tread (turn off traction control, if equipped, and do it without the person’s foot on the gas!). Listen and locate the noise source. Left and/or right? Be sure that your front tires aren't cupping as tires and wheel bearings can sound the same. Make sure that your front strut ground straps are intact as these commonly rot off and can cause repeat failures. The factory was seeing some early bearing failures even though the lube in the bearing was still good. On close examination you could see pitting, actual arc marks, on the balls and races making them noisy. The current from road static charges and possibly poor engine to body grounds was passing through the bearing itself, greatly reducing its life. By adding ground straps and keeping everything at the same voltage potential solved the problem.
If you need to get under the vehicle with the front wheels turning, I would suggest using a vehicle lift to be safe.
Gerry added: “Sometimes the bearing is worn enough that it can grind when the wheel is spun or have noticeable play. I usually take the car in and say "there is a noise when I do this" and let them figure it out. In this way I don't put the mechanic on the wrong track if it is not the problem.”
Air conditioning / overheating
Scotit1 wrote: “If you are experiencing problems with the air conditioner, check to be sure that the two speed radiator fan is working correctly. The first symptom is lack of cooling in the a/c. It is controlled by the largest relay in the black box under the hood on the drivers side. The fan may fail intermittently. It is controlled by the sensor near the thermostat on the passenger side which has a slide mechanism as well as a clip like the radiator fan to secure it. High speed operation can be checked by disconnecting the sensor, while low speed can be checked while engine is idling without disconnecting it. It is noticeable when standing in traffic as the engine will "stutter" while idling if it's failing intermittently. Check to make sure your oil change guys haven't been hanging their drop lights on the fan wires first!”
(This has been confirmed by other readers.)
[Introduction: the PT uses an anti-theft system where a small radio transponder is built into the head of the keys.] My 2001 PT Cruiser ignition cylinder locked up and caused me to crack my key when trying to start it up. Later the key broke off (not in the cylinder, thank goodness!) The locksmith replaced the cylinder but when he tried to reprogram the new keys, the code wouldn't work. He gave up and left me with the 2 new keys that weren't programmed, and the one old working key. Thanks to this forum I realized I might be able to program the new keys myself, but I needed two keys to proceed. Solution? Tape the head of the old key to the "courtesy key" (a key with no transponder head). The car thinks it is key #1; then used my one working key as Key #2. I then proceeded two program the 2 new blanks and saved around $75 to $100.
Wheels and tires
GT Cruisers commonly go through their first set of tires in under 20,000 miles. Most replacement tires are far more long-lived and many also have better performance. We found Goodyear's own Eagle F1 All-Season (be careful not to get the F1 "summer tire") to be quieter, better in wet and dry weather, and cheaper than the original Eagle RS-A, despite a much higher treadwear index.
If your wheels are having issues with peeling chrome, this may be a good time to step down to 16 or even 15 inch wheels; the tires will be cheaper and more comfortable, though some performance may be lost with the higher aspect ratio. One insider suggested that, while the wheels are off, if the wheels are peeling inside, to steam-clean the wheels, get rid of any peeling clearcoat, and then respray them with new clearcoat to prevent corrosion.
To look at a list of stored computer fault codes in your car, click here. (This includes instructions for finding them.)
The automatic transmission in Chrysler's PT Cruiser can only be used with Type 7176 transmission fluid. Do not use Dexron. Make sure mechanics and oil change places use the right fluid. For evidence and horror stories, click here.
You can ask your dealer for a "Vehicle Information Plus Summary Report." Based on your VIN, it shows every option your particular car was supposed to come with, right down to the cargo net. (If it's in this report, your dealer is entitled to provide you with it.) (Thanks, Samba). Dealers can also provide you with a full repair history.
There is a guide to resolving problems with Chrysler dealers (and the company itself) over at Allpar. Use it if you can't get something fixed under warranty, and remember - Chrysler will often do repairs out of warranty if there was a common problem, or if you have only exceeded either the mileage or the time limit (or if you're just out of warranty).
Power steering whine
chryslertech766 wrote that TSB #19-008-05 REV. A covers this (note you probably have to pay to have this done.) It's basically getting the air bubbles out.
1. Clean the filler cap and fill the reservoir.
2. Attach (tightly) Miller Special Tool, 9688 onto the pump reservoir; then attach a hand vacuum pump (Miller Special Tool) C-4207-A, and apply 68-85 kPa (20-25 in. Hg) of vacuum to the power steering system for at least 3 minutes.
3. Slowly release the vacuum, then remove the special tools and add fluid if needed.
Repeat the process until the fluid level stays the same; then start the engine and move the wheel from lock to lock three times (without stopping). Check for leaks and signs of air in the reservoir; check the fluid level and repeat #1-3 if needed.
Idle problems, bogging, misses, etc.
A number of PTs appear to be experiencing spark plug problems leading to a variety of driveability problems. This appears to be most prevalent on turbo models. To troubleshoot, first check for computer codes, then check the spark plugs for cracking, dirt, or other problems (simply replacing the plugs may be the best bet). This is not difficult even for amateurs; we suggest using antiseize lubricant when putting in new plugs (very small amounts of it!). On older cars, replacing the wires may be helpful (you can certainly do this yourself). Check the battery terminals - they should be tight and clean. See the battery section for info on cleaning the terminals which may also be cause.
A TSB (18-024-05) was issued in 2005, authorizing computer updates for PT owners with idle problems.
Bushings and Watts linkages
Some people have been noting early wear on front and rear bushings, with potential damage to the Watts linkage if they fail. Owners of early PTs should check their bushings for wear periodically, starting at 40,000 miles (check the front lower control arm bushings and rear Watts linkage central link). Later PTs apparently used better bushings (we don't know when they switched.) A Watts link is about $170-$200 installed, a new front is $500. If the dealer won't cover it, try calling the national customer service line at 800 992 1997 (USA). (Posted 4/2004) See the next item...
The Watts linkage on a number of PTs appears to be breaking with age, causing a clunking sound from the rear. Price to replace at the dealer appears to be roughly $200. “EngineJack” wrote: “I tried to remove the pivot with the PT rear wheels on ramps but could not break the taper on the arms. (Not enough room to apply leverage). So I removed the arms from the chassis and the pivot bolt from the link and worked on the pivot on the bench. The left hand arm-to-chassis bolt was unbelievably hard to remove. I had to remove the left rear wheel to be able to add a long bar to the get sufficient leverage to start it turning. On the bench it took my strongest ball joint breaker to remove the arms from the link. Grip the link in a vice because parts fly everwhere when the tapers finally give. Otherwise, it's just a normal car repair job but probably compounded in my case by the rust up here in Canada.” (Others said there was no rust on theirs, so it could be a local or unusual issue to have the rust.) Posted 3/2007.
He also wrote: “I didn't know where to put axle stands under the rear so I ran the rear wheels onto pieces of 2x4 to allow room for a trolley jack to slide under the axle. I then raised each wheel in turn and slipped a ramp under each wheel making it safe to work under the car. I couldn't break the tapers at the arm to link joints from under the car so I removed the arm/link assembly but had to take off the left rear wheel to access the left hand bolt holding the arm to chassis. Man, was that bolt tight. To do this, I jacked up the axle enough to remove the left wheel then removed the bolt without going under car.
“Not wanting the hassle of replacing the link again after another 30K miles, I bored out the centre of the old link and pressed in a urethane bush left over from when I did the front lower arms. It's about 6 months ago and so far no problems. Jack/axle stands should be ok at the extreme ends of the rear axle, right next to the wheels, but how to get them there since that is where you need to place the jack? I wouldn't want to jack on the axle too far away from the wheels.”
Flickering lights appear to be a moderately common and hard to troubleshoot problem, but some people have reported that changing the battery and/or cleaning the battery terminals fixes it. Some with perfectly clean batteries and terminals are also having the problem. Dealers seem unable to find the problem, which appears to only affect lighting - both headlights and interior lighting. Some say that it is not a major issue; it doesn't seem to affect anything but the lights. Electronics appear to have a separate voltage regulator.
Cold start performance
Todd W Miller about TSB 18-020-04 (cold start performance with early manual transmission PTs): “I paid my dealer $75 for the software reflash described in the TSB and the entire character of the powertrain has changed. Not only is the cold start hesitation and surging very much improved, but the overall engine performance is much, much smoother and I can no longer feel it when the AC compressor kicks in--a problem that had made it really hard to just drive smoothly with the stick shift. Credit to Chrysler to carrying through and releasing a fix.” (Webmaster note - our dealer flashed for free.)
Starting problems / battery (“telemachus”)
Having intermittant/hot start problems with your PT? The factory battery came with a "thermal wrap"--an insulating heat shield ($13). This sometimes gets lost but the high temperatures in the engine bay can shorten the life of your battery. Check to see if you have the wrap around your battery. It is a black plastic insulated sleeve. If you need a new battery, install a heat resistant type.
Next, the battery/starter wiring harness is located where corrosion can be a problem. Mine had corroded connections which led to high resistance and melted the terminal end at the starter. When I replaced it ($75), I noticed the new harness was built to a higher standard of quality with terminals that were not only swedged but soldered as well. (Telemachus’ PT was a 2002 model.)
Finally, a battery with an internal short will run the lights and radio, etc., but will not crank the starter. You may hear a staccato machine gun like clicking as the solenoid tries to engage. In short, check your battery and wiring harness to the starter before having your starter replaced.
Tom Conway, a ten-year dealer service veteran, wrote that rotors may wear quickly because the inside pads may weld themselves with rust to the slide rails. The caliper would still work but the outside pad could wear very quickly while the inside pad stayed good. (This would also affect performance and gas mileage). The bottom line is to get your rear wheels off and check the brakes. Tom suggested filing the slides and trueing up the replacement pads' "corner" where the pad tracks the slides to provide some additional relief...not enough to create a problem, but enough to let salt and slush to run out. He also used copper coat antiseize on the corners of the pads, the slides, caliper guides...don't forget the caliper sleeves as a good silicone grease will go along way to keeping things moving reliably.
He wrote: "Getting the rotor off is easier if you pull the rubber plug and back off the emergency brake shoes as the rust flakes are going to frustrate you otherwise. Rotors were only $16 at NAPA of all places, Advance had the calipers and pads."
Joe Adams II reported: “I started having an oil pressure problem last month. The oil filter gaskets would blow out after increasing the rpm's a little bit. I tried many different oil filters and called many repair shops including the dealership. They all told me that the oil pump was bad. [I got a new pump for $80 and when installing it, noticed that] the spring had broken into about 15 pieces causing my oil pressure to build. I replaced the valve, spring, and new cap into my old pump. The plunger, spring, bolt and gasket are $26 from the dealer (not available from a regular parts shop).”
Steph from Florida noted: “I love my 2004 PT Cruiser - it's the second one I've owned. But the re-occuring problem with both has been the driver's seat. There's currently nothing under the seat to prevent anything in the back from rolling right under the driver's seat and then under the pedals! Quick stops especially highlight the problem. I had my nephew in the back with a bottle, and when he dropped it on the floor, it ended up underneath my brake pedal as I was trying to stop. Luckily, I wasn't going fast and was able to get the bottle out before hitting anything. I tried to report this to Chrysler, but none of their phone operators seemed to understand that I was trying to report a problem, not find out about existing recalls. I did report this to NHTSA, but so far, no recalls that I've been notified of. Right now, I'm driving with a towel under the seat to block any stray items.”
Bumper discoloration (2001-2003 models)
“skidsmadawg” wrote the following; many owners apparently were told by dealers that they were the only people with the problem, or that it couldn’t be fixed under warranty.
The PT fascias from (2000-02) were injection molded with a TPO plastic using a technology called MIC (Mold In Color), where when they come out of the mold, they are that gray color, giving the PT that one-of-a-kind look. Well, as you know, the sides of the fascia are painted body color in a bake oven. Consequently, the gray part had to be taped off so the sides could be primed and then painted body color. When the part is heated in the baking oven, the tape on the fascia interacts with the plastic pulling the UV resins out, mainly due to the high temp of the oven. DC did much Xenon accelerated weather testing to solve this issue for us PT owners. They understood the problem was caused by the interaction of the tape, heat, plastic, and UV exposure, but could never quantify how much of what actually caused the failure. They were lead to believe that there was another element out in the field that was not being accounted for (wax, polish, chemical, etc...that accelerates the problem) They were able to optimize the tape to reduce the problem (some tapes cause it more than others). But in the test labs, they could never duplicate the nasty failures we see on our cars.
As you all know, in 2003 DC went to an all painted fascia, partly because of the problem with the white condition, but also cause it was less expensive because they didn't have to apply the tape anymore because the entire fascia was being painted.
THE FIX: Since the white marks will come back even on parts from the MOPAR service center, the only solution is to paint the fascia (as some have already done). DC is extremly committed to taking care of us. As we speak, DC is working on writing a TSB for the dealers either to paint them body color or a similar gray color for those that still like that look, they just need to find a matching aftermarket color, as this is not something that will come from their OEM color studio, rather the dealers/body shops?
They did not revisit the issue until 2002-03, when customers started complaining. I was told that after massive testing in 2002-03, they found that the issue would not occur after one trip through the paint booth, but only about 80% of the fascias make it through on one trip. The remainder need to go through a second time or a third time, heating it up again and again.
So, the conclusion in April of 2003 was to run the fascias through the paint line a maximum of 2 times. But bear in mind, that by 2003, they were already onto the painted fascias and there wasn't a whole lot they could do, except try to make sure the fascias in MOPAR were acceptable for service. Which, they are having problems with those because there is something out there that is causing this and they can't find it. Also, keep in mind, engineers move on to new and upcoming projects and don't always stay with one car, so issues sometimes get lost as new people step in. So, that kinda explains why its been so long and nothing was done. Personally, I think DC should have wrote a TSB two years ago when complaints started coming in.
As far as when I say a TSB is coming out. It is coming. Trust me on that, and the only solution is to paint the fascia because the tape marks will keep coming back no matter how many new fascias you put on your car. But it is difficult to paint because the gray fascia has a textured surface and for the painted style the texture in the mold was polished out. The texture causes the paint when sprayed on to appear a little darker. So the main thing is to have a dealer that knows what they are doing, spray some adhesive promoter on and perhaps lots of paint so that the texture isn't as visible. OR just paint the fascia a gray color and then you don't have to worry about color matching.
The TSB he provided cannot legally be reproduced here, but it is number 23-034-04 and talks about discoloration or whitening of the bumper. As skidsmadawg said, it uses scuff cleaner, plastic prep, plastic adhestion promoter, and bumper promoter; it is indeed covered under the warranty!
Ed Gushue added: “This gray color tape look that shows up can be removed with #2 red scuffy and water. Does not harm plastic as color is molded in. Inspect with 20 power magnification.”
Parts and accessories
The hatch supports - liftgate props, as they're called - may last only four or five years before they start needing more help to go up. PT Cruiser liftgate props are part number G0004564 and cost around $25 each for genuine Mopar parts at a discount dealer like Pomoco or Wyckoff Chrysler, though the list price is around $40.
Neal noted that there is an exact replacement for the PT battery, even though it may not show up in parts books:
It's the 26R style. It's the same battery that the Neon uses, so you can always use the Neon as the "search" vehicle. Almost all of the name brand and generics of 26R batteries deliver 525 cold cranking amps (CCA) of power, which is less then the Mopar at 540 CCA. One exception is Sears' DieHard WeatherHandler, which has a capacity of 575 CCAs. The Sears battery was priced at $59, compared to the lower capacity 26Rs, which are in the $39 - 49 range. Warranties for these batteries are all about the same: either 18/24 month free replacement, and 72 month prorated....
One drawback of the PT battery is that it has the reverse terminal design (hence the "R" in 26R) and most other batteries do not.... There is a new style "gel" battery which supposedly fits in a cruiser. While a bit more pricey (starting at $125), the deep cycle variety has gotten praises by those who have lots of accessories (neons, a/v equipment, etc) as it doesn't drain as fast w/o the engine running and recharges quickly. Further info: http://www.1st-optima-batteries.com/
Batteries have a highly variable lifespan, from three to nine years, roughly. Past tests have shown that there is substantial variability even from the same manufacturer and possibly within the same battery model! However, if batteries go bad very rapidly, there may be a problem with the voltage regulator (too high voltage can cook the battery), with the wiring, or with high load (e.g. a glove compartment light not shutting off or aftermarket accessories drawing too much power, especially with the engine off).
Often, the battery is blamed when the real problem is electrical contact between the battery post and the cable. Cheap tools are sold to clean both ends. This can lead to intermittent stalling, rough idling, and other problems. The cable ends are replaceable and inexpensive if you do it yourself; this may help in cases where the leads cannot be fastened properly at all.
Recalls are "enforced" repairs - the manufacturer must do them - whereas service bulletins are "optional" - dealers can charge you. For recall related questions call 800 853 1403.
2002 PT Cruisers have been recalled for a computer software upgrade which will prevent the instrument panel from suddenly being darkened. No accidents have been reported. The upgrade should take a few minutes.
Early Cruisers were recalled to add child seat information to the manuals.
2001 and 2002 PT Cruisers were recalled to install a secondary seal to the top of the fuel pump module. A fuel leak was detected during an inspection following a government crash test. There are no known incidents or complaints related to this issue.
Approximately one-quarter of these vehicles also will be recalled for a separate safety issue involving the underhood fuel supply line. The line may rub against the air conditioning service port, which could result in a fuel leak. While this is unlikely to occur, Chrysler will attach a clip to the fuel line to prevent contact. There may have been around eight fires due to this - all seemingly occuring after the recall notices went out and vehicles had time to be serviced.
Preventing the gas cap from scratching the paint
"Redhead" wrote: The long plastic straip works fine - if you open the fuel door, undo the cap, then loop the cap counter clockwise from the bottom of the door around and over the door onto the fuel door hinge! Yep, the cap no longer rubs the side of the car, and has just enough room to leave it looped and still locks in opening. This is the way it should have been installed in the first place.
"Emmie" wrote: In NJ, it's against the law to pump your own gas, my son took his pocket knife and cut the gas cap loose. The attendent puts it on the gas pump. No dangling cap!
Oscarcat wrote: On 2003 models and later there is a slot in the filler door at about a 45 degree angle on which to suspend the tether and keep it above the fender. I checked a friend's 2002 and it wasn't there. It is referenced in the '03 manual but is easy to miss. Those with earlier models may want to use a self-adhesive hook - be sure it is small enough to provide clearance - to accomplish the same thing.
Does your dealer deny the existence of a TSB? Do they claim everything you read on a forum is nonsense? Clear it up right away by calling Chrysler. Within the US, 800-992-1997. Outside the US, see http://www.allpar.com/resources.html
There is a computer upgrade which improves acceleration from a full stop and changes transmission shift points. It applies to automatic transmission-equipped vehicles built before August 22, 2000. Andy & Bobi say it made a perceptible difference. The TSB number is 18-18-00. The TSB notes that this update adds a tap-down feature using the coast/set lever of the cruise control, and up to 1.5 mpg improvement in fuel economy during highway operation. (Thanks, Yardley Cruiser).
Many people have noted that, to get above the work done, they needed to tell their dealer it feels sluggish from standing starts with the a/c on (that's the symptom on the PT) or that there is audible knock under high load at high altitude. Otherwise, TSB or not, the dealers would not do it.
Chris Durham wrote that there is a TSB on excessive wind noise which gives dealers some pointers on what to fix. Chris wrote that common fixes are replacing door and hood seals, fine-tuning the door hinges and hood position, and eliminating spoilers, ground effects kits, ventshades, and racks.
A previously noted TSB on 2003 models fixes idle problems.
Steering wheel clicks: ct cruzr wrote: My steering wheel was popping when I turned it, especially at low speeds. The steering column had to be replaced because of fault bushings (or something like that). My dealer had to order the part (Monday) and fixed it in 1/2 day (Friday). [ct was not the only one with this issue] - posted in 2000
Moon roof: lckspt wrote: It is not the wind deflector....try this...open the moon roof...speed up and when you hear the doise hld down the deflector...the noise will still be there...it is the overpressure and resonance of the body of the car...when it happens lower a window and it will stop...then look at the deflector...it does move up and down but will not make any noise!!! - posted in 2000
Squeaky seats: Some Chrysler PT Cruisers have been delayed because of a squeaking problem with the seats. On the brighter side, we understand that Chrysler is replacing the seats with the new lumbar control heated seats. (6/00)
Grinding when accelerating from a stop: A noise like the starter grinding was heard when accelerating from a stop in first gear. Would also make the noise when stopped with foot on the brakes and engine reved in first or reverse. Turned out to be a broken motor mount or motor mount bolt. The engine was torquing enough to cause the pulleys to grind on the frame of the car. The problem was caught before other damage occurred. Good to know that the grinding can be avoided by accelerating slowly from a stop. Engine would only move enough to grind under mid to hard acceleration. (Glen Kohut, 8/2004)
Air conditioning / power loss
The oddball air conditioning control leads many people to constantly drive with the a/c on. When the knob is turned to the left, the air conditioning goes on even when the blue-and-red knob is turned to HEAT. The blue/red knob is a combination fan control AND air conditioning switch. Apparently Chrysler could not afford an on/off button for the a/c. Likewise, when the defroster is on, the air conditioner compressor is on. (Joe Frisbie pointed out that the defrost mode works like this on most/all cars, to ensure that air is dried before reaching the windshield.)
Avoid hood damage!
Despite what Chrysler Group might think about its highly qualified, skilled mechanics, there are lots of careless, overconfident, and just plain ignorant people out there in the dealerships. Even those who do care are often rushed and pushed to get work done too quickly. (There are, by the way, also caring, intelligent, highly skilled people in the dealerships. It's just hard to know which one will be working on your car until it's over!)
Stu in Georgia pointed out that damage to the hood can be caused by people forgetting the hood has a prop rod, since the car looks like it would have springed hinges. He recommended removing the hood prop rod entirely to avoid people from denting the hood by trying to close it while the prop rod is in place...
He also pointed out that the plastic shroud on top of the engine, with DOHC 16V printed on it, has three snap-fit lugs. If it is not snapped down completely, it can stick up just enough to dimple the center of the hood. (This happened to him).
Adam W. Broadaway wrote: "I read your paragraph about hoods getting damaged by careless/hurried mechanics. I brought my PT Cruiser in to a body shop after slightly damaging the bumper when I slid across an icy bridge last year. I went to pick up the car and noticed a large bulge in the left part of the hood. I asked the manager about it and he seemed surprised. I told him it looked like someone had tried to shut the hood with the prop rod up. He got very angry at me for accusing his guys of that but there it was, a huge bulge in the hood. Two months later, I got a new hood out of the deal. I did not realize this was a common problem until I read your story."
Smoking (early models)
Stu in Georgia wrote that early PT Cruisers (first year or so?) can have excessive oil consumption with a large blue cloud of smoke may appear on cold startup. Other symptoms include oil in the PCV hose and intake plenum - if you pull the PCV hose off of the nipple that is molded into the plenum, oil will drip out of both the hose and the nipple. The cause: the valve cover is different from the other 2.4 liter engines (in minivans and cloud cars) because its PCV oil splash baffle must be oil-tight. If a valve cover not designed for the Cruiser is used, oil will get sucked into the PCV valve. It cannot be modified to work! Here are the part numbers of the correct valve cover (replacing it requires removing the intake plenum):
- 4777473AB Cover-Cylinder Head
- 4777478 Gasket-Valve Cover
- 4777873AB Gasket-Intake Manifold
Clean the spark plugs and intake plenum to eliminate leftover oil while the engine is apart.
Update: Todd W Miller wrote...
1) as of December, 2005, the valve cover has been further revised as the part number has been revised to 4777473AD;
2) an additional valve cover gasket (pn 4777478) is not needed; the valve cover assembly came with all gaskets installed — the outer gasket as well as the four gaskets around the spark plug well seals. The valve cover also came with all bolts as well as a new PCV valve;
3) my dealer had a different part number for the intake manifold gaskets--4884648AA--but those were nowhere near the gaskets needed to connect the PTC's upper intake manifold to the lower intake manifold. My advice is don't bother with getting any gaskets. The valve cover cost $149 and it took about four hours to do the job; now that I know how to do it, it would probably take about two hours to do another. The Haynes manual was adequate enough although it said nothing about loosening the power steering reservoir bracket or reattaching the ignition coil!
IOD fuse issues (from ObiMatt87)
I recently had the original battery on my 2003 PT Cruiser GT finally go bad and I replaced it. In the process of it dying, I lost my interior lights, the memory on the trip odometer, my power locks, my remote key fob capability, my radio/CD player, and the odometer display showed a "NO FUSE" message alternating with the overall mileage reading. The car still ran fine, but it was obvious I had blown a fuse or fuses.
Online, there were references to the IOD fuse, but no clear answer on what it truly affected and how to replace it (since it's in a protective clip you pull up). Here's the scoop:
1) I bought a fuse tester/puller at a local auto parts store, which enabled me to individually pull all the fuses that were labled as having anything to do with the interior lights, radio, or locks. This included those in the fuse box by the driver's left knee inside the car and a 40 amp fuse up in the power distribution box under the hood. All checked out good, so I strongly suspected the IOD was the culprit.
2) I never did find anything in the manual or online that said exactly what that fuse affects, other than it is used during initial transport from the factory to dealers to minimize the drain on the battery by pulling it up. I know it affects at least the following systems:
- Interior dome/reading lights (the dash lights, head- and tail-lights still work)
- Power locks (both the door switches and the remote fob capability)
- Radio/CD/Cassette player (though the unit will still show trim lighting)
- The trip odometer memory (which would reset each time the car was shut down)
3) The yellow 20-amp IOD fuse is in the fuse box (power distribution center) under the hood and just behind the air filter housing. It stands out because it is encased in a protective clip that allows you to pull it up to break the circuit, but leave it in place for transport and not get lost. The challenge is getting it out of that clip. To make it a bit easier to access, I removed the housing top to the air filter, which is simple (disengage the clips on the left side and the right front side, and then the screw holding the retaining ring on the rubber hose on the back left side).
4) Taking a very small, thin screwdriver that I use for glasses screws worked well. You'll see a small rectangle opening in the top (where you'll be able to read the "20" on the fuse). I think a small curved tip screwdriver would work, too. Take the tip of your screwdriver and insert it in the opening, with the pressure up under the left side of the opening (the top is actually hinged, with the left side being where it clips down in place and the plastic hinges on the right). It takes a little effort, and I used my left hand to try and help unclip the left side of the clip while I applied the out/lifting pressure with the screwdriver. After a while I got it, and the top opened up to allow access to the fuse.
5) Took out the fuse, tested it--it was bad. Popped in a new yellow 20 amp mini fuse, closed the top of the clip, reinserted the fuse into the fuse box by gently pushing down, and then checked things in the car. Voila! I had everything restored.
Most PT Cruisers have an antitheft key (SentryKey) with a radio transponder built in to avoid theft. The cost of a new key varies from $25 (Sears) to $40 and up (dealer). To code the key yourself (after it has been cut to match your existing key), put one of your original keys into the ignition, turn to ON (run), leave it there between four and ten seconds, and remove the key. Immediately put the second original key in, and turn it to ON for about ten seconds. A chime should sound. Immediately take the key out, put in the new spare key, and turn it to the ON position. After about ten seconds, you should hear one more chime. Only a limited number of keys can be programmed, and you only get a few attempts to get it right, so be careful and wait to hear the chimes when doing this process. We have now done this ourselves. It is the same process as on many other Chrysler vehicles. Not all PTs have this key - some have a plain key that costs about $1 to replicate.
Miscellaneous PT Cruiser repairs and issues
peta/PTzPT wrote about "snagging my sleeve on the door lock pins on my 2002. I finally fixed the problem! I went to the local Crafts Store and bought 4 wooden 3/4" balls and drilled them out to fit the pins. For asthetics I stained them a nice warm medium old english shade with some Formby's and then coated with poly urethane for shine. No more sagging the sleeve on the pins and they really sort of look nice with the neutral shades of the interior!
A relatively small number of people have reported cracking windshields which appear to be due to incorrect assembly or similar issues. If this happens to you, pressure the dealer or Chrysler (via 800 992 1997) for replacement.
Some people have also reported windshield chipping. This may be a result of airflow; Dean said he had good results with a three-piece Lexan deflector from Advanced Auto.
PTZoom wrote: "there is a TSB regarding replacing the parking brake 'equalizer' with a stronger unit as regards the failure to engage problem."
To find the date your car was built, open the driver's door. On the door, just under the latch, is a white sticker. In the bottom left hand corner is the date in MMDDHH form - month/day/hour, e.g. 071111 is July 11th at 11 am. (Thanks, Poodles.)
Roy Thigpen wrote: “My 2002 PT Cruiser had an electrical short caused when the wire from the battery to the distribution block was rubbed through by a sharp edge on the engine block, where the bracket is secured. This blew out the starter and the battery and could have caused a fire.”
New PT Guy wrote that Chrysler is aware of the "leaky squirter" issue; see your dealer to get a revised one. They may be backordered. The dealer should replace both even if only one is working. Until then, try washing the hood with water after using them. (8/22/00)
Gas mileage: Proper tire inflation, upgraded plugs and wires, forward-looking driving habits (e.g. slower acceleration and coasting to lights) all have an impact; some report better mileage from higher-flow air filters.
A small number of 2001 Cruisers seem to have been built with bad headlight switches which can cause the lights to go out.
See our performance tips.
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