Question about 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser

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2003 PT Cruiser overheating

My PT Cruiser was overheating. The oil was really low and I added 2 quarts of oil to it. I took it to the shop and they replaced the radiator, saying it had a 'crank' in it. They also said there wasn't any coolant found in the car, and they added coolant. I drove the car away after paying over $400 for the new radiator and after only driving 5 miles it overheated again and the coolant light came on. The oil also smelled kinda funny when I popped the hood. It's now back at the mechanics again and I'm awaiting a new diagnosis. Can anyone help with info on how this all works or if this info even makes sense so when the shop tries to charge me even more money I can argue? Thanks!

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  • happy0700 Feb 25, 2009

    Hi I have 2001 pt cruiser with 89k mi and just last summer it overheated on a 95 degree day 400 mile highway trip in August '08.  That was the only trouble with engine in 7 years! We paid alot of money $800 to fix a fan problem which cured it .. until last week when we noticed oil spot in garage and then yesterday when in 30 degree weather the overheat light came on.   Not sure where this is going to go--many possiblities...am afraid to bring it in...

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Hi Shannon,

Since the vehicle is already at the mechanics, the standard check this and that scenarios don't apply. I also try to refrain from judging a situation that I'm not in front of, but something isn't quite right.

In case you are being taken advantage of, knowledge is power and I'm going to do my best to empower you. So let's get to the right questions to ask your mechanic.

  • I find it disturbing that it took only five miles to overheat.If they filled it with coolant and enough leaked out to allow it to overheat in under ten minutes, that leak should have been apparent. Did they not even check?
  • Did they take it for a test drive? At least run it until it warmed up? If so, HOW DID THEY NOT NOTICE? If not, HOW DID THEY FILL IT? The engine needs to be running to circulate the coolant, to get rid of air pockets remaining in the engine as you fill the radiator. For this to happen, the engine needs to be warm enough for the thermostat to open and allow circulation. Again, how did they not notice?
  • What about the oil? Another leak? From where? Did they check?
  • Was the radiator new? If not, why $400. If so, where is the old one? (You might call a local salvage yard for their price on a replacement)
  • Did they flush the system?
  • Did they check the thermostat?
  • Did they try to figure out why the radiator cracked? Was it just a crack or what looked like a blowout?
  • Did they check the hoses
  • Did they check the water pump? Was it leaking through the weep hole or shaft? Was the coolant circulating? Was it discolored? Was there evidence of oil in it? How much coolant was added? How much should it take? (Good one, eh?)
Things to make note of:
  • Have you noticed water pooling where you park?
  • Loss of power
  • Excess smoke
  • Oil in the coolant
  • Coolant in the oil
These (not necessarily all) symptoms can be indicative of a problem with the head gasket. The best way to check is with a compression test on all cylinders. This is done by pulling the spark plugs, attaching a pressure gauge and turning the engine once. This is repeated for each cylinder. All pressures should be close. If one or more is significantly less than the others, the cylinder is not containing the compressed gasses within. The symptoms you described along with any one of those on my list should have prompted this test.

Every one of the questions (just about every one) I put down would be reasonable if your car kept working perfectly the first time. I did get on a bit of a rant, please forgive me for that.
When asking them:
  • You should speak to the person that did the work (so he doesn't have to 'go check with whoever' to get their stories straight).
  • You should expect clear concise responses. If he starts going over your head with 'Techno-Babble', stop him and say, "Plain English, start again please".
  • His demeanor should be embarrassed and trying to make it right, convince you he knows his stuff and this was just a fluke. (Possible, I've been hit by lightning, but what were the odds?)
I hope there is a reasonable explanation, I don't like to think ill of anyone. I also will not stand for violating professional ethics or people being ripped off.

If these guys are trying to pull a fast one, they are lazy by nature. They are hoping for the same in those they take advantage of. Being prepared is key.

If you have one of those digital voice recorders, make sure it has fresh batteries and set it to record. The second you start asking questions you have the momentum, they are on the defensive.

Ask as many questions as you want. If you don't get straight answers, if you get waffling, condescension or BS, have them get your car ready to go, Don't pay them another dime. And as you leave, ask my final question: Do you guys know a good mechanic?

If you decide to take them to court, that recording is evidence. Their response to that question will likely win you the case.

I hope I have given you enough ammo to get to the bottom of this. If you need anything else comment me back, I'll respond as soon as I get it.

Either way, please let me know what happens. Can you tell I have issues with a certain type of 'business person'? ;-)

Best Regards,
Mike

Posted on Feb 13, 2009

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I have a 2001 PT Cruiser with 55.000 miles on the clock and it has started to overheat my garage has checked it out and has now came back to me and said that my engine is rotten and i need a new engine .I have had the car for 5 years and it has been well cared for so i know the engine has not been abused does anyone have a answer for me please ? thank you Patrick

Posted on Aug 02, 2010

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I have a pt cruiser and as a mechanic for 25 years and having the same problem before,the radiator fan assembly is not working on fast mode .i currently am on my third fan assembly but no new radiator.

Posted on Feb 14, 2009

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If the oil smell was sweet smell there is a leak coolant in to the oil . but when thay changed the rad thay could have spilled coolent if so it is most likely the thermastat has seazed shut or open and needs to be replaced thank you for useing fixya please rate me

Posted on Feb 12, 2009

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