Reliable, reasonable car with good looks. 190K miles and counting
I've got a 1999 Dodge Avenger ES with (just now) 190,000 miles on it. It's my second Avenger and has been a very good car. I bought it new and have been the only owner. First Avenger (1997) was totalled in a flood.
I've seen a fair number of these problems:
* First the front end shake. If it isn't alignment, wheel balance, or a brake issue, check your halfshafts. Take the wheel off, grab the halfshaft and try to move it. There should be no play up and down or front to back. Check the CV boots and make sure they are intact and that each is clamped on both ends. They can look fine with the CV boot sheared apart. Get your hands in there, move the boots around and make sure they are intact. You'll get a little greasy Worst case you'll learn a little bit about your drivetrain.
* Input speed sensor was replace at ~16K under warranty. I replace the output speed sensor much later myself when it failed. The car went into "limp" mode and all the guages stopped working. The output speed sensor is an easy DIY fix with minimal tools. Maybe 10 minutes tops.
* My torque converter lockdown clutch failed at 150K miles and the transmission followed at 157K. Rebuilt the transmission (Aamco - overpriced!) and haven't had any problems since. You'll get an error code and general transmission performance issues (slipping, slow shifting, clunking.)
* If you abuse (or someone has abused) the transmission, I've seen (or had) them fail in as little as 40K miles. Take it easy, it's Chrysler's basic transmission, not a performance tranny. They use it in their minivans and Neons. Use common sence.
* Had the rear main seal replaced at ~60K miles.
* For a while I was bending the 17" aluminum wheels with regularity (half dozen wheel repairs at ~$165 each in the course of a year) on the mean streets of Atlanta, but haven't had any problems since we moved away.
* Replace the ball joint as warranty work under recall at ~51K miles.
* My cruise control switch assembly (in dash) broke at ~27K miles and was replaced under warranty. The original and replacement both never worked right. Sometimes it works first push, sometimes you have to press it several times to turn the cruise control on.
* Switched from OEM Goodyear Eagle RSA (nice performance, but soft tread compound that wears out quickly and ~$138/tire.) to Yokohama AVID V4S (equal performance for daily driving, harder tread compound that lasts more than twice as long as OEM Goodyear tire and ~$117/tire.)
* Chrysler tune-up service at 108K miles. Timing belt, plugs, filters, coolant flush, replaced transmission filter, gaskets, fluid.
* I've replaced 3 batteries in 8 years and 190K miles (normal.)
* Regular oil for break-in, then synthetic oil every 5K miles.
* I've got one badly fogged headlight (the other was replaced after an accident and hasn't fogged yet) from UV exposure. This is very common in cars this old. Sad, but the manufacturers probably weren't that concerned with how long the plastic would perform when engineering the car.
* The nose of the car has caught a lot of grief (and curbs) in its lifetime. We've had it repaired or replaced (after accident) several times and probably painted about 4 or 5 times. It needs it now.
* The pressboard spare (donut) cover in the trunk gave way recently. I'm going to replace it with a thin plywood sheet cut to size.
* The switches that indicate the doors are closed both quit on me at about 175K after about 7 years. A trip to my local Pull-A-Part and $5 fixed that.
* The back seats are pleather, not leather. I consider this false advertising on the part of Dodge. They probably indicate this in the fine print somewhere...
* The rear suspension doesn't have a camber adjustment, so my car wears out rear wheels as the wheels are kicked out on the bottom of the wheel more than the top of the wheel. Causes wear on the in-board edge of the tire. This is pain because you can't easily visually inspect the wear on this area of the tire. There are some ~$100 kits that replace some of the rear suspension and allow camber adjustment to eliminate this problem. I haven't tried them yet.
* Replace 1 alternator at ~163K miles.
* Blew out the air conditioning pulley ~157K miles. Scared the bejezus out of me when this let loose at highway speeds. $367 repair P/L.
You'll hear horror stories out there about Avengers (usually multiple owner, with unknown owner history) but both of my Avengers were very reliable to me. Other than the above noted repairs, it was just minor fuses, bulbs, etc. Maintain the wearing parts (regular oil changes, brakes, tires (proper inflation and tire rotation) ) and the car just keeps on running.
A good car. Looks faster than it performs. Engine is underpowered, but reliable (built by Mitsubishi) suspension is excellent but lacks rear camber adjustment (read: early tire wear.) Weak point of this car is the Chrysler transmission. Perform basic maintenance and this is a reliable car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 3rd December, 2007