1996 Dodge Neon 2.0 SOHC from North America
Cheap "beater" daily driver car possessed by demons and has gremlins living under the hood
Head gasket blew out twice: once at 36,000 miles... and again at 80,000ish miles.
Brake pads wear down way too quickly.
Has a small oil leak, but no one can figure out from what. (rear main possibly even though no visible oil in that area? I dunno.)
Car eats oil slowly.
Just recently started to smell mysterious fuel while car is idling, (everything in fuel delivery system checks out to be good, and no leaks either).
I think the mystery oil eating and fuel richness could be from the engine valves?
Battery terminal clamps have excessive corrosion, and need frequent cleaning.
The air conditioning has never really worked very well, and six months ago it decided to blow out hot air only.
The front windshield defrost is poor design and only defogs a small section in the center of window, (we end up driving in rain and/or winter weather with the windows down about three inches to prevent the windows and windshield from fogging up).
When you turn any type of climate control on, the radiator fan will turn/surge on and off and on and off in 2 second intervals (very annoying).
While driving 25mph or slower and with the front windshield defoger turned on, the car will "cruise" at 20mph. I drove almost two miles through residential, up and down hills, and multiple stops without ever touching the accelerator pedal!
The temperature gauge sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
The oil pressure light sometimes comes on while driving for absolutely no reason at all.
The center brake light only works when it wants to.
Sometimes the left turn signal will come on (solid, though, not blinking) while braking instead of the brake lights (we have to tap the turn signal lever to get all the lights to work properly).
Head lamp assemblies hazed up real badly (turned yellowish milky color), making it hard to see at night.
Very loud window noise while driving (due to hardtop design).
Front window seals sometimes leak in the rain (due to hardtop design).
Trunk seal sometimes leaks in the rain.
Oil pan has barely any clearance and has scraped on railroad tracks and pot holes before.
This car handles awesomely and feel very responsive, predictable, and confident at any speed under 100mph.
The brakes work great, very controlled and performance feel to braking.
Fun to drive.
Amazing amount of room inside the cabin as well as in the trunk.
Very comfortable (for being a compact).
The cup holders are in an odd spot that requires bending down to reach, and often spilling because of bumping the control panel with the top of your drink while pulling it out.
Great on gas mileage.
Engine sounds like a weak, rusty hamster wheel... with an old, tired hamster running on it!
Transmission has no "feeling" like it is asleep or something. The engine has plenty of power for the car... but you just don't feel it because of poor choice of gearing in the automatic transmission.
Other than the wiring harness, engine, and transmission... this car could be alright. With a drive line swap, it would have potential.
Everything about the body and chassis design is great except for the hardtop idea and window defogger.
I recommend buying one at a dirt cheap price and using it for a daily "beater" car (for driving to and from work and school) ; or, stripping it down and using it for auto-cross/SCCA racing.
Buy this car only if you have close friends or family who are professional mechanics.
If you do get one of these cars, make sure to get one with a manual instead of automatic transmission.
Other than the problems I listed, nothing else has ever gone wrong. Besides routine tune-up stuff, this car is still running on all original parts!
Don't know if it is true or not, but my Neon buddies tell me that this car was a "world" car for Daimler/Chrysler...that the blue prints and chassis/body design are from Germany; the engine and drive line are from Japan Mitsubishi; assembled in Mexico; and sold as a U.S. car around the world. If this is true, then I will never anything with a Mitsubishi engine ever again; and, if we ever do an engine swap... it might have to be a Dodge Magnum engine instead of that crappy 2.0L Mitsubishi engine that's in there now.
Since owning this car, she has made numerous road trips without any problems. Trip 1: multiple two-six hour drives to and from area cities (about 6-10 times per month) and the traffic. Trip 2: Three adults and two kids and a trunk full of heavy luggage from northern Iowa to south-eastern coast of Georgia and back. Trip 3: Two adults and luggage from northern Iowa to southern Georgia (the longer scenic route) and back. Trip 4: Two adults, one cat, and over 800 pounds of luggage (yes that is correct, we had it weighed at a government certified scale before and after loading household goods... and had plenty of room in the back seat for the critter to run around, or for more weight if he weren't with us) took I-90 all the way over mountain passes, through deserts, prairies, and forests with all that weight to Tacoma/Seattle...where we deal with the traffic every day. The car has also been in one major accident, but only had body damage and was put back together wonderfully... body-men can't even tell.
Even though this car has a lot of strange problems, it seems like it will just keep on living.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 10th December, 2005
2nd Mar 2007, 15:36
I agree with you on the value of the car. I've owned a 1998 4 dr and you could not break the car no matter how hard you drove and in whatever conditions. It didn't always work perfectly and you had to live with it's minor demons, but they never stopped the car from working.
It handled great, and was great on gas and always a blst to drive.
The engine however, is a Chrysler engine. Perhaps co-designed by Mitsubishi, but Chrysler all the way. Even the 2.4 used today is a similar design. Great engine not smooth or refined, but works hard and unbreakable, like a tractor engine.
Overall, great car.
27th Jun 2007, 13:27
All of the problems you mention sound very familiar. At about 100,000 miles, my '96 dodge neon is having her brakes repaired, the gages only work half the time and the air conditioning is broken. Then again, the car has been through a lot - long road trips and too few oil changes - and is still going pretty strong...