1989 Dodge Spirit LS 2.5 liter from North America


Good design and built like a tank, but find the newest model you can that appears well maintained


Oil leaks: there have been many develop. The valve cover on these earlier models is notorious for leaking. An updated cover was fitted along with the restyled one-piece gasket.

At 110,000 miles, I had to replace the oil pan gasket, the front crankshaft oil seal, and the camshaft oil seal to keep the car from mimicking the Exxon Valdez.

Air conditioning: At 100,000 miles, the entire system needed replacement... I mean every part of it. I installed all new components and converted it to the new refrigerant - R134A.

Other faults have been few, and mostly wear & tear items.

I recently replaced the drooping headliner.

One power window motor is shot.

One power window switch had to be replaced.

The Infinity sound system receiver went bad, as have two of the special speakers.

General replacement of all belts and hoses (water, oil, fuel, and vacuum).

General Comments:

I inherited this car from my father in 1996. It had 46,000 miles on it and had almost zero maintenance. As a result, I'm still playing catch-up.

The car is very roomy, quiet, and comfortable.

Fuel economy is around 27mpg highway, 25mpg City. It doesn't drop noticeably when using the A/C.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 3rd June, 2005

1989 Dodge Spirit Base 2.5 from North America


Find one in good shape, and it's a gem


Brake pads had to be replaced the day I bought it. Heater control valve broke. Bottom radiator hose split on me one day. Passenger front window wouldn't roll down, but fixed itself eventually. Head gasket was showing early signs of failure (bubbles in the overflow tank after it's warmed up). Speed sensor stopped working for a little while after I drive though a big ol' puddle at 35 mph, it came back about a day later.

General Comments:

The car had been terribly neglected before I bought it. The guy even said he just used it to get back and forth to work, and that was it, so as a result the car needed a good bath and some TLC.

The motor was worn so mileage wasn't up to snuff, and on some mornings when I started it, it would send up a blue smokescreen. The 2.5, a derivative of the ol' 2.2, made lots of knocking sounds, but these engines were famous for it, so it never concerned me. Piston slap I hear is a major cause of the noise. Also, because of the 2.5's long stroke (4.09 inches) it didn't like a lot of revving, these engines never need to be revved past 4500 rpm, even though horsepower peaks at 4800, and the rev limiter is set to 6000. I had mine once at 5500, and it sounded like it was screaming.

I think the biggest problem with these cars is the head gasket. The head being aluminum, and the block being iron, they expand at different rates while warming up, and over the years the head gasket just wears out. Chrysler put cheap gaskets in these cars when they were built. When you go to replace a head gasket, go to a Mopar dealer and ask for the Mopar high performance head gasket. You may feel silly saying 'high performance' and 'Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Acclaim' in the same sentence, but the fact is the high performance head gaskets were of a much higher quality than the cheap OEM units. If you got skillz, you can change one in a little over an hour, but I'd prefer taking my time. While you have the head off, replace the valve seals too if you feel like it.

NOTE for people who have the 4 speed A604 automatic... DON'T USE DEXRON FLUID IN THESE UNITS!!! Even though it says on the stick to use it, DON'T. Dexron kills the A604's. Use ATF+3, it's a little harder to find and a little most costly, but it's well worth the price.

Now, with all that said, if you find one of these cars that's been well maintained, go for it. These cars are quiet, comfortable, fairly roomy cars that are easy to drive and service. My old 89, even with the worn engine, would cruise at 60-70 mph or higher without fuss. Mileage for these cars, assuming it's not worn out, is pretty good. 30 or so mpg on the highway is easily achievable.

Here's a tip for people with the 2.5, when you change your oil or have it changed for you, ask for a Ford V8 oil filter. Tell them it's a Fram PH8A, and have them cross-check the number for another brand if you don't like Fram filters. One small thing though, there's a bolt on the alternator that may have to be trimmed a little in order to give the larger filter enough room. Trust me, you will want to trim this bolt, or bend it up out of the way, I killed a battery one time when the larger filter made contact with this bolt. About a half inch off this bolt will do, and 10-20 seconds with a grinder will take care of it.

Ahh, the trials and tribulations of owning an EEK. Feel like rapping about your EEK? Email me jbright@nb.sympatico.ca.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 13th January, 2004

1st Nov 2004, 09:09

Where to begin, I have a 1989 dodge spirit and I hate the thing. I have had it just over two years and have put 2,100 dollars into it just making it drivable. With this I have decided to just go and have fun in it till it will not go anymore.

Somethings that have gone wrong are the rack and pinon went out, I leak oil, transmission fluid, gas out of the back of the tank (i can't get more than 1/2 a tank at a time). As you said the blue cloud of smoke appears at times. It eats tires like crazy after getting an alignment, my headlights switch went out so now I have a toggle switch for them. Headlights keep blowing out when I drive in the rain. miles don't count anymore. They stop a year ago at 186,428 miles. I also leak power steering fluid which is not fun when I runs out unexpectanly. it would seem the list goes on and on, but I don't feel like typing all of it, but believe me I will get my revenge on the vehicle when I get my new car in a couple of weeks.

3rd Apr 2010, 03:36

Mines works fine, except I don't know what type of power steering fluid to add LOL.

17th Aug 2012, 13:01

Just a quick comment on the headlights... Mine went out during a rain, and I found out later that it was because water had gotten into the headlight assembly. Sealed it with silicone and voila! No more headlight problems!

14th Apr 2013, 15:51

Get an new mechanic, they are eating up your money, that is what I have found.

I have an 89 Spirit with 220 000 kilometers on it. It still runs great. Brakes and normal wear stuff, but it goes and goes and goes.

I always found a lemon car is rare, but who maintains it can turn a perfectly good car into a seeming lemon.