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The Chrysler Cirrus/Dodge Stratus/Plymouth Breeze, was introduced in 1995. It quickly garnered a number of awards thanks to its comfort, interior space, and driveability. (See the main Dodge Stratus, Plymouth Breeze, and Chrysler Cirrus page)
by Tannon Weber, except as noted
The lower radiator hose is difficult to change because a crossmember blocks access. The way the clip is positioned in my car requires removal of the radiator cooling fan assembly to reach,and in turn, removal of the radiator cooling fan assembly requires removing the upper radiator hose where it connects to the radiator and loosening of the air conditioning lines' mounting brackets to pull them out of the way. It's still a tough fit to remove. The clips that hold the fans to the radiator are difficult to remove and the plastic ears break easily. There are four total, two on each side.
The four cylinder uses a radiator with the petcock on the driver's side, while the 2.5L V6 uses a radiator with the petcock on the passenger's side. The aftermarket books don't acknowledge the four cylinder position, FYI. I couldn't loosen the petcock on my radiator without removing the radiator fan assembly, as I couldn't reach it with anything with that in the way.
Tannon Weber added, “The hoses and reservoir are between the engine and the firewall, above the exhaust manifold, and are retained by a self-closing spring type clip on one end and a crimp type at the other end. The danger when the hoses leak is that they'll pour power steering fluid on to the exhaust manifold and cause a fire. ... Using a 10mm deep socket on a stubby swivel-head ratchet for one and a 10mm shallow socket with a socket extension on a stubby swivel-head ratchet on the other makes removing the reservoir possible. One of the hoses is retained by a bracket bolted to the head by a 13mm bolt.” Also see the later power steering vs cracked exhaust manifold issue later on this page.
The 2.4 doesn't suffer from having valve to piston interference, so if one blows a timing belt it can be replaced without having to generally worry about internal engine damage. The 2.0 on the other hand should have the timing belt changed according to the schedule, or earlier if needed.
Doing the timing belt requires removing the passenger's side engine mount and the vibration dampener pulley, which is the pulley for both accessory belts. While doing the timing belt one should replace the idler pulley and the tensioner pulley, as well as the water pump. It might also require pulling the bracket that the passenger's side motor mounts to on the motor side, I can't remember definitively.
The power steering pump is held in place with two retaining bolts that both have to be loosened and has a square hole to use to tighten, the square hole takes a breaker bar in either 3/8" or 1/2".
The alternator and AC is loosened on top.
It's a good idea to inspect and probably replace the accessory belts, as they're about $15 each, when doing the timing belt.
There are two plastic fender liners that need to come out to make this easier, both held in place by press-in plastic clips of a couple different types. Plan on them breaking and requiring replacement. The main fender liner is also held in place by the three screws that hold the fender splash guard near the door.
There are both upper and lower timing covers to remove. There are at least two bolts on the upper, maybe three. One is kind of hidden and will require a socket instead of a box wrench to access.
The tensioner for the timing belt has a female hex 6mm hole that one can place an allen wrench into to turn. there's another hole that should theoretically accomodate a 3mm allen to hold it locked open, but I've never been able to get that to hold fast.
One needs to use a pulley puller, hook-type, to remove the pulley. I took the main bolt out, then put it back in just a few turns, and pressed against that to work the pulley most of the way off. The bolt isn't long enough, so once the pulley is bottomed against the bolt, take the bolt out and put a 6" long, 3/8" drive socket extension into the hole, male-end first obviously. Press against that to finish freeing the pulley.
Sometimes the engine will intermittently stumble or hiccup, which can possibly be caused by oil leaking down into into the spark plug tubes through bad grommets between the valve cover and the top of the tubes. The valve cover gasket kit has those grommets.
The 2.4L DOHC and 2.0L DOHC engines use spark plug tubes that are cast into the head. Pull the plug wires and coil. Remove the spark plugs and note which tube or tubes were bathed in oil. Remove the PCV hose from the front of the valve cover. Pull the valve cover, being careful to note the extra bolts located in the center, I think eight fasteners total. In mine, the main gasket stayed on the head along with two plug tube grommets, while two stayed with the valve cover.
Remove all of these gaskets, dry the mating surfaces on the head and the valve cover and clean off any gasket sealer. Stick the new gaskets into the valve cover and apply a small dab of sealer to the corners of the valve cover gasket. Place the valve cover back and resecure. Take a clean rag or durable blue shop towel and dry the spark plug tubes that had oil in them, being sure to not leave any paper towel or rag in the holes. Put the PCV hose back on, the coil back on, new plugs in, and new plug wires.
The 2.0L SOHC engine has plug tubes that are pressed in to the head, and can leak at the bottom where pressed in. In addition to the steps above it is necessary to carefully wiggle those tubes out, clean the mating surfaces, apply sealer, and carefully press those tubes back in to the head. The Neons obviously suffer from this as well.
A problem that can exacerbate the power steering problem is a cracked exhaust manifold. The two 2.4L engines (SRT4) I've looked at have cracked exhaust manifolds, between the second and third cylinders. The one on my car cracked and heaved enough I would be able to stick a safety-razor-blade into the crack. My guess is that many of these manifolds are cracked, as you can buy them from discount auto parts stores like Autozone and O'Reilly for less than $150.
Removing the downpipe from the manifold is a pain. Getting to the two on top is very difficult even on an Arizona car, and I do not recommend using anything other than a six-point tool to try, as one is likely to round-off the fasteners with a twelve-point. Three of the fasteners were reachable with a socket on a bunch of extensions, but one required getting a hand up in there with a box wrench. I think that was the upper passenger's side. After breaking it loose with the box wrench I used a ratcheting box wrench to make removal easier.
When I removed the manifold from my cylinder head, the head was already off of the car. There are two studs/nuts and six bolts to retain the manifold, and when I removed the nuts the studs came out with them. I suggest getting the nuts off of the studs and probably getting new nuts, and possibly new studs. Beware, they're metric. 10mm for all fasteners to the head, and 10mm for the three bolts that attach the heat shield to the manifold.
There are three motor mounts and one transmission mount. 1995-97 the four cylinder has a cradle that runs from front to back and bolts to the frame, and there are spool-type mounts at the front and back. The 1998 has spool mounts that don't have a full cradle. I don't know about later cars. A third engine mount is located up high on the passenger's side between the strut tower and the timing cover. The transmission mount is located underneath the air intake stuff on the driver's side.
The passenger's side motor mount is retained from underneath by two bolts and on top by three. There's a cover bolted to the frame in front of the mount that has to be removed to let the mount side out forward. It's also necessary to loosen several air conditioning parts that are secured down.
Two options on the 1995-97 for the front. One is a complete assembly that bolts to the cradle and the ears on the motor, and the other is just an insert. I'm planning on installing the insert as it costs a lot less than the full assembly. I also plan to try adding polyurethane caulk to the spool mounts to see if that will slow their deterioration. It'll probably make them conduct vibration worse, but I'll take the tradeoff. I did look and could not find anyone selling pre-made polyurethane mounts, or I'd have ordered them.
Patrick wrote: “Factory specs call for 195/70R14 (ride tire standard on Stratus base) on my 1998 Stratus. I've used 205/70R14 on the factory wheels for last two sets. Before I changed tire size this car would bottom out often. This helped with this as well as giving the car a smoother ride. The 205 tires fit within fender wells without rubbing. I know Chrysler like other manufactures will not suggest anyone put items on their cars not to original specs but for me this worked really well so I thought I'd share this information. My Stratus currently has 236,000 miles on it. On a trip to Dallas with 4 people and luggage it made 37 mpg on the highway.”
Rick Ehrenberg's 1995 review of the Stratus
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