LH Series (Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler 300M - Concorde - LHS - New Yorker, and Eagle Vision) — Repairs and performance upgrades
Safety issue, with recall
Joseph Blavatt pointed us to a recall for the 1993-94 LH series, number 883, issued in July 2000 for defective power seat adjusters. Failure is almost certain to lead to loss of control as the seat can actually fall backwards while in traffic.
With the ignition key removed, you can push them out from underneath, or you can gently pull/pry them out from above (use a flat screwdriver and caution, or push them from below). Removing the connector cable is usually easy. You can try taking them apart and cleaning the contacts, or order one from a dealer. List was $42 as of January 2008; we got one from Pomoco for $30 including shipping, because cleaning the contacts - one badly damaged by a coffee spill - didn't work. Here’s the old switch from our 300M, as broken apart into into its four components.
The most common problems were warping brake rotors (you may need to try another brand if you keep having problems, but also check your calipers), transmission issues (click here), and air conditioner failure (see bottom of page).
Brake squeaking. A relatively quiet squeak / grinding noise may be coming from the shields around the rotors; they can bend slightly out of line and touch the wheel, rotor, or other parts. These can easily be diagnosed by taking off the wheel, and can be fixed by simple bending. Be careful when you deal with brakes.
Lock freezing. Our 300M's ignition lock froze unexpectedly. Teterboro Chrysler-Jeep in Teterboro, New Jersey, yielded the solution: service manager Dave suggested putting the key in, then rapidly but gently hitting the end of the key with a screwdriver or similar object (we used a pliers) about 10-20 times, and trying to turn it again. We had to repeat this about five times, but eventually the key gave, and we drove to Teterboro, who took out the lock and machined the tumblers, solving it. Dave said that the tolerances were tight, so that a small bit of dirt could cause it to get stuck; machining the tumblers slightly is a permanent fix. (The problem came back a year later, and a couple of slightly firmer blows fixed it.)
Joseph Blavatt had a similar issue: "Whenever you were done with driving and wished to leave the vehicle the key would not come out of the ignition lock assembly. If you happened to look at the safety button on the shifter handle it was not all the way out. If you gave the shifter handle a hard whack the button would come out and you could finally remove the key." (This was fixed via recall C45).
See Tony Lewis' excellent, step-by-step guide to repairing the LH steering.
Scott Mickievicz wrote: "My 2000 300M was going into limp mode. It would go through the gears once, and then shift to 2nd and stay there until turned off. The speedo and tach worked, the slap-shift would not respond, but the displays worked. Based on other people’s input, it sounded like the input speed sensor. Calling around to garages, none of them mentioned the speed sensors, so I tried it myself. $32 for the sensor and correct socket, and 25 minutes later, it was done."
Fuel pump replacement: Kelly Laidlaw wrote: "I recently had to change my fuel pump in my 1997 Intrepid. I noticed an access panel above the tank in the trunk.....I opened the trunk and pulled back the carpet and sure enough there was an access panel that sat right over the fuel pump. It took ten minutes with no special tools [after the dealer quoted three hours]."
Instrument panel lights/fog lights sporadic odd behavior: On many 2000-04 LH cars with automatic headlights, the interior lights flash, suddenly change brightness, or flicker. The solution is to pull the connector at the switch, clean the contacts if needed, apply dielectric grease, and re-assemble it. This is not the five minute job it sounds like, since the steering column shroud and instrument panel end cap have to come off along with a bunch of screws to allow the instrument panel cluster bezel to be gently pried out. All work must be done with the battery disconnected. Chrysler advises dealers not to replace the headlamp switch. (Thanks, ImperialCrown, for referring us to TSB 08-022-03).
Transmission fluid leak (1998-2004)
Transmission fluid can leak from the hose between the cooler integrated into the radiator and the transmission; this seems common with 3.5 liter engines. “ImperialCrown” wrote, “Many times the hoses are okay, the clamps may just need re-tightening.
The brace plate above the radiator unbolts and tips forward. Just match up the washer paint marks when putting it back together for proper alignment. The lower clamps are harder to get at and you may need to jack the car up and have a jackstand in place.”
Bob Lincoln added that the hose must be rated for transmission oil; regular rubber hose can rupture fairly quickly when exposed to transmission fluid.
Steve Porter was happy with his K&N filter, saying:
The filter worked out great. It's a little throatier, and if you're doing say 40-50 and ya punch it, she really kicks in. I noticed a better shift, better throttle response and lots o' tire smoke (with traction control off).
Douglas Miske adds:
Owners with 3.5L engines can find a few free horsepower by removing the airflow restrictor found in the hose that runs from the air filter to the intake manifold. Simply disconnect the hose at the air filter end, reach in, and pull out the cone-shaped restrictor. The engine will sound throatier, and performance will improve above 4,200 rpm (when you're using the higher air flow short intake runners). Chrysler installed the restrictor mostly for sound quality, according to two dealers I asked.
Oliver Liu wrote:
I removed the airbox restictor, waited 3 days, installed a K&N air filter, waited 5 days, and then replaced the muffler (the large rectangular thing under the rear seats) with straight pipe today.
It sounds REALLY aggressive. The 3.3l engines have the muffler as well, but the 3.5l engine have a resonator after this (where the dual exhaust tips are). This is the only thing I have between the cat and the tailpipe now.
The airbox restrictor did almost nothing, the K&N was a subtle but nice change, apparent under hard accelleration. The exhaust mod is borderline obnoxious. NO CHECK ENGINE LIGHT comes on, this is a popular rumor.
Mark A. Chastain wrote:
I own a 1995 Intrepid, 3.5 Liter. I have read the articles here and followed them. The flow restrictor is gone, and the resonator has been replaced with a glass pack of the same size with two 2.5ID outlets so that it looks similar to stock. The sound is definitely better, and the improvement in response is noticeable especially while on the interstate.
I think everyone is missing an important issue. The rubber duct between the airbox and the fenderwell. If you haven't looked at it, you should. I estimate that the rectangular inner measurements are less than 3/4 inch high, and less than 5" long. I cut out that section, retained the ends and connected them with some cheap universal airduct purchased at the local car parts store. This opened the duct to a minimum of 2" high and 6" long. I made the other mods at the same time, so I can't say if this alone improved performance, but it seems to me that that duct is definitely restricting flow.
Gary Howell wrote:
Chrysler on the 4 speed autos prior to the PT had a safety that would shift them even locked in low 1 through the gears, but the shift points in low one were around 6300 RPM. That is a trick the NHRA drag guys in stock classes were doing with the 4 speed autos. I doubt they have eliminated the safety, so it should still work with the PT. I would try it myself, but mine is a 5 speed. The stock rev limiter is at 6500 RPM's, so you will know if it will work before you get to the rev limiter and not hurt anything.
Headlight upgrades and replacement
Upgrades (courtesy Gene Poon)
Those 93 Intrepid headlights are poor. The 95-97 ones are a little better but not much. Make sure the lights are aimed properly, and do not rely on the aiming scales and levels. Those are just a crutch for the states that inspect cars for headlight aim, since their old headlight aiming devices that read off pips in the headlight surface won't work.
Find a dark parking lot. Park another car with a good beam pattern, and your Intrepid side-by-side. Aim the Intrepid lights so they have a similar beam pattern, as close as you can, and so the beam looks to aim as far as the other car's. They will probably be dimmer and spottier...like you said, they are lousy headlights. I compared a Taurus to an Intrepid and found that the aim scales resulted in a short, low aim point. Those lights wound up about two marks higher than the indicated "correct" point when the beams looked right. Low beam seems to be easier to aim, probably because the beams are closer and easier to see from the driver's seat.
I don't know why the discrepancy between actual beams and aim scales, other than maybe the plastic warps or the factory was sloppy. If it bothers you, this is the condensed version of how those aiming scales are set at the factory:
- Aim the headlights by their actual beam.
- Adjust the aim scales so they show "correct."
My neighbor with an Intrepid noticed the difference immediately when he sat in my car.
Additional headlight information from Gene Pooon
Several comments have been made about the 93-97 LH car headlamps, specifically about the threaded inserts in the plastic housings seizing up, so that they strip out of the plastic when the mounting screws are removed to change a bulb. A good, easy solution, if yours have not yet done this, is to apply a thin coating of silicone grease (dielectric grease is fine, I use GC Electronics Z-5 Silicone grease) on the threads of both the screws and the threaded inserts; and when replacing the screws, tighten them snugly but not very tightly...and then BACK OFF 1/6 turn (one spline on these Torx screws). The headlights won't be loose, and this will greatly reduce the risk of the threads seizing up.
If you find cracks in the plastic, a good product for fixing them is Rawn "Plasti-Pair" (Rawn Co., Spooner, WI 54801, 800-826-6791). I buy it at my local electronics parts house. The solvent in this two-part acrylic repair material dissolves the surface of the plastic of the headlight, so the repair actually fuses to the plastic once it hardens.
I had a headlight with the top/center screw boss cracked off; by mixing Plasti-Pair and letting it set til it was like a pliable putty, I was easily able to shape the material to restore the screw boss.
Replacement (courtesy Jim Longo)
I just installed new halogen bulbs in a 96 Chrysler Concorde to improve lighting. Beware removing the headlights! The car has two long screws with T15 head that run through the top of the headlamp housings, through the adjusting mechanism, and into the bottom of the headlight housings. A poor design! You are supposed to remove the two screws, pull the headlight housing forward, unplug the electrical connector, and remove the headlight housing from the vehicle to change the bulb.
The screws only engage a thread in the bottom of the headlight housing, and they pass through all of the other components. The bottom of the housing is a plastic part with a two piece metal insert molded into it. What happens as soon as you turn the screws? The bottom of the headlight housing cracks as the metal insert (which apparently seizes to the screw) begins turning in its plastic mount. The headlight housing is hard, brittle plastic, so it has no give and cracks almost instantly. I ended up completely breaking three of the four mounts and using other screws to hold the headlight housings in place. On the headlight where both mounts broke, I also had to secure the headlight by wedging a piece of fuel line into the mount to keep the light in one position (it will aim too low without the screws running clear through the housing).
Maybe it would help to soak the mounts with penetrating oil for a couple of days (half an hour was insufficient) and praying to the mounts from breaking.
Additional info from Russ Francis
There is a way to replace the headlights on the LH cars, at least my 1994 Intrepid ES, without removing the long screws from the headlight housing
1) remove the fog light assembly, two philips head screws.
2) remove the two bolts from the lower headlight assembly supports via the fog light opening in the bumper/facial. I used a 3/8" ratchet for this.
3) remote the two bolts securing the upper headlight assembly the car body.
4) assembly slips out far enough to remove the bulb and replace it.
Recalls, silent warrantees, and service information
Want to replace the tie rod bushings for the 1992-2003 Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler 300M, Concorde, LHS, and New Yorker, or Eagle Vision? CarQuest has an inner tie rod end repair kit, which uses a two piece bushing to eliminate special tool sand lubricate; these bushings snap into place (and the kit includes a bolt lock plate). The kit is part number K7349. (Thanks, John Kaderka.)
Gary Smith wrote:
There is a recall on the fuel rails for 1993 to 1996 Intrepid. Seems that there is a fire hazard. Ouch!
There is also a silent "don't tell them till it breaks" recall on the AC evaporators for the Intrepid [webmaster note: this probably only applies to first-generation vehicles]. Good until 100,000 miles but yours has to fail first and verified by the dealer. Then there is no charge. (Thomas Barnett wrote that, per Daimler-Chrysler customer service, the 'silent' warranty on the a/c evaporator is only good to 70,000 miles. But since I had only 73,000 mi, they paid for all but $200 worth.) -- Editor's note: they probably are no longer honoring this in 2005.
If you're going to buy a used Intrepid have them rotate the tires. These can be a real pain to get off. The hub to wheel clearance is real tight and they tend to get corroded together. I applied axle grease between them and haven't had a problem since.
(Joe Holmes noted that Chrysler sells the recall kit with a separate part number, so you don't need to trust your car to the dealer.)
Jack Hannah wrote:
I received a recall notice for the fuel rail leakage, (which you have noted) and also for a re-enforcement bracket to be installed on the lower control arm brackets. Apparently the welds crack, and break on the brackets that attach the lower control arms to the sub-frame. A simple brace is installed over to bracket for the control arm.
I found this out after I had replaced my sub-frame because the bracket welds had broken, and were pulling away from the sub-frame. When I informed Chrysler Canada I had done this work, I was asked to send in my receipt for my expenses, and it would be reviewed for possible reimbursement. (still waiting to hear). There is no mileage limitation for the recall. My Intrepid has 300,000 kms on the odometer. I proudly use it as a taxi.
Mike Behnke wrote:
Seems that they have a problem with the seats breaking [on at least the 1996 Dodge Intrepid], performed only 'upon customer request.' Recall number is #833.
Mr. Source wrote:
LH cars (94-97): after some time the bushings of the steering arms become loose, and the steering gets too much free play,what I mean is you can't set your wheel straight, and the steering wheel becomes very loose. Plus you will also have noises coming from the suspension.