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thinking of an LH what to look for

Discussion in 'LH: Large Cars, 1993-2004' started by sixto, Jan 3, 2014.

  1. sixto

    sixto Active Member

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    As the kids get their licenses I'm thinking an LH is a solid learner car. Exterior dimensions and overhangs shouldn't be an issue since the fleet includes a Grand Caravan, Suburban and Clubwagon... so they have to learn what big is. I'm familiar with and have great respect for the pushrod 3.3 but it seems later LHs don't cost more than pre '98s. I'll take OBD2 over familiarity. As if it were a quick question to answer, what are the better LHs with 150-200K miles on the clock? As tie breakers, I prefer smaller engines, front benches and fabric upholstery. I like power windows and locks but I don't need power seats or climate control. I'm happy with hubcaps and boulevard suspension. I like moonlit walks on the beach... Is there a buyer guide or year-by-year summary beyond what's on Edmunds.com?

    Thanks,
    Sixto
    97 GC SE 3.3 235K mile
     
  2. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    From what I remember, '98 LH's had some quirks. That being said, they're still good. You won't find the 3.3L past the 1Gs, but the late-model 1G LH's got OBDII systems. Regardless of which generation you choose, the best engine to have in the LHs was the 3.5L. It's got plenty of power, got great fuel economy, and was a relatively simple and easy to maintain engine.

    You don't need an R/T or M Special, but finding a nice Intrepid would be the way to go, IMO. It's sporty enough looking that the kids won't hate you, it's reliable, it's got plenty of room, and there should be a bunch of them to choose from. (I know there are around here.)
     
  3. sixto

    sixto Active Member

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    Thanks. For reference, how 'less than best' is the 2.7?

    Sixto
    97 GC SE 3.3 235K miles
     
  4. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    The first gen 2.7 had some maintenance related issues. It was built with tighter tolerances than the older engines (better for power and economy, but more demanding of maintenance), and required more maintenance to keep it running right. A lot of these engines suffered from engine-killing sludge build up due to poor maintenance. It's hard to tell whether or not there is sludge in the engine without tearing into it part way, so it's hard to know if they engine you've got will be a good one, or a troublesome one.

    Also, as the 2.7L is a more advanced engine than the 3.5L, it can be harder and more expensive to work on, should anything go wrong. More moving parts means more that can fail.

    Also, the 2.7 is a little underpowered, especially in the large LH cars. This makes the engine work harder all the time, which can wear it out sooner, and, again, require more maintenance.

    http://www.allpar.com/mopar/V6/27.html

    http://www.allpar.com/mopar/V6/35.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_SOHC_V6_engine
     
  5. floridaman2013

    floridaman2013 Active Member

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    I agree with Jerry. Buy the biggest engine. Somebody once told me when I was a young boy hanging out in garages that you can never have enough of cubic inches for power. Sure there are turbos and other ways to increase power in smaller engines but like Jerry said they will work a lot harder all the time which will shorten engine life. I'm all for large engines that are fuel efficient, low maintenance, and and proven durable/dependable.
     
  6. Miles11

    Miles11 New Member

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    I've had three LH's. Here's my impressions for what their worth; others may disagree:

    Both generations are stout, safe cars. My wife cracked a utility pole in half with my '94 Intrepid. She walked away and the car was repairable, since is was only a few months old. My son took a head on hit from an Astro van in my '99 300M and also walked away, unfortunately it was totaled due to age and mileage.

    The Intrepid had the 3.3L, which had plenty of guts and got decent mileage. Weak spots in the car were the steering rack and transmission. Also watch for rust on the door bottoms as these cars are getting pretty old now; that's the first spot mine started to rust. I had no other huge issues in 140K miles.

    My first 300M was a '99, and I now drive a 2002 300M special. The 3.5L and tranny are totally bullet proof if maintained and get decent gas mileage. Make sure the timing belt and water pump have been changed at least once in any car over 100K miles. The body and interiors of both cars showed very little wear despite their age and mileage. No rust at all. The only weak spot thus far has been the suspension. The rear struts have a bracket for the rear stablizer that tends to break off from stress. In general the original bushings throughout the front suspension don't hold up too well, but if you're handy you can replace them yourself.

    On the gen 2 cars, nobody that I know of has had a positive experience with the 2.7L engine. These are usually the less expensive ones out there. The 3.2L and 3.5L cars seem to run forever.

    My advice would be to splurge for a decent Gen 2 car with the bigger engine. They're resonably priced and with a few minor repairs you can have a pretty safe, comfortable car that's reliable.

    You can also try checking www.dodgeintrepid.net and www.300Mclub.org; both are great sites with tons of helpful information.
     
  7. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    To clarify my statements about the 2.7L; the first gen of the motor was available in the 2nd Gen LH cars.

    The 1st Gen LHs had either the 3.3L or the 3.5L.

    2nd Gens had either the 2.7L, 3.2L, or 3.5L.
     
  8. patricklynch

    patricklynch Mopar starship captain

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    I agree with everything the above posters said and lhforums.com is another good site for LH info.

    I'm on my second LH car. My first was a well maintained 1999 Concorde Lxi with a 3.2 and all of the bells and whistles. The second is my current car a 2002 Concorde Lxi with a 3.5 and not so many bells and whistles in spite of it being the same trim level and with some neglect issues I had to work through. I found very little difference in fuel economy between the two but the 3.5 has quite enjoyable get up and go. These are fantastic interstate and windy twisty road cars that get great gas mileage and are fun to drive when everything is up to spec. My second car had 150,000 miles on it when I got it. You are probably expecting to do some work on a car at the mileage you listed and my searching for second gen LH cars, I found almost all of them to be in the 150k range, I now have 165k on 2002 car. In addition to what the above posters said, also expect to replace struts unless you find one that had been well loved by a previous owner. When the struts are shot, they're miserable to drive but a blast when they're good. Check the coolant tank for cracking near where it says MIN-MAX, If you have to do anything with the coolant system, make sure the air is bled out of the engine or else you won't have heat in the car. Things like thermostats (unless it's a Gates), coolant tanks and radiator caps, just get the dealer part. I've had nothing but bad experiences with aftermarket parts and wasted a lot of time doing jobs over. Prices on dealer parts for these cars have come way down. For dealer equivalent parts, Rock Auto is a good source as you can tell from their parts listings which are the OEM parts made by the original suppliers and their prices are good. I got spark plugs and oxygen sensors that worked exactly as supposed to for a lot less.

    If you test drive a second gen car and you hear some awful knocking from the front end under certain conditions, it's only the front sway bar bushings. Irritating but not critical. For the criteria you outlined for interiors etc., I'd look for a 1999-2001 Intrepid with a 3.2. You'll get the kind of interior you want but also avoid the troubled 2.7. There is a trim level of the Concorde LX that will pretty much match interior wise but you're stuck with the 2.7. Why they dropped the 3.2 in favour of an engine that caused no end of warranty problems is beyond me.

    I guess LH cars are big by today's standards, but when you're used to things like '68 Fury's and '79 Dodge St. Regis's big is relative. :D
     
  9. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    My father's first car was a '69 Fury III. He later owned a loaded '95 Intrepid (which I wrecked, sadly - without a scratch on me, BTW), and now owns a base-model '94 Intrepid to get back and forth to work in and a loaded Charger Road & Track for the weekends. I think he still liked the '95 the best...

    I had a g/f with a loaded '00 Intrepid R/T - that was a nice car... And my uncle had a 300M Special - very, very, very nice...

    You really can't go wrong with an LH car.
     
  10. sixto

    sixto Active Member

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    I guess the 2.7 is out of the picture.

    Was the second gen Concorde offered with fabric upholstery? I only see them in leather.

    Are the 3.2 and 3.5 interference engines? How likely are the 3.2 and 3.5 to need cam and crank seals when replacing the timing belt? Our 3.3 leaked from the front and rear crank seals from about 150K miles. With 236K miles now I clean the pan during oil changes and it's grimy in short order. I lose a quart between 4K mile changes but nothing drops on the driveway!

    Sixto
    97 GC SE 3.3 236K miles
     
  11. patricklynch

    patricklynch Mopar starship captain

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    There might be exceptions out there, but every cloth seat 2nd gen Concorde I've looked at had the 2.7. I've not heard of any of the 3.2 or 3.5's needing cam or crank seals when replacing the timing belt, but definitely the water pump and idler pulley.
     
  12. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    Ditto.
     
  13. Miles11

    Miles11 New Member

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    The 3.2 and Gen2 3.5 are interference engines.
     
  14. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    Yes, they are, but the timing belt is far easier to change in the LH cars than most other cars, thanks to the traditional longitudinally mounted drivetrain.
     
  15. raymondo112

    raymondo112 Member

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    Reading this page I know its a bit old, but I couldn't help but ad to it, some things I may point out, 3.3 best motor for these cars if you are not very mechanically inclined, some would say to do timing belt and water pumps on a 3.2 or 3.5 is not a big deal, for those that are not able to do it themselves it can be pricey, even though it is the normal must do on almost every car today as we are getting away from the old pushrod type motors we used to know and depend on. Cam and Crank seals can leak despite what some may think, I have had cam seals go bad before on a 3.5 not a fun job, very very time consuming and extensive, nearly as much work as removing the head and you literally can because once you do everything to get to the cam seals it wouldn't be that much more. Stay away from 2.7 motors and that's with any Chrysler car not just the LH bodys, its underpowered and a headache to take care of and do work to.

    If you decide to go 3.2 or 3.5 look underneath, and really get underneath, check the trans cooler lines for wetness they always leak on these cars so figure on replacing them as soon as you get the vehicle, check for coolant leaks, and oil dripping from the bottom of the car, when the cam or crank seals leak it will drip oil down the automatic tensioner, there's also a possibility it can contaminate the timing belt and cause it to fail.

    Also inspect the front belts, this could tell you a lot about the maintenance of the car, if the belts are old, cracked or dry rotted, imagine what condition the timing belt is in. Also the harmonic balancers go bad on the LH cars, this is easy to spot when the cars running.

    On First gens go a little deeper and inspect brake and fuel lines going under the car to the back they get rusty become brittle and usually break when high braking pressure is involved like a panic stop.

    These are great cars for the money, and don't need any more or less maintenance than any of the other cars in its class, what can make owning one of these a bad experience is a lazy owner who is just trying to flip the car because it has been neglected for a long time and he or she is hoping to cycle it one more time just to get some money out of it, if you are like me, its not too bad because whatever breaks or needs attention can be addressed pretty easily but the hard part is to make sure you don't overpay for a neglected car when you might find one for a similar fee that has been kept up to par.

    I would also stay away from the digital climate units on the 1st gens, they have quite a bit of issues, 2nd gens not to sure on I've only had the 1st gen so this is my only addition to those who are considering adopting one of these cars.
     
  16. Jerry Simcik

    Jerry Simcik Well-Known Member

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    Good points, though they would apply to all engines, not just the 3.2L or 3.5L.

    The 3.3L is a very reliable engine, but it's a little underpowered.

    We had more issues out of the "manual" a/c systems than the auto ones. (They're both electronically controlled, BTW.)
     
  17. raymondo112

    raymondo112 Member

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    I agree Jerry, the 3.3 feels like a 4 cylinder in one of these cars, but for a teenager it is probably best as there will be less temptation to be doing illegal activities behind the wheel, also a good note is 96-97 Intrepids with 3.3's will have the OBD II and so will 96 Concordes 97 Concordes got 3.5's automatically leaving only the Intrepid to use the last of the 3.3 engines. 3.5 is fun because you can feel the difference in acceleration switching between 87 to 89 and 93 octane, the engine responds different to all 3 very cool as you don't see too many engines from that time period like that twin throttle body cross flow intake, high compression, the 3.5 was a cool engine for its time which is why I had to have it. If you think about it a 3.5 high output with the 1st gen intake can handle a nitrous shot, wouldn't want to add nitrous to the plastic intake on the 2nd gen, only problem is Chrysler didn't believe in rev limiters so if your tranny doesn't shift right the skys the limit till something breaks.

    The auto and Manual units do get power from the BCM and such, but the auto units can go berserk and go on automatically in heat mode full blast and stay that way, not fun on a 80+ degree day, I disabled mine by pulling the fuses when this happened till I could pull another unit from the junkyard, the dealer wanted 900 bucks for it, what a shocker for such an old car which are still barely on the road. Since I have been preparing to convert mine to manual I have been looking at the wiring diagrams for both and there are a lot of similarities in wire color and function with only a few differences so I don't think it will be too difficult to do and I can still use the same BCM which is good because finding another 1st gen with manual heat and theft alarm now is about slim to none around here.

    I had two of these cars with manual units and very high miles, and the dependable 3.3 before I jumped into my fully loaded 3.5 and never had issues with the a/c or heat, plus my heat was always hot even on the coldest days, not so on my auto temp car, it may look nice in interior photo shots and on paper but the climate control units suck point blank on the 1st gens, my girlfriends concorde also had the same problem my Intrepid does where the heat just doesn't get hot on a cold day put it on high you get cool air on low to med luke warm. When you have a frigid winter like we just did it can get very frusterating waiting on that little bit of heat to warm you and no floor heat is a terrible experience as well so that is why I say stay away from the automatic units unless you plan to spend the money to replace everything and make it work right. As for me I am going with what I know works best.
     

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