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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Short version of my question: I'm pretty sure I'm about to buy a low-mileage PT Cruiser Convertible. I plan to take great care of it, do most of the work myself, and I want it to last as long as possible. I have always preferred and driven a 5-speed manual, but those are much harder to find. How reliable are the automatic transmissions? Should I give in and buy an automatic, or is the manual likely to last longer? I'm also trying to decide between a base model and a GT.

Longer version: I have finally decided to give up my 2005 PT Cruiser Convertible (base model, 5-speed manual). I didn't know what I was doing when I bought it used, and I think the first owner didn't take great care of it. It burned oil even when it only had 15K miles on it, the original owners had chopped the springs to lower the front end, which caused all kinds of problems later... and then I didn't take good care of it, didn't really maintain it, it lived outside in the Oregon rain, etc. It was starting to have lots of weird electrical issues.

But I LOVED THAT CAR, and in the past 2 years I have learned how to work on my PT Cruiser: spark plugs, coil pack, clean up the wiring/grounds, timing belt, intake manifold gaskets, sensors, and a lot more. Now I want to buy a low-mileage PT Convertible and take extremely good care of it, and drive it for as long as I possibly can. I also have a garage now, so I can keep it out of the elements.

I use it like a pickup truck: put the top down, and put in a BBQ grill, or a Christmas tree, or exercise equipment... it's so versatile. But my budget is usually limited, so I can't be endlessly putting big bucks into it. It needs to be relatively reliable and economical. Also, I work from home, so I don't put a lot of miles on my car... I want to make it last, so that it's fun to drive and can take me on road trips.

I think I prefer another 2005 convertible. I don't like the interior styling of the 2006 and later (it feels more plastic and less retro), and I've read that possibly they weren't as well-made in general after 2005. I'm trying to decide between the base model or the GT. The base model would be less expensive. It would be nice to have the upgraded power of the GT, but I'm willing to drive a base model if it's much more reliable.

So my big questions:
  • How good are the automatic transmissions? The manuals are hard to find, but I like them better. Are they more reliable? Is the transmission different between the base model and the GT?
  • Base or GT? Is one or the other a lot more reliable? I know that the engine is upgraded in the GT. Does that make it a better bet for a long-lived car, or does the GT bring new problems with it?
  • Possibly a trivial question: I loved the driver's seat in my 05 base model. That seat fit me perfectly and had great lumbar support. Comfortable for long road trips. I know the GTs have leather seats (which I honestly wish it didn't) but do you know if they are shaped the same? Is it likely to fit my body the same? I loved my old seat so much, I was half tempted to pull the seat out, keep it, and put it into whatever I buy, even if it looked awful.
  • Am I wrong about the 2005s being built better? Should I buy a 2006+?
Thanks to the help you folks have given me in the past, I've learned to love working on cars. Makes me feel very capable, and will allow me to drive this fun, quirky, retro "convertible/pickup truck" a lot longer.

I'm not in a big hurry to buy. If I have to wait a few months to find exactly what I want, I'll do that.

Thanks!
 

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1966 Crown Coupe, 2016 200 S AWD, 1962 Lark Daytona V8.
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A 2005 is 17 years-old now. Unless you can find one that has had life-long TLC & not just a doll-up, it may need a lot of work. Worn-out or nickel-and-dime cars can get tiresome. Convertibles seem to age quicker than sedans.

See what is on the market. Sometimes an auto-broker who visits the auctions and does this for a living can find decent cars that you or I don't have access to.
See what's out there.

I liked the refreshed interior of the 2006+ PT. It was the scalloped headlamps that I thought were ugly.
 

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Do you want a Turbo? High Output Turbo 220hp was standard on the GT, either 5-speed or optional AutoStick automatic; optional and lower powered "Turbo Lite" 180hp WITH AUTOMATIC ONLY in the Touring model (there was no Limited convertible). Turbo was unavailable in the Base model. The Turbo cars are much quicker accelerating. Automatic is the Ultradrive from 1989 which was troublesome early on especially if owners used Dexron fluid in them instead of the correct 7176/ATF, but sorted out by 1995, well before the PT Cruiser. Turbo cars have stronger transmissions than normally aspirated, both 5 speed (Getrag, in the GT only) and automatic (higher torque version).
 

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Spouse drove an '02 for 180,000 miles, still running when it was sold. Only trans work was to replace a leaking solenoid pack. Given the choice, I would prefer the turbo. Makes it way more fun to drive.

As IC noted, it is 17 years old but you seem to know your way around the pt mechanically so you should you should be good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
A 2005 is 17 years-old now. Unless you can find one that has had life-long TLC & not just a doll-up, it may need a lot of work. Worn-out or nickel-and-dime cars can get tiresome. Convertibles seem to age quicker than sedans.

See what is on the market. Sometimes an auto-broker who visits the auctions and does this for a living can find decent cars that you or I don't have access to.
See what's out there.
Those are all great points. Thanks for mentioning an auto broker. That's a particularly good idea in this case, since there aren't that many well-maintained PTs with low miles left.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Do you want a Turbo? High Output Turbo 220hp was standard on the GT, optional and lower powered "Turbo Lite" 180hp in the Touring model (there was no Limited convertible). Turbo was unavailable in the Base model. The Turbo cars are much quicker accelerating. Automatic is the Ultradrive from 1989 which was troublesome early on especially if owners used Dexron fluid in them instead of the correct 7176/ATF, but sorted out by 1995, well before the PT Cruiser. Turbo cars have stronger transmissions than normally aspirated, both 5 speed (Getrag) and automatic (higher torque version).
Those are great details. Glad to hear that the Ultradrive problems had been sorted out. Thanks so much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Spouse drove an '02 for 180,000 miles, still running when it was sold. Only trans work was to replace a leaking solenoid pack. Given the choice, I would prefer the turbo. Makes it way more fun to drive.

As IC noted, it is 17 years old but you seem to know your way around the pt mechanically so you should you should be good.
So glad to hear about your spouse's '02! I'm hoping that if I can buy one with fewer than 60K miles on it (there are several for sale with mileage that low, they're just spread out all over the country), and take REALLY good care of it, it might last me a while. I know that, even with low miles, those parts are old. Timing belt is old, sensors are old, wiring is old, etc. But I'm hoping I can keep it running so I can drive what I want. Thanks!
 

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FROM A 7-TIME PT OWNER, WHO HAS HAD THEM ALL:

1. Deciding on a standard vs. auto transmission is purely a matter of taste and driving style.
I have had both....my first was an NA Standard., a 2006...but many years ago when I lost all my knee cartilage....driving the standard became painful
And, I am avoiding knee replacement like the plaque or Covid! 😁

2. All the rest of mine (6) have been auto trannies; and all have been turbos.
-- There IS A BIG difference even between the regular Turbo I have, and my 2005 GT HO turbo. I have 2 now. The HO TURBO simply jumps ahead and is very smooth and quiet with the auto tranny.
She is also a convertible!
** I have never had a problem with the 6 PTs with auto trannies. Only once, the Cowboy Crusier (#4) had a problem with Limp Mode, that turned out to be a loose connection to the transmission sensor. All but 2 of my PTs I have bought used. Both of the ones I have now are multiple owner cars. I simply had them looked over well before, and after buying.
The Panel Cruiser (2003 GT) has around 16K miles; the 2005 HO Turbo Vert has around 125K.
Wheel Tire Sky Water Vehicle





Car Wheel Tire Land vehicle Vehicle


I have been very surprise by the 3 Verts I have owned, how quiet they are despite being a rag top.

There are plenty of PTs still out there for sale on the PT Sites. If you need some recommendations, send me a pm or e-mail.
*** But, if you want to have more fun, and can do the work yourself, I recommend a turbo, or HO turbo if you can find one.
*******Timing belt and water pump being replaced should effect the price you pay.

Happy PTing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
There are plenty of PTs still out there for sale on the PT Sites. If you need some recommendations, send me a pm or e-mail.
*** But, if you want to have more fun, and can do the work yourself, I recommend a turbo, or HO turbo if you can find one.
*******Timing belt and water pump being replaced should effect the price you pay.

Happy PTing!
Thanks so much, that is all great input! I'm jealous of your purple convertible.

All the GTs are the HO turbo, right? The only PT convertibles with a non-HO turbo will be some of the Tourings, right?

Thanks again!
 

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I loved the manual transmissions. Faster and better mileage and pretty easy to drive, even the GT. But with the you'd better have darned good tires. I had good luck with Eagle F1 ASW (not the Eagle F1 summer tires). Stock tires were awful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I loved the manual transmissions. Faster and better mileage and pretty easy to drive, even the GT. But with the you'd better have darned good tires. I had good luck with Eagle F1 ASW (not the Eagle F1 summer tires). Stock tires were awful.
Thank you for this! Everyone has been complaining about mileage, and mine was never great, but I always got better gas mileage than most people are saying. Maybe it was because it was a manual transmission.

I might have missed something... is there something about the GTs that makes them wear out every pair of tires faster, or did they just have awful stock tires? I'm mostly a very laid-back driver, but it would be nice to have the power of the GT when I'm first getting on a freeway or going up a steep grade in the mountains... my old base model always crawled in those situations.
 

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I might have missed something... is there something about the GTs that makes them wear out every pair of tires faster, or did they just have awful stock tires?
Both, IMHO. Eagle RS/A was a terrific tire on our Neon and 300M but it wore out with incredible speed on the PT. Goodyear’s own Eagle F1 all-season was better in wet and dry traction, snow, and long-term wear. It was a massive, massive difference and I never understood why they specified the RS/A. My guess: careful engineering choices overridden by some moron who was given a “great deal” by Goodyear.
 

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Both, IMHO. Eagle RS/A was a terrific tire on our Neon and 300M but it wore out with incredible speed on the PT. Goodyear’s own Eagle F1 all-season was better in wet and dry traction, snow, and long-term wear. It was a massive, massive difference and I never understood why they specified the RS/A. My guess: careful engineering choices overridden by some moron who was given a “great deal” by Goodyear.
All "Goodyear RS/A" may not have been the same. OEM tire manufacturers often make special versions of tires, specifically for carmakers. They mat differ in ways not immediately visible to the owner even though the name on the tire is the same as the retail, or other OEM versions.
 

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All "Goodyear RS/A" may not have been the same. OEM tire manufacturers often make special versions of tires, specifically for carmakers. They mat differ in ways not immediately visible to the owner even though the name on the tire is the same as the retail, or other OEM versions.
It was also a different size and very different suspension and car dynamics. All that said, the original tires were rubbish for the car. It almost makes me wonder if Goodyear changed the formula after supplying initial samples, too - something suppliers have done, but which I'd think Goodyear wouldn't try.
 

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I'm running the Perelli Centurato on the Panel PT, and they have held up really well; and do well on snow and wet pavement.
Otherwise, I'm usually a Michelin Man!
8
 

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OREGON PT,

I do see a lot of Cruiser Convertibles for sale, and nice ones too.
Are you willing to fly out and drive back, as I did to SF last year???
Or do you want something close to the west coast?
 

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Oregon PT.

I have owned 4 PT’s. An 02 touring bought new that made 173k miles with only one issue, TCM failed @48k after a fluid change. No idea what happened there but it ran like a top till I parked it on it’s side one night. I was unhurt so that’s a good testament to the crashworthiness of them.

The replacement PT was an 06 touring vert that my wife fell in love with. Got it at 90k with the timing belt/water pump done. The 180hp turbo lite was way nicer than the NA 02 as far as power & mpg. It was a good rig but I don’t care for the updated looks plus it would sometimes use water which I suppose was a head gasket issue so I got the okay to find a 05 GT vert.

The 1st 05 I picked up in Mesa AZ. 100k miles. Autostick trans. Drove it home to Puget Sound with nary an issue. The PO had just driven it from NC. We both liked it but my wife began having joint issues so we needed something easier to get in & out so last October it went down the road with 130k & all new front suspension. Replaced by a 06 300C with only 53k on it!

My current PT GT 5spd is an 05 I got by offering the seller a low ball $$ & he said yes. 99k & now at 127k. I’m not kind to this one since I’m the only driver & I intend to drag race it some. I get 24mpg on my short commute of 14miles. But that’s keeping up with traffic at 75ish (3000 rpm which it seems to like). I had some PCM issues when it was hot & I purchased a Stage 1 from Myckee here on Allpar. Very reasonable $$ & performs great! In my case tires may not last cuz I‘m usually into it all the time but the BFG Advantage T/A’s are great in the wet.

As far as timing belt/water pump it was not as bad as I thought. Using the factry svc manual all went easy. The AC recharge was the spendy part. I’ve worked on more difficult stuff so I’d give it a 7 out of 10. The pita part was going up & down to access it all. Like Chuzz says, replace the right side eng mount & bolt while you are there. Also not bad to do.

Parts are readily available aside from my Getrag 5spd speed sensor IMO. If you do the front suspension I’d avoid the KYB strut assy & definitely stay away from the Moog “problem maker” lower control arms. They make a clunk noise after 10k miles. Still tight, just clunky. Rockauto has it all.

I didn’t think I would like the vert but I like it now! If you aren’t shy about working on it I think they are good rigs. Like any other vehicle keep up on the MX & it should stand you well. Get a factry svc manual, but I have those for all my rigs. I believe the later years were bigger headaches & 03 has some one off stuff like radiator cooling fans to avoid. Also a Cali or AZ car to avoid rust issues that affects all cars from the rust belt. Even a PNW one should be good.

Let us know what you end up with. As long as it’s not a bowtie or blue oval!😄
 
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