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Plymouth - Chrysler - Dodge Neon oil leaks and head gaskets

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Rick Anderson wrote:

The cam seal is a common spot for oil leaks on the Neon, so it wouldn't hurt to replace it with the head gasket. But if they're changing the head gasket it shouldn't cost you more than the price of the seal to replace it, maybe $7 or $10, that's it. If they want to charge you labor for changing the cam seal while they are in the middle of a head gasket change, other than maybe a few dollars, they are trying to rip you off, they have to take the whole area apart anyway, they only have to spend an extra second to replace the cam seal. Dealers try the same trick with the cam timing belt during head gasket changes. Try to charge you full cost both, telling you that you should change the cam timing belt when you change the head gasket. Which is true, because you have to remove and replace the cam timing belt to change the head gasket, so since that is such a labor intensive job, you should grab a $50 new belt and replace the old one and put off the expensive labor intensive job of a cam timing belt change to much later. The dealer will try to charge you for full labor for the belt and the head gasket, basically double dip.
The original Neon head gasket seems to typically last about 60,000 miles, at least for 1995-97 models. Calling Chrysler will usually yield a new head gasket for $100 at most, assuming you have less than 100,000 miles on your car (call 800 992 1997 - see box below). The new head gasket design is better, we are told, and not likely to fail quite so quickly. Symptoms: oil in the antifreeze, oil on the engine, antifreeze in the oil. (Note that a leaking valve cover gasket can also spill oil onto the engine, though this is much less common). Dealers are also empowered to do this for free but most will not, for fear of not getting repaid (or because they are dorks, depending on the dealer - again, see box below). Chrysler did introduce a revised head gasket in 1998 which is far superior and should easily last 100,000 miles.

Neon head gasket replacement - step by step with photos

Update: Bob G. wrote: "Information on discounted head-gasket replacement for 1995-97 Neons is being denied by Chrysler. I started with the dealership, who knew nothing about it, so I called Chrysler at the 800 number (800 992 1997) and they also claimed ignorance. Seems crazy to me that my son's 97 Neon with 42,000 miles, even though it is 9 year old (it was my mothers, and she never drove it) would have a leaking head-gasket. But they claim the original warranty of 3 years or 36,000 miles obviously has expired. I have had several Chrysler products that have gone well over a hundred thousand miles (my 90 Laser has 240k miles), without a head-gasket ever needing replacement."

Allpar has posted that Neon head gaskets, as an obvious and well-known defect, were being replaced for free (or with a $100 deductible) by Chrysler up to about 80,000 miles. With the most recent Neon afflicted by the problem being about eight years old, apparently cost-cutters in the company have reversed that policy.

Allpar invites comment on this short-sighted policy from Chrysler representatives.

Oil in the intake, 2000-2006 Neons (brywalker)

This is a real problem with second-generation Neons, as well as SRT-4s. The oil travels in mist form out of the right hand side of the valve cover. It goes down the PCV line and pools up inside of the intake. Because of the position of the outlet, during sharp right turns oil can actually pour out of the head and pool up in the intake. After a while it burns off, but because it isn't getting burned in the normal fashion you don't get the tell-tale blue smoke out of the intake. It doesn't start to become a real problem until the engine starts to get some real mileage on it. I am at around 76k and I have to put a quart in once a month. There is no signs of leaks or standard burning, but there is a pool of oil in the intake.

There are a couple of workarounds, this one being the best way to do it, but there is a little legality problem for those in strict emission states.

  1. Replace the valve cover with a first-generation SOHC valve cover, this relocates the PCV return line to the rear and the pouring is almost eliminated.
  2. Put a "catch can" on the return line. This will catch most if not all of the oil and only let the vapors through.

That solves a few problems:

  1. Oil will not pour out of the right of the intake. Only on a very sharp incline would you experience any pouring, this is VERY rare.
  2. (Most if not all) oil vapors and any misc oil that happens to pour out of the rear of the valve cover would be caught by the catch can and not enter the intake.
  3. Nothing even goes to the intake, so you don't have to worry about reburning ANYTHING. Only outside air enters the combustion chamber (aside from any bleeding fumes internally from the head) so you have a cleaner burn.

chronoscender wrote: I pulled the bellows tube of my intake the other week for giggles and found a lake of oil in my intake. I purchased a $12 air/oil separator and filter that is made for compressed air systems. I inlined it with the stock PCV system and it seems to be doing its job very well. It's catching all sorts of things that would have been entering into the intake manifold. The only downside is that it seems to be filling up rather quickly and will need to be emptied every two or three weeks. Only time will tell how this is going to work, but so far the results are good. ... Routing the catch can back to the oil pan is an option, but it would have to be sealed with a valve in order to not interfere with the operation of the normal PCV system. (genzaroff wrote: "I was thinking about using an electrically opened valve that would open the catchcan and drain it back into the oil pan when the car is off. Then the valve closes when power is detected at the fuel pump or other system that's hot with the key on.")

The reason the PCV system is connected to the intake is so that the engine vacuum will pull the crankcase fumes and blowby out of the crankcase and burn it off in the motor. Disabling the PCV system will cause these fumes to collect and condense in your motor, combining with your oil and forming acids and other nasty things for your motor.

Prior to the invention of the PCV system, cars used a road-draft tube that hung down below the engine and used the airflow of the moving car to produce enough vacuum to pull the fumes out of the crankcase. The problem was they only worked if the car was moving, and crankcase fumes are not very environmentally friendly either. The modern PCV system recombusts them so that run through the normal emissions systems and are thus rendered less harmful.

ModMan_70 wrote: From looking in the shop manual, it seems to me that they (Dodge) needed to put in a baffle (barrier) to block large oil droplets. Sounds like the other valve cover (from the G1 SOHC) had a better system for that! Or it was in a better location. This really should have been acknowledged by Dodge. Too much oil in the intake could wreck the catalytic converter, cause gunge build up on valve stems and seats, mess up the O2 sensors, etc.

I wonder if screwing on an adapter pipe, about 1 - 1 1/2" in length, into the valve cover would help. I was thinking if the adapter pipe was preheated and bent with an angle of 30 degrees, or so, and the PCV valve on after, the adapter pipe would act like a collection chamber (note: adapter pipe would protrude upwards at approx 30 degrees out of valve cover). Then oil could drain back into the valve cover. This may eliminate the need for constant oil removal as noted in the "catch" drain system. (brywalker wrote: Problem with that is that oil still leaves the chamber in vapor form. If you get the G1 valve cover, that relocates the PCV to the rear which will pretty much eliminate the pouring. Cheaper and easier solution to a bend in the pipe which probably won't help because it trying to pour back in would be fighting the vacuum. You would need the catch solution due to the vaporized oil.)

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