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2002 PTC Overheating story, happy ending.

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Old 03 Nov 2010, 09:22 pm
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Default 2002 PTC Overheating story, happy ending.

Franco & Tracy's PT Cruiser overheating adventure.
Posted in hopes it helps somebody else.

We bought a 2002 used with 132,000 miles a few months ago. The body is good and interior is very good. We like the car a lot.

But this overheating thing is driving us nuts. We can drive anywhere we want as long as its less than 30 miles away. The temp gauge always read right in the middle and stays there until we hit about 30 miles then it goes up to overheat. AC or no AC doesn't seem to make much difference.

Even going down the freeway. It seems to bubble up the coolant to the reservoir and then we are overheating.

We've taken it to a couple of shops. Pep Boys did a diagnositic and said no head gasket leakage. They said the fans were not working and sent us to an electrical guy. Electric guy found a burnt connector and replaced it, so the fans work. But still overheating.

Back to Pep Boys. They can't tell what is wrong with it. The other guys just shrug the shoulders.

We've changed the radiator cap. We had the thermostat changed on a suggestion from a guy at the PT Cruiser club and on websites. Still overheating.

Of course we bought it used so no warranty. We like it and we would like to drive more than 30 miles at a time. I am topping off the radiator with coolant every day.

There are no coolant leaks in the hoses or radiator. It all seems to bubble out of the coolant reservoir on the firewall.

I have not gone to Chrysler dealer yet because I did not want to pay top dollar for work.

Then I take it to another shop in town (Made in America, Sacramento). They did a diagnostic and because of the overheating they did a "coolant strip" test ($120 total). They were able to confirm the fan was working and the strip test revealed elevated levels of hydrocarbons in the coolant both in radiator and overflow reservoir. They said this indicated a head gasket leak allowing gas to flow into the coolant, forcing the liquid out of the radiator.

I told them Pep Boys diagnostic said no head gasket leakage. They said if PB did a compression test, they missed the gas leakage. The strip test is needed to check for head gasket leakage.

They recommended replacing the engine, they found a used one with 28K miles and could install it for $5500. Too much for our budget. So we took car home and made some calls for quotes on used engines.

Another shop (O'donnells Engine, Sacramento) said $5500 was good price, but they offered to replace the head gasket and machining for $1300. So we went for that option. They confirmed the head was warped but not cracked. They also mentioned the water pump was not original, it had been changed at some point. We also had new timing belt installed and air conditioning recharged, total bill $1700.

And now one week later and 300 miles we are thrilled. No more overheating.

So I figure this is what happened.

Electrical connector to the fan burns out, stopping the fan. The engine overheats. More than once. This causes the head to warp before we bought it.

When we took it for a test drive, we only drove it for 10 minutes and did not notice coolant leaking. Bad for us.

So when we get fan checked out and cable replaced, we solve first problem, but not the second problem. Since Pep Boys told us no head gasket leakage, we assumed no head gasket leakage. But Made In America made a good diagnosis that we could work with.

So I hope this helps somebody else with the same problem.

Have a good day!
Franco & Tracy Rios
Sacramento, Calif.
Members of Capital PT Cruisers

Last edited by FrancoRios; 03 Nov 2010 at 09:28 pm.
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