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New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

 
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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 07 Jan 2013, 10:11 pm
Fresh Cruiser
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 14
Default New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

The important text is in bold, the rest is just me talking.

So, my first car was a hand-me-down '97 V6 Pontiac Firebird with a rebuilt engine at 128k miles. It has been running perfectly since! I love the car so much, but I felt really unsafe in it at times. My neighbor across the street was selling her daughter's '02 Ltd 4cyl PT Cruiser (daughter lives elsewhere, needs the money, etc) for $3k. She put $700 worth of new tires in it, a new battery, and got it cleared at a Chrysler dealership. The ABS and Trac light are on but I read about it here and I don't have a problem with it.

While I probably could have looked for another car, this deal was just too much to pass up. My girlfriend has long legs so when she gets in the Firebird it hurts her knees (I'm short enough not to complain. ) She absolutely loves the PT Cruiser. I ABSOLUTELY love the PT Cruiser.

I was looking for something with great gas mileage like a Civic or Focus, but I couldn't find any car with the mileage this PT Cruiser had... Most was junk. I was also a bit discouraged, after the purchase, that I am probably going to get as much if not slightly better gas mileage than the Firebird.

The PT Cruiser has only 78k miles on it. I feel extremely safe in it. The audio (despite a blown rear speaker) system is great. The sunroof is really nice. I don't feel every bump in the road, there's just so many practical pros that outweigh the gas mileage con.

I do have some questions for a starter like me... I apologize if this has been discussed more than 1000+ times, I've really tried my best to search before I ask.

A little bit more history....
The person who sold the car to my neighbors daughter was an elderly woman. Sold it for $3700 originally. I assume, based on driving habits or age, she wasn't in need of so much money or really took the chance to look at the KBB value, nor did my neighbor! The doors on the Cruiser are still stiff so it's as if it hasn't even been broken into yet!

When do you think I should look into changing the timing belt? Money, with school and everything, isn't working too well for me right now. I understand it can be $1200 worth of parts/labor so I need an ETA before anything bad happens.

I don't know exactly if the plugs were changed since it was owned but I want to make sure this car is in great working condition. - For the '02 Ltd PT Cruiser, what plugs (irridiums, champions, etc) would be best? I'm no mechanic and don't even have the experience of changing oil, but I can learn new things! Can changing sparks be a quick DIY? I tried looking up step-by-step instructions and I'm having a hard time, links are showing up as invalid so if you can help me with that that would be great!

Also, is there anything else I should look into to keep this PT Cruiser working in its peak condition like maintenance wise? I'm trying to keep mechanics away as much as possible so I can save myself a few $$$. I learned recently how to replace the MAF sensor in my Firebird so that was exciting, and I didn't pay out the wazoo like I did originally.

I know this is a very long post and I apologize, but I'm really excited about this car and am currently very happy with it!
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 01:48 am
mnahmnah's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 305
Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

Hi, welcome and thanks for sharing!
Just to jump in on the spark plug question.. I just did that job for the first time on my '01, but I've changed oil before, and a few other odd repairs I didn't have the sense to have someone else do.

With no experience under the hood/car, I would say you're not saving a whole lot taking the chance. I spent frugally on parts, $30 on wires, $17 on plugs, $30 on tools (and I already had a metric socket set), and $3 for dielectric grease and anti-seize compound. $2 for a bundle of rags and I splurged on a pair of $20 protective gloves. I could have hustled a way to do it cheaper, but that's what I needed to do it. I already had a couple short bungees, too, a flashlight, and some penetrating spray.

This first time changing plugs and wires, using the tutorial and the expertise of the nice people here, took me about 4-5 hours spanned over 4 days because I really had to read and think and re-read and think more about what the directions meant and what the part names refer to.

In the end it's up to you and you alone. I feel great knowing that I did that, but I'm a control freak, and that satisfies my internal needs. YMMV.

P.S. This link will take you to the spark plug guide, and following thread with educational tidbids all along the way. It's located in the Tech & Performance section, sticky'd near the top. Spark Plug Guide
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One of the split seats went into a dumpster in Tulsa. The arm rest unscrewed and fell off. It's on its 2nd timing belt. Surviving the Upper Peninsula winters.

Last edited by mnahmnah; 08 Jan 2013 at 01:52 am.
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 06:12 am
quicksilverdon's Avatar
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Location: Felton, Delaware
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Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

The timing belt is probably the most serious question you have..
By mileage, it should be changed at 100,000 miles, but there is also it's age in years - you don't post a location, but if you're in a place - like Nevada - that "eats" rubber, it's probably due soon. It's all a matter of how lucky you feel.
Also, you can't post that your girfriend has long legs unless you post pics...
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Traded in '02 Silver Touring Edition w/87,000 miles
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 08:28 am
Fresh Cruiser
 
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Posts: 14
Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

THank you both so much for your replies!! This helps a lot.
It completely flew past me to post a location, I live in Central Florida, where 90% of the year is hot.
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 10:51 am
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Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

Welcome to the forum from another in Central Florida. (west coast between Inverness and Crystal River).

Your main questions have been answered but I must say that if you looked over the stats for the PT anywhere, it would/should have told you that the gas mileage was nowhere in the range of the other cars yo were looking at. We have members on the forum that average in the high teems and other in the middle 20's. Lots of variables when it comes to what people are getting. Also depends on where you live in the country and the weather. Winter blend of gasoline seem to drops everybody's mileage.

Some of the pats to look out for in the PT include the front suspension including the wheel bearings, the placement of the battery (out of sight, out of mind) the multi-function switch that controls the fog lights (tend to burn out) and the radiator fan. Two speeds where the low speed tends to burn out the brushings in the motor.

Plenty of good help on the forum so if you run into any problems, somebody is usually always around for advice.
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 01:05 pm
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Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

Thank you Crewzin! Yeah I've been looking around about mpg a little before I purchased the car.. Edmunds claims 27 highway while Driverside claims 21/29 and it seems like from other members here they get about 22/27. . I would be driving ~70 miles to and from school eventually so 140+ miles total two days a week. I'm assuming I'll fill up once or maybe twice a week unless my school decides to work with a nearby campus better.

Even so, for the price and mileage of the car I can't complain. It reminds me of my mother's Hyundai Elantra Touring which I enjoy driving.

So just to confirm... In an area such as mine...
Timing - Change at 100k
Spark Plugs - Change at 80-100k?
Oil Change - Of course every 3-5k
Tires Rotated - Every 3-4k
Inspection - Every 3-6k?

Anything else I'm missing? I have to order another manual.
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 01:14 pm
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Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

Along with the timing belt, we also recommend a change of the water pump and the belt tensioner. Both do wear out and it takes the same 5 to 7 hours of labor to get to those two things so might as well do them all at the same time.

Also, if your not sure about them, the serpentine and alternator belt (both can be done anytime because they are accessible) might as well get changed at the same time as timing belt. They must come off first anyway to get to the timing belt.

Just noticed you didn't have plug wires mentioned. Might as well do them if your not sure when they were done last. A decent set will last 4 or 5 spark plug changes.
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 01:34 pm
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Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

Would it still be around $1200 in labor for the additional work? I wish I can do this myself easily! I'm really grateful for everyone's help too.
What set would you recommend, for the plugs/wires?

Last edited by PTBroser; 08 Jan 2013 at 01:47 pm.
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Old 08 Jan 2013, 01:56 pm
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Default Re: New PT Cruiser Owner, a lot of Questions!

Lots of opinions on the plugs and wires. I use the Champion Double Platinum plugs and Granatelli wires.

We've heard all kinds of prices on the timing belt job. Anywhere from $900 to $1200 with all the parts. One low ball of $600 for some reason. Whoever you choose to do the job, find someone that's familiar with that particular job. We've had lots of people come back after they paid inexpensively to have it done and the idle was shaky which means they didn't get the timing just right. It's tricky so best to find someone that's done it before.
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