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1995 Chrysler Cirrus LX Bucket of Issues

First off, thanks for any and all help, I really appreciate it!

My car has under 78000 miles on it, and has started having some issues:
The steering is a bit stiff when the car is started up after sitting overnight.
There’s a loud clunking noise in the front when I go over bumps and turn corners, and I hear it and feel it through the floor on both sides of the car. The noise is less frequent and quieter when I drive over speed bumps evenly.
While driving, the whole car picks up a weird shimmy. This does not happen all the time, however it can be triggered by getting up to highway speeds.
The steering wheel also picks up a shimmy. This always when driving highway speeds, but has happened when making a sharp turn.
Recently, I had to stop hard and the car shuddered and all the lights (head lights and dash lights) dimmed briefly while it was shuddering. When I got to my destination, before I turned off the car I cranked the wheel both ways several times. The shudder and dimming happened again, but only once. I haven’t tried to get it to happen again.
The front driver’s side brake has started squeaking, and sometimes making grinding noises. The brakes pads and rotors for the front tires were replaced a year and a half ago.
It also sometimes shifts hard, winds out gears longer than it seems like it should, and shifts when it doesn’t seem appropriate.

Here are some things I’m less concerned about, but would still like some input on if possible:
There’s a squeaking/squealing when the wheel is turned all the way in either direction. (I’m pretty sure this is just the serpentine belt, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t something else it could be.)
The radio sometimes refuses to work, like it’s not getting power. Sometimes, there’s suddenly a ton of static that sounds like the stations are being switched extremely quickly as the radio drops out, but the static continues when the radio is turned off. Related to this, the clock never keeps time.
The tachometer occasionally dies mid-drive, and has stayed dead for a few days. Eventually, it comes back.
Sometimes the car feels bouncier than it should when driving on flat, paved roads.
The air conditioner works intermittently, sort of. Sometimes it blows well and the air it blows is cold. Other times it starts slowly blowing less and less, though the air it’s pumping is really cold. Rarely, though more frequent than I like, it gives up blowing cold air entirely and just seems to be sucking in air from the engine, but this only ever happens after the blowing is significantly reduced.

This car is kind of a loaded problem, it was given to me by my grandfather about a year and a half ago. I don’t want to be rude and get rid of the car, but I’m worried I’m driving a giant disaster since it keeps developing more problems. I’ve spent a bit over $2000 on repairs and maintenance already, and I’m starting to think I should find something else.

If needed, I can provide a list of everything I’ve had done to the car.

The clunking, the “feel it throuogh the floor”, the stiffness, and the shimmy all combine to suggets to me that you may have a ball joint about to give way. Consider this vehicle unsafe to drive until you get it looked at and repaired.

And your brakes are shot. Front, perhaps also rear, nomatter. Get them checked.

The squealing is probably the serpentine belt. Ever had it changed? It’d be aorse when turning tightly, because the power steering pump is placing additional load on it. Which answers your other squeal question

The belt may also be the cause of your AC erratic behavior. The belt needs good bite to turn the compressor.

The dimming lights might also be the serpentine belt having a hard time getting any traction on the alternator pulley. Or it could be the alternator. Or a very tired battery.

The bounciness is the struts…they’re shot.

The static “on the radio even when the radio is turned off” isn’t coming from the radio. It’s probably arcing from very tired plug wires to the engine. Just a wild guess.

IMHO THE CAR IS UNSAFE TO DRIVE in this condition. Get it towed to a shop for a thorough look over. You’re driving on borrowed time.

I haven’t had the serpentine belt replaced, though I had a mechanic look at it in January. The shop said my belt was a little cracked but otherwise fine.

Just a clarification about the AC issue, it doesn’t have any trouble blowing when it’s just heating.

What I was thinking was that if the belt is slipping it might be unable to turn the conpressor reliably when the compressor clutch engages, which it will do sporattically when the system is on. By the way, a serpentine belt that’s “a little cracked” has seen better days.

But you have bigger fish to fry right now. get the safety issues resolved first.

I had my car checked over this morning and this was their findings:
Right inner tie rod end is a little loose (1 out of 5 on their scale, 5 being replace immediately)
Leak in the rack and pinion assembly
All front and back brake linings are at 70%
Converter rattles
Transmission fluid is brown, but they didn’t say why (burnt, ect.)
Serpentine belt is "age cracked"
Dirty air filter
Low engine oil (I do get my oil changed regularly, as well as checking it myself, so this was surprising to me)
Possible noisy front wheel bearing

They also wrote “vibrate” on the sheet they gave me across the front and rear tire condition section.

The mechanic said I don’t need to worry about most of the issues until winter is over at the very least. Does this sound right?

Nope. That does not sound right.

A loose tie rod should be replaced. The shimmying, the shuddering, the steering wobble, additional wear on the other suspension components, anomolous wear on the tires, these may all be manifestations of that loose tie rod. And they’ll all combine to wear everything else out and quickly turn that “1” into a “5”. A “6” is where the wheels fold backward and you go over a cliff.

The leak in the rack will quickly go from needing a routione topping off of the fluid to totally blowing its load. Once the seal is shot, its condition escalates rapidly.

If the converter rattle is the heat shield, it’s a simple and cheap fix with an oversized hose clamp. Shame on him for not putting one on. If it’s internal, the ceramic honeycomb is shot and the converter is history. This can cause erratic poor operation of the engine, becasue it can move around inside the cat can and intermittantlyy block the exhaust.

The sep belt should be changed immediately. Cracks combined with the squealing and other symptoms you described make the need definite an immediate.

Brown tranny fluid has had it. It’s burned. The tranny needs to be serviced IMMEDIATELY.

Your struts need replacing. They’re shot. And yes, they are a safety item.

“Possible” noisy fromt wheel bearing? Do yourself a favor. Jack up that corner of the car and spin the wheel. If it’s noisy, or rough, you need new wheel bearings. If they bind up on the highway… you’ll be history.

I would not consider this car safe in its current condition.

I agree with the same mountainbike. The front-end issues are not something to ignore. Get a second opinion immediately.

As for the transmission fluid, most likely your transmission is on the way out, just so you know. New fluid might buy you some time, but don’t count on it.

I’ve been in a car when the tie rod end broke, so I know how much of a terrifying safety issue that is, as well as with the other suspension components. Truth be told, the car would not be driven at all if the other car was functioning properly, but that’s a completely different issue.

I will definitely be getting a second opinion on this issue, on top of referring back to this board as I take it in.

Would it, in all honesty, just be better to get rid of the car?

That’s a hard question to answer. The car clearly needs a lot of work to be safely driven. Normally I’d say yes emphatically, but would your granddad be hurt? Is it feisable to register the car and not drive it, just sort of as a “gift” to your granddad?

Based on my past experience with a similar vintage Stratus (a twin under the skin) you likely also need sway bar bushings and end links. I am 90% sure that is the “Clunk” you hear over bumps these “Cab Forward” Mopars ate those items up pretty quickly.

If it were me I would be calling the CarTalk vehicle donation program and moving on. That’s what we did with out '97 Stratus when it started to pile on the issues.

There is a reason my 1996 Plymouth Breeze has a Kelley Blue Book value of $127- they don’t age well. Front suspension and brake problems are well known issues. Fixing it will cost a lot and not get you a lot.