1998 Plymouth neon problem

Alright here comes another head scratcher, the car has no check engine lights, no oil is leaking, and all of the liquid levels are at their normal readings. The problem I am having is the car feels like it is dragging a bit, as in it takes a bit to accelerate and as soon as I lift my foot off the gas it drastically slows down. Talk about 0 to 60 in 30 seconds and 60 to 30 in 5 seconds. Now what I have noticed is every time I pass a radar detecting sign, to make sure you are going the speed limit or slower, which in this case it is supposed to be 25 mph, my speedometer will read 30 to 35 mph, but the sign will state I am going 23 or 24 mph. I know the detector is working because I tested it with my dad’s Buick and while the Buick stated 20 the detector also stated 20, I know what you are saying maybe it’s just a fluke, well I tested the detector with my brothers cougar, my sisters Honda, and my friends Chrysler and they all stated 20 both on speedometer and the detector. Has anyone had this problem before? I have changed the spark plugs, the ecm, the ignition coil, the spark plug wires, starter, the valve cover gasket, hoses that were broken, the speed sensor, cam shaft position sensor and it passed the state inspection. Any help would be heaven to my eyes, I was going to say ears but you know.

I don’t think the speedometer reading in error is related to your “dragging” problem.

I’d look at the brakes first. A dragging brake can be a bad caliper not fully releasing the brake pads. That causes more heat on the affected wheel. If you touch all the wheels after driving 5 to 10 miles and one wheel is hotter than the others then you know the problem brake.

Your car has disk front brakes and drum rear brakes. Drum brakes can drag too. That can happen when a brake cylinder goes bad, or some hardware inside the drum breaks. The parking brake is mechanical and activates the rear drum brakes. Rusty parking brake parts could come into play here too.

Well I checked them, and the brakes still look new, my grandfather replaced them last year and hasn’t driven the car till I drove it this July, 2015. The rotors don’t look bad at all, and I’m not seeing any rusting. I’ve had an experience with my brothers car where the caliper did not release fully, and you could hear it scraping as you drive, this isn’t the same, at least for me. All of the calipers on the neon don’t seem to be getting stuck.

The error in the speedometer might be caused by a faulty Vehicle Speed Sensor.

The VSS not only sends a signal to the speedometer to indicate the vehicles speed, it also sends a signal to the vehicles computer so the computer can properly shift the transmission

So the problem might be that transmission in the wrong gear for the speed the vehicle is going.


I had the speed sensor replaced recently though.

You can’t always hear a stuck caliper or detect it visually. Easy way to check is to take it for a 20-30 minute drive and then feel a lugnut on each wheel. If one of them burns you, you’ve just found the stuck caliper.

Ok I’ll try that, oh I forgot to mention, there are certain sounds I hear while driving. One of the sounds is as you come to the stop, the brakes sound as though they need oil, as in the squeak. I checked the brake fluid and it was a bit low, I added some and the sound went away, two weeks later I heard the squeaking sound again, and the liquid was lower than when I filled it last, added a little more the squeak sound went away. The power steering has a hard rough feeling to it also, as I turn the wheel once, twice to the left or right, it feels smooth, then there is a moment hesitation and it goes back to being smooth. The power steering fluid was low also I filled it back up with the recommended fluid, and haven’t had problems after, then two weeks later the same time I noticed the brake fluid low, the power steering fluid was low also and I added a bit more and it was back to being smooth again. The same time after two weeks I noticed the coolant level appeared to be low, and added some into the reservoir. It feels smooth again but I am not finding any leaks anywhere to suggest that there is a crack or leak allowing the coolant, brake fluid, or the power steering fluid to go low. Also there’s have been times that after driving for half an hour or several miles, I hear a sort of clicking near where the belt is coming from so the passenger side of the engine. Hope this helps to diagnose also.

I think you need to open up both of the rear drum brakes. I suspect you will find brake fluid has leaked and contaminated the brake shoes, which can expand and then will drag. The noise in the brakes is fishy too, but the need for brake fluid means you have a leak and it is most likely in one of the rear drums.

If the rear brakes were replaced as a DIY job there is lots of room for error. The wheel cylinders should rebuilt (meaning honed and all the rubber seals and new springs installed) and sometimes they can leak. Also this means the brakes need to be bled properly, not easy for a one man job. The parking brake hardware can be tricky to replace and worn and/or bent parts need to be identified and replaced. And the brake shoes have a leading and trailing shoe. If they are installed in reverse then the brakes can drag. I learned all of this by making all these errors doing drum brake jobs myself lots of years ago.

I tested the lug nuts and all of them were cool to the touch, I checked the drum brakes and everything checked out fine. The way I can describe it is either the motor is running rough, not getting enough air or something. I even thought maybe the water pump was going out with that clicking noises coming from that region, and right now I just noticed the power steering fluid has just overflowed out of the reservoir.

Get up to speed, shift into neutral and see if it coasts.
That will rule out anything behind the transmission without disassembling anything.

I’m inclined to think along the lines of Tester’s suggestion. The trans is not in the right gear for some reason. Does it sound like the engine is racing compared to the actual vehicle speed?

My first thoughts were the brakes and the VSS too. And the proper way to check the brakes is to jack up one wheel at a time and try spinning it by hand. You’ll feel a dragging brake that way. Note that for the front wheels the tranny will have to be in neutral and BOTH sides raised… you should expect the opposing wheel to turn in the opposite direction. You could leave the opposing wheel on the ground and chock the car really well, but you’ll be dragging the resistance of the pinion gear and tranny shaft, so it’ll probably feel a bit more resistance than it will if you jack up both sides.

There’s another possibility: a plugged exhaust system. If when putting the tranny in neutral the resistance disappears, a plugged exhaust is a real possibility. A “test pipe” might be the simplest way to check for this.

There are other possibilities too, but these are good starting points. I liked the idea of putting the tranny in neutral as a starting point because it tells you whether the problem is drag in the running gear or an engine problem. Either result eliminates half the possibilities.

My Corolla’s speedo usually reads above what those radar detector signs display, likely due to the angle of the radar beam not pointing directly down the road, but only 3-4 mph more. So you may have a problem with the VSS or something unusual about the tires. But I don’t expect that would account for the rapid slow-down you experience just taking your foot off the gas. If you have an automatic, possibly you have a faulty transmission control solenoid or the transmission fluid is low. If a manual, possibly the gear oil is low. The test described by TT above is a good place to start.

Actually twin turbo is right, sometimes the car sounds like it’s trying to get up to 60 and to stay at 60 mph. Like its racing a bit. I put it into neutral and it moves freely hardly slows down on the flat pavement. It only drastically slows down when in drive.

Also I guess I wasn’t really aware of it when I speed there’s like a bit of a jolt, like a hesitation between gear changes.

Certainly check the level of fluid in the transmission. Low fluid levels can cause all sorts of strange behavior, and in your case it sounds a lot like the transmission is not shifting properly, at all.

The jerking and jolting is gone, but when I put the car in reverse there is a big vibration, when it is in drive, or any of the other gears it doesn’t vibrate much, perhaps a little but not as bad as when it is in reverse, any thoughts? Thank you for the transmission fluid idea, the last time I took the car into viva dodge they said they had checked it, seemed bone dry to me.