2003 Dodge Neon Coldstart

It has gotten colder & my 2003 Dodge Neon SXT (140,000+miles) started having trouble & seems to stall transitioning from park to reverse then into drive. It sometimes seems to shift out of the gear and then will stall/engine revs when gas applied but won’t move into drive until warmed. Once the car runs/warms up it seems to be ok. Is this a bigger issue (transmission, spark plugs, etc) than just needing to let car warm up longer?

I can’t tell what you’re describing because it sounds like three or maybe four different things.

  • you said it “seems to stall” and it “will stall.” Which is it? Does the car stall when you put it in drive so that you have to shift back to start and restart it?
  • but you also said “engine revs.” So that’s not stalling. Maybe you put it in gear, it first revs up but then stalls after that? Or what?
  • but then there’s the report that it “won’t move into drive.” Are you saying that the gear shifter won’t go to the Drive position? Or are you saying that you put it in drive and step on the gas, but the engine just revs up but won’t go. If its the latter then you need to go back and make sure you’re clear about the stalling part.

When you clarify all of that, please give a rundown of the state of basic maintenance. When was the last time it got new plugs? Wires? Fuel filter? Air filter? In general, what do you do in terms of keeping up on maintenance?

Also specify whether or not your check engine light is on.

“Seems to stall”, does this mean you must restart the engine several times? As far as the transmissions delayed engagement; first check the transmission fluid level, the 41TE transmission isn’t exactly leak proof. If the fluid level is ok you may have an internal transmission problem, there are known issues with the front pump.

I suspect there has been a neglect of basic maintenance over the past few years. Let us know of recent servicing, if any. That may help us diagnose the car’s problems.

Cold weather can be a challenge for a motor that runs fine when warm. Spark plugs, plug wires, and dist. cap. would be the 1st things to check. Your car has spark plugs for sure and I suspect plug wires too, it might not have a distributor cap and rotor but if it does replace all of them unless they are less than a year old.

Check the air filter and replace too unless it was done less than 30K ago. When was the last time the car had some maintenance more than an oil change?

Not sure about the stalling. But I used to have a 94 olds cutlass that during the winter had to warm up for a few minutes before it would shift into gear. Transmission had no visible leaks outside of transmission and trans fluid level was always good. So the fluid was staying in the tranny but when it was cold the fluid would leak out of the pump. So after sitting over night when I would start the car in the morning I would shift into reverse or drive and nothing would happen. It would just rev up if I pushed the gas pedal but wouldn’t move. Since the fluid drains out of the pump…the pump needs to regain fluid pressure to shift into gear. Thats why it takes a few minutes to actually go into gear. Nothing you can really do about it unless you want to take the pump out and replace seals. I put some lucas tranny treatment in the transmission and that seemed to cut the wait time in half…so it must have helped the leak down issue a little bit.