2004 Chrysler Pacifica Check engine light stays on now after recent repair

I’m hoping someone can give me their thoughts about a recent situation with my 04 Chrysler Pacifica (currently has 140,000 miles on the odometer). While in Auburn recently, my temperature light came on and the gauge showed the car was running very hot. I pulled over to the side of the road, popped the hood, but saw no steam, water, or fluid spewing under the hood or leaking under the vehicle. I immediately took it to the dealership in Auburn where I purchased the vehicle from 3 years ago to have it checked out. The following day the service advisor called me to inform me I needed a new water pump along with replacing the fan belts. After paying for the repairs and picking up my car a couple of days later, the check engine light came on during my drive home from the dealership. I took the vehicle back the next day to have it checked out and inquire why the engine light (which has never came on before) all of a sudden is now coming on immediately after they replaced my water pump and belts. The service advisor couldn’t explain why but after running diagnostic tests, they now tell me I have a possible exhaust system leak or cat converter problem. Help! It’s hard for me not to feel shafted when I just paid almost $1,000 for repairs, and now they’re telling me about a new problem they didn’t detect prior. What bothers me the most is that the check engine light has never come on… until this dealership worked on my vehicle. Does anyone have any thoughts about what, if any, action I can take… other than just taking their word for it and paying them more money for additional repairs? Thanks!

When an engine overheats, it can cause damage to emission control components. These can include oxygen sensors and/or catalytic converters.

Until the code numbers are known, it can’t be determined if the overheating event is what is now causing the codes.


It’s entirely possible that any current problem was created by overheating the engine.
You state the temp light came on and the gauge showed very hot. This means severe overheating has already occurred.

You state that you pulled over, saw no leaks, etc. and “immediately took it to the dealership”. Does this mean you had it towed or drove it? The latter is a bad move.

Since the water pump was apparently gone the reason you may not have seen any leaks is because all of the coolant was way back down the road and out of sight.

It’s also possible that any O2 sensor and catalytic converter codes could be due to the prior overheating along with a possible head gasket breach.
Stopping the car with a gauge pegging hot is closing the barn door after the horses done run off.

At this point I see that the dealer was presented a 7 year old, 140k miles vehicle that you bought used and had been severely overheated. When a shop is faced with something like that all bets are off as to what problems may exist.

Thanks for the reply. ok4450 - I did drive the vehicle to the dealership to the dealership instead of stopping and having it towed. Probably was a bad idea in hindsight but I was only 1-2 miles away and like most car owners who know little about car repairs, I thought it would be less of a hassle and less time consuming if I just drove to the dealership less than 5 minutes away since the car was still running and there were no visible signs of smoke, fluid, etc. Thanks again!

There are one or two warning lights on the dashboard that mean “drive carefully until you can get it repaired”, but the over temp light and the oil light especially mean “stop now or you’ll wreck the engine–really we mean it, stop right now.” It’s too bad more people don’t understand this.

“possible exhaust system leak or damaged catalytic converter” sounds like they have not done a proper diagnosis, only read the codes. They might want to charge you more shop time for a proper diagnosis. But since the car is driveable, you also don’t have to have the work done at a dealership and you can probably get a better price at an independent shop.

This is what I would do: First, get a proper diagnosis; a leaky exhaust system should be a cheap fix and would not be unexpected on a 7 year old car. If it is a bad catalytic converter, don’t get it done right away. When you overheated the engine, you might have damaged it beyond usefulness. If this is the case, you may start burning oil excessively or leaking coolant into the engine block. Drive the car for a few weeks, checking the oil and coolant at least once a week. Pay special attention to any foaming in the oil or at the radiator cap. If you start burning oil or loosing coolant on a regular basis, you either need a major overhaul or to ditch the car entirely, so you should probably avoid paying for the converter until you know for sure. On the other hand, if you are not burning oil or coolant, then you may have dodged a bullet, and replacing the converter will get you a few more years.

I don’t fault the shop for the CEL coming on now because an overheated engine can suffer problems at the time or problems at any point later on.
Once the temp gauge is on the H it’s often too late and continuing to drive the vehicle just exacerbated the problem even more.

Not being privy to the conversation between you and the service writer at the counter or knowing what was said between the service writer and the mechanic or the mechanic’s line of thinking I will say that it’s at least possible they could have done something that is at least ill-advised for want of a better term.

IF the service writer was made aware of the entire story about the overheating and IF this was written down or related verbally (bad move when it comes to oral arguments) then the first thing I would have done before even replacing a water pump would be to run a compression test and make sure there is no internal engine damage before spending one dime on the vehicle.

Even if the mechanic got a repair order that only stated “Replace water pump” he should be far sighted enough to ask some questions about the problem before digging into it and replacing anything.

Honestly, there may or may not be a direct connection between the overheating and the current problem. Either way, I see no reason to blame it on the shop. The vehicle has 140,000 miles on it.

Because it was overheated, a pressure leakdown test would be a good idea before spending anymore on it. It’s simple and you’d at least know if internal damage has been done prior to investing in persuing whatever the emissions problem is.