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2004 Dodge Stratus

A used car dealer near me has an '04 Stratus (83K miles) for sale for $5K. I might be running by there in a few days to look at it, and I thought it best to get some opinons about the car here.



It has the much-fabled 2.7L V6 with the horrible history of sludging problems. I did extensive research, and from what I’ve gathered this problem seems to have been limited to '98-'02 model years, and mostly in the Intrepid or one of its clones. I’ve also read that the issue doesn’t seem to happen as much when the engine is tranverse mounted (as in the Stratus) as opposed to longitudinally (like in the Intrepid).



Anyone have some experience to share about this model? Anything in particular I should look for? Obviously if there’s crud underneath the oil fill cap I’ll be moving on, but what else are these things known for?



The dealer isn’t a huge place, more a local stand-alone dealer that’s got a decent reputation. You can have a look at their site and see the car I’m talking about (It’s the only Stratus they have) at www.centralmotorco.com. Thanks for any thoughts!

We Have An Intrepid With The 2.7L That’s Is On The Sludge List.

It’s got 150K+ and running as smoothly (quiet, smooth running power plant) as ever. We chnge the oil religiously every 5K and I was told that the ones that have problems are neglected (no frequent oil changes) and these particular engines do not tolerate neglect as well as others. The engine delivers good performance and excellent MPG.

The only repair in 150K was replacement of 1 upstream 02 sensor that I did in the driveway. This engine must have timing chain(s) as ours does.

Even with a terrible reputation, this car explodes the “Asian Car Myth” for me. I will say that I was very disappointed that Chrysler wouldn’t help people with sludging problems. When you screw up, you should own up. cars should be a little “forgiving”. I bought a couple of GM cars after that. Now that I got even, I’d consider a Chrysler product again.

I can’t think of anything to look for, but there were earlier problems with timing chain guides that are by now redesigned. Listen for any noise. It should be quite quiet. I’d run on synthetic as I do in my cars.

Have you read the recent comments here? http://community.cartalk.com/posts/list/2127584.page

CSA

Thanks for your reply. My folks also had an Intrepid with the same 2.7L engine (2000 model year); they recently traded it in with 147K on the clock, and nary an engine problem or noise in nine years, having bought it new. It had religious oil changes which I think is the key. It got one EVERY 3K miles. Granted they didn’t use synthetic, but still. One thing I don’t do is neglect my vehicles; they always get 3K mile oil changes no matter what.

I’ve read that using synthetic seems to help some, as this engine supposedly runs a bit hot. A general feeling I read was that dino oil sludged up faster than synthetic, so should I get the car I’ll probably go that route. I read lots of positive reviews, FAR more than earlier model Intrepids with the same engine; hopefully that means something.

I hadn’t thought about the “overnight” test drive thing…that’s not something I’d think they would permit. I’ll ask about that (or at least an extended test drive…more than 10 minutes) and see what happens.

The fact that the dealer has a good reputation is a plus. Pay a good mechanic to check the Dodge over thoroughly. For a car that is 6 years old by the model year, condition is more important than the make of the car.

I don’t think that a Dodge Stratus is a “chick magnet”. This works in your favor. The late Tom McCahill, the automotive writer for Mechanix Illustrated made this comment about purchasing used cars: An unpopular new car is often a good buy as a used car. These cars can be had at a good price and may provide every bit as good transportation as a more popular used car.

When I was in junior high school in 1954, my mother took a teaching position and our family needed two cars. The popular used cars at that time were Fords and Chevrolets. The used Fords and Chevrolets that were in good condition were out of my dad’s price range, while the used Chevrolets and Fords that he could afford were junk. He found a 1947 DeSoto coupe at a good price–$325. The maroon paint was faded, but the interior was in good shape and the car ran well. My dad put me to work with the rubbing compound and that brought the finish back to life. That DeSoto proved to be one of the best cars he ever owned. DeSotos weren’t a popular car, but this one was a tremendous buy.

Some years later, in 1968, my brother found a 1963 Buick LeSabre at a Buick agency at a very reasonable price. He was driving a 1963 Studebaker at the time, and was worried about the availability of parts. The dealer made a very good offer for a trade right off the bat. My brother had the car checked over and it found to be in great condition. When he drove back to the dealer, a little bargaining produced an even better price. When he quizzed the salesperson about the low price, the salesman replied, “Well, you noticed that the Buick LeSabre is a standard shift and doesn’t have power steering. Very few people want a Buick without an automatic or power steering. On the other hand, I have a little girl that comes in here every week looking for a Studebaker. She was looking at your car when you were checking out the Buick. She’ll buy the Studebaker if you trade it in”. My brother bought the strippo Buick and it proved to be an excellent car. I guess that the girl that had to have a Studebaker was also happy.

Check the Dodge out–it may be a good transportation value.

Here is my method for seeing if a used car on a dealer’s lot is any good and helps me save money. I watch the car. If someone snaps the car up quickly, then I know it was a good one. If it stays on the lot for a length of time, I don’t bother to go look at it because it probably has something wrong with it. This saves me a lot of money and explains why I still have the same car I bought in 1978

Triedaq, That’s A Pretty Good Method, But What Happens If Somebody Snaps Up A Car That You Weren’t Going To Buy Because You Thought It Was Going To Sit There And Then They Return It Because It Wasn’t Any Good After You Have Decided That It Was A Good One That You Weren’t Going To Buy, Anyhow?

Why take a chance. Why not just keep the car that you’ve had since 1978? You could save a lot of money that way!

CSA

Well, this place doesn’t sell a boatload of cars as they’re not all that big. A fair percentage of their inventory has been there for at least the last month or two.

I will say, however, that until recently they had three of these white Stratuses, same engine and everything. Two are now sold, so maybe that says something.

My method keeps me from being an impulse buyer. I also shop for cars on Sunday afternoons when the agencies are closed. This also saves money. People have kidded me about still driving a 1978 Oldsmobile for years. Sometimes I think that the only person that has driven a car longer than I have is Jack Benny with his Maxwell.

There was one radio show where Rochester convinced Mr. Benny that it might be time for a new car. When Jack found out how little he would get for the Maxwell on a trade, he decided he didn’t want a new car after all. They didn’t have “Cash for Clunkers” in those days. I have to keep my 1978 Oldsmobile–it’s too old for “Cash for Clunkers”.

Triedaq, I’m Envious. I Would Love To Be Able To Drive My Cars “Forever”.

The Problem is that I live in the “salt belt” and the cars “dissolve” before they are mechanically used up. My cars all die of rust, not of engine or transmission attack or failure.

I would be content driving my Bonneveille for 30 years, but I have to literally drive through wet salt for 6+ months out of every year. It’s not by choice and I think the money wasted on all that salting is ridiculous, considering that we have no traffic anywhere near here.

CSA

Ufortunately, the tin termites have really attack my car in the last several years. I’m going to have to patch the floorboard before I can drive it much farther. Rust is the worst enemy of cars here in my region of the midwest as well.

Well, I went to go look at the Stratus but when I got there, it already had plates on it. I asked and sure enough, it had been sold. The guy there told me they get them from a government auction in Delaware, so I feel pretty good that their inventory is decent. I’ll be keeping an eye on what they get.

I went to another used dealer (which had come recommended by a family member) not far from the first one. The salesman wore (I kid you not) a peach-colored golf shirt, and a fedora hat complete with feather. Couldn’t be any more a textbook used car salesman…grins and chuckles all the time, talks about how nice every car is, you know.

First car I look at is an '02 Nissan Altima with the four-cylinder engine, 125K on the clock. Lots of miles, but in pretty good shape. It starts right up, but the idle seemed awfully high (around 1500 RPM). I figured maybe it was just warming up, so I took it for a test drive and it rode really nice. I stopped at a 7-Eleven while on the drive, and when I put it in Park the idle began to bounce up and down, a classic symptom of a vacuum leak. On the drive back to the dealer, the Check Engine light lit up. So that was the end of my interest in that car. I mentioned it to the salesman, and he had this to say: “Oh yeah, we know about that. We need to get it over to the Nissan dealer, so they can hook it to the computer and reprogram the idle.”

Needless to say, that line just about destroyed any interest in buying from these guys that I might’ve once had. I also looked at a '97 Maxima (which also had a lit Check Engine light!) and a '98 Avalon, but neither did anything for me. So no purchase for me…and I’m sure glad that I know about cars.

Budd, Thanks For The Interesting Update. You Are Learning The “Triedaq Method” Of Car Buying. With Any Luck You’ll Be Driving Your Current Car For 31 Years!

Keep us posted.

CSA