Today I went and test drove a used 2006 Dodge Stratus SXT from a private party. Everything about the car was great except it had a bit of a rough idle; there was a slight sputtering noise when not in motion, and the car itself vibrated very slightly. It didn’t bother me too much while I was driving because it accelerated and shifted fine and the engine sounded very strong, otherwise.
When the test drive was over I pointed out the noise to the owner, and he admitted that he had mis-timed the timing belt slightly which was causing the sputtering (he is a mechanic and replaced it himself). I was worried about this, but I did some research when I got home and learned that this model of Stratus has a non-interference engine.
My question is this: should that timing belt be a deal breaker for me? Will this cause major mechanical issues down the road? I know it will reduce power but I only really need the car to commute, so I don’t mind if I’m not toe-to-toe with a Challenger. I’m just worried it will eventually cause a costly problem.