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2006 Dodge Stratus SXT

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.

He did not get the timing belt job right. What else has he done to the car that might not be right? There are used cars all over the place. If you look at one and have the slightest doubt move on.

Don’t assume it’s the timing belt just because a mechanic told you. Plenty of mechanics make incorrect diagnoses/assumptions. And people selling cars have a habit of downplaying potential problems. I’ve lost track of how many times a seller told me it was something minor when it wasn’t.

But if it is the timing belt off a tooth, no harm done, the belt would just need resetting. Other possible culprits could be dirty/faulty idle air control valve, dirty/faulty mass airflow sensor, dirty/faulty throttle body, etc.

Be sure to have it checked out by an reputable independent mechanic before buying. The $100 you spend on getting it checked out could save you from making an expensive mistake.

If the timing belt was installed incorrectly there’s already something wrong with the vehicle.

What else is wrong that you weren’t told about?

Walk away.


"he is a mechanic and replaced it himself)"
If he is a mechanic, I would think he would want to fix it right. I question whether or not the seller is a mechanic. Not correcting this mistake doesn’t speak well for his skills.

Tell him that if that is all it is, to fix it and call you back. You won’t get a call.

I was talking to a fireman the other day and he was telling me about the time he almost put out a house fire but thought it was good enough so went home for the day.

OK, not really, but this “mechanic” who misinstalled his own timing belt and is driving around that way gives us real mechanics a bad name. What else did he almost do right? Brakes? Steering?

So let’s say, hypothetically, I have the car independently inspected and they tell me the problem really is just that the belt is slightly off. How serious of a problem is this?

Which engine is in the car, 4 cylinder or V6?

If the timing belt is off enough to cause a rough idle I’d imagine it may have set a fault code for either camshaft-to-crankshaft correlation or for low engine vacuum. Was the check engine light on?

To properly install the belt at this point it’s just the labor time to remove and install the belt. I’d imagine $300-$400 depending where you are.

Personally, I think it’s insanity to wade into something like this with red flags waving all over the place.

There’s not enough alcohol in a liquor store that would make me buy into what you’re being told.

The engine in the car is a 2.4L DOHC non-interference, 4 cylinder. There was no check engine light. The noise coming from the engine is not overwhelming, but noticeable.

The car feels perfect when driving, it’s simply at a stop that there is a slight vibration. It has 103000 miles on it and the belt was put on about 1000 miles ago, so I’m pretty confident that it was replaced because of normal wear.

Car also accelerates fine, was smooth and controlled from a stop when I wanted it to be, but also had a good launch, again, when I wanted it to.

These may be unnecessary details but I’m trying to stress that the car is basically perfect besides that, and the noise seems like more of a slight nuisance than anything else. I know I will lose power but from reading other forums where people have the same problem it doesn’t sound like a problem that will damage the car or cause it to break down. But then again I don’t know much about cars or I wouldn’t be on here asking.

Please find out what shop this “mechanic” works at so we can all stay away. I am not a pro mechanic and when I did the timing belt on my 99 Camry, I did get the cam 1 tooth off. I still bit the bullet and re-did the job right. Almost forgot it did not set off the CEL, but did idle a tad rough.

From your posts it seems you’ve already convinced yourself this car is a gem worth stealing and nothing will convince you otherwise. Best of luck anyway because I feel you’re going to need it.

So how much is the mechanic (?) asking for this little slice of heaven?

First, an older Dodge is not a good buy according to CR. Secondly, believe little from anyone who is trying to sell a car. Walk away. So, how does he know the car has had that particular problem when it’s something he can correct ? It seems like if that is all that’s wrong and he is a mechanic, it’s worthwhile for him to just fix it. Either he really doesn’t know what it is or he knows it’s something more serious. Still, walk away.

I told him to fix it and he said he will. Waiting for him to contact me if indeed it’s a minor fix. $3000


Don’t hold your breath, waiting for this “mechanic” to fix his botched timing belt job . . . if that’s all it was

Keep looking for other cars in the meantime

Don’t be surprised if this guy never calls you back

fyi, “non-interference” is a good thing. It means if the timing belt breaks while the car is running, the engine stands a chance of surviving without much damage.

If I were in this situation, I’d be inclined to ask the owner why the timing belt is mis-timed? Did he do that for a reason? If it was an accident during the installation process of a replacement timing belt, why didn’t he fix it? It is certainly possible for a DIY 'er to install a timing belt and get the timing marks slightly askew. But most DIY’ers would simply fix the problem once they realized what had happened. On most cars modify the timing belt alignment is much, much easier and less time consuming than changing to a new belt, as there is no engine mount involvement. I’m a DIY’er and could change the timing belt alignment to correctly match the timing marks on my Corolla in an hour, maybe an hour and half, but to replace the entire timing belt is a 4-6 hour job.

I ask this because – like I say, most DIYER’s would have fixed it once they noticed the problem – so there may be something else askew with the engine, and the owner has tried to correct it by changing the valve timing, instead of correcting the original problem. If so, that could auger problems down the road.

It would of course be common sense to check what Consumer Reports says about this car as a used car, see if all the recall/tsb work had been completed. If you are still inclined to close the deal, you might want to pay a shop to do a general inspection and check that the valve timing is correct. It might cost, what? $100 to $250? But it is probably money well spent.

Anyone placing any bets about whether or not this mechanic just threw a belt on it as opposed to the complete timing belt kit…