Dodge Neon Head Gasket -- Oil in The Radiator



Maybe someone out there is a bit more

mechanically inclined than I and could

offer some advice on this. I bought a used

96 Dodge Neon for $600.00. Can’t reallly

go wrong with a price like that, right?

Okay, come to find out this particular year/

make/model didn’t go to market without a

few problems --which might explain the low

resale value.

Pealing paint and blown headgasket issues

are WEll documented by previous and current

owners of the 90’s Dodge Neons, but Crysler/

Dodge never issued a recall. That’s really

too bad that they didn’t because otherwise

this is a very nice and well powered car.

Here’s a little light reading if anyone

finds this interesting for some reasen.



Anyway, my question is this: is it worth it

to go out and start getting estimates for

replacing the head gasket or is the best

bet to sell it ‘as is’ and put a sign on

it? From what I understand this is a preferred

vehicle for those ‘wanna be’ street racers,

which Laramie seems to have no shortage of.

This would be a great car for a mechanic who

had the tools and patience to keep this thing

on the road --that counts ME out!

Well; the car runs great, just leaks a bit

of oil into the radiator. I just don’t

want to be on the highway when this thing

finally overheats and the engine blows!

I’m hoping to at least get some use

out of it for driving around Laramie

to go to the bank and grocery store, post

office etc…

So: sell or fix-it-up?

…when life gives you a lemon, it might

just be a Crysler product.


First off, are you SURE this is engine oil getting into the radiator?

If it has an automatic transmission maybe it’s a leaking transmission fluid cooler, which is in the radiator.


That’s a good question. I’m really not sure if it’s engine oil or transmission fluid. The first guy at the lube shop to take a look at it believed that it was engine oil. This sounds likely because the cars are notorious for having leaky head-gaskets.
When I open the radiator cap, there’s globs of oil and it all looks kinda like a chocolate milkshake boiling in there.


Take it to a mechanic for a real diagnosis. The guy at the lube shop very far from a mechanic.

I don’t think a head gasket repair is worth it for this vehicle.


I would not put a lot of faith into what a guy at the lube shop says.

If it’s an automatic trans, I would check the trans fluid level and fluid condition.

If the trans fluid is low or appears to be contaminated also then you may need a radiator, or the other option which would be to change the trans fluid and install an aftermarket trans fluid cooler. This would bypass the radiator completely and works many times better than the factory radiator cooler.


Very unlikely that it is trans fluid… the surface tension makes in more likely antifreeze is in the the trans even though the pressure is greater in the trans…


I took it by a “real” mechanic later, yesterday evening and he said that it’s engine oil and that if he were me, he wouldn’t sink a lot of money into this car --just drive it till it goes kaput. Thing is, I kind of like this car! It’s got a lot of pep and it’s comfortable for a guy my size. If anyone can convince me that I’m really going to be throwing my money away and the car is a lost cause, no matter what, I’m all ears! I’m running a bit low on cash these days. Now, another mechanic I talked to gave his personal opinion too. He says that I should weigh the difference between the repair costs against what another used car would cost me and consider that I might have to shell out just as much money for other types of repairs. This particular Neon has a good AC, has had all of its oil changes and the body is in good shape and so are the breaks. If the transmission was about to go, tho, and I knew this for a fact, I’d just let it go to the junk yard and call it quits on this one.


Thanks. I’ll check the transmission fluid tomorrow morning. The lube shop guy didn’t say a word about it other than it would probably need to be changed eventually. Didn’t say that it looked funny or anything.


Thanks. Now, is there a way that I can look at this mess of oily globules in the radiator and tell by looking if it’s tran fluid or engine fluid? Again, it looks like a boiled chocolate milkshake in there. Kinda gross too.


That’s not completely true.
When an engine is running, yes. When an engine is off the trans fluid pressure is gone, BUT the cooling system is still hot and under pressure. This is when coolant can be forced into the trans fluid.


Check that your motor oil is not getting contaminated by coolant. If it is your engine is JUNK and definitely would not perform any further work to this.


Motor oil looks nice and clean.