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Hubcaps, a jumping engine and tight steering wheel?

My question is three-fold for my 1996 Dodge Neon. A brief history of the car: it’s been a problem since I’ve had it. Right away, the radiator went and, eventually, the timing chain broke. I spent as much to rebuild the motor as I did for the car. Since then, I’ve put new struts, brakes, starter, radiator, along with a myriad of other fixes.

My questions:

I see a lot of Neons that don’t have front hubcaps (mine included). What gives?

When I’m driving, at high speeds and low speeds, if I take my foot off the gas quickly (as in, I don’t ease off), the engine or transmission seems to jump down a gear. Similarly, when I speed up, it jumps pretty hard into second. (It’s an automatic, by the way)

And finally, this weekend we had a lot of rain. I was trying to make a right hand turn and the steering wheel locked up a lot. This has happened before in the rain, but never when it’s nice and dry.

Thanks for all the help.

  1. Lots of hubcaps get lost in 12 years. Since the Neon is an economy car, lots of owners don’t bother replacing them.

  2. Have you had the transmission fluid and filter changed? You MUST use ATF+3 (pretty much unobtainable nowadays) or ATF+4.

  3. Either the serpentine belt is worn, the belt tensioner is weak, or there is a splash shield missing below the engine.

And by the way, your car has a timing belt, not a timing chain.

  1. But I HAVE replaced mine, and they won’t stay on. A few days after I replace, they come off again.

  2. I guess I’m just terrified of having someone look at the transmission and tell me I need to do heavy work on it.

  3. How expensive is that stuff to fix? I’m a college student on a tight, tight budget, hence owning this car in the first place.

I’ve had cars/trucks like yours before: Junk. If you’ve had trouble since day one, and the car is TWELVE years old, try to trade it in on something better. Since you are in school and on a tight budget, would you not rather make car payments on something reliable or throw good money after bad and worry constantly about the NEXT repair? Bite the bullet and get rid of the car.

If it were possible, I would. But I’m already $20,000 in debt with school.