My Dodge Stratus Overheats Constantly

So I have a 2005 Dodge Stratus. It must be a year old model because most of the parts and engine wise are of the 2006 model. Well earlier in Feb/March I had to get my timing belt and heads changed due to the bending. After that my car was working fine, but my coolant overflow tank kept losing coolant. Had that fixed with the repair shop as well. After that it seemed that my car was working well. Then it started to overheat, and I was informed that my lower radiator hose had a small leak. I had that fixed as well. This is when the constant overheating started.

I assumed that the air needed to be removed from the system. So I had it bleed, and then it seemed to work well, but that was not true seeing as my car continued to overheat of the cold air was on. The only thing that keeps it working is if I turn the heater on. That cools the system off. So now everyday I have to keep letting air out of the radiators, and run the heater if it gets too hot.

I just noticed today that my thermostat housing bolts have coolant on them whenever the engine gets to hot. Do you think it’s not right enough, or my radiator cap may be bad?

Head gasket
Radiator hoses
I believe the cap of the radiator as well.

You say it overheats when the cold air is on. Are you sure the radiator fans are turning on when you turn on the cold air (AC)?

@MY_2_CENTS Yes, they are still turning on. Once it begins to run above halfway the heater blows outside air. Pretty much, my auto shop can’t determine what’s wrong, and they haven’t told me if they caused anything, but who knows.

I’m really confused. Can you clarify a few things? You said you had to replace the heads, not head, which would make it the V6, but the V6 on that car used a timing chain, not a belt. Did you mean replace the head, and if so did you have to replace it because the timing belt broke and bent your valves?

Also, when you say the fans are still turning on, I just want to be sure you know we’re talking about the radiator fans in the front of the car, not the fan that comes on when you turn on the heater to blow air into the cabin.

What do you mean by “every day I have to keep letting air out of the radiators?” List the steps you go through when you do this, please.

When you turn the heater on and that cools the system off, does it continue to keep the system cool as long as you drive, or does it only keep it cool for a short amount of time before it starts overheating again?


@shadowfax Sorry for the confusion, I’m all new to this.

Yes the fans in the front of the car still turn on.

Okay so back in March my timing belt broke, which caused my valves to bend. I had to get that fixed. So it is only the “head”, because it’s a 4 cylinder.

So every morning, ( bubbles show up each and every time I do this)

  1. I incline the car
  2. I put the car in the heater position with it still off.
  3. I remove the radiator cap
  4. Crank the car and turn the heater on
  5. I was filling up the radiator as it went down, I haven’t done that in about 1.5 weeks.

Yes, my car will stay cooled down as long as the heater is on, unless the car is overheating that’s when the heater blows cold air. If it gets about 1-2 notches from being in the red that is when the cold air starts coming from the heater. This only happens if I do not cool it down in time. Also I smell coolant when I switch positions (turn AC/Heat on)

Does your windshield fog up on the inside?

Sticky and a sweet smell?

any visible coolant on the inside . . . carpets, floor mats, etc.?


It actually does not fog up. It does smell sweet and I did look up heater core issues, but my repair shop says they checked that as well.

There aren’t any wet carpets nor any fogged Windows. This is literally a car anomaly :disappointed:.

Does the sweet smell happen right away, or only after the car starts to overheat and you’ve turned the heater on?

@shadowfax it is right away usually. Especially as of late. It’s anytime I switch, I begin to smell it.

What bending?
Was the work done by a reputable competent independent shop and not a chain operation?
Did they do the diagnosis or did you tell them what to do?

Removing and replacing heads is a fairly high level of work, and everything needs to be done correctly. Something as basic as misadjusting the valvetrain or using the incorrect head gaskets (your comments about the different years makes me skeptical) can cause all sorts of problems including overheating. Properly torqueing the headbolts is critical to the process.

In addition, I’m wondering of the water pump was changed, or at least evaluated, during this work. The impellers can erode and allow overheating.

Since the overheating started, has the shop tested the coolant for the presence of hydrocarbons, or done any other analysis to determine if the headgasket is leaking? I would expect that to be the first thing they’d do.

Post back.

1 Like

The OP finally cleared up the fact that the timing belt broke and bent some valves. I suspect that not all of the work that should have been done was done.


Got it. Apologies to the OP.

Volvo, I agree. I find myself really bugged about the comment on the different years, too. In addition to wondering about the work, I’m wondering if the shop checked to ensure that the correct headgasket was being installed. Minor changes by the manufacturer from year to year can affect the ability of the cooling passages to flow properly.

Honestly, the first thing I’d do is check for evidence of a headgasket leak. Besides, IMHO that needs to be ruled out first before looking at anything else. And it’s cheap to test for.

1 Like

Thank you all!

I’m going to take it to another shop this week to see if I get a different diagnosis than my regular shop.

@the_same_mountainbik they did claim to test everything that they could. Pressure test, rechecked for leaks, and head leaks. They also said my WP was circulating well. One thing I do notice is that my coolant reservoir tank is well above the normal level. It’s gets really high sometimes, not overflowing, but about 1/3 from the top of the bottle.

If the engine is running hot, the coolant will expand beyond normal and the reservoir level will be higher than normal. That doesn’t help fix the problem, but that’s why the coolant bottle gets high.