New (to me) car, great deal and looking for catches

Long story short, a dump truck side-swiped my pickup while it was parked before Christmas. I finally got a check last week and found a very nice car on craigslist. The new car is a one owner (two now!) 2001 Plymouth Neon (it’s branded Plymouth, I put Dodge below because the forum has no Neon listed under Plymouth) with 126,996 miles at purchase. It’s the automatic transmission. I paid the asking price, $1100, since they had all the maintenance receipts back to day 1, mile 0. Well, the original asking was $1200 but they knocked $100 off without my asking because it’s due for a transmission service. About the only thing I didn’t get is an owner’s manual. Anyhow, the main things I need assistance with are as follows.

The transmission shop wants to talk me into a full flush but I’m unsure. I’m not a mechanic, I’m just capable of getting by. What I’ve heard in the past is full flushes aren’t good for transmissions in some cases but I really don’t know which and that was for a completely different vehicle. The shop says it’s better to flush the whole system and I don’t have a manual to use to dispute that. I’m interested in feedback on both sides of the issue, all I want is to keep my car in good running order for another 100k miles or more.

The other issue I’ve been running into is when starting off the line at a stoplight, I sometimes get the front tires kind of hopping for a few seconds. I back off the accelerator and it’s fine. I’m focusing on not leadfooting the takeoffs since I’m used to an old '89 pickup. My research says the motor mounts in the car were designed to have more give in order to make for a smoother ride so I may be to blame and it’s just a “get used to it” thing. I did have the suspension (and brakes) checked at Les Schwab, a local place I’ve used for years without issue and they said things looked OK but the motor mounts “move a little” but again, my research is these mounts are supposed to (maybe I’m misinterpreting things there a little). This shop doesn’t replace such things (tires, brakes and suspensions only) but the guy said it wasn’t something he’d necessarily do himself just yet if it were his car. My question is can motor mounts cause the “hopping” issue and, if so, how serious is it? Does it indicate potentially more serious issues or am I just having “new used car paranoia”?

I’m an old truck guy so these aren’t issues I’m used to. The family really needs more seats and economically we need better mileage so this is what we’ve got. Overall, I’m happy with the car and it seems like a pretty good deal. I just want to ensure I get things done appropriately without wasting money on issues that aren’t really issues.

In this day and age a running driving car for 1000 is a great deal. Those cars are hard to find, and know a dealer probably would ask at least 3995 for the same car. I think you did well especially if it’s as well maintained as you say.

A flush is fine if the shop does not use a true power flush unit. Basically you want a unit that let’s the car pump out it’s old fluid while sucking in the new. Not a unit that will force new fluid in under it’s own pressure.

The hopping maybe you leadfooting it but on a neon I doubt it. Are you sure it’s not chatter from the trans?? I have a Buick that had a bad pressure solenoid in the trans and if I get on the gas too hard from a dead stop I get a chatter. I thought it was the wheels spinning at first but it’s not. By lightly rolling into the throttle I don’t have any issues at all. Basically I learned to drive this car all over again.

If the car has been properly maintained and transmission fluid and filter has been changed on a regular basis, I would go with a pan drop and filter change instead of a flush.

Good luck,

Ed B.

" I would go with a pan drop and filter change instead of a flush." Which would be better all around.

I agree with Ragtop that you got a great deal. Those Neons are very durable cars and you ought to get another 100K miles out of yours.

It is indeed possible that one of your motor mounts has failed. This is not unheard of, and it can account for the wheel hop. Have it checked out by a respectable shop and replace if necessary. This is not an expensive repair.

You must have the transmission pan dropped & filter changed. If the the fluid looks to be original and/or is very dirty looking or doesn’t smell great then you might consider have a full fluid exchange done after having the pan dropped & filter changed. A fluid exchanger doesn’t “flush” (depending on what one means by the term) - it just ships the old fluid out while replacing it with new fluid.

If the fluid looks & smells pretty good - bright red, no hint of burnt smell to it - then the pan/filter only is probably fine.

You must make sure that only the correct transmission fluid is used. In this case it is probably ATF+4 - though you want to look it up in the owner’s manual. You do not want anyone to put anything else in there.

If you are going to have a shop do the trans service you’re probably best off with a locally owned, independent shop that specializes in transmissions. Corporate chain transmission shops tend to be a poor bet. General auto shops generally don’t have the expertise in house.

I have no idea what you’re describing as wheel hop on take off. If you’re saying that you’re laying rubber down then yes - just get the lead out of your shoe.

Regarding your wheel hop, in addition to a lead foot and motor mounts, it can be caused by bad tires. If the tires are hard as rocks and have bad tread, they can lose grip and hop. Not a bad idea to check them and see how old they are, how much tread is left, and whether or not they sucked when new :wink:

Sounds like a nice little car… Cigroller is correct…AS USUAL…UGh… lol… The “Trans Flush” issues you have heard about usually occur when some bonehead lets the transmission torque convertor Pump itself DRY…using the engine running… When they go dry…they cannot “pump up” properly…and the dry running ruins the fins inside the convertor… I am sure there is a machine at tranny shops THAT DOES THE PUMPING…for the convertor w/o running the engine to do so…

So if they go about it in the correct fashion the flush wont hurt you…follow Cigrollers advice. In my Hondas…I just drop out 3 qts at a time…(by pulling the drain plug) at each engine oil change for the next 3-4 engine oil changes…then the trans fluid has been fully “renewed”…I don’t think you have the option of doing this as your trans has a pan… I love the Hondas drain plug but thats not an option for all.

That covers the trans fluid… But I DO wonder what this wheel hop is…The Neons I have driven actually have a low 1st gear and their enignes are peppy…YOu may just be “lighting them up” LOL


Offhand, sounds like a deal to me.
There’s nothing wrong with a transmission flush; just drop the pan for a cleaning and filter change first. Failing that, a pan drop and partial fluid change would be at least tolerable and acceptable.

What about the timing belt part of any maintenance? Do those records indicate that has been done?

As to wheel hop, I’ll go out on a limb and say what you’re experiencing may be normal and/or possibly due to the compound in the tires. Front wheel drive can act vastly different from your apparently rear wheel drive pickup due to torque steer and whatnot. Throw in a hard compound tire or tires that have hardened with age and it would not be hard for wheel hop to occur under hard acceleration.

Sorry for the delay; it was a LOOOONG day. The tires are brand new; literally only 2 months old. I checked and they don’t seem to be wearing oddly. The hopping could, I suppose, be transmission related. I don’t feel it at all in the steering wheel, only in the floorboards if that makes sense. Once I back off the gas and let it idle forward then ever so gently give it gas, it’s good. I suppose what I need to do is have a friend watch while I try to make it happen.

Thanks for the info on the transmission fluid change. That’s how I always did it on my truck (Cigroller’s way) and I usually did those and basics like oil changes myself. Unfortunately, the house I am in since the divorce has no garage and the weather isn’t suitable to do it this time of year. I’ll have a local transmission shop handle it. I need to find one so that’s in process now.

An odd thing’s happened a few times that I hadn’t mentioned. It happened once the first night I drove it home and again twice today. Today both times were at intersections. I’d brake into a green light, turning up a slight hill and then there was a shudder for a few seconds. It almost sounded like the tire dragged for a second but there’s no evidence of it on the tread. Once today was a left turn and the other was a right. The first night I was going straight. Each time there wasn’t much of anything in the rearview that looked like I hit a bump. I did have the brakes and suspension checked the other day and no issues were reported. Any idea as to what this new thing could be? I’ve never experienced anything quite like either issue before.

Maybe I’m being a little paranoid …

Please try this, in a empty parking lot froma dead stop, try to make your “wheel hop” happen. Now I don’t know if your shifter has a spot for “1” or “L” but if it does put the shifter down into it. This puts max line pressure on the 1st gear clutch Plates. Try to get the “wheel hop” to happen again. If you can’t it’s a trans problem.

Hmm, I think gsragtop might be on to something here. Sometimes a chattering clutch/clutch plate can feel like wheel hop. Do his test and tell us what happens.

I do have a “1” position on the shifter so I’ll try that test sometime today. Any chance that could also cause the other thing after turns? I know from my own work as a technology consultant/geek-for-hire that not having all the symptoms sometimes leads to bad diagnoses.

Out of curiosity, if it is the transmission, how sever of an issue would this be? Are we talking new transmission or reasonably simple fix by an appropriate shop?

The reason I am going down this path with you is, I have a simular problem with my 98 Buick. Yes it does feel like wheel hop, so I think I get what you are feeling. In my case its is what I belive is a bad pressure solinoid. The trans works great other wise, and I have kind of learned how to drive the car so it does not happen. If I feel it a dozen times in a year its alot at this point. I have NO IDEA about a neon trans though.

Thanks, gsragtop. The info I’ve found on the Net, while potentially unreliable, says this was the last year this 3 speed ATX was used by Chrysler. Apparently it’s a pretty mature design, though less efficient than many prefer. Even with this potential issue, I still feel I got a great deal, I just want to ensure the car gets the attention it deserves.

Unfortunately, it’s started snowing here. In Seattle, this means most parking lots will be covered quite well in snow and possibly folks having fun in it. I’ll have to do the test once this all clears up. As an aside, the way people here react to snow would make you think the world is about to come to an end. Crazy folks … hehe.

Demonstrate this problem to a transmission shop and get a few estimates for a rebuild. I don’t think you are spinning the front wheels on dry pavement. For a neons front tires to spin you have to snap the throttle open to at lest half throttle from a dead stop. Your car has the old 3-speed 31TH and shouldn’t be too expensive to rebuild. I think you found the reason the car was sold so cheap, where I live they are $2000-$3000.

I’m now wondering the same thing, Nevada_545. I’m not snapping to half throttle when this happens, that’s for sure. I’m barely touching it at all when starting most of the time, though you hardly have to breathe on the accelerator to make it go. There’s no slack in there at all as with my old truck so I was thinking at first I just needed to get used to it.

I thought an update was in order; I know when I’m working on an issue with someone online I like feedback whether a resolution is reached or not.

I’ve been driving my car pretty regularly. It handles EXTREMELY well in the snow we’v had here in Seattle … I’m very impressed with it. I’ll be darned if I can make the “hopping” happen since last posting, though. I’ve been quite gentle with acceleration as is needed in the snow. Even today when the roads are just bare and wet, it hasn’t happened.

Do I simply assume I was lead-footing it too much for now, do you all think? I’ve got to get it in for the transmission oil service anyhow soon one way or the other so I’ll let you all know what they say once I can get it in there.