Pulling out my hair! Please Help?!

My Wife and I share a 2002 Dodge Intrepid 2.7 that has been eating coolant/anti-freeze the past two weeks. We noticed our oil light was on over the past weekend and being over our regular oil change by close to 1,000 miles, we got it changed at a local Valvoline. They said our coolant was low so they topped it off for us too. Prior to getting there and being quite chilly this past Wednesday afternoon in Dover, DE when we put the heat on, it only blew cold air. We traveled for a bit and turned it on again at which time it got warmer but only for a short while until it blew cold again. When the oil change was completed, we turned on the heat once more and figured that the coolant was the reason for the heat to not work. We thought it was strange but dismissed it. Car was fine after that however, when the oil is bad and we are at a stop light (in recent events) the oil light will flicker until we put it in neutral to take the load off the engine and it goes away once we are driving again. This past Friday while going to work (about 25 miles away) I got 3/4 of the way there and noticed that the oil light wasn’t flickering, but it was STEADY! I pulled over, checked the oil thinking the people at Valvoline dropped the ball but we’ve been going there for the past 8 years and they KNOW us!! Anti-freeze/coolant level was between min and max so we were befuddled as we had our usual screaming match on the phone. I popped open the cap slowly and the level shot up to above the max line so I figured it was good to go. I tightened the cap again and went on my way. I got to work, turned off the car and forgot about it. Quitting time, started up no problems until half way home the oil light came on but slowly dimmed away the more I drove it but the temperature gauge was slow to come up even though I drove it for 5 miles after leaving work before it started to jump up. My Wife went to work today with no problems but on the way back home she stopped at the Valvoline to top off the fluids (thankfully they do that free of charge whenever you need it) and the reservoir was low again. They topped it off and sent her on her way. We went to the grocery store only TWO miles away and when we got back the level was below min again! Topped it off YET AGAIN and left it for tomorrow. Looking online, EVERYONE has an opinion about what the cause could be. There are no cracks or holes in any of the tubes, pipes or hoses to and from the reservoir, none in the tank itself and from what we read, our greatest fear is that it is sucking the fluid and dumping it into the engine block/oil but when we check the oil, there is only oil! It looks and smells like it, and being an ex-firefighter I know what burning antifreeze smells like (used to use it in fire simulations to create smoke) and I can safely say there is NO white smoke coming from any part of the car and the car is not overheating like some forum posters claim happen to them either. If this is NOT the case, what is the problem here? My Wife and I CANNOT afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a repair like this, nor do we have the time, patience and or skills to do it ourselves. How do we stop the coolant from getting into the engine if this IS what is happening? HOW does it get in there anyway? Isn’t it SUPPOSED to go to the radiator to keep it cool? I sincerely request a straight answer as we are both quite inexperienced in these areas and again simply cannot afford the run around “oh I think its this” or “you may want to check this”. Someone out there knows, someone out there has had this experience and we need resolution. If we just keep dumping more and more coolant into the tank, what’s the outcome? Does the engine cease? How long do we have? How do we fix this with as LITTLE as money POSSIBLE?! Thank you in advance for your replies, knowledge and your understanding.
Steve RG

When cool check the radiator if you have a radiator cap. Fill it up, go to the dealer and get a new radiator cap. If you have no radiator cap apologies in advance. Oil light is another issue, but sorry to say there may be no cheap fix for that, but it is not a death knell.

There are tests that can be done to determine where any lost coolant is going but that gets into having to pay someone to do those tests.
As a cheap wild guess, you could replace the cooling system pressure cap.

What I would be most concerned with the is the oil light flickering or remaining illuminated.
That means:
Faulty oil pressure switch.
Engine wear leading to low oil pressure.
Engine sludging in the pressure port for the oil pressure switch.
That also gets into testing. The cheap guess is to replace the oil pressure switch and mumble a silent prayer that is the problem.

It’s unclear whether or not the screaming over the phone is between the married couple of at the shop. If it’s the latter I would advise this practice cease immediately.

I agree with ok4450.

When you have a car this old, you have to budget about $1000 per year for repairs. And you may have a much more expensive repair looming.

“as we had our usual screaming match on the phone” Say what? Screaming will not help you solve the problem. If you are screaming at the shop you may not get a warm welcome the next time you go back.

Sounds like you have a head gasket breach, not unusual for a 13 year old car. If the oil change place you use is a quickie lube place, try taking your car to an independent mechanic, they have the proper tools to test your car. You can find a local shop by checking under the Mechanics Files above. You will have to spend some money to find and fix this problem, no way around that. From a brother Fire Fighter in PA, best of luck to you.

“I sincerely request a straight answer as we are both quite inexperienced in these areas and again simply cannot afford the run around “oh I think its this” or “you may want to check this”. Someone out there knows, someone out there has had this experience and we need resolution.”

Wow, I wish car repair was that simple. I have had certain strange ailments with some of my cars where this has worked out for me, but this problem is not one of those. You’ll have to do this the hard way, I’m afraid. By now you may have dismissed any advice I’ll offer because it doesn’t fall into line with your sincere request, but if you’re still with me…

Experience? I owned and operated a 2.7L Intrepid for well over a decade and over a quarter million miles. I did the maintenance myself and most of the repairs.

Regarding Coolant Loss, Has Anybody Checked The Weep Hole On The Water Pump? I’d Look For Evidence Of A Coolant Stream, Stains Or Corrosion.
The water pump is under the timing chain cover, but the weep hole is external and can be observed. A failed/failing water pump will allow coolant to escape externally from that location.

"There are no cracks or holes in any of the tubes, pipes or hoses to and from the reservoir…"
Also, don’t quickly dismiss pinhole leaks in 2 small diameter steel coolant lines, one runs low on the driver’s side and one runs underneath the upper intake on the engine, between the cylinder banks. Eventually, both of mine corroded, developed pinhole leaks and I replaced them.

Plastic/aluminum radiators can also develop pinhole leaks and tiny cracks.
Does this vehicle park on a paved surface where any dripping could be noticed?

Also, has there been any cloudy white exhaust, recently?


I too see all the signs of a popped headgasket.
And the reason the temp was slow to come up on your way to work was that the sensor was in air rather than coolant, affecting its accuracy. You need to test for a popped headgasket ASAP. Your engine may already have sustained irreversible damage.

The oil pressure light is a different and also serious problem… engine wear.
Your oil pump develops pressure as it tries to force the oil through the miniscule spaces between the sleeve bearings on your crankshaft, connecting rods, and camshaft, and as the engine wears those spaces grow and the oil flows through too easily. This prevents the oil pump from being able to maintain pressure. You can try a higher base weight oil and hope for the best. It might help, might not.

With the greatest respect to OK4450, I’d suggest spending the money on a test kit instead of a new switch and measuring the actual oil pressure. If it’s low, there’s no point in putting in a new switch.

Screaming rarely if ever helps. All it does is get everybody frustrated and communication deteriorates.

Chrysler 2.7 engines of the early 2000s are famous for this. The problem is a leaking water pump. The coolant leaks internally and gets into the oil. The engines have a reputation for blowing at about 90,000 miles because of this. Chrysler came out with a redesigned water pump to correct this.

It needs to be addressed immediately to prevent severe engine damage.

I suggest you have a block check done to see if there is exhaust gases getting into the coolant. From what you described about the problem that seems to be the issue to me. The comment that @“MY 2 CENTS” made about the water pump is interesting and may be correct. I would think the trouble with the coolant is due to one or both of the issues.

Hopefully just replacing the oil pressure sensor will correct that issue but before work is done on that you may first want to see what is causing the coolant problem.

The bad news for the OP is this isn’t going to be a cheap and easy fix. I think the leaky water pump is the most likely culprit, but a bad head gasket is certainly possible to given some of the symptoms. Either isn’t cheap or easy on that motor.

The question comes down to is it time to drive this car into the ground and start looking for a replacement? Or, figure out who is going to do a proper repair and how much will it cost? I think a good independent mechanic can confirm the exact problem and estimate the repair.

I would get under the car if you have ramps or jack stand and look for coolant around the water pump. No heat is due to air in the system and low fluid levels. I don’t think this car has a radiator cap.

You need a pressure test to check for leaks in the cooling system and a chemical check of the radiator fluid to see if there is exhaust gas in the coolant.

Actually with the symptoms you have, I would start with the chemical test first. If the test shows exhaust gas presence, you may need a new car. The cost of a head gasket repair or a used engine probably exceeds the value of the car and this 2.7 liter V6 has been notoriously trouble prone.

Excuse Me Sir, Could You Please Check Your Engine Illustration. I Looked At It And Thought My Memory Was Gone More Than I Thought, Before (it probably is) …

Steve RG has a 2.7L. Are you sure that illustration isn’t a 3.5L?
For many years I owned 2 Intrepids, one 2.7 and the other 3.5. I put a timing belt on the 3.5 in my driveway, but my 2.7 had timing Chains, three, I believe and never needed service.

Either way, the water pump is driven by a timing belt or a timing chain, but of course, the layout is a little different. I replaced my pump when I did the belt on the 3.5 engine.

You will help restore a few brain cells if that illustration is not a 2.7.


OP’s story was pretty much a run-on sentence . . .

After sifting through it, seems like the car has multiple problems

Wasn’t the Mopar 2.7 V6 known for having sludge problems, if the engine oil wasn’t changed very frequently . . . ?!

First thing I would do is hook up an oil pressure gauge, and drive the car under various conditions. If the mechanical gauge does indeed show low oil pressure, I would say it’s not worth
attempting any sort of repair(s)

I wonder how often OP gets their oil changed, and I wonder if they keep an eye on the oil level.

OP is pulling his hair out and having the usual screaming matches. I think the first order should be for a supply of Quaaludes.


What a lucky man you are. Wish I had some hair left to pull out. Always wanted wavey hair for some reason. The only time it waves is goodbye. Don’t think anyone can answer your questions with absolute certainty, without seeing the car. Maybe you could find someone knowledgeable and skype. That way you could show him with specificity that it is not leaking any of the places you mentioned. You could pull the dip stick and skype the appearance of the oil, you know? And so on.

I have wavey hair, but it’s starting to wave goodbye

Along with my health . . .

Usually a problem like this that involves both coolant loss and an oil pressure problem is a faulty head gasket.
if the gasket between the oil passage and the coolant passage is still intact you wont have coolant and water mixing but the gasket could still be damaged between the coolant passage and the cylinder and the oil passage and the cylinder. you wouldnt necessarily notice alot of smoke or steam coming from the tailpipe if it is a small leak in the head gasket.
if it is a small leak in the head gasket it`s only going to get worse.