Chrysler's long-running PT Cruiser wagon was first introduced in 2000. Spearheading the retro-styling craze, its initial excitement has worn off, while the PT Cruiser remains relatively unchanged today. While it has earned a reputation for superior reliability and safety, the PT Cruiser is prone to several engine problems of which owners and potential buyers should be aware.
One of the most often cited problems with the PT Cruiser is its engine's propensity to burn oil. Many owners have found the need to frequently add oil in the short term to keep the engine running smoothly. In other cases, costly repairs are needed that may or may not be covered under Chrysler's power train warranty, depending on the age of the vehicle. In some cases, replacement or cleaning of engine parts has failed to prevent the PT Cruiser from continuing to burn oil.
Spark Plug Problems
Another engine problem with the PT Cruiser involves faulty spark plugs. While spark plugs may need to be replaced on a regular basis, especially following any serious engine trouble, the PT Cruiser's engine bay configuration makes accessing the spark plugs difficult and time consuming. This makes it impossible for many do-it-yourself mechanics to change spark plugs, requiring instead an expensive trip to the auto shop. In addition, some owners have complained of engine misfires when factory-installed spark plugs failed prematurely and needed to be replaced while the car was still under warranty.
Unable to Start
Another common engine-related problem with the PT Cruiser is an inability to start. Problems with the electrical ignition are common, as faulty wires or a battery with low power may prevent the vehicle from starting. This problem is especially common during cold weather or when the engine has not been run for a length of time. In many cases, starting problems become more frequent as the vehicle ages, or following other engine problems such as the aforementioned issue with burning oil.
Check Engine Light
Many PT Cruiser owners have also experienced a problem with the "check engine" dashboard warning light. While this can refer to an emissions problem as well as an engine problem, in some cases, it accompanies other warnings such as a high temperature reading. In these cases, the engine is likely to have experienced a loss of coolant, either from a leak in the system or by burning coolant due to a major engine problem such as a blown head gasket. In other cases, the check engine light indicates a long-term build-up of carbon in the engine, which may require service before the light will go out.
Lack of Power
One of the biggest complaints about the PT Cruiser, shared by owners and auto critics alike, is the vehicle's general lack of power. Although a turbocharged engine was made available beginning in 2004, the same 2.4 litre inline-4 cylinder engine has been standard over the entire run of the PT Cruiser. The engine produces a modest 150 horsepower and 165ft. lbs. of torque. These numbers are even less impressive given the PT Cruiser's weight of over 1814kg. Despite a low-powered engine, the PT Cruiser achieves only average overall fuel economy of just above 20 miles per gallon.