Chrysler PT Cruiser Idle Troubleshooting

by Kenny Soward
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PT Cruisers are stylish and popular wedge-shaped cars manufactured by Chrysler and inspired by the panel vans of the 1930’s. Some of the most common problems reported by PT Cruiser owners are PT Cruiser idle problems—rough or bogged down idling—when the PT Cruiser comes to a complete stop or when the air condition is running. Knowing how to retrieve error codes from your PT Cruiser as well as some basic repair knowledge can help you troubleshoot idle problems.

Check PT Cruiser Error Codes

A key to understanding the root of your PT Cruiser idle problem is getting to the PT Cruiser error codes being reported by the onboard computer system.

To view any error codes from your onboard computer, insert your key into the ignition and set it to the run position (the run position is the position just before start). Turn the key from the run position to the off position and then repeat this sequence one more time within the space of five seconds. Any error codes should show up on the odometer, and if you have no codes, the odometer will read “done.”

Note that some codes will start with a P. Codes related directly to PT Cruiser Idle problems will be “Error 505, The idle speed air control motor doesn't seem to be working correctly” or “Error 1294, Can't get to target engine speed, check for vacuum leaks and idle speed motor issues.” If either of these error codes appears, then take your PT Cruiser to the dealer to have the idle speed control motor inspected.

If no error codes related to the idle speed motor come up, replacing your spark plugs could resolve your idle issues.

Replace the Spark Plugs

Replacing PT Cruiser spark plugs can be done by anyone with a little bit of instruction. Start by “gapping” the new spark plugs at or close to .50 with a spark plug gapping tool.

According to the directions in your PT Cruiser maintenance manual, remove the engine cover and then the five bolts—8mm socket—connecting the two top halves of the intake manifold. Remove the EGR tube using an 8mm socket and a 13mm socket and then disconnect the air hose from the air box with a flathead screw driver and a 13mm socket, removing the bolt that is located beneath the opening of the throttle body.

Rotate the top intake manifold upwards and keep it out of the way with a board or other object—being careful to note the extension tube connected to the EGR tube located in the rear of the top manifold (the top manifold needs to come forward when replacing it to avoid damage to the gasket). There are also wires, sensors and soft vacuum hoses attached to the top manifold that you must avoid damaging.

Twist and pull away the plug wire boots and unscrew the plugs with a 5/8 plug socket—with a 3-inch extension. Use needle nose pliers to remove the old plugs. Before putting in the new spark plugs spray anti-seize on the threads. If the plug wires are over three years old or have gone beyond 60,000 miles, replace those as well.

Carefully insert the new spark plugs and screw them in firmly. Prior to re-installing the upper intake, wipe it out with a rag and some dishwashing liquid to remove the excess oil. Replace the wire boots, top intake manifold and the engine cover in the reverse order.

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