Problems With the PT Cruiser

by Dennis Hartman
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Image by, courtesy of Kyle May

The compact PT Cruiser is a retro-style wagon or convertible produced by American automaker Chrysler. The PT Cruiser debuted in 2000, with the convertible version arriving in 2005. Both body styles have been available in several variations and trim levels. Despite a generally good reputation for safety and reliability, the PT Cruiser has become known for several recurring problems that owners and potential buyers should be aware of.

Engine Problems

Some of the most common problems with the PT Cruiser involve the vehicle's engine. The PT Cruiser's 4-cylinder engine, shared with several other Chrysler vehicles, is sometimes known to burn oil and may need more added on a regular basis in order to operate smoothly. In other cases rough idling or a faulty "check engine" warning light may occur. Stalling and difficulty starting are other common PT Cruiser engine complaints. While some of these issues may be covered under an extended powertrain warranty, engine repairs on older vehicles can be costly.

Electrical Problems

Another series of common PT Cruiser problems center upon the electrical system. Many of these involve the PT Cruiser's ignition, with some owners citing cases where the car will not start. Other electrical problems have concerned the dashboard instruments, with brake warning lights that remain lit and radio malfunctions. Electrical accessories including fog lights and power automatic windows and door locks may also be prone to failure.

Mechanical Recalls

Throughout its production the PT Cruiser has been the subject of several recalls by Chrysler due to known mechanical issues. A 2008 recall impacting nearly 7,000 vehicles was intended to replace faulty ball joints. In 2004, more than 438,000 Chrysler vehicles were recalled because of the positioning of a power steering hose that could result in a power steering fluid leak. Another 2004 recall dealt with a known issue involving the anti-lock brakes on just over 100 PT Cruisers.

Safety Recalls

Some PT Cruiser models have also been recalled due to specific problems with safety equipment. In 2009 more than 16,000 vehicles were recalled because of visibility problems with some turn signals. Some 38,000 vehicles were part of a 2007 recall intended to correct glass windows that had been attached using inferior parts and were at risk of detaching from the vehicle while driving. A 2000 recall was enacted that did not involve any repairs to the PT Cruiser; rather, a misprint in the owners manual that listed an improper procedure for anchoring a child seat was corrected with new documentation sent to owners.

General Problems

Another group of problems with the PT Cruiser involve general shortcomings. Owners voiced some complaints about the vehicle's power until a turbocharged engine was offered on some models starting in 2004. With the exception of a convertible model, modifications to the PT Cruiser have been few and far between, leading come automotive critics to bemoan the lack of modern styling. In addition, new retro-styled cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Chevy HHR have taken over the excitement that surrounded the PT Cruiser when it first debuted.

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