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Chrysler Repair/'97 LHS: check engine light/overheating


QUESTION: Last month I got an oil change that was long overdue. Right before I got it done my check engine light came on. Also every time I started my engine (after not driving it overnight) it wouldn't want to start. A family member told me to pump the gas pedal when that happens and eventually it will start, so that is what I've been doing. I've been trying to hold out to take it into a mechanic until this next week because I did not have the money to do it and I do not have another vehicle. Today while driving smoke started to come from the hood so I pulled over immediately and I noticed the car temperature gauge was all the way hot. I got out of the car, popped the hood and noticed there was a lot of antifreeze all over the ground. A friend who knows more about cars came and put water and antifreeze in and was looking at other things. He got the car to start and it wasn't overheating and was able to drive it home (30 miles away). He told me to go get a radiation flush done. And that there might be a leak. I know nothing about cars. Do you think this was good advice? I live in a small town and don't trust the auto shops around here (paid over $2000 for a job I was told shouldn't have cost more than $500 by another auto shop). I just want to make sure I ask to have the right things done and not get screwed over.

ANSWER: Hi Trista,
What is the year/make/model, engine size (L) of your car? What did the temperature show during the 30 mile drive home? Is the check engine light still on? Did you loose any more anti-freeze solution when you checked the level in the overflow bottle after getting home?
Let me know and we'll go from there.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Roland,
I apologize I thought I added that. It is a 1997 Chrysler LHS. I do not know the engine size (sorry). The temperate stayed between the middle and just a little under during the drive home. Yes, the check engine light is still on. There hasn't been any antifreeze on the ground since (I've gone out to check a couple times.) I did not check the level in the bottle, because that wasn't even something I thought of doing. (Again sorry, I honestly don't know much about vehicles!)

Hi Trista,
Follow up:
Did you check for excessive white smoke from the tail pipe?
Any 4-digit fault code numbers show up on the odometer window?

Original answer:
About the engine size, look at the top of the engine where it is usually etched in large letters or notice what is the letter in the 8th digit of the Vehicle Identification Number located on front edge of the dash cover visible through the windshield on the driver side (it should be a G, H, or R).
As to the overheating that happened, is it possible that you hadn't been checking for the level of coolant in the overflow bottle and it just got too low? The other possibility is that the engine is spewing out coolant vapor from the tail pipe due to an internal engine leak. Particularly when you first start the vehicle from cold get out while the engine is idling and observe whether there seems to be excessive white smoke coming from the tail pipe or not. If so, let a little of the smoke condense on you hand and see if that smells like anti-freeze.
Finally, on the check engine light, use the ignition key to try for a readout of a fault code which would tell you the reason for the light. Turn the key: "on-off-on-off-on and leave on", doing that in 5 seconds or less elapsed time. Then watch the odometer window in the cluster to see if the mileage reading is replaced by a 4-digit number preceded by a P. Let me know what you find and we'll go from there. By "on" I mean the key position just before the start position, i.e. where the key sits when the engine is running, but you don't to start the engine when doing the readout 'key action'.
Let me know what you find about white exhaust smoke, and code readout.

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Roland Finston


Free fast answer to your repair question about a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth car, minivan, SUV, or truck. Problems with electronically controlled engines and transmissions as well as body wiring problems are my specialty. This free troubleshoot advice forum helps you diagnose faults, minimize repair costs or do-it-yourself.

I answer questions seven days a week and respond to you in about 30 minutes. "Maxed Out" means I am answering another question, briefly unavailable, or asleep overnight, so try again later.

I have do-it-yourself experience (50+ years) and a library of 100 1982-2011 Chrysler factory shop manuals and 20 multi-manual Chrysler Corp. CD's.

I was voted "Top Expert" 2010-2015, here at AllExperts, and have answered 20,000+ questions.


Five decades as a 'do-it-yourselfer' on domestic and imported cars.

Yahoo Autos Group called The Chrysler Lebaron Club (co-moderator)

Advanced degrees in Physics/bruised knuckles

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"Top expert" of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 here at Allexperts. Quickest "average response time" at Allexperts (currently no. 1).

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