Battery, plugs, timing belt service (2000 300M) - when?

My '00 300M is a couple months away from being 8 years old (and has about 75k miles / 120k km's) - geographically this is in South-Western
Ontario (same climate as Detroit).
It still has the original battery, spark plugs, engine coolant, and timing belt. It is garaged every night, and in the winter the garage temp never gets below freezing (usually never gets below 40f).
Aside from engine oil (and filter) changes, it's had the differential oil changed once. I can't remember if the tranny oil has ever been changed - I think it has. The power steering fluid has also been changed once. About 6 months ago I had the (original) serpentine belt and idler pulley changed (preventative maintainence).
The battery still turns over the engine just fine, but I'm thinking that 8 years for a battery is a long time. I understand that the battery is pulled out through the passenger-side front wheel well - I guess I should take the tire off to do this?
I'm curious as to what other 300M owners have experienced as far as major engine maintainence - like how long the spark plugs and coil packs last, or when to change the timing belt. Can the results from regular emissions tests be used as a rough guide as to how those components are performing?
And what about muffler, exhaust pipes, and cat convertor? Any idea how long those components normally last?
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I don't know all the details, but check out http://300mclub.org/index.php . I got my 300m about 6 months ago now; it's a 2000 as well. Just after I got it (it had 160,000 km on it), I ended up doing a head gasket replacement, and it was right at the mark for a timing belt change anyway (100K miles/160K km). I did the spark plugs myself as well. It had the other fluids changed just before I bought it.
Anyway, that's my sob story... Next year, it will be the air conditioner, I think. *sigh* But that website should have the details on scheduled maintenance, although some of the site is for members only. Good stuff in there if you plan on doing your own maintenance.
Clint

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Like Clint, I too hang out on the 300M Club and its forums, though I own two 2nd gen. Concordes and no M. I've been a paid member for about 5 years. Several Canadians there - so - yeah - come on over.
I will say that Clint's head gasket problem is very unusual on the 3.5L engine. Though he's right about the a.c. - the evaporators on these cars have a high rate of failure (just did one of my Concordes about 2 months ago).
See my comments interspersed below on your specific questions.
Bill Putney (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my address with the letter 'x')
Clint wrote:

Though the dpark plugs are supposed to be good for 100k miles, that is a bit of a stretch. Myself and others have found that you will maintain noticably better fuel mileage and performance if you change them before 80k miles. Engine coolant - only good for 5 years. You *must* use only the G-05 type - available from Chrysler and Ford dealers, as well as in aftermarket in Zerex brand - but it's not the All Makes All Models - Zerex makes G-05 - look for G-05 on the label. The Mopar brand is reddish orange, Ford and Zerex is yellow, but they're the same stuff chemically. Do *NOT* use DexCool/Prestone Extended Life, which is also reddish, but is bad news.
Timing belt - change interval is 105k miles. Don't push that - these engines are interference (i.e., they can damage themselves if the belt breaks - a few on the 300M Club have proven that - bent valves). Come on over to the Club - we have complete parts lists and better price sources of OEM and the better name brand parts that you will need for the timing belt/water pump job.

You've done well. You should do the a.c. v-belt and its idler pulley too. Tranny fluid - You should do that with filter. Use *only* ATF+4 - WalMart carries the Mopar brand as well as their in-house SuperTech brand - I'd avoid that even though it's cheaper and supposedly made to the same spec. I think Castrol and Shell have it out now too.

Yes, though some people pull the air filter box out and pull it up thru the hole there. Me personally - I take the wheel off and work thru the fender.
But - yeah - 8 years - you might do well to just go ahead and replace it, otherwise you risk you or a family member getting stranded at an inoportune time. I stupidly knowingly didn't replace my daughter's 8 year old Jeep battery, and two weeks ago, I had to go rescue her from a chain store shop that was going to replace her perfectly good alternator to the tune of $450 - I had to take off work and drive 60 miles to prevent that from happening. As it was, I was stuck with paying $95 for a nothing-special battery - I refused to pay their $15 installation fee on top of that, using their "bad alternator" scam as leverage and an excuse to throw a rant in their waiting room.
Did I save money by not replacing it pre-emptively? You do the math. But I digress. (My point was that that is the kind of crap you have to deal with when things go wrong not on your schedule and on your home turf.)

Coil packs can fail, but are not a preventive maintenance item. Most owners go the whole ownership on the originals. Running on the originals on both my Concordes, one of which has 190k miles on it and I use it on my 80 mile daily commute.

Pretty much lifetime items. Cause for replacement is very unusual, though many people mess around with aftermarket stuff to squeeze a little more performance out of it.
You might keep transmission input and output sensors in your glove compartment. They have a habit of going out all of a sudden. Symptoms will be car going into limp mode (stays in 2nd gear). If speedometer still works, then it's the input sensor that's bad. If no speedo, then output sensor. They cost about $20 each. Easy to put in (from underneath vehicle). Better than having a shop sell you a whole new tranny, eh? More details on "The Club".
Hope to see you over on the Club. Though Clint linked the Club home page, here is the link directly to the forums: http://300mclub.org/forums/index.php?sidB6876de8fc01e7e267dc347d2afee34
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Bill Putney wrote:

I think I poked around there a few years ago. I'm not at the point yet where I'm going to really get my hands dirty with this car and need to arm myself with info from that website.
Sort-of on that topic - over the years I've looked for an aftermarket "LH" service manual (Chiltons, etc) but nobody seems to publish one. Any ideas why not?

I get about 28 mpg (according to the over-head display) on the highway (30 mpg if I have a tail wind or even 32 if I stick close behind a tractor-trailer). Not sure if those are good, average or poor.
At the first scheduled air filter change I swapped in a K&N filter and clean it about twice a year.

How much arm-twisting do I need to do at a Chrysler dealership service garage to get them to prove to me that they have, and would put in, the correct coolant from among the variety of choices that they presumably have available to them?
I'm thinking that I might as well wait until next spring to do the coolant change (and some sort of power-flush?) since the winter season won't put the coolant under any sort of stress.

Well, I'm not there yet. At this rate, it's going to take me 2 more years to hit 100k miles. Does the belt have a replacement age as well as replacement milage?

Well maybe the tranny fluid hasn't been changed because I really don't think the trans filter has ever been removed/changed.

Yea, I hear ya. I just hate to replace something like that without getting a better indication that it will definately not last me through the winter. Besides, you can always get a jump start and not have to immediately replace the battery the first time it fails to turn over - and that's the signal that you really need a new battery immediately.

One of mine (I forget which one) did fail a few weeks before the 3-year factory warranty was going to end - so it was fixed no cost to me. Since the speedo was not registering, it must have been the output sensor.
I've also replaced (last year) the front sway bar rubber mounting bushings and end-links, and I'm on my second set of replacement front wheel rotors and pads. I'm not sure if I have some air in my brake line, but while ordinary stopping pedal effort seems fine, it does take an almost inordinate amount of pedal force to perform a "panic" stop. It's been like that for a few years now.

Yea, I'll have a look - if only for the braking issue when I really want to tackle it.
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A dealer would put the right stuff in it. If you have it done somewhere else I would take a couple gallons of the right stuff with me just to make sure they used what should be there.
You should go ahead and get the coolant changed now. Remember it is antifreeze and also anti corrosion. As the coolant ages it looses the anticorrosion ability.
Lifted from yahoo (who lifted it from Prestone i think): But as the corrosion inhibiting chemicals are used up over time, electrolytic corrosion starts to eat away at the metal inside the engine and radiator. Aluminum is especially vulnerable to corrosion and can turn to Swiss cheese rather quickly when conditions are right. Solder bloom can also form in copper\brass radiators causing leaks and restrictions. So changing the coolant periodically as preventative maintenance is a good way to prevent costly repairs.
The basic idea is to change the coolant before the corrosion inhibitors reach dangerously low levels. Following the OEM change recommendations is usually good enough to keep corrosion in check, but it may not always be the case. Thats why more frequent changes may be recommended to minimize the risk of corrosion in bimetal engines and aluminum radiators

I have read five years or 100k. Don't know if it is true or not but we replaced ours last year right before it turned over 60k. Just not worth the risk of having it break and ruin the engine.
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One other thing I forgot to add.
Even if you don't change the plugs it is a good idea to pull them out and check them every few years. If left tooo long the threads in the head and on the spark plug get corroded causing the threads to strip out of the head when the plugs are removed. An expensive problem that can easily be avoided just by cleaning the plugs every few years.
Steve B.
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MoPar Man wrote:

Don't fall into that trap- winter/summer/desert/north pole really doesn't matter when it comes to coolant life. What "goes bad" is the corrosion inhibitor chemicals, not the freeze/boil protection. At 8 years of age, your coolant is probably not doing a great job of preventing corrosion and should be changed NOW.
Agree with the others on using ONLY G-05, whether it be Mopar, Motorcraft, or Zerex brand. NEVER under ANY circumstances use DexCool. The "old green stuff" (silicate formula) works just fine, but is only good for 2 years and wears the water pump seals a little faster, but at least it won't rot the cooling system from the inside out the way DexCool will. You asked about making sure the dealer uses the right one... well Mopar dealers will NOT have DexCool on the shelf, so the worst they could do is put silicate in it, and that isn't as bad.
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MoPar Man wrote:

Coupla thoughts: (1) Knowing that the more you move from street pad material over into track material, the more you *must* heat the pads up before they are effective, I wonder if you have more of a track pad. What pads do you have?
(2) The boosters do go bad on our cars, and they can be sporadic in their brake assist. Do you ever notice any whistling noise from the firewall when applying the brakes? I ask because the booster failure is often (not always) accompanied by a whistling noise when brakes are applied (whistling frequency and volume varies as you modulate the brake pedal).
Bill Putney (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my address with the letter 'x')
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I have had the booster experience as well...Panic stops sees un-usually hard pedal travel.
While in very cold winter days (25F or colder) I'll hit the pedal and the pedal pressure feels normal and then all of a sudden the pedal will just drop suddenly about a 1/2 inch and you will hear this hissing sound let off the brakes and it goes away. Hit the pedal again and it does the same thing. I've had this car for 1.5 years now and this only happens in cold weather.
Is this something that can be tolerated or is it getting to be a safety issue?
Mike

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The risk is that one day you will need some braking power in accident avoidance, and you will not have it available. I tolerated mine for a couple of years when it was making whistling noises. When it got the point of the boost randomly coming and going, I replaced it right away.
The booster is not that expensive, and relatively easy to replace.
The master cylinder is on flexible lines, so when you remove the two nuts from the studs holding it to the booster, it pulls forward and over to the side out of the way very nicely - no breaking the brake fluid lines to do it!
You will need to remove the wipers and cowling at the bottom of the windshield for access to the booster - no big deal either. On the other side of the firewall, you'll need a small socket - 10 mm IIRC, and a 1/4" driver and some extensions for the 4 nuts that hold the booster to the firewall - the driver has to fit in betweeen some things and a 3/8" driver will be too fat to fit.
As far as buying the booster, get the rebuilt that every auto parts chain sells. NAPA sells the exact same brand - the only difference is the other chains charge around $80 while NAPA wants over $100 for the exact same booster from the exact same rebuilder. Haven't heard of any problems with the rebuilt unit - mine's over 2 years old and working fine.
Once you replace it, you might be surprised at how weak your present booster is even when you think its working. :)
Bill Putney (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my address with the letter 'x')
Moparmaniac wrote:

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I lke to keep my cars up - but can't do anything myself.....so the dealer/mechanics do it all.
on mine, the water pump started to leak at 96,000 miles.......my independent shop said it's a bear of a job (special tools required).....so to the dealer and we did timing belt at same time.,,,,,and work was guaranteed.
I have the coolant changed every 2 years after the initial change......still on original radiator.
usually change air filter myself about twice as often as recommended........have the shop change the fuel filter - also more often than recommended.
it was in for oil change, etc. at about 115,000 miles and it occurred to me that I had no record of spark plugs ever being changed (still ran great).....so told shop to replace them........they said they were original!!!!!! they also indicated that I should be alert to any missing - they didn't replace wires cuz they say its a bitch and expensive.....so far, so good (at 126,000 miles).
the only hard-to-figure problem was the EGR valve.....check engine light would come on every now and then.......computer said EGR but shop didn't believe it cuz it would act OK for them......after 2 years of the light coming on every couple weeks, and running rough for a couple minutes......I told them just to replace the darn thing..........it's been perfect ever since.
geees - 8 years on a battery.......you deserve a medal - but I don't like waiting to be stranded in a blizzard......they get replaced every 4 years no matter what..........that comes to less than $20 a year which is cheap insurance.
had all the original hoses replaced this Spring.....they looked like new, but cheaper to have done in the shop than on the back of a tow truck.,,,,,,the lower radiator hose was like a sponge on the inside.
126,000 miles - original starter & alternator, fuel pump........in fact, nothing other than mentioned above (+ air conditioning compressor around 100,000)......great car - still gets 25 mpg on the road. just hope it lasts until they come-up with a new one that doesn't look like a tank.
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Itsfrom Click wrote:

If that's what they *really* said, I'd find another shop. The M does not have high voltage wires. It has what is called coil-over-plug. The coils (one per spark plug) plugs directly onto top of spark plug. You only replace them (the coils) if they fail, and they seldom do.
Bill Putney (To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my address with the letter 'x')
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