Bought an almost-junked '99 Neon with a replaced motor (75,000 miles
total). The original DOHC was replaced with another '99 2.0 DOHC. I'm
hoping to learn a few things and have some fun rebuilding what could be
a fun little car. It drives, and the transmission sounds and works,
well. I get redline right when it seems like I should in every gear
(and drive it harder than I probably should). However, all of a sudden
a few days ago - I lost power on the interstate. All my guages went
dead and my lights turned off. We jumped it and it ran for a few
minutes and died again. We repeated the process about 20 times to get
the car home (almost always in 1st gear). So I've 'cleared my
schedule' and I'm going to tear this little engine apart and see what I
can't fix, repair, replace, or... not.
I'm a weekend warrior but I know my way around a motor for all intents
and purposes so I hope my post will be taken a little serious, at least
(car and engine choice aside). I have tried looking up alot of this
online but find bizarre, random, and non-related materials abound, and
very few tangible solutions to my issues. I look to YOU, the ALT luvrs
to show me the Light, the Way, or the shame.
I tend to talk, type, think WAY too much so I'm guessing most people
wont bother with my issues. So I'll outline one major question that
I'd like answered the most :
[THE BIG ONE]
- My alternator's ground was not connected. What can be results of
running the car on the battery with no ground to the alternator? The
only thing I can think of are a few power surges that are handled by
fuses, and the battery getting gulped down like a cold drink on a hot
- Aditionally, the alternator has had coolant dripping onto / into it
and the wires around it have been covered in coolant. Both male and
female connectors are also coolant-soaked. Does that mean I need to
replace the entire alternator wire-set?
:: The GENERAL Isses ::
+ Drains oil at approximately 1 quart per 100 miles or 1 quart per
week. Oil smells somewhat burnt when the oil cap is removed. I'm
going to do the oil change if I can fix every other damn issue first.
Note : There aren't any drips from the head area, the oil pan, the
filter, the oil cap, or anywhere else than I can see. There may be
minor leaks from the back area of the block by the exhaust headers.
Maybe head gasket? I'm not 100% sure how to tell.
+ Transmission fluid seems full from removing plug and checking but
there are uniform fluid leaks from the transmission and around all the
parts its connected to. I ride the clutch pretty bad (yeah, yeah...)
so could that force leaks? Or what? This does seem to be a big
problem, both wheel wells and a lot of the underside of the car is
CAKED with some kind of fluid(s).
+ Gas mileage seems to be about 20 miles a gallon (approximately -
according to a MPG calculator I used) which is, I hope - ALOT worse
than it should be. Air filter is brand new, gas cap is fine, no leaks
from lines or tank... Regular unleaded is used all the time.
Note : The check engine light stays on in this car. The OBD II reads a
faulty O2 sensor (possibly the gas mileage issue, but then where's it
+ The O2 sensor OBD's as faulty. I can't seem to figure out how to
remove it without taking off the heat shield. I can't get any socket
or wrench around it... Maybe cut off that part of the heat shield?
Laughing at myself 'cause that would probably melt the shit out of some
wiring... I need to get it replaced and Pep Boys only wants pocket
change to replace it if I already have the part. But I wanna' do it!
+ I'm getting another OBD code that apparently isn't readable except
by the dealer (Says Advanced Auto Parts). What could that be?
:: SPECIFIC Issues ::
+ COOLING SYSTEM +
- Car overheats if AC is at a medium setting or higher, if the car
idles for long, or if the clutch is ridden in traffic. I've never
driven it over-heated, I always pull over and give it time. Coolant is
just below full, radiator cap pressure tests fine. * I have not
checked the thermostat but if the engine is fresh, the thermostat
should be, too (I'll still check it). *
There DOES, however, seem to be a leak underneath the coolant resevoir,
directly above the alternator. However if the coolant looks to be
full, I don't see how I can be overheating if the cooling system is
getting coolant delivered to it. Ignorance or true automotive mystery?
In most cases the car drives well, like I said, and the temp guage
stays right where it should be if the AC isn't run, the clutch isn't
ridden, and if its not idling. Could that be another indication of the
head gasket, or am I relying too much on standard problems with First
+ ELECTRICAL SYSTEM + HELP!!! +
// The electrical system is the main issue with this car, and the
field in which I have the least experience or comfort. Being that I
got this car just to work on stuff like that, I would like to do the
most complicated procedures I can to make sure I clear these issues up
- The first night I owned the car I realized the tail lights didn't
work. Then a few days later, (ta-daa) they work, then 48 hours later
) they're off again. The headlights do work all the time, so
do the brights. Brake lights work, as do all turning signals. Fuses
(under-hood and in-dash) were all checked and replaced as needed. I
don't know how to check relays. All ground wires look to be attached
correctly and working...
Note : I replaced all 4 bulbs with what I am 100% sure to be the right
bulb, although all bulbs replaced weren't burnt-out or the wrong part
number. Same problem after bulb replacement (derpy). I haven't (and
wouldn't know where to start) done any volt- or other electrical
testing. I have a Multi-Meter that I'm dying to use (*smug*
) but I
don't know where to start. I'd guess : check the wires at the socket,
the socket, then check the switch, if none of the above - then...
- Then the car did that power-down I talked about earlier. Now it
wont run for 30 seconds without dying. The battery was replaced with a
new EverStart 540 CCA but even before I replaced it I didn't think the
battery was the problem, but I just couldn't tell. Replacing the
battery was bunk. Got the old one re-charged and tested at Pep Boys
and it tested fine, had the same thing done to the new one with the
same result. The terminals are bruised from the last owner banging on
them, but the wires look fine. The starter (the solenoid, or whatever)
clicks like crazy when the key is turned, but the motor doesn't even
consider turning over unless the car is jumped. I doubt it's the
starter because the car, when I bought it, started VERY well - and
every indication I've read online leads me to...
!! BIG NOTE !! Electrical masters or those "In the Know" please note :
The battery tester I have reads 14 V holding strong with the car
running (no lights, no peripherals). When the ignition is turned off
the current still reads at 14 V. Which, with my limited knowledge, has
been another reason for me to deduce...
-- ALTERNATOR CRAP --
So then I ask myself, "Hey bro, what about the alternator?" Well, yeah
- I bet dollars to donuts that's my main issue. At first, even with my
trusty Hayne's Manual in hand I couldn't find the damn thing. Then I
remembered Auto 101 - alterator is belt driven - so it would be with
the belt(s). Found it immediately. Jacked up the right-front side of
the car and removed the wheel to make life a little easier. Crawled
under and looked at the bolts. Got my wrench and started to take that
bitch out. Then I noticed the ground wire. Broken (snapped, heat
warped, whatever) off of the alternator. It was hanging down, not
connected at all. I couldn't even try to reconnect it because the
spade (?) connector was snappped off the wire, and was not connected to
the alternator's ground bolt. So I found a new connector and clipped
off the old one, put on the new one. When I went to attach it to the
ground bolt, when I whipped out my 10 wrench, the bolt just broke right
off. So I figured I'd remove the size 12 bolt that was actually
touching the alternator. It snapped apart just as easily. I figured
it would. So now I have to remove the alternator. I removed the main
wire from the alterator (SHIT) it was soaked in coolant. Removed
another connector that was connected to part of the motor right below
the alternator (SHIT) drowned in coolant, too. Then I took a deep
breath and slowed down. I got my shop light and snooped around. The
alternator had coolant (oil type) stains on it. The wires were covered
in coolant, and so were male- and female-ends of any connectors in that
area. Looked at the resevoir (drum roll) and there was an obvious
leak, or crack, on the bottom of the resevoir. So I'll pull it and
look closer tomorrow.
Now the question becomes, how damaged are the connectors, the wires,
and so on? I can replace the alternator - it might not even be bad.
I'm going to pull it and fix the ground-bolt problem and get it tested.
Put a working alternator (mine or a new one) back in and ground it
this time. However, I'm worried putting a fixed, or new, alternator
back in with coolant-soaked wiring could do more bad than good. True
:: Possible Results (?) of The Non-Grounded Alternator ::
- The car has had to run only on the battery, so the battery is
drained and will continue to be until the grounded alternator can
recycle power (AC to DC, etc).
- The tail light problem could be explained this way...
- [QUESTION!] What else should I test or examine that might have been
consequenced by the non-grounded alternator. I'm thinking something(s)
could've gotten power-surged or... something.
- The stereo works funny. It works fine, then when the ignition is
turned off, the stereo turns off, then when the ignition lock is
pressed and the key is moved to the "all-the-way-off" position the
radio turns back off and must be powered off manually. I pulled the
deck and the ground wire was NOT connected, nor was the blue turn-on
lead (but I think that's just for the remote). Either way the ground
wire from the deck was not connected to anything. The safety fuse was
fine in the head unit. Another alternator-caused problem, the
non-ground itself, or...
:: The OTHER ::
- Lots of paint, body, and interior parts are falling off or
mal-adjusted. I intend on (laugh out loud all across America)
replacing parts with aftermaket custom, or OEM parts as needed... AS
LONG AS I can get the motor and electrical system working 100%.
None of this disappoints me or threatens me, and I guess that's another
question I have. Are all these problems and possibly more reasons to
just STOP and find another project car? Is transforming the car into
something I can be proud of an inhuman accomplishment, or an ultra-high
dollar feat? The most I can initially invest into making this car
pleasing is about $2,000. As far as I can figure that should be
totally sufficient for parts replacement, tool cost, and 'misc'.
My guess? Maybe. Even if I pulled the motor AND the trans, I could
replace both for only $500 or so from a junkyard, and that way I could
dig into the new motor and transmission and put in high performance
parts before I even put them in them in the car. Also, I could clean
everything up in the engine bay, test and replace wires, and tidy
things up. But I'd rather be proud of repairing then modifying the
engine I've been given. Possible? You tell me.