CAS Letter to Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche – 2.7L Engines (Aug. 26, 2004)

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

August 26, 2004

Dieter Zetsche
President & Chief Executive Officer
DaimlerChrysler Corporation
1000 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766

Dear Mr. Zetsche:

The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has received 92 complaints regarding oil sludge and engine failure on 1998-2002 Dodge Stratus and Intrepids and Chrysler Concordes and Sebrings with 2.7-liter V6 engines1. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received over 400 complaints o­n similar engine problems in these models. The typical failure mode is engine seizure during highway driving. Many consumers report timing chain failure at well under Chrysler and Dodge’s recommended 100,000 mile change level. . Costs of repairs are as high as $ 9,500 for a replacement engine, and average $5,200. Some consumers are forced to trade in their vehicles because the cost of a replacement engine is more than the value of the vehicle. The average reported mileage at failure is 63,000 miles.

Engines should not fail in normal consumer use. They are designed to last the life of a vehicle and are not routine maintenance items in Dodge and Chrysler Owners Manuals. Engines should last for at least the average 120,000 mile useful life of a car in America rather than self-destructing at half that mileage as does the 2.7L engine. Dodge and Chrysler owners report that despite changing the oil and filters at the recommended maintenance intervals, DaimlerChrysler refuses to take responsibility for oil sludge. In sharp contrast, VW and Toyota, which have experienced problems with oil sludge and premature engine failure in their vehicles have extended the warranty to cover engine oil sludge damage. Although, the recommended oil change schedule is every 7,500 miles or 6 months for normal driving cycles under which most consumers fall, many Dodge and Chrysler owners report they change the oil more frequently and often meet the 3,000 mile heavy duty recommended oil change maintenance schedule. Even then, they have 2.7L engine failures due to oil sludge.

Chrysler’s faulty 2.7L engines have not o­nly inconvenienced consumers, their finances have been stretched and their lives put in danger. Luisa Shah of Miami, Florida is an exemplary consumer who did everything right to take care of her 2000 Dodge Intrepid. She bought an extended warranty. She changed her oil every 3,000 miles. She drove cautiously. Yet in the middle of US 1 in South Miami “at a red light . . . without ANY warning lights, noises, or anything the car stopped running. It died in the middle lane. We had to push it to the side. It was rush hour and this highway is filled with very aggressive drivers. They were all cursing, beeping, signaling, and driving so close to us as to almost touch us. I was petrified. I thought a car was going to hit us.” Despite the documented oil changes, despite the extended warranty, no o­ne took responsibility for repairing the engine. DaimlerChrysler and the extended warranty company all sang from the same page – “we don’t cover oil sludge damage.” The dealer said it wasn’t right because oil sludge was normal for 2.7L engines in Dodge and Chrysler cars. Yet Mrs. Shah wrote at the end of the day: “I still owe $8,000.00 o­n the car and every day I sit in it to drive I pray to God that it takes me to where I need to go and then breaks down, but that it does not break down in the middle of the road. I live in physical (due to it leaving stranded in the middle of the road), mental (worrying about it breaking down) and financial stress (how am I going to pay for another breakdown). I am 33 years old and I am pregnant with our first baby. If you look at my hair, it is gray, completely gray and to be very honest it is all because of the worries this car has brought me. I would love to buy another car to transport my child in a safer vehicle, but unfortunately, we cannot do it. We cannot afford it. Therefore, I am stuck with this car, never knowing when it will leave me stranded again. It is very unfair that a manufacturer can get away with doing such harm to the consumers.”

Joseph Pici, a 1999 Chrysler Concorde owner from Orchard Park, New York exemplifies the typical failure mode of the timing chain breaking well under the 100,00 mile replacement interval and just beyond the 3 year/36,000 mile warranty. Mr. Pici reported the dealer and Chrysler said the oil sludge caused the timing chain failure. Typical of many consumers, his claim was denied despite complete records of oil changes per the recommended maintenance for his normal driving cycle. He wrote:

The timing chain was broken causing severe damage to the valves, pistons, and other parts of the engine. The dealer said the damage is too extensive to fix and the vehicle requires a new engine. The estimate for this repair is $8,200. The service manager at the dealership told me there was an inordinate amount of sludge in the engine that caused the timing chain to break. [He] said the brackets that hold the timing chain were worn and there was an inordinate amount of sludge in the engine which formed because I didn’t have the oil changed enough.I produced documentation that showed the oil was changed o­n average every 7,000 miles, about twice a year. He said that I should have changed it every 3,000 miles’.I showed him the owner’s manual that states the oil should be changed every 7,500 miles (a copy of this page is enclosed).he then said I was probably a “schedule B” driver which requires oil changes every 3,000 miles.I asked him what a schedule B driver was. He said if I met o­ne or more of the conditions listed o­n page 153 in the owner’s manual I would be considered a schedule B driver.I do not meet any of the extreme conditions listed.given that I had the oil changed within manufacturer’s specifications, I asked what else could have caused the sludge.he said I probably had bad oil put in. I go to Valvoline Instant Oil Change for my oil changes and my documentation indicates that 10W30 was used in each case

Catastrophic Engine Loss Endangers Lives: Consumers are not o­nly saddled with major repair costs, their lives are endangered when their 2.7L Dodge or Chrysler suffers catastrophic engine failure. Here are but a few of the close calls when the 2.7L engine fails o­n the highway.

Erica Barnes Hogansburg NY 2000 Dodge Intrepid

This car has been in the shop more than the road, and now we are told that the engine is beyond repair, that we will have to purchase a new or rebuilt engine. Considering that I owe $9000, to spend $4000 to repair is beyond my means. my husband was driving down the road when the engine just seizure, almost causing a rear-end collision and him swerving to avoid o­ncoming cars and ultimately almost going in the ditch in front of a busy gas station. IT IS A HAZARD AND A LEMON!

Scott Thomas Nashua NH 2000 Dodge Intrepid

We were driving down the highway and the engine seized. No lights came o­n. No warning. Mechanic said that the engine was blown the pistons pushed up through the heads. We changed our oil at a service center regularly. The mechanic said it has happened to people all over with Intrepids.

Nick Modarelli Cincinnati OH 1999 Dodge Intrepid

At expressway speeds o­n July 29, 2003, with o­nly about 72,000 miles o­n the car, my engine made a snap sound and I instantly lost 95% of my power. I nearly had several collisions with nearby cars trying to get off the road immediately. I called for a tow, and o­nce the car was examined, I was told it would be anywhere from $5,500 to $7,500 to fix, depending o­n if I chose to install a rebuilt or a new engine.

Sandra Murphy Plant City FL 1999 Dodge Intrepid

On Dec 4th 2003 I was driving home and all of a sudden I lost complete control of my 1999 Dodge Intrepid. I could not steer or brake. The o­nly thing that saved me was that I was o­nly going about 40mph and a high curb that stopped me. I had been o­n the interstate o­nly 5 min before if this had happen there I am sure I would be dead and others would be as well. When I was told that the car with o­nly 71000 miles o­n it needed a new engine I was dumb founded. I was told that it would cost between 4 and 5 thousand dollars to get this car running and I o­nly owe 9000.00 and according to the blue book is o­nly worth 4500.00 you can see my dilemma.

Marisa Centurione Clinton Township MI 2002 Dodge Stratus

.I was driving home when my engine- a 2.7 Litre V6 200HP failed o­n my Stratus. My warranty has expired, but I am very frustrated because I have maintained my car. I almost got into an accident that night, and I count myself VERY lucky for it being so late at night. The first mechanic at a shop near my home said that it was caused by the timing belt and by engine sludge. He said that he has seen this in Chrysler and Dodge’s with 15,000 miles in it

Economic Hardship Worsened by Shortage of 2.7L Replacement Engines: Many consumer face severe economic hardship when their 2.7L engines fail. The hardship is worsened by the shortage of replacement engines which drives their price up. Ironically, other, more reliable engines are cheaper because they are not in short supply. DaimlerChrysler and its dealers are profiting at the expense of their customers who have to pay more money to replace a poorer quality engine than they would have to pay for a better and more reliable engine. Some stories from hard times road:

Nick Modarelli Cincinnati OH 1999 Dodge Intrepid

I was told it would be anywhere from $5,500 to $7,500 to fix, depending o­n if I chose to install a rebuilt or a new engine. I asked about a salvage yard engine, and was told that all attempts to find o­ne was useless. There was an absolute epidemic of these engines going out everywhere, so no o­ne had o­ne available. And even if they did, they told me the engine would already have sludge in it This problem is epidemic and Chrysler is doing nothing. An astounding number of these engines are failing. [C]all any salvage yard in any city at any time, and tell them you have a Dodge Intrepid with engine failure and you need to locate a 2.7L engine. Chances are excellent that you will not get to finish telling them what you need, because they’ll finish your sentence for you. It happened at every o­ne of the four junk yards I called in Cincinnati. And the price they quote for getting o­ne is $3,500 or more, even though virtually any other motor for another late model American car is around $750 to $1200. The reason they cite– incredibly high demand. So, since my car is o­nly worth about $5,000 to $7,000 after repairs (and I still owe $8,000 o­n it), I can’t justify repairing it. I asked how much I could get if I sold a really nice, unwrecked Intrepid to the salvage yard, and their response was $1,000 max., much, much lower than any other late model car. Again, the reason they cite–everyone is choosing to junk these cars, so they’re overrun with Intrepid bodies. Now, to make matters worse, I’ve been sued by my bank because I can’t make the payments anymore. I am absolutely blown away that Chrysler will not stand behind their product.

John Giordano Rochester NY 2001 Dodge Intrepid

On 6-20-01 we purchased a 2001 Dodge Intrepid “Program Car” from a Dodge Dealer in Rochester, NY with 13,745 mi. o­n 10-8-03 (56,231 mi) the car developed an engine noise. The dealer replaced the timing Chain Tensioner ($610.00) saying the cause was Extensive sludge build up. They flushed the engine and told me that if the oil light comes o­n shut down the engine ASAP. o­n 5-21-04 my wife was driving the car at 50MPH when the engine stalled with no warning, no power steering or power brakes. After towing the car the dealer said the timing chain let loose and destroyed the engine. Their options… $4875 for a used engine, $5870 for a rebuilt, $8370 for a Chrysler rebuilt or maybe $1000 -$2000 for a trade in. . . .They also commented that they have 3 other cars o­n the lot with similar problems waiting for the owners to decide what to do with them. So now we’re having daily talks with the dealer, Chrysler and everyone else I can think of to determine the next step..

David Stover Green Springs OH

A shop made o­ne phone call for us to see what kind of price a new engine would be, that call was the 263rd call that they had received for that engine. That was o­ne place and they had that many calls for it, they said that there was such a demand for them because there is a sludge problem with that engine. That is what was wrong with ours. The car has been sitting for six months because we were trying to figure out the best thing to do with it, because of the expense in fixing it and we still owed $9,000 o­n it. So, here sat a car, we are still making payments o­n, paying insurance and we could not even drive it. We have decided to fix the car, we have no choice because of still owing o­n it, and it is going to cost us $ 6,484 to have this done. The shop that is fixing it is not able to get another engine for it for another two weeks. Why, because they said there is such a demand for it. Then when we went to the bank to have the expense put o­n our existing loan for the car, the woman at the bank said that we are the second o­nes in a month that she has had to do this for, for the same reason. We still owe $9,000 o­n this car and now we have to pay $6,478 for another engine. By the time this loan is paid off, we would have been able to buy two brand new cars.

Denise Scott E Windsor CT 2001 Dodge Intrepid

We had this Dodge for about 9 months when the engine froze while I was going o­n the entrance ramp to the highway. We purchased this 2000 Dodge 6/01. The car died o­n 03/02. We purchased this car for 16,900. When it died, we still owed a lot o­n the loan, in which we bought another car (another Dodge from the same dealer, buying from the same dealer because we paid over 600.00 in renting a car and no o­ne was giving us any money for a trade in for a car with a dead engine): now owing over 20,000. Now, to this day, we owe over 10,000 and we are upside down in this car (car is not worth as much as we owe o­n loan). Dealer & Chrysler Corp would not help in this matter. This “newly used” car cost us thousands. I think its sad when a co. will not help you when something like this happens.

Chrysler Improper Maintenance Claims Belied by Consumer Oil Change Records: When the 2.7L engine has oil sludge, Chrysler blames the consumer for improper maintenance even where the consumer has documented records of proper maintenance that may even exceed the recommended maintenance schedules. Typical complaints o­n CAS’ website include:

Kellie Craft Staunton VA 2000 Chrysler Concorde

While driving to the dealership for oil change and recall to be fixed. The engine stalled and locked up with no previous problems at all. Dealer informed us engine had to be replaced. We have had no previous problems or indications that anything was wrong. Oil changed every 3000 miles new belts we follow as instructed in manual. It seems there are problems with these 2.7L engines. We are now trying to find out why these problems are going unanswered with these LH model cars. With filing the complaint with Chrysler we received no help. We’re told after 36,000 miles they are no longer liable for any problems with this engine. The engine did have oil sludge build up even though we changed our oil every 3000 miles. We have all documentation and pictures from the dealership of the engine .The car had 71000 miles at the time the engine locked up with no prior problems. We even got in touch with the regional rep for Chrysler before she said could decide if any help was going to be given we had to agree to pay 186.00 to have them drop the oil pan to check for build up. After seeing that was the problem we were told it was poor maintenance even with all records.

Carol Willoughby West Islip NY 2001 Dodge Stratus

Severe engine knock. Exceeded Dodge recommended oil changes (did more frequent), & have receipts for oil changes. Yet Dodge dealer denies warranty due to engine oil sludge build-up.

Nick Modarelli Cincinnati OH 1999 Dodge Intrepid

I bought my 1999 Intrepid with the 2.7L engine o­n October 11, 2001. It had 48,303 miles o­n it. I usually change my motor oil about every 3,000 to 5,000 miles (which is far better than the recommended 7,500 mile oil change schedule appearing o­n page 153 of my owner’s manual). Cause of failure was engine sludge build-up as a result of a design flaw in Chrysler’s 2.7 liter engines.

Ron Ault Hope MI 1998 Dodge Intrepid

The engine is the big problem. The oil light came o­n. My wife pulled over immediately. But the engine quit before she could even get the car stopped. Had it towed to a Chrysler dealership. The said it had no oil. We changed oil in this car like clockwork. Every 3000 miles and we have receipts to prove it. There was no oil leaking. And no blue exhaust smoke indicating it was burning up inside the motor. Chrysler corporations customer service center treated us terribly. Very rude and disrespectful. They said “engine failure due to lack of maintenance. This cost us over $4000.00. And now we can’t sell the car. I’m wondering when the new motor will go. It now has 63000 miles.

Kimberly Rosendahl Springfield IL 1999 Chrysler Concorde

Heard a noise in the front of the engine. Took to a licensed auto repair shop. ASE certified master technician diagnosed need to replace timing chain tensioner. Upon disassembly, they found sludge in the engine and blocked oil passages. Removed oil filter to change oil and found bearing matter in filter. Determined detrimental damage to engine. Decided to reassemble the timing cover and change oil, until we could decide what to do about engine damage. o­nce completed, backed car out of garage bay, knocking began immediately, engine locked/timing chain jumped…completely ruined engine. Contacted Chrysler corporate customer service…was told it must be our fault…they didn’t know anything about 2.7 engine failures not caused by the consumer. We have always kept up with routine maintenance o­n our vehicle. Upon researching Internet…have found our story repeated hundreds of times over…by customers from around the country. At 3,000 miles over warranty, and normal use and maintenance…this is absolutely despicable. Even more insulting is Chrysler’s response to these complaints. Now we’re faced with a $6,000 – $7,000 repair bill for a vehicle that’s worth almost nothing.

Consumers Face Multiple Engine Replacements: Unfortunately, consumers who opt to replace their 2.7L engine may have to replace their replacement engine because it too sludges up. The following are examples of consumers with multiple engine failures from CAS’ website where their full complaints can be found.:

Kristopher Newman Memphis TN 2000 Dodge Intrepid

In late July of 2003, while o­n the highway heading out of town, my 2000 Dodge Intrepid starting losing power and eventually just shut down. I sat o­n the side of the highway for 4 hours waiting for help. After having the vehicle towed to a Dodge dealership, I was told the timing chain had gone out and that another engine would have to be replaced in my car. I questioned the repairman as to how much this would cost me. The repairman stated that for a new engine it would cost $8,900, or I could purchase a used engine for $4,500. I asked the repairman at the Dodge dealership if the engine could be rebuilt. He stated that it wouldn’t be wise to rebuild the 2.7 engine due to the fact that it wouldn’t hold up. I found an engine and had it put in. In late March of 2004, the 2.7L V6 that I had put in my 2000 Dodge Intrepid also went out. I was told that the oil in the motor went straight thru. When the motor was taken apart to be diagnosed, the oil pan was full of oil, but there was no oil in the motor. I am o­n my 3rd engine in my 2000 Dodge Intrepid. I have spent over $7,500 putting engines in this car. Not including time, car rentals, towing, and other. The 2.7L engine isn’t worth having. Even the Dodge dealership repairman stated to me that the Dodge people really screwed up when they made this engine.

Bryan Stackhouse Bedford TX 2001 Dodge Intrepid

I have replaced my 2.7 eng at 98k and it needs to be replaced again at 153k. It was properly maintained and serviced

Terry Amato Aberdeen MD 1998 Dodge Intrepid

Engine went up again o­n JUNE 18th 2004. Total cost to repair for Jasper re-manufactured engine will be 6,365. This is the second failure to this engine 2.7 and is financially costing too much. I have tried to get the Dealership to help trade it in to get out of it and they won’t do it. I have went to other dealership to help and they said no due to me still owing 9,000 o­n the car. I am currently still paying the balance of 2000 dollars o­n the now 2nd engine. Please HELP ME, I do not want to File Bankruptcy and right now I have no car. I do not have the cash to fix this engine a second time and I have not made a decision o­n what to do..

Ronnie Enoch Irvington NJ 2001 Dodge Intrepid

My car was brought brand new in 2001. The engine went in 2003 and I did change the oil. This is the 2.7 litre engine they found a sludge problem. Heritage Insurance was my extended warranty coverage at the time who denied payment because they claim neglect. So I paid for a used engine. At the time I was quoted a price of 9,000 for a new engine and 4,000 for a used naturally I chose the used o­ne. Now I sit here again with mileage of 68,302 and it’s just reached 6 months and the engine is blown, and my car is at the dealers again this time they quoted me a price of 6,000 brand new with a 75000 mile warranty. This is killing me because they appraised my car for 1,700 and I have a balance very high. I could’ve brought a BMW with the money I’m paying.

The problem of multiple engine failures has led some consumers to swap out their 2.7L engine for a 3.2L engine much the way GM 5.7L diesel owners swapped out their diesels for 5.7L gasoline engines to avoid multiple failures. Already, at least o­ne company, Applied Automotive Solutions, Ltd., has gone into the business of 2.7L conversions. (See An auto company knows it has a problem when conversion companies pop up.

The extent of the infamy of Chrysler’s 2.7L engine within the auto repair industry is show by the following complaint from Eric Whitehead of Columbus OH:

About two months ago I was having my brakes changed when the mechanic asked me what engine was in my car. I told him 2.7 and he proceeded to tell me to sell the car as soon as possible because the engine will go bad due to sludge. I followed all the maintenance for my car and never had a problem so I dismissed what he was saying. He even called another mechanic up o­n his Nextel out of the blue and asked him what was the worst engine and the mechanic o­n the phone replied Dodge 2.7 worst ever. I drove away still not sure what to think until May 17 2004. That’s when my car started ticking like the timing chain was about to give out. I took it to my mechanic again and he told me the engine is o­n its last miles before it breaks down just like he had told me. No check engine or oil light has come o­n yet and I don’t expect it to. I did some research o­n the web and I’ve found hundreds of complaints which brought me to this site. Is there anything I can do since I owe a lot of money left o­n my loan. I loved my car up until a few days ago. I thank you for any help you can provide. It’s going to cost me $1355 to fix. It could have been worst they told me if I didn’t take such good care of my car. They said my sludge build up was about a 3 out of 10 so it wasn’t the worst he’s seen. He also recommended changing the oil every 2500 miles and using a synthetic oil for the high heat from the engine..

Has The 2.7L Engine Been Redesigned: Whether the 2.7L engine has been redesigned to prevent oil sludge damage in the future is known o­nly to DaimlerChrysler. Until now, the company has been unwilling to admit there is a problem at all. As bad as the 2.7L engine is, oil sludge failures do not normally appear in the first two years of use so we are o­nly now beginning to enter the time when 2003 models will suffer oil sludge failures. If changes have been made in 2003 and later 2.7L engines, DaimlerChrysler must make them public if for no other reason than that consumers can seek a corrected engine when replacing their failed engine

Other Companies Take Responsibility for Oil Sludge and Engine Damage: Faced with oil sludge complaint, other auto companies have taken responsibility and extended warranties in year and mileage. In March 2002, Toyota notified 3.3 million owners of 1997-2002 Toyota and Lexus vehicles with 3.0-liter IMZ V-6 engines and 1997-2001 Toyota vehicles with 5SFE 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engines that it would cover the cost of sludge-related repairs for eight years from date of initial sale. In addition, Toyota said it would reimburse owners for incidental damages such as rental cars. According to Toyota’s letter to consumers, “All we ask is that you show a reasonable effort to regularly maintain your vehicle.”

Earlier this month in August 2004, Volkswagen notified owners of 1997-2004 Audi A4’s and 1998-2004 Volkswagen Passats with 1.8L Turbo engines that it would extend the warranty o­n their engines to cover oil sludge damage for 8 years and unlimited miles. Volkswagen cautioned the warranty might not apply if owners “are not following the prescribed oil change interval (5,000 miles or 6 months).”

The Center for Auto Safety calls o­n DaimlerChrysler to take responsibility for oil sludge in its 2.7L engine with a full course of remedial actions including:

1. Extend the warranty o­n the 2.7L engine to 10 years and unlimited miles for oil sludge damage.

2. Reimburse consumers who have already experienced failures for their past repair expenses.

3. Reimburse consumers for their incidental and consequential damages including any loss o­n forced sales or trade-ins caused by engine failure.

4. Stop treating oil sludge as a presumptive case of improper maintenance and honor the normal maintenance schedule of oil changes every 7,500 miles or 6 months and recognize that not every consumer has every record of every oil change. Instead treat oil sludge as presumptive case of a manufacturing defect.

5. Create a simple inspection procedure to determine the presence of oil sludge.

6. Identify all design changes to the 2.7L engine since the 1998 model year done to or which can mitigate engine oil sludging.

7. Create an engineering team to identify and correct the design defects in the 2.7L engine in much the same way Lee Iacocca set up a special engineering team for its A604 Ultradrive electronic transmission in 1990 when CAS .called for action.

8. Make public the findings of the engineering team and provide information to the service industry and public on the latest repairs and 2.7L engine modifications.

9. Notify owners of all 1998-2002 Dodge and Chrysler vehicles with 2.7L engines of the remedial program and implement a follow-up program which was lacking in Toyota’s program to ensure that the extended warranty is honored in the future.

Product quality and owner satisfaction are the challenges of the 21st Century for all automobile manufacturers in the competitive world market. It is not enough to be as good as other auto companies, a company must be better than its competitors. For that reason we are asking DaimlerChrysler to do better than VW and Toyota in coping with engine oil sludge. The failure to meet this challenge will surely cost DaimlerChrysler market share.

We look forward to your response.


Lindsay Holden
Vehicle Safety Staff

Clarence Ditlow
Executive Director

Related Links

CAS Letter #2 to DaimlerChrysler CEO Zetsche

CAS Follow-up Letter to Chrysler

VW Response to Oil Sludge

Toyota Response to Oil Sludge