'99 Chrysler LHS 3.5 liter - buy or no buy?

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Old 08-14-10, 12:06 PM
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'99 Chrysler LHS 3.5 liter - buy or no buy?

I have the opportunity to pick up a friend's 1999 LHS with the 3.5 liter SOHC v-6 for a really reasonable price. The engine starts and runs well, transmission shifts and the car steers good. Body is straight and rust-free. Only problems are: 1. compression check shows 120 on front two cylinders, 135-150 on middle two, and 160-170 in back, and 2. coolant is going somewhere, but I don't find a puddle under the car and it's not going into the oil. It has been suggested, and I'm leaning this direction based on the price of admission, that I buy the car and drive it until it pops. In the meantime, does anybody have any experience with this engine in these areas, so I can prepare to repair it when it DOES let go? As always, thanks in advance for any/all advice! - Chris
 
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Old 08-14-10, 12:40 PM
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Head and head gasket issues plague this engine.

Post the results of a “Cylinder Leak Down Test”.
Does the engine overheat or run hotter than normal?
Is coolant bubbling out of the over flow reservoir?

(Quote) coolant is going somewhere, but I don't find a puddle under the car and it's not going into the oil.

A puddle is not necessary. Could be leaking onto the engine. “Steam Clean” the top and bottom of the engine. The reason for the steam cleaning is that it’s easier to find a leak on a clean engine. Now use “Tracer Dye” and a cooling system pressure tester to rule out an external leak.

By a “Block Tester Kit” from an auto parts store. Use the kit according to the instructions and post the results. The kit is meant to rule out or rule in an internal engine condition that causes coolant consumption.
 
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Old 08-14-10, 03:00 PM
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Thanks, ASE MASTER. I did a pressure check of the cooling system, and it held steady at 15 psi for about 15 minutes. I had heard of the head/gasket issues; does a gasket change usually alleviate the problem once and for all, or is it going to return down the road? before I commit to this car, I WILL perform a cylinder leakdown test, as well as the clean/dye and block tests you advised. At what point should I consider it a "walk away from it" car? I am a pretty competent mechanic on the newer stuff, but I don't want to invest my every waking free moment on this car. Nor do I want to spend any more than the purchase price ($500) on making it reliable. Again, thanks for the input so far. - Chris
 
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Old 08-14-10, 04:23 PM
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1. no one sells good cars; good cars are keepers. they are rare to come by.
2. a gas guzzler? i understand the comfort, that they have covered, but you gonna run with gas station towed?
3. buying from a make that went bankrupt after being refused by Germans? and was picked by Fiat?

i am an ardent "buy used" guy. pay cash, get a deal. but here's the thing. there's gazillion cars for sale out there now, and even more strapped for cash owners that got themselves into debt hole. so, rule of thumb for a "buy used" approach is like this, and i will underscore it with caps:
IF IN DOUBT, MOVE ON. slightest doubt. turn around, pop local craigslist up on the screen, and you will find a better deal/car guaranteed in day or 2. do not buy someone else's headache.
 
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Old 08-14-10, 05:47 PM
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(You asked) At what point should I consider it a "walk away from it" car?

Not an easy call. Concord, Intrepid, LHS all basically the same. Problem is, I’ve seen engines with worse compression stats than yours last over a year before the head gasket finally blows. Then I’ve seen engines with better stats, and the gasket blows in three months.

(You asked) does a gasket change usually alleviate the problem once and for all, or is it going to return down the road?

Upgraded and better quality gaskets are available. Click on the link below. Figure on an extension of 30 to 44 thousand miles by using the gaskets in the link.


Federal-Mogul - Fel-Pro Head Gaskets

(Quote) I have the opportunity to pick up a friend's 1999 LHS with the 3.5 liter SOHC v-6 for a really reasonable price.

Post the reasonable price.
 
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Old 08-14-10, 06:13 PM
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I'm calling $500 for a starts-runs-drives car pretty reasonable. How much time can I expect to put into changing both head gaskets? Looks like the heads are pretty well covered up with stuff, maybe a weekend job. Since I know nothing of the service history of this car, shouldn't I replace the cam drive belts/chains (which is it?) at the same time? Do the heads typically remain flat as long as the engine has not overheated? I hate to let this car get away, at this price, just because it needs a little work I'm not afraid to do myself. But, again, I don't want to spend all my free time under it's hood. I mean, if the block shows to be cracked, I think I'd walk away. But for a couple of gaskets and chains, I think I'd stay in. Thanks again - Chris
 
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Old 08-14-10, 08:25 PM
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I get it Chris. 500 bucks. Too good to pass up, (maybe) but you don’t want to spend the next fifteen Saturdays in a row rebuilding half the engine. Well I like to have my cake and eat it to, but it’s not always that easy. In addition to the head, block or head gasket issues, here’s more for you to consider and factor into the price. You may not realize it; but the engine in this car is an “Interference Engine”. That means if the timing belt snaps while the car is in motion, the valves and pistons are going to collide. This could make you the proud owner of a large $500.00 paper weight. Did the prior owner change the timing belt, water pump, cam tensioner, cam tensioner pulley, cam seal, and crankshaft seal? Try to get it for less than 500 bucks. Post the results of the block tester kit as soon as you can.
 
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Old 08-15-10, 04:44 AM
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Just so we know the relative condition.
How many miles on it?
 
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Old 08-19-10, 06:24 AM
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135,000 miles, give or take. Body very straight, interior shows the kind of wear you might expect from a retired pastor and his wife. Really leaning toward picking this car up and rehabilitating it (head & intake gaskets, cam drives, all the difficult-to-service items while I'm in it that far). The only other potentially big problem is an AC compressor that hangs up from time to time, but after checking the pressures and disconnecting the hoses, the high side hose dripped a LOT of oil. Think it may be carrying too much oil in the system. Evacuate, purge and refill with PROPER oil charge, changing orifice tube while it's empty? Thanks again for all the help so far - still a little bit of testing to do, will post results as I get them. - Chris
 
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Old 08-19-10, 08:29 AM
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AS long as you apparently are serious about rebuilding, do not forget about the timing belt on an interference. That can make the car "toast" and destroy any other work done.

I had one go on an Oldsmobile at 90,000 miles as I was backing into a parking space. - No noise, but a lot of damage. I had the upper portion rebuilt because it was not old and it was a great car I liked, but it was never right and I donated it to a church at 135,000 miles. - It was driven for a long time after, apparently without any major problems.

Dick
 
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Old 08-19-10, 11:40 AM
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Chris,

Read "Between The Lines" of your last post, and stop and think about what you're saying. You're talking about doing all that work. Well that means you have to pay less than $500 for the car.

Sam
 
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