Jim Grant's Tech Tips
‘94 Dodge Intrepid, Overheating Death Trap
Q: I have a ‘94 Dodge Intrepid. I had replaced a water pump and thermostat, and it is still overheating. It leaks coolant and the water reservoir, will not stay filled. It constantly overflows out the release valve. I can only drive it about 15 minutes or less before it overheats and that's without turning on the A/C. I have 5 kids who hate to ride in the "HOTBOX" and I am scared of it catching fire so it is parked for now.
- Sincerely a Mother in Distress
A: Your ‘94 Dodge Intrepid came equipped with a 3.3 or 3.5 liter v-6 engine. Both of these engines have aluminum cylinder heads. Why am I telling you about this? You may have overheated your engine enough that the cylinder head gasket and/or cylinder heads may be damaged. Here's what I’ll suggest. Have your vehicle towed to a repair facility. Why towed? If the engine wasn’t overheated too badly the head gaskets and/or cylinder heads may not be damaged. But driving to the repair facility may be the next over heat that could damage them. Once the vehicle is at the shop, have them perform a chemical check of the cooling system. There is a product that will respond to the presence of combustion/exhaust gases entering the cooling system. I suspect that there will be a reaction when the test is performed. If I'm wrong, that will be a good thing and all you'll have to do is ask them to diagnose the cause for the coolant loss. If there are combustion/exhaust gases in the cooling system then you will have to step back and evaluate the vehicle. Why is that? The cost of parts, labor and machine work to correctly repair failed head gaskets is pricey. What is more, the repair can go even higher if the cylinder head or heads are damaged. There is no way to tell if this is the case until the cylinder heads are removed. The point is, the repairs could easily exceed the value of a vehicle that is over 10 model years old. Not to mention, the parts and labor that may be needed to repair the root cause for the over heating problem.