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Discussion Starter #1
So after replacing about a month ago both front Cam seals, the Crank seal, the Timing belt, etc... And then replacing the fuel pump after it went bad 4 days ago, we drove it about 750 miles away to my in-law's in Michigan.

It started doing a three second overheat, where it would start to heat up, would warn me, then it would cool down to normal again. During this overheat time, the heater would start blowing cold. I checked and there was a blown vacuum hose, which I replaced this morning. After filing up the tank, it started pouring white smoke out the tailpipe, enough to make the entire intersection I was stopped at dangerous to drive through (on a separate note, I have a great replacement for a smoke grenade if its ever needed).

Now, I'm stuck 700+ miles away from home (did bring my tools though) with a blown head gasket. There's a used auto parts place across the street with an engine listed on their site as grade A for $350. They open tomorrow so I'm planning on calling then.

Year |Part | Model | Description | Part Grade | US Price
1994 Engine Chrysler Lebaron 3.0L.RAN GREAT.30 MINS A $350
1995 Engine Chrysler Lebaron 3.0L,RAN GREAT $350


All of that being said, what should I do to this engine before pulling my old one and dropping it in? Does anyone have a link to a vid or a guide for replacing an engine in one of these? I have an AllDataDIY sub for this car, but they can be less than helpful on major jobs like this, and almost never tell you the little shortcuts (like the fact that this engine can be lifted through the top instead of dropped from below).

Any help is much appreciated. This car has been a hassle, but I've replaced enough in it that I'm confident that I can get it to a good place mechanically. I think it was just a bad thermostat that caused this to blow, and getting a used engine dropped in there with the right new components will make it last for 100K or more.

If anyone thinks it's a better plan to try to replace the head gasket(s), links and vids on a job like that would be helpful, too. I'm interested in opinions on the subject.

I have til Friday, when I am leaving for the weekend with my wife and can't do any more car work at that point. As I said, I already have taken apart the front end of this engine, just not the engine itself. I'll have to rent or buy a cherry picker and an engine stand most likely as well, so cost is a big factor in each step. I'm hoping I can do it start to finish without blowing our entire emergency fund.

Thanks, all.
 

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I think I can read your pain and frustration through your postings. From my limited experiences:
1) The 3.0 was not as durable as the other engines available.
2) I doubt that a bad vacuum hose could cause a blown head gasket.
3) If you drained your coolant during your earlier work, it's possible that when you refilled it, you left an air bubble in the system. That would explain the temp fluctuations and heater fluctuations that you describe. It would also explain the head gasket or possibly cracked head or block that you now face.
4) Once you have run the engine in its current state, the coolant has mixed with the oil. If you do repair the engine, the oil pump will likely fail very quickly. If you then shut off the engine quickly, you could theoretically replace the oil pump. Otherwise, you'd likely destroy the remainder of the engine. If you do replace the oil pump, it's likely that the 2nd oil pump will fail shortly thereafter with the same sequence of events. Oil pumps will most likely fail when restarting a partly-warm engine.
5) If you buy an unknown used engine you are faced with an excellent chance that you'll soon encounter expensive engine repairs again, to the 'new' engine. There's also the chance that it won't fit or won't match your transmission, etc.

I'm really sorry about all you've been through but it sounds to me like you're best off forgetting this whole project.


So after replacing about a month ago both front Cam seals, the Crank seal, the Timing belt, etc... And then replacing the fuel pump after it went bad 4 days ago, we drove it about 750 miles away to my in-law's in Michigan.

It started doing a three second overheat, where it would start to heat up, would warn me, then it would cool down to normal again. During this overheat time, the heater would start blowing cold. I checked and there was a blown vacuum hose, which I replaced this morning. After filing up the tank, it started pouring white smoke out the tailpipe, enough to make the entire intersection I was stopped at dangerous to drive through (on a separate note, I have a great replacement for a smoke grenade if its ever needed).

Now, I'm stuck 700+ miles away from home (did bring my tools though) with a blown head gasket. There's a used auto parts place across the street with an engine listed on their site as grade A for $350. They open tomorrow so I'm planning on calling then.

Year |Part | Model | Description | Part Grade | US Price
1994 Engine Chrysler Lebaron 3.0L.RAN GREAT.30 MINS A $350
1995 Engine Chrysler Lebaron 3.0L,RAN GREAT $350


All of that being said, what should I do to this engine before pulling my old one and dropping it in? Does anyone have a link to a vid or a guide for replacing an engine in one of these? I have an AllDataDIY sub for this car, but they can be less than helpful on major jobs like this, and almost never tell you the little shortcuts (like the fact that this engine can be lifted through the top instead of dropped from below).

Any help is much appreciated. This car has been a hassle, but I've replaced enough in it that I'm confident that I can get it to a good place mechanically. I think it was just a bad thermostat that caused this to blow, and getting a used engine dropped in there with the right new components will make it last for 100K or more.

If anyone thinks it's a better plan to try to replace the head gasket(s), links and vids on a job like that would be helpful, too. I'm interested in opinions on the subject.

I have til Friday, when I am leaving for the weekend with my wife and can't do any more car work at that point. As I said, I already have taken apart the front end of this engine, just not the engine itself. I'll have to rent or buy a cherry picker and an engine stand most likely as well, so cost is a big factor in each step. I'm hoping I can do it start to finish without blowing our entire emergency fund.

Thanks, all.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
The thermostat is what I thought caused it to blow. It was acting like the thermostat was getting stuck closed, and would pop open when the engine pressure and temp started to rise to certain levels. After removing the thermostat housing (and breaking of the head of one of the bolt holding it on) the old thermostat looks like it's in OK condition, I can push it open with my fingers pretty easily, slightly moreso than the new one.

When the head finally blew, it wasn't anything major or theatrical, aside from the massive amounts of smoke/steam released when at an intersection. The engine will still start and run, just really rough due to fluid in the combustion chamber (my guess).

As far as scrapping the project, I have no other means of transportation from here (700+ miles away from home) and this car has become a symbol of freedom to my wife, who without it would be stuck at home all day each day. We don't have the funds to buy another vehicle, even another gamble craigslist special.

My current thought is to try a bottle of head gasket fixer and see if it does anything (it says double your money back...). I'm also planning on calling around to see if there's any other options.

I just can't figure out what caused this to blow, since it ran fine for about a month without any overheating at all. It was only on this one trip that it started to overheat, only for short periods of time, and when it did overheat, the heater would blow cold air, then go back to got air as it cooled the engine. So it acted like an air pocket, but I had filled the reservoir just recently and didn't see any leaks that would account for losing that much coolant.
 

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con('d

I understand that you would prefer to fix the vehicle you have and that you're in a difficult place if you don't fix it. I just doubt that you'll be able to fix it. I don't know for sure but I suspect that the sedan engines might not fit the van, I think there was some issue with the transmission mounting or compatibility -- don't know for sure. Even if it fits, it's a pretty long shot gamble that the replacement engine will work well. I fear that you'll spend a few more $ for the replacement engine and then be in the same position you are now, except a few $ poorer.

I don't think your current problem was caused by the thermostat. Once the engine reaches operating temperature and the thermostat opens, the thermostat has little further role. If the thermostat would stick closed for some reason, your heater would blow super-hot, not cold.

I don't know much about the 3.0L engine except that I've heard it to be non durable. But in general all current cooling systems are designed to work only when 100% full of liquid water and anti-freeze (not air.) If you refill a cooling system from the radiator cap with all hoses attached, it is possible for a large volume of air to be trapped in any part of the cooling system that is higher than where the upper radiator hose connects to the radiator. The system might then function OK for a short time but as the air moves and displaces water, it interrupts flow to the heater and permits the upper part of the engine (valves, heads) to overheat. I suspect that this is what caused your issue.

Sorry to be negative but I just don't see much good coming out of further repairs.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm currently working with a local dealer and my boss to see if I can get a new vehicle, a 2006 Town & Country 3.8 Touring Edition. It's a huge upgrade, but it also comes with payments that we're afraid whether we can afford.

I've come to the same conclusions about the cause of my engine in the Dodge. I took out the thermostat and it's perfectly functional, so somehow some air got in there that didn't manifest itself at all for close to 1,000 miles of driving. It seems very odd to me and a bit scary that something like that could happen without it showing up for that amount of time. I did remove and reinstall the water pump a little over a month ago, but the van ran perfectly after that repair with no overheating at all even for 3+ hour drives four times.

At this point, I've decided against the head gasket repair, and have decided to return the parts I've purchased for the job. I will be putting those funds toward hopefully getting the newer model and I may see some of the people from this page on the 2006 generation's page regarding that vehicle (which handles great based on the brief test drive we took today). If the dealership gives me a decent amount for the Dodge, I hope to trade it in, but if not I'll at least get the scrap value out of it. Just too bad it has to go with a brand new front seal job and a brand new fuel pump assembly (not to mention the 8 days of labor to do the jobs).

Thanks again for all the advice and support.
 

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If the head gasket blew it would cause air to get in the coolant system and cause those 5 second overheats like you were explaining, its the early stages.

The pour-and-go Blue devil is good stuff to use if you're still on the road.

If you plan on getting rid of it and the body is in good shape, resell it don't junk it. These vans are hard to find as it is.
 

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I think the head gasket blew because of either age or mileage. They seem to blow at 150,000 miles on those engines. It's possible to blow the gasket and coolant only gets into the combustion chamber and NOT the oil, so engine could still be good. Coolant in the oil kills the BEARINGS more than the oil pump. Sounds like it was just burning coolant (hence the smoke show) and hopefully staying out of the crankcase.

I've replaced the head gaskets on a 2nd gen 3.0 and it wasn't that hard. Kind of a pain having to deal with the timing belt and water pump but since you've already done those, that part should be easy. You just have to set the static timing to #1 TDC and keep it that way while you tear down/build up, and also mark the distributor rotor and housing so you can drop it back in exactly where it was. I've been careful on several head gasket jobs and the engine has always fired right up on initial start with little to no adjustment of the distributor needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This would be really encouraging except for two numbers: 700 and 1. 700 is the number of miles away from home I am, and 1 is the total number of days I have to resolve the situation. I'm leaving at noon tomorrow to go spend the weekend away with my wife (our first trip without the kids since our second was born 10 months ago). Once we come back from that on Sunday, we have exactly one day before we're leaving to head back home.

My boss has already given me a loan of $5,000 to get a used vehicle, and my wife and I both love the 2006 Town and Country that we saw, but it's still a grand away from our budget even after a $600 trade-in on the dodge. If I could sell the caravan for closer to $1,500 it would solve all my problems, but I paid $750 for it 2 months ago with an oil leak and no head gasket issues (that showed). I can't imagine someone paying that much for it with as bad a leak as it has.

There is oil in the coolant (Foamy), and coolant in the oil(Creamy), as well as coolant in the combustion chamber(s) causing the smoke.

The only other issue with it is that we left the rear seat at our house in Central PA, so a quick sale or anything would be not only a vehicle that pours steam, but a vehicle that is missing the bench seat from the rear as well.

I guess what it's down to is whether anyone knows a good way to get an extra $1,000 for a car that we would love, with really bad credit. Unfortunately, even though I have had a week here on vacation, I couldn't bring myself to get past the thermostat test to see if that was causing it (and I sheared off one of the thermostat housing bolts in the process, which was the proverbial straw that broke my back regarding this job).
 

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I have recently replaced 6g72 3.0 mitsu engine from LeBaron in my Dodge 89. just my $0.02. I would gladly help but unfortunately I am quite far away... I hope you'll solve it and it will end well...
 
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