Thinking about a Dodge Neon racking up 500k miles is a bit like imagining Britney Spears celebrating a golden wedding anniversary. Dodge Neons just don’t come to mind when thinking about hi-mileage cars. But with a bit of dedication and understanding, cars with a rep seem to run forever for the right owner. Here’s a 1998 Dodge Neon R/T (no less) with 446,000 miles on it, and that was last July. And that’s with the original engine, no less, in case you were wondering. OK, there is a bit of a secret to the owners’ success: it’s their sixth Neon, so they’re familiar with all their hidden warts.
As part of allpar.com’s 200k club series, this Neon takes the gold for Chrysler’s much-maligned Civic chaser. The original owner had a mighty long commute, and the current father-son team of owners are still using it for frequent 500 mile trips. Compression in the original cylinders reads 176, 175, 160, 160 (normal would be 180-190). Owner Jesse Shaffer reports. “Probably the piston rings should be replaced. But we’re not going to do that. I guess we just want to see how far it will go as is.”
Regarding the notorious head gasket problems, Shaffer has this to say:
Neons have been controversial due partly to a head gasket recall. But that doesn’t have to be a problem, Jesse believes. “People seem to complain about Neons because of the paper-compound gasket they originally came out with. But I think Neon engines were built well, and once you put in the multi-layer steel gasket, and you keep changing oil and don’t let it overheat, the engine will never stop running!”
Oh, to the best of their knowledge, the clutch is the original. Sounds like he’s got it figured it out. Maybe they’re not as temperamental and high maintenance as Britney after all.