By on January 5, 2017

candytangerineptcruiser

Longtime TTAC Commentator Nate writes:

Hello Sajeev,

An acquaintance bought a PT Cruiser new in 2002 and did some minor customizing, drove the crap out of it for a few years, then the transmission failed. Apparently, they “all do that.” So here’s the deal: I was out scavenging vintage (’77~’85) Mercedes parts and ran across a rolled and totaled 2008 PT Cruiser: can its transmission be used in his 2002 model ?

He seems to think that 2002 is a one-year-only deal. He’s disabled and on a tight budget, says the car is worthless even though it’s pristine, but he’d like to fix it if possible. Unfortunately. rebuilding the current transmission is not in his budget.

Any thoughts or comments would be helpful, but no, I won’t be doing a tranny swap on this cute little car.

Sajeev answers:

Your acquaintance’s PT Cruiser uses the 41TE gearbox found in, like, eleventy-billion different Chrysler products.

Chrysler adopted the 40TE circa 2003, as you found in the junkyard.

Clearly, he needs a used 41TE. Always use parts interchange data, available on websites like car-part.com. Let technology do the heavy lifting: I found a 2002 Dodge Stratus with 26,000 miles donating its gearbox for $650.

For people in this situation but with better physical health, go to any U-Pull-It junkyard during their holiday sale, yank a 41TE from one of the aforementioned eleventy-billion different Chrysler products for $150-ish. But that’s a ton of effort for a questionable part: a false economy, or a treasure trove if a recently rebuilt gearbox rests in a vehicle that deserves its final junkyard parking spot for other reasons.

Unable to know life in your acquaintance’s shoes, I wish him good luck.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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33 Comments on “Piston Slap: Which Chrysler Gearbox Makes a PT Cruise Once More?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Manual transmission GT Cruiser is the only one of those little nostalgia-mobiles that I would touch with a 39.5 ft pole.

    Although at the end of production when a base Cruiser was right around $9K – it would have been decent basic transportation. For someone who doesn’t give two shakes about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      “For someone who doesn’t give two shakes about cars.”

      The PT was a sturdy, handsome, reliable and affordable car with more than enough space for anyone’s needs. Why can’t it be left there? Why must there be a dig?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’m not a fan of the styling, but I wouldn’t consider it a hardship to own a PT Cruiser.

      My elderly neighbors were thinking of buying one off another neighbor last year, to replace their ’89 Cavalier. I test drove it for them and was surprised at how pleasant it was to operate. I had no complaints about the driving experience in the half-hour or so that I had it. That’s pretty rare for me.

      Even Car and Driver liked it, ranking it ahead of the Matrix, Focus, Vibe, and Aerio in 2002, behind only the Protege5.

      caranddriver.com/comparisons/chrysler-pt-cruiser-page-6

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Zekas

      Strangely, PT Cruisers were popular in Paris back in 2007– what is it with the French?

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Actually, the manual transmissions were pretty stout.

      • 0 avatar
        bluegoose

        The five speed in the Turbo is a Getrag. It came from the European Diesel model.

        I own a 03 Stage 1 PT Cruiser GT 5 speed with a functional Ram Air set up and completely upgraded suspension. It’s a lot of fun. The look resonated with boomers. I was 32 when I bought mine. Old people would flag me down in parking lots and try to get me into their PT Club. So the snide comment about the PT being a car made for people who don’t give a damn about cars is total BS. The old crowd adored the cars and customized them to no end. The younger crowd didn’t like them partially because their parents and grandparents were making a big deal out of them. It is also a car that attracts geeky creative types and I am one of those people.

        The PT was on of Car and Driver’s Ten Best and was on Consumer Reports recommended list for a long time. Daimler stripped the car down after 2004. The was allowed to die on the vine. So everybody remembers the car for what it was at the end versus what it was at the beginning.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    and make sure you/he use the correct ATF+4 fluid in it. after the bugs had been worked out, still too many Ultradrives were killed by owners/shops putting Dexron III in them.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    VERY important. The 40/41/42 transaxles must have this fluid or he will be replacing it again.

    In 42LEs, most of the issues are repaired with a solenoid pack replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      Can’t this solenoid pack be “rebuilt?” OR pull the pack & speed sensors off the junkyard transmission; clean and install. Maybe change fluid while in the process?

      I would take a 5 speed turbo PT, ultimate sleeper!

      • 0 avatar
        True_Blue

        It can, but, I believe much of the internals are tiny and sensitive. A trans shop might take it on, or even a dedicated DIY’er, but they’re relatively simple to replace.

      • 0 avatar
        desertsoldier22

        The Solenoid pack is embedded in the Valve Body Assembly. Replace the valve body. However based on the age of the transmission the clutch packs may be shot, especially if the solenoids are not providing the required hydraulic pressure to apply the clutch packs properly. Smell the transmission oil for a burnt smell and make sure it is not a black/dark brown color with flecks of metal in it. If the clutches are shot, best to just replace the transmission.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Thanx ! .
          .
          I talked to Craig and he says sounds good but $ is the problem….
          .
          Too bad as I’ve been looking at them and it looks to be a fairly easy job .
          .
          Glad I won’t be roped into it as I’m up to
          my eyeballs in works right now .
          .
          -Nate

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    http://www.car-part.com is where you want to go to find what fits what, also to find out who has one.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup you can quickly find the exact range of years and models that will have an interchangable part that you need. Then hit craigslist and then check all the local yards. For something as common as this and with as heavy as a trans is finding the best local price is usually the way to go. For things that don’t require truck shipment and aren’t a real common part then I’ve ordered parts from a yard half way across the US I found on car-part.com

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Best gearbox change would be a 9-speed tranny; that underpowered rig needs all the help it can get. As much as I liked it when it came out, test driving one–even with a manual–demonstrated how grossly underpowered it was. The turbo engine helped, but a broader selection of gears, including a lower first gear, would be a major improvement.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    My father-in-law has a PT, and I borrow it when we visit. So it’s one of the few cars I’m familiar with. It’s a great car when it’s standing still: comfortable architecture, with a spacious interior on a very small footprint. Visibility is superb. Entry and exit is easy.

    What’s lacking is any sort of engineering prowess. The engine, transmission, suspension and controls are just good enough. While forward progress is made, “power” never enters the picture. And even after an optimized test run from DC to the beach averaging 50 mph on land as flat as a pool table, it only gave 24 mpg. “That’s impressive,” said the owner, “I get usually 22.”

    My young daughter tells me that these are now the most uncool, most ridiculed cars on the road. At introduction, though, these were hot as New Beetles, and sold for above-sticker prices. As has been said before, this is a car that got off to a blazing start, but then was never updated and improved enough to stay competitive, if it ever was. Maybe FCA should revive the styling in another Retro wave, with a hybrid or electric drivetrain?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    THANX Everyone ! .
    .
    I know bupkis about modern cars but I know enough to recoil in horror when anyone says ” ultradrive transmission”.
    .
    He says the car is worth less than $1,000 with all it’s pin striping, custom upholstery and exhaust, etc., etc.
    .
    He’s unable to find a rebuilder that’ll touch it ~ my guess being they already know he’ll balk at the repair bill and they’ll be stuck with a $1,300 car that had a $1,800 repair….
    .
    I looked at the link and yes, there’s a zillion other Chryslers that’ll give up a tranny but last time I checked they wanted $600 or other such foolishness, too much $ for him to gamble .
    .
    I’m guessing here that the old ‘ look for a rollover and if the ATF smells sweet you’re good to go ‘ isn’t a good plan here .
    .
    Sigh .
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      but you don’t know enough to be aware that every single Chrysler-designed transmission since then has been the “Ultradrive” design. Everything. 41TE, 42LE, 45RE, 545RFE, 62TE, 68RFE, all Ultradrive.

      the A604/41TE was problematic in its first few years on the market. After that, most problems were from people putting Dexron fluid in them.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Nate- Please take a look at http://www.allpar.com and refer your friend over there if he needs more help locating or installing the transmission.

      The car can be repaired economically if s/he likes it enough to drive it a while afterward– the days of cheap fixes are, however, over. It makes me sad.

      I’ve found no one willing to touch a car for under about $75 in south Florida– you know, unless they’re gifting me a new door ding. Those are usually free. Oil changes on the Dart are just a hair under $100.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Thanx Fellas ! .
    .
    Correct : I’m pretty uneducated but I try to soldier on anyways =8-) .
    .
    I used to give the best tune ups a VW ever had for $125, maybe I should go back to it as the word of mouth was always getting me ever more Customers .
    .
    I was planning to call my buddy to – day anyway, we’ll see what he says .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    ctowne

    OMG. my niece had one for a while. it broke. we replace the transmission solenoid. (incidentally, the later transmissions use the same solenoid, but you have to HAMMER the fittings in 1/4″ because Chrysler was too cheap to just cut the fittings down) Once it was back on the road, it broke again. full trans swap. in the freezing cold. In someone else’s driveway. and it broke again.

    i still cuss at every damn one of those miserable shitpiles i see on the road. there isn’t a fire hot enough to kill every damn one in a blaze of hate filled fail.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    1/7/17
    .
    Okay then :
    .
    I looked at a few in Pick-A-Part to day , they appear to be pretty simple to remove ? .
    .
    Anyone done this ? .
    .
    I talked to my buddy to – day and he said he had the tranny serviced (drain & re fill, filter kit) by some cheapo quickie-lube place and a week after it wet into ” limp home mode ” (?) and he drove it home .
    .
    Is there any chance the draining out the possbily wrong fluid and re filling it might make it work again ? .
    .
    Has anyone here actually worked on these ? .
    .
    I’m glad it’s 1,300 miles away in Washington .
    .
    TIA,
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      fleetwrench

      Depends on the codes that put it in limp home mode. Sometime flushing a neglecteted trans will dislodge particles that were stuck and stick solenoids and valves.

      • 0 avatar
        ctowne

        You can hope in one hand and drain/fill that thing with the other, but I suspect which one will fix it is the one holding the flamethrower.

        The drain/fill likely dislodged parts and clogged the solenoid, but another drain/fill isn’t going to get all the bits of clutch and steel band out of all the holes and passages. You can replace the solenoid, it’s not a hard job and you don’t even have to lift up the car, but you are really throwing good money after bad.

        A full swap of the transmission is likely what’s called for. I hope your friend gets out of that car with his shirt on his back still and as few busted knuckles as possible.

        Pulling the transmission isn’t really what I’d call an easy job. There are ball joints, tie rods, axles, etc to pull, untold corrosion of the fastners, and cheapass materials everywhere. (for example, all 10 front wheel studs needed pressed out and replaced, and new lug nuts sourced when we did the swap on my nieces because they were so spalled there was no saving them.)

        Get a shop manual. have plenty of time to do the job, lots of patience, and a smidge of better luck than I had and you’ll likely be kicking the can down the road 4-5,000 miles before you have to do it again.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    The PT Cruiser has one thing going for it: it’s not a Chevy HHR. Now that’s a truly awful POS.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    My daughter had an 05 PT auto basic. All before 60,000 ( when we unloaded it ) head gasket, power steering pump, crank sensor, front rear brakes and rotors. Power steering pump was howling again when we sold it. Also the AC compressor was groaning. Power mirrors quit working. The wiring on those looks so cheap under the dash. I know alot about cars and work on my own. I am sure there was a bunch of other problems ( trying to forget all of it )Never have I seen such a lemon. Last straw was when my mechanic told me if the seal where the cv joint meets the tranny starts to leak they will lose all AT fluid. Time to go – could not get rid of it fast enough. There is a reason they sold millions of them, but not many left on the road.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Thanx Kinsha ;
    .
    Interestingly I see lots of them still out and about, not only well kept versions but also Ghetto Hoopty Rides with peeling clear coat and mis-matched bald tires…..
    .
    -Nate


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