Piston Slap: "Oooooooo" Goes The Neon

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC Commentator Robstar writes:

My wife has a 2000 Neon we bought used with 125k. It just passed 50k miles in the 4 years we drove it. We have had no issues with this car so far, although the first owner (we are the third) replaced the tranny at 70k.

At about 35mph the engine starts making a loud “ooooooooo” sound (kind of like a deep throated turbo or a vacuum cleaner). There is no “windup” to this sound — it’s either on or off. It does not matter if you are accelerating hard or not. Since we do mostly highway driving, this sounds tends to blend into road noise once we are up to highway speeds. The engine is not short of oil (although it does need 1/2 qt every 1500 or so). We have driven the car for ~ 3k miles with no issues….but I’m getting nervous.

Any ideas what it could be? We will be taking the car to our independent mechanic this week for the oil change and will ask him to look at the sound, but it’s hard to get the car up to 35mph in the city around rush-hour (which is when I’d be there). Outside of this the car drives normally.

We’d like to keep this car at least another year, but I don’t want to leave my wife stranded on the highway somewhere. She has a 42 mile highway commute to work.

Sajeev answers:

There are several Chrysler transmission jokes I could throw in here, but perhaps discretion is the better part of valor.

There is a chance the Constant Velocity (CV) shafts leaving the differential are out of whack, though I suspect the torque converter is the problem. Maybe the Torque Converter Clutch (TCC) Solenoid isn’t engaging/disengaging correctly? I think a quick engine code scan and a road test by a savvy mechanic will clear up any confusion.

If it costs more than $300 to fix, I’d drive it into the ground and buy a safer vehicle sooner rather than later. Unless you really love the Neon (and there’s nothing wrong with that, trust me) you can find a more robust vehicle for not much more cheddar, and it’ll probably keep the family happier too.

(Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com)

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 22 comments
  • Keith Tomas Keith Tomas on Dec 28, 2009

    Well, the Neon was cute, I'll give it that. But then, so is Lindsay Lohan.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jan 02, 2010

    No, the Neon is cute like Linsay Lohan W-A-S... GRIN! Seriously she looks about ten years past her prime now... Living fast has that effect. Had she treated herself well she'd still have her looks now and in ten years. I wish Chrysler had kept improving the Neon and added a three door hatch and a sporty wagon. Get the quality up to Civic levels.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.