By on December 23, 2009


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.

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22 Comments on “Piston Slap: “Oooooooo” Goes The Neon...”

  • avatar

    Does it still make the noise with the clutch disengaged while rolling? Or if you have the misfortune to drive an auto try going down hill in neutral? Still there?

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      It’s an auto.  Why would a manual need replacing at 70k?  (Insert Fiatsler joke here)

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      And since when is an auto such a big misfortune?  The Civic 5-speed auto I have the grave misfortune of owning since November 4 is better than ANY 5-speed manual I’ve owned.  ( 1. 1985 Corolla GT-S; 2. 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R; 3. 1997.5 Nissan Altima GXE.  They don’t compare.  There’s slip and torque multiplication AS WELL AS 5 SPEEDS.  Believe me, that little 1.8 litre feels a lot bigger than it is with its auto.  Misfortune, my ass!  And I don’t mean that in a bad way.)

  • avatar

    Have you tried driving behind a friend and having him look for bits of loose trim flapping in the wind?  You might just have some plastic making a ghostly whistle at speed…

    • 0 avatar

      You should also do a visual inspecton if you haven’t already.  I have the same problem with my car – turned out to be a plastic guard flapping around under the front bumper.
      As an side, what genius decided to install higher-than-normal curbs in shorter-than-normal parking spots? Watch out if you’re ever at the Crystal Mall.

  • avatar

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmmmmmmm wow, that’s the suggestion we get from a guy with the name “NoChryslers.”  As Iago the parrot said in Aladdin “I might DIE from not surprise.”
      I kid, I kid, I kid.  Perhaps you could enlighten us on how Chrysler wronged you?  I have some stories about bad Ford Dealers, bad Chrysler dealers, bad Nissan dealers, but that doesn’t poison me against the brand, only those dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh the hate!
      Lots of Neons still running around here. Majority in excellent shape. Also look more contemporary than ever.
      Ah well, spilt milk.

  • avatar

    If it’s not loose trim or a branch, it will be a bearing, most likely a front wheel bearing. It could also be in the transaxle assembly or a rear wheel bearing although that’s less likely.

  • avatar

    I once had a car that made a sound that could only be described as whooooooooing.  It turned out the fan clutch was seized, and the fan was spinning all the time instead of disengaging when not needed.  Logically, the intensity varied by engine rpm.

  • avatar

    It’s probably transmission and not engine.
    BTW, you may want to ask at They have people like Scott Peterson, who know everything about Neons.

  • avatar

    If it’s been doing it since you’ve had it, it could be transfer gear noise. Chrysler FWD transmissions are somewhat prone to this, fortunately it doesn’t hurt anything and is more of an annoyance than anything else.

  • avatar
    Garrick Jannene

    Ah hah, I own a 1990’s FWD Chrysler.  I’ve been here before.

    Chances are since it’s winter now, you have your climate control pretty much set to defrost all of the time, right, and even when you turn the fan off, you leave it there right? 

    If I am to assume both of those items, what you are hearing is the A/C compressor.
    Generally speaking, Chrysler’s 1990s small cars were good designs that got mauled by the accounting department, but this is just a case of stupidity.  As you may or may not know, the defrost setting also uses the A/C compressor so it’s pumping out dry air, but when you turn the fan off in 90’s Chryslers, it leaves the compressor running.  Dumb. 

    Just turn the knob.  The only thing you have to be concerned about is fuel efficiency and power hit.

  • avatar is the best Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep resource on the web. Maybe you should check the tranny oil, the torque converter might be starving from oil on lockup time or if it´s a low-growl you should check the intake cavities around the air filter.
    We have a flawless 1999 Chrysler Voyager and now a 1997 Plymouth Neon joined the family´s fleet and both are great, dependable and comfortable rides :)

  • avatar

    I’m the op & here are some answers:
    1) It did not make this sound until recently
    2) I actually submitted this question a while back I think at end of summer, so it wasn’t during AC or heat use.
    3) It’s a 3 speed auto (bleck…but it’s cheap & the wife can’t drive stick)
    4) The plastic front guard broke off/cracked long ago
    5) It makes the sound in Neutral (IIRC)

  • avatar

    Hmmmmmmmm wow, that’s the suggestion we get from a guy with the name “NoChryslers.”  As Iago the parrot said in Aladdin “I might DIE from not surprise.”

    I kid, I kid, I kid.  Perhaps you could enlighten us on how Chrysler wronged you?  I have some stories about bad Ford Dealers, bad Chrysler dealers, bad Nissan dealers, but that doesn’t poison me against the brand, only those dealers.
    educatordan, I don’t mean to sound bitter, but my 1995 Neon Sport Sedan started out fine, but within two years, the car slowly fell apart.  Electrical, A/C, bad brakes and that awful water-based paint that kept chipping.  I did regular maintenance and never abused the car.  It just was unlucky, almost as unlucky as my 1989 Plymouth Sundance, which I got when I was in the Navy.  Driven as a pleasuremobile, it did its duty, and even did yeoman duty on a cross-country jaunt from San Diego to Philadelphia after I was honorably discharged.  But when I got my first civilian job, the Sundance started to fall apart – the suspension, tranny, brakes and the windows that kept falling out of their tracks.  I thought that since the Neon was a clean-sheet design with no relation to the piece of peanut brittle that was the K-car, I thought it would be different, but it was not.  I met someone at the dealership after having my power door locks looked at for the thousandth time, and he and his wife had a Neon that they were trading in for a Japanese car because they were having the exact same problems I was having.  Maybe I was in the minority – who the hell knows.  What I DO know is that both Chrysler products I owned were crappy, nothing like the big Newports and Furys that my grandpa owned.

  • avatar

    We have a 2000 Neon that has about 200,000km on the clock. so far after almost 10 years of ownership from the dealers the Neon has thrown us a few problems, but they all started after the fifth year of ownership. which i think is a great achievement, especially after you read the crap people write about Chrysler and their quality build.
    after the fifth year however there were a few problems. the auto box hat to be changed because it started slipping, that I credit to my hooligan driving days, where i over-drove the car every-time i stepped in it…treating it like a racer rather than a commuter car. that was the first big problem.
    the second would be the timing belt. a grinding sound started coming out of the engine at about 100,000km, went to my mechanic and the timing belt change was up and to my luck it hadn’t snapped, the noise was from the belt tension-er bearing, the lot was changed and catastrophe evaded. good..well not so good. turned out the new very costly bearing had a hitch in it, it seized without warning after only 30,000km and killed my engine. I lay the blame on whoever manufactured the tension-er bearing.
    The valves were fixed and the engine re-built (cost less where I’m from) and the car runs mechanically sound. i stress mechanically.
    Electrically the only problem I’ve had is with window switches, and the power door locks that keep buzzing… haven’t got to the latter, but the former was dealt with a replacement.
    other self inflicted problem is the rear right wheel hub bearing, that i have mishandled with my constant (in my younger years) hand brake turns…the look and feel cool, but they do break the car as i found out. I’ve stopped doing that since and the new hub bearings have been obedient…
    My mother drives the car, and despite the above problem i still trust it to take us places… but my largest worries are the breaks. it seems that they have diminished in power (i know they are not of the best kind). not sure if that actually happens or is it because i drive a new Mazda 2 that has stoppers that will pull the skin off your face.
    all in all our Neon is a good overall car, a great one if you consider that when i bought it it was the best deal in town at a thousand dollar less than the closest rival, which was a Citroen Xsara, the Renault Megane at the time was more expensive even. a couple of my friend bought both their cars and had enough of them within 3 years, and the Neon still looks better and relevant. just have to recondition these yellow front headlights
    as for the Piston Slap solution, i think Sajeev got this one right on…

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    My wife, who IS NOT an engineer, and who IS of Japanese ethnicity, at one time became enamored of the “cuteness” of the Neon’s design.  So much so that she insisted we go take a test-drive…..her intent was to trade in her Corolla (no, I am not joking) despite my arguments to the contrary (This was before I learned not to start discussions with her with the phrase, “Are you out of your mind?”….)

    She walked around the tester, looking at it closely.  Then we got in and she fired it up.  Our test drive had lasted all of about a half-mile when, without a word (rare) she suddenly did a U-turn and drove directly back to the dealer.  She handed him the keys, thanked him for his time, and we got in the Corolla to drive home.  On the way, she told me that if she ever got it in her mind again to test-drive a Chrysler again, to just remind her of that day.  And that she would never again question my judgment on automobiles.

    That day, I learned that deep down inside, my impetuous wife does have a sensible core, which reveals itself more readily if I don’t activate the “stubborn” button.  And she learned for all time that “cute design” doth not a good vehicle make…..

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    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.

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