Should Chrysler repair an engine that fails after only 22k miles?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

Have you ever heard of a car that had an engine breakdown after having been driven only 21,990 miles and cost $1,233 to repair? Even if it was seven years old? I have such a car...a 1986 Dodge 600. This car has had the best of care, with oil and filter changes every 3,000 miles or so. It looks good as new in every respect, and the engine ran like new up to the moment of the breakdown. On that day, I drove one mile to a local bank. Ten minutes later I was ready to leave, and the engine was completely dead. A valve seat had collapsed and the timing belt had broken. My dealer was sympathetic, and recommended that Chrysler Corp. allow $500 toward the repair, but the regional office rejected his recommendation. I appealed to Chrysler in Detroit, and my appeal was rejected flat out. When I bought this car I was 81. I'm now 88. I don't use a car very much, and I thought I was getting a car that would be economical and care free for as long as I might live. Instead, it has turned out to be the most expensive car--repair wise--of all the 27 cars I have owned over 67 years of driving. What's your reaction to all of this?

TOM: My reaction is that Chrysler should have paid for part of this repair. That would have been the honorable thing to do. It's common knowledge now that these cars were pretty lousy. And it was only because of Chrysler's unique demographics that they managed to avoid an even WORSE reputation.

TOM: Right. Chrysler buyers in the 1980s tended to be older Americans. And like you, Herm, they don't drive very much, and don't drive their cars very hard. My father, for example, has a 1986 Chrysler New Yorker, and it hasn't given him much trouble at all. Of course, he only drives 35 miles a year.

RAY: So Chrysler is really indebted to people like you, who bought these cars and then didn't drive them. You kept the company afloat long enough for them to be able to make the '92 '93 '94, and '95 Chryslers, which are actually a lot better.

TOM: It's unfortunate that Chrysler decided to write you off. I guess they figured at your age, you probably weren't going to buy another car, so there was no reason to try to make you a happy customer. But maybe you'll surprise 'em, Herm. When you drive by the Chrysler regional office in your new Ford Crown Vic next year, honk and wave.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One