We just purchased a Dodge Caravan minivan with a liter...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

We just purchased a 1991 Dodge Caravan minivan with a 3.3 liter engine. It has a noise when first starting up which the mechanic calls "piston slap." He says it's nothing to worry about, but I have only a 90 day warranty and wonder if something should be done.

RAY: Yes. Something should be done. This mechanic needs a good piston slap on the side of the head.

TOM: Piston slap is not "nothing to worry about." It means that the piston is moving around inside the cylinder. And even though it may take a long time to get worse, this signals the beginning of the end for this engine.

RAY: If you were buying a 30 year old Dodge Dart from my brother, and paying 300 bucks for it, then you might be willing to accept a little piston slap as part of the deal. But it's unacceptable on a car that's only three years old.

TOM: You can check with Chrysler, because it should be covered under the vehicle's original 7/70 warranty. But if not, you should immediately complain about this problem in writing (so you have documentation for your warranty claim). And at the same time, I'd get a second opinion (also in writing) from another mechanic. You're going to need all the evidence you can get, because this is big trouble.

RAY: Right. And rebuilding your engine is probably the last thing this used car salesman wants to do. So when you go to confront him, in addition to the evidence, it wouldn't hurt to bring any friends of yours who also happen to be NFL linebackers. Good luck, Tom.

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