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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
(Skip to Known Issues if this is TLDR to get key info)
First post everyone, so I'm far behind the game here. I bought my 2009 Caliber R/T used almost 2 years ago for a decent $1700. It's got 160000 miles on it and I'm here now to get some help from some car guys who own these hatchbacks BEFORE I KILL IT!!

As the title says, I am not mechanically inclined. I can do the bare minimum to keep a car running (I'm talking changing tires and fluids/filters y'all and that's basically it) and I've run into some problems with my Caliber.

When I bought her (Dahlia) the previous owner mentioned he'd bought some sensors that hadn't been installed. One is a tire pressure sensor (I believe) and the other is an Engine Oil Sensor (I believe... Again - I'm mechanically dumb, but at least I can top off my blinker fluid if necessary)

That being said, those sensors are still sitting in my glove box... Also, She's got plenty of skirt rusting, suspension is getting damn close to bottoming out, there's multiple issues with wiring (Heated seats not working, and she does this thing where sometimes the lights just don't turn off. Not sure if that's operator error, but it's very weird nonetheless) and of course, at 160k, with an owner like me, she's not long for this world without serious intervention.

Aside from the lesser issues, I have an overheating problem, which I cannot diagnose myself (Just so we're clear, I'm a poor man who cannot just throw cars at a shop mechanic all willy-nilly) so I'm going to do my best to describe the issue and see if anyone can solve my issue here first.

It started last year; temp goes up, all the way, but she doesn't die or start smoking. I can smell the heat though, and obviously that's no good. I thought maybe coolant pump, but after filling it (was empty!!) The coolant has since drained out again. So that means either its a leak somewhere, or she's running so hot that she actually needs all that coolant. Idk how the **** works remember, so my best guess is leak. But where? The antifreeze isn't leaking (from what I can tell), but the engine oil is.

So I know that's scary, and I've since been band-aiding it with regular top offs of both coolant and oil. What scares me even more is that I can't find the source of the oil leak; I can't be certain there isn't anything wrong with the radiator, nor do I know if antifreeze is mixing into the oil. Lately, which is precisely why I'm reaching out now; She's been putting out less and less power, and one day she's idled low enough to make me think she's about to clunk out, and I believe she has stalled one time since

I do not want to lose Dahlia!! I mean a frickin' named her, she was the first car I purchased as a single man living totally on his own. Plus as you all know, Calibers are all around pretty sweet little rides with mad potential and an aesthetic that just gives off a different vibe altogether.

So, I'm pleading with all the mechanics and Caliber lovers here, and I'm willing to follow up with pics, videos, or whatever else needed. I need to learn as much as I can, and while YouTube can be a great source for quick how tos; I have yet to find anything that's going to help a guy like me with the issues I'm having.

In Summary:
The thermometer is peaking after 5-10 minutes of running but doesn't smoke, catch fire, or clunk/knock in anyway. I do have to 'ignore' the dinging from the dash, and I can smell that the car is in fact hot. The oil is leaking for sure and coolant is draining faster than it should be, and I believe all this prolonged abuse has started to cause other issues with low power output and low idling.

KNOWN ISSUES:
Overheating: Thermo peaks after approx 8 minutes.
Leaks: Engine oil definitely, possibility of antifreeze getting into engine oil or somewhere else
Sensors: 1 Engine Oil Sensor?, 1 Tire Pressure Sensor? - Not installed, don't know how (Dashboard Screens reads "tire pressure low" and "check engine oil")
Suspension: She's a low-sitting wobbly girl, I'd like to make her a light offroader in the future if She can be saved.
Electronics: Heated seats, non-functioning cruise control, passenger window doesn't always roll up (rolling down seems to work fine), lights don't turn off when they should be.
Rust: Bad side skirt erosion, can this even be fixed?

What I think could be the issues:
Coolant isn't getting where it needs to go and it's causing excessive wear and tear on the whole system:
A: Possibly a clog or syphoning off from an existing leak.
B: Coolant pump is dying or dead, but doesn't seem likely since the reservoir empties faster than it should.
C: An issue with the radiator but doesn't seem likely since she's not smoking or bursting into flames.
D: Because she idles low and has reduced power, I'm sure there's some transmission issues, which I'm willing to replace if it comes down to it because I love the car. I'm just a po' boy atm.

PS: If I send pictures, just know I wasn't the one who coated the rims with the garbage black paint that's falling and chipping off!

Now for the Dreamer in me:
I want to swap the engine eventually, 160k miles ain't bad but she is my only drivable vehicle, would love to make her into a sleeper, but idk what engine swaps work with this make/model (or anything for that matter). I'd love to get some slightly bigger offroad wheels and tires for her and some added torque for a little bit o muddin', (but idk where to even begin with that). And throw in some new struts and shocks so she can really prance around on the trails with nice long legs. Of course I'd throw a hitch on the back so I can tow a trailer or camper (of course this means power and torque would have to get some upgrades) and I'd like to get a tough body kit and repair the rusted skirts however possible.

So... Now that I've melted your faces off with this long and depressing message, where do I start? What should I fix first? How do I fix it?What tools am I going to need besides the basic mechanics set? What absolutely needs to be done by a mechanic, given my extremely limited knowledge and experience? And can you be the Dad I never had?

Dahlia and I are forever in your debt! Thank you.
-Noob
 

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The thermometer is peaking after 5-10 minutes of running but doesn't smoke, catch fire, or clunk/knock in anyway. I do have to 'ignore' the dinging from the dash, and I can smell that the car is in fact hot. The oil is leaking for sure and coolant is draining faster than it should be, and I believe all this prolonged abuse has started to cause other issues with low power output and low idling.
Does your car have the manual transmission?

How quickly does the coolant and oil leak? How often do you have to add more and how much do you add?

Do you see any oil leaks on the ground?

As for the coolant leak, it is almost certainly a blown head gasket/warped head or a cracked block or head (or both). The coolant is getting vaporized and blown out the exhaust pipe. I had a blown head gasket on my Caliber and had to remove the head, get it machined at a machine shop and reinstall: Blew my head gasket at the track, any tips for removing...

I suggest running a compression test. You will need a few simple hand tools to remove the spark plugs and the compression gauge. You can probably borrow the compression gauge from a local auto shop. There are plenty of videos on Youtube that show the procedure: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+to+compression+test

Assuming the compression test confirms that you have a blown head gasket and/or cracked block, your options are to repair or replace the engine. Both options are high difficulty...when I replaced the head gasket on my car, I had all the tools needed on hand and some very helpful neighbors and it took me about 20 hours to complete over three weekends. Also, if you do all the work yourself, either option is likely to cost between $500 and $2000+ depending on the problems you find.

In addition to considering the above, you should also get the codes read out of the computer and post them here to get an idea of what else is wrong with the car. Many auto parts places will loan you a code reader or at least read the codes for you. Here are a few videos to help: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+to+read+codes+on+cars

Given all the problems you list, repairing your car will definitely cost several times more than it is worth..even if you do all the work yourself. I would consider other options before putting a bunch of money into this one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Does your car have the manual transmission?

How quickly does the coolant and oil leak? How often do you have to add more and how much do you add?

Do you see any oil leaks on the ground?

As for the coolant leak, it is almost certainly a blown head gasket/warped head or a cracked block or head (or both). The coolant is getting vaporized and blown out the exhaust pipe. I had a blown head gasket on my Caliber and had to remove the head, get it machined at a machine shop and reinstall: Blew my head gasket at the track, any tips for removing...

I suggest running a compression test. You will need a few simple hand tools to remove the spark plugs and the compression gauge. You can probably borrow the compression gauge from a local auto shop. There are plenty of videos on Youtube that show the procedure: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+to+compression+test

Assuming the compression test confirms that you have a blown head gasket and/or cracked block, your options are to repair or replace the engine. Both options are high difficulty...when I replaced the head gasket on my car, I had all the tools needed on hand and some very helpful neighbors and it took me about 20 hours to complete over three weekends. Also, if you do all the work yourself, either option is likely to cost between $500 and $2000+ depending on the problems you find.

In addition to considering the above, you should also get the codes read out of the computer and post them here to get an idea of what else is wrong with the car. Many auto parts places will loan you a code reader or at least read the codes for you. Here are a few videos to help: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+to+read+codes+on+cars

Given all the problems you list, repairing your car will definitely cost several times more than it is worth..even if you do all the work yourself. I would consider other options before putting a bunch of money into this one.

After dropping my kids off, I came back and immediately popped the hood. Smoke/steam was coming out from the radiator cap, antifreeze reservoir was bone dry. I topped off a week ago on coolant and oil. Engine oil was about half way down from the fill line. I will look into a compression gauge and code reader and see if any places nearby can help.

I drive as little as possible since it started having these issues, less than a miles if any on most days, no more than 15 miles on any day, so it's definitely guzzling coolant. Knowing I am working with low income and no experience, I'd hate to junk her but it's seeming like my only legitimate option. I'll check out these videos and let you know what else I can come up with. I'll add pictures of what I'm looking at for reference when I get a chance. Thank you
EDIT: She's an automatic and it will most likely take me a few days to get the general diagnostics done. I get paid on the 1st of every month.
 

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Welcome, Are you heater hoses leaking? I am trying to remember I had a issue like this and i think when i fixed the secondary thermostat if fixed my loss of coolant. But soon after my radiator blew up and i had to replace that. All is fine now since.

I found my old post lol


Dec 13, 2021
I found the leak. It was coming from the gasket and secondary thermostat gasket inside of the black plastic casing. But when i fixed that water is now leaking from the radiator it looks now on the tall hose side. So i am going to pull it down again later on and see where it is coming from.
Dec 16, 2021
also the leak was in the radiator. hairline crack.

I can also remember that No coolant hit the ground and was always burning up. I would recommend changing bother thermostats and gaskets! Also I could not find the crack in the radiator. it was so thin. I replaced my radiator with a amazon TYC radiator.
 

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I topped off a week ago on coolant and oil. Engine oil was about half way down from the fill line....I drive as little as possible since it started having these issues, less than a miles if any on most days, no more than 15 miles on any day...
This suggests you are burning more than quart of oil every 100 miles....that is bad.

She's an automatic and it will most likely take me a few days to get the general diagnostics done.
The automatic transmission on these cars is a CVT and is also not very reliable.

I'd try hard to keep the car running without putting much money into it. Keep the oil and coolant topped up and don't let it overheat again. Keep oil and water in the car so that you can pull over and top it up if it starts to overheat. Keep that up until the car dies and then move on to something else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This suggests you are burning more than quart of oil every 100 miles....that is bad.

The automatic transmission on these cars is a CVT and is also not very reliable.

I'd try hard to keep the car running without putting much money into it. Keep the oil and coolant topped up and don't let it overheat again. Keep oil and water in the car so that you can pull over and top it up if it starts to overheat. Keep that up until the car dies and then move on to something else.
Damn damn damn, well I appreciate the knowledge Gentlemen. I guess for $1700 it did me alright. Was really hoping I could keep her going for a long time but sh*t happens. Think imma look into some mechanic certification classes. I can't stand not knowing how to fix things, especially cars.
 

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good, also check the radiator cap since it has a gasket that if it cracks it leaks in the form of steam.
+1 on this...if you're losing coolant and you don't see an obvious leak, a faulty radiator cap can allow the coolant to boil off so just replace it and see what happens.

Also, start the car and turn on the AC, then look under the hood and make sure your cooling fans are operating (running the AC forces them to turn on). If they aren't running, you need to fix that.

As for oil, have somebody rev the car while you watch the tailpipe. If the exhaust is a bright white then you're burning coolant. If it's a bluish color, you're burning oil.

As for the corrosion the rockers (what you're calling side skirts) are pretty much the first body panel that'll rust through. You CAN replace them (I did my driver's side 2 years ago)...there are aftermarket panels available but it takes time and skill to do something resembling a credible job of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Greetings everyone, still waiting on payday before I go get a free inspection for my Caliber but here's some updates:

Engine Oil leak is coming from the drain plug itself, provided it's not stripped, should be an easy fix there.

Coolant is leaking and steaming not from radiator cap but from the end of the coolant reservoir hose right at the radiator cap, making it appear to come from the cap.

There's a constant engine clicking, that most likely would change in speed or pitch if revved, although I didn't test this yet, just wanted to see where the steam and leaks were coming from and I achieved that.

All in all I'm aware that the head gasket has probably been damaged and there's probably some bad piston wear from the heat but if I'm being 100% honest, I don't think my problems are as dire as it may seem. There's no oil/coolant mixing, the car isn't steaming itself except from the leaking hose, and the engine oil is leaking from the drain plug. Other than clicking and having to replace a head gasket (lol I'm acting like those aren't major issues) I'm not sure there's much else wrong with her besides the initial reason for overheating. Which hopefully the mechanics with the know-how will be able to tell me tomorrow.

Will be getting that free inspection tomorrow, driving Dahlia to the shop. I'll make sure to get a compression test and OBD-II meter reading and I'll update everyone asap with all the details.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and looking for a reliable family car in my spare time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hey hey thanks man I'll definitely check these out
Follow Up: Local repair shop will charge me just for a compression test and OBD-II readings so I'm stuck waiting til the 1st for any serious diagnosis.

However, getting under it I found the Engine oil leak is caused from cracked oil pan,
Coolant was leaking from end of hose, used a hose clamp to tighten it.

She's still overheating and there's a clicking noise that follows rev timing.

I'm tempted to pull her apart as much as I can just for the experience, especially knowing she's probably doomed. I've already pulled off the bumper in hopes of getting a good look at the radiator but I'm unable to check the status of the pump, figuring it might be going bad all things considered.

Unrelated irony: FB marketplace most common used car for sale in my area are Calibers.

Thanks for the help everyone
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
When the car gets to operating temps do the upper and lower hoses get pressurized?


Not sure if the link will work but essentially, the hoses are spongey, and after letting the car get hot enough to kick on the radiator, the radiator cap was cool enough to take off without any heat or coolant coming out.

I don't think the coolant is getting into the system, but besides that there may be a busted bearing from one of the spools (not sure which part it connects to) which is just another issue 🥲
 

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Questions

1. If you top off the radiator and oil and then drive down the freeway at normal speed, does it overheat? Meaning, if you keep driving it will the temperature gauge max out?

2. Did you fix the coolant leak?

Comments
Don't ever let the temp gauge max out, drive it until it gets to maybe 2/3rds of max and then pull over to let it cool down.

Don't check the oil level with the engine running. Stop the engine, get it on level ground, and then check the oil level.

Even if the cooling system working perfectly, you will not feel much pressure in the cooling hoses when the engine is at idle.

Your test on the video showed that the radiator fans came on and the temp went over half way with your car idling in the driveway. This suggests that your thermostats are bad.

I doubt that the water/cooling pump is bad, it would be making much more noise and most likely leaking at the pump...when you video was near the water pump, I did not see or hear anything that suggested an issue there.

Suggestions
In your situation, I would not pay to have the oil pan or thermostats replaced. You can do both jobs yourself.

I would also hold off on paying for a compression test until you complete the items below.

1. Replace your thermostats.
Here is a kit with replacement thermostats and gaskets you will need to do the job yourself: Amazon.com: DODGE CHRYSLER JEEP 1.8L 2.0L 2.4L WORLD ENGINE THERMOSTAT KIT NEW OEM MOPAR : Automotive

Check Youtube for DIY videos on replacing the thermostats. Ask back here if you cannot find anything helpful.

If, after fixing all leaks you can find and replacing your thermostats, your car still overheats while idling in the driveway, then pay to get it checked out by a shop.

2. Fix your oil pan leak

For the oil pan, if you are really short on cash, I'd drain the oil, clean up the bottom of the pan really well, put some JB weld over the crack and the gorilla duct tape over the JB weld. Let it sit overnight and then pour the oil back in, checking to make sure to get it exactly back to the top of the fill mark.


This guy does it with JB Weld only:

After you do this, check the patch site each day and make sure it is holding. My guess is it will hold for the rest of the life of the car.

If you want to replace the pan anyway, you can find a replacement oil pan on Amazon for maybe $40 or so, then just buy the gasket and replace it yourself.

I personally would not hesitate to use the JB Weld + tape option on my car.

3. Measure your oil and coolant consumption
After you temporarily fix your oil pan leak and any other coolant leaks you can find, mark the exact spot of the oil level on the dip stick (engine off, car on level ground) and mark your coolant level. Then drive the car about 10 miles (use the trip meter and measure the exact distance), and then see if any oil or coolant is missing. If your coolant or oil level has noticeably gone down, add enough to bring it back to where it was and then work out how many quarts per 1,000 miles and how much coolant your engine is consuming and report here.

After your drive, look around carefully for oil and coolant leaks.

After your car sits overnight, have someone start it for you while you watch the exhaust pipe to see if any water droplets or steam comes out.

4. Get your codes read for free today
Take your car to an auto parts store like autozone and get your codes read for free.

Report back here what codes you find.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
EDIT:
Answer 1: Yes it maxes out while driving although I haven't driven on the highway since it all started, I'm sure it would still overheat at moderate speeds.

Answer 2: So far the leak is fixed with the clamp on the hose, not sure if there's supposed to be one by default but I took one off my garaged BMW and so far no leaks.

I should add that AutoZone is 1.4 mi away and the temp was right at 3/4 max when I pulled in; after letting the car cool down completely.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes are as follows:

Power Train System

Most Likely Solution: Replace Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP) and Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP)

P0017 Crank/Cam Position Phase (ex)

Suggested Parts 1: Camshaft Position Sensor

Suggested Parts 2: Crankshaft Position Sensor

Secondary DTCs:
P2004: Intake Manifold Runner Control Stuck Open
P2017: Intake Manifold Runner Position Sensor Circuit High
P0117: Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor Circuit Low
P2181: Cooling System Performance

Anti-Lock Brake System

C1015 Right Front Wheel Speed Sensor Circuit
 

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If the temp got to the middle and there is no pressure. I would say to change both thermostats. If still no pressure after then it may be the water pump.

Also my engine dose that clicking in the start of the video. I always think its the injectors because it has been clicking since I got the thing lol.
 

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P2004: Intake Manifold Runner Control Stuck Open
P2017: Intake Manifold Runner Position Sensor Circuit High
This one is an easy DIY that you can do for low cost:


If that procedure does not work, this problem does not impact the drive-ability or longevity of the car, so I would ignore the error. That said, if you want to replace the component, you can buy a new runner control on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dasbecan-Manifold-Compatible-Partriot-4884549AD/dp/B08FST5BYD/

P0117: Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor Circuit Low
P2181: Cooling System Performance
C1015 Right Front Wheel Speed Sensor Circuit
I would ignore these until you get your oil leak fixed and cooling issues solved.

P0017 Crank/Cam Position Phase (ex)
That code, combined with the rattling coming from your engine in the first seconds of your video above strongly indicates a bad/loose timing chain. The timing chain is on the passenger side of the engine and that is where it appeared the rattling was coming from in your video.

Does the rattling get worse at higher RPM? If so, this also strongly indicates a bad/loose timing chain.

Try to work out if the sound is coming from one of the engine accessories (like the alternator or AC pump) or if it is coming from just inside the passenger side of the engine (where the timing chain is located).

Given the rattling, I would not bother with the expense of replacing the cam and crank position sensors...the rattling means it is almost certainly a timing chain issue. That said, you could probably get some sensors out of a junkyard caliber very cheaply and put those in as a test.

The timing chain problem can be caused by a stretched timing chain, worn out timing change guides and/or a broken tensioner....it could be all three. If it is the timing chain, then all of those must be replaced.

Replacing the timing chain is a high difficulty task and will be expensive even if you do it yourself.

Here is a video that shows part of the process to replace the timing chain, be aware that this guy spent several hours before the start of this video removing a bunch of stuff off the engine to get to the timing chain:

Given all of the other problems with your car, I'm not sure it is worth the expense of replacing the timing chain.

The timing chain rattling is very destructive to the engine. It is eating up the gears, the chain and the block and it is spewing metal shavings into the oil (which then get circulated through the engine and cause more issues). The only thing you can do for now is keep the RPMs low, keep the oil full and make sure the engine temperature never gets maxed out.
 
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