What could be wrong with my Dodge Neon - its a "1995-1/2", it has an intermittent issue with the engine "blanking out"

Asked by Nov 03, 2015 at 04:40 PM

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

This might be of value to other Neon owners - I had an issue with my Neon suddenly bucking and jerking while driving - also sometimes all of the dash lights would come on while driving at 70 mph on the freeway, as if the engine stalled out. There was also sometimes a no-start, no-nothing intermittent problem.  We changed the #9 relay.  That worked for a while, then back to the old behavior.  My mechanic gave me a relay with a little switch on it.  He said if it won't start, flip the switch.  That worked exactly twice.  Finally when I mentioned that something was dripping on my foot now and then from right above the clutch pedal (which I had mentioned about a year earlier also) the mechanic suddenly got interested and took a harder look at what was dripping.  He traced it back and we found a small leak on the back of the engine from the cylinder cover.  It was motor oil, of course.  HERE is the thing:  the oil was leaking on the major bundle of wires that passes the passenger side of the cylinder cover, tucked back behind the engine and the firewall.  Those wires are wrapped in a kind of fabric tape - sort of like one of those fabric bandaids - and that tape was wicking the oil right up the bundle of wires and directly into the junction box and the wires that go into the PCM.  When he opened the junction box, he literally had to POUR oil out of that box.  He dealt with that problem, sprayed it with whatever (WD40? engine cleaner?) then removed the PCM.  The bottom of it, where the rubber was poured had white flashes on it. He repaired the oil leak, replaced the PCM, dried the wires several times (the fabric tape was soaked with oil which kept wicking into the junction box) and we finally thought we had the problem licked.  No dice.  The engine kept having intermittent episodes of bucking and so on, sometimes stalling for no apparent reason, like at a red light after running for a while.  It would also refuse to start the next morning after running fine the day before.  It sat all week and would not start, then I got in at 11:30 Friday night, stuck the key in the ignition turned it and it magically started.  When it died again it sat for a week behind my office, would not start.  I finally had it towed to mechanic's house.  He was about to push it into his backyard but got in (just for laughs) and turned the key.  It started again. We found an ignition fuse issue and bypassed that slot on the internal fuse block (on driver side interior of car).  By this time we also had to replace the PCM again.  This is where I am at now, and it still occasionally starts bucking and cutting out, but not as often.  It is obvious that we still have not found the problem.  The whole fuel system was replaced in 2012.  The cam position sensor, replaced.  No "check engine" light has come on since the last repair. A/C kicks butt, radiator was just replaced.  Passed emissions with flying colors when Cat & O2 sensor were replaced.  What else could cause this annoying problem?  It does it on the highway, or on surface streets at lower speeds.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.  Has anyone else had this kind of behavior from a Neon?  Could it be one or more injectors fouled?  The only way to straighten the problem out is to step on the clutch and rev the engine until it smooths out.
Any insight would be a blessing at this point.  I am beginning to think that car is haunted.

2 Answers

Check plug gap

Thank you for your response. We have changed the plug wires twice since this problem began a year and a half ago. We replaced the camshaft position sensor, replaced the PCM twice, cleaned up the oil leak that destroyed the original PCM, changed out the ignition relay twice, replace the fuel pump, and repaired the connection for the ignition fuse in the fuseblock inside the vehicle. Now it starts, but nothing we have done seems to have affected this problem at all. Cleaned the throttle body recently also. All of the repairs were done by a real mechanic, not a backyard tweaker.

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