Every car needs oil to run. Over time, however, this oil can break down and capture particles that turn into a sticky, messy, gel-like substance which coats the inside of your engine. This "sludge" retains heat and starts to put severe strain on the mechanical parts of your car. It is very difficult, and in many cases impossible, to remove – essentially rendering the engine useless. Typically this will only happen if you don't regularly change your oil. But the 2.7l engine in many 1998–2004 Dodge and Chrysler vehicles seems more prone to oil sludge because internal coolant leakage that is caused by the design of the Water Pump.
Signs that a vehicle may have sludge in the engine include:
Oil sludge can be a problem on any engine if the oil is not properly maintained. What's frustrating thousands of Dodge and Chrysler owners is that even with proper care, their engines are experiencing catastrophic failure.
Since 2001 the most commonly reported problem on CarComplaints.com has been either engine failure or timing chain problems with Chrysler & Dodge's 2.7l engine, both of which are the result of oil sludge. The defective 2.7L engine is found in many vehicles, including 1998-2002 Chrysler Concordes, 300Ms, Sebrings and the the 2002 Dodge Stratus, but here are some of the most complained about on CarComplaints.com:
Founded by Ralph Nader, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a powerful pro-consumer organization that lobbies Congress & gets involved in legal battles with automakers. The CAS has written several high-profile letters to DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche in regard to the oil sludge problem with the Dodge 2.7l engine.
DaimlerChrysler hired a 3rd party company to handle defective 2.7L Engine warranty claims, but made it extremely hard to ever win a claim. To even receive consideration, the owner will need to have records indicating an oil change every 3,000 miles that were done only by a certified Chrysler or Dodge dealer. According to them, if you changed the oil in your car it's your fault. If you had another mechanic change the oil in your car, it's his fault. Awesome.
In a 2005 interview with The Plain Dealer newspaper, a Chrysler engineer, Burke Brown, stepped up and said that oil capacity may have been a factor with this engine's oil sludge defect. According to the him they started using a smaller oil sump so consumers could save on oil, giving the engine a five-quart capacity instead of six.
Despite all of this, DaimlerChrysler continues to deny any defect with their 2.7L engine. Unreal.
In May of 2005, Chrysler spokesman Sam Locricchio said the automaker had only 600 complaints on record and that some of those may be duplicates. A sharp contrast to the 2,800 complaints on record at the Center for Auto Safety, according to its executive director, Clarence M. Ditlow. Who do you believe?
Mr. Locricchio went on to say that “about 750,000 1998-2002 vehicles have the 2.7-liter V-6, and sludge failures are not a widespread problem.”
Chrysler claims that many of the complaints are duplicates, don't have vehicle identification numbers that match the complainant's name, or simply have "bad data."
“We can help or review cases of those who come to us directly, or if we are provided data to find the customer. If we don't have records, we can't begin to help.”Chrysler group spokesman Sam Locricchio.
Dealers also are reluctant to talk about sludge for fear of angering the manufacturer. When queried about sludge, one Chrysler dealer in the Northeast snorted, "Don't ask."
In contrast to what Chrysler says, this is a typical response from Chrysler Customer Service:
Thank you for your email to DaimlerChrysler regarding your 2000 Dodge Intrepid. Your concerns, particularly in view of the expense and inconvenience involved in this issue, are understandable. However, your request for consideration in this matter must be declined, because the vehicle in question has exceeded the time and mileage limitations of the manufacturer's warranty at the time the expense was incurred.
That is little consolation to owners who suddenly find themselves with a bill of $5,000 or more to replace an engine on a vehicle with only 60,000 miles, Mr. Ditlow said. He said that if poor maintenance alone were to blame, virtually every engine from every automaker would have a serious sludge problem. He finds it impossible to believe that maintenance scofflaws are all attracted to certain engines. The logical explanation is that poor maintenance affects some engines more than others, he said.
I was driving home from work right before Christmas when my engine shut down on me in the middle of the freeway during rush hour. Mechanic informed me it was engine failure due to sludge and would cost just over $6000.00 to fix. Instead of buying Christmas presents I was forced to buy a new car!mahamilton, 2001 Dodge Stratus
We bought this car with 25,000 miles on it. We had taken care of it, maybe not oil changes to the exact mile, but close. One day it started knocking. Sure enough it needed a new engine. Chrysler wanted all receipts and documents of oil changes. They stated there was sludge build up. We did come up with quite a few receipts, but not enough, my husband would change it in our driveway. We went round and round with Chrysler, for god sakes it only had 73,000 miles on it, how could it need a new engine?Stephanie M, 2001 Chrysler Sebring
For everyone having problems with 2.7 motor and sludge build up seizing the motor on your stratus I have some news. Chrysler set up a company strictly to deal with this problem. It is an undisclosed warranty. The reason for it is they don't want people randomly replacing motors. They will give you a good chunk of change towards the motor. They gave me about 1700 towards the purchase a used motor. Problem is supply and demand even used the motor is expensive. I don't know the number anymore but most mechanics do, that's how I heard of it. So ask your Dodge dealer, if they don't know anything about it they are lying.DHerrington, 2002 Dodge Stratus
This step is crucial. Don't just complain on forums. The sites below actually manage your complaint in ways that allow useful statistics, and they report dangerous trends to the authorities. Law firms contact these sites for help with Class Action lawsuits. Make sure to file your complaint on all three sites. We can't stress that enough.
If you have the patience, lodge a complaint with DaimlerChrysler Customer Service. Specifically mention that you're responding to their spokesperson's comments that they only have 600 complaints on the record.
1-800-992-1997 or 1-800-521-9922
Monday - Friday, 8:30AM-5:00PM EST
If you don't have the patience for the phone, send your complaint by mail to:
As far as we know, the only class action lawsuit filed so far was on September 24, 2007 for residents of New Jersey. Click here for more information.
Some are claiming that even with the defective engine it's possible to catch oil sludge early and prevent it from becoming a catastrophic mess.
If you see a sharp drop in oil pressure, drop your oil pan, check for signs of sludge and clean it out. Then buy a cheap filter and some oil and flush out your block. You will also need to clean your valves, which we recommend having a mechanic do.
What if you've already had oil sludge kill your engine and can't get DaimlerChrysler to help?
However you decide to fix your blown 2.7L V6 engine, do not put in another defective 2.7L engine. Find a mechanic to swap up to a 3.2/3.5L engine instead. Here's why:
Here's a thread about a successful 2.7 to 3.2L engine swap & what's involved.
Some companies sell "fixed" 2.7L V6 replacement engines that supposedly have been modified to fix the oil sludge defect. We have not heard back from enough owners who have gone this route to be able to form an educated opinion on this method. Usually though, the cost of the modified 2.7L engine is prohibitive.
Oil sludge is a hot topic and for good reason: thousands of Chrysler and Dodge owners feel like their being robbed by this widespread and costly defect.