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2008 Dodge Nitro 3.7L
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Preface: I am not a mechanic, I have very little knowledge when it comes to working on cars. My gf bought this car for $1,500 already with high mileage and probably never cared for. Oil changes most likely not done on time, and nothing else done. Even my girlfriend was riding on 4 bald tires, past oil change date, no tag no insurance when I got to the vehicle.

Hello, I have been dealing with my girlfriend's 2008 Dodge Nitro 3.7L for the past month roughly, which means a month of learning about Nitros via these forums. I told her last year with 259K miles on it, and her experience, she needed to get a new car or put money into this one. She likes her Nitro so she chose to keep it. We put 4 new tires on it, got the insurance, tag, etc. taken care of (yes, she had no ins or tag), I bought a new gas cap and put it on for her (she didn't have one for months), then we had the oil changed. Everything was fine until the oil change.

The car always had a very slight shakiness to it that was hard to notice. Now,a day after the oil change, it didn't want to crank. I got it to crank, it was extremely shaky, the longer it was sitting there, it would get worse. Days later I would notice this was due to the engine heating up. If it's cold it will crank up fine, but the higher the temp gauge got (up to normal operating temp) the lower it would idle and the shakier it would get until it would just die. The shakiness is BAD around 500RPM, it goes away until it's almost gone entirely around 3K RPM.

I digress: I ran the OBD2 reader and received the following codes:

P0300 - Powertrain
Random/Multiple Cylinder Misfire Detected

P0303 - Powertrain
Cylinder 3 Misfire Detected

P0456 - Powertrain
Evaporative Emission Control System Leak Detected

So I went and got a spark plug for Cyl 3 as that was the easiest and fastest possible solution. I disconnected the cables, took the boot/cap/whatever it's called off, cleaned the bottom, took out the plug (it looked really rough), put the new in with the grease applied as recommended, put the top back on it, reconnected the wires, and cranked her up.It cranked right up at first. Seems to run better, but it all slowly came back.

A day or so later it was fully blown back to where it was, and now it would crank half the time. The other half it would just spin the ignition with the ETC light on. If that happened the solution was to turn the key to the off position and immediately back on and it would crank. This entire time mind you we were having to drive with both feet to be safe. A lot of the time we would have to hold down the break and keep the RPM's above 1K to make sure the car wouldn't cut off in traffic.

So I go to AutoZone, get a bottle of CRC Throttle Body and Air Intake cleaner as well as SeaFoam fuel line cleaner. I make sure from the hose bringing in air to the front, to the box, to the air filter, to the next hose are all clean of debris, in place, and look fine. I pop open the Throttle Body, (the back definitely had gunk but it wasn't too bad), clean it up, make sure it's dry, and pop it back on. I pour the SeaFoam into the gas and let it set for a little while.

Now when I crank it up it cranks up perfectly, idles at 1.2K RPM, no shake, everything is perfect. Few hours later and we're back to where we were. So I do the OBD2 reader again. This time P0300 is greyed out, P0303 is greyed out, and so is P0456 which my system tells me is fine they are old codes. But now we have new ones!

B3004 - Body
No information

P0204 - Powertrain
Injector Circuit - Cylinder 4

At this point I'm not going to keep throwing money at it until I know what's going on and we weren't having this issue until we got the oil changed (not saying it couldn't have been coming) so to be safe I take it back to the mechanic and tell him to look at it. My girlfriend dropped it off Friday at 10:30am. She called back today at 1:30pm. I thought she was jus going to ask if they had a chance to look at it, but she tells them she hasn't heard back and wanted to see what's going on, so who knows, maybe he felt rushed. Either way he calls back maybe 10-20 minutes later and says there's zero compression in Cylinder 3 and she needs a whole new motor that he'll call back with the estimate.

Do we have any options other than look for a new car here? I'm not willing to sink much more money into this thing. It's old, it's worn out, it was never cared for, and I just don't want to risk it. But if there's something on the cheaper side that can be done I'm willing to try it if it will keep her on the road for now. I work from home and rarely do I ever leave the house so I'm fine, she can't stand the thought of working from home so she needs a vehicle. Getting a new one will be rough with my rebuilding credit and her having no credit with no co-signers. So I'm struggling here to find a ray of light and I'm hoping someone here can help.
 

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Low compression probably means a blown head gasket--not the cheapest repair, or worse, a dropped valve seat (any other sounds of engine damage??)

Seafoam isn't the greatest for modern 4-stroke engines--it's originally for 2-stroke marine engines.
Run a can of Redline SI-1 cleaner (or other high-PEA product) through a tank of gas.

You didn't say how many miles the Nitro had.
These can run for 200-300k miles if cared for, although some of the caring can be expensive once it gets to high mileage.
At high mileage (150-200k) some of the things you might need to consider:
  • new head gasket
  • new timing chain kit (the guides wear out)
  • valve train overhaul (rockers, lash adjusters, springs)

For yours I'd:
  • replace all the plugs (it takes cheap NGKs, $20 to do all 6)--they need to be replaced every 30k anyways--just doing plugs can make a big difference.
  • cam position sensor
  • crank position sensor
  • coil packs (if new sensors don't fix it, coils usually last a really long time, but you if you're still getting misfires)
- an easy test is to just swap coil packs between cylinders and see if the misfire also moves cylinders.

Also:
- completely flush the coolant--you never know what was in there, and it's the most important thing in these besides good fresh oil.
 

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2008 Dodge Nitro 3.7L
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Low compression probably means a blown head gasket--not the cheapest repair, or worse, a dropped valve seat (any other sounds of engine damage??)

Seafoam isn't the greatest for modern 4-stroke engines--it's originally for 2-stroke marine engines.
Run a can of Redline SI-1 cleaner (or other high-PEA product) through a tank of gas.

You didn't say how many miles the Nitro had.
These can run for 200-300k miles if cared for, although some of the caring can be expensive once it gets to high mileage.
At high mileage (150-200k) some of the things you might need to consider:
  • new head gasket
  • new timing chain kit (the guides wear out)
  • valve train overhaul (rockers, lash adjusters, springs)

For yours I'd:
  • replace all the plugs (it takes cheap NGKs, $20 to do all 6)--they need to be replaced every 30k anyways--just doing plugs can make a big difference.
  • cam position sensor
  • crank position sensor
  • coil packs (if new sensors don't fix it, coils usually last a really long time, but you if you're still getting misfires)
- an easy test is to just swap coil packs between cylinders and see if the misfire also moves cylinders.

Also:
- completely flush the coolant--you never know what was in there, and it's the most important thing in these besides good fresh oil.
I said 259K miles on the second paragraph for last year, it's at around 263K now.

It's far from taken care of lol. The last owner didn't care if it died or not and my girlfriend said she didn't know she was supposed to take it to the mechanic regularly for anything other than oil changes. I didn't know plugs could be that cheap, I paid $10+tax for one at AutoZone (not many options here).

Does having almost no tools, zero experience on anything you mentioned outside of spark plugs, and at best $10-20 (mostly for bills, partially for saving for a new car) a week to put towards it make a difference? We don't want to put much into something dying and she finally sees the light and will be saving for a new vehicle instead.

I will say, after removing the throttle body and cleaning it thoroughly, it ran perfectly for 2-3 minutes before it started doing it again.It also runs better since we got it back from the mechanic and no longer just cuts off on us, still idles very rough and gets shaky going from 35-40MPH but runs better after 40MPH.

Thanks for the reply!
 

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Okay. When you said "I told her last year with 259K miles on it, and her experience, she needed to get a new car or put money into this one" I read it as the 259k was referring to her other car--but after rereading it I see now.

Yes, that is indeed pretty high mileage. Having a very low budget and few tools does make it more difficult to maintain almost anything. However, the more you can do for yourself the more money you can save--especially if you can borrow the tools you need. Experience doesn't matter--you can learn anything these days online.

I started about 3 years ago with almost no experience maintaining mine, and so far have learned and done nearly every maintenance item I can think of. None of which it turns out have actually been that complicated. (Not all easy--stuck fasteners or hard-to-reach, etc, but still in concept simple.)

If you search the forum you can find the link and password for the chilton online manual which has detailed maintenance diagnostics and instructions for removal/installation of just about every part and system.

It's possible that a very high mileage vehicle is not actually within your budget--they often do require more maintenance. Only you can know and decide that. When maintained well, these like many other models can run and last for a long time--but there's usually a price for that.
 

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2008 Dodge Nitro 3.7L
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Okay. When you said "I told her last year with 259K miles on it, and her experience, she needed to get a new car or put money into this one" I read it as the 259k was referring to her other car--but after rereading it I see now.

Yes, that is indeed pretty high mileage. Having a very low budget and few tools does make it more difficult to maintain almost anything. However, the more you can do for yourself the more money you can save--especially if you can borrow the tools you need. Experience doesn't matter--you can learn anything these days online.

I started about 3 years ago with almost no experience maintaining mine, and so far have learned and done nearly every maintenance item I can think of. None of which it turns out have actually been that complicated. (Not all easy--stuck fasteners or hard-to-reach, etc, but still in concept simple.)

If you search the forum you can find the link and password for the chilton online manual which has detailed maintenance diagnostics and instructions for removal/installation of just about every part and system.

It's possible that a very high mileage vehicle is not actually within your budget--they often do require more maintenance. Only you can know and decide that. When maintained well, these like many other models can run and last for a long time--but there's usually a price for that.
Thank you for the response. I'm considering going to a Pull A Part a couple of hours away with a family members truck if she really wants to invest the money in repairs. They have a couple 07 Nitros and a 08, will have to go and see what engines they have in them and go from there.

I do have a new impact driver with some stuff for it including a metric socket set and an extension. Have a drill too, socket wrenches, pliers, screw drivers, hammer, and a few other basics. So outside of speciality tools I shouldn't be too bad off honestly.

If she really wants to do it I'm going to have her do it all while we do it. New radiator, new heater core, new water pump, new hoses (a LOT of her stuff is dry rotting), and anything else I deem to be reasonable price and need to be done. AC doesn't work well and she has no heat, so may as well do everything. Brakes and brake pads too.

If this is truly what she wants to keep this car, I'll do all of the work, be it manuals, videos, etc. but it's going to be as new as possible and she's going to learn to take care of her vehicles (proper maintenance at the very least). I see it as a good teaching opportunity. Before I lost my job to COVID and lost my vehicle it never missed a maintenance at a mechanic I trust, she'll need to learn to do the same.

I'm willing to do the work, wish I had a mechanic friend nearby to watch over me as I do it, just to warn me before I do something potentially horrible or teach me tricks and tips, but it is what it is. Trial by fire I guess lol. It's also good experience as I hope to get a project car and this will be a good skill to have.

I'll let her know her options and potential costs, pros and cons. It's her vehicle, I don't really go out much and I work at home so it's all her choice.

If she chooses to buy the parts or the whole new engine and I work on it I'll come back and document the journey, it might even help others some day if I do.

Thanks again for the info! I think this route will be good experience for me and her and will be much cheaper than a new car (pullapart engine, assuming it's good, is only $325), so we'll see what she decides!
 

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Well good luck, and happy to help answer questions if I can.
Also check out the other nitro forum"z". I'm not sure which is more active, but feels like the other one has more activity, and possibly more info.
 
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