Sparty’s Heart Trouble – That Pentastar 3.6L Problem

#vanlife .

Initially it did not seem like that engine error code would be a big deal.  A misfire on a van that has 90k miles with the original spark plugs?  Our van Sparty probably just needed a good injector cleaning and a new set of plugs.

I expected a quick trip to the dealer and probably a $1000 bill.  Then Sparty would be as good as new.  Yet as I sat waiting for word on his condition in the sales area of Daytona Ram, I began to worry.  Usually an hour or two would pass and the service rep would come by saying they had found the problem and they were well on the way to getting it fixed.  Yet there was no significant update as lunch time came.

As dinner approached, Manny, the service rep, said the van would not be ready at the end of the day.  He did seem optimistic, giving me a loaner car and the impression that all would be right the next day.

The following day I searched for what problems this code could presage.  There were lots of possibilities but the most disturbing one was that of a cracked engine cylinder head on the Pentastar 3.6L.  Most were for 2011 to 2013 vehicles but there were some accounts from owners of newer models.

A cracked cylinder head on a vehicle just over 4 years old?  No that couldn’t happen.  That Pentastar 3.6L should be bullet proof at this point.  Chrysler first installed this engine in 2011 and they put it in just about everything they have made since.

The dealer was thorough and took a few days to diagnose the problem.  It was the one I had feared:  cracked cylinder head.  It then took a few days of wrangling over the price and whether or not Chrysler would participate in making Sparty whole.  In the end Chrysler felt they had no part in an engine failing on a van that was only 4 years old.

The dealer ordered the parts and later the next week, the three days of engine work were complete.  Total cost including the injector cleaning, spark plugs and an oil change was $4,800.

We were lucky in one sense – the pandemic had us waiting things out in a Condo.  We were not living in our van.  One of a van dwellers top fears is your van being disabled and in the shop for weeks.  When we first started we actually carried a tent just in case this came up.  With a loaner car and a good campground one could get by until your home was out of the shop.

With a few thousand miles since major surgery we are happy to report that Sparty is doing fine and ready for new adventures.  Now Mr and Mrs Ram need vaccinations so we can all be ready to hit the road.



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