I bought this vehicle because a friend of mine had an earlier version and had had no problems aside from wind noise. When it came time for me to choose a car, I purchased a 1998 Amethyst Neon Expresso from a local Plymouth dealer. A sharp 5 speed manual transmission. Good gas mileage. What looked to be real winner. I was in love with its looks and performance...for a few months. It's been in the shop often. Wind noise - no biggie. Bad ignition system - big problem. The dealership wouldn't admit there was a problem with the ignition system and continued to replace spark plug wires and spark plugs (the no. 3 plug and wire kept frying). When the "check engine" light came on, they simply flashed the computer and reset it to run rich to cover the bad performance. I argued. I complained. I even complained to Plymouth about the dealership. Then I gave up.
The clutch bearing (not the clutch plate) went bad within 30,000 miles. I dropped $500 into a new clutch assembly and the new bearing is just as cheesy as the old one.
The original problem which prompted the "check engine" light, the flashed computer, etc., began at less than 10,000 miles. After being jerked around by the Chrysler dealership in Springfield, IL, I took it to a reputable mechanic and found out that Lou Craven had already alerted Chrysler to the problem long ago (after diagnosing Neon after Neon with the same problem). Bad engine sensors. Very Bad. Chrysler new that my car had a bad cam / and or crankshaft sensor. But rather than admit it and fix the problem, they preferred to tell me it was a bad spark plug, spark plug wire, elusive TSB (Technical Service Bulletin - that they wouldn't give me the number to), etc. My car's cam sensor was 75% off. When my mechanic went to order a replacement from Chrysler, lo and behold, they had changed the part number and the price (dropped from over $100 to $50 - which means they know there is a problem with the Cam sensor, but are not telling the mechanics until they order replacement parts.).
The test that diagnoses the problem is such:
1) With a dual trace digital storage oscilloscope, hook channel one to the cam sensor.
2) Hook channel two to a compression sensor. [This is a new type of sensor that hooks to the no. 1 spark plug hole and gives a digital readout on the oscilloscope of top dead center or peak compression.]
3) A pseudo square wave will be displayed on the oscilloscope from the compression sensor.
4) The signal being given by the Cam sensor should be triggering on the lead edge of the square wave from the compression sensor.
5) If the cam sensor signal does not line up on the lead edge of the compression sensor signal, then the cam sensor is not triggering at the right time, causing what would seem to be a misfire problem. This can burn out spark plugs and spark plug wires.
Our Chrysler dealership ran no diagnostic tests on our vehicle -- they simply re-flashed the PROM (a PROM can only be flashed 3 times. We have to purchase a brand new computer after it is flashed 3 times. Our expense, so sorry, too bad.) to richen the fuel mixture. This did not fix the problem; it only covered it up until it was out of warranty. And the mileage was decreased HORRIBLY (try 32 MPG highway at best.). The dealership took this action based on a TSB released by Chrysler corporation. From discussions I've had since we've discovered this problem, this seems to be a common problem with Chrysler vehicles, not just the Neon.
Now my car runs like a champ. I love my non-Chrysler mechanic. I hope to God the new sensor works better than the factory crap Chrysler originally used and wouldn't stand behind. I tell everyone I know about the lousy deal I got from the Springfield, IL dealership, from Chrysler in general, and how my next car will be a Toyota.
Chrysler, you owe me over $2000 in repairs.