Car Doctor Q&A: PT Cruiser or PITA Cruiser?

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There are times when you stare at the engine and think “What kind of idiot designed that?” That’s the initial impression of the spark plug locations on the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Yet, our intrepid expert John Paul has some advice to make it easier.

Q. I have a 10 year old PT Cruiser and it is misfiring according to the flashing check engine light. I want to put new spark plugs and spark plug wires on the car but it looks complicated.

There is no way you can get to the spark plugs because the intake manifold is in the way. I have changed plenty of spark plugs over the years but at least I could see them or at least feel around for them. Is there an easy way to do this?

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A. Changing the spark plugs in the PT Cruiser is not as bad as it looks. My wife had a PT Cruiser convertible up until a couple of years ago and although under the hood looks intimidating it isn’t too bad.

Changing the spark plugs requires removal of the top half of the intake manifold. The most complicated part of this operation is making sure you put all the vacuum hoses back where they came from. This is a great time to take out you camera-phone and take a couple of pictures before you take things apart. Better yet, take the 11 minutes and watch this great video from Ratchets and Wrenches on YouTube. It fully explains the process:

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You need only simple hand tools and a bungee cord. The bungee is used to hold the intake manifold out of the way when you are removing the spark plugs.

The one area you need to be very careful is when the manifold is apart to cover the lower half of the intake so nothing falls into it. I would recommend painters take so it stays in place. At this point removing the spark plugs is relatively simple. When installing the new spark plugs tighten them carefully, attach the new sparkplug wires and put everything back where it came from.

Considering the car is 10 year old I would also replace the intake manifold gasket.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.