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1996 Dodge Stratus

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 3.5

Reviewed by 21 users

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beckish is an Advisor on Epinions in Online Stores & Services

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1996 Dodge Stratus: A Truly Disposable Car

by beckish:      Jul 8, 2007

Product Rating: 1.0 Recommended: No 

Pros: Looks nice.
Cons: Disposable, in the true sense of the word.
The Bottom Line: If you want lots of experience fixing your car, this is a great choice!

My daughter bought a 1996 Dodge Stratus about three years ago. The records that came with the car indicated that the previous owners had maintained it nicely. At first it ran pretty well; there was a minor problem with the power steering but we got that resolved with relatively no trouble.

I inherited the car from her last year, in exchange for the money she owed me. I thought I was getting a deal. Boy was I wrong. From the moment we took the car into our possession, things started to go wrong with it. My younger daughter was driving home in it one day and called us in a panic, saying it was making a loud weird noise when she turned and the battery light was on. She was only two miles away, so we told her to baby it home. She made it, fortunately.

My husband took a look at the engine and discovered that the fan belt was simply gone. It was amazing she got home. We bought a new fan belt, figuring it could not be that hard to install. My son-in-law showed up with a car repair manual and he and his brother started to work on the fan belt. Even with instructions, it turned out to be a hopeless cause. They did discover that a second belt was also broken, however.

A friend of my daughter's who is a mechanic cheerfully volunteered to come over and replace the belts, for which we were very grateful.

Next, the battery started to go dead if the car was not driven for one day. Easy fix, we thought. Get a new battery. So we did. Now, I am not very car-knowledgeable, but I have been able to change over a few batteries in my time. Pretty simple, right? Open the hood, remove the old battery, install the new battery. Wrong. On a 1996 Dodge Stratus, it just doesn't work that way.

I go out to the car and open the hood. Hmmm. No battery anywhere to be seen. I go off and get the manual and discover that the battery is located underneath the engine near the front passenger tire. Strange, but that is the way a lot of Dodge cars are designed. The Dodge Intrepid lemon we had for a short while also had the battery located in the same spot, a fact I realized after I thought about it. With that car something had to be removed in order to access the battery - I think it was the air cleaner but I am not positive. So my husband started trying to figure out what came out of this engine in order to change the battery.

Turns out the battery has to be accessed by taking a tire off and jacking up the car. Now, how convenient is that?? When none of our jacks would raise the car high enough to do the job, we gave up and took it into a local Les Schwab tire place and asked them to do it for us. They did so and tested the old battery - but there was nothing wrong with it so they didn't change it out. There we were with a brand new battery we didn't need. The charging problem seemed to resolve itself, however, and the battery holds a charge for a few days now before going dead.

Next a weird vibration started when we were going at slow speeds. After a couple days, the vibration got terrifying at high speeds. We made it back to town from work (after driving 30 some miles at highway speeds) and went to Les Schwab. One of the tires had started shredding, with the steel belting snapping. Another five minutes and they said the tire would have blown. At 60 miles an hour, it is likely we would not have survived the accident. It is important to note that this tire was in very good condition and the mechanic could not figure out why it wore the way it did. We were told to check the tires daily to ensure it didn't happen again.

A couple weeks later, we had to replace the brakes. They should not have needed replacing for quite a while based on the last time they had been replaced, though. Then, the heater controls went out and the heater would only work in the defrost setting. Next, the car began intermittently refusing to start. Starter is fine; the mechanic can't figure out what the issue is. And now the muffler needs to be replaced. Or at least that is what we think it is. For all I know it needs a whole new exhaust system!

We are talking all of these mishaps in the space of a few months. I have had used cars before, but none so unreliable as this 1996 Dodge Stratus. Granted, things break on cars and have to be replaced, but our experience with this car has been horrible. Talk about lemons! My daughter wanted it because she liked the way it looked. I prefer cars that are reliable, and I can tell you I will NOT buy another Dodge. This is the third one we have had trouble with. And they are simply not worth the trouble! Dodge means disposable in our household!


In a word, NOT. I absolutely hate driving this car because the top of my head brushes the ceiling. I am not a tall person, and I have fairly short legs. In order to comfortably reach the gas and brake pedals, I have to move the seat forward quite a ways. This causes my head to touch. My husband doesn't have the problem because his legs are longer. The seat is supposed to be adjustable up and down, but adjusting it results in it sloping rather than remaining level. Makes for a very uncomfortable driving experience.

Being a passenger is not much better. The front seat has adequate leg room, but anyone with long legs stuck in the back is in for an unhappy ride.

With the windows closed, this car drives fairly quiet. If you open the windows, though, you can't hear the person next to you. Very poor design apparently.


Yes, there actually is one! The trunk is roomy and can carry quite a bit of cargo. Oh, did I mention the trunk latch stopped working? Now you have to access it by lowering the back seats and crawling through to manually push on the latch while the person outside turns the key and pushes the trunk lid down. There is no interior switch to open the trunk. How is that for convenient?

Final Thoughts

I will never purchase another Dodge of any kind and I can't recommend them to anyone. We have owned three now; a Dodge Intrepid in which the engine had to be replaced with only about 50,000 miles on it, the Dodge Stratus, and a Dodge Colt that needs the linkage fixed - for the third time. Choose a different make of car if you want reliability!
Amount Paid (US$): 500.00
Condition: Used
Model Year: 1996
Product Rating: 1.0
Recommended: No 
Build Quality  
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