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1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 3.5

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1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T... stay away!

by patrickcarm:      Dec 24, 2004 - Updated Dec 30, 2004

Product Rating: 1.0 Recommended: No 

Pros: Looks and power, when it worked
Cons: Really cheaply made, not reliable in the least, I walked more than I drove!
The Bottom Line: Please don't relive my experience! Buy a different car!

Being that I was 19 years old and getting rid of a 1989 Honda Accord, I wanted something more fun and with more power. Upon looking into different vehicles I decided on the '97 Eclipse GS-T Spyder because of its power and great looks, not to mention I couldn't afford the insurance on a Camaro Z28 which is what I really wanted. The woman I bought the car from was well off and didn't use it much (she owned multiple vehicles), therefore it had very little miles (30k) and all of the maintenance records. I figured that I couldn't go wrong, so I made a deal and the car was mine. I loved the car, the sound of the turbo spooling up and the blow off valve "pppssshhh" when the clutch is pushed will make your heart beat faster. It was also great because it had good acceleration and got good gas mileage (30mpg highway).

I changed the oil religiously with only mobil 1 synthetic and drove the car very lightly because I wanted it to last a long time. After owning the car for two years and having logged 30k mi (the car now had 60k) I decided to get the timing belt, water pump, accessory belts and transmission oil changed to the tune of $1200.00 (all scheduled maintenance). Shortly thereafter the car went downhill fast. The problem arose when driving around town. When I approached a stop and pushed in the clutch the car would idle down and either nearly die or die. I initially thought it must be a problem with the gas or spark so I inspected the wiring and gas lines, but found nothing wrong. Just to be sure I replaced the plug wires ($100) and the plugs themselves with bosch platinums, but to no avail. Becoming desperate I reset the computer, thinking it might have been adjusting the idle for some reason... of course this didn't work either (in the mean time I had to walk everywhere while the car sat in the garage). After a lot of contemplation, I finally decided to take the car to the local Mitsubishi dealership and pay the $80 diagnostic fee. Upon receiving a call from the mechanic I was shocked and my stomach turned. He informed me that my car had a problem called "crankwalk" that I had heard about on various DSM (Mitsubishi) forums, which is apparently a common problem on 95-99 Eclipses with the 2.0 liter turbo engine. What it means is that the engine parts aren't made to the right specifications and therefore the crankshaft wears out the bearings, creating a gap and allowing the shaft to move back and forth in the block when the clutch is let out/ depressed. My car started dying at stops when the clutch was pushed in because the crankshaft moved all the way to one side of the block and rubbed on the position sensor, causing the ECU to shut down the engine with the detected error.

The next question was: where do I go from here? The dealer quoted me $2500.00 for parts alone to replace the block, and stated that Mitsubishi would take no responsibility for the problem even though it's extremely common. I had already decided that I couldn't afford to get it fixed so I started looking into alternatives. Eventually my parents said that they would help me (I'm away at college), so I threw it on a car trailer and borrowed my sister's truck to tow it 300 miles to my parent's house. The next day my father traded it in for a 2001 VW GTI VR6 for my mom, and without noticing the problem the dealer gave us $7500.00.

Besides having a bad engine design and cheap parts I loved driving the car. It had quick pick up, good cornering abilities and satisfactory brakes. I never had any problems with the electrical system, windows or power top, and the top itself seemed to be durable as it was never replaced. Many people believe that convertibles always leak, but mine never did (of course I live in California, so it was never in any big storms). All of that sounds great, but believe me, there are many other cars on the road that have the same qualities without all of the problems.

In summary, if you don't understand any of the problems I stated about the car here is the translation: STAY AWAY!

In the two years I owned the car it lost half of its value and cost me more money than 10 of my '89 accords would have... in hindsight I wish I would have just kept that car. Many of my friends have cars that have over 100k mi on them, some of them close to 200k, and they are all more reliable than my Eclipse that fell apart at 65k. Beyond the engine problems I had to buy several plastic interior parts from Mitsubishi that broke because they were cheap. Overall this car was made very cheaply, both the interior and the exterior. The sheet metal is so thin that someone bumped me in a parking lot and left $800 worth of damage with no note. Even though I treated this car way better than my Accord, and I sincerely promise you that I treated it well (my girlfriend used to get mad because I wouldn't drive it anywhere, we always took her car), it fell apart like it was some old junker. I will NEVER buy another Mitsubishi, not even the coveted Evolution.

I am still reminded about my mistake every month when I make the car payment on my Eclipse even though I'm driving my parent's old explorer.

Please take my advice and stick to Hondas and Toyotas if you are thinking of buying a Japanese car. Even American cars are more reliable than Mitsubishis.

Amount Paid (US$): 14000
Condition: Used
Model Year: 1997
Model and Options: GS-T Spyder 5spd
Product Rating: 1.0
Recommended: No 
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