It didn’t take long after the 2011 Chrysler 200 release date for owners to start complaining that their dream car was turning into a nightmare. That’s because the car’s engine was dangerously prone to shutting off when idling or coming to a stop without any warning signs of when it would happen.
The Narcoleptic Tendencies of Chrysler’s 3.6L V6 Engine
Of all the owner complaints sent to CarComplaints.com and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), many of them had striking similiarites:
- The engine would only die when at idle or when decelerating
- There were no warning indicators or signs that it would happen
- Once the key is turned to “off”, the vehicle could be restarted
- Diagnostics showed no computer codes indicating failure
This all happened very early in the engine’s life-cycle too, with the average reported mileage of when the problem occured at 11,632 miles:
“I have a brand new car, two months in is when the trouble started. Just driving down the road the engine shuts off for no reason. Not only has this happened one time, but how about four times and one time on a rail road track.” Linda L., of Bolton, Mississippi
“I have had my Chrysler 200 S a little over a month and during rush hour traffic, at a red light the car just shut off. No lights, no bells or whistles nothing. Went to accelerate after the light turned green and nothing. If you are considering buying this vehicle with the 3.6 V6 I would suggest that you don’t.” Steve K., of Holland, PA
Some suspected the battery was to blame, while others were focused on the CAM sensors. Eventually the problem became too big for NHTSA to ignore.
NHTSA Opens an Investigation Into Stalling Problems
The investigation covered an estimated 87,288 vehicles. NHTSA said they received at least 15 incidents of “stalling without warning during low-speed deceleration such as braking for a stop sign or traffic light”.
At the time, Chrysler said it would cooperate with NHTSA, but couldn’t resist patting themselves on the back in the process. Eric Mayne, a Chrysler spokesman wrote:
“Chrysler Group’s Pentastar V6 is an award-winning engine featured in 12 models across three brands and has accumulated millions of miles of problem-free driving,” “Performance by any engine is subject to numerous factors, from fuel quality to software. The complaints in this case occurred infrequently and did so only in low-speed, low-risk situations, such as coming to a stop.”
Low risk? You mean like having the engine die in an intersection? How about on train tracks? Or maybe you mean when slowing down to take a sharp corner and almost falling off a steep ravine because the power steering turned off along with the engine – you mean that kind of low risk, Eric?
A Software Fix to Prevent Future Engine Stalls
Before NHTSA could finish their investigation, Chrysler announced they had identified a Powertrain Control Module (PCM) defect in their 3.6L engines – yep, those same “award-winning ones” with “millions of miles of problem-free driving.” Turns out the PCM was initiating a purge monitor check while the engine was at idle or slowing down. The purge resulted in an “overly rich vapor condition [that] caused the engine to stall”1.
To fix the issue, Chrysler developed a software patch which reprograms the PCM. The patch was released as part of a “customer satisfaction program” in September 2012. Soon thereafter, NHTSA closed their investigation.
While it’s great that a fix was found, it’s curious that NHTSA didn’t force Chrysler to issue a recall due to the problem being classified as “low risk.” Any owner with this problem should contact their local dealership or Chrysler at 800-992-1997 to verify that their car has received the patch.