Halfway to Nowhere - 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye Long-Term Road Test
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2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye Long-Term Road Test

2013 Dodge Dart: Halfway to Nowhere

February 4 , 2014

2013 Dodge Dart

It's always a fun day when you start driving for the Bay.

I was getting a late start on my weekend plans in San Francisco, but figured with some luck, I'd be in the city by 7:00 p.m. I'd take the lazier US-101 route on the return trip, but I needed to make time on the arrival leg. The nav system chose the usual, technically shortest route across the East Bay into the city, but the Bay Bridge on a Friday night is no joke. Instead, I chose my preferred route up Interstate 5, west across Highway 152, then US-101 up through San Jose and Silicon Valley.

I made good time out of Los Angeles. I had an open sunroof, trail mix and jerky, and loaded playlists. Our 2013 Dodge Dart would be fine carriage for the 800-some round-trip miles. Once in the city, I'd park the car until Sunday afternoon.

Trouble began near Kettleman City, about halfway through the route in western California's agricultural badlands.

2013 Dodge Dart

Dipped my foot into the throttle in sixth gear to pass a rig and felt the first hiccup. As revs built, it felt like a fuel cut, maybe a slipping clutch. When I had space again, I was able to replicate it. Cruising was fine, however.

I was on the phone with my Mom, giving her the CliffsNotes on the Dart and its current relationship to Fiat. She made the predictable reference familiar to those old enough to remember the Italian automaker's reputation in America: Fix It Again, Tony.

That must have hurt the Dart. Shortly after we shared the joke, no more than a few minutes later, the car threw a check-engine light. I accelerated to see if the problem persisted and it did. The next off-ramp was about a mile ahead. Call ya back, Mom.

Gliding to the off-ramp was no problem, but accelerating from the stop sign at the bottom was exciting. The Dart spun, sputtered and creeped its way to the nearby gas and fast-food plaza. I opened the hood and, yep, something smelled crispy. No oil spray anywhere, oil level was fine. Not brakes. Clutch? Maybe.

I tried re-booting the Dart. Let it sit, did the door lock/ignition cycling. CEL remained on. Let's see how bad this really is. Drove it around the back of the strip mall and it struggled to reach 25 mph. Drove it back out on to the road toward the on-ramp, but the sputtering shook my confidence in the Dart's highway worthiness. I made a U-turn back to the Burger King.

I sat there for a few minutes considering my options. I could leave the Dart and try to fetch a rental from a nearby town. I could call AAA or Chrysler's roadside assistance. This diagnosis was beyond my limited mechanical knowledge and I leaned on dual theories of a fuel delivery problem or impending transmission failure. Maybe a tech could come out with a scan tool, re-boot the ECU and offer a worry-free explanation.

More likely, they'd hitch the Dart to a tow hook and head for the nearest garage. At 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, I wasn't hopeful for a quick fix. At this rate, I'd almost resigned to missing the first of two concerts I'd planned this trip around. San Francisco was still more than 200 miles away.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ almost 20,000 miles


Comments

  • jeepsrt jeepsrt Posts:

    Nothing worse than a break down on a road trip, back in '93 my Brother bought a brand new Eclipse GSX and was on his way to California from Colorado and 60 miles in all the wheels locked up. He left it on the side of the road for roadside assistance and took our Parent's car instead, he was not happy about it.

  • jeepsrt jeepsrt Posts:

    Nothing worse than a break down on a road trip, back in '93 my Brother bought a brand new Eclipse GSX and was on his way to California from Colorado and 60 miles in all the wheels locked up. He left it on the side of the road for roadside assistance and took our Parent's car instead, he was not happy about it.

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    Hmmm Fuel filter clogged, clutch is shot or at least slipping badly, or going out on a limb part of the air intake leading to the turbo started breaking and thus allowing unmetered air into the engine thus causing a knock condition in which the computer cuts fuel.------ Take your pick for this is the best I could come up with.

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    Hmmm Fuel filter clogged, clutch is shot or at least slipping badly, or going out on a limb part of the air intake leading to the turbo started breaking and thus allowing unmetered air into the engine thus causing a knock condition in which the computer cuts fuel.------ Take your pick for this is the best I could come up with.

  • jasond52 jasond52 Posts:

    Dirty MAF?

  • jasond52 jasond52 Posts:

    Dirty MAF?

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    Turbo failure - that's my guess. I can't imagine why it took so long to begin posting again on this car, but I'm very interested to hear how it bit the dust. I has supposed it was wrecked, but now it looks like the car quit in some spectacular way, which is even more reason not to buy one of these things.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    Turbo failure - that's my guess. I can't imagine why it took so long to begin posting again on this car, but I'm very interested to hear how it bit the dust. I has supposed it was wrecked, but now it looks like the car quit in some spectacular way, which is even more reason not to buy one of these things.

  • So are they pushing too far into the technological advancements with cars in the name of fuel economy or is it just a fluke that the Dart and the Mazda3 both melted down? After years of driving 20+ year old cars on trips like the one listed it was great to finally take a 'reliable' new car on them, however these posts are making me hesitant to 'upgrade' to an even newer car now.

  • So are they pushing too far into the technological advancements with cars in the name of fuel economy or is it just a fluke that the Dart and the Mazda3 both melted down? After years of driving 20+ year old cars on trips like the one listed it was great to finally take a 'reliable' new car on them, however these posts are making me hesitant to 'upgrade' to an even newer car now.

  • evodad evodad Posts:

    yeah this just isn't supposed to happen on a new car. @jeepsrt, the 1st gen DSM's were known to have transfer case problems - although it's been so long since I've been active on DSM forums, I don't recall the actual reasoning behind it). Same thing happened to a friend of mine (granted the car was 12yo at the time). But it's a common known issue/potential issue on DSM forums.

  • evodad evodad Posts:

    yeah this just isn't supposed to happen on a new car. @jeepsrt, the 1st gen DSM's were known to have transfer case problems - although it's been so long since I've been active on DSM forums, I don't recall the actual reasoning behind it). Same thing happened to a friend of mine (granted the car was 12yo at the time). But it's a common known issue/potential issue on DSM forums.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Aw, man, you hinted at the demise of the Dart 4 weeks ago, and it took this long to say anything, and still, no real report about the outcome, just this teaser. You meanie.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Aw, man, you hinted at the demise of the Dart 4 weeks ago, and it took this long to say anything, and still, no real report about the outcome, just this teaser. You meanie.

  • I would guess a missfire.

  • I would guess a missfire.

  • I LOVE IT!!!!! So... who here still wants to defend this sh!tpile of an automobile?

  • I LOVE IT!!!!! So... who here still wants to defend this sh!tpile of an automobile?

  • ajac03 ajac03 Posts:

    It still boggles my mind how new vehicles can have problems like these.. this and the mazda 3. If I was in the market for a new car, I would definitely not opt for the Dart, seeing all the electrical gremlins this thing has. This is based off of other long term reviews as well, aka Car and Driver.

  • ajac03 ajac03 Posts:

    It still boggles my mind how new vehicles can have problems like these.. this and the mazda 3. If I was in the market for a new car, I would definitely not opt for the Dart, seeing all the electrical gremlins this thing has. This is based off of other long term reviews as well, aka Car and Driver.

  • Last month's fuel economy report indicates whatever the problem is, it was serious enough to remove the Dart from the fleet and/or kill it outright. Should be fun to see... Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for all the Dart apologists (and - HA! - owners) to weigh in on how wonderful this POS really is...

  • Last month's fuel economy report indicates whatever the problem is, it was serious enough to remove the Dart from the fleet and/or kill it outright. Should be fun to see... Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for all the Dart apologists (and - HA! - owners) to weigh in on how wonderful this POS really is...

  • Still waiting, kiddies! C'mon, you're brave enough to downvote my comments... let me hear you! Defend the indefensible!

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    all posts deleted from the blogs, now all seem to double post. Get with it Edmunds, reporting the issues doesn't seem to have any effect. all posts deleted from the blogs, now all seem to double post. Get with it Edmunds, reporting the issues doesn't seem to have any effect. all posts deleted from the blogs, now all seem to double post. Get with it Edmunds, reporting the issues doesn't seem to have any effect.

  • jasond52 jasond52 Posts:

    This site continues not to give a crap about the users experience.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    all the dang comments have been restored as of 5 minutes ago

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    @nukedetroit2 So kiddo you've come back even after the community pretty much stopped caring all that much about your posts besides hitting the downvote button on the way to the newest comment. ----------------------------------------------------------- As

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    @nukedetroit, too many things went wrong with this car so I won't defend it. but you seem to take great joy in it's misfortune, my main objection to your often repeated derogatory posts. If it turns out to be the failure of a vendor supplied part, do yo

  • Having followed the various Dart forums on & off since I was shopping this car last year, the culprit here has to be the transmission (DDCT). Actual hardware breakdown reports in the forums were rare. The poor ownership experience was mainly due to how it performed. My summary of ownership issues reported would be: 70% throttle programming, 20% shift programming, 10% hardware issues. There was a TSB for flashing the ECU to revise the tranny programming. But some owners reported that the reflash caused check-engine lights & other gremlins under certain circumstances. On the other hand, everyone who bought an aftermarket throttle boosters said the car drove 100% better. Regardless, I would be hard-pressed to buy a car with this transmission. (Source: http://www.dodge-dart.org/forum/dodge-dart-transmission/)

  • noburgers - Thank you for your considered and well-reasoned reply. I do indeed take "great joy" in this latest - and rather indisputable - evidence that the Dart is the single worst new automobile currently for sale in the United States, simply because I've been saying that right from the start. Despite the bleatings of unfortunate owners (who have no one to blame for their decisions to buy Darts but themselves) and even the rather lame attempts by Edmunds staff to cast a fine polish upon this piece of [non-permissible content removed], it has been made repeatedly and abundantly clear that no one with an IQ above 80 should ever see a Dart - a product cobbled together by two of history's least competent automakers - and say, "that's a car I should spend my money on." And now, as I predicted, we've reached a moment where not even Edmunds will be able to spin this one - the car is dead, or at least out of the fleet, because the Dart is garbage. That needs to be shouted in the faces of the masses too stupid to make a reasoned decision themselves. Even a Daewoo Cruze is a better choice in this segment; that's how pitiful this purported "car" is.

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