Chrysler PT Cruiser Performance
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There is an internal stabilizer bar on the PT. It has been on all PT Cruisers ever built. However, when the car was first launched, it had a small internal stabilizer bar, which is why there was an additional external stabilizer bar on it. As a cost savings, sometime in 2002-3 model year, the internal stabilizer bar was increased in size (and thus stiffness), to the point that the external stabilizer bar was not needed (which meant there was no additional cost to assemble the bar to the axle, and no additional cost for stabilizer bar links, cushions, brackets, and fasteners). The roll stiffness performance of the early PT Cruisers is the same as the current model cars.
There are still brackets on the axle for stabilizer bars because cars in Europe require additional roll stiffness out of the back of the car. They also have a different internal stabilizer bar and different shocks. It does NOT mean you should be putting a stabilizer bar on the back of YOUR car. Driving conditions and behaviors are different in Europe, which is why there is a difference in tuning.
There was a change in shocks in 2003. Base model cars (15" tires) were retuned to provide a more comfortable ride. The roll feel was sacrificed a little to improve the ride. However, the roll feel did not change so much that it would feel unnerving.
[Webmaster note: the PT was originally designed with a relatively low production estimate, so cost per unit was not as important as it became when annual production passed 100,000 units (about 120,000 per year). That accounts for some of the changes to the 2006s, though better sound insulation and more visible gauges are definitely welcome! The second generation is likely to give up the modified Watts-type suspension because it's more expensive to make - more precision is needed in assembly.]
Spark plugs and wires
Many PTs had plug and wire problems leading to poor idle and lower than optimal gas mileage. Most people suggest Magnacore wires but any good brand should work. On plugs, opinions vary, with turbos and non-turbos having different needs.
Proper tire inflation, upgraded plugs and wires, forward-looking driving habits (e.g. slower acceleration and coasting to lights) all have an impact; some report better mileage from higher-flow air filters.
Texastaupe pointed out ASE Chips, which sells a $500 (currently on sale for $350) performance chip which removes the speed limiter. They claim it also boosts horsepower to 167 (from 150) and raises torque from 162 to 187 lb-ft. Their dyno chart shows gains across the board. ASE Chips also makes chips for other Chrysler/Dodge vehicles such as the Neon and Stratus.
When I first received my PT, I installed the Borla Dual Exhaust and K&N Filter. At first I did not notice much difference, but after about 200 miles the car came alive....my PT (stock except for the exhaust and air filter) runs stong and hard. Going from 0 to 110 with no problem.
And you ask how? The OBDIII computer learns your driving habits, and adjusts to them.
Meaning that since after the break-in period I have been on the gas, and it has learned that I like going fast and quickly. Although, I only get 18 to 20 miles per gallon. But for me that is an improvement. My RX-7s and Bronco got only about 10 mpg.
[I am] saying that the PT Cruiser is what you make of it. It has a lot of potential, but you have to understand that it has to understand you, as well as you understanding it.
Auto trans shift trick
Gary Howell wrote: Chrysler on the 4 speed autos prior to the PT had a safety that would shift them even locked in low 1 through the gears, but the shift points in low one were around 6300 RPMs. That is a trick the NHRA drag guys in stock classes were doing with the 4 speed autos. I doubt they have eliminated the safety, so it should still work with the PT. I would try it myself, but mine is a 5 speed. The stock rev limiter is at 6500 RPMs, so you should know if it will work before you get to the rev limiter and not hurt anything.
Disabling the air conditioner when in Defrost mode
A quick way to gain some power in winter. (A/C can still be used during defrost when desired by switching the fan control to the blue dots.)
1. Use a trim stick (soft tool to prevent marring), pry out window switch bezel on the dash.
2. Disconnect power window control switch (slide the red locking tab prior to removing connector), remove screw inside switch opening, use trim stick and pry out the center bezel assembly, gently lift up and out (has locating tabs at bottom) then remove bezel. The heater control knobs will also pop off, don’t worry the knobs are keyed so they can only be reinstalled in the correct position.
3. Just above and to the left of the heater/defrost select knob shaft are three ribbons of metal about an 1/8 inch wide. Drill a hole through the lowest one, making sure to sever it completely without cutting the one above it.
4. Reinstall the bezel (and the screw), heater control knobs (remember they—re keyed, don’t force them), and power window switch assembly (be sure to push the red locking tab back into place on the connector).
- Bezel removal instructions: PTCC Forum Member KC6iih
- Drilling instructions: Neons.org “How To Page” Duke Wilford
Suspension and Handling
- Progess front and rear antisway bars are now available for about $175. The front bar is 28 mm, the rear is 19 mm.
- Progess lowering springs cut front height 2 inches, rear height 1.8 inches ($200). However, you may want to experiment with spring clamps first (link goes to EEK, where some discussion on lowering clamps is recorded).
- Tires: we'd suggest contacting Tire Rack for an excellent array of performance tires at good prices. No, we don't get a commission! But tires are the #1 contributor to performance.
- Phantom Grip limited slip differential- This $300 unit replaces the spider gears in your differential. Manual transmissions only.
- It doesn't really improve performance much on a naturally aspirated engine...but the K&N air filter sounds nicer. Part 33-2153, about $30-45 depending on where you go. Probably very useful if you have a turbo.
- You can also build a custom system fairly cheaply with commonly available pipes and a K&N cone filter - this has the potential of better flow than the stock system, and those who have tried it say they like the engine sound better. MX5 wrote about his: "I used:
- 1 - 2 1/8ID exhaust pipe = $1.50
- 1 - radio mounting strap = $.79
- 1 - rubber washer (for vibrations) = $.10
- 1 - Mr. Gasket Co. #4354 4in chrome air cleaner = $14.99
- "I don't know if it's faster, but WOW is it louder. It sounds like the TV cop cars. Finally, the car sounds like it looks.... [photo]"
- Bill responded: "I got a length of resonator pipe (2 1/4" OD) with two flared ends, one end of which I cut off, the flared end fits like a glove into the intake hose. Then I got a cylindrical K&N filter and clamped it to the other end. I mounted the end of the filter to the fender wall with a plastic hanger strap. I have to back up your claim about the noise. At 3,000 rpm plus, IT HOWLS. Once it gets up to speed it sounds like it always did. ...The thing I like about it is all I have to do is loosen a couple of clamps and I can go back to stock in 5 minutes. The pipe cost $3.50 and the filter was $29.50. ... Performance seems the same except for the low end torque."
- Lords Performance Exhaust wrote: "We build H.P.exhaust systems for PT Cruisers that install easily, (1hr), do not require a resonater, and look O.E.M. (770)9321881, or Fax (770)932 2827."
- Borla has a dual exhaust system for $500; part 14917. That's a lot of cash for the performance increase, we suspect. Dynomax dealers can probably do something equally effective but cheaper.
- AFX Manufacturing head porting: Stage I smooths the casting, light bowl work, seat blending. $560. Stage 2 is the same, plus mild combustion chamber work, and mild port matching. $700. Stage 3 is the same, plus full race porting with reshaped ports, reshaped combustion chamber, and full port matching. $840.
- AFX also makes 55mm throttle bodies
- Coming soon: PaceSetter catback exhaust made from 2.5 inch mandrel bend tubing.
Ignition / computer
- Electronica Automotriz S.H. has a new performance computer which, due to changes to the rev limiter, results in a new peak horsepower (they claim) of another 18 hp at 7100 rpm. It also removes the speed limiter.
- Crane wires - 8.5 mm double-silicone reactive core spark plug wire. 100% pure silicone double jacketed. Kevlar reinforced reactive core. The wire around the core is copper-nickle. 400 ohm per foot. $32.
- Crane HI-6DI2 Ingnition Box for use on PT Cruisers - $320 (Requires the use of two tach adapters at $30 each).
The Crane HI-6DI2 is a CD ignition for use with two independent coil outputs. The unit is intended for distibutorless applications such as the Cloud Cars. The unit is 50 states legal for cars without OBDII. (CARB. E.O. D255-57) A RISC mircrocontroller manages all functions of the HI-6DI2 including intelligent multple spark, digitally set two stage rev limiter, 0-20 degree timing retard (requires optional HI-6TR), and diagnostics.
Other powertrain upgrades
- AFX Manufacturing has created a $180 AFX underdrive pulley for the 2001 PT Cruiser 2.4 Liter. It is light (under two pounds) and strong (made from aircraft grade aluminum), and reduces parasitic losses with a 30% underdrive. The center bushing is made of 304 stainless steel to prevent crankshaft galling, and provides the ability to remove and reuse the pulley repeatedly. Part: AFXPTP01S. Click here for details.
- Mopar Performance valve springs - high-pressure with damper, made of chrome silicone. Used on exhaust and intake valves. Shorter, fully compressed height. Allows for increased valve lift. Maintains spring load at higher RPM. Good with high performance cams. About $6 each.
- NitrousWorks nitrous oxide system: includes a 10lb bottle, pipes, jets, and fittings, $440.
- Howell Automotive, not surprisingly, has an oversized 55 mm throttle body.
Other parts will be listed over time. Please let us know if you hear of any, or post a note in the tech/performance forum.
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