First Car tuning, would like help.


  1. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    Hello! I am 15 and i have gotten my first car as a gift... The catch is the engine is seized. No problem I say I'll pull it out and rebuild it! So to give some background information, the enging seized and the car is a 1996 Dodge avenger and the particular engine is a DOHC 2.0 L 420A I4 (Same as a neon) and it has the stock manual 5 speed in it, the chasis, transmision, and the engine have roughly 200,000 miles on them. Also I BELIEVE the main crank bearings blew. So I have been saving for the past 6 months and I am at a grand totall of $890 with at least another $150 coming in january. I am asking you guys or help. I plan on beefing the engine up with the transmission being able to support it. I also plan to redo the suspension. Now do you fellas have any advice for parts [Or manufacturers] I would like to get a high preformance cylinders, cylinder head, exhaust manifold, intake manifold, and exhaust systems, (I know I cant afford all :( )I own the required tools to rebalance the engine and to check compresion as my grandfather built drag racing engines and when he died my father enhareted all of his tools.

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  2. Speed Daemon

    Speed Daemon Disabled

    Already having a complete set of tools is half the battle when you're doing it yourself. My own requirements are V-8 (or greater) so I don't know anything about fixing up an I-4 car. Good luck though.
    Nbgorman likes this.
  3. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    Thank you! I am planing on re-balancing the engine as well as de-glazing the cylinders,
    And yes, I am fortunate enough to have 3 full tool cabinets and a 100gl air compressor with a set of air wrenches/tools.

    I am only experienced on V8s as well (just three) my first complete rebuild and actually my only one was when I was helping my dad fix our '68 vette, 427ci Chevrolet engine, but that happened about 8 years ago, second most experience on has been a 3.9 liter v8 of my dads ls, then the '69 Chevrolet c10 pickups small block v8 which I have had minimal experience working on (changing out belts and clearing a carb)
  4. Bob Maxey

    Bob Maxey Well-Known Member

    Add a shop manual. And remember, Google is your friend. Good luck.
    Nbgorman likes this.
  5. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    Thank you to you as well! Shop manual, hmm good Idea haha that's one thing I would NOT have guessed haha, but I will have to dig around for it, might go over my dads chasis engineering book, probably wont need it except if I do end up messing with the suspension as im trying to get the old girl into sports... sports tires haha might be difficult with a $900 budget, but I think it will be a fun first car after I'm finished ... fun haha
  6. Davdi

    Davdi Well-Known Member Contributor

    It may be obvious but....
    protective gloves are a good idea.
    label everythng as you dismantle it (and photograph the process as well). Makes re-assembly MUCH easier when you know what goes where and can actually find it.
    For some cheap extra power, a good free-flow exhaust/Manifold system is hard to beat. I had ine on my 1973 Triumph Dolomite (1850cc very compact car) and gained 10% power and an extra 6MPG _ 36, up from 30. Just from letting the engine breathe properly.
    Nbgorman likes this.
  7. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    I DO have a magnaflow muffler, and I always planned on putting proper exhaust in but its difficult to find a manufacturer/ dealer with proper headers/pipes that were designed to be installed on a '96 Dodge avenger. Albeit my dad is an industrial and mechanical engineer and have access to good bending equipment I am taking an engineering class as well soo it would be simple enough to MAKE one... but that doesn't guarantee a performance exhaust.
  8. chknhwk

    chknhwk Well-Known Member

    From a fellow tuner I would have to first ask what are your intentions with the car? My advice to new drivers is save on the mods, just make the car reliable and safe and spend your money on driver's education events. You'll get WAAAAAAY more for your money in the form of knowledge and experience. Start with some teen driving schools then upgrade to HPDE (high performance drivers education). Going this route will do a lot for you by imbibing in you better car control and a good look at what the car needs. Now don't get me wrong, modifying a car is fun but you get better bang for your buck once you find the weaknesses and address them first. Good luck!
    Speed Daemon likes this.
  9. Speed Daemon

    Speed Daemon Disabled

    Right on, chknhwk! HPDE should be the norm, not the exception IMO! Although HPDE wasn't really a concept when I took driver's ed., our instructors did allow the more advanced students do things like spin-outs and panic stops to get the feel for how cars behave at and beyond their limits. (This was long before electronic controls; not even ABS.) Although not a lot of my teenage peers could successfully use something like opposite lock steering, or resist the urge to panic and continue to drive the car when something exceptional happened, those of us who did had a real edge.

    Good "bang for the buck" advice too! IME, mods that were the best bang for the buck in one model year can be a lot of wasted effort in other model years. That's one of the reasons why I only buy cars with plenty of aftermarket parts support, and a large enthusiast community for that exact make and model.

    As an example, one model of car that was well known to respond well to swapping in full length tubular headers to replace the factory "shorty" headers was the biggest bang for the buck mod. But the same model with the new style motors went back to cast iron "log" manifolds. Thanks to the collective experience of the community, I didn't waste my time and money on headers (that were a tough install for a lot less gains than before) and spent my money on a 3.73 final drive (giving more grunt to the smaller displacement motors) and a computer tune. I never would have figured that out on my own!

    If you have a speed shop with a chassis dyno nearby, that's the best way to do a computer tune (something you'll want to do on any EFI motor), and a great way to measure just how efficacious other mods really are.
  10. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I didnt even think about that. I have decided last week that I will NOT be upgrading the engine... yet... I Have found things that NEED worked on... The roof LEAKS... NOO!!!!! Went out to take some pictures after a rain... Looked down in the back and saw a puddle... Crap... So after I fix the roof... hopefully there is no chassis damage (steel under the back floor) because if there is im screwed, I have 3 acetylene welders but dont quite know how to use them... so I have decided that I will upgrade the motor the original way (Balancing only) Up to the point where I have enough money to purchase and install the parts. But we will see. And here are the pictures of the car https://picasaweb.google.com/111707120409569360721/Avenger?authuser=0&feat=directlink
  11. Speed Daemon

    Speed Daemon Disabled

    Nice pics! It looks like you have 9/10ths of what could be a good-looking, reliable and decent performing road car that's within a reasonable budget.

    Knowing what I know now, I'd find the cheapest way to get the motor running and the car on the road. If your motor's bottom end is seized, or if water in the cylinders caused hydro-lock, you might be better off dropping the entire engine/transaxle assembly and replacing the whole thing with one from a wrecked car in a junkyard. Just make sure that the yard guarantees the parts to be in working condition before you buy!

    As far as the leak goes, I hope that you have a sunroof, bad side window seals or something other than the bodywork that's causing the leak. Something that a new set of seals will fix. A car of that age shouldn't have holes in the sheet metal. If it is rusted away that much, you could be better off selling the whole car for scrap, and looking for a better project car. Don't become too attached to the thing.

    Don't know how to weld? Get some scrap steel and practice. Oxy-actelyne welding isn't very popular these days, now that electric arc welding (including MIG and TIG) have become affordable. But if gas welders are all you have, you might as well use them. A good first project is to build your own rear strut brace. Stuff like that can help handling, and the raw materials are cheap enough that you can toss them and start over if you make a major mistake.

    Another thing you can do to get free horsepower is to do a little grinding and polishing of the intake manifold to improve air flow. You can also dress up the engine compartment with polished metal intake tubing and a K&N air filter to replace that ugly air box. You can buy intake kits with various pre-made elbow bends. All you need to do is mock it up, take measurements, cut the tubing as needed and use silicone rubber sleeves to join the plumbing. You can build your own sheet metal heat shield and brackets to separate the air inlet from the rest of the engine compartment (an ideal thing for oxy-actelyne cutting and welding). Since this costs next to nothing and makes use of the tools you have, it's good practice that doesn't keep the car out of commission for days or weeks.
    Nbgorman likes this.
  12. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    UPDATE: Got over $1000 saved up and am just waiting for the weather to warm up, looks like im going to be working on two engines this summer, 3.9 L v8 from my dads 2000 lincoln ls... and my cars 420A I4... this is gonna be a nice summer :)

    EDIT: too bad my pap doesnt want a 2L inline four in his car xD haha I would gladly take his jaguar engine xD
  13. unnamedny

    unnamedny Well-Known Member

    I'd say save this money for your future car, in few years you are going to want something better. This one is pretty old and you are not going to pull too much out of it. I'd go for cold air intake and that's it. All the money you are going to invest in this car are going to go down the drain, people are not willing to pay much for extra modifications on the car, if you are planning to sell it in the future. Save some cash, build your credit history and get a better ride at the age of 18. Good luck.
  14. Speed Daemon

    Speed Daemon Disabled

    Sounds like fun getting to work on the AJ motor regardless!

    I saw on TV a Ford Focus that had been completely rebuilt with a small block (pushrod) Ford motor and RWD drivetrain. Needless to say, it was a lot of work not only buliding it, but getting it licensed for the road!
  15. mudflaps

    mudflaps Member

    Don't waste your time. Get yourself a 2.4 from a Breeze or Stratus and beef that up. Or if you can find one cheap, get a wrecked, preferably rear end, SRT-4 and do a total swap. It's almost a complate swap, you will need a couple of fab'd parts from MPX though. Or you can do what I was gonna do to my Neon and supercharge that bitch!
  16. ZeroGeined

    ZeroGeined Well-Known Member

    Don't underestimate the Chrysler 420A engine. I have a 1996 Eagle Talon that has the same motor and I'll take it over the 2.4 any day since the 420A has DOHC and the 2.4 is just SOHC. Given the opportunity though, I'd say throw the 420 out and get the SRT4 motor although I'm not sure if they had those in 96. As for some performance upgrades, a good set of exhaust headers and a cold air intake will help it. Don't get a short ram intake because there is too much heat under the hood. Prothane motor mounts are a good upgrade from the stock rubber mounts and at a fairly cheap price. I picked mine up for $80 for all four mounts. If you're more for enjoying the ride than performance, go for Energy Suspension. Same thing just made with softer polyurethane.
    Above all else, and without it everything else is irrelevant, invest in a factory service manual. I'm not talking a Haynes or Chilton. I mean the actual factory service manual.
  17. mudflaps

    mudflaps Member

    2.4 is much, much better than the 2.0. SOHC or not. You'll get more high end torque out of the 2.4 and is a tougher motor. And they only had the SRT-4 2003-2005. It will work but everything from the SRT-4 is needed (trans. ALL wiring, axles, guage cluster) it all has to be swapped over.
  18. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    I am also planning on poishing and porting the intakes
  19. ZeroGeined

    ZeroGeined Well-Known Member

    Just noticed this looking back on this thread, please for the love of all that is holy, don't break those timing covers. I broke mine when I had to replace my head gaskets and it took me a full month to find a replacement.

    A good information source for the engine is 2GNT.com
  20. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    [UPDATE]

    Last weekend I cleaned out the two car garage, and washed out the engine compartment of the avenger, and washed the body. I then rolled it into the garage, and did a full inspection of the inside of the car, I have comitted to saving weight. With this in mind I have decided to strip the interior. I will pull out the backseats, flooring, sound deadener, roof lining, front seats (and replace them with sparco racing seats), ect. I will take it down to the steel. I have a budget of approx. $1100 to rebuild the engine. I took off the airbox, the WHOLE exhaust, the hood of course, and am working on the wiring an is that a b**ch), I also am going to buy headers and depending on how she sounds after the rebuild I MIGHT get a magnaflow muffler and NOT catalytic converter. Will keep you guys updated and will post pictures if you would like.
  21. ZeroGeined

    ZeroGeined Well-Known Member

    Pictures would be sweet. It'd be interesting to see how that looks stripped out. With the catalyst, I'd check local regs first concerning emissions. Here in Florida, they've stopped checking emissions so toy can get away with a catalyst delete pipe, but some other areas toy may not be able to do so.
  22. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    Im up here in good old ohio, I have full pictures of the interior now, and I have no problem with linking all my pictures after I am finished :). ALSO does anybody know of a good rear intake 420A intake manifold? I say the OBX 420A intake but they seem to have a butt load of burs and seem to be made badly any suggestions?
  23. Gmash

    Gmash Well-Known Member

    By all means, post pictures of the work in progress. Should be interesting.
  24. Nbgorman

    Nbgorman Well-Known Member

    [UPDATE]

    Engine is out and torn down. All that is left on the block are the cylinders, crank and oil pump, all else is off. The problem turned out to be a result of an improper head gasket job, there was either an oil passage blocked or the exhaust cams were not oiled when the engine shop put them back in. The exhaust cam ran approx. 10,000 miles without oil. This resulted in the cam being welded or melted onto the head. SOOO the whole head needs replaced. This brings a total of 2 HORRIBLE engine jobs done to my families car. The first was a replacement of my fathers 2000 Lincoln LS v8, half of the bolts in the engine compartment were never put back in, so there are random pipes going everywhere. Then with my avenger, we are going to the parts store tomorrow to get a puller for the oil pump so we can tear the engine to the block. I am keeping a daily diary of what we have done that day and will upload all the pictures when I can, thank you all and I will keep you up to date.
  25. ZeroGeined

    ZeroGeined Well-Known Member

    Yes pics please! It'dbe mildly amusing to see what's left of that cam
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