The key word here is not Stratus; it's 1995. What you're experiencing is common to all car brands and models, some just develop major problems half as often, then cost twice as much to repair. When I take a cross-country trip, I only trust my third newest vehicle, a 1988 Grand Caravan. It has higher mileage than all of my other four cars put together, but it only has an Engine Computer. Newer cars have Transmission Computers, Body Computers, Heater / AC Computers, Air Bag Computers, Anti-Lock Brake Computers, Anti-Theft Computers, etc.
GM has by far the biggest problems related to all of these computers. I think thanks to the misguided "Cash For Clunkers" law, there are going to be a lot of new GM owners who will say "never again" for their next new car purchase. Ford isn't much better. All you have to do is read through these forums to see there is no such thing as a perfectly reliable car, no matter what the guy on the tv ad says.
As a former instructor, I was amazed at the number of repair bills students and coworkers showed me. It is real common to have an $800.00 repair bill for a GM front-wheel-drive car every six months, and a lot of people accept that as normal. One of the latest gimmicks is to build the Body Computer into the radio. That prevents you from buying an aftermarket radio. Now you must have your original radio repaired at very high cost, otherwise your cruise control and power windows won't work. "Gotcha". Factory-installed anti-theft systems are very effective at keeping owners out of their cars. They cause almost as many problems as they prevent. Charging systems are a major headache. It's common to go through four to six generators in the life of the vehicle. Heating / AC Computer modules cause a whole pile of problems. Adding the dual-zone gimmick greatly increases the number of problems and complaints. None of these things are common on Chrysler products, ... Yet.
Most people don't know that Ford involves two expensive computers, including the most complicated one, (the instrument cluster), in honking the horn. Unfortunately, whatever insanity one manufacturer dreams up, the others copy a few years later. Years ago a dead horn was usually repaired with a ten-dollar relay or a twenty-dollar horn. Today the typical cost of repairing a dead horn is over $500.00. "Gotcha".
High-intensity discharge head lights, which are a major safety hazard to other drivers, cost hundreds of dollars to repair regardless if it's a burned out bulb or a defective ballast assembly. Both are common failure items. "Gotcha".
By now you see where I'm going with this. I would rather walk the six miles to town in the dead of winter than buy another new car. As a former tv repairman and a former mechanic, when people asked me which product was the best one to buy, my response always was, "forget the tv and radio ads and forget what the salesman wants you to hear, Ask what the repairmen drive and why". My '88 Grand Caravan with 219,000 miles has never needed a transmission repair, the heater controls work perfectly, every single light bulb works exactly as designed, and I know when I hop in and turn the key, no computer is going to think the van is being stolen. And none of these things need a computer to make them work properly. Now, my '95 Grand Caravan is on its third computer-controlled transmission in 124,000 miles, and has no interior lights because of a defective Body Computer. Imagine, ... A $250.00 computer is needed to do what pair of six-dollar switches used to do.
There is a lot of pent up anger from car owners who feel they're being held hostage by the manufacturers. I'd love to buy another new car but absolutely no way would I even consider that until the manufacturers get back to using common sense. I don't want guaranteed regular, expensive repair bills.
Now that I've vented, (thank you), let's get back to your car. A loose or broken hose clamp can happen to any car and that is probably the least expensive cause of overheating I can think of. My best guess, since you observed the smoke had no smell, is there was water on the engine left over after the mechanic conscientiously washed any spilled antifreeze away. Had you driven a lot more than two miles, that water would have been evaporated and you wouldn't have seen any smoke, (steam). If I'm right in that regard, you won't be seeing that any more. The thumping you heard in the dash was the result of the coolant boiling, similar to the lid bouncing around on the pot on your stove. That thumping suggests it is likely the coolant temperature didn't get too much over 212 degrees. By adding a pressurized radiator cap, just like cooking food in a pressure cooker, it raises the boiling point of water to over 250 degrees. While that's obviously not the goal, the boiling point goes back down to 212 degrees when pressure is lost in the system. That's what happened when the hose clamp broke. What I'm trying to suggest is the water in the coolant started to boil due to loss of system pressure, not because the temperature suddenly shot up.
A leaking head gasket can cause overheating, and severe overheating can cause a cylinder head to warp and / or a leak to develop in an already weak spot in a head gasket. This can work either way, but it's just as likely, due to the nature of the problem, there was no further damage done to the engine, especially since you stopped right away. While I could be wrong, don't panic yet. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge.
As for the clicking, your best bet is to have someone listen to it. If it only occurs while driving, suspect a minor problem with the brakes, especially if the noise changes when braking, or something as silly as a tree branch stuck underneath. Don't laugh. That happened to me twice! If the noise occurs even when the engine is not running but the ignition switch is turned on, it could be related to the heater fan. Don't overlook the possibility of a leave falling inside. If the noise is coming from the engine, common causes include a worn serpentine drive belt and worn bearings inside one of the tensioner pulleys. Those typically make noise right away, not after waiting two minutes. Hydraulic lash adjusters can make a ticking sound if the engine oil is too thin or the pressure is too low. If you have an oil pressure gauge on the dash, and it's reading lower than normal, the oil could be diluted with raw fuel as a result of the previous no-start / stalling condition. It's always a good idea to have the oil changed as soon as those types of problems are fixed. If the pressure is reading normally, the oil still could be diluted. The hydraulic lash adjusters are the last thing down the line to receive oil and there isn't much pressure left there anyway. Thin oil will prevent those adjusters from pumping up with oil resulting in their clattering. Oil thins out even more when it warms up, so oil-related problems sometimes don't show up right away when the engine is first started. If you think this might be what you're hearing, have it listened to by someone who can stand right there. They can often tell what the cause is just by listening to the type of noise and what they can do to affect it. Sometimes switching to one grade thicker oil at the next oil change solves this problem, especially in high-mileage engines.
Saturday, October 2nd, 2010 AT 9:07 AM