How to Check the Engine Code Without a Code Reader on a Dodge Stratus


Back in the early 1980s, car manufacturers in the United States began to equip their vehicles with the on-board diagnostic system. In 1996, when the system was made mandatory, many manufacturers switched to the second-generation system, the OBD-II. Trouble codes stored in the computer of the first generation OBD system may be accessed through different methods, depending on the particular make and model. Chrysler continued to use the OBD-I system along with the second generation in many of its vehicles, including the Dodge Stratus.

Things You'll Need

  • Notepad
  • Pencil
  • Place your transmission in park (automatic) or neutral (manual).

  • Start the engine and then race it up to 2500 rpm. Gradually, bring the engine speed down to idle again.

  • Turn on the air conditioner for about one minute---if your Stratus model is so-equipped---and then turn it off.

  • Depress the brake pedal if you have an automatic transmission, and move the shift selector through every gear and than back to park.

  • Turn off the engine and grab a small notepad and pencil.

  • Turn the ignition key to the on position and then to the off position. Repeat this step once more and then turn the ignition key to the on position again and let it stay there. You have now accessed your Stratus's computer trouble code memory.

  • Watch for the Check Engine light on the instrument panel to begin flashing.

  • Count the number of times the Check Engine light flashes before pausing and record the number, which will be a single-digit number.

  • Count the number of flashes in the second sequence, following the first pause. Place this single-digit number next to the first. For example, if the light flashes three times, pauses, and then flashes five more times, this will be recorded as 35.

  • Wait for a longer pause after the first two sequences of flashes and record the next two digits in the same manner as in the previous step. Each two-digit number is a trouble code stored in the computer memory. When the computer reaches the end of the trouble codes stored in memory, it will repeat the same codes so you may verify your notes. At the end of the second cycle of sequences, turn the key to the off position.

  • Look up the trouble code definitions obtained from the computer memory in the service manual for your specific Stratus model.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once you have fixed any problems indicated by the trouble codes stored in memory, erase the codes by disconnecting the negative (black) battery cable for about 30 seconds, then reconnect the cable.
  • You may consult the vehicle service manual for your particular model in the reference section of your local public library or buy the manual from your local auto parts store.
  • If you are unable to retrieve trouble codes using the procedure described and you believe a system monitored by the OBD systems is still causing trouble, take your Stratus to a qualified mechanic for a diagnostic check-up.


  • "The Haynes Computer Codes and Electronic Engine Management Systems Manual"; Robert Maddox and John H. Haynes; 2000
  • "Modern Automotive Technology"; James E. Duffy; 2003
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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