The Dodge Viper was an instant hit when it debuted in the 1990s with its aggressive styling and rambunctious V10 engine.
Although its looks haven’t changed much, the Viper has had many significant redesigns underneath up until the fifth generation model was discontinued in 2017.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more common issues and problems Dodge Viper owners have had to deal with over the years.
Table of Contents
1. Weak Differential
The first few generations of the Dodge Viper have a tendency to suffer from premature rear differential failures.
Being a sports car, a lot of the reported failures are probably after multiple runs at the drag strip and hard launches.
However, even with this in mind, there are still a significant number of first, second and third generation Dodge Vipers that have had differential issues at least once in their life.
Common differential problems include:
- Clunking or clicking noises
- Grinding noises
- Wheel hop or tire skipping
- Strong vibrations
Here’s how one user on ViperAlley.com described their experience:
“This just happened to me in my 06 coupe 3 weeks ago. I was at the track and did about 5 passes and the last pass did not sound so good so i decided to go home and drove it back 50 miles. my rear diff was shot, i broke at least 2 teeth off the spider gears in the Limited slip diff.”
Another user on the ViperClub.org forum had this to say:
“I had a previous 03 that the diff went out at 17k miles. I replaced it with a Gen4 rear that bolted right up.”
Most Viper owners either get their differential rebuilt for a few thousand dollars or upgrade it to a stronger aftermarket unit from companies like Quaife, Wavetrac and OS Giken.
It’s also common for third gen owners to upgrade to the fourth gen rear diff which is stronger and bolts right in.
2. Head Gasket Failures
First generation Dodge Vipers used head gaskets made out of paper that were prone to early failures.
Head gasket issues are only an issue on the 1992 to 1995 model years of the Viper.
Common symptoms of a worn head gasket include:
- White smoke from exhaust
- Oil has milky color
- Low coolant
- Fluid leaks
Here’s what one user on the ViperClub.org forum had to say:
“I have a 94 and the gaskets went bad last summer, only 10,200 miles on em’. I bought the car with 9000 miles and both previous owners barely drove it.”
The second generation Dodge Viper solved the head gasket issue by the 1996 model year after upgrading to an MLS (Multi Layer Steel) head gasket.
Head gasket kits for the first gen Viper cost around $600 and will cost a bit more to get installed by a Viper specialist.
3. Heat from Side Exhaust
The first generation Dodge Viper’s side exit exhaust is one of its most iconic features that set it apart from its rivals when it first debuted.
However, these side exhausts weren’t too practical in real life because they added heat and paint issues.
These continue to be problems in newer generations that also have side exit exhaust pipes.
Over time, the catalytic converters get blocked and heat up the exhaust even more.
The excess heat can cause the paint on the side sills/rocker panels to peel off or bubble up.
A few users on the ViperAlley.com forum shared their experience:
“I took the sills off yesterday and the passenger side was turning black . The original heat shield is toast. I wrapped some of the exhaust yesterday. The muffler is pretty large in diameter and sits a little high. Im thinking of removing the sill and cutting out the front portion and cutting holes in the bottom. I’d like to remove the old heat shield completely because its getting too hot and is very thick.”
“My side stills are pretty darn hot so what can I do to fix it. It’s like burn your hand/leg off hot. I’m the 2nd owner of the car and a bunch of tasteful mods were done by the 1st owner. I’m not sure what I can have done to get the heat down on the sides.”
Most Viper owners just remove the catalytic converters to let the engine breathe better and remove the excess heat from the exhaust pipes.
Your options for exhaust modifications will be more limited if you have to pass an emissions inspection.
Many owners also drill holes and vents under the side sill where the exhaust pipes run through to reduce the heat that collects in the area.
4. Faulty Window Regulators
The window motors in newer model years of the Dodge Viper have a high failure rate and can cost a few hundred dollars to repair.
Window regulator issues are pretty common in the third, fourth and fifth generation Viper from 2003 to 2017.
Common problems include:
- Windows go up too high
- Won’t move up or down
- Clicking or grinding noises
Here is how a few owners on ViperClub.org described their experience:
“My 06 Coupe with 2900 miles had an issue with the smart glass going up too high, it was causing the window to hit the roof.”
“Mine broke 2 weeks after I got mine over a year ago. I’ve been just ignoring it hoping a recall or real fix comes along. Found replacement regulators for around $500, but seems like a huge waste if it is just going to break again. “
“Hello everyone, I’m new to the forum and wanted to see if anyone else had trouble with their windows not working. My passenger side window on my 2014 GTS stopped going up or down. When I press the switch I can her a faint clicking noise.”
Window regulators for the Dodge Viper are already quite expensive at a few hundred dollars. Many owners have also had issues getting the part because it’s often on backorder.
Dodge updated the part for the window regulator so the new ones should last much longer.
Those who want to save money on repairs often send their window regulators to specialists who will rebuild them for around $200.
5. Hard to Shift Reverse
Lots of owners of older Dodge Vipers have had issues getting their car to shift into reverse.
When the transmission does go into reverse, it also has a tendency to pop out and go into neutral while you’re backing out.
These problems are more common in the first, second and third generation Dodge Viper.
Here’s how a few owners described their issues on ViperClub.org:
“My Gen 3 is hard to get into reverse. I have to get the reverse syncros spinning and right when you can hear them about ready to stop…put it into reverse. Then it is good to go. Never gotten worse…been that way since I bought it a year ago.”
“I have a ’95 RT10 that has started becoming hard to get into reverse. All 6 forward speeds shift fine with no grinding or anything. Mine only has 32K miles and I do not race or do any speed shifting or such.”
“I have a 99 RT10 with 15000 miles and mine has been doing the samething for 2-3 years now. It is just really hard to get it seating in reverse. When it is not engaged properly and you let out the clutch there is a brief grinding noise. Once it is engaged correctly in reverse, then there is no problem. It does not pop back out and all the other forward gears have no issues.”
Difficulties shifting into reverse can often be solved by replacing a worn out clutch.
If the clutch is still new, another common culprit is the reverse lockout solenoid.
Many Viper owners have also reported that a bent shift fork was preventing them from getting the transmission in gear.
In a lot of cases, an aftermarket short shift kit also makes it more difficult to shift into reverse.
6. Rod Bearing Failure
Many early generation Dodge Vipers have needed to get their engines rebuilt because of rod bearing failures.
This issue is more common in the third generation Dodge Viper but it can also affect the first and second generation models.
The third generation has more rod bearing failures because it’s more prone to oil starvation issues when going through really tight and high speed corners.
Symptoms of a spun rod bearing include:
- Engine knock
- Check engine light
- Metal shavings in oil
Here’s how one owner described their experience on ViperAlley.com:
“I bought my 04 back in May and after about 2 months I spun a bearing…..open the hood and rev. it up and it sounds like knocking 2 blocks of wood together.”
Replacing the rod bearings can cost around $2,000 because the bottom of the engine has to be opened up.
If other engine components have been damaged, the repair bill can go up astronomically from this point forward.
To curb the oil starvation issues that cause the spun rod bearings, many third generation Viper owners also install an aftermarket oil pan baffle.
7. Power Steering Problems
Many older Dodge Vipers have some common power steering problems.
The first and second generation Vipers had issues with broken power steering pump brackets which would make the serpentine belt come loose.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience on ViperClub.org:
“I own a ’96 GTS with 11,000 miles and have never had any issues with it until today. I drove it 10 miles and then stopped for an hour at my destination. As I slowly drove around a building at 5 mph I noticed that the power steering had gone out and it locked the steering wheel. I had to forcibly turn the steering wheel just to make the turn.”
“Was out cruising last evening. Got on it after a stop light, shifted to second, the power went down abruptly. Went another 1/2 mile and temp gauge was at 250 deg. Pulled over and the serpentine belt was off. Let it cool down, and drove the 1/2 mile home and parked overnight. Went out today to check the problem. The bracket that holds the power steering pump was broken by all three bolts.”
A new power steering bracket and pulley should only cost a little over $100 in parts so total repair costs shouldn’t be too expensive.
Third generation Dodge Vipers are also prone to power steering pump failures.
In a lot of cases, the failure is caused by a leaking power steering hose which causes the pump to lose lubrication and wear out quicker.
A new power steering pump costs around $500 which is a bit expensive. Many owners upgrade the aftermarket power steering hoses which are less prone to leak.
8. Idle Hang
A lot of second generation Dodge Viper owners have complained about an intermittent idle hang issue where the RPMs stay high after letting go of the gas pedal.
The RPMs usually drop back to normal after a few seconds or after blipping the throttle.
In some cases, an engine restart will make the issue go away.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience:
“’97 GTS that has “Idle Hang” the condition wherein the car spontaneously makes up its mind to idle at 1500 RPM for a while defying all attempts to bring the idle down. Then after 5-20 minutes it spontaneously drops back down to a normal idle of around 660 RPM.”
“My 96 GTS has done it a few times in the 300 miles I have owned the car. Doesn’t bother me other than it brings my attention to it when it happens. Usually only lasts a few seconds then goes back to +-600 rpm. A burp of the throttle usually brings it down.”
“Just picked up a 2001 gts and I’ve noticed when I put the car into neutral while rolling the idle stays between 1500-1250 rpm until I drop below 20 mph, then it returns to about 700,”
To get rid of the idle hang issue, try cleaning and synchronizing the throttle bodies first.
Other possible culprits include faulty sensors and electrical issues such as:
- IAC (Idle Air Control)
- TPS (Throttle Position Sensor)
- Weak battery
- PCM (Powertrain Control Module)
9. Water Pump Issues
The second generation Dodge Viper has had lots of complaints of water pump problems over the years.
This generation’s water pump used a plastic impeller that could get disconnected from the shaft. Once the impeller stops spinning, the flow of coolant will also stop.
It’s also common for older Vipers to need new radiator and coolant hoses as the old rubber and seals age and wear out.
The 2001 and 2002 model years also seem to have higher rates of water pump failures than others.
A rebuilt water pump can cost around $1,000 but lots of people also just rebuild the water pump themselves.
Since OEM second gen water pumps are usually out of stock, a lot of owners and mechanics simply swap in parts from a first gen water pump.
Upgrading to aftermarket billet impellers also improves the reliability of the water pump.
10. Fuel Pressure Regulator Issues
It’s fairly common for first and second generation Dodge Vipers to have fuel issues that cause hard starting problems.
These problems are often caused by a faulty fuel pressure regulator that’s preventing the fuel lines from getting pressurized when you first try to start the engine.
In a lot of cases, turning the key several times to allow the pump to fully prime the fuel lines properly eventually gets the engine to start .
Here’s how one owner described their experience:
“My ’96 RT/10 had the same issue. You can do as you are doing and it will generally start on the second or third try. Or, what I began doing is, you can turn the key forward to the first stop. You should hear the fuel pump prime. This will fill the fuel lines and pressurize the system. Then turn the key back and start as normal. I never had a problem starting the car following that procedure.”
If you’re always having starting issues and don’t have time to fiddle with the key every time you try to start the engine, you’ll have to replace the fuel pump which has fuel pressure regulator/check valve inside.
Many owners also simply install an external check valve kit which is cheaper and easier to do to save money on repairs, but works just as well.
Dodge Viper Pros & Cons
- Iconic looks
- Awesome sounding V10 engine
- Blistering acceleration
- Race car handling
- Manual only
- Driver-focused cockpit
- Low to the ground
- Poor outward visibility
- Stiff ride quality
- Lacks modern safety and driver assists
What Do The Reviews Say?
“It’s not particularly comfortable, for starters. It’s oppressively noisy on the highway, its seats offer minimal support and the ride quality is very stiff ride, even for a sports car of this caliber. But wait, there’s more!”
“People getting in or out of the Viper risks singeing their legs on the hot doorsills (thanks to the side-mounted exhaust pipes), outward visibility is poor, and cargo capacity is comparable to what you’ll get in a jetliner’s overhead bin.”
“Plenty of sports cars are fast, but very few are as savage and raw as the 2017 Dodge Viper. Power is delivered with a brutish grunt, and the comically wide rear tires struggle for traction every time you mash the throttle. Rather than a computer-controlled precision machine, the Viper feels more like a hammer. It’s a blunt tool with a singular goal: speed.”
“If, for some reason, you’re interested in having a Viper as your daily driver, you might want to think again. It’s livable, but only just. Every bump, crack and imperfection in the pavement makes it into the cabin. On the highway, the loud V10 drones on, which can get especially tiresome on road trips. And at slow speeds, the Viper’s heavy steering makes it extremely difficult to maneuver.”
What’s the Resale Value of a Dodge Viper?
Here’s a quick look at the base Dodge Viper’s used pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.