Niagara Gazette

July 11, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Possible causes of a failed engine

By Tom Torbjornsen
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — BARBARA FROM PHILADELPHIA: I drove my 2005 Toyota Camry to the oil change place for a simple oil change. I left needing a water pump. I couldn’t drive the vehicle so I had it towed to my home and then to a local garage. The local garage said I needed a whole new engine! What happened? You might ask if I maintain service on my car and the answer is yes, every six months.

TOM: I would go through my maintenance records to see what exactly has been done in recent months to determine what could have happened. Sounds to me like the vehicle might have had a bad water pump and all the coolant leaked out causing the engine to overheat and thus blowing the head gasket. This, in turn, resulted in engine coolant mixing with the engine oil, causing the bearings to fail necessitating engine replacement. Another possibility is that the oil in the engine gelled, resulting in a lack of lubrication. Toyota extended engine warranties on their engines for this problem a few years back. Ask your dealer about this possibility.


JANE FROM HAUGEN, WISC.: I own an ‘02 Mercury Villager. Recently, the rear set of fuel injectors was replaced. Afterwards there was a smell of gas fumes coming out of the air vents inside the car. I could also smell it outside in the front of the car. The smell stopped for a few days then started again. There is no sign of anything leaking. What could be wrong?

TOM: Have the engine scanned for codes. It sounds like the vehicle could have a faulty coolant temperature sensor dumping raw fuel into the engine, a faulty injector driver, or a bad PCM (Power Control Module). Please don’t start replacing parts. Have the proper diagnostics performed to identify the problem first, then proceed with the repairs. Otherwise, you could waste a lot time and money. Success to you.


JOE FROM KISSIMMEE, FLA.: I bought an ‘05 Chrysler Sebring convertible from a rental car company. The car was running well until I hit a pothole, now the back of the car shakes a lot. It happens every time I hit a bump or a pothole. I changed the tires but this did not alleviate the problem. Please tell me what could have happened to cause the shaking?

TOM: Get the car up on a lift and have the rear suspension, struts, wheel bearings and trailing arms checked. There could be a broken strut, excessively worn wheel bearing, broken or worn training arm or trailing arm bushing. You should find your problem in one of these areas.


GARY FROM GALVESTON, TEXAS: I own a ‘99 Dodge Grand Caravan. The digital dash cluster shuts off intermittently. If I tap the face it will turn back on. Is there a chance it could be a loose connector on the back that can be tightened? Do you know if this is a common problem on older vans? It has 178,000 miles and I hope to get more mileage out of it.

TOM: The circuits that feed or operate the cluster will need to be tested. Sometimes there is a bad power or ground connection at the plug, or a faulty circuit board. If these connections and circuits test okay, then the problem is in the printed circuit of the cluster. This will require either replacement or repair of the cluster. There is a company online called This company specializes in repairing digital instrument clusters. You simply send them your old cluster and they either repair it or sent you a newly rebuilt one. It’s a great service and much less cost than a new cluster. Good luck!


DUSTIN FROM DALLAS: I own an ‘01 Chevy Impala, and every so often the brakes make a fast clicking sound like the ABS is kicking in, then all of a sudden the ABS light comes on and it stops making the sound until the next time. Recently, the ABS light came on more and more. Any ideas?

TOM: I checked my ALLDATA database and there’s a TSB regarding this condition, apparently there’s a software update from GM on this. Take it to your dealer for this update, it should solve your problem. In addition, I suggest having the ABS computer scanned for codes and check the wheel speed sensors, and electrical plugs and wiring harness for cracked or broken insulation. All these faults could cause these symptoms. The TSB number from GM is Bulletin #: 09-05-25-001.


ELLIE FROM BURTONSVILLE, N.C.: I own a ‘98 Chevy Lumina with a V6 engine. There is a tapping noise when the engine is running. My tech said that it is a lifter problem and the engine should be replaced. Is there anything I can do that would be less expensive?

TOM: First run an oil pressure test with a mechanical gage and verify that the oil pressure is really low. If the oil pressure is up to specs, then identify which valve tappet is making noise and open up the valve cover/s to have a look at the valvetrain. This process will allow the tech to get a better grip on what’s happening with the valvetrain and what it will cost to fix. I wish you success.


CRAIG FROM CHICAGO: I own a ‘95 Ford F-150 with 282,000 miles and it runs well. However, the front and rear engine seals leak oil. If I replace them, will I cause additional problems?

TOM: Seal replacement could stop the leaks. However, if the crank journals are worn then the leak will continue. With this kind of mileage, I think you’re looking at a powerplant replacement. Have the crank journals, and rod & main bearings inspected along with the oil pump before proceeding with seal replacement (which would require removing the engine). It may be wise to just replace the engine with a rebuilt unit. I recommend the Jasper replacement engines. They come with the best warranties and are high quality remanufactured units. Of course, major repairs should not be done unless the rest of the truck is in good working order. Have it checked over before proceeding with powerplant replacement. Success to you!

‘Til next time … Keep Rollin’

“America’s Car Show” with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.