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Why did the engine blow ?
04-01-2015, 02:13 PM (This post was last modified: 04-01-2015 02:14 PM by chrissy52.)
Post: #1
Why did the engine blow ?
Hi

I hope someone can help me as this has caused me lots of worry. My daughter has a Nissan Altima 2007 she's had 2 years no problems have driven nearly a 1000 miles from VA to FL once before no problems at all. As we were going on holiday driving to FL we decided to take it in to have it checked over since nearly year since inspection and a long way to drive, they put 2 new tires on front, did an oil change including new filter and as they said battery needed cleaning (although never had a problem having to jump it) we agreed they clean battery. Next morning we drove down, in NC we stopped for 15 mins and it wouldn't restart, so we had someone jump it with a new battery type device that doesn't need to be connected to another car, then drove to SC where we stopped second time 15 mins and again it wouldn't start so someone had to jump start it, tried to take it to garage but mostly closed by then (Sat) or too much detour. Continued to GA not wanting to switch it off again we stopped car and changed driver wothout switching off engine - at no time was there any indication that engine was overheating - even when we put hood up to jump start it. Drove for about 10 mins after driver change and in mid GA driving at 70 mph car just suddenly stopped - managed to turn car off highway and had to tow into garage which was closed by then. Car is still in GA but have been told engine blew so needs another engine to be put in. I have asked them to do an analysis and find out why it blew as previously no problems or sounds at all - and was only taken into garage for checkup and service day before - they basically are saying they don't want to point fingers also that there's no way to know but that water and antifreeze got into engine/ it overheated and thats why it blew - but why would it overheat when never done it before, why wasn't battery working when no problem before - couldn't see any loose connections when looked under hood when stopped. Sorry this so long, want to know if there is any way that car can be properly checked to ascertain why engine blew as big expense and if partly garage fault that would like them to help pay for repair. They said it couldn't have been oil change as if engine not getting enough oil it wouldn't have made it from VA to GA & they found some oil still in the bottom of the car. Any help very much appreciated before I agree to have engine replaced or ask another garage to check car properly. Thanks
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04-01-2015, 08:58 PM
Post: #2
RE: Why did the engine blow ?
Without actually seeing the car I can only make an educated guess using the information that you have given me. You said that you had to jump start the engine twice. That could indicate that the alternator wasn't charging the battery. You also said that the garage told you that the engine overheated. Well, if the belt that turns the water pump and/or fan was terribly loose or missing and this belt also turned the alternator, I can see a theory developing. That could cause both overheating and a dead battery. I would think that the mechanic at the garage should be able to tell you if the belts are on and tight.

You also didn't mention if any warning lights were on while driving. Alt., Batt., Check Engine, or any other lights? This could also give us clues.

Please get back to us with any extra information.

Thanks for using the forum,
Garner

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04-01-2015, 11:49 PM
Post: #3
RE: Why did the engine blow ?
Being an old Nissan Master Tech a problem I have seen (not just with Nissan) may be related. Basically a failing head gasket or one that is just starting to fail gives no warning signs other than (possibly) needing to top up the coolant in small quantities over a period of time. What happens is all of a sudden it starts to get worse. You drive the thing hundreds of miles, the cooling system builds a bit of pressure, you shut the engine off for a 15 minute leg stretch, then a little coolant works it's way into a cylinder so the engine can't quite crank over. To the average person (and some mechanics) the first thought is the common low battery so they give it a jump start. Between the extra few minutes and a little extra juice from a booster pack it's able to start again.... till the next coffee break, when the situation repeates itself.

Soooo, now the car is a LONG way from home and at minimum needs a head gasket, which is not a cheap repair, although cheaper than a replacement engine. Can a bad head gasket cause more damage? Sure, but it will take a partial tear down to find out how bad it is. The other option would be an opinion from an experienced Nissan mechanic.

Now, as Garner pointed out, there may be other issues but in my mind a bad belt or failing alternator probably wouldn't have let you go that far or at least would make for other symptoms. (dash warning lights or boiling over?) Again, we can't read too far between the lines but with anything that expensive you need to ask questions and possibly get a second opinion.

You could also call them and pretend to know what you are talking about (or have a friend who DOES know) and see if they are willing to pull out the spark plugs. The sure signs of a bad head gasket (without disassembly) is one plug looking VERY clean. (steam cleaned if you will) The next sign is the top of the piston will also be spotless. (usually one or two, but not all) Other signs will be (possibly) coolant in the oil or oil in the radiator. With the plugs out the engine should crank over rather fast and with no odd noises, if all else is ok.

Now the good news... If these guys are sharp enough they can do this diagnosos and have the cylinder head off for confirmation in a matter of 3-4 hours. If they find no serious amount of coolant or oil where it shouldn't be it's a fairly safe bet they can replace the head gasket and be done for well under $1,000. OTOH, you have to take the gamble that the local mechanics are being honest with you.

Would love to hear the final resolution. Please keep us posted.
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04-04-2015, 05:17 PM (This post was last modified: 04-04-2015 05:30 PM by chrissy52.)
Post: #4
RE: Why did the engine blow ?
(04-01-2015 08:58 PM)Garner Wrote:  Without actually seeing the car I can only make an educated guess using the information that you have given me. You said that you had to jump start the engine twice. That could indicate that the alternator wasn't charging the battery. You also said that the garage told you that the engine overheated. Well, if the belt that turns the water pump and/or fan was terribly loose or missing and this belt also turned the alternator, I can see a theory developing. That could cause both overheating and a dead battery. I would think that the mechanic at the garage should be able to tell you if the belts are on and tight.

You also didn't mention if any warning lights were on while driving. Alt., Batt., Check Engine, or any other lights? This could also give us clues.

Please get back to us with any extra information.
Thank you so much for the possible connection between the battery not charging and the engine exploding ! I didn't think it could just be co-incidence especially when no problems at all beforehand. We didn't see any warning lights. I will ask garage about the belt, wish I knew something about cars - I'm 62 and did a physics degree and don't really understand all the bits under the hood- ridiculous ! I don't think they've really bothered to do any investiagtion, just want to get the work of putting in new engine, they did say at start that they didn't want to finger -point. Thanks so much for taking time to reply - much appreciated.

(04-01-2015 11:49 PM)Rupe Wrote:  Being an old Nissan Master Tech a problem I have seen (not just with Nissan) may be related. Basically a failing head gasket or one that is just starting to fail gives no warning signs other than (possibly) needing to top up the coolant in small quantities over a period of time. What happens is all of a sudden it starts to get worse. You drive the thing hundreds of miles, the cooling system builds a bit of pressure, you shut the engine off for a 15 minute leg stretch, then a little coolant works it's way into a cylinder so the engine can't quite crank over. To the average person (and some mechanics) the first thought is the common low battery so they give it a jump start. Between the extra few minutes and a little extra juice from a booster pack it's able to start again.... till the next coffee break, when the situation repeates itself.

Soooo, now the car is a LONG way from home and at minimum needs a head gasket, which is not a cheap repair, although cheaper than a replacement engine. Can a bad head gasket cause more damage? Sure, but it will take a partial tear down to find out how bad it is. The other option would be an opinion from an experienced Nissan mechanic.

Now, as Garner pointed out, there may be other issues but in my mind a bad belt or failing alternator probably wouldn't have let you go that far or at least would make for other symptoms. (dash warning lights or boiling over?) Again, we can't read too far between the lines but with anything that expensive you need to ask questions and possibly get a second opinion.

You could also call them and pretend to know what you are talking about (or have a friend who DOES know) and see if they are willing to pull out the spark plugs. The sure signs of a bad head gasket (without disassembly) is one plug looking VERY clean. (steam cleaned if you will) The next sign is the top of the piston will also be spotless. (usually one or two, but not all) Other signs will be (possibly) coolant in the oil or oil in the radiator. With the plugs out the engine should crank over rather fast and with no odd noises, if all else is ok.

Now the good news... If these guys are sharp enough they can do this diagnosos and have the cylinder head off for confirmation in a matter of 3-4 hours. If they find no serious amount of coolant or oil where it shouldn't be it's a fairly safe bet they can replace the head gasket and be done for well under $1,000. OTOH, you have to take the gamble that the local mechanics are being honest with you.

Would love to hear the final resolution. Please keep us posted.

Thanks for such a detailed reply, that seems to make sense but wouldn't there have been a noise if head gasket was faulty ? if not that makes sense although I don't think they can just replace head gasket as they say explosion blew hole in bottom of engine. I had an old Nissan Datsun many years ago that I paid for head gasket to be replaced and then engine blew anyway within 6 months after that (warranty was only 3 months) that was in UK and only other experience of blown engine I've had, made me think just getting head gasket replaced wasn't a good deal although the garage could have been negligent. Thanks again, reply much appreciated, it makes me feel better to think it wasn't the fault of garage that did service although still seems to me like it could have been.
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04-04-2015, 09:21 PM (This post was last modified: 04-04-2015 09:25 PM by Rupe.)
Post: #5
RE: Why did the engine blow ?
Ok, we now have another piece of the puzzle... a hole in the engine.

BTW, a failing head gasket does not make a noise. The symptoms are minor coolant loss in the early stages, hard starting as it gets worse, steam out the tail pipe at times, (might not be eough to see it in the mirror) and of it's bad enough the coolant can get into the oil where it destroys everything. Somewhere in the middle stages you may experience over heating but coolant in the oil for any length of time is a bad thing. The hole in the engine means it can't be repaired so now we see why they suggested a replacement.

One more thing: In Georgia the shop labor rates are cheap so certainly ask what the job would cost down there compared to home. In most cases it's not worth towing the car more than a hundred miles even with AAA.

Edited to add: the battery not charging will not make the engine blow up. I think Garner was hinting that there may more than a single issue and battery charging (jump start) was a possibility. I think I covered the other possibilities in my post. If my theory is correct then the alternator (battery charging) is probably fine.
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