A mechanically-conversant owner will narrow these problem down to a blow gasket or shot rings.For an engine to be considered ‘blown’, the damage has to be so severe that it affects majority of the engine. The damage may include: destroyed pistons, damaged exhaust valves, cracked block and broken connecting rods.
What happens when a car engine blows?
Blown engines aren’t a rare occurrence. They are common because of the following causes:
- Running an engine without oil
- Running an engine at high speeds and excessive RPM for along periods causes engine failure
- Overheating causes it to blow
- A heavy coolant leak causes engine to blow
Some of these cannot be avoided or controlled by the owner, however, for the part that the owner can avoid, they should avoid through regular servicing of the vehicle.
Signs of engine problems
There are many problems that can cause a car to malfunction. Some are serious and others are not such as a broken AC. A bad engine however can be considered a serious problem. Luckily, there are many warning signs if the engine has any problems before the car stalls on you. Here are a few signs to look out for to detect engine damage before it becomes fatal.
The car is shaking unusually: If the car ignites fine but starts shaking as it runs, this could be a sign of engine damage. Most times, the problem is bad plugs that need replacing. Fixing this is cheap if done early before the extent of the damage spreads.
Another problem could be loose hoses. Check to see if there are any cracks in them or if the vacuum and air hoses have been connected properly. Tighten the loose hoses. This ought to stop the shaking. This also a relatively cheap fix. A
more expensive fix would be if the timing belts and fuel intake system are damaged. These would require a skilled mechanic to diagnose and fix. All these problems cause the car to shake unusually while running.
Smoke: This might be the most common sign of a bad engine. Smoke is never a good sign regardless of the color. Different colored smoke represent different problems. White smoke means a blown gasket or cracked cylinder which essentially mean a blown engine. Blue smoke means that engine valves are worn out or piston rings are leaking onto the combustion are of the engine while black smoke means many any of the following things:
- Ignition timing is off
- Clogged air filter
- Malfunction in the emission system
Other than a clogged filter, the rest of the problems require a qualified mechanic to fix
Constant overheating of the car: Engines should not overheat except if the weather is too hot and even then, the engine shouldn’t overheat dangerously. If the car is quickly heating up, there are a few things to check first before declaring an engine problem.
The cooling system may have leaks or the coolant might be diminished or it might be the wrong coolant for the car. The most common solution for this is flushing the system (removing all the coolant) and refilling it. If the engine isn’t leaking coolant, the water pump might be broken.
Replace the water pump to get the cooling system working again and if this still doesn’t work, you will need to replace the radiator. Before replacement, check all other previous options first because replacement can be quite expensive.
Extremely loud engine: If you notice the engine purring louder than usual, do not ignore this. It does not mean necessarily that the engine is damaged but it means the exhaust system (which is connected directly to the engine) is damaged. Most times, it’s the muffler or catalytic converter causing these loud noises. Also check for any broken gaskets and seals and replace them.
Oil Puddle under Parked Car: This is the most common sign of a damaged engine. Cars generally should not leak oil while parked. If you notice a black oil puddle on the concrete when you reverse out, take the car to the mechanic immediately.
While these often indicates something a serious issue, there are a number of steps you can take to identify the problem before spending money on repairs. First, ensure the puddle is actually oil. Oil is brown or black and thick in appearance. Tighten anything the oil pan as this might be the problem. Check engine gaskets, seals and other connections.
Check the engine light:
The engine light is a giant orange light on the dash of the car. The engine light isn’t an indicator of the extent of damage in the engine. Before doing anything rash like rushing the car to the mechanic, there are a few quick fixes to try. If they fail, you now rush to the mechanic.
Buy an OBD (On Board Diagnostic). This is a tiny device that you plug into the car and easily and accurately identifies the issue. Always buy an OBD that is compatible with your car model.
Disconnect and reconnect the battery as it might be a simple fluke. Doing this will reset the light back to normal. And if the engine light goes off, this means it was just a fluke.
Just wait. If the light is on yet other symptoms aren’t showing, wait it out for a few days and if the light persists, take the car to the mechanic.
So after the engine has been diagnosed and fixed, the next step should be preventing the problem from happening again. The best way to prevent a blown engine is to properly maintain it by constantly taking car for checkups and avoid high RPM revving over long periods of time.
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change’.