1st car, major problems. $1500 engine problem?! HELP!


#1

I recently bought a 1990 Acura Integra RS Hatchback. I did all the standard fixing up- new alternator, breaks, major tune-up, etc. The car was running fine, the only problem I ever had was vibration at slower speeds, which I was told was just lack of motor mounts.



A couple days ago my car stalled on the highway. There were no weird sounds, or smoke… I just noticed the engine was off and I was coasting. The engine turns over, but won’t start. I took it to a gas station repair shop and they ran a diagnostic. They said the problem was the engine- maybe a cracked head, and it could run me around $1500.



I never heard any strange noises, saw smoke, or smelled anything. Everyone else I mention the problem to says it sounds like a fuel pump problem. I am about to go look under the hood for myself… what are some obvious signs I should look for to see if it’s REALLY an engine problem?


#2

Identify an independent mechanic that you trust and have him look at it, even if it costs for another tow. There are too many possibilities to hazard a guess, but I am skeptical of the diagnosis. What codes did they find during their diagnostics? Did they do a compression test, leading them down the road to a cracked head? I think more info is needed as to why they concluded that a cracked head is at issue. While fuel pump is a possibility, so are many others.


#3

To be honest, I have no idea why they came to that conclusion. I am afraid that my cluelessness about cars is encouraging them to take advantage of me. I am going to go see them this afternoon- besides asking about a compression test, are there any specific questions I should ask? Is there a paper I’m supposed to get with results?


#4

The other really strong possibility is a snapped timing belt. If you can see the valves when the oil cap is off you can test by turning over and seeing if they move. Another way is to turn over and see if distributor is turning.

Get it to a trusty independent for diagnosis.


#5

If they haven’t already done a compression test, I’d get your car towed to another mechanic like jayhawkroy suggested. A gas station repair shop may not be the best place to potentially have major engine work done. Have the new independent mechanic look over your car and run whatever tests he thinks are necessary.

If the engine turns over but doesn’t catch, it sounds like a fuel or spark problem. A competant mechanic should be able to check both those things easily.


#6

You are entitled to written results if you ask for them. It may be in the form of notes on the service order, but you need to have the mechanic explain what he did to confirm his diagnosis. From the little that we know, timing belt, spark or fuel problem are all possibilities and costs much less to fix. It is also entirely possible that the mechanic did his job and your meeting with him today will get you a good explanation. However, if no compression test was done, then I think it is extraordinarily difficult to sustain the initial diagnosis provided. Ask for details, and ask open ended questions. Ask him how he ruled out spark, fuel, timing belt, for example, and see what is said.

If nothing else, tell them that you need to consult your Dad or husband, first, before making any decision, and post back here.


#7

The timing belt was my thought also. Get a more detailed explanation from the mechanic before proceeding.


#8

Me too. And since there was no racket, if it is the timing belt it should be readily repairable without aftereffects. And, if it turns out to be this, change the water pump while you’re there.


#9

I think I’ve heard that an engine turning over with a broken timing belt sounds odd because it turns too quickly. Is that correct? Is that something the OP might have noticed?

On a side note, if you try to start a car with a broken timing belt, can you damage the engine? Is the damage done immediately when the belt breaks or does it continue afterward? I don’t know exactly what happens (thank goodness I haven’t experienced it!).


#10

I found an excellent and trustworthy Honda-Acura mechanic in the CARTALK listing. I had been told I needed a new transmission - he said no & I’m still driving it with the old tranny. Don’t know where you are but check it out - it could save you a lot of money & hassle.


#11

It doesn’t sound much different. I was in a 93 integra that snapped one on the side of a highway and we did the diagnosis described above. $1500+ repair


#12

SO, thanks to all who responded. I just returned from the car garage.

He said that he DID in fact run a compression test and since there was none, that’s what led him to believe that the problem was with the head or the valve. He didn’t check any further because he said if the compression is gone, then that’s automatically the problem.

He also mentioned that there was no coolant. I asked him if it was possible to add coolant at this point and start it up. He said that it wouldn’t matter, that the car still wouldn’t run. So basically the repairs would be more than the car is worth, and all the money I just put in in the past months just went down the drain :frowning:


#13

He said that he DID in fact run a compression test and since there was none, that’s what led him to believe that the problem was with the head or the valve. He didn’t check any further because he said if the compression is gone, then that’s automatically the problem.

He also mentioned that there was no coolant. I asked him if it was possible to add coolant at this point and start it up. He said that it wouldn’t matter, that the car still wouldn’t run. So basically the repairs would be more than the car is worth, and all the money I just put in in the past months just went down the drain :frowning:


#14

A cracked head (seldom the case on any vehicle anyway) will not prevent an engine from starting.
It sounds like a timing belt broke and this will damage the intake valves in the cylinder head. Lack of coolant is another issue altogether.

If the starter appears to crank the engine over very fast then this can very well be a sign of a broken timing belt.
Your mechanic is correct; adding coolant is not going to fix anything.

I don’t really see a cheap way out of this unless you did some digging and found a good head on the cheap and did the work yourself; figuring in gaskets, fluids, timing belt, water pump, etc. to boot.


#15

#16

The ignition system has nothing to do with a loss of coolant or compression.


#17

Does this car have the four-cylinder engine in it? If so, I think it’s a very good possibility that the timing belt snapped. Since the four-bangers in these cars are interference engine, the belt breaking results in big-time damage to the valves from the pistons slamming into them. That will create a zero-compression condition like we have here, as the valves are bent and cannot seat properly.

Assuming this is the case, I’m sorry to say that the cost is probably about right. $1500 is not out of line for rebuilding a cylinder head that’s been damaged in this manner.


#18

If there’s all of a sudden no compression when once there was, a snapped timing belt is almost certainly what happened. This is an “interferance engine” so when the belt fails, the valves occupy the space where the piston needs to be when it’s all the way up and they collide. This will almost certainly damage some of the valves, and may cause damage to the piston. To ascertain the extent of the damage, someone will have to physically remove the head and look at everything. Sometimes the damage isn’t too bad to repair, especially if in the hands of a skilled machinist. If it is really bad, you might need a new (to you) engine, which there is a steady supply of from Japan. A good Honda-Acura specialist should be able to weigh all of these options for you.

As for whether it’s worth repairing, you have to consider if for the cost of repairing the engine you could buy an equivelant car with new brakes, alternator, etc. I’d say if the body is in good shape, I’d have no problem repairing it, regardless of what the blue book says.


#19

+1 Sounds like a classic timing belt snap. Those are nice durable cars, but those belts have to be watched. This is an easy car to work on so if you can find an independent to pull the head off while you track down a used cylinder head you can get it back on the road for a reasonable investment. How nice is the car anyway?. The 90-93 Integras still bring money in nice shape and have a following. You’re from the LBC right, like your name suggests? No problem finding used Integra parts there!


#20

That will create a zero-compression condition like we have here, as the valves are bent and cannot seat properly.

It’s the fact that the valves aren’t MOVING (stuck in the open position) when you turn the engine over is why the engine isn’t getting any compression. Even if the valves are NOT bent…you won’t get any compression with a broken timing belt.

This engine as with MOST of Honda’s engines are interference engines. I’d find another mechanic though. When he makes the comment that because of no compression it MUST be the head…that’s a crock. If this WASN’T a interference engine and the belt broke there would be no compression…The head and valves would be fine…just replace the belt (correctly) and you’re on your way.