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2001 Jetta head gasket

We have a 2001 VW Jetta with 53K miles. My son was driving it home and the temp gauges showed it was getting hot. He stopped and the gas station added oil and coolant. he continued to drive another 60 miles and then it began to get hot again. He pulled off the highway and stopped and then it started to smoke. It was towed and the repair shop replaced the water coolant pump but now they tell us they need to repair the head gasket wihich will cost about $1500. Since we are 90 miles from the shop we are at their mercy. Any thoughts -

What they are saying is that the head gasket was the cause for the overheating. They could/should have figured that out easily before replacing the water pump. Is this a truly qualified shop? Will they have the cylinder head planed for that price?

You’re not truly at their mercy if you want to have it towed again. You DO owe them for the water pump that you probably didn’t need. Did they also replace the timing belt during that repair? It is common and normal to do so as the labor is already being done.

A second opinion would be nice. Would the shop you have it towed to be any cheaper IF that’s what it needs, which is likely? Call other shops in that area and ask them what they’d get for a head gasket job. Call other shops in your own area, and see if a 90 mile tow would save you any $$. Use your deepest bass voice Liz. Unfortunately it can make a difference.

I’m not convinced the shop is gouging you or your son. Much depends on how much of the overheating story they were given when the car was towed in.

With any overheating problem a compression test should be performed right off the bat in my opinion but a shop may not do this based on assumptions from what they were told of the problem.

Continuing to operate a vehicle with a known problem is a huge mistake about 99% of the time. Leaking water pump leads to overheating which leads to blown head gaskets which can lead to other more serious engine problems.

Chronic, severe overheating will often score cylinder walls, cook piston rings, wash out crankshaft bearings/cams/lifters due to coolant diluted oil, etc.
In a nutshell, you may spend 1500 bucks on head gaskets and be left with an engine that is knocking (crankshaft, etc.) or smoking like a brush fire (cylinder walls, rings).

I’d be very antsy about spending this much money on head gaskets. Odds are the engine has suffered other damage to some extent although that may not be known without further diagnosis and/or a partial teardown.

Thanks to you both for your input. The car was not overheating before this incident and we did explain to the shop in detail what happened. Given the unknowns, I think we will tow it home and have it diagnosed by our mechanic who we have total confidence in. Just wanted to make sure it was not cut and dry and we would regret the towing charges. I had the same concern that we would spend the money and find out that wasn’t the problem in the first place.

What should be done as a first step is a compression test. While a blown head gasket will show an abnormality in one or more cylinders, what a complete compression test will show is abnormalities that may exist in cylinders not affected by a head gasket problem.

The other abnormalities will be problems related to the piston rings, which as I mentioned can be ruined (either by seizing to the pistons or losing their temper (meaning losing their spring tension).
A ring problem means that the entire engine should be overhauled or replaced. Considering the car is about 9 years old the economics of a by the book overhaul would be hard to justify and a good used engine should be procured.

Hope some of this advice helps. Just trying to prevent a situation where you could spend 1500 bucks and be left holding the bag on a car that needs major engine work. Actually, the shop that did the water pump should have done a compression test before replacing the water pump.
Everybody has their own method of doing things and speaking for myself, I’m not a fan of replacing parts without trying to determine if there’s some major underlying problems first.