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2004 Vibe: blown engine @ 144K; replace or not?

Car got hit a week ago and just got out of the body shop; oil light came on day after and my mechanic says the engine’s shot (oil pump dead, probably screwed up the connecting rods and timing chain).

Am I better off replacing the engine or replacing the car?

I would consider getting a second opinion

Did your mechanic hook up an external oil pressure gauge and take a reading?

Does the engine have the proper oil level?

Does the engine no longer start?

Or does it start, but it’s making awful noises?

FWIW . . . the oil pump itself is usually not the cause of low oil pressure

What engine in this vibe?

I think your mechanic . . . or another mechanic . . . should be able to locate a relatively cheap used engine and install it

A Vibe is essentially a rebadged Toyota Matrix, which is generally a very reliable car

I would not give up on this car just yet, if the rest of the car is in good condition

Assuming your car just got out of the body shop, I’ll assume it’s pretty straight. How about rust?

If you’re not replacing the engine yourself, replace the vehicle.

By the time you pay a mechanic to replace the engine, and with the age/ mileage on the vehicle, it’ll cost more than the vehicle is worth.

And if the vehicle has an automatic transmission, is that about to fail?

And finally, why was the vehicle in the body shop?


The vehicle is only worth what a salvage yard would pay for it now. Get a second price on replacing the engine then decide if you can drive it and get your moneys worth. Some of us would not put any money in it and some here would and drive as long as possible. Really only you and whoever in your family is involved can make the decision.

My guess, if the crash caused that much damage to the engine, it probably doesn’t make sense to try to save the rest of the 12 year old vehicle. If it was just the engine that needed replacement but the rest of the car was ok, then it might make sense to do that. But even that is iffy, unless like mentioned above you can do it without incurring the hourly labor fee.

Replace the vehicle.

If the car has an automatic transmission, and if that trans hasn’t had regular fluid changes, then it has very little life left in it.

Why spend a huge amount of money on a new engine for a 12 year old car if that expenditure is likely to be followed in a few months with another very large bill for an overhauled transmission?

If the engine was damaged in the accident and the insurance company paid for the repair, you may be.entitled to compensation from the insurance company. A good mechanic may be able to determine if the engine was damaged as a result of the car being hit.

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I guess I’d make sure the engine is truly damaged. The oil light can go on for several reasons, and with a lot of body work just done, it’s possible that some wiring was disturbed and the light is wrong. Before you leap into thousands of dollars of repair or junk the car check to see if there is a good connection between the sensor and the wiring of the warning light, and maybe have a mechanic test the oil pressure with a real gauge.

Pressure test says there’s something badly wrong - the pressure is way, way too low. Insurance has said, let’s pull it apart far enough to see what’s happening, and we’ll decide if it happened in the accident. So we’ll see what the damage really is (they estimated this at $180); if the insurance says yes, it happened in the accident, then either they’ll pay to fix it, or they’ll total the car. If they say it didn’t, then we can decide whether it’s worth fixing or not - input on that would be appreciated.

Body and suspension seem fine (especially after the body work :confused: ); I’m going to talk to the shop and ask them what kind of experience they’ve had with engines from the supplier they use.

Thanks very much for the advice; any other thoughts very welcome!

My amazing garage managed to repair the issue. A lot of built-up gunk was clogging the oil pump’s input, so they cleaned the oil pump, changed the oil, and the low pressure issue is fixed.

Their guess is that the jar from the collision shook a lot of extra crud loose, which clogged up the pump and caused the low pressure.

Car developed a classic “bad spot on the starter” this last week (curable by thumping the starter, but inconvenient), so of course I went back to have them fix it, but they seem to have closed in the meantime. :frowning: Hope I can track them down again.

Thanks for telling us. I’m glad you got the issue fixed. Given the solution, I hope that this was included in your insurance settlement. A lot of people don’t get back to us with how the problem was solved, and it is always good to get the word.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to change the oil “sooner rather than later” the next time.

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Yep, totally my fault, that.

That’s good to hear.
Re: the intermittent starter, the “bad spot” could in some way be connected to the accident, so I wouldn’t hesitate to file an amendment to the claim. If they deny it, you’ve lost nothing.

By the way, what’s it doing when it’s at the “bad spot”? If the starter is spinning without starting the engine, the accident forces might have caused the starter assembly to move and bust a few teeth off of the drive plate (Toyota’s nomenclature for the plate that contains the ring gear to which the starter engages).

It sounds like that must have been one heck of an accident. Hope everyone’s okay.

Iffy starters are a common thing, don’t worry about that. Other than fixing it of course. One note, a faulty PCV system can cause a water/oil sort of gunk to build up in the crankcase, so good idea to ask your shop to do a test to make sure that’s all working correctly. Otherwise you risk the problem returning.

If the car is in great shape and you love it, then I don’t see why you cant swap in a used engine. That should be very easy to do on a vibe. My friend owns a 2005 vibe and loves the thing to death. It’s hard to find a replacement since they stopped making them.