Two days before moving across the country in my 2001 Toyota Corolla, after some routine maintenance (recharging air-conditioner, bleeding breaks, etc…) my mechanic called to tell me there was a knock in my engine, potentially a rod-bearing, and my car would need a new engine (for $4,300). I immediately started crying as there is no way I can afford that repair. The mechanic said the car could potentially still make it to California if I drove slowly and added oil regularly. I drove the car to California, added less than one-quart of oil, and it made it the 3,500 miles. I immediately took it to a mechanic an oil change/check up, they said there was no problem with the engine and the car was in great shape (now with 129,000 miles). I have no idea what an “engine knock” would sound like, so I trusted them. When I took the car for the CA smog/emissions test, the mechanic performing the test said he could hear a knock (and it could likely be a rod bearing) and that I should consider trading in the car soon, but I definitely shouldn’t take it on any more long drives. Today another mechanic diagnosed a problem with the top of the engine (not the rod bearing) from getting an oil change at one of the cheap-o-lube places. They said the gun that deposits oil into the car had broken some part where they put the oil in and that had damaged some gasket. The repair for this was only $120, so I told them to do it. I’m not convinced that there isn’t rod-bearing damage, but how can you test this? Should I trust the car enough to drive on a long road trip?
At one point about 8 months/6,000 miles ago the car stalled and blew it’s spark plugs. I took it to the nearest shop (via tow truck) for repair, and then to my regular mechanic (the first one in this story) afraid of engine damage and both diagnosed it as having nothing wrong (after replacing the spark plugs).
So, should I get rid of this car? I can’t seem to find another Honda/Toyota as new or in as good of shape with low milage for under $7,000. Should I get a new engine? Should I just try to trust this car and drive it until it explodes?
What would you do in my situation? I have no money, plenty of debt, and I’ve now had lots of conflicting diagnoses and contradicting second opinions.