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97 Toyota Tacoma

I have (or should I say had) a 1997 Toyota Tacoma with 250,000 miles on a 3.4 6 cyl. engine. Bought it brand new. I let my daughter (age 34) drive it to work one day last week in the Twin Cities metro area (about a 45 minute drive on the I-94). She calls about a half hour later and says she’s stalled by the side of the road. “I don’t know what happened, Mom. Smoke started rolling out from under the hood, all the lights came on and it just quit. I barely got to the side of the road.” A $149 flatbed tow later, my truck is back in the driveway. When I look under the hood there is a hole in the radiator right next to the pressure cap that you could throw a cat through (actually about 3 inches by half an inch). Engine coolant is everywhere, the insulation on the the underside of the hood is black and burnt. I took the cap off the coolant reservoir and what was left in there was kind of brown and had a slight oily feel to it. However, there was still oil in the engine or at least it was on the dip stick. So my son-in-law called his brother, who knows a guy, etc. and the consensus was that something probably came loose in the engine and blew through the radiator, hence the oily coolant and the gaping hole.

My mechanic, who has worked on my car since the warranty gave out, says it most likely overheated for some reason (stuck thermostat or what have you) and cracked the block. But since the engine coolant hadn’t turned milky, it might not be a cracked block. After telling me he doesn’t replace engines, he hung up. So I figured that was all the free advice he would give out.

So could you confirm my theory of what happened. Which is as follows. Last November this truck was T-boned in the driver’s side rear wheel. It bent the frame and pushed the transmission over. I had it fixed (bent box and all) but since then it doesn’t always shift into drive. Sometimes it goes down to 2 and I have to kind of fidget with the shifter to get it into drive. I think my daughter must have been driving on the I-94 in the Twin Cities in SECOND GEAR! Would that not make a car overheat somewhat? And if it overheated and oil got into the radiator would it not make sense that I maybe blew some gaskets? And I don’t really need a new engine, I just need new gaskets? Someone else told me that my truck has a titanium block. Wouldn’t that hold up under extreme temperatures and RPMs? Please tell me I don’t need a new engine.

I don't think the accident had anything to do with the current problem (I would guess it needs a simple adjustment have you taken it back to the people who did the work?  

Your mechanic offered a very good guess and you should be thankful that he will not try to do a job he is not equipped for.  You need a second opinion and that one will need to see the car.  Frankly the why it happened is not really important at this time.  

 [b] My mechanic, who has worked on my car since the warranty  [/b]  Hint: you don't need to have the dealer service your new car, even when it is under warranty.  It is often a better choice to use the services of an independent mechanic. (Note I understand there are some exceptions, but they only apply if the manufacturer is paying for all the service and maintenance required.