A mystery I need help with please....Matlock

Hi there. On a long trip (about halfway through a 1500 mile journey), I ran over a tire at 65 miles an hour. I stupidly kept going (as I was heading to the hospital to literally be with my father as he was dying). After 350 more miles (with 5 hours of rest in between) the car was showing hot (with no smells or symptoms) so I pulled into a shop. When the mechanic went out to pull the car in, it would not start. They let it cool and pulled it in, did a test and showed me a tube with the radiator fluid in it that was greyish. They told me my head gasket was blown and that the cost of repairing it was the same as the value of my car. I had to abandon the car, and rent a car to get to my dad. He died, and now I’m having to deal with the car.

The insurance company said they would cover the bumper damage but not the engine, as they could not prove running over the tire caused the engine to overheat. The car has 200,000 miles on it and is 13 years old, but had a new timing chain, pump, etc. ($1,900) of work a few months ago…and was running like a charm. There have never been any concerns about the engine in the past and the car has never overheated for any reason. I take care of it meticulously. It seems suspicious to me that there would be no link between running over a tire earlier that day, and the overheating.

When the owner of the shop put it on the lift, he says there was nothing obvious like a hose hanging down, etc., and so he thinks its unrelated to running over the tire. Because he said this, the insurance company will not cover the engine repair or give me a check for the totaled car.

I’m thinking of having the car towed to a different shop to get a second opinion. What should they look for? How can I prove this is linked? Now, the car has sat for 10 days. Is all evidence going to be gone at this point. What should I do? I have $3,000 to lose here, by giving up, so I’m having a hard time letting go. Thank you for sharing your time and wisdom!

concorde? 2.7 motor? worst of the bunch though 3.2 and 3.5 were also a little shaky. those vintage motors used to run hot and the oil would coke up and motor would grind itself to death. i see quite a few being parted out with bad motors.

Please accept my condolences regarding your father, and also regarding your car.
Unfortunately, in the absence of visible damage to the radiator or the lower radiator hose, I can’t imagine that a road impact could have led to the head gasket problem.

However, this is something that cries out for a second opinion. You did not mention if the original mechanic did a compression test or any other tests, so make sure that a second shop does enough testing to confirm that the head gasket has indeed been breached.

Thanks for your comment! If it was a bad engine, wouldn’t it have had this problem before now at 200,000 miles?

Thank you VDC driver. This is good advice. I’m having trouble getting straight answers from the shop who has the car, and I’m a long ways away. It sounds like they are trying to keep me from spending money on it, but I’d rather spend a little now to understand. Thank you!

I hear you about the radiator and hose, but I was able to keep going…and it seems that damage would have overheated the car sooner. Could it have been a slow leak of a cracked hose? an oil line? some debri that worked its way into blocking air?

Cavell, I found it. It’s a 3.2 V6

I would get a second opinion, that is just good business practice, but I would not throw good money after bad. I’m sure that a few months ago, if you had seen this coming, you would not have had the work done then, now if you invest in a new engine, what if the transmission goes out, or something else. This car is at the end of its expected service life, you should let go, unless the second opinion finds that it can be fixed for a couple hundred.

BTW, I have never seen a coolant turn “greyish” so I am wondering just what the shop did. Did you see them pull it from the radiator?

Hi Keith, Thanks a lot for taking the time to respond. They said the greyish fluid told them that oil got into the antifreeze, so that the head gasket must be blown.

Thanks for the reality check with the life of the car. I would agree.

My purpose with the 2nd opinion would be to get another opinion on whether running over the tire caused the problem with the engine, so that the insurance might then pay me the value of the car (totaling it). If that could not be established by a 2nd opinion (with the car having sat for 10 days now), then it would not be worth getting it. I’m wondering if some wise mechanic might have an idea of how these could be linked, and whether a 2nd opinion is warranted for something like that.

I hope the sun is shining where you are.

While it would be good to check, the fact that you (understandably) continued driving after running over the tire might make getting any kind of payout from the insurance company difficult. It can be difficult to prove it wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence, especially with out any clear physical damage.

Thank you texases. My head is not too clear right now, so that the advice from everyone is helpful.

When’s the last time you drove it at highway speeds for hours at a time?
Many parts of a car are under the least amount of stress on the highway, but the head gasket ain’t one of them, IMHO.
Thermal stress could be the culprit.

@Cavell: I have a 1994 3.5L motor with over 260K on the clock. It runs very well and has never overheated, even idling in 102 degree weather with the A/C on. It has never had any repair work except fluid changes and 2 timing belts since I’ve had it. (and it’s non-interference to boot) I’ve never heard of anyone having major problems with this engine, and while I’m not as familiar with it, nor with a 3.2L either. If you do a search of these forums, you will find a very, very low number of people that are reporting any issues with these motors, and searching Edmunds for cars with these engines you will not find many problems there either. The 2.7L, well, that is admittedly another story, and this engine is known to be prone to sludging, especially if oil changes aren’t timely. Except for isolated incidents, I don’t think any of these engines are known for head gasket failures. (like some Subaru engines are) Though overheating can certainly cause a head gasket to blow.

For the OP, you need to link cause and effect between running over the tire and the engine problem for the insurance to cover it. And it would probably be good to know if the overheating caused the head gasket to go or the failing head gasket caused the overheating. A big jolt like running over a tire can definitely cause problems with your suspension, alignment, steering, and other systems, but unless you can find a leak somewhere or some actual damage that was caused by the incident, such as your cooling fans being knocked out of operation, this appears to be an unfortunate coincidence. (and why oh why does it seem like life likes to pile these things on us when we’re already going through bad times)

" it would probably be good to know if the overheating caused the head gasket to go or the failing head gasket caused the overheating"

Oblivion makes an excellent point, and–after the fact–it can be very difficult or even impossible to sort out the sequence of cause & effect. When an engine has this many miles under its belt, it is very possible that the head gasket became breached, and that the overheating followed the head gasket failure.

In any event, if the mechanic giving the second opinion finds damage from the overheating (which is very likely if this engine was overheated for more than just a few minutes), then it is time to say goodbye to this car.

It’s hard to believe that running over a tire could have ruined an engine, I doubt if it is ruined. Also I doubt if you have a 3.2 engine, when there are so many 3.3s