Advice on what to do

I’m back about my car. A little backstory. A long backstory, but I think relevant.

Attached is the receipt from the last time the dealer had my car to replace gaskets for an oil leak. Don’t see any way to attach a picture of the receipt, so It’s not here. Sorry.

Oct. 6 - had some gaskets replaced on my engine due to dealer saying there was an oil leak. (I talked about that previously. Thought my car was on its last legs) I ordered the gaskets needed because the dealer said they couldn’t get them from Mazda anymore. Someone here recommended me to an online store where I could get them. So those gaskets got installed and dealer said that fixed the problem.

Was told during their work replacing those gaskets that the plastic coolant hose snapped because it was so old and brittle and they replaced it. About a week later I went to check my windshield fluid and found my engine coolant non-existent. Tank was bone dry. I’d driven it a couple days in that week not knowing that. The rest of the week it sat in the driveway. Did NOT see any fluid on my driveway so there was no evidence of a leak. I took it back to the dealer to get it filled. I didn’t actually look to see that they filled it, I just took the car. Drove it maybe 3-4 times between Oct. 6 and the beginning of Nov. It sat in the driveway the rest of the time.

Nov. 6 - drove the car for a few hours, then it sat in the driveway.

Nov. 8 - went to start the car - nothing. Wouldn’t start. Thought I needed a new battery (just because I knew it was really old). Called AAA to do that. Guy said he couldn’t get the strap off that was holding the battery and I had to take it in to the AAA shop (another story). He jumped it and told me I had to let it idle for an hour to charge the battery. An hour later I come out and the car’s not running. Talked to AAA shop guy and he said AAA guy that came out is an idiot and idling doesn’t charge a battery, you have to drive it. Found cables, jumped it and decided to drive it for a little while to charge it.

After driving about 10 minutes, while doing about 30-35 mph, car just dies. All lights came on, no real steering ability but was able to pull over to the side. Called home to have someone come with jumper cables to restart it, hoping it would. Popped the hood and noticed, again! coolant tank was bone dry! Still nothing on the driveway to indicate any kind of leak. Figured that’s the reason the car died. While still waiting about 3-5 mins, tried to start the car and it started! Had family member follow me to the dealer since I couldn’t get into the AAA shop. Car stalled 4x in the 5 miles to get to the dealer and had to jump each time to start. Engine light is the only one on during this time.

Nov. 9 - Haven’t yet talked to the mechanic who worked on the car, but this is the cursory dealer recommendation: head gasket replacement and timing components for $5k+ or getting a used motor from LKQ(?) for $6k+. They said they would have to find a car like mine and get the motor from that.

My first question is: Do you think the coolant hose that broke and the dealer replacing it but then all the coolant leaking out and going somewhere (since it didn’t end up on my driveway) has anything to do with the fact I basically need a new engine now?

I want to talk to the mechanic who worked on it to see where the coolant went, etc., but I also feel it’s their fault the coolant leaked out due to them breaking and replacing the hose a month before and me not knowing it leaked out and I was driving around with a bone dry coolant tank. I know some of you will say I should have checked the coolant but from what I’m told it’s not like you have to check that fluid a lot as it’s not something that gets used up like gas does or windshield washer fluid would. Plus, since I only drive maybe 5k miles a year, I wouldn’t use fluids like someone who drives their car daily would.

My 2nd question is really at the end here. But: My car has 89k+ miles on it. Never been in an accident of any kind. Some rust on the back quarter panel. Headliner is held up with thumbtacks. Radio has some issues. Spent a lot of $$ (at least $5k+) the past year getting things fixed on it. Was just about to get the rust fixed.

The exact same car (well, other than the seat material) is for sale a couple hours away from me in another state. It has 118K miles on it. Price is the same the dealer quoted for a new motor for my car - little over $6k. Pictures show no rust on the outside. Inside looks in nice condition. Carfax shows one accident. Thinking of going to look at it.

Would it be better to get a used motor, rebuild what the dealer says mine needs, or look at the car for sale with about 25k miles more than mine, since they’re all about the same price? I love my car and have always said I’ll do anything to keep it, even if it needs a new engine, but the thing is now that it needs a new engine, should I just get the whole car (that’s for sale) that at least the body is in better shape than mine, or just repair mine?

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone who knows cars that I could take to go look at the car for sale, and everyone I ask doesn’t seem to know anyone they could recommend me to. And it being out of state, I wouldn’t know who/where to take it there to get it checked out. I’ve looked at cars over the years and I don’t like any, nor do I want to spend $30K+ for a new one. All the cars I see on the road that I actually do like (by sight only) are basically 10 or more years old wagons, like Fords and Subarus.

Anyway, my main 2 questions are the ones I need help with: Is the dealer at fault with the coolant and should I get my car repaired for $5 - 6k+ or get the car for sale for about the same price (assuming it’s one I’d buy)?

Thanks very much for the help/advice.

The coolant didn’t leak out, causing the blown head gasket. The blown head gasket caused the coolant to get blown out the exhaust. It is a symptom, not the cause.

$5K is a lot for a head gasket. Why are you having this done at a dealer… the most expensive place? Why not a well rated independent shop? An indie would be cheaper. Maybe $3500.

I’d have the gasket done rather than swap to a used engine.

I’d fix the car you know rather than take a chance on the unknown.


Thanks for letting me know what actually happened. Will be interesting to talk to the mechanic that worked on it to see what his explanation is as to what happened to the coolant.

Can’t find an independent shop to do it. Looked around earlier before this happened, in the expectation that it would eventually. Have asked people, asked mechanics, no one seems to know where I could get it done. Seems dealer is my only choice at this point.

You were there. You left the engine running unattended with insufficient coolant until the engine stalled. Where the leak was you may never know. I have seen engines get hot enough the warp the cylinder heads, loose compression, stall and fail to start. An hour later after cooling off the engine will start. Multi-layer stainless steel head gaskets don’t blow apart the way the head gaskets did 30 years ago.

Next you drove the car until the engine quit again and discovered no coolant in the engine. The charging system operates no differently while driving or idling, a failed battery is not going to accept a charge.

Used engines for these old cars are about $1500, sometimes less. It can cost much more to repair an engine that has overheating damage.

I read this problem description as having more problems than simply the head gasket. The OP has not even described overheating, but has clearly described battery/charging/starting problems.
I seem to recall that my Mazda3 has a pressurized coolant tank that requires unusual refill and bleeding procedures.
The OP needs to find a good independent shop who will take a fresh look at the symptoms, instead of trying to blame all the problems on one thing that the prior shop did.

I think the OP should learn how to interpret the readings on the temperature gauge.

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No indication of high temperature. No indication on the dash of any overheating. If that were the case it would have been looked at and no coolant found. However, since there was nothing indicating overheating, just thought it was the battery, since that was the only light that stayed on after they all came on initially. Engine light didn’t come on until car died the first time 10 mins after driving trying to charge the battery. That’s when it went to the dealer to find out what was going on.

As for trying to find a good independent shop, as I said, I TRIED to do that long before this happened in anticipation of something like this happening and CAN’T find one. Not trying to blame problems on one thing prior shop did, just asking IF anything they did contributed. Geez. Not everyone as knowledgeable about cars as you.

Haven’t talked to the mechanic yet about any overheating damage so don’t know the extent. Was told previously that getting a used engine could have the same problems since it would be a 16 year old engine and wouldn’t know what problems it has or is going to have, so why would I get and old “new” engine?

The above is what actually happened. Coolant didn’t leak out like we thought, it got blown out the exhaust as Mustangman explained. Yeah, I was there but didn’t know that’s what actually happened.

What’s the model year of your vehicle? I realize it has fewer than 100k miles, but if it’s more than 10-15 years old, my thinking is your best bet is to sell it as a mechanic’s special, and buy a newer car. It’s impractical for most folks to keep older vehicles well maintained and repaired unless they enjoy and have time to monitor all the fluid levels, inspect monthly for problems developing, & do the necessary repair and maintenance work themselves.

The newer car you buy may well have 100k + miles. As long as they are mostly freeway miles, and the car has been well maintained, that should work. If you follow this path, suggest to schedule your next car in the shop for a general inspection service every 6 months.

Transfer the photo in jpeg format to your computer. Then start your post, click on the icon above, 7th from the left, that has a horizontal bar with an upward arrow.

After they did this is when I had the coolant problem so I thought it was related. Dealer said they couldn’t get the gaskets from Mazda anymore so I bought the gaskets and they installed them. And though the receipt says differently, I didn’t tell them of the leaks, they told ME of the leaks when they were checking the car out for NYS inspection.

Car’s a 2005 Mazda6 wagon. Been looking off and on the past 5 years for a replacement car in anticipation of mine dying. All new ones are now SUVs which are too high for me to get into/out of - feel like Edith Ann - plus the seats are molded and hard to the point they’re not comfortable.

Even in today’s highly-inflated used car market, I do not believe that it makes sense to put $6k into this car. The only reasonable options would be to see if you can find someone who will install a working used motor with a warranty for less, or to sell the car as a “mechanic special” and buy something else.

I could not understand why it would cost $5k to do a head gasket repair–until you revealed that this is the V-6 engine, which must come out in order to do the repair. Had this been a 4-cylinder model, the repair could have been done for a fraction of the cost, without having to pull the motor, plus there is only one cyl. head versus two.

In the future, I would suggest sticking with 4-cylinder engines on FWD cars. They are much easier to work on, which makes it possible to DIY many repairs and maintenance procedures, and makes the repair costs much lower if you pay a shop to work on your car.

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Yes, it is a 6 cyl. Unfortunately, I don’t know near enough about cars to know whether one is a 6 or 4 cyl and what kind of engine would make it easy to work on. And today’s cars aren’t like ones even 15-20 years ago where one can just work on them easily. Everything is digital/computerized now.

So I talked to a couple mechanics and they said, yes, you have to take half the engine apart to get to the gasket and that it’s better to just get a “new” (used) engine instead of just fixing the head gasket because (their words) the top of the engine is already damaged because (something about water getting down in somewhere? Can’t remember everything that was said) and if you just fix it you’ll probably have problems down the road with the bottom of the engine.

My question: Is that right? Is it better to just get a whole “new” engine rather than just repair the head gasket because there might be other problems down the road?

Oh, and though Mustangman said it wasn’t the loss of coolant that blew the head gasket but the head gasket blowing that made the loss of coolant, these guys said it WAS the loss of the coolant that did it. One guy has a shop that replaces engines and stuff that he’s been doing for 50 years. He emphasized that as his expertise.

Car’s a 2005 Mazda 6 wagon. So it’s 16 years old. Has a little over 89k miles. I only drive maybe 5k miles a year so it sits more than it’s driven.

Can’t find any new cars that I like or that feel good to me. I basically need a step stool to get into and out of all SUVs. Don’t want a sedan. I like wagons but new ones are ridiculously expensive (Volvo, Subaru) if I can even find one.

As for finding a used car that’s well maintained and has mostly freeway miles, how do I trust that’s the case? Just take someone’s word for it?

And because my car is old, I DO/DID take it in more frequently than normal, and in the past 2 years it’s been in the shop for one thing or another. The past year it’s been in for a new headlight, replaced the radio, window control replacement, replaced seals, NYS inspection, oil changes, third brake light replacement and a couple other things I can’t remember right now. So I don’t know what the mechanic does when I take it in for those things as far as inspecting for problems. Is he supposed to look to see if any problems are imminent? How do I know a problem is about to occur until it does?

I’ve been told I take better care of my car than most people, but yeah, I can’t do any of it myself. It goes to the shop and they inspect - or are supposed to - for anything I don’t know about. I don’t know what more I can do.

I know it doesn’t make sense to spend $6k on a 16 yr old car, but I absolutely LOVE this car and want to keep it, especially since I can’t find a replacement. You don’t know how much I’ve already spent keeping it together, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay in order to keep it going. Plus I see cars with well over 100+k miles, even up to 250k miles on them. So to see mine with only 89k miles with this major problem is disheartening to say the least.

Remodeler , I would not put another dime in this thing . Also you really need to loosen your thoughts about a replacement vehicle as you are not being open minded .

While I don’t care for leasing a vehicle you fit the profile of someone who might be better off that way . The money you have spent on this thing might even be more that you would have spent on a lease .

Yeah, leasing isn’t my thing either. Would rather buy than lease.

Well, after doing some research and talking to the dealer and some mechanics, here’s what I’m doing: Getting a “new” used engine put in for “just about $3000” according to the place that replaces engines. (A fluke that I happened on this place, since when trying to find a place like this the past few years I never came across it and no one ever recommended it to me.)

So the “new” engine has a 6 month warranty and has a little over 87,000 miles on it. Mine has a little over 89,000. The car the engine is coming out of was in a rear-end accident and the guy who’s installing it said there’s nothing wrong with the engine itself.

Dealer quoted “about $6700” for an engine" but recommends getting a new car. And they know it wouldn’t be anything they have. They’ve been told many times over the years that I won’t buy anything from them because I don’t like any of their cars, so I don’t think they’re just trying to get me to buy from them. Actually, the guy I’ve been dealing with there for many years is the one who I believe is looking out for me, whether I buy a car from them or not. He even recommended other manufacturers’ cars for me to look at that their dealership doesn’t carry.

And WOW! Dealer says more than twice the cost of the engine installing company of “just about $3000” !! I knew dealers charged more, but twice as much? MORE than twice as much???!! Yowza!

So that’s what’s happening. I know some of you think I’m crazy, but that’s ok. I’d probably spend just about that much in renting or leasing a car to use to ride around trying to find something newer/better, which I haven’t been able to do the past 2 years anyway. And I don’t like having a car that I have to pay for everything on (gas, maintenance, any bumps or bruises that I’d HAVE to get fixed) plus a fee to use it, and have to give it back at the end - A/K/A a lease. So this will let me have my car back that I can use to keep looking for something else, and if anything happens to it I’m not bound by a lease to fix it.

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice, opinions and help. I’m sure I’ll have other questions at some point that I will appreciate help with, but until then, thanks again very much.

You have spent 2 years looking for a vehicle ? I almost think the dealer gave you that price so you would go away ( you told then you don’t like any of their vehicles ) .