Advice on what to do

Good analogy above. Some shops do nothing but rebuild used engines, returning them to oem specs. They’ll have all tech-training, specialized tools, and equipment necessary to do that job correctly. By focusing their shop techs on just one job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, they can take advantage of the economy of scale that isn’t possible for a shop that rebuilds an engine one day, and replaces a water pump the next. In theory anyway a re-manufactured engine done by one of these shops will be closer to like-new quality for a competitive price. These sorts of specialized shops sometimes offer better warranty terms on their engines as well.

Basically you have 4 choices, repair, overhaul, re-build or re-manufacture.

Repair, fix whats broke, leave the rest alone. Should be done by a qualified mechanic.

Overhaul, all new gaskets, rings, valve job. Done by a mechanic in a garage. Bare minimum of machining, i.e hone cylinders, grind valves. Used to be common back when engines only lasted about 60k miles.

Rebuild. Again done by a mechanic but with major machining. Cylinders bored to next oversize, new pistons and rings. Crankshaft re-machined and polished, new undersize bearings installed. Many parts replaced, valves, timing belt/chain, tensioners. All parts are measured and inspected and only the minimum amount of machining is done. Internal parts that pass inspection are reused.

Remanufacture. Done in a factory on an assembly line by factory workers, not mechanics, much like a factory that makes new engines for new cars. The engine is disassembled and checked for major flaws like cracks or worn beyond limits for reman. The blocks and heads are cleaned, then they get a standard machine job, all getting the same machining regardless of the condition of the engine. I.e. a mechanic doing a rebuild might determine your engine only needs to be bored 0.010" oversize. In a reman facility, all engines get overbored by 0.030" whether they need it or not.

The blocks get a full machine job including align bore for the crankshaft. Major components like the crankshaft and camshaft are also remachined to a common size. Then the engine is reassembled with all new parts. It is essentially as close to a brand new engine as you can get, provided it was done by one of the better reman companies.

The disadvantage to a reman or rebuild is that parts were re-machined and may not be as strong as the original. Also the metal surface is weaker as you machine into it. As a former metal caster, aluminum cylinder heads and artificial joints, as metal hardens in the mold, the outside surface hardens first and sets the dimensions of the castings. As the metal hardens from the outside in, the cooling of the metal causes it to shrink. As you go inward the shrinking pool of metal has stresses pulling it apart as it hardens, making it less dense than the surface layer.

This is why if the engine is a good solid engine without a lot of wear, I would repair. My second choice would be either I rebuild myself or I get a reman.

:thinking: Can I send my engine to you? :ambulance:

I have one other possibility, sometimes the throttle body coolant hose is externally connected to the throttle body. At the age of your engine, that hose could be cracked and leaking. Cheap fix. BTW, this hose can leak just enough to not leave a trace on the ground unless you idle the engine in one place for awhile.

Have your heard abck yet from the new mechanic?

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Talked to someone at the shop yesterday. He said “they have it up and are working on it now.” I didn’t ask what that meant, but I did ask if they would let me know what was the outcome before doing anything and he said “absolutely,” The car got there Monday early afternoon and I can only assume they’re busy as it took 5 days to get to it. So if they don’t call by mid afternoon Monday I’ll call and see what’s going on.

I think that means your car is now raised on their lift, which implies they are actively working on it.

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Well, yeah, I understand that much. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: I meant I didn’t know exactly what “they’re working on it” meant other than that. And how long that would take.

Did you ask for a repair estimate or did you ask them to replace the engine?

Didn’t ask for either. Just told them the dealer said the head gasket was blown and I had to either repair it or get a “new” engine. Asked if they could get an engine and was told yes, it would cost “just about $3000” to replace it. Had it towed there and the last I talked to a guy was what I said previously, he said they’re looking at it now and when I asked if they’d let me know before doing anything he said absolutely.

So maybe I won’t wait until mid-afternoon to call them. Now I’m worried they’re gonna do something before letting me know.

Those who answer the phone often bluff when it comes to progress when backlogged.

The work order you signed should have instructions such as; “engine won’t run, inspect and advise”. Do you have a copy of the work order?

No work order. I never went there, they didn’t send anything. We just talked on the phone.

So here’s some pictures of my car. The outside is the exact same color. Only difference is I have the roof racks. This one doesn’t. The interior and the round vents that I love. All cars should have this kind. And the engine. This isn’t MY car’s engine, but it’s the same kind I have, although this is so clean it looks brand new. So the large plastic container on the left side with what looks like pink fluid in it is the engine coolant tank.

WELL!!! HUGE surprise! Apparently all I needed is a new radiator (to the tune of $700+) But WTF ???

The guy I need to speak with isn’t available. He’s supposed to call me back so I can talk to him in-depth.

So the woman who answers the phone said: You know you don’t need a new motor, right? All you needed is a new radiator, which they put a new one in, along with some nuts and bolts :woozy_face: :face_with_raised_eyebrow: (which is why I have to speak with someone more knowledgeable!!)

After talking to him, I’m gonna have a discussion with the dealer :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Well the age of your vehicle is in the range where rubber gaskets between the tanks and the core often fail. This would not be the dealers fault but it is the dealers fault telling you that you need head gaskets when you don’t. Did they check your alternator connections, if they didn’t, give then a call and ask them to.

And so, MORE surprises :no_mouth:…the woman who quoted me the total was wrong, by double. Price is $1418 not the $700+ she quoted.

Keith, didn’t ask any of the questions people here said I should ask, and that I said I would. I let the guy tell me what he did to see if he mentioned any of those things.

So I just spoke with the guy who knows about my car, at length, almost 20 minutes. He said 3 different people test drove the car. They ran it hot, let it sit, ran it hot again, repeated those cycles 3 or 4 times. It never acted up. BUT it took like the 4th time of doing that before they ever saw a leak on the ground. It’s a cracked radiator. Wasn’t the engine because it had coolant in it. They pressure tested everything, ran dye thru it. It was losing coolant but wouldn’t overheat. And it never registered on the dash. They saw it was leaking out of the plastic on the side of the radiator. Not the coolant tank, the radiator itself in the front. It was leaking off the side, and that’s not replaceable. (I think he meant fixable? Because it had to be replaced when they replaced the radiator, right?)

He said there was no coolant in the oil, there was no smoke coming out of the back of the car, the temperature didn’t go to H.

Says the car’s in great shape. It’s only got 89,000 miles on it. Beautiful. Says I take good care of it.

I asked if I was justified in going back to the dealer and being angry about it being misdiagnosed and he said I COULD, but not to get too angry as I may need them at some point in the future. But that I could ask for an explanation and let them give me an answer. He said the dealer just misdiagnosed it. They didn’t take the engine apart, they just let the car sit. They didn’t test drive it a number of times.

But I AM pretty angry that they misdiagnosed it to the point they were recommending either a $5000+ head gasket or a “new” engine to the tune of - their quote - about $6700. A FAR cry from the $1400 new radiator. And had I believed them I’d STILL probably have a cracked radiator and a head gasket or engine that didn’t need replacing.

So this shop is now my go-to. No more dealer - unless I need a loaner. Maybe. I don’t know if this shop has loaners. If so, then no more dealer. I am SO glad I finally found them, after years of asking around. Don’t know why no one I asked ever told me about this place. I obviously don’t know the right people to ask.

And now they’re fixing the rust on my wheel well that’s leaving rust on my concrete driveway.

Hope to have my car back by Thanksgiving.

Once again, thanks to all who gave advice and opinions. I’m not a car person like you guys, so that’s all really appreciated. Nice to have somewhere to turn for help and not be considered an idiot, just as someone who doesn’t know cars.


When I said tank, I did not mean the reservoir tank. The radiator has an aluminum core which is the fins plus plastic tanks on each end or top and bottom. The tanks are fastened to the core by tabs that are crimped all around the edge, there is a rubber gasket between the tanks and the core to keep it from leaking. Your tanks are top and bottom. At about the age of your vehicle, sometimes the rubber starts leaking. But the plastic also gets brittle and the necks where the upper and lower hoses attach can get cracked by heavy handed mechanics.

I am so glad that you don’t need a new engine, I was pretty sure you didn’t.

I think this is one of those designs that the radiator is replaced from below so there is more labor involved, 3 to 4 hours total. How do you get to $1400?

I’ve had mysterious cooling system leaks before. It’s not that surprising it took quite a bit of experimentation for the shop to find it. No matter what I did, tilt the car to the right, left, fore, aft, whatever I did I couldn’t get it to leak. Then the next morning I might see a little coolant on the floor. Or not. The leak appeared to be in the area of the water pump so I finally decided to just replace the pump. Only when I had taken everything apart and ready to unbolt the old pump from the block, did it finally spring a visible leak.

Yeah I had one car that the car had to be on a lift to take the radiator out, so not a DIY or easy.

I also replaced the plastic tank on one radiator. It was worth a shot for $35 to save the radiator but success was not guaranteed. You have to bend the tabs back and put the new gasket and tank on and re-bend the tabs again. If you break a tab or it leaks afterwards, you throw it away and get a new radiator. It is nothing that you would pay someone to do though since the labor would exceed the cost of the radiator.

At any rate glad it is working out.

I’ve never had the courage to try that. Maybe next time the Corolla radiator springs a tank leak I’ll give it shot.