Am I being cheated or just unlucky?


#1

I am driving and my engine suddenly overheats. I pull over and see that my coolant is pouring out. I have it towed to a mechanic. The mechanic ran diagnostics and told me the problem was the water pump. After I agreed to that, he called and said he took it out for a test and the thermostat was broken. After I agreed to that, he took the car out again and now says the head gasket needs replacing. I asked why he didn’t find everything at the start. He said he needed to test drive it to find out. Is this really how it works? The car isn’t worth anywhere near this much money but I’ve already agreed to like $800 of work.


#2

Until he had run some tests, it was not possible to know whether or not the head gasket had been breached.

Just out of curiosity…
How did you become aware that it was overheating?
How far/long did you drive after you discovered that the engine was overheating?
And, what type of vehicle is this?


#3

The chain of damage is often not known until a repair is made allowing the system to function again…until the next linked problem occurs.

I had a radiator hose leak in my truck…on a sunday in my back driveway. back then only the Napa was open sundays, no Autozone or O’Reilly’s .
Want and got a hose, put it on , filled up the coolant and fired it up proudly…
water pump leaks now !
Went and got a water pump, put it on ( hours for me ) filled it up, fired it up…
— PIN HOLE IN THE RADIATOR NOW ! ! ----
( blew my sunday. had to wait till monday to send the radiator to the shop. )

Yes it happens, the domino effect, and we can’t really know until it all pressures up.

Electrical too, several circuits could be effected. But until the first in the chain is working, you can’t even know about the next.


#4
Until he had run some tests, it was not possible to know whether or not the head gasket had been breached.

Just out of curiosity…
How did you become aware that it was overheating?
How far/long did you drive after you discovered that the engine was overheating?
And, what type of vehicle is this?

Gauge just shot up suddenly. It couldn’t have been more that 15-20 seconds. It is a 2001 Pontiac Sunfire. Not even worth the price of the head gasket. So there was no way to check the head gasket before he fixed the water pump and then the thermostat?


#5

I am driving and my engine suddenly overheats.

There’s your problem right there. It didn’t SUDDENLY overheat. Overheating takes a little time, as the temperature creeps up slowly, and if you don’t IMMEDIATELY shut the engine off you’re risking engine damage, as you’ve found out.


#6
There's your problem right there. It didn't SUDDENLY overheat. Overheating takes a little time, as the temperature creeps up slowly, and if you don't IMMEDIATELY shut the engine off you're risking engine damage, as you've found out.

It was pretty sudden. The temp went from normal to red in just a few seconds. The coolant was pouring out fast when I got out to look.


#7

"I pull over and see that my coolant is pouring out. I have it towed to a mechanic. "

Did you look to see exactly where the leaking coolant was coming from?

The FIRST thing the mechanic should have done is fill the system with water and pressure-test it. This would have revealed the source of the leak if any…What led the mechanic to changing the water-pump?? Has a compression test been performed on the engine?


#8
Did you look to see exactly where the leaking coolant was coming from?

The FIRST thing the mechanic should have done is fill the system with water and pressure-test it. This would have revealed the source of the leak if any…What led the mechanic to changing the water-pump?? Has a compression test been performed on the engine?

I looked, but I had no idea what I was looking at. He said he tested it, and the problem was the water pump. I have no idea what kind of test it was. I know practically nothing about cars.


#9

It’s an older car and probably has more than 100,000 miles on it? How many exactly, and how long have you owned it? When was the last time you had the cooling system serviced? This information is part of troubleshooting.


#10
It's an older car and probably has more than 100,000 miles on it? How many exactly, and how long have you owned it? When was the last time you had the cooling system serviced? This information is part of troubleshooting.

It has 125,000 miles, and I’ve owned it for a year. I get it serviced when the manual says. I don’t know when it was the cooling system. It’s an old car. I don’t doubt that everything he said was actually wrong. I just wonder if he should have known about the head gasket before he got me to commit to all of the other work. Obviously I never would have gotten any work done if I had known the head gasket needed replacing.


#11

With a water pump failure, temps can spike up in a hurry. I had an '82 Honda where the water pump was making an awful racket as the bearings were toast. A friend and I were going to fix it at his house, so I stopped at the McParts store on the way for the pump, fluid, and other stuff. 2 blocks from his house, the pump seized and the engine temp gauge shot up from normal to red in almost an instant. I shut it down and coasted to a safe stop, not having any time to stop the car first. Thankfully, we were in Tampa, and managed to push it two blocks. Of course, we needed to replace the now fried belt, too.


#12

A bad head gasket and warped head should be suspected whenever an engine with an aluminum head overheats. And more often than not the smell of the coolant in an overheated engine could be very conclusive. Checking for such damage prior to repairing the obvious problem would be the more professional way to operate.

If it were me, I would likely let the shop have the car.


#13
If it were me, I would likely let the shop have the car.
Wait, is that an option? How does that work?

#14

Even though you treat the car well, the previous owners may not have. We can’t know and you probably don’t either. Did you have a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic before you bought it? If not, you should do that with your next car. It is well worth the $100 or so it costs to find out what warts the car has before buying rather than afterwards. It is possible that the mechanic may have pointed out some or all of the issues you happened onto a year later. You might call that improving your luck. And based on what you told us, I don’t believe at this time you are being cheated.


#15
Even though you treat the car well, the previous owners may not have. We can't know and you probably don't either. Did you have a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic before you bought it? If not, you should do that with your next car. It is well worth the $100 or so it costs to find out what warts the car has before buying rather than afterwards. It is possible that the mechanic may have pointed out some or all of the issues you happened onto a year later. You might call that improving your luck. And based on what you told us, I don't believe at this time you are being cheated.

Ok thanks. I just wanted to check because I didn’t know if it was weird that he didn’t find the head gasket problem until he did all of the other work. Oh well out $800 and a car.


#16

“Cheated” implies purposeful deception. How long has the mechanic been in business? Was he recommended? Water pump to thermostat to head gasket is a typical “escalation” of fixes. I don’t think you were cheated. If it costs another $1,000 for the head gasket, can you buy another car in as good a shape for $1,800? Only you can answer that.


#17

@angrybaldguy, from state to state the laws vary. You might check with someone familiar with such situations. Here in Mississippi an owner can just walk away and leave the car. A shop can attempt to collect the money in justice court but it is very unlikely that the court would award anything based on the information you gave. Most shops wouldn’t waste the time to make an effort. More often than not shops here demand a significant cash deposit prior to working on a car that is not worth the full cost of the repair to avoid getting stuck with a car that won’t sell for enough to pay the bill. Good luck.


#18
"Cheated" implies purposeful deception. How long has the mechanic been in business? Was he recommended? Water pump to thermostat to head gasket is a typical "escalation" of fixes. I don't think you were cheated. If it costs another $1,000 for the head gasket, can you buy another car in as good a shape for $1,800. Only you can answer that.

He wants $1500 for the head gasket. I still have to pay the $800 even if I don’t get the head gasket replaced because he did the work before telling me about the head gasket.


#19

You can’t pressure test the cooling system to check for a head gasket leak if the water pump is leaking. The system won’t hold pressure.

This is like the little boy and the dike scenario. He see’s a leak and sticks his finger in it. The leak is stopped but then another appears. So he sticks another finger in that leak and another appears, etc…

Tester


#20

Is this the 2.2L OHV or 2.4L twin-cam engine?