Civic Engine Problems

My husband and I have a 2001 Civic with 80,000. We took it to be serviced in February, and days later, I started to smell oil when I turned the heating system on. I took it back to the service station (dealer service station) and they said there was a defective valve cap and oil was leaking. They fixed it no charge. The heating system was better for a week or two, but then the smell came back, but it was less strong. (I’ve also not been using the heat or AC since the weather has been nice.) The oil light also came on recently. I only drove the car within our home town and there were no problems. We took it on the highway last night and it broke down. Took it to the same shop today and they said we basically need a new engine, it would be $4400 worth of parts and labor.

We’ve never had any problems at all with this car until we took it in for this (expensive) service. Now all of a sudden we blew a rod and there’s a hole in the side of the engine? They tell us there’s no connection between the engine problem and the previous service we had done. Is this legitimate? Do we have any basis to fight them on this? For all I knew, they could have put Kool Aid in the engine.

It sounds like you had an oil leak that continued undiagnosed by the service station beyond the problem with the valve cover. The oil smell you noticed was caused by an oil leak or seep dripping oil on hot engine parts. You noticed it only when the heater was on because it was pulling the smoke into the car along with outside air.

It’s my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong!) that lack of oil or low oil pressure can cause engines to throw a rod. The oil light coming on should have been your indication to check the oil level, before you drove it on the highway and let the level drop too low. It sounds like you’re due for a rebuild to me.

If this is the case and you can convince the original service station that they didn’t find the whole problem originally, maybe you can talk them into free labor on the rebuild or replacement.

I hope this shop didn’t tell you that you had thrown a rod…Your engine doesn’t have any rods! Whatever you do, do not have this shop do your repairs, only try to get them to pay for your repairs elsewhere. They will give you a hard time, report them to the BBB.

The engine does indeed, have, connecting rods between the pistons and the crank shaft. You drove the car with the oil light on? It says in every car’s owner manual that you should stop and not drive the vehicle if that light comes on. If you want to ruin an engine, what you did is a prescribed way to do it.

Have a used or rebuilt engine installed or buy another car. Read the owner manual and check the vital fluids regularly. Check them even more often if there has been a problem or if you smell something different. You toasted the old engine. It is not the shop’s fault. You did not check the oil and you did not read the owner manual. Both are required activities for operating a motor vehicle without ruining it.

I’m with Beads.

The oil light comes on when you lose oil pressure. In your case you lost pressure because the oil level went below the “pickup tube” in the crankcase through which the oil pump draws oil. There was then no oil being pumped through the engine.

The bearing surfaces on the ends of your connecting rods, which along with your main crankshaft bearing surfaces (and others) ride on a pressurized film of oil provided by the oil pump. When the oil disappears the pressurized film disappears and the metal rubs together. In your case the bearing surfaces seized, the rod broke, and it blew through the engine block’s walls.

You lost the engine because you drove around with the oil light on. It’s totally uselss and not repairable. Never drive around with any warning light on until you find out exactly what it means and what the damage will be if you do so.

I was imagining push rods.

i would check with an independant mechanic, someone you trust. have him go over the 80,000 mile requirments (they should be listed in your owners manual). i think that the timing belt is part of that service. i’m not real familiar w/ the 2001 but back in the mid 90’s there was something funky about the gasket. if i remember correctly (doubt it) it was a 2 piece gasket. the upper was for the timing cover to block and the lower was for the cover to oil pan. if the lower was installed incorrectly (or not at all) oil would spray out of the pan. if thats the case you have a pretty good case for the service dept to at least kick in for repairs. the other possibility is that they origionally installed the belt incorrectly (off by a tooth) and when they started it it caused some problems. yes you did kill the motor yourself by driving with the oil light on, but i would still have it investigated and ask them for some help w/ repairs or replacement dependent on the mechanica findings.
good luck

Re: “The oil light also came on recently. I only drove the car within our home town and there were no problems.”, I agree with Beads and with mountainbike.

Continuing to drive a car for more than a few moments after the oil warning light goes on is essentially an act of committing yourself to major expense for engine repair, and it doesn’t matter that you were only driving around in urban conditions. As was said, continuing to drive it is what did the engine in, and if you read the text in your Owner’s Manual, I am sure that it will tell you to shut the engine off immediately if the oil warning light is illuminated. This is a hard lesson to learn, but hopefully if this occurs on your next car, you will know the proper course of action.

Oh, and Xebadiah’s advice to file a complaint with the BBB is essentially an exercise in futility. If you do not know why I say this, post back and I will explain why this is a waste of your time and effort.