Dead engine in an '89 Celica - Any hope?



So I was driving down the interstate this morning in my '89 Celica, when the engine simply died on me. My revs dropped to zero even though I was in fifth gear and still rolling down the road. I pulled over and found that most of my coolant was spilling out the bottom of the engine around the oil pan. I got it towed back home and have since tried to diagnose the problem. Any water I pour into the radiator comes out somewhere near the bottom of the engine, perhaps from somewhere inside or behind the timing belt casing. (Although, with that casing in the way, there’s no way to tell.) I found a missing freeze plug, and there is a trickle from there, but it’s not nearly enough to account for all the water that drains out the bottom. I should add that there is no water in my oil pan, as my dipstick comes out clean with just oil every time. Once things cool down outside, I’m going to try to remove the water pump cover and get a look in there. This could be as simple as a gasket, although that doesn’t really explain why my engine died.

However, I fear that may be a complete waste of time. When I turn the engine manually by turning the bottom-most pulley with a wrench, I hear a rattling sound, like a big ratchet or something. Combine that with zero revs while rolling in gear at 70 MPH, and I think I may have had some kind of hydrolock, in which case I’m gathering that I’m kind of up-a-creek. If it matters at all, I though I heard the same loud clicking when I was accelerating on the on-ramp, but at the time I figured it was just my imagination. I’d take the plugs out to check them, but I need to go get an extension for my ratchet. Again, there is no water on my dipstick…

So, is there any hope for my little darling?


It sounds like you had a rod break and punch a hole in the block.


I would agree that is sounds like you threw a rod. If that is the case, it is not worth replacing the engine block and many internal parts on a vehicle that is 18 years old. Sounds to me like it is time to start shopping for a replacement vehicle.



I should have said “it sounds…”

Unfortunately, this newly redesigned site does not allow one to edit after posting!


I kind of wonder if you threw a rod, as it’s unlikely the oil would be free of coolant–a rod punching through the block would punch a hole in the water jacket, but then coolant would be free to run down into the oil pan… Rattling could be a destroyed water pump. But till you pull it apart, it’s all just speculation. If you can turn the engine over, you could compression test the cylinders–if a rod is broken, obviously one will read 0.


Thanks, all. I’m gonna pull the water pump tomorrow and I’ll get back to you.


I’m betting on water pump and timing belt.


So it turns out that the water pump locked up while I was driving. The subsequent tightening of the timing belt caused massive damage to the water pump pulley and released all kinds of bad stuff into the timing belt casing. It sheared one of the tensioner pulleys right off of the engine block! Needless to say, there’s little hope without replacing the engine. Thanks to everyone who replied.

Anyone interested in an old Celica as a project car? The body’s in good shape…


Sorry to hear that. Nice picture of the damage. If you still would like to keep the car then maybe getting one of those used Japanese engines would be worth putting in. You can get them for a pretty reasonable cost. It could be time to move on to something newer though.