Did a cracked engine block kill my 2002 Liberty? (But I took good care of it!)

I know you guys have recently retired, so maybe this will just wind up in the show’s dead letter file is. But I hope not. I’m desperate for help, or, if need be, someone to tell me there is no hope.

Here’s my car problem: A few weeks ago, my 2002 Jeep Liberty–which has about 100,000 miles on it–died. I was pulling out of a parking space in Chicago when the engine started running rough and then stopped. I got the car re-started, but then it stopped again and would not start. Turned over, but wouldn’t catch. (I’ve done almost all the maintenance on this car, by the way.)

I had the Jeep towed to a mechanic with a good rep. The next day, he called with a discovery: fluid was apparently leaking out of the anti-freeze reservoir and seeping into the oil, a sure sign the engine block was cracked, he said. Which meant I’d have to install a used or re-built block.

He said he’d check around for prices.

That night I went online to a Jeep forum looking for information and was told by several people that the Liberty had a cast iron block and therefore could not possibly be cracked, although the symptoms might mean a gasket was blown, or a cylinder head warped.

Then a poster asked what the number 2 cylinder looked like. As a matter of fact, the anode on that spark plug looked like it had been hit by a land mine, with the metal splintered into a dozen pieces. Yep, the poster replied, the number 2 on the Liberty is famous for having trouble. Several other posters concurred.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, the mechanic was unable to find a block for what he deemed a reasonable price. But there was another option. He could start dismantling the engine, hoping to discover the problem before too many hours of labor had been racked up. Then, if the problem was fixable (like, if it was, say, a problem with the #2 cylinder), I might be able to get the car fixed for less money.

I like that idea, but is it a bad bet?

Anyway, that’s an abbreviated version of my situation. I’d love some insight and/or advice.

Thanks for your help!

Kevin Johnson

PS I’m attaching a picture of my Jeep in happier days. You can see why I want to get it running again…