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Did I "break" my 89 Toyota?

Hello! I have a 1989 Toyota pickup (V6) that has lost a bit of power this last year. Not much. I thought maybe it wasn’t firing on all cylinders but I don’t know. In the meantime it overheated for the first time the other day. My car normally smells like exhaust ever since my husband “fixed” the exhaust system so I am used to my car smelling while we drive. But the other day my son was being a real naughty toddler and I was VERY distracted while driving. And it took me at least 10 miles to realize DUH I was smelling radiator fluid! So I drove for at least 10 minutes with my car overheated. Once I got home and the car cooled off, I checked the oil and there were metal shavings in it! Is this coincidental or have I ruined my car? How can I tell what I’ve done?


Were the “metal shavings” actually on the oil dipsick? If so, your engine is probably toast. What was the oil level on the distick?

How much coolant (antifreeze) was left in the system? If the radiator was dry, you probably did irreparable damage to the engine.

It’s remarkable the car actually ran that long on very little coolant.

You need a competent independent mechanic to tell you what the damage is. Most garages, including dealers, will automatically recommend a rebuilt engine, since few shops actually repair engines anymore.

Since the vehicle has little market value left even in running condition, you might consider an engine from a low mileage wreck. Toyota engines are tough when they’re well cared for.

The engine is likely toast and a compression test and oil pressure test will likely reveal damage.

There’s a far more serious issue than your engine. You state that you’re “used to” smelling the exhaust since your husband repaired it.
Getting “used to” the exhaust smell can kill you and anyone else in the vehicle with you because that smell could very well be CO, or carbon monoxide.

Normally you may not notice CO (it’s there) but a vehicle that is not up to par performance wise can enhance that smell and this may be what you’ve noticed.
People die every year of CO poisoning, no matter if it’s from a car, fireplace, space heater, or whatever else is the source.

A suicidal person may use this method to do themselves in by running a hose from the exhaust pipe to the car interior and simply drift off to sleep; never to wake up.

It’s nothing that should be lightly dismissed and maybe in the future any exhaust work should be farmed out to a pro.

This sounds like a blessing in disguise, if you killed it. It is one thing to be driving around in a vehicle that smells like exhaust alone. To expose a toddler is another who cannot control their environment.

I would change the oil, fix the exhaust at a real shop if runs okay and drive on. Not much to lose.

ok guys, we’re not driving around huffing on a tailpipe. my dad was a mechanic and i built my first engine myself. i’m not completely oblivious nor am I prone to endangering my child. but thank you for your concern.

The reason for this post is that i’m getting this car ready to give to my sister. so what i wanted to know was how much work does it need. and does it need a new motor. not if i’m a bad parent for exposing my toddler to “suicidal” conditions.
to docnick, thanks for answering about the dipstick . yes, metal shavings on the dipstick which is why i was afraid. and the coolant was full pretty recently. obviously i didn’t check it the day it overheated but i recently replaced the radiator. oil is properly changed and well maintained. i changed it less than 100 miles ago and it’s still fairly clean.
oh and it didn’t run too long on very little coolant. you know how you can smell it coming on? as soon as it was bad i realized what was going on and stopped. so i’m not really sure how long it ran really hot. but it’s no matter. sounds like it’s cooked. thanks for the info.

Now that everything is settled, rather than junk the car, donate it. The parts from your car are in demand.

If it’s your head gasket, you could try “Blue Devil.” It works great if you follow the directions exactly. It probably won’t help with the metal shavings in the oil though, that’s bad.

Does it start and run? Are there any weird noises? If it still runs OK, I’d just change the oil, fix the cooling and exhaust problems and keep driving. You have nothing to really lose by doing so.