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Engine damnage due to low mad at myself

Hello…I have a 2009 camry which I purchased last year with 78K miles on it. It only had one previous owner and was in great shape when I got it. Everything has been fine with it until yesterday. I recently started a new job as a courier, where I put 200+ miles on my car per day. I knew that I was going to be getting my oil changed once a month. What I was not used to was checking my oil level regualarly. I checked it about a week ago and the level was fine, but I was due for a oil change. I didn’t get a chance to get that done until today. Well, yesterday my engine started making a weird noise. I checked the oil level and there was pretty much nothing on the dipstick. So I just went and got a oil change and they said the noise is likely due to some engine damage due to the low oil level. The noise is still there after getting the oil change…and the mechanic described the noise as “sounding like marbles rolling around in there”. So basically I have done damage to the engine. But what does that really mean moving forward? I have 93K miles on the car now and I am so mad that I might have screwed up my engine due to so much driving for a job that I am not getting paid enough to do. I don’t know a lot about cars and am worried that I have really damaged it with this.

At this point the damage is done. You can get it in to a mechanic to determine how much damage is done or you can run the car until the engine locks up and must be replaced by a rebuilt or used engine.

If you take it for service right now, the bearings you damaged may be able to be replaced without replacing the engine IF the crankshaft has not been damaged. It will be expensive but not as much as a new or used engine.

Lesson learned ($$$)… check your oil every time you get gas and don’t ignore the red light on the dashboard even if it just flickers. Sorry, there is no good info to share.

Well, after the fact, at least you can use this episode as a learning experience.

Yes, it does sound (no pun intended) like the engine has sustained damage as a result of being run very low on oil. However, consider this…
If the oil level was “normal” one week ago, and it went from “normal” to dangerously low on oil within ~1,000 miles, then the engine was already damaged goods before it started making noise.

What you have described is an engine that apparently consumed (or leaked??) 1 qt of oil every…200-300 miles, and that is excessive consumption by anyone’s measure. Additionally, it is a sign that this was a very sick engine–even before it began making noise. However, if the engine wasn’t previously consuming oil and then it suddenly degenerated to the point where it burned one qt every 200-300 miles, that does leave the question of why it suddenly began burning oil…

In any event, moving forward, I would suggest that you have a real mechanic (not a quick oil change place) perform a wet/dry compression test on the engine. That would reveal a lot regarding the condition of the engine. If the compression test is within normal limits, then you might want to have the oil pan dropped and have one main bearing cap removed in order to assess the condition of the main bearings.

If the compression test and/or the main bearing exam indicate an engine close to death, then your best bet would probably be a used engine from a junkyard. IMHO, with a 7 year old car, it wouldn’t make much sense to spend the money for a new engine.

I’d find a local independent garage recommended by your friends or coworkers and ask them to have a listen to the engine. When I hear someone describe a noise like “marbles” the first thing I think is a bad water pump, which has nothing to do with the oil level.

Not to say that running the engine low didn’t do some wear, but it may be something else.

IMHO ase has given you good advice… especially if that opinion you got when you had your oil changed is from a quickie lube.

Post back with the results. We do care.

Thanks guys. Yea this definitely will be a learning experience…but man this will be a big one. The place I got the oil change at is a full service garage so I think they have a good idea of what’s going on. That said, I am taking it to another place right now and will tell them whats going on and have them diagnose it and perhaps do a compression test on it. I will let you guys know what they say. Hopefully it’s not as bad as I think.

UPDATE: Just got a call back and ASE hit it right on the head. Good news is that the oil issue did not do any damage to my engine as far as they can tell. Bad news is, I need a new water pump and drive belt tensioner and my car is undriveable til I can come up with $900 bucks to fix it.

In other news…I had a strange occurance when i got home from dropping off my car. In the mail I recieved a letter from Toyota. Not for a recall but a “enhancement to the warranty coverage”. The letter talks about how they want me to bring my car into a dealership, get my oil filled, they will seal it, and then I have to return in 1100 to 1300 miles and see how much oil has been consumed, because apparently there is a issue with my model with excessive oil consumption. At least that makes sense of why the oil level dropped off so fast.

$900 is good news, it could have been a lot higher.

That letter may be an avenue to get Toyota to pay for the repairs.

Yeah they might be talking a new engine but you have to get it running somehow.

I See A 28 Page Bulletin For Pistons And Rings Installation. I Don’t Know Which Engine(s) Are Involved.

Well, the water pump issue won’t have anything to do with oil consumption so you’re still left with that issue.

As BillRussell says this can be an opening to get a new engine.

If I wanted to suggest something slightly unethical it might be that it’s very easy to make sure that engine loses some oil during the consumption test in the event that it doesn’t lose as much as they require… (wink wink…) :smiley:

From what you stated it seems you really didn’t have any issue with the oil consumption until the last week you noticed the level drop very significantly. It seems you may be a good candidate for this extra warranty. I’m sure once you get the car running again you will check into that and maybe get some repairs done under warranty. It is nice to hear Toyota is covering for this issue instead of dragging their feet on it

It’s sort of hard to understand how the oil level could go from being “fine” one day to no oil showing on the dipstick at all one week later. It’s possible you’ve got the sequence of events wrong. Instead of low oil causing a mechanical problem, it might be that a mechanical problem occurred which caused a very quick loss of engine oil.

The link below is to a 2011 TSB that might be related to the OP’s 2009 Camry’s extended warranty. Don’t know about a new engine, but they cannot say yes if the OP doesn’t ask.

Friend had the VVT bits come apart on a newer car. 6-7 yrs old. Turned into a $$ nightmare repair.

UPDATE2. Sorry I was out of town all weeekend so I didn’t check this til today.

Since my last post, I checked to see if these repairs would be covered by the service contract I got when I bought the car (silver level for those of you that might know) which is supposed to cover just about anything that goes wrong. According to my paperwork, all 3 issues are covered.

My mechanic was closed all weekend, so today I gave him my contract info and he called to start a claim. He just called back and said that they are willing to cover the water pump, but they will not cover the drive belt tensioner or serpentine belt. All 3 things are listed under the engine coverage…so I don’t get how they can say they won’t cover me. Anyone have experience with this and have any tips for me? From everything I’ve heard from other people, as well as my mechanic, this all needs to be replaced at the same time. My mechanic even said he wouldn’t be able to give me a warranty on the water pump unless I did everything, because it will just ruin the water pump again. I am going to call them and ask why they’re not willing to cover everything, just wanted to get your take on it.

It is very unusual for warranty companies to cover worn drive belts, your warranty company should be able to explain why the belt and tensioner are not covered.

What Is Your Additional Estimated Cost If You Pay For The Timing Belt, Associated Tensioner, Idlers, Seals, and Serpentine Belt To Do It All?

Seems like the lion’s share of everything should be paid by warranty on pump.

The timing belt and tensioner is no doubt considered a maintenance item by insurance.

Well, turns out I was wrong. Going by the list of what is covered on the engine…the serpentine belt and drive belt tensioner are not listed. So of course, even though everything goes hand in hand, since it isn’t listed, they aren’t willing to pay for it. So I am going to have to pay $564 to cover everything besides the water pump. I thought since it was all related that they would cover it all but I guess not.

And when it comes to the oil issue, I will definitely be monitoring that much more closely now and will bring it into Toyota and get the oil consumption test done soon.