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Engine destroyed after it was at the shop

My car is a 2003 Mazda Protege Speed - “spicy orange”. I’ve owned it for eight years and 94,000 miles and, up to now, have never had a single problem with it. Not even a flat tire.

Early last February I noticed that it was getting squeaky, and it was actually well past due for an oil change anyway, so I took it to Jiffy Lube. They changed the oil but not the belts, so I took the car to Gill’s Automotive in Sterling, VA. They replaced the belts and told me I needed a new throw-out bearing and timing belt.

A couple days later (after I got paid), I had them replace those, and I needed new spark plugs, a water pump, and coolant.

I had hoped that would be the end of the story. But after a couple days I noticed another squeaking sound. This one was different. I took it back in, and after they studied it they told me I needed a new clutch. I had them replace that, and I also needed a new pinion bearing and new seals inside the transmission.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have trusted these guys.

So I got the car back last night and drove it 1/3 mile to Lowe’s to get some unrelated stuff. When I got back in the car and turned the key the car started but then I heard a couple clanks. I thought nothing of it and drove forward a couple feet. Then it began making horrible rattling engine-squealing noises. And then it died.

I turned the key a couple more times and got the same rattling/squealing. And the car wouldn’t start either. I decided to not turn the key anymore.

I called in a tow truck and had them take it the 1/3 mile back to Gill’s. This morning I talked to them about it and they said they were worried and that they’d look at it.

Around noon they called back. They said they were totally devastated and my engine was ruined (kind of thought so). Not that they’ve actually taken it apart. It would be $5300 for a new engine. And they’re 100% certain that it isn’t their fault, but they have no idea why it happened (think about that for a minute).

Coolant is in the oil. So that’s not good. But I was told that it’s physically impossible for anything they did to cause this. If they thought there was the slightest chance it was their fault they would have gladly bought me a new engine and put it in. But there’s no way.

It may have happened because I didn’t get my oil changed in time, they say. Or maybe I was low on coolant. I might have driven it pretty hard before my last visit (140 miles of FREEWAY DRIVING!). They claim to have checked the timing belt and it was fine. But I may never know what the actual cause is, even if I take it to another shop.

When I met them tonight I got more of the same crap. And it was so obvious that they were lying. I told them I’d think about it overnight.

What do you think my beloved car’s problem is? And more importantly, what should I do?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I don’t know much about cars (obviously), so I’m interested in what you have to say.

Coolant in oil is a classic sign of a blown head gasket or cracked head or engine block. This would have happened before or during a severe overheat. Continued driving on an overheated engine would end up with what you have. Was the engine overheating when you pulled into the Lowe’s?

CORRECTION: I actually noticed the second, different squealing noise BEFORE my second visit, which is why I took it in that second time. They did the throw-out bearing on my third visit, in addition to everything else.

That was quick! The engine was certainly not overheated. I actually remember looking at the gauge for some reason just before I pulled into Lowe’s. Strange, but true.

I was just getting online when I saw your post. Fortunate.

I was about to rant on a shop that would replace the throwout bearing without replacing the clutch on a car with nearly 100,000 miles. Waste of time and your money.

It sounds like the engine just up and grenaded on you. Rare, but happens. You may need to have a second shop look it over to make sure the timing belt or water pump work didn’t have anything to do with it. I say water pump, because on this engine, the water pump is under the timing belt and it is usually prudent to change it when the belt is off.

Other than agreeing that a blown head gasket can easily cause coolant diluted engine oil I’m afraid after reading your post I have way more questions than answers.

One of them coud be why in the world would someone replace a water pump on a 9 year old car and not the timing belt?
Another could be related to how in the world they determined the timing belt is good by “checking it”. Generally speaking, you can’t eyeball a timing belt and tell if it’s good or not.

I have absolutely no idea what the problem here as much much more needs to be known but figuring out why the engine is trashed should not take more than an hour, maybe 2 at most.

Yeah, I wasn’t really expecting that there was enough information there to diagnose this. Gill’s keeps telling me it’s going to be a lot of work and money to take the thing apart. I’m thinking of maybe taking the car to another shop and having them find the problem for me. It seems like Gill’s is afraid to find the answer. Thoughts?

It sounds like your motor is shot. Perhaps Gill’s didn’t cause this meltdown, but it seems since you starting going to Gill’s it has all gone downhill for your car. Don’t let them touch it. Get it towed to another shop. Tell Gill’s you’ll have your lawyer talk to his lawyer because something is wrong when a shop does multiple jobs and doesn’t detect a major engine problem.

I’m afraid you need to get another car. You car is gone and might be needed as evidence of Gill’s incompetence.

Could this simply be that the timing belt job went bad and we have valve/piston collisions? I ask who told you there is coolant in the oil? If the damage is primairly piston and valves but not bearings I would be very confident to say a botched timing belt job.I do not for one second accept that it was “just this engines time to go”. Your engine destroyes itself shortly after a timing belt replacement? Hellooo!!!

I agree. It’s pretty obvious what happened here. Gill’s told me that there’s coolant in the oil, and I believe them.

Don’t know where you’re located, but I’ve had good luck with Auto Tech of Tysons. You can find them via Google. At least they could give you another opinion.

Sounds like a cracked head or bad head gasket. But I have another question: how did they not notice you needed a new clutch when they were replacing the throw-out bearing?? And with the labor involved in replacing a throw-out bearing, why would they not recommend a new clutch while they had the bell housing open? This makes no sense.

it was actually well past due for an oil change anyway, so I took it to Jiffy Lube

That explains a lot.

First never ever let any quick oil change place even see your car let alone touch it.

Second It is your responsibility to keep all the recommended maintenance listed in the owner’s manual up to date. Failure to do so is likely to cost you a lot more than ignoring it might save you.

I agree with Joseph. There’s nothing in the original post that says, “I checked the oil.”

While there are a lot of crazy things going on (throwout bearing but no clutch?), there seems to be a lack of proper maintenance by the owner.

Before you do anything else I would have it towed to another garage you can ask around to trust hopefully and get a 2nd opinion.

Oil changed in time does not lead to the failure you describe.

Personally I would not believe their assessment and take elsewhere. Tell the new shop nothing except it won’t start. So they get a good opinion without bias tell them the full history.

Don’t worry, I literally feel sick about it. I doubt the oil could cause this, and Gill’s says they had looked at the oil at the end of my second visit and it was fine.

Depending on your chosen course of action, I would get an oil sample and send it for an oil analysis to an independent lab. That will verify for sure that there is coolant in the oil. Cost for this is $30 or less.

OK4450–The OP’s list of what parts were replaced is definitely disjointed, but if you read it again, it does appear that the timing belt was replaced at the same time as the water pump and a few other items.

As I see it, the possibilities (and without being on the scene, all we can do is speculate) are:

A botched timing belt job (not replacing the tensioner could have resulted in the belt jumping a few notches and causing severe internal damage)
Overall poor maintenance (“well past due for an oil change”, using Jiffy Lube for maintenance, unknown maintenance history)
Past incidents of overheating

While a botched timing belt job would not account for coolant in the oil, it certainly could account for the sudden catastrophic engine damage.

I am of the theory that–overall–this is just one more case of lax maintenance over a period of years. Unless the OP can give us evidence of timely oil changes over the car’s entire life span, then it is very possible that this engine has a severe build-up of damaging sludge. It is also possible that the cooling system is in bad shape if the coolant was not changed at least 3 times in its 94k existence.

If the OP wants remote diagnoses from this forum, we need a full maintenance history for the car–including how much of that maintenance was done by Jiffy Lube.

If the OP wants a substantive on-the-spot diagnosis, he/she needs to have this car towed to another repair facility for (hopefully) an impartial dissection of the full nature of the car’s problems.

Like I said, I haven’t been expecting a diagnosis from what I’ve given you. I’m more interested in what I should do to find the problem and get this resolved.

There has never been a single incident of overheating. I am sure of that. I’m also certain that the coolant has been changed at least three times. The issue of oil has definitely been Gill’s primary ammunition. I did get it changed just before my first visit to Gill’s and I had taken a long cross-country trip prior. Aside from that trip I’ve been good about getting my oil changed.

The car is being towed to a different repair shop now.

What can you tell us specifically about the car’s maintenance history over its 94k mile existence?
Please don’t use meaningless terms like “it has been well-maintained”.

If we are to try to understand possible cause and effect relationships, we must know (in detail) how the car has been maintained.