Engine Shot, Mechanic offers to take it

1999 Buick Centry with 140,000 miles. I foolishly put got an oil chance after over a year of just adding oil. Later that day while driving home the oil light came on, the engine quit and I had to caost to the side of the interstste. AAA towed it to the nearest mechanic just off the highway. He called me today to say that the engine was shot and he offered to take the car off my hands. Is this a legitmate offer? Is my car worth nothing?(or so little that it isnt worth the trouble) I know KBB says 2600 in fair condition if it had a working engine. Thanks in advance!

Danger Will Robinson!
Get a second opinion. Two issues I see; 1. the guy did something to cause or contribute to the problem and this is one way of distracting from that responsibility. B. There is some other, less dramatic, problem and it’s not terminal.

I wouldn’t take his word for it when he stands to gain significantly from the situation.

I agree emphatically with TwinTurbo. This is not a legitimate way of doing business. Run away fast.

A legit shop will tell you what needs to be done to fully repair it, what needs to be done just to get it back on the road, and how much it will cost for each. And he’ll tell you why. He’ll charge you perhaps $100 to $150 for diagnostic work (legit), or if it’s obviously toast he may not even charge.

By the way. mechanics “just off the highway” are sometimes used car salesmen too. They prey on travelers, get free cars, do minimal repair, and resell them. It sounds like you met one.

Thanks, you make excellent points. Unfortunetly, this took place about 70 miles away from… well anything, so a second opinion is going to run me about $50 in a AAA unpgrade to have it towed there. And my wife is pushing hard to just have goodwill pick the car up and take the (meager) tax write off.

I think the foolish part was not getting an oil change for over a year. With the miles on, and age of, the car that would be what around 15k on the same oil. I would guess other regular maintenance was not done either. You very well may have a shot car on your hands. Next vehicle keep up the regular car care. You can get the scrap value of the car, maybe get payed $150-200.

This is true. Historically I have treated my cars very well, but one day I noticed that the car had a “Change Oil” light. So i decided I would wait until that light came one before changing the oil. One day while adding some oil I noticed that it had been over a year (and about 9k miles) so I said screw the light, Im getting the oil changed. And that was all she wrote. Interestingly, all that time my gas milage never vaired, I watched it closely for indicators that my engine was stuggling.

Did you tell this guy about the lack of oil changes? I suspect he saw an opportunity and is taking advantage. How long was the engine light on before it quit?

I have a feeling that this car is not going to cost all that much to fix.

Good Luck

What may have happened is that the engine sludged up badly due to lack of oil changes and the oil pump pickup tube clogged up. This could lead to loss of oil pressure and a ruined engine.

Since there is some missing info a few questions are necessary in an attempt to determine if the engine is trashed or not.
When the oil light came on did the engine quit immediately or did you continue to operate the car until it died?
Any rattling and/or knocking sounds during this?
Engine get sluggish before it died?
If the answers are yes, then the engine is probably scrap iron.

I would not read too much into the mechanic offering to buy the car as is. If he mentioned this during the course of a conversation about whether you were going to repair it or not I don’t think there is anything evil going on. Vehicles are often offered to mechanics by car owners who do not want to spend money on a major repair and other times mechanics will offer to buy the vehicle if he feels the owner does not want to repair the car.
While sinking a lot of money into a car with a major problem may not be cost effective for the car owner it can be for the mechanic who does the work himself.

Some more info on the engine problem and how the conversation led to buying the car would help.

Only a few seconds. I did mention that I had just had the oil changed and that it was long overdue. The light came on and it was driving very rough, I noticed that I could not accelertate, after maybe few seconds of coasting the car lost power steering and breaks and I managed to get it to the side of the road before it came to a stop.

Info on what happened to the engine added above. The convo was basically, “your engine is shot”, “oh crap”, “There is still oil in it but it is filthy”, “so, uhh, what can I do?”, “well you can pay to get it towed home, I’ve got a friend here that takes scrapped cars, or you can just sign over the title and mail it to me and I’ll take care of it.”, “okay, I’ll call you today or tomorrow and let you know what I’m doing”

The oil light on and the engine not wanting to accelerate points to rod bearings trying to seize up. This means an engine overhaul.
Running an oil pressure test could help in verifying the problem and so could draining the oil for inspection since seizing rod bearings often leave particles in the oil.

Offhand, I don’t see anything at this point that leads me to believe they’re trying to gig you. It sounds like they presented a number of options about the car if you do not want to repair it.

(For what it’s worth, I’ve had to replace engines in several cars in which the engines were totally trashed due to lack of regular oil changes. One of them had about 25k+ miles on it, another had about 20k miles, and both were so far gone they were not even worth rebuilding. In both cases, they were sludged up due to lack of oil changes. The 25k one was the worst case I’ve seen in my life. With the oil pan off the car, and full of oil, a long screwdriver could be stood on its tip in the oil and it would not fall over nor would one drop run out of the drain hole when the plug was removed. That is no exaggeration either.) As bad as it gets.

Having read your more descriptive new post, I retract my suspicion. This sounds like it may be okay. HOwever, my point about shops “just off the highway” is true and still a recommendation for travelers to be very careful. There really are pirates out there that prey on travelers.

The engine likely is really shot. The real way to tell is to pull the plugs and see if you can turn it by hand. If you can, it isn’t bound up and you may still be able to squeeze some life out of it by flushing out the gunk and putting in fresh oil. If you cannot, then it’s seized.

Does anyone know if this engine has the oil pressure sending unit that cuts off the fuel pump if oil pressure drops below spec? Just wondering.

If it does then there may be less damage then suspected.

I think the $50 for an upgrade two will be a very good investment. The oil change place may have left the oil plug loose or double gasketed the filter. A few seconds of no oil pressure should not do much damage, you always have a few seconds of no pressure when you do an oil change. You may only need a minor repair, and then if your wife still wants you to get rid of it, it will be worth 2600.

Let him have it or try to sell it. You can always give it away later. Pay to have it junked just so it never gets driven again. Make sure you take care of the disclaimer paperwork if your state has that. Don’t let the junkyard have your plates.

“I noticed that the car had a “Change Oil” light. So i decided I would wait until that light came one before changing the oil.”

By that reasoning, if the light never “came on”, then the oil would never need changing, I suppose. What if the light was actually burned out, or if the sensors that drive the process were flawed?

Anyone who relies totally on an automated process to remind him about maintenance is being very foolish, IMHO. And, since it really does sound like the engine has been trashed, you can see the result of not attending to preventive maintenance.

But, experience really does tend to be the best teacher, so I would hope that the OP has learned to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule faithfully. A few $30. oil changes would have been far less costly than the resulting engine failure.

I agree 100% with OK…this is probably legit. 35 years ago when I worked as a mechanic we were seeing a lot of engine failures because many oils at that time (like QuakerState) had a hard time wtih the new hotter running Unleaded fuel engines. If the car was in decent shape we gave them a couple options…Rebuild the engine for x or we’ll buy it from you. If the car was 10yrs old or older…the car was pretty much worth $0…But remember back then you could buy a new car for $2000.

Surely, it’s worth the $50 tow fee to find out?! Just have it towed to the nearest garage; not to a dealer. A dealer would surely say, “It needs a new engine.” Let the independent garage examine the car (DON’T say anything to them to the effect, “Oh, me! I fear the engine is trashed!”. Just give them the facts, sir. If they tell you the engine is unrepairable, you can, then tell them, “Here’s your Christmas present!” Sound like a plan?

Low oil pressure allows valve lifters to collapse. This drastically reduces power, often causing engine to stall, possibly before engine is damaged… FWIW.

you should enough money saved up from not have service done over the last year to put down a another car that some else had and did not have oil change and you are next inline to buy. buy it today