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Ford Escort Broken - Who is to blame?

My buddies and I bought an '86 Ford Escort and have been having fun racing it in a sub $500 car racing series called “Chumpcar”. We swapped a '95 Ford Contour engine we literally found in the woods under a tarp, and put a Saab T3 turbo that we aren’t sure where precisely came from on it. All makes for pretty quick little POS.

Last weekend I was driving the car when POW there was a phenomenal noise from the engine. I got the car off on the gravel, hopped out to take a look, and the starter was literally in pieces. This happened WHILE the car was driving at about 4500RPM in 5th gear!

Good thing the starter comes with the “Lifetime Warranty” - I’m taking it back to the parts store! What kind of junk are they trying to sell me anyway!

Upon removing the starter, though I notice something odd… there’s a big hole in the oil pan.

Can you believe it? The starter exploded with enough energy to blow a hole right through the oil pan. I am going to demand that the parts store replace that too, since clearly it was the starter’s fault. So I drained the fluid and took off the oil pan to take that too back to the parts store. Would you believe it?!?

The starter even broke the connecting rod.

I think Autozone should be on the hook for buying me a new engine. Who knows what else could be damaged?!?

Oh Brother, This Story Goes With Seeing Elvis On A Piece Of Burned Toast.

How do you know that wasn’t my stolen Contour engine under that tarp, eh ?


For all I know the whole car could be stolen. It doesn’t have a title, and the CARFAX comes back with “Wachutalkinbout Willis?!?”

Doesn’t change the fact that I bought a new starter for it from Autozone with a lifetime warranty and it wrecked the whole motor.

We did ask permission to take the found engine from the property owner. Presumably it was his free and clear, but you never can tell.

Chicken Or Egg ? How Do You Know An Engine Rod Didn’t “Explode” The Starter ?

Besides that, the only way the starter could explode with that much force is for it to be engaged with the flywheel "at about 4500RPM in 5th gear!"
That could be the fault of the installer for not checking flywheel teeth or gear mesh.


If your post is a joke; not funny.
If your post is not a joke then you have a total lack of intelligence and in all honesty you should not even be operating a garden shovel much less an automobile.

Joke or not, the starter did not cause this problem and even if it did warranty should not cover anything. Period.

I think that a more likely scenario is that the engine threw a rod and that the visible damage to the oil pan and the starter is the result of a piece of the connecting rod flying through the pan.

Think about it–the engine is 16 years old, with an unknown number of miles on it and a maintenance record that is a mystery. You took this sketchy old engine and added a turbo-charger to it.

Normally, when a turbo-charger is added to an engine, a prudent owner will “beef-up” the engine in the areas of bearings, bearing caps, pistons, connecting rods, and cylinder head. Since you apparently did none of that, you over-stressed this old, tired engine to the point where you threw a rod, and the rest is history.

You can go to that parts store and act like an outraged customer if you wish, but I think that all you will accomplish is to make yourself look very, very foolish.

Edited to add:
I see that CSA posted essentially the same scenario while I was typing my response. It is the OP’s choice whether to believe us or not, but if his post is not a joke, then the whole situation will turn into a joke if he decides to press his case with Auto Zone. Anyone with any mechanical sense will laugh you out of the store.

That wasn’t very nice, ok.

Knowing OK4450 as many of us do, I can assure you that his statement wasn’t intended to be “nice”, even though it was probably right on target. He does not normally say things that are uncomplimentary, but–like many of us, his tolerance for foolishness is limited.

Live and learn, sporqster, live and learn.

I was actually smirking when I read OK’s comment - but mostly because I’ve seen some of his own “Franken-contraptions” that he’s posted links to elsewhere.

Of course, the 4500rpm in 5th gear is fairly speedy - but maybe it was on a racetrack. And I was just thinking I’d lay odds that OK’s wound up a few toys before.

No disrespect to OK intended, so hopefully none taken.

Let’s SUPPOSE I’m messing with you guys a little.

And the REAL question is whether the guy driving the car before me broke it by shifting into 2nd rather than 4th, and then it just let go when I got in the car, or if there’s some other underlying problem.

It would seem that over-reving the motor would cause an immediate failure, not a failure 12 laps later.

And as cigroller guessed, this happened at Nashville Superspeedway, at the top of the NASCAR banking going into turn 1… kinda scary

Normally I’m not quite so uncomplimentary but I make no apologies in this case.
You’re the one accusing AutoZone of selling junk and looking for a new engine on someone else’s dime. You state that you’re going to demand this, that, and the other.
My intolerance is based on seeing this behavior countless times.

As far as I know, you will find that any warranty, on anything, is dead in the water the minute you walk out the door when it comes to commercial or competition use. There are no exceptions unless the person wanting the warranty is willing to resort to fudging the truth and/or outright fraud.
So should I ask the obvious question? Have you told AutoZone anything about this car, the modifications, the situation when the starter (allegedly) blew your engine?

A followup question might be to ask which town or city this is in. A call to the local police department might reveal if there’s a stolen engine report.
Most people who “find an engine under a tarp” and take it without question or knowing who it belongs to would be referred to as a thief; not to mention the SAAB turbocharger that was also described as “not knowing precisely where it came from”.

“We did ask permission to take the found engine from the property owner.”

The SAAB turbo was set a side by a friend of mine who works at an auto recycler. I don’t know precisely what MODEL it came from. Looks like probably a 9000, but it was a loose part without documentation when acquired.

Jeez OK, lighten up. No need to call the law or nuthin.

I’m impressed. It was a good tale. Quite humorous.

But, as eveyrone has said, don’t be silly, now. There’s no way you can blame the thrown rod -> broken oil pan -> damaged starter (and in that order, regardless of the order you show us) on Autozone, nor the manufacturer of the starter.

Go ahead an try if you must…I’ll be watching for the write-up on The Darwin Awards.

If I don’t blame the starter, what am I going to blame? The starter is the only part on the car with a warranty, it therefore somehow be at fault.

I’m currently trying to determine if the exploding starter was the root cause of:

A) One of my buddies shifting the car into 2nd instead of 4th 12 laps earlier
I tend to doubt this because I would think a missed shift would blow the motor
then and there, not 12 laps later.
B) Bad fuel map causing lean condition under boost.
This is possible, but the plugs look rich. Doesn’t mean part of the map isn’t running
a bit lean. It was making beaucoup power before it blew though - didn’t act like it
was thirsty.
C) Preignition. Didn’t sound like knock to me. But who knows. Hard to tell over all the
other racket the car makes
D) A 15 year old Zetec just can’t handle the boost needed to stay in front of a Nissan GT-R.
This is a very disappointing conclusion.

This post almost has to be a joke. Nobody could possibly expect warranty coverage on a starter under these circumstances. And to expect the parts store that sold the starter to replace the engine would be, well, beyond all comprehension.

I’ve NEVER heard of a starter destroying an engine before…If it’s NOT a joke it is now.

Two explosions in two races. You guys are going for a record?

VDCdriver I don’t believe “beef-up” the engine in the areas of bearings, bearing caps, pistons, connecting rods, and cylinder head are allowed, thought of or tolerated in crapcan racing. The point of the thing is to get $500 to go as fast as possible for 24 hours. I do believe an ARP bolt will get you a 10 lap penalty.

See you guys at the firecracker 24!

See you there dickc… in our rear view mirror :wink: