Fuel pump repair killed my truck

Hi guys… I have a 2000 Cadillac Escalade with a 5.7L V8 and about 90,000 miles on it. Last week the fuel pump went out, so I took it to the dealer. I told them it was a fuel pump, but they insisted on doing a diagnostic and ($750 later) finally agreed it was a fuel pump and fixed it.

About 2 miles away, something started clacking (similar to irregular idle or idle set too low) and gradually got louder with accelerating, then the engine lost power and died. It started again a few minutes later, on the side of the road and ran smoothly at an idle for a few minutes and then started clacking again, got louder and louder and died again (still idling). There was some kind of steam but didn’t look or smell like engine overheating and the coolant reservoir was full. I had it towed back to the dealer, an hour after I left there.

After a week the dealer is telling me:

A) They fixed a fuel regulator of some kind and that was under warranty

B) The water pump went out and it was gushing coolant

(the next day? does that make sense?)

C) There was a pre-existing problem of a combustion chamber leak which develops over a long time, renders the car undriveable and will cost $4700 to fix.

D) He didn’t know there was a knocking or clacking noise, it overheated before it could run long enough.

What I want to know is, is there anything the tech could have done while it was initially in for repair to cause this kind of failure? I’m not buying this pre-existing thing because nothing like this ever happened before, and it was immediately after I left there. Maybe I’m wrong about that?

Any help on this matter is appreciated! I am crippled without a car right now!

Well, the dealer should not take anyone’s word on a diagnosis.
If you are mechanically astute enough to diagnose a fuel pump problem then why did you not do the repair yourself?

Since you say the fuel pump was bad I assume this means the vehicle was towed in to the dealer. Correct?

This also means the dealer receieved a non-running vehicle and has no way of knowing at that point of any water pump problems, combustion chamber leaks (head gasket?), or overheating problems which may have existed before they even saw the vehicle. Correct?

Losing power, clattering, dying, etc. are signs of severe overheating. I see no way a fuel pump repair has anything to do with this at all.

This story sounds like another tale of woe due to dealer service. I don’t see any connection of the fuel pump repair to the other new problems but I absolutely do think that having at least some of the new problems right after the repair has a connection to being in the shop for service somehow. The clacking noise you heard may have been from the water pump impeller hitting something. To have the pump just go out right after being in the shop just seems fishy to me. I suspect somebody did something like put something in the radiator and that caused the water pump problem but you can’t prove it so where does that leave you.

You stated there was a combustion chamber leak of some sort found and I could see that there may have been a headgasket failure on one of the cylinders, if that is what it is, but that won’t shut you down like this usually. I’ll bet you you are going to tell me that the engine has never overheated before in all the time you have had it, right? Then right after the dealer has it this happens and it is just a coincidence, hmmm, let me think about the odds of that happening here.

I would want to see that water pump that came out of there and see if there are any signs of damage to the impeller. Even if you find damage it would be hard to prove any fault due to the shop. I may be way off base here and hope that I am but this just doesn’t sound good to me. I certainly wouldn’t let the shop do the new repairs. I would be finding another place to have the repairs done.

These stories always sound suspect to me.

The OP appears to have a non-running vehicle due to an allegedly self-diagnosed defective fuel pump and has not answered yet any of the questions I posed about whether he had a non-running vehicle towed to the dealer, etc.

The dealer should not be vilified over an 8 year old/90k miles vehicle that has allegedly suffered a problem unrelated to a fuel pump replacement. Maybe these “problems” were there before the dealer got the vehicle, which was an apparently inoperable one.

The OP could clear some of this fog up, if they so desired.

Lallebach and all,

The fuel pump on this SUV is in the tank. Changing it is a job that requires a lift-- or a lot of patience. But diagnosis is not possible unless you have a reader for the OBD and a pressure guage for the fuel rail and feed line. Did you check this?

As far as the engine failure. Look up a google search on DexCool. It has a tendency to cause the type of gasket failure you experienced if the cooling system was not maintained and there was an air leak or air exposure to the DexCool. In that case, DexCool becomes corrosive and can cause cooling system leaks around the intake or heads.

I doubt that the “fix” (a new crate engine) is worth the value of an Escalade with this many miles.



Yes the vehicle was towed to the dealer. I don’t have any tools nor the expertise to drop the tank and change a fuel pump, but I diagnosed it based on three fuel pump failures in the past, all in GMs. (Tow truck driver listened to it turn over and said “fuel pump”… I think it’s kind of an obvious diagnosis?) Then when the dealer did initially diagnose/test it, they verified it was the fuel pump. There really wasn’t any question as to the fuel pump diagnosis at any point.

You’re right, the dealer shouldn’t take anyone’s word on a diagnosis, which is why they charged me for an additional hour of labor ($120), insisting they had to check everything else out just in case. They told me at the time there was nothing else wrong with it after their extensive testing and such. (I didn’t know the labor rate or I never would have taken it there.)

When I drove it away, 2 miles later it started clacking and a mile after that it died. I think Cougar is right about the clacking coming from the water pump impeller because it didn’t sound like an internal engine knock. At the side of the road at idle speed the water pump was rattling really loud. And yes, it never overheated or even leaked any coolant before.

Dealer service manager told me, as did a couple of other mechanics I talked to, that a water pump takes a while to go out, and if it was wearing out it would have signs; leaking, overheating, etc., and that none of that was apparent when they changed the fuel pump. He also said in 28 years of service he’s never seen a water pump suddenly go out, and denies it could have happened in his shop.

At this point, I have towed it to another shop and he seems to think changing the water pump might fix it.

Does that clear anything up? My apologies for not checking this earlier, I didn’t know where to find the replies.

msilveira - thanks for the input. The fuel pump was definitely bad, there wasn’t any question about that. (see my reply to ok4450 above). You’re right about the “fix” though - everybody says that’s a whole new engine, but the problem is, I don’t think there even is an engine problem. I think these guys are just taking me for a ride. Two other cadillac dealers quoted me $2500 and $2700 for the same head gasket repair. Maybe they’re trying to sell me a new car or something…? Can’t figure this out.

If there is a problem, my suspicion is that they caused it somehow overheating it in the shop, possibly. It’s just too immediate to have worn out normally. I will look up DexCool though, thanks again!

The reason your car crapped out on the road was the bad water pump. Have that fixed (this is a pushrod Chevy 350, right?) and see what happens. This vehicle is just a jazzed up Blazer or Suburban. Stay away from Cadillac service departments…If you need head gaskets, have an independent shop do that work for a FRACTION of dealer prices.

Blown headgasket symptoms: Coolant recovery tank (where you add coolant) overflows and the coolant blows out even though the engine is not overheated (yet). OR, lots of white smoke/steam in the exhaust, especially on start-up, or BOTH of these symptoms can occur.

Any diagnosis charges would only be related to why the vehicle would not start. It would have nothing to do with inspection of the water pump, cooling system, transmission, or anything else.

I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with the service manager that a water pump will not suddenly go out. Normally a water pump failure is a gradual process usually with coolant seepage out of the weep hole, full blown leaking, or noise.
However, I have seen some water pumps that would go out suddenly. In several cases it led to catastrophic engine damage.
Subarus were the worst about this. Some of the pumps would be fine one minute and frozen solid the next. In one case, the pump instantly froze, the belt snapped the pulley/pump shaft off, and through the radiator it went.

Sometimes the diagnosis of a severe engine problem can be incorrect. I don’t know if that is the case here but there are a few tests to verify a top end or head gasket problem.
Examination of the engine oil for contamination, examination of the spark plug tips, compression test, hydrocarbon test of the coolant, etc. would help, but of course one would need to change the water pump and fill the cooling system for the latter.
Wished I could be more precise here, but without car in hand it’s tough to do. If you legitimately need an engine my thinking would be to find a good used one from a reputable salvage yard. Some yards will even do the installation for a nominal fee.

I’m one who believes that if a shop gives a customer bad news about an engine there should be a methodical series of tests behind the diagnosis and no room for any doubt, but there’s not enough info on this at the moment.

It seems to me, that IF the water pump isn’t leaking externally, that the coolant system could STILL be pressure checked.

When I asked the dealer what the hour of diagnosis was for (since they only verified the problem I already told them) they told me specifically they had to completely check the vehicle out and make sure nothing else would go wrong. I don’t argue with that, since I’m not a mechanic, just have marginal knowledge on the subject. What I do know is, nothing was wrong with the cooling system when I got there, and everything was wrong with it immediately after I left. Literally, within 3 miles.

What the service manager said was not that the water pump couldn’t suddenly blow, but that he had never SEEN it happen in his 28 years as a mechanic.

Your input is welcome, but from your initial post your tone seems to be biased in the dealer’s favor. If you were more objective about it, it might help.

Caddyman - thank you! I’m getting the water pump fixed at an independent shop and will have to take another look at it after that.

Appreciate the reply ~ -L

I’m not biased in the dealer’s favor at all no matter what you may think. Anyone who has been on this board a while knows I’ve never hesitated to rip a dealer, independent shop, or mechanic up if I think they’ve been incompetent or crooked in their dealings with the customer.

However, I’ve worked for dealers, and myself, enough to know there is not a week goes by that the instant a tech raises the hood they’re going to be held responsible for everything on that vehicle and possibly get blamed for things they had nothing to do with.

I was not privy to the conversation with the service manager but it seems to me there could be some misunderstanding between you and the SM. There is no way on God’s green earth that a dealer can take a running, much less a non-running towed-in vehicle, and “check everything” to make sure that “nothing else will go wrong”.
They may do the fuel pump diagnosis, replace the pump, run the codes, etc. and even that is no guarantee the car will not quit 5 minutes after it’s run out the door.
Your car is an 8 year old conglomeration of countless, well-used parts and any of them are prone to failure at any time.

It’s a physical impossibility, although one could spend several days testing things, disassembling stuff, etc. X the shop rate in the hopes of catching some potential problems.

What I would like to hear from anyone is just how a shop and tech could have sabotaged, or screwed up inadvertently, a water pump while doing fuel pump diagnostics and replacement.

I’ve been a mechanic for 35 years and figuring how this would happen is beyond any comprehension skills I have.
Anyone want to take a shot at it and 'splain it to me?

So, the latest findings on my vehicle are that the water pump might actually be okay, but the radiator is severely corroded and the head gasket is definitely cracked. I did some research and asked a few questions about DexCool (this is a DexCool vehicle) and am tossing around a couple of possibilities.

I have to recognize at this point that this problem had to be pre-existing, however, with this level of corrosion the dealer could not possibly have road tested it or done any of the diagnosis I was charged for and not caught it (according to the new shop). That much I can deal with, i wish they would admit it but that’s another story…

Here’s my thoughts: the new shop tells me that you’re not supposed to change a DexCool system to normal coolant; or even if you flush it out changing to normal coolant is not right for the type of engine…? Also, never never NEVER mix the two types of coolant because they react with eachother and cause corrosion. Something along those lines.

I’ve owned the vehicle less than a year but did take it to Jiffy Lube for an oil change - does Jiffy Lube know to use DexCool? Could they have topped it off with normal antifreeze and caused something like this to happen? If so, how long would that take to cause the head gasket(s) to corrode and crack? Any info is appreciated!

Again, any diagnosis the dealer did in relation to a fuel pump problem and why the vehicle would not run has nothing to do with the cooling system. The same would be true if the transmission dropped; a diagnosis does not include transmission converter stall tests or line pressure checks.

Mixing coolant types should not be done, but there is nothing wrong with flushing DexCool out and replacing it with other types.
It’s not likely at all that DexCool itself had anything to do with a “cracked” head gasket, although DexCool can sludge up the cooling system and cause overheating, which could then cause a failed head gasket.
Since a diangosis of a “cracked” head gasket sounds a bit strange, I’m taking that with a grain of salt also. Exactly how has this been determined?

The new information I have here is from the new shop. As I recall, the tech used the word ‘cracked’, although since English is not his first language (like 71% of LA) as far as I know, he may have said ‘failed,’ ‘blown’, ‘leaking’, or ‘corroded’ - honestly, does it make a difference? In laymans terms (my terms) they all mean the same thing: “Get a different vehicle because you can’t afford this one anymore.” Right?

If you want to get into the dealer conversation you were admittedly not privy to, i can put it simply for you, because it’s written clearly on the second repair order/$4700 estimate: ‘No evidence of water pump leaking or overheating at time of initial diagnosis earlier the same day.’ Just so we’re clear, how many hours (X the shop rate) does it take to check the fluid levels? If the dealer can’t trust the customer’s diagnosis (as you say) and they’re going to charge for it anyway (as they did), than why not put five minutes into diagnosing the vehicle at all (unless of course the real game is ‘screw the consumer’ in which case it makes total sense)?

Plenty of times I’ve gone to a mechanic when I’ve been told, “Your [windshield wiper motor] does need to be changed, by the way you also have this problem with the [cv boots] [plug wires] [fill in the blank with unrelated item here], would you like us to estimate those repairs for you?” This is good business, because A) it removes the liability from the shop, and B) it keeps the consumer coming back before they have to be towed in, right? What this dealer is telling me, is that they FULLY (yes, FULLY) diagnosed the vehicle and that there was no sign of any of these problems EARLIER THE SAME DAY. They put it in WRITING! What more do you want? Please, tell me that didn’t happen!

Now, this is your turn to tear me apart for not checking the fluid myself. You’re right, I probably should have just done that, maybe even on a regular basis, outside of the Jiffy Lube. It’s on my priority list, right behind working fulltime, and attending a university fulltime and raising two kids by myself, trying to somehow survive in Los Angeles without a cent from their dad, who happens to be a mechanic. Ah, the irony of it all. By the way, I believe I should be more educated on these things as well (noticed you brought up my post on the ‘profound ignorance’ page - thank you), so taking a class in this stuff is on my priority list too, right after ‘keep from getting evicted.’ Right now it’s a struggle just to survive, and generally the daily grind is so hectic that I won’t find out about things like this until it becomes a necessity, hence, the reason I pay a shop $120/hour, because I can’t do it myself and can’t afford for it not to be done right the first time. I’ve been to the corner garages, and when something goes wrong (like air left in a brake line that grinds the pad away in 2 weeks, or alternator change frying the fuel pump and starter relays), I just take it somewhere else. I thought a dealer could be trusted to do it right and check it all out. My mistake, and I take responsibility for that.

Obviously, I have limited knowledge on this subject, believe me, if anybody knows I’m an IDIOT, I DO, but you really seem to be getting your kicks trying to make me feel dumber than I feel anyway, and while that may be fun for you, I’d really appreciate it if you’d lay off. I noticed you’ve answered none of my questions, so you’re really not helping anything.

I bought this truck because last spring the transmission went out on my last GM at 192000 miles (engine still ran great), and I thought this newer vehicle (with a mere 84000 miles) would be a dependable choice for what I could get on credit (with a 2yo bankruptcy), stupid idea, yes I know (see above reference for IDIOT). My questions are simple, and they’re designed so that I can gain some information which I may pass on to my kids, and use for myself, to keep from making the same mistake(s) again. Someone wanna 'splain how your destructive criticisms and random speculations do any good?

Look. You’re obviously not mechanically inclined and just do not comprehend exactly what was done at the dealer.
You had a NON-RUNNING vehicle towed in to the dealer with instructions to get it running. You no doubt suggested the fuel pump was at fault. The dealer will do the appropriate tests in diagnosing the pump problem, or anything else that may lead to the engine not running; nothing more.
Would you be willing to pay the the dealer to do a leakdown test, cooling system test, vacuum test, hydrocarbon test, transmission line pressure test, ABS scan, air ride scan if equipped, etc, etc.?

The dealer will gladly service everything on the vehicle from headlight to rear valance if you so desire and will charge you accordingly.
I fail to see where the stopping point here on checking things out. If the brakes failed 2 miles down the road instead of this engine problem that occurred does this mean the dealer is at fault for also not inspecting those? NO.
If the dealer had checked the brakes and prensented you with a pricy estimate for a complete brake job would you have given the ok for it?

My opinion is that there is some of the story behind this vehicle missing. There is absolutely NO WAY that engine is going to overheat, blow a head gasket, or anything else within 2 miles of leaving the dealership; be it bad water pump, no coolant in the system at all, or with the radiator removed and pitched in the dumpster. It takes far longer than that to cause a problem and this problem no doubt existed before the vehicle was towed to the dealer.

You’re also taking this completely wrong. My comments are not meant at all to make you feel like an idiot, which you are not. Being mechanically uninformed does not make one a moron at all. There are a number of subjects I’m not well-versed in either but that does not make me an idiot; just ignorant. And ignorant does NOT mean stupid at all; just uninformed.

It would be the same scenario if a plumber was called to the house to repair a leak under the kitchen sink. If the shower head or stool leaks the next day or a pipe decides to burst under the house does this mean the plumber is at fault? No.
Again, I’m sorry if you’re offended by my comments. They are not meant to denigrate you in any way; only to clarify things a bit.

I don’t see any glaring blunders by anybody …the dealer…you,or, the independent shop. Just a series of unfortunate events. When someone brings a car to me with a stated problem, I’v found that I’d BETTER try to duplicate that problem. A few times I didn’t, and it turned out I fixed (usually, replaced) the wrong thing or part. The head gasket failure could have been taking place for a long time. Then, it broke through that last bit of material, and the internal coolant leak was on. New head gaskets MAY save the engine. One can hope. ALL things (failures) can’t be foreseen, nor prevented.

I think you are right about the series of unfortunate events. As far as I can tell now, the cooling system was shot at the time the fuel pump died, and the head gasket blew immediately after; unfortunately I am in a bad way now because after spending $1500 (credit) on the fuel pump and cooling system, I can’t afford another $2000 for the head gasket, and the book value has dropped to $4k less than I owe on this vehicle, which I can’t drive. Try finding someone to take it on trade with no down payment, knowing I have to finance $4k more than the price of whatever I purchase, and my life is pretty much over.

Can’t help thinking if the dealership had really checked it out properly, this problem would have been really obvious, and fixing the cooling system in time may have saved me this pesky engine failure disaster. Maybe not, who knows.

That’s life, right?

I empathize for you on your financial difficulties. Have you thought of IF you can “get by” without a truck for a few months? It would be difficult; but, could you? // Again, a mechanic can’t afford (monetarily, or time wise) to spend an hour, or two, testing and inspecting a vehicle for “just in case” something is wrong. He/ she has to go on the symptoms which are “right there”. S/he has to make that boat payment. Row boats aren’t cheap, you know!