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Heavy Metal Bro. drives my car while overheated & pinging

My knucklehead brother, re-living the past, borrowed my '96 Civic and sped off to a heavy metal concert - Mega-Death (may be prophetic here). His head was in a blissful dungeon. It was a 55 F day, near sundown, he’d gone 20 miles. He was going up a fairly steep hill and the engine started pinging loudly (something it’s never done before), then he noticed the temp. gauge pegged. Instead of stopping immediately and looking under the hood where he would have found no water in the radiator, he “fixed” the problem on the fly by turning on the heater. The car continued to ping and run poorly. He continued to drive another mile up hill (about 2 minutes more) whence he stopped the car and shut off the engine, opened the hood, found ZERO water in the radiator (no steam). I have not tried to start the car since - had it towed. What should I do before trying to start it (besides adding coolant)? What should I do to find out if lasting engine damage was done? The engine ran like new prior to this - has 180k miles. Thank you all for considering my problem. I may need a new car and a new brother! -Stevie1959 P.S: How much is he to blame for this - he’s a 50 year old, experienced driver, amateur mechanic? - he tells me I gave him a car with no coolant in it (Not true!, I drove it that very day, no puddles of coolant anywhere).

Well, you may have given him a car with coolant in it, but…somehow…it lost coolant somewhere along the way. Unless you think that he cut a radiator hose or did some other dastardly deed of a similar nature, he is not responsible for the cooling system losing its coolant.

That being said, he IS responsible for continuing to drive with the obvious warning signs that he reported to you.

Truthfully, I think that this engine’s days are…over.
Between the reality that Honda engines do not take well to overheating, and the other reality that he probably cooked the motor oil, this engine very likely has both a warped head and badly damaged bearings. Other types of damage are certainly possible, including scored cylinder liners.

Personally, I would not try to repair the (probable) very extensive damage on a 17 year old car with a very low book value–but that is just my opinion, and others may differ. Then, there is the other issue of whether you can get your irresponsible brother to help with the cost of either a new(er) car or a junkyard engine for this car.

Good luck!

I almost guarantee damage was done, at the very least I would think a head gasket replacement is in order, the head is likely warped, pray that the block is ok. The engine is likely junk, I have seen a chevy 305 overheated to this extent, and it lived for many tens of thousands of miles afterwards, but an aluminum honda probably aint going to make it.

Where did the coolant go? If it was indeed full when he left it would be a major failure of a cooling system component to lose all the coolant that quick. He should have know better than to keep driving it.

I bet he was smelling green, but it wasn’t coolant…

If it has an automatic transmission, you can pretty much bet that got fried too. With no coolant in the radiator there’s no way for the transmission fluid to cool off.


" “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.” "

@stevie1959. You disclaim you gave him the car with no coolant. How do you know? Just because there were no puddles on the floor is no way to assume the car has enough coolant. YOU actually have to check the COOLANT ITSELF! When did you last do that before lending him the car?

Since you are asking us for advice. please tell us exactly what you checked before lending him the car. I’m not suggesting for one minute your “experienced” brother is innocent; we are just trying to get an idea of the extent of the damage.

Last month I lent my Toyota to a niece for a week while she was visiting us. I checked all the fluids (water, oil, transmission, brake fluid, power steering, wiper fluid) and the air in the tires.

Doc makes an excellent point, as he usually does.

I think common sense would dictate when the temp gauge was noticed pegged, turning the heater to full max is a good thing, but also, at the very first opportunity to safely pull over, then to pop the hood and see what was going on with the coolant, that would be the minimum effort required and still maintain “car borrower” innocence. To the extent that didn’t happen, you could argue your brother has some culpability there.

But even so, I think he couldn’t be said to be 100% at fault. Unless you checked all the fluids immediately prior to him borrowing the car, you have to share some blame too.

Plus he’s your brother, so my advice is to fu-get-'bout-it.

And don’t assume the engine is toast. It could have survived. Best idea I think is to have a trusted shop do an evaluation. If you don’t want to do that, pull the plugs and manually turn the crank a few times, see if you hear any weird noises or feel unusual catches. No? Then replace all the fluids, maybe the spark plugs too, verifying the gap, and see what happens to the pinging and the temp gauge symptoms when you try to start it I guess.

I can’t agree that the car had “no coolant” when he left. If he had already gone 20 miles and it did not overheat prior, it had enough antifreeze till it did. It may have been low, but 20 miles is more then enough time for it to overheat with little or no coolant and I doubt it was the first hill climbed. But you will never know how low if at all as it may have been the water pump that was the first to go…

It lost some during the trip for sure.The only thing you will learn from this experience is, don’t loan your brother your next car. Other then that, it’s an old, old car and no one will ever know who is mainly responsible. One thing is for sure, unless you need an excuse to be upset at your bro. “forget about it”. Move on and save up for another clunker.

Everyone is missing the crucial question here. Did the guy make it to the show or what?! I’ve had more than one breakdown on show trips and luckily never BEFORE the show, so it never mattered!

Ok Stevie1959, I’m sure you don’t care. I’d check the compression. If I found it workable (say 120psi and mostly even across cylinders, even though 150 or better would be better) then I’d refill, check the condition of the oil and turn the key.

As for “blame” - it’s pretty much 50/50.

Let me see if I got this right…
your 50 year old amateur-mechanic brother borrowed your 1996 Civic to go to a heavy metal concert and drove it into the ground after it started pinging and pegged the temp gage?

Man, no disrespect, but I couldn’t have made that one up!

Since it’s cooled down anyway, you can try filling it with water and see what you have. If it starts making terrible noises, and it probably will, shut it off and start by checking the cylinders by doing a “leakdown test”. Or, just pull the sparkplugs and see if one or more is wet with coolant, or shows signs of having been corroded away with hot burning coolant (it doesn’t actually "burn, it vaporizes, but its components can do damage). If bro has a borescope, you could even peer into the cylinders and see if you’ve blown a hole in a piston.

Then you may want to start shopping for a replacement. I’d bet lunch that this one is toast. Unless, of course, bro wants to buy a boneyard engine and tranny and put it in himself, being as he’s an amateur mechanic.

Sincere best with this.

I guess I’d fill it up with coolant, check the oil, start it and see what you get. The engine may be okay, it may be junk, but you may as well try. Whatever damage was done, is done.

Just an FYI, he may have done it on purpose, even if sub consciously. I can see it, the car starts overheating, pinging, the metal is blaring, he may have just floored it to see how much it could take…

I used to listen to megadeath, slayer, pantera ect… That music gets you so amped up and angry you tend to start breaking things. One time I was going to the store listening to pantera and I was in a good mood but the music gets you amped up and I started hitting stray shopping carts with my car.

I also learned never to work on a car listening to heavy metal, that’s how the windshield of my camaro got damaged one time, I was working on it and the front end was on jack stands. I believe I was trying to reseal the oil pan, I busted my knuckles one to many times so I got into the car, started it, put it in reverse and floored it which caused the car to come off the stands, I then threw one of the jack stands at the car and walked in the house. Those were the days I rarely wore a shirt in summertime and had a mullet. Good times!

This was in the early 90’s, I am much calmer now. I rarely listen to metal now, if I did I would probably drive the Prius into an oak tree.

I mean one of mega deaths most popular songs is “symphony of destruction”…

One minute into the music video represents what your civic engine was doing when he was flooring it while it was glowing red and pinging… Symphony of Destruction…

Megadeth’s touring???

@Rick: Metal never made me rage, it calmed me down when I was raging. I guess it was like giving speed to ADD kids; whatever it was, it worked. (What made my rages worse was “happy music”: tick me off, make me listen to “Frosty the Snowman”…I’ll be homicidal.

But I wouldn’t listen to metal while working on my car. No, I was taught young…you work on a car (or bike), you listen to the Allman Brothers. Yes, suh!

OP: don’t blame your brother for your car. Mist likely, it was very low on coolant when you gave it to him…and even if it wasn’t, something catastrophic and beyond his control happened on the ride to make it so. At least he was honest enough to admit the extent to which he screwed up, and the engine probably was toast by the time it showed symptoms. A good driver, on a good day, might catch it in time, but an average driver probably won’t.