Hurricane damage or bent valves or...?


My boyfriend, Jake and I live in Denver. We are experiencing a mysterious repair conundrum with his 2004 Toyota Tacoma truck. The truck had been running fine until one day at work, he couldn’t get it started. We towed it to my mechanic, who, after many days of diagnostic frustration, finally said it had bent valves, and proceeded to ask Jake if the truck had ever been submerged in water, had he broken the timing belt, had anyone tampered with it, etc. Jake said no to all the questions, and my mechanic was baffled as to how the truck sustained such damage. Since the truck is so new, we thought perhaps it was still under warranty, so we towed it to a Toyota dealer. The dealer examined it and informed Jake that the valves were not bent, but that the “entire engine was rusted,” and asked if the truck had been submerged or left open in a rainstorm. Jake again said no. He then thought about where he had bought the truck and the circumstances surrounding the purchase: in 2004 at an Orlando Toyota dealership (who had previously suffered a bad local reputation, but had since been supposedly bought by new owners), where he got a few hundred dollars knocked off the price of the new truck because of some dents caused by “hurricane damage.” So now Jake is thinking that perhaps the damage was much more extensive than a few dents and that maybe the truck was submerged or flooded by the hurricane, but the Florida dealer didn’t disclose that info. He mentions this to the Denver Toyota dealer and asks if perhaps the Orlando dealer would be at fault and so would the repairs then be covered by Toyota? The Denver dealer says that may be a possibility, but if so, they wouldn’t be able to work on the truck–Jake would have to tow it back to Orlando to the dealer he bought it from. Obviously, this is not a cost-effective solution to the problem. Additionally, we then reported what the dealer said to my original independent mechanic, who pooh-poohed what the Denver Toyota dealer said, stating that an entire engine cannot rust and that 3 years is way too long for hurricane/water damage to rust anything anyway–it would have happened much sooner, and that he stands by his original diagnosis of bent valves. So, needless to say, we are completely confused and frustrated (and broke). Could you please help us out–who is right about the truck’s diagnosis: my mechanic or the dealer–or neither? And could it be possible for a car to have such damage caused by a hurricane–and if, so, could such damage not show up until three years later? And again, if so–how do we go about investigating/getting the Orlando dealer to admit it and pay for repairs (short of hiring a lawyer–something we can’t afford as we can’t even afford to repair/replace the engine to begin with)? Any assistance or advice anyone can offer ASAP would be greatly appreciated as we are presently out of $14,000 and a reliable vehicle.


The dealer examined it and informed Jake that the valves were not bent, but that the “entire engine was rusted,”

Well, at least you now know of two Toyota dealerships to avoid. That statement about the rusted engine has to be one of the biggest lines of B.S. that I have heard in a long time.


Whew! Ever heard of paragraphs? Your post is hard to read, and consequently you may (or may not) receive fewer responses as a result.

I’m going with your mechanic. I don’t know about bent valves, but the theory that the “whole engine is rusted” sounds pretty lame to me. If that were true I think you’d have had problems before now.

On the other hand, valves don’t just bend on their own all of a sudden. It takes a mechanical failure of some sort to bend the valves. If there is no broken timing belt, no submerged engine (recently), then there should be no bent valves.

Please ask your mechanic to explain how the valves got bent, because I can’t come up with an explanation.

That doesn’t mean the dealer is correct, either. If the truck had been submerged in the past, it is POSSIBLE (although unlikely) for certain internal parts to show some rust. But it still doesn’t explain the fact that the truck ran fine until recently, an all of a sudden doesn’t run.

I have to ask; why would ANYONE purchase a vehicle with “hurricane damage?” This is asking for trouble.

I wish you luck, but without more information there is not much to go on.

PS. ANY Toyota dealer is authorized to do warranty repairs. There is no need to take the truck to the original selling dealer, if, indeed, this becomes a warranty issue. Is the truck still under warranty? Only you can tell. READ the warranty yourself. Do not take anyone else’s word for it.


Severe hurricane damage should have shown up a couple of years, if it ever was going to. Rust in the engine? Oscar Myers! You didn’t state the mileage on the truck; but, average mileage would be about 50,000 miles. This is much too soon for a timing belt to go out. Not impossible. Just too soon. What CAN damage an engine suddenly is running through a deep puddle (or, crossing a stream), and water splashing up into the engine intake and going into the engine. I don’t know the tests the mechanic did to diagnose “bent valves”. Vacuum or compression tests, or what? You might need the advice of a third mechanic.


So how did he determine it was bent valves? If it really has bent valves, and if the truck was running (even badly) then there should be some loud valve train knocking or clattering going on.

Bent valves are easy to determine either visually or by means of a compression test or a vacuum gauge IF the engine runs at all.

To be honest, I’m not convinced of either your mechanic’s or the dealer’s diagnosis or aptitude.
Why should it take “many days of frustration” to determine a bent valve problem? This should be apparent within minutes if this were the case.
“The entire engine was rusted”??? How do they determine this? At least in this case you were probably conversing with a service advisor and the vast majority of those guys have no mechanical aptitude at all. They’re good talkers though.

My vote at this point is they’re both goofy or inept and I don’t put a lot of faith into this dire engine problems diagnosis.

As to Toyota Motor Co. being involved with this on what is called a “good will warranty” the truck does NOT have to be towed back to FL. for repair and that’s assuming the truck even has an engine problem. (I’m dubious.)
Any good will repair that is authorized by TMC (NOT the dealers) will be performed at any authorized Toyota dealer, although the one you’ve been seeing may be a bit questionable. :slight_smile:


Hey, all–I apologize for the lack of paragraphs–this is my first post and I wasn’t quite sure how it would be formatted.

My inclination is to believe my mechanic–I’ve been going to him for several years, and was referred my my best friend and her mother, who have had him work on their cars for several years before that. The truck is not running at all, so I’m assuming maybe that’s why diagnosis was more difficult for him? I believe he did do a compression test.

So everyone agrees that the dealer’s diagnosis of a rusted engine is BS? The truck is technically past the regular warranty of 3 yrs./30,000 mi., but it may still be under the “power train warranty,” which is longer, I believe. What exactly constitutes a “good will warranty”? And if there is a problem caused by hurricane damage that was undisclosed at the time of the sale, would the next step be to contact TMC, as I assume the FL dealer is not going to come clean?

Thanks to all who replied.


A good-will warranty is one that the car maker (Toyota in this case) may use to perform a repair of any sort that is out of the regular warranty period. It is strictly discretionary and may be used in one case and not in another case involving an identical vehicle and mileage. They weigh a number of factors in determining this including the question, should this have happened?

I agree the “rust” is probably BS (depending on what they’re referring to, see below paragraph), but your mechanic does not get a pass either.
If I assume here that the timing belt broke then how do the valves get bent? As far as I know, your Toyota, like most Toyotas, use what is called a “non-interference” or “free wheeling” engine.
This means if the belt breaks the valves do NOT suffer damage.
I realize you’re in the middle of conflicting stories here between the dealer and mechanic and I see issues with both of them at this point, and diagnosing an engine with valve problems is about a 10 minute deal; not several days of frustation.

If the timing belt has broken this would be very unusual for the year and mileage, BUT if this vehicle was underwater at one time (at least to some extent) it’s possible that dirty and/or salty water could have gotten in, saturated the timing belt and belt tensioners, and shortened the life of the belt and/or tensioners.
One could also make the point if hurricane salt and/or dirty water was bad enough to ruin a timing belt, then what about possible future issues with wheel bearings, suspension components, etc. since water can creep into these areas also?

I would advise that if you contact TMC you must be very polite and keep it short and simple when explaining the problem.
It would not hurt to express a little disappointment about a belt failure at such a low mileage (assuming that is the problem here).
Hope some of that helps.


It looks like your engine was used for submarine duty and was filled with water. The mechanic wouldn’t have mentioned rust unless he saw some. If he was looking at the outside of the engine and saw rust, it is probably normal for a Florida car anyway. You used to be able to sell rusty cars to people from parts of Florida because it was a normal thing and they weren’t scared of it.


The timing belt is not broken, but the truck is still not running. I believe the diagnosis took my mechanic several days because he was booked up with repairwork and was trying to fit us in between other appointments. He also saw some rust in the engine and had asked if the truck had been in water, but unlike the dealer, he’s not saying the whole engine needs to be replaced.

We called Toyota yesterday, but they weren’t particularly helpful. They said they are just the manufacturer and once the dealer has bought their product, it’s the dealer’s responsibility what happens from then on. They advised us to contact the FL dealer. We did, and it became an exercise in frustration with finger-pointing between the dealer and TMC, with no one willing to help us so far. I find this particularly disappointing as I have owned Toyotas for years and always considered their autos high-quality and the company trustworthy and one that stands behind their product–but this experience has made me question that.


There’s not enough detailed info to provide an answer as to why the truck won’t start from my perspective anyway.

The truck was running fine and boom, won’t start. Since the timing belt is intact (and it’s a non-interference engine anyway) it seems to me the reason should be compartively simple to figure out.

Engines will get rust on them over time (normal), even ones that are not exposed to salt water, so that diagnosis is very shaky. The part about the engine having bent valves is also not to be believed IMHO.

What needs to be known by the people on here is whether the problem is fuel or spark related. A rough guess as to the problem (fuel, spark, or that goofy bent valve diagnosis) should not take your mechanic more than 10-15 minutes to determine.

I think your biggest probem right now is not with the truck itself, but with the shops who are wild guessing a bit without spending any time making a proper diagnosis.

TMC is correct though. The dealer is responsible for warranty work up to the warranty cut-off date and is not responsible for problems one minute afterwards.
From the dealer perspective they cannot proceed further unless TMC authorizes a good-will in advance or you agree to pay for diagnostics. If the dealer does this work for you and attempts to get reimbursement later for warranty then the dealer will probably eat the entire bill.

Is there any way you can flat out ask your mechanic the following question?
Is the truck not getting a spark, not getting fuel, or does it have a serious mechaical problem (bent valve)?
The last one is very dubious IMO.

If you have spark, fuel, and compression then the truck should do something. Run, cough, stumble, or whatever.
I keep thinking the problem may be no more serious than a corroded wire connection or even a blown fuse.

Wished I could be of more help but there are too many details lacking.


Thanks–I appreciate your comments. I realize that there are details lacking here, and I wish I could fill them in. It seems crazy that neither my mechanic–who has been knowledgable and honest and competent for years with my and my friends’ past car repairs–nor the dealer can figure out what is wrong with this vehicle and that they would make such disparate diagnoses. Especially after they both had the truck for several days and we have already paid my mechanic $75 and the dealer $100 for those diagnoses (not to mention towing feees, which we are arguing with Jake’s insurance co. to be reimbursed for).

Yes, we can probably ask my mechanic your question. Thanks again very much for your help. And forgive my ignorance, but what does IMHO and IMO mean?


Why not let the mechanic have EVERYTHING? Print out all 4 pages of these responses and take to your mechanic (and, you could sneak a copy to the dealer’s mechanic, if you decide to go that way). Sometimes, one idea will lead to another idea, and then to another, and…so on.


The key thing here is “The truck had been running fine until one day at work, he couldn’t get it started.” There is just no possible way that hurricane damage, or flooding, or some other similar calamity several years ago would suddenly cause bent valves now. Running an engine into water so water gets sucked into the intake and locks the engine happens either right away (like in seconds, while you are still in the lake), or not at all. Before you go nuts here, it’s time for true confessions from your boyfriend. Did he drive through a big puddle? Was he doing some off roading on the way to work?

If your valves are bent, your compression is very low or zero in the cylinders. A compression test is pretty straight forward to do. If it’s low the mechanic can put a few drops of oil in the cylinder and test again. If it stays low, it’s valves. If it goes up, it’s probably rings.

If your compression is OK, it’s not valves and it’s not rings.

Your post thread is mostly about blame, but until you understand what’s wrong with the truck, blame is impossible to assess. So far there is no real info here. When you turn the key does it turn over, but not start? Or does it do nothing at all? Does it click? If it turns over, does it try to start? Has anyone checked for spark at the plugs? Is gas getting to the engine? Does the fuel pump run? These are the mechanical issues.


It should only take about 10 minutes to determine the base reason why a vehicle won’t start. Lack of fuel, lack of spark, or lack of compression (alleged bent valves in this case), with the latter not likely at all.

It may take longer to track down the exact reason but a ballpark reason is easily done.

IMHO only means “in my humble opinion” and IMH means “in my opinion”. Just shortening things up a bit.


IMHO. in my humble opinion. IMO: not humble but still an opinion. LOL is laughing out loud. Then there is this one :slight_smile:


typo - stuff happens.


A friend suggested that if the truck had been tampered with by someone, it would be covered by Jake’s insurance and we could possibly get them to pay for repairs. Does anyone have any idea if that’s a viable suggestion and how to go about it–and might my mechanic be able to see and prove that to the insurance co.?


I’m going to to try to congeal the post into a few simple facts.

The truck was running fine, then suddenly stopped, simply wouldn’t start. The timing belt is fine and intact. Valves don’t simply bend one day when you try to start the vehicle. I’m highly suspicious of the bent valve theory. I’d have to see the inability to hold pressure via a compression check to buy that one.

It seems that the truck was, in fact, in a hurricane. It would appear that the engine compartment, and possibly more, was subjected to more than its share of water. Possibly salt water. If it were ingested, the engine wouldn’t have run “fine” all the way from Florida to Denver. It would have been hydrolocked right there in Florida. However, while external rust won’t stop an engine, exposure to salt water can corrode electrical connections. And destroy components. There’s lots of metal inside the alternator, the relay box, and other spots that submersion might damage. Possibly even ECU connections.

It’s also possible that water got into the gas tank. It could have sat on the bottom of the tank (gas is lighter than water…salt water is MUCH heavier than gasoline) and now have gotten drawn into the fuel line while driving the hills of Colorado. Florida is flat, so it could have sat on the bottom while in Florida.

I’d start by looking at the spark. If you have that, look at the fuel injection, whether the injector sare functioning. If they are, I’d suspect that they’re pumping gas diluted in salt water. I’d be inclined to drain the tank and lines, clean the injectors, and start again with fresh gas.

Weird theory? Yup. Weird problem? Yup.


There are a thousand reasons why a vehicle may choose to instantly not start. Tampering in one but IMHO is highly unlikely.
It’s also doubtful that hurricane water would have anything to do with it as far as the fuel tnak being contaminated, although it is possible that salt water could have caused corrosion on an electrical connector.
If there was water in the tank it would have surfaced long ago.

I don’t know what the problem is here but it only takes 3 things for an engine to do at least something; compression, spark, and fuel. All three of those are easily verifiable.


You said that the timing belt is fine and intact, but it is possible that the belt may have slipped and jumped a few teeth on the cam gear for some reason…So, the timing may be off, yet the belt may look fine. Even if it is off by a few teeth, the thing won’t run. At this point, you must look at it systematically, like with a checklist…For example, check for fuel to engine. If no fuel, fix the problem (pump, relay, whatever it may be)…check for spark…basically make sure that all essential systems are functioning (ignition, fuel, compression)…one system at a time. I’s start with compression. Once you determine the situation from that point (good/bad rings, etc, etc), you can know if the engine is, for some reason, in need of being replaced/rebuilt. If the engine is bad, then maybe you can find a decent used engine.

If the valves were bent, and the engine was turning (like when you turned the key to start it), you’d hear some horrible noises. but why would the valves all of a sudden be bent? Maybe there is a garage that specializes in engine diagnostics and rebuilding. They might be able to help you sort it out.

Best of luck…

Maybe it is something that is relatively simple that was damaged by submersion, and waited all of this time to crap out on you…I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

Tampa, FL