Is a cracked engine block always the end?

jetta
volkswagen

#1

I’ve got a 2000 VW Jetta 1.8T manual. Just before Christmas my mechanic, searching for the source of a radiator leak discovered 3 very bad things: 1) radiator was shot; 2) heater core was too; & 3) engine block was cracked. I wasn’t ready (I’m still not) to call the salvage guys: this is the first car I bought new (likely to be the last); it’s a real pleasure to drive & has taken me all over the country; & the blasted engine, which VW replaced in 2007 when the timing belt blew & the car was still under a powertrain warranty, only has about 30,000 miles on it.

So after spending a couple of hours in mourning, I went online to find out if a cracked engine block is always a death knell or if, perhaps, they can sometimes be repaired. I got all excited when I found sites citing the effectiveness of a product called JB Weld for repairing external cracks (which one in my car engine is) & then welding. Further reading convinced me that neither JB Weld or welding is a reliable repair, that the only technique that can be relied on is called “Cold Metal Stitching” (which as I read about it sounded somewhat like sewing a rip in a piece of clothing).

The trick is to find somebody with the skill or willingness to cold metal stitch a crack in a car engine. I called precision machine shops across the state (Rhode Island), finding only one that repaired cracked engine blocks using cold metal stitching but the shop wanted nothing to with a car engine; it worked on BIG engines, from trucks & boats. I found a shop in New Hampshire that uses the process on car engines but it wouldn’t quote me a price without seeing the engine, & I wasn’t about to remove the engine & drive it several hours North, possibly only to be told shop couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do the job.

What I’d like to know from members of this community is: 1) Have any of you or anyone you know had a cracked engine block repaired? & if so, by what method & did the repair last? 2) Is anyone familiar with cold metal stitching as a reliable means of repairing a cracked engine block & if so do you have an estimate for what it costs; & 3) Is it time for me to wake up & get another car?


#2

I’m sorry, but I know nothing about reliable block repair. Others on this site will probably be able to give info.

What I’m wondering instead is why not just find a used engine for it? Or, since you like the car so much, shop around to see if anyone sells remanufactured engines for the car. By the time you’re done mucking about with this one the costs would probably come out similar, especially if you figure in the aggravation factor.


#3

Yes it is possible to have a cracked engine block reliably repaired by a machinist or engine/metal specialist. It would require removal, complete disassembly down to the bare engine block, and then transport and wait time for the repair. Not to mention the dollar cost. The cost to repair the block once at the appropriate place is likely to be several hundred dollars.

Or you can remove your engine block and replace it with a rebuilt one, which has been ordered and delivered and is sitting right there.

Is cost at all an issue? I’d imagine engine repair or replacement along with a new heater core and radiator and ancillary items to be far north of 6-7 grand.


#4

Cold metal stitching is used on cast iron components that aren’t subject to drastic temperature changes.

An engine block is subject to drastic temperature changes. So if the crack is cold metal stitched, the crack will open and close with the changes in the temperature.

Cast iron can be welded using an arc welder with cast iron rod. But because of the heat that must be applied to do this, this causes distortion/warpage of the casting, and causes the welded area to become brittle.

So either replace the engine or the vehicle.

Tester


#5

You are having a lot of problems with this car, so I have to question your maintenance practices. Preventative Maintenance (PM) is more than regular oil changes. You need to open the owners manual and look at the complete PM schedule, aka planned maintenance or scheduled maintenance.

There are time schedules for other things like the timing belt, transmission service, coolant exchanges etc. If you are not having all these services performed, you are going to have more repair issues with your car. If you had the coolant exchanged on schedule, you should not have issues with the radiator, block and the heater core all at the same time.

I’m having trouble believing the heater core needs replacing even if you didn’t maintain the cooling system, they are pretty rugged compared to the radiator. If you didn’t get coolant leaking into the interior of your car, then all this should need is a good hosing out and new heater hoses attached.

The cost of repairing the block and them rebuilding it would be a waste of money. If you can find a good engine from a salvage yard, that would probably be the least expensive way to get this back on the road, but salvage yard engines are a crap shoot, especially for an older car.

A quality reman would be the most reliable way to get this back on the road. With a new radiator and all new cooling line hoses and a flush of the heater core, you may be looking at a cost near or even above the present worth of the vehicle. But if you keep the car for a significant amount of time and miles, then that cost can be amortized over that period and can result in a lower TOC (total owner cost) per mile than a new vehicle.

BUT, before you do anything, take the car to another mechanic and get a second opinion. This is a business transaction and your present mechanic may have made a misdiagnosis. Do not tell the second mechanic what the first mechanic found, let him find out for himself.


#6

@keith I would have to agree; VWs have more problems than other similar cars, but to have all this in 13 years with a rebuilt engine to boot defies common sense.

Last year we disposed of a 1994 Nissan Sentra, a similar car in price, and the power train was still in like new condition. Only real repairs were to CV joints and half shafts, stater and alternator, and an oil seal repair. I can only see more expensive repairs for you in the future with this vehicle.

I would sell the car for parts and buy something more robust and maintain it well.


#7

For me…a cracked block is the death of the engine. As others have already stated, I’ve never seen a reliable repair for a cracked engine block and I don’t think I ever will. In my opinion…a 14 year old VW is not worth fixing.


#8

I bought another year of service from a 1947 Pontiac that had a cracked block using K & W seal. In that engine the valves were in the block and the block had cracked around a valve seat. I drove the car another year after using the K & W seal and after I sold it, it was on the streets two years later.

I think whether the K & W seal would work on your car would depend on the size of the crack. Also, I don’t know if K & W seal works with aluminum blocks. The old Pontiac had a cast iron block.


#9

Reparing a cracked block is only economically feasable for bringing a Deusenberg or Cord back to life. I have seen a farm equipment repair shop heat an old block in a forge and weld a crack. It was a huge undertaking and after welding the block required re-machining all critical dimensions and the weld could not be guaranteed.

And J-B Weld is great in some applications but not there.


#10

I gotta agree, this is not cost effective with the disassembly, repair, and reassembly when you can just get a new short block. I fixed a couple of small engines that threw rods. One I had the hole welded (aluminum) and the other when I was a kid, a neighbor mechanic fashioned a brass patch with gasket and machine screws. But I’d never do that with a car engine.


#11

I’m still not convinced that it is even cracked, thats why I would like the OP to get a second opinion.


#12

@keith

Not all cracked blocks are due to negligence

A few years ago, a daughter of an acquaintance asked me to look at her car, because the temperature spiked, she saw steam, and there was coolant under the car

When I saw the car, the engine was cooled down, but I could see dried coolant residue on the block and cradle.

I didn’t have my pressure tester with me, so after correcting the coolant level, I cleaned off the residue and started the engine. It took awhile, but I soon saw a wet area on the block. I had to remove a few brackets to get a better look, but I found a hairline crack in the block. It expanded when the engine warmed up.

I logged onto the Honda technical website, and discovered that there was an extended warranty on the engine block for certain VIN numbers. After confirming that her car was part of the affected batch, I sent her to the Honda dealer, where she got a free engine block installed.

I saved her thousands of dollars and she was so grateful to me, that she didn’t give me a single thing . . . not even a lunch!

It’s funny how the people I help out the most show their appreciation by doing nothing at all


#13

When the timing belt blew, was it the original? At what mileage? Just curious, as timing belts rarely go on VW’s when they are replaced on schedule (and they MUST be replaced on schedule). As someone else mentioned, I have to wonder about the maintenance and care of this car. Vw’s can last forever, but only if well maintained.

On the topic, it is a total waste of money to have the block repaired. If you really like the car, and have the money to spend, a remanufactured engine is the way to go. If you’re on a budget, check the VW forums online and find an enthusiast in your area willing to swap in a used engine.

A local enthusiast will cost less than a dealer or independent mechanic, will know where to get a quality used engine, and will be far more likely to do the job correctly (although not as quickly). Plenty of mechanics, even VW dealer ‘mechanics’, seem incapable of performing major engine work without screwing something up.


#14

Geez, sometimes kids will not think to say thank you all the time but that’s when the parents have to step in to push the issue a little. Nothing wrong with pies, cookies, gas cards, etc. I remember my BIL working in our cold garage putting brakes and exhaust on my old Pontiac. I was maybe 17 and wish someone would have knocked me on the head. I’m still embarrased after almost 50 years that I didn’t pay him something or do something special for him. I have bought him lunch since though.


#15

@db4690–I wish I could have found a way to pay the grumpy old fellow who was the service manager and head mechanic at the Desoto/Plymouth dealer where my dad did business. When I was a teenager and would bring the car in with a problem, he would sometimes say, “Don’t waste our time and your dad’s money when you could fix it yourself”. He would then tell me where to get the parts and how to get started doing the job. As I would leave, he would yell, “I’m going to make a mechanic out of you yet, boy!” Other times he would tell me to leave the car because it took specialized equipment or more skills than he knew I had.
At any rate, I not only learned a lot from this man, but gained self confidence in doing some auto repairs.


#16

Triedag, good story and you can’t help but love a curmudgeon who would push you to do more rather than take the work for himself. Perhaps he had enough business as a generous, able person.

For the OP, cracked blocks are nothing new; have been an occasional problem as long as there have been cast iron blocks. Early Ford flathead V8 engines (1932 to 1953) sometimes had this while Chevrolet stove bolt 6 engines did not. Otherwise the Ford V8 was a more durable engine. Even aluminum is not exempt as VW IDI diesels mostly have cracked heads between the valves however harmless.

You might do well to get in touch with Parts Place Inc and VWVortex.com.


#17

Let’s assume everything you say is wrong with the car, is correct. It’s 14 years old and given all the repairs you must make and the expectation there will be many more given the reliability history…( it has a 14 year old transmission) there is no way I would sink one more penny into this car. The amount you are going to pay to repair it should be put toward a much newer car. A newer car that doesn’t need the motor replaced TWICE during it’s lifetime. You got lucky on the first under warranty. Don’t press your luck…move on NOW.


#18

Agree with dagosa. Cut your losses and move on. 14 year old VW = not worth it. Only more trouble down the road.


#19

It seems strange to me that the radiator and heater core are shot and, at the same time, the engine block is cracked. This is every part in the cooling system. Unless the coolant didn’t give adequate freeze protection (not enough antifreeze), this scenario just doesn’t seem likely.
Did the mechanic do a pressure test to locate these problems? I would recommend getting a diagnosis from another mechanic. If indeed all these things are wrong with your car, then get rid of the car.


#20

db, it wasn’t the cracked block that gave me pause about the overall maintenance on the vehicle, it was its history. But I still question three separate leaks all at once. Most of the cracked blocks I have sen involved cracks in the cylinder wall. The two that I had that got cracks in the outside actually had big holes blown out of them from flying internal debris.

Without a tear down, how would you determine a cracked cylinder wall from a blown head gasket or cracked head? The OP did not indicate that he problems other than a loss of coolant. If it had a cracked cylinder wall, blown head gasket or cracked head, I’d expect that he would have noticed other problems, and if he had noticed them, he would have put them in his post.