Is my engine blown? 96 caravan 3.0


Today, the wife calls me on her way home from work, says the engine stalled and won’t start. I drive to meet her, she calls five minutes before I got there said it started right up. I check out the van, it was running a little rough so I suspected bad gas and filled the tank as it was nearly empty. Then I proceeded to drive it home, after about eight minutes I noticed that the van was loosing power, a couple minutes later much less power and the engine began to run rough, It then began to make a rattling noise, I hope its not what I think it is but the engine was vibrating from running rough, also it did not make the rattle when coasting or when accelerating, only when at driving speed. I turned the corner trying to just get it home and the temp needle slammed from normal all the way up, and the van stalled again with coolant boiling and oil smoking. Is there anything other than a blown engine that could cause this? Thanks.


kinda hard to diagnose over the net, but it soudns like either a blown head gasket, or a bad water pump. but since it was continually driven while it was overheating now there may be other issues. have it TOWED to a mechanic to have it checked out.

how many miles, any recent repairs?


Yes. A blown head gasket might cause the symptoms you describe. A head gasket is much less expensive than a blown engine.

A bad thermostat might also cause the symptoms you list, and a thermostat is only a few bucks.

Driving the vehicle under these conditions, however, likely made things MUCH worse, and there is no way to tell, from here, how bad the damage might be.

Good luck!


UPDATE: It defiantly was the result of an overheat, I checked fluids before taking it home, oil was fine and coolant tank was full, I did not open the radiator as it was still at operating temp. The temp gauge never gave anything other than a normal read out until just before it stalled both times. The wife described nearly the same situation except for the power loss, that all of a sudden the temp shot through the roof and the van stalled. I went down there just a bit ago to add some water to get it home, the radiator was of course completely empty. Every time I crank it the coolant starts to boil again so I cycled some water through cranking every five minutes or so, an hour and a half later its still hot. Water appears to be disappearing somewhere as I have added almost five gallons of water to the radiator through the process, there is a slow drip from behind the engine on the belt side but not fast enough to account for the water loss as fast as it was, I checked to see if water was coming out the tail pipe but it is dry. It seems to fire on every fourth crank cycle but not enough to start anything.


Pull the oil dipstick I bet you find where all that water is. It probably looks like chocolate milk.


I did, It turned black, I am assuming because the oil was smoking, but no chocolate milk, no white creamy, no brown sludge in coolant. . . however lots of white smoke out of exhaust now.


UPDATE 2: I did get it to start after hours of cooling down, but scratch the no water from exhaust, when driving it the two blocks back to the house I nearly fogged the neighborhood with white smoke from the exhaust, so blown head gasket, Right? I have been slowly loosing fluid for about a month, I suppose that is where it was going, Also the o2 sensor light had come on a few times, probably also from the coolant leak… Grrr. Ok now I guess I’m asking for opinions on options, its a 96 with about 170000 miles. Is it worth tearing down to replace the gasket, considering how hot I think it got, and mileage would it be better to replace the engine? What kind of kick to the nuts can my pocket book expect as a DIY? Also does anyone know why the temp sensor acted the way it did and also why no fluid would have been drawn from the coolant tank, it sat for over two hours between the first stall and the attempt to drive it home.


You definitely have a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head. With 170,000 I would not recommend attempting to fix this engine. As far as replacing the motor the last 3.0 V-6 I bought used had 45,000 miles and cost me $750.00 with a 1 year warranty. Prices may vary by location.

The temp sensor can only be accurate if it is submerged in liquid. With a leaking head gasket it is possible that the sensor would get dry and stop recording an accurate temperature. As far as the coolant being drawn from the coolant tank it works off of vacuum. As the temperature increases the coolant expands and pushes coolant into the overflow (or out a leaky head gasket). When the coolant cools the level drop creating a vacuum and draws the liquid back from the coolant reservoir or draws air in through a blown head gasket.



I’m not trying to be too critical here, but by both you and your wife continuing to operate a vehicle with a known problem you have probably turned a 10 dollar faulty thermostat into a trashed engine.

The rattling and loss of power is something that occurs when an engine is overheating, and I mean seriously overheating. It’s detonation at its worst.

With a 170k miles, blown head gaskets, cooked engine oil, the engine is toast. When one gets this hot the cylinder walls are going to be cooked and the piston rings will be seized into the ring lands and/or will have lost their spring tension.
New head gaskets means you’re going to have one oil-burning, smoking van.
Best option is a boneyard engine.

Dartman is also correct about the lack of coolant affecting the temp gauge; it must be immersed.


Yep. The blown head gasket is what I first thought of too.

To the OP, did you notice a huge cloud of white smoke coming out of the tailpipe when the temp spiked?


Lesson learned the hard way eh?

Don’t EVER ignore the warning lights on the instrument panel, regardless of what you think at the time.

Just a side note: Leaking Intake Manifold Gaskets on most '95 to '03 GM engines caused millions of dollars of damage, mostly due to owner/drivers ignoring the slow but steady loss of coolant and continued driving after the temps went up.


at this point if you are still reading…

from your description, and from your questions:

this is NOT something you can diagnose yourself.
tow it to shop (but dont drive it anymore)

by continuing to drive it (even after it cools down) is reheating and killing ANY chance you have at a resonable repair. as an earlier poster said, what MAY have been a simple $9.98 thermostat probably has become a thousand dollar oops.
so stop driving it. it doesnt miraculously “get better” when it cools down.

not to be a pain, but you are asking if this is a DIY job. this is probably the kind of thing that if you have to ask how to do it, you probably shouldn’t!

i had to replace a head on my dodge spirit a couple of years ago and it was $650

since you have TWO heads to change (6 cyl?) i woudl suspect $1300.


Except that, with this being a Dodge Caravan, it’s not made by GM. :slight_smile:


No kidding.
The side note is for general consumption. I reckon I thought that would have been obvious.


Thermostat was replaced a couple months ago / by diy i was stating that the project would be a diy and was inquiring as to cost / as for driving it, I suspected the head was blown and would be replacing it anyway, just tried to get it home. / and finally much of what I have found elsewhere said that the bottom half of the 3.0 engine is pretty tough and should have held up ok, that I should tear it apart inspect the head and if I’m lucky its just a gasket, if not, a new head. Anyone concur or dispute that advise?


I would dispute this advice. Considering the engine has 170,000 miles on it, and how hot it was run it is my opinion that the pistons, rings, and bearings have suffered major stress. I agree the bottom end of the 3.0 litre is sturdy but this one has been weakened by 170,000 miles and extreme heat. The motor swap is a DIY if you have the right tools. I would make some phone calls looking for a low mileage engine.


I side with Dartman and also dispute that advice.
There has never been an engine made tough enough to survive severe, continued overheating without suffering some problems.

Head gaskets if you want but don’t be surprised if you wind up with a smoking, knocking engine anyway.
(In some severe cases, hot coolant can actually eat up the cylinder head valves and seats. I had to do a repair once on a 5 cylinder VW that had 0 (yes, Zero) compression in 4 cyls. and 25 PSI in the last one due to an overheating episode; a bad one. When the head was removed there was nothing left of the exhaust valves except the stems and much of the aluminum between the valve seats was awol. Barely any tulip at all to valves and this car had a measly 450 miles on it. Near brand new, and to be honest, to this day I have no idea how this thing managed to run long enough to cause the damage it did. The crank bearings/piston rings were also wiped out.)