Is my engine problem possibly due to a deer collision?

I hit a deer going 40+ mph with my 2000 Maxima about a month ago. The deer (a large buck) ran into the front end of the driver’s side, which resulted in a having to replace the front bumper and brackets, grill, fender, hood, headlight, and radiator support. There were no immediate signs of mechanical/engine damage, and the car continued to run and start just fine in both cold and warm weather. Two weeks later, I got the ~$3000 insurance payment and took it to a body shop for repair.

The car ran and started fine until the day that I took it in for repair. That morning, I started noticing an abnormal noise coming from underneath the hood while driving to work (hard to explain, but it wasn’t an alarming, loud, high pitched, or squealing sound). That afternoon, white smoke, which smelled a bit like oil or gas, started pouring out from under the hood on the passenger side. As I stopped to pull over, the car began idling badly and then died. It wasn’t overheating, so I attempted to start it, but it would only crank. After letting it sit for 30 minutes, I was able to start it by revving the engine and turning the key at the same time. I drove it 1/10 mile to the body shop and let them know what happened.

I picked it up a week later, the body looked brand new, everything seemed fine. It wasn’t until three miles down the road that white smoke began appearing followed by rough idling then stalling at a red light. Again, the temp gauge didn’t indicate that the engine was overheating and no warning lights came on. I started it the same way I did last time, but decided to have it towed to a mechanic. After running some tests, they concluded that the problem was a water pump leak, which was causing water to mix with the oil.

I have three questions: 1) Does this sound like a water pump leak? It seems more like a blown head gasket, but I know little about cars. 2) Could the issue be related to the collision with the deer? The impact was on the opposite side, but the forces caused by impact must disperse and travel to parts of the car beyond the point of impact. 3) Is it worth fixing at this point? It seems smarter to sell it as is rather than shelling out another $1000 for a 13-year old car, but I don’t know how to sell nor who would buy a car that doesn’t run.

You need to have someone look at the entire front of the vehicle. When you hit a deer, there’s no telling what it can take out.

I once hit a six point buck doin’ about 45 MPH in a 73 Maverick. What a mess.


If water and oil mixed, then the engine is not long for this world. Get it running and trade it in.

The deer hit and your motor problems are most likely a coincidence.

The only way I see a possible link with a water pump failure is a loss of coolant as a result of the collision. Say you had a crack in the radiator or a fitting and coolant was being lost (this will cause white smoke when coolant hits something very hot like the exhaust manifold) and you couldn’t raise the hood due the accident. After a couple of weeks of driving you do not have a sealed cooling system, you have air in the system. The air bubbles and pockets are not good for the water pump bearing. So, if the water pump was going bad, the air would accelerate the deterioration. After 200K miles I can see this as a possible. You can ask the body shop if they noticed any signs of leaking coolant when they had the car apart for the repair.

Hijacking the thread a bit here.

Tester said: “I once hit a six point buck doin’ about 45 MPH in a 73 Maverick.”

So, who taught the deer to drive, and whose Maverick was he driving? (Sorry about that.)

Real story: Back in 1969 I met a fellow who, driving his Karman Ghia in Utah, had hit a deer Not only was the car messed up, but he was cited for poaching for killing a deer out of season.

I’m with @Tester here on getting a second opinion. I hit a large deer (maybe moose) traveling at about 40mph in my new Olds Cutlass while stationed in Maine. It took out the hood, bumper, radiator support and radiator. A short time after I got the car back from the body shop…the engine developed a severe knock. When the engine (3.8 V6) was torn down…the lower ends of the connecting rods were found to be damaged when they contacted each other during the impact with the animal. Like @Tester said…“there’s no telling what it can take out.”