Is the mechanic responsible for my cracked engine block?

I took my car into the shop before making a long distance drive to NC from IN for the holidays because the check engine light was on and the car periodically sputtered. The mechanic told me it was a bad drive shaft or a bad cam shaft. I had them replace both parts. While working on the car, they recommended replacing the water pump and timing belt as well. I authorized the additional work.

When driving back from NC, about 20 minutes from Fort Wayne, IN. I lost power, lost heat, checked my guages to see if it was running hot or any other red flags and didn’t see any. Shortly after this I stopped at a stop light and when I accelerated again the car started forward, then broke down and coasted about 100-150 feet. All of the lights lit up on the dash board. The engine was turning over, but the car wouldn’t start back up. Eventually the engine wouldn’t turn over any more, but the battery power was still good.

I had the car towed back to the mechanic. During the tow, the tow truck driver dropped the car off the hitch damaging the bumper and radiator. The tow truck driver replaced the radiator, reattached the bumper and took the car back to the original mechanic. The driver claimed that the fan was rubbing against the radiator and wore a hole in it and that the radiator leak was the reason for the break down. He sent me pictures of the radiator damage as well as pictures of sludge coming out of the radiator when he went to drain it. He wants to charge me for the radiator.

The mechanic is telling me that he thinks dropping the car did the damage to the radiator and that I have a blown head gasket or a cracked engine block. They told me that there was seepage coming from the water pump so they have replaced it again. I googled failed water pumps cracking engine blocks and found out that a bad water pump could have been the cause of the car breaking down and the damaged engine.

The mechanic is telling me it’s going to cause a couple of thousand or more to replace the engine block, but I feel like they could be at fault for the damage in the first place.

I’d love some advice. Thanks!

PS, It’s a 2007 Aveo with a little over 100k miles on it.

My advice is to contact your insurance company and file a claim. Let them deal with the hassle of determining whose fault it was and going after them. Hopefully, you have full coverage.

I would not have let the tow truck driver do any repairs without a full inspection at a body shop to assess the damage first. If you don’t have full coverage, tell the tow truck driver you want his insurance company to pay to get the car towed to a body shop for a full estimate on the damage.

The tow truck driver caused damage to your car, which is a lot easier to prove than to prove your mechanic damaged your car with a misdiagnosis, so that is where I’d start.

Yeah I should have done that. It’s a little late now. I don’t have full coverage. It’s a 2007 Aveo. Not worth carrying collision.

In that case, I’d ask the tow truck driver for the contact information for his insurance company, and file a claim through them.

Hopefully, you won’t have to hire a lawyer or go to small claims court, but it might come to that.

Turns out that even if I had full coverage, this isn’t something the insurance company gets involved in. Mostly, I’m wondering if a faulty water pump or mistake during installation could have been what cracked the engine block.

If it was a faulty water pump or other mistake, I think you’d have noticed it on the temperature gauge. I’d make the case to the tow truck driver’s insurance company that the damage from it being dropped from the tow truck was more extensive than the tow truck driver’s repairs.

I understand how and why the insurance company won’t get involved in damage caused by a mechanic’s misdiagnosis, but when someone drops a car from a tow truck, there is insurance for that. Tom and Ray Magliozzi used to refer to it as “bonehead insurance.”

There is a very real chance that the drop damaged more than the radiator and bumper. There is a good chance you have a bent frame, and other unseen damage.

The engine was not running between the time the tow driver dropped the car and him replacing the radiator. Look at the pictures of the damage. A rotating fan rubbing on a radiator will make distinct marks (circles/arcs) as compared to it being damaged from dropping it (single shock direction).

The water pump was replaced at the time the t-belt work was done. If it was weeping and they just replaced it again, they may be grasping at straws to deflect blame.

Sludge in radiator? Water pump replaced, should have drained coolant and replaced as part of that service. Hard to believe there was sludge coming out after one trip if work done to my expected standard anyway…

The tow driver did not cause the engine damage if it wasn’t run after he did the repairs. He has to fix his damage and the rest may be on the mechanic that did the water pump repair. Seems strange no overheat alarm if failure was from inadequate cooling…

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Thanks for the input. I wouldn’t swear that it wasn’t overheating. I was driving and glancing at the gauges, then it broke down very shortly after. There were no warning lights on of any kind though. If the temperature gauge would show it hot without lighting up, then it’s possible that I missed it. It was about 1a on an icy road at the end of a 10 hour drive so…

You got 100K out of an Aveo. Bravo. That is pretty much the design life of this little car.

I wouldn’t spend another dime on it. I’d still argue with the towing company for a few bucks but use that on a down payment for another car.


Either could cause the engine to overheat, which – while unlikely – might crack the block. Overheating can ruin an engine, make it stop running completely even to the degree it is unrepairable, but usually doesn’t crack the block. When a block cracks due to overheating, most often it’s not due to the overheating per se. It happens b/c somebody then pours cold water into the radiator or pours cold water over the engine itself in an attempt to quickly cool it. Cold water on hot engine parts, that can indeed crack the block. But if the engine overheats you’d know about it, as there’d be dash warning lights flashing on and steam would be pouring out of the engine compartment. So I don’t think that’s what happened.

My guess, the block got cracked when the car got dropped off the tow truck. I concur w/MustangMan above, probably time to buy another car. I wouldn’t repair an Aveo w/this amount of damage. The parts in it should make it an attractive car to part out though for the recycler.

Fair enough. They haven’t taken it apart yet, it might be a blown head gasket rather than a cracked engine.