Mechanic fails to refill radiator

In april 09 dealer mechanic replaced a leakng air cooler. He emptied the radiator and neglected to refill it. 7000 miles later the dealer claims my engine should be replaced due to sludge. I’ve always maintained the Nissan Quest 2004 Minivan with oil changes prior to 5000 miles. Could this have been caused by no coolant?

Since it’s impossible to drive 7,000 miles without coolant, you need to tell us how far the van was driven before the lack of coolant was discovered.

Also please tell us how many miles are on the van now.

The van has 69000 miles on it now. Radiator drained with air cooler replacement end of April 09. Mileage at that time 64327. No noises were unusual at the time of pickup. However, I took the car back in June because the doors were opening and closing WITHOUT ANY REASON. They were not able to duplicate this. When I pickup up the vehicle it was making all kinds of rattling noises from the engine while it idle in their shop. The shop[ foerman told me it was because of the rain and it would go away. NOT.

Its important in posts that in which you want aid in pointing a finger at someone you be very clear and stick to the facts. Question, how long did you drive with no coolant? you do the math.

aprox 5000 miles

Is it possible the radiator was, in fact, refilled after the repair in April and that the coolant subsequently leaked out?

I don’t think the engine would have survived the trip home from the dealer if there were no coolant in the system, much less the nearly 5,000 miles since April.

It is possible. The oil cooler was replaced because I had run over a pothole 4 feet wide and 14 inches deep filled with water. Driving at 35-40 mph making a right hand turn. The dealer explained that I had blown the power steering rack and oil was leaking from cooler. For some reason they billed my insurance company for the steering but billed the Nissan extended warranty for the cooler. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. I took the van in again Sept 11,2009 because I was still hearing the awful rattling in my engine, it seemed to stop when I made right hand turns. The dealer started by saying I needed a new hydaulic tensioner but now says it needs a new engine. I’m trying to understand how this could have happened. My brother was with the dealer two days ago when they discovered that the radiator was dry. The invoieing never charged for radiator fluid, antifreeze.

I agree with mcparadise that a “dry” radiator would not have gotten you very far–certainly not more than a few miles. Much more likely is a very slow leak in the cooling system that might or might not have been the result of the mechanic’s work.

In any event, the leak in the cooling system is not likely to be related to sludging of the engine. Engine sludging is most likely to result from infrequent oil changes and/or lots of short-trip local driving that does not allow the engine to warm up sufficiently. If your cooling system was low on coolant for the long term, your engine would have been running “hot” for quite some time. Did you ever observe the temperature gauge to be indicating a high temperature?

This is the disturbing part. No light indicators of any kind came on during that time. Ironically, the oil pressure light came on flickering as I was taking the van back in Sept and I let them know that. Is it possible that anything was missed as a result of the undercarraige accident?

You’re posts are getting more complicated each time you write one. I’m totally confused now. You first mention an “Air cooler” then an oil cooler. First of all, an oil cooler, is an external cooler mounted in front of the radiator, there would be no need to drain or fill the radiator when replacing the “Oil cooler”. Now, if we were talking about the transmission oil cooler which is INSIDE the radiator then yes, the radiator needs to be drained and replaced to replace the “Transmission oil cooler”. From everything you have told us, there would be absolutely no reason for the dealer to drain the radiator. Now, if they were replacing an oil cooler that was damaged from the pot hole it probably would have been wise to pressure test the cooling system to check for any damages to the radiator. Heres what I see from your posts. You hit a pot hole and damaged the oil cooler, oil leaks out and damages engine, hence the oil light. Dealer changes oil cooler but does not pressure test radiator which probably has a small leak in it, the damaged engine gets worse over the next few months and is making more noise now requiring engine replacement. There is no way an engine will run 7k miles with a dry cooling system, no way, no how.


They did replace the oil cooler as a result of the pot hole accident. Should I go back to my insurance company? Up to $10,000 for the engine replacement is something I can’t even consider.

If–as I suspect–your vehicle has a temperature gauge rather than a temperature warning light, then you could wait until the cows come home and you would not see a “light indicator” telling you that the engine was running hot. Do you recall ever looking at the temperature gauge?

You’ve put 7,000 miles on the truck since the pothole incident. The insurance won’t likely help you. Try, but don’t expect much.

As others have said, you would not have made it 7,000 miles with no coolant. Hence, you did not leave the shop with a dry radiator. It is,however, possible that you had a radiator leak that was not detected…or did not exist yet… when the oil cooler was replaced. That would be my bet.

The blown power steering rack is unrelated to the oil cooler change…but you may have caused damage to that too that allowed the PS fluid to leak out and the rack to go dry and self destruct.

I have no idea what he might have been alluding to as the hydraulic tensioner. Are you sure you understood him correctly? Perhaps he said belt tensioner?

Sludged up oil combined with the rattling engine makes me want to recommend a compression leakdown test. I’m wondering if the overheating caused by the lost coolant has caused a headgasket breech and oil is getting into the oil passages…and perhaps the water jacket. Perhaps that’s why they suggested a new engine.

I realize that mechanical things are not your forte. But I see a lot of misunderstanding here between you and the shop(s). Perhaps it would help if you had the shop write down specific information and you posted it here. Perhaps then we can put the puzzle pieces together and make some suggestions.

If you do end up with a new engine, perhaps they can discuss putting a used engine in.