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Motor dead? How could this happen?

Hi! We own a 2007 Honda Odyssey minivan. Bought it brand new in 2007, and never had any mechanical issues. We always took it for service at the dealership, or a quick oil change at Jiffy Lube occasionally. Here is a recent timelines of events:

  • Nov 2016: Jiffy lube oil change. Seemed to have a little oil leak for about a week, then subsided.
  • Dec 28, 2016: Honda dealership, multi-point inspection (I was still a little worried about the leak from the month prior), I also told them that when driving it sounded like it was "running high’ - as in the sound it made, they didn’t find anything.
  • Feb 20: Drove from Boston to DC, car was fine but again had that “high sound” but no maintenance lights came on and car ran fine on the highway at high speeds. When I arrived in DC, it sat overnight and the next day when I tried to start it, the engine light came on. I immediately had it towed to a local Honda dealership.
  • The dealership replaced cylinder #6 coil pack and all spark plugs, and replaced the motor mount which they said had collapsed. All the to tune of $1700.
  • I drove it around for a few more days, and then the engine light came on again. Again, they diagnosed a misfire on cylinders 1, 4 and 6- performed a valve adjustment. Cost $500. Drove it home to Boston with no trouble.
  • Drove it for another week with no problems, even drove it to 2 hours north to go skiing and back! A mile from our house, the engine light came on AGAIN. Had it towed to our Honda dealership.
  • Their diagnosis? The motor was completely fried. Dead. RIP. There was no antifreeze in the car and “it burned up”. Head gasket leak.

Here is the kicker, neither my husband or myself ever felt any bucking while driving, any unusual feeling at all. There was no burning smell, no smoke. Nada. No light came on until we got a mile from the house, and then had to towed to the dealership. No leaking antifreeze anywhere on our driveway.

The car has 84k on it, and is only just 10 years old. Should we get a second opinion? It seems crazy to me that the car had been in the shop several times- including a week before this event, got a “multipoint inspection”, and yet had no anti-freeze? If we truly need a new car, what is a fair price to get on a car like this in relatively good shape- minus the motor issue? I went to the dealership this morning to ask, and they recommended I donate it!! WHAT?! They said the most they could probably squeeze out of the wholesaler is $750. And the service manager said I just had “really stinky luck.” I am at a loss for what to do next. Any and all advice is appreciated!!

How it loss all it’s antifreeze is anyone’s guess. Impossible to tell what happened. Sorry that it happened, but not sure what you can do. IMHO those multipoint inspections are just a scam.

Donating it is probably your best bet. Dealers won’t give you much for it.

Get a new vehicle…maybe from a different dealer…and when the warranty is out have the maintenance work done at a good independent.

Unfortunately when a head gasket goes you can lose your coolant and overheat and damage the engine. Usually the gasket starts to leak a little then get progressively worse. You typically have some warning with a loss of coolant and overheating. Assuming the information you got was accurate your gasket may have suffered a big leak right away, sucking all the coolant into the engine and out the exhaust. Now you should have had a rise in the temp gage or an idiot light come on for high temp. Since you did not report that I assume the temp did not rise or you did not notice it. A multi point inspection will not find a leaking head gasket. A check engine light does not require a car to be towed. If the light is on solid you can finish your trip, call the shop for an appointment and get it checked (sooner than later). A flashing check engine light means you should stop and a tow would be in order.

Unless you have a strong bond with this car the cost of a new engine is not worth it. Get what you can for it and look for another vehicle.

Thank you! The engine light was solid, and when I called they told me to tow it? I have AAA so that was easy enough. No other light came on though, and no strange smell or bucking.

Has anyone had experience with Carmax? I called them to get their opinion of whether it was worth anything, and they said they would buy it. I just hate to go to that trouble if they are going to give me less than the dealership. I think I would be less upset if I didn’t just spend $2200 last week! :frowning:

Something smells off to me. I would definitely get a second opinion. Did you ever get an overheat warning? Certainly, as coolant is consumed from a head gasket leak while driving it, you should have gotten an overheat indicator if it actually got bad enough to have fried the engine. You were diligent enough to recognize the engine light so I suspect you would not have missed an overheat indicator. Unless the engine light was blinking, it’s usually something more mundane it is signaling.

Did the engine stall or did you turn it off before having it towed?

Sorry, but I smell a rat…at least until I hear more details…


Are you in the habit of regularly checking all your gauges?

I’m really thinking there must have been some warning signs, aside from the check engine light

Carmax buying a non running vehicle ? That I have to see.

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No stalling. No gauge change. My husband and I both drove it and didn’t notice anything other than the “high sound” I tried describing before. This is the notation from the dealership I took it to yesterday: “FOUND HEAD GASKET LEAK, REC LONG BLOCK WITH CYLINDER HEADS RE SURFACED OR USED ENG ASSY” I asked the service manager to translate and he said “engine is toast.”

So you never saw the coolant temperature gauge rise and/or spike?

Bad luck for you . . . sorry for the situation :frowning2:

What condition is the van in, pretty clean, well maintained, or lots of dings and rust?

If it’s pretty clean, it MIGHT be worth dropping in a used engine, but it’s certainly not worth a new and/or remanufactured engine

In my area, there are a few shops that specialize in installing used engines, and nothing else. Maybe a call to such a place might be in order, along with a few quotes from other shops, to install a used engine

Yes, good shape. No rust. We take good care of our cars so they can last. Unfortunately, the end came too soon for this one. :frowning:

They said it would be $4800 to put in a used engine. We just spent $2200 last week, and the advice I have received was that the car is really not worth that.

Okay, disregard my earlier comments

IMO it’s not worth dropping $4800 to drop in a used engine.

THANK YOU! I really appreciate all of your advice!

I’m still skeptical.
You’re at a dealership service dept right? How long did they actually look at the problem before making the diagnosis? Probably not long. Once they came to the conclusion it was a head gasket leak, they send you packing over to the new car sales area. It’s in their interest to sell you a new car. It’s the least painful way to deal with this type of problem and they make a profit.

A head gasket leak is not always a death blow. Often, it’s just a combustion chamber leak where the heads can be removed, R&R’d and reinstalled for far less than the cost of an entire engine. If no coolant got into the oil, that’s something I might consider fixing. Especially if the rest of the van is in good shape. I’d want more details from them and perhaps even have an independent mechanic have a look at it. Cost of a tow and diagnostic…

tech said van has headgasket leak. but it will run? dead in my mind is seized. will not crank. yes a bad headgasket leak is probably a mortal wound but it is still breathing. you can start van and move it around parking lot with no coolant. unless coolant flooded cylinder and it is hydrolocked now.
so, fixed it is worth 8500? actually 8500-2200 you just spent means 6300 in your ledger. 86k odyssey is kinda nice. folks like them. a used motor is 4500? too bad that means your van is not worth 3-4k$ as-is. basically it is scrap or maybe 1000? the Honda trans is worth some money. I bet you $$ there are lots of folks who would love to flip the van.

The above deleted post claims they sold the van to Carmax for $6000.00 , that sounds like a very good result so why did they delete the post.

Thanks Volvo_V70. I didn’t mean to delete it. I was trying to edit it.

But, what I was trying to write was that I went back to dealership to get my car- engine light was no longer on, and the car was drive-able. Took it up to Carmax and they appraised it and said no mechanical issues found. I spoke to both dealerships and they blamed each other. Lesson learned- no more dealerships!

Thank you again for your help!

Imagine that. :wink:

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You were right, TwinTurbo!! :slight_smile:

Had the technician not cleared the faults the check engine light may have remained on and the sales staff at Carmax might have taken a closer examination of the vehicle. When they discover the engine problems they will likely send this vehicle to the auction.