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Overheated engine damage - believe garage made it worse

Looking for feedback here. Hyundai Elantra, 2004, 65,000 miles on it. (City driver till two years ago)

I took by car to my beloved mechanic of over twenty years for inspection. I told him that three days earlier it had overheated and a good samaritan filled the radiator w/water so I got it home. I had to drive to work the next day and the car got warm but not in red zone. I stopped and got STOP LEAK and followed directions.
It got me home and then the next day to the garage. At no time did I have trouble starting the car and it ran fine. But I told him about the leak a and as I said, the STOP LEAK.
The car was in the shop for two days and I got a call that the car was finished and I could pick it up. We have an arrangement that I can pick it up after the shop closes and come back to pay. I drove the car home -it was fine. Then when I drove to work the next morning it was fine until about 1/2 mile from work when it overheated again. When I called the first mechanic told me "We couldn’t find anything wrong with it., but if it is overheating you should bring it in."
I left a note saying that I was very upset this had happened and wasn’t sure from that comment they had bothered to look at this at all. The owner told me they put a “patch” on a crack they found on my radiator which “usually” works. He said I would need a new radiator and they could have it done that day (Friday).

Later he had someone else call to tell me that they would need to keep it. They suspect engine damage as they couldn’t start it. I was stunned and sick. It isn’t like I didn’t tell them there was a leak, that I had to use the product. And that I was commuting on major highways.

I feel like they bear some responsibility for how bad this got. I pulled over and stopped as soon as the car overheated but I had taken this to them to really fix. No one said, “We patched it because we couldn’t find anything wrong with it.” They said the car was fixed and ready.

Any reactions? Am I wrong for feeling that the garage did not do what it should have initially? Any suggestions on how to handle the bill with them?


Which came first… the chicken or the egg, “engine damage” causing overheating OR overheating causing " engine damage" ?

What kind of shop or mechanic would “patch” a radiator? I’m not sure I’d ever consider that even to enter a demo-derby.

There are too many unknowns here to offer any meaningful solution.

I need specifics about this patch and what kind of engine damage they are looking at here. Head gasket?

I think it would be a little tough to pin blame on the shop or mechanics, particularly when the complaint was engine overheated.

You might have to pick up the pieces and go from there.

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As Mr. Mountainbike would say, this is more of a legal problem than a car problem. Besides without knowing all details and both sides stories who can say.

Sorry, but I disagree. Perhaps they could have more emphatically recommended that you let them diagnose the overheating problem. Perhaps they did. But you should have called a tow truck as soon as it overheated. Clear water and Stop Leak do not a good coolant make. The clear water makes subsequent overheating more likely (coolant additive raises the boiling point of water), and the Stop Leak can exacerbate the problem by plugging up radiator tubes. In addition, a car overheating due to lost fluid often doesn’t read the temp properly, because the sensor is often in an air pocket in the engine.

I understand that this is complicated to the average layperson. I’m truly sorry you had this experience. But I truly do not believe the shop caused the problem to become worse in any way. I believe that whatever the root cause of the overheating was, it still remains, and having driven the vehicle when the first event happened was what caused the ultimate seriousness of the problem.

Having sad that, it is possible that your worst fears won’t be confirmed. He hasn’t yet diagnosed engine damage, so until he does we should just cross our fingers that it won’t be that bad.


While I understand that you have a 20 year history with this mechanic, I would never pick up a vehicle from a shop not knowing what was done and how much the bill was going to be. Nor would I do repairs without first confirming with the vehicle owner what was going to be done and an approximate cost for said repairs.

This just seems messy, and your current concerns are exactly why I wouldn’t do this.

Beyond that- I lean towards common_sense_answer. Good luck.

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Too many unknowns and possibly too many lost in translations for me to form an opinion.