Paid shop to replace timing belt and water pump now car is overheating

I had my 1993 Honda Accord into the shop a few days ago to replace my timing belt and water pump. Before I brought my car in it was working perfectly and had never had an issue with over heating or any major mechanical malfunctions.

My car acted fine on the 30 minute trip home from the mechanic’s shop, but yesterday while my husband was driving home from work it suddenly overheated and died. I am wondering what the likely hood is that the car had something randomly go wrong with it after the trip to the mechanic or if it’s possible there was a mistake made when installing my timing belt and water pump. Can someone give me some things to look at to help me figure out what went wrong with the car? I’m having it towed back to the mechanic, but want to figure out what happened, if possible, before I do so I don’t get a run around.

You say there was no problem driving 30 miles home but didn’t mention how often or far it was driven before the problem occurred. Have you checked the coolant level? What were the driving conditions, i.e., stop and go-highway speed ,etc when it overheated?

But my first thought here is that the cooling system wasn’t properly bled of air and if that is the case there could be serious damage done to the engine. Running an engine with air trapped in the cylinder head will often crack the head and/or blow the head gasket. If so the the car can’t be safely driven or the engine damage will be severely worsened.

It’s my daily driver. It’s driven roughly 300 miles a week, mostly highway. My husband had just gotten into town, stopping at stoplights is about it when he noticed the over heating. I will look at the coolant levels when I get home. Thank you!

Set the heater temp to Hot - that opens the valve between the engine and the heater core. Some Hondas have an air bleed screw in the cooling system, probably near the thermostat housing. On my 1999 Civic, after refilling coolant I put the front up on ramps and let the engine warm and idle with the cap off the radiator, in the hope that air bubbles will eventually rise to that high point and leave. Catch any spilled coolant so animals don’t lap it up and die in agony. Once the level in the radiator is stabilized, turn off the engine, cap the radiator, and make sure the overflow tank is filled to a level between hot and cold. After the engine has cooled down, open the rad cap and add coolant if needed. Probably won’t need any.

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Overheating in stop and go traffic is often caused by failure of the radiator fan which is electric and is switched on by a relay which is controlled by a temperature sensor. The sensor may have been left unplugged. But regardless what caused the overheating when an engine gets so hot that it dies the possibility of damage is great.

It could be a coincidence, no way to tell for sure, but there’s a pretty good chance the overheating is a result of the work just done. More likely to do with the water pump work than the timing belt, but it could be the timing belt too. A water pump job requires at least some of the coolant be drained; after the pump is installed the coolant needs to be refilled and then any air that has gotten into the cooling system during the job has to be bled out. I’m guessing the shop probably forgot to refill the cooling system. Don’t rely on the plastic bottle to check the fill level, when the engine is cold remove the radiator cap. It should be full of coolant right to the top of the radiator, or nearly so, within an inch. Another possibility is the water pump belt isn’t properly tensioned, or the replacement pump is faulty. Or there’s a leak.

So why didn’t it overheat right away? It takes some time for the engine to overheat when it is low on coolant. How long depends on how low the coolant level is. Good idea as posted above to make sure the radiator fan is coming on when it should. When the engine was overheating, the radiator fan should be spinning at full speed. If it isn’t, that could be the problem rather than low coolant. If so, the shop may have forgot to re-connect the coolant temp sensor that controls the radiator fan.

Remember that in overheating incidents the driver can usually effect some extra engine cooling by turning on the heater and the heater fan to max.

" it suddenly overheated and died " Engines don’t suddenly overheat and die. They die (seize) when the driver doesn’t notice that the car has overheated and keeps driving until the engine seizes. Most modern engines will not tolerate this. The original problem may have just been air in the cooling system, but now the problem may be needing a new engine.

If I am right, I think your husband and the shop both bear some responsibility for this and a compromise is in order.

If the shop work done incorrectly is responsible for the overheating, it seems hard to justify putting any of the blame on the driver for not noticing, if the only indication the driver had access to was the dashboard coolant temp gauge/warning light. Assuming the shop didn’t tell the driver to watch for that I mean. And assuming the driver stopped the engine as soon as the clouds of steam coming out of the engine compartment indicated it was overheating.

The OP said it was a half hour drive and the engine suddenly overheated and died. That does not sound to me like the husband noticed anything or shut it off.

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Too many people seem to thing a warning light means I had better get that checked after I get to where I am going and when it is convenient for me.


IMHO the probability that the overheating was the fault of poor workmanship, perhaps not fully purging the system of air, is far higher than the probability that it was a coincidence.

I disagree with those inclined to assign any blame to your hubby. To me that’s simply victim-blaming. That’s a very easy thing to do, but IMHO wrong. The customer should be able to rely on the vehicle being able to be reliably driven home after the repair.

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The word “suddenly” to me denotes a matter of a few seconds. An engine will not overheat that quickly…


When the top of the cylinder head is situated to trap air and air is left in the engine and the engine is run the cylinder head temperature will rise but often fail to show up on the gauge until the head warps and blows out the head gasket resulting in the air being forced out and suddenly allowing hot coolant to reach the temperature sensor. And when the gasket pops coolant enters the combustion chambers stalling the engine.

Thanks everyone for your ideas and inputs. The problem was a hole in my heater hose. The water got into the distributor cap and that’s what stalled my car. It’s going to live!


That’s an odd one! Thanks for letting us know. Good luck and best wishes.

That is great. The heater hose leak shut you down without doing damage!

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Now there’s a coincidence. If you think about it, though, given the thousands of timing belts replaced successfully, it’s not that surprising that a few would be coincident with an unrelated failure. The same could be said for any common repair.

The leak could have been a result of the work done too, that hose may have been disconnected tor access , then the shop tech just didn’t notice the leak after reconnecting it.

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Wow… That’s great. All things considered.

Maybe, but the hoses on a 1993 car should have been replaced a long time ago. Even if these are the second set, they are likely overdue for replacement.