Replaced engine leaking oil

I have have had a '95 Toyota Tercel DX for 10 years. It has been a great car, very few major repairs - now at nearly 212,000 miles.

Earlier this year, I had the timing belt, serpentine belt and the spark plugs replaced. A day later, I had a smoking tailpipe, which led to me getting the engine replaced at the end of April. I was told that the “new” engine has less than 50K and came with a 2 year, unlimited mileage, parts and labor warranty.

Within a month of getting the new engine, I noticed a knocking noise when I started my car that seemed to be getting worse. I checked my oil, and it was way over the full mark. Two days later, my oil light came on and I discovered that the oil was gone. I returned my car to the shop and there was something cracked near an intake valve; it was replaced (not sure of exact details because I wasn’t given any paperwork).

Over the last 2 months, I have been back to the mechanic several times because of oil leaks/consumption. Most recently, she lost 1 quart of oil in less than 125 miles, was burning oil upon acceleration (some smoke from tailpipe), but had only a 1-2 inch drop of oil under car. Last week, the engine supplier was contacted (because of the warranty) and after its rep looked at the engine, sent my mechanic a new seal kit. I have had my car back for 3 days, driven it less than 200 miles, and now there are large spots of oil - 3 by 12 inch splotch - under my car (near front, passenger wheel, just under edge of the plastic tray thing which is also black with oil) wherever I park it. However, it is losing oil at a slower rate - down only a quart, I think.

I am incredibly frustrated. My car was in the shop for about 1/2 of the last month. I now dread looking under my car and checking the oil. I haven’t been charged for any of these return visits, but returning to the mechanic repeatedly is very stressful. Even though it’s not my fault, I feel bad every time I go back. Plus, I don’t have any paperwork for any of the warranty work, which concerns me. I haven’t yet contacted my mechanic about the current leak.

Is this normal for a replaced engine? Am I going to be doing this until the warranty expires? Should I take her to a different mechanic, even if it means I’ll have to pay for the visit?

Unfortunately, you may need to get a second opinion just to confirm if this rebuilt engine is sound. An engine rebuild is only as good as the rebuilder, but even a good rebuilder can have a bum rebuild once in a while. I had a guy once come in with a rebuilt engine that had a persistent oil leak. The rear main seal was replaced 3 times under warranty but kept leaking. Turns out the line bore for the crank was off just a tad, but enough to keep damaging the seal. They wound up replacing the engine. Yours sounds like a lot of problems, especially internal. Maybe the rings did not set right. Either way, the rebuilder sounds like he’s trying everything he can to prevent from having to send you another engine, but I think that will be the only real solution.

“. I was told that the “new” engine has less than 50K and came with a 2 year, unlimited mileage, parts and labor warranty.”

I have never heard of a used salvage yard engine coming with a 2 year warranty. …The norm is 30 or maybe 60 days…Labor is never included…So what kind of engine are we talking about here??

Sorry, I am not sure of what you mean by “kind of engine.” I think that it is another Tercel engine, just like, or very similar to the one I had.

I did not receive any warranty paperwork from or info about the engine’s supplier. My mechanic wrote it out on my invoice, so maybe the local shop is covering the labor? The office manager has been super nice to me every time I’ve been in.

These were very rugged and reliable little cars. The engine in them was a 1.5 L 4A-FE engine. All A series engines have an issue with the front crankshaft seal. It is easy to replace and most of the time that is all that is needed, but eventually the seal wears a small groove in the crankshaft and once that happens, a new seal is not going to fix the problem.

I can’t remember where, but there is a special kit that includes a metal ring that goes on the crank to seal it up. The ring has to be heated up in an over or furnace until it expands enough to fit over the crank.

But one problem your mechanic may be having is if he is installing the seal according to the factory service manual. That is not the way to do it. The FSM calls for dropping the pan and removing the oil pump. The problem with that is that it is very time consuming and difficult to not damage the seal when you put the oil pump back in place.

The best way to install the seal is to remove the lower timing gear, pull the old seal out with a dental pick, grease the lip of the new seal and push it into place. No damage and very easy to do.

But I have to warn you about this little car. Once it starts to fail, it’s best to send it to the junk yard. They deteriorate very fast, first an engine, then a transmission and following that, misc suspension items and then finally the structural parts of the unibody begin to fail. Once the unibody starts to go, it cannot be repaired. They were really throwaway cars, not meant to be rebuilt. At 200k+, its best to not invest any more money in them, they won’t last much longer.

“What Kind Of Engine”…Choices are:

New Factory Long Block. This is a complete, brand new, Toyota built engine.

New factory Short Block. This is a Toyota built engine block and all its internal parts but does not include the head or any of the accessories or non moving parts…

Rebuilt engine. Your engine is removed from the vehicle and rebuilt in house or is sent out to a shop that specializes in rebuilding engines…All moving parts are replaced or refinished…

Used Engine. Often obtained from a salvage yard, removed from a wrecked car. They ALL seem to have “less then 50,000 miles” on them…This would seem to be what you had installed in your car…

Other options: Japanese Used Engines. These are used engines imported from Japan where motor vehicle laws REQUIRE most wrecked vehicles, even minor wrecks, be totaled and the used parts can not be sold in Japan…So they export them…They are supposedly tested and come complete, ready to drop in…

It would be nice to know which one of the above is under the hood of your car now…

Japan engines are removed after only a couple years because of their strict emissions.

Japanese vehicles spend so much time stuck in traffic jams that the engines are shot after only a couple of years and a few thousand km’s.

I think your engine was damaged goods from the start. It might be best to run a compression and/or leakdown test rather than keep running a tired horse back and forth to the garage.

That 50k miles the engine has on it could very well be the equivalent of half a million all depending.

Thanks, guys. My little car is back in the shop. You have given me some things to think about and to discuss with my mechanic. I think that the engine is used, vs. rebuilt, but I am going to confirm that. I am also going to try to get more detailed records about the warranty work that has been done, find out if the front crankshaft seal has been an issue. Thanks, again.