Rolled off the lot today, engine problems within an hour

I bought a used 2004 Chevy Impala today, using $5,300 of my hard-earned money (I am a college-student). 123,000 miles. Reputable Subaru dealer, CT. I “Kicked the tires”…test drove it, checked CarFax, inquired about any repairs/inspections and the status of the vehicle. Check engine light was on. They looked, it was the thermostat. They replaced, detail, oil changed, ready to go. I know it’s “As Is.”

I live an hour and 30 away from the dealership. After just over an hour, I noticed “Coolant temp high” lighting up in red. Luckily we were almost at our destination. We both pull over at an abandoned gas station. The temperature gauge was almost on red. I could not believe it. We pull over, and check the coolant…the coolant tank contains fluid, and appears to be full. We leave it where it’s at, drove his car to the auto parts store and picked up some coolant fluid. We returned about 45 minutes later. The coolant fluid had pretty much leaked out. We refilled it, and got it back on the road. We drove to two places, then to my dorm, and the coolant was still in when we checked again this time (we only drove rather short distances, no more than 10 minutes total).

At this point (as of 30 minutes ago, the last time I parked it), the temperature gauge is showing problems. It’s abnormal for a car to ever go above halfway up on its temperature gauge, yet this keeps doing this. The heat inside of the vehicle is not working properly. What will happen is the heat will be on full blast, yet no heat actually comes out. But as the car is moving, heat will begin to come out of the vents and I’ll notice the temperature gauge dropping to below the halfway point. As it’s parked, I’ll notice the temperature gauge rising. This seems to indicate a problem with the thermostat.

I feel like I just plunked $6,100 (after taxes and other docs) down the drain. It could be one or more of a number of things…radiator, thermostat, water pump…God knows. I drove it away and this happens AN HOUR LATER. Please, someone, let me know if you think there is any hope for this vehicle and what you think the likely problem is (and how much potential repairs may be).

It sounds like all the air wasn’t purged out of the cooling system after the thermostat was replaced.

Call around to local auto repair shops and ask if they know how to purge the air out of the cooling system. If you brought it to my shop, $30.00 would get you back on the road.


Tester, are you sure that it couldn’t be a water pump failure? What would some signs of a water pump failure be?

A leak. A noise.


Well, what sort of a noise? The engine does sound funnny…

Here’s a word of advice. Start with the simple things first. Make sure all the air is purged out of the cooling system. Until that’s done, you don’t know what’s goin’ on.


I’ll get back to you tomorrow, I have a mechanic coming tomorrow.


What engine?
3.8 supercharged

Both the 3.4 and the 3.8 had some issues with intake manifolds and intake gaskets leaking oil and coolant. Once I know what engine you have, I’ll try to post some links to some helpful documents.

I agree with Tester…
but if it’s real serious, I would check your state laws regarding this purchase. In some states, even “as is” doesn’t protect the dealer from responsibility. Keep records of everything and write up a time table of events and the problems with the car. Call the dealer and tell them your intent if the laws are in your favor. They might take it back in a heart beat. You really have to be careful about cars that dealers sell this way. They want to dump on you what was dumped on them…they probably gave a miniscule trade in so everything you gave was gravy. Next time, have it check by an independent mechanic. Best of luck…

3.4 liter V6 engine engine. “As is” is really bs…if the dealer claims they did an inspection, and there’s a check engine light on still, then obviously they’re in violation of some state laws. If they sold me garbage, either the fix it, or preferably they give me all of my money back.

I was going to have a mechanic check it, but I wanted to avoid the expense (which is clearly much smaller than in my current dilemma) and I also wanted to avoid the logistical expense…it’s my Spring Break, and outside of it I just don’t have time

When it is sitting and the temp goes past half way are the radiator fans running?

I do not know, but the mechanic will find this out tomorrow. Tell me, if it is, what does it mean? And if it is not, then what does it mean? I’m assuming it must be worse if the fan is running.


While your 2004 Impala is not included in this TSB, it still uses the same 3.4 as the 2003 model year, which is included, as far as I know.
I would also venture to guess that the 2004 model year engine wasn’t built any better than the previous year. I just checked, and the parts listed will fit your engine.

I’m not specifically saying the intake gaskets are your problem, but they might be.

I would call that dealer and ask them to take the car back and give you a full refund.

You might also consider trying to get a small article published in your local paper, detailing that dealer’s unscrupulous business practices.

In my opinion, that Subaru dealer ABSOLUTELY knew that they were selling you a car with a problem. As @dagosa said, that dealer wants to flip their trade-ins with a minimal amount of money invested in them. That is normal business practice.

The next mechanic that looks at it should check for a blown head gasket…A car on a used car lot with the CEL on is NOT a good sign…They could not have checked very carefully if they missed that…

“As Is” Cars Are Always A Gamble. A Pre-Purchase Inspection By A Professional, Other Than The Seller, Helps Minimize The Risk Somewhat.

" ‘As is’ is really bs…if the dealer claims they did an inspection, and there’s a check engine light on still, then obviously they’re in violation of some state laws."
Not in the state in which I live. “As is” is As Is, but good luck to you. Perhaps the dealer will stand behind it and work with you, but I’d be very polite and appreciative.

Connecticut Attorny General Richard Blumenthal says, " Have a trusted mechanic perform a thorough inspection of the vehicle before purchase. Under Connecticut law, you have a right to a pre-sale inspection."

" If the vehicle is more than seven years old or is sold for less than $3,000, the dealer can sell the car “As Is.” This must also be stated on the Buyer’s Guide window sticker. This means that the buyer should beware. If this vehicle experiences a serious mechanical breakdown within days of the purchase, the consumer has no warranty protection. "

At the first indication that something was wrong “Coolant temp high" the car should have been parked immediately and not driven until the problem found and corrected. Since you said that it took an hour of driving for the problem to surface, the dealer may not have known of it. It could have been a minor problem they’d have taken care of for you.

However, I’m afraid (and you’re not the first one) that by driving the car you could have done some serious damage beyond what the dealer would be willing to correct. If the car has an Owner’s manual, look at the pages that discuss “ Coolant temp high ” and driving the car.

" At this point (as of 30 minutes ago, the last time I parked it), the temperature gauge is showing problems. "
I see an extra 30 minutes of driving in your story after the car began to overheat.

I like Chevrolet Impalas. I’ve got 3 in the driveway. None of mine are lemons. This is a not so much an Impala problem as it is an “as is” used car problem.

I’d throw myself at the mercy of that dealer and hope they’ll help you, but it could be your word against their word. Problem is, they won’t be able to do much without the car and under no circumstance is the car up to a drive back to the dealer.

Let’s hope that when the mechanic checks it that a minor problem is found and no damage was done to the vehicle.


If you signed an “AS IS” disclaimer then you have no legal claim against the dealer and will have to rely solely on their benevolence.
A look at the CT law on used cars states that they have to provide a limited warranty based on certain criteria and one of those criteria is that the car must be under 6 years of age and you’re going on 10.

Don’t automatically assume the dealer knew about any problems in advance. You state it took an hour for this problem to occur and odds are no one at the dealer has ever seen this car operate for more than 5 minutes.

You have to bear some responsibility here as distasteful as it may sound because you failed to inspect the car before the purchase, bought it AS IS anyway in spite of the CEL coming on, and continued to operate it in an overheating condition.

This is a sad situation as most are but from a legal standpoint you don’t have a prayer of forcing any issue.

I’m about to call the dealer. Before I do, does anyone have any suggestions on how I should approach them

I Don’t Think Contacting The Dealer At This Time Would Be Productive, But You Can Talk To Them. Unless You And The Dealer Have A Better Idea Of What Really Went Down (Hopefully You Will After A Mechanic Inspects It ), What Can They Do ?

Even if they were willing to help, I’m 99.9% sure they’d want to have the car in front of them.
Also, realize that at this point they don’t want to put more money into the car. That’s the point of selling “As Is.” It ends money put into a car. For the price you paid, although it’s a lot to you, it’s not much to them and there’s not much wiggle room.

Once you get a handle on it then you can see what they say.

Also, once you find out, there are a number of knowledged folks, some are professional mechanics who are responding to these posts, and you could get some meaningful advice.


What have I got to lose? I know they could tell me to screw off and I wouldn’t have much recourse, but tell me…if you were in my shoes, and you so happened to be compelled to call the dealer back the day after you brought a car that immediately started having problems, what would you do?