Sears "repaired" my car

…and possibly broke it at the same time. My Nissan Altima broke down and I noticed there was a crack in the top of the radiator. I got it into Sears that day and they said they could replace the radiator, flush the coolant etc. It was four times more expensive than I was planning but I really really need my car so I had them do it. I got three miles down the road and the car shut off, I pulled to the side of the road and noticed it had dumped about 3 quarts of coolant on the road. I had it towed back to Sears. So far they’ve been great. They got me a rental that they’re paying for and they’re having it towed tomorrow (Monday) to the Nissan dealership here in town. I just don’t know what to expect from this point on. Are they financially responsible for any possible future repairs? The engine sounded like it was knocking hard right before it shut off when I was driving it from the store. I just don’t want to be stuck with a car I just dumped $400 into that now doesn’t run. Any advise is much appreciated!!

They repaired it or replaced it? Can’t be both…

My appologies

I suspect that the cause of the split radiator is something more serious like a head gasket issue. They may have fixed the result but not the cause. If so, they probably owe you for the radiator.

I can’t possibly provide any specific info due to so much missing detail. However, from the sound of things your engine may have been seriously overheating.

In a case like this it’s possible to have multiple problems from minor to major and while I’m no fan of the chain stores such as Sears i cannot fault them for much at this point.

My first thoughts are to run a cooling system pressure test, hydrocarbon test, and both dry and wet compression tests to rule out, best as possible, head gasket or other engine damage from overheating.

Sorry about the missing info. I’m just really interested in what Sears might or might not cover in repairs. I think that Bing is right when he/she said that replacing the radiator may have not been the best idea without knowing what caused the crack in it. There must be problems in other areas of the car. I am upset they didn’t recognize those before jumping on replacing the radiator. And of course driving it after the replacement with the original problems still existing may have caused further problems with the engine or cooling system.

Their responsibility depends on where the coolant leak came from. What model year is your Altima, and how many miles are on it? If it is an older car with high mileage, this might be a coincidence. It might also be that they improperly connected a coolant hose and the coolant leaked out when the hose blew off. All this is just a guess. If you provide additional information, we can see if it is a reasonable guess or not. Did you see where the coolant leaked from?

The engine was probably damaged when the radiator failed. Did the engine overheat or did you notice this crack in the radiator during a routine inspection?

The Sears shop replaced the radiator and perhaps failed to notice the engine need repair, they are not engine repair experts. Will their oversight get you a free engine or engine repair? I doubt it.

A few observations on plastic radiator tanks . . .

They all eventually crack, usually after 10 or 15 years. It’s unavoidable. The tank seals also start leaking after a number of years

However, if the tank ruptured or actually blew off . . . meaning it completely popped off of the aluminum core . . . that would point to something more serious, such as a blown head gasket

The very questionable part is that the Altima broke down, a crack was noticed in the radiator, and then the car went to Sears.

I read this as severe overheating was present and that Sears was handed a car with not only a cracked radiator but possibly other issues related to it and what went on earlier.

I also wonder if “got it into Sears that day” means that it was driven there in that condition or towed. Offhand, it kind of sounds like the former. If not, my bad.

“Sorry about the missing info.”

Could you please supply the missing info?

Okay…the car is an 01 with 157,000 on it, so obviously it’s an older car. What other missing info do you need? I’m not asking for a diagnosis. I’ve just never been in the situation before with a repair going bad and the garage going out of their way to pay for a rental, get it towed to the actual dealership for a full diagnostic etc. I was just wondering if anyone had been in a similar situation or works for a similar company and can provide some info on what the procedure is.
As for “got it to Sears that day” I actually had an appointment there for an oil change and was going to drop it off on the way to work. (I work just across the road).
The car was overheated and wouldn’t start. I called AAA and had it towed to the location.
Thanks again for all the suggestions and help.

Just to update or fill in the gaps of my original post, the car is;
Nissan Altima 2001 GLE
157,000 miles

The car was overheated and wouldn’t start.

Typically it’s the little things that are buried in the details. Start shopping for another car, this one may be too expensive to repair.

Consider this, if your headlight didn’t work and one of these limited capacity shops replaced the bulb and the headlight still didn’t work would they be obligated to repair the electrical problem in the vehicle to make the headlight work?

If they can’t help you with the repair costs at least ask for a refund for the radiator replacement.

The point here is that what can really make a difference in an opinion is knowing whether the car was overheating badly, steaming, running sluggish, starter motor would not crank the engine after dying, and so on.

If an engine is overheating and has symptoms like those (and especially on a high miles, aged engine) it’s possible that there is major engine damage. Severe overheating due to a broken radiator can ruin a lowly thermostat; which means the radiator could be replaced and the engine overheat quickly due to the now failed thermostat or even a now failed radiator fan sensor.

In the good old days an iron engine could take some serious overheating and soldier on. Modern era engines are not so forgiving due to the use of aluminum and so on.

I read this heading and thread. I thought that sears had closed their automotive shops. At least after they were caught selling used batteries as new that people would avoid them.

Yikes, I’d never heard that. No, this one has been open by the mall here for years.

I have to agree with everyone here about the radiator and head gasket diagnosis.
It really does not make a difference which came first. The head gasket went bad…filled the radiator with steam and cracked said radiator. Or the radiator cracked from age or some hard impact, most of the coolant was lost, and the headgasket failed.

Either way I think that this sears is treating you pretty good. They know it’s beyond their scope of expertise and had it towed to a dealer and got you a rental car.
I think all you can ask for is a refund for their attempted repair/replacement of the radiator.

But you will still need to pay the dealer for a new radiator which will cost double the one from sears.


My opinion is that some tests should have been run before even putting a radiator in it so as to make sure the car is even worth the cost of a radiator. If the engine is fried all bets are off.

“I thought that sears had closed their automotive shops. At least after they were caught selling used batteries as new that people would avoid them.”

While I can’t prove it, I believe that Sears may have sold their auto service shops to another company, and allowed them to retain the Sears name on the buildings.

Why do I say this? Well, I used to go to Sears every couple of years for a free load test of my battery. Simply drive in, via the garage door dedicated to drive-in battery service. Very convenient, very efficient, and…free.

Last year, I found that they no longer had the Drive in for a free battery load test! signs. I went into the Sears auto supply store, and inquired about a load test. I was informed that I would have to make an appointment, and that there was a fee of…perhaps $20…IIRC. Everything about the store was different than it had been previously, and clearly the policies were different.

Does this prove that somebody else is now operating those Sears automotive shops?
Nope, but that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

In any event, Sears’ auto service has not been a good place for repairs for as long as I can remember. And, I have subsequently purchased my own equipment for testing the battery, so I won’t be availing myself of their services any longer.

Edited to add:
I found an article stating that Sears began franchising their auto centers to other companies about 5 years ago. So, your local Sears Auto Center may be operated by Sears, or it may be operated by some other entity.

Take a look at: