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Seized Engine 2006 Toyota Corolla with 21,000 miles

I have a bit of a problem. Got a 2006 Toyota Corolla with 8,700 miles on it at the time 3 years ago. I’ve spent the past 3 years taking it in every 5-6 months to ensure it stays in shape. However, yesterday, at 21,000 miles, the oil warning light popped on and then died. I had the oil changed Nov 20, and checked when getting winter tires put on in mid-January. I had mentioned the car drips a bit to my mechanic and asked is that a problem, and was told numerous times if the car isn’t overheating, and it’s running fine, and the check engine light isn’t coming on, it’s fine. However, when the AAA guy came to move my car from where it died yesterday, he said “oh i know what’s wrong” immediately as there was an oil drip onto the ground. I’m really a bit annoyed as any appt with my mechanic at the least was $185 and at the most was $488, and I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing.

I’ve read the car shutdown because the computer told it to to save the mechanics of the engine. When the AAA guy tried to start the car, he said it started to turn over but slowly. My question is I Really would like to save the engine as it’s so expensive to buy a rebuilt engine and have it installed. One person is telling me 800, one is saying 6k. And I really can’t afford that. I live in the sticks and there’s no way to get around without a car, not even to get groceries or coffee. I just moved here and spent my savings to get here. Am pretty desperate and scared. I’ve thought of buying a junker just to limit my time off the road.

Any ideas about whether the engine can be unlocked with penetrating oils? I’m hoping that since it started to turn over, maybe there’s a chance? If not, how would you even go about finding a working toyota corolla engine from an actually reputable place? The engines I’ve been seeing online are like 3k. I’m disabled as well, so I can’t ride a bike and there’s no public transit here. I’m really stuck and scared.

A bit of dripping isn’t a problem in and of itself as long as the oil is kept above the FILL line. Am I correct in understanding that you never checked your oil level, just relying on your six month visits? And where is the “in” that you’ve been taking it to every six months? Six months not being a reasonable periodicity, I also have to ask WHY you’ve been “taking it in every six months”?

I think your intentions are great, but you have a lot to learn about automotive maintenance. Starting with how and how often to check the fluids. I check mine at least every week.

As to the engine… it’s history. Once and engine seizes from lack of oil, its bearings are toast. And even if you change the bearings, the surfaces that ride on them will be severely damaged. Your only real options are a boneyard engine or a rebuilt engine. Yeah, $3 is normal… and then there’s the cost of installing it. Sorry.

Read your owner’s manual on any car you buy and learn how and how often to check your fluids. It’s too late for this engine, but it may prevent you from having this problem again.

Oh definitely, now I know.

I took it in every 5-6 months because this is my first car, and the mechanic and family members said Take it in every 6 months, before the Winter season, and the Spring/Summer season. Also that if there’s ever a problem, address it immediately. When I asked the mechanic about the oil, he said just have it changed every 6 months. I had no idea I even had to check the oil outside of the mechanic. The oil was checked in Jan and the folks at that garage said everything was fine. I just moved from Bk to the sticks of Mass.

Oh absolutely, I had no idea, I fully admit that. My frustration is that I feel like I was doing everything exactly as I was told, if there was ever a small issue, I took it in the next day. I went to reputable garage, even though it was more expensive. Every time I went in, I went with a list of things, check all the tubes, the transmission fluid, coolant, oil, tires, etc. even though they kind of thought I was being overzealous/paranoid/silly. I don’t know what else I could have done.

I know I sound like a silly young person, and I am. But I am in a stuck position. Not really sure what I’m supposed to do to get around. I am absolutely curious about just getting an junkyard engine that will hold me for at least a few months so I can save up for a newer rebuilt engine? I know the benefit of that is the number of components that are most likely to break down over time are replaced in a rebuilt one.

If I really don’t have the money, do you think just getting a junkyard engine, maybe one with some significant miles on it, just to get back on the road is an appropriate option? I’m new to the area, so I have no clue if a garage would be willing to give me a loaner. There are no car rental places or zipcar anywhere near here.

Please do not feel like a silly young person. You’re simply a young person in the process of learning who apparently got some bad advice. None of us are born with this knowledge. Many of us have had to learn the hard way.

You seem to have a clear understanding of the risks of a boneyard engine. They can save you a couple thousand or more over a rebuilt, but it isn’t always easy to tell how they were treated before ending up in the boneyard.

Don’t hesitate to let everyone you know, especially relatives, know your situation. One of them might have a used car that they’ll let you use until you get yours running again… or even buy for less that the cost of a boneyard engine installed. There’s nothing you’ve done that you should be embarrassed about.

06 w/21k miles is worth $6-7k. Find a used motor and fix it

+1 for Cavell. This car is just a baby at 21K.

I agree that you should fix it as long as there is no rust. You should also get in the habit of checking your oil level at least once per month, brake fluid every month or two, and transmission fluid every few months. Waiting 6 months can be problematic as you now know.

First off You have not put enough miles on this car to warrant getting oil changes more often than every 6 months. My calculations are that you are only putting on less than 3000 miles per oil change.

That said, you should learn to check the oil level yourself to avoid these problems occurring.
Coolant level, power steering fluid, brake fluid, & transmission fluid should also be checked once per month. Your owners manual should list how to and how often these should be done.

Before you discount your mechanic, I think that the car should be looked at.
The mechanic should not be blamed that your drip went on long enough to cause a problem. Most likely he presumed that you would check your oil now and then.
If mechanic’s looked at every little drip as a major problem there would be no cars on the road more than a few years old. Some cars that have an oil drip are driven for years…with the proper checking of the oil level by the owner.

An oil drip can turn into a serious leak, but if the oil would have been checked periodically you would have noticed the level dropping…or you would have added a quart.


Hold on here. How long AFTER the oil light came on before the engine died? Was it immediate or did you keep driving until it died? Did it make any noises before it died?

If the computer did shut down the engine to protect it, then it may very well be good, but I am not aware of any manufacturers putting this feature in their vehicles. But the first thing to do is check that oil level. If you don’t know how to do that, look in the owners manual for instructions. It is very easy to do and you should be doing that at least once a month if you are not losing oil. If you see evidence of an oil drip, you should check it every time you fill the gas tank.

The owners manual should have pictures so it should not be hard for you to figure this out. Next, add enough oil to reach between the min and max marks on the dipstick. This may take 3 quarts. Then try to start the engine, but not before you add the oil. Any 5w30 oil should be OK as you are going to have it changed immediately if it does start.

Before you blame the mechanics or beat yourself up, it is possible that even if you did check the oil level often, this could have still happened. One common leak on this engine is the harmonic balancer seal. It will drip just a little for quite awhile, then start slinging a lot of oil out within a very short time. The seal is pretty easy to replace so it should be no more than $15 for the seal and about an hour labor.


Just out of curiosity . . . it seems that with every single Toyota engine that is mentioned on this website, YOU say the front crank seal is a very common leak

Why is that?

I’ve owned several Toyotas over the years, and I’ve NOT found it to be a common leak

I realize that every one of us has had different experiences over the years

I had to replace one leaking front crank seal on my Tercel, but that was probably 10 or more years ago. And it hasn’t leaked since

None of my other Toyotas has had this problem. I automatically replace all seals under the timing case cover, when I do the timing belt, regardless of what they look like. Perhaps I’m actually preventing some future problems

That’s another thing, I didn’t know the oil warning light meant Stop immediately, I figured it was like the check engine light… a warning… not a sign of immediate doom! So I left the house, no lights were on, it was driving perfectly normally. It came on as I was on the way to the mechanic, which is a 10 min drive, so it came on about 2 mins away from the mechanic? Which is where it died. I mean, yes, I know all this now, check the oil once a month or every 2 gas-stops. But I was told the same thing, it’s a car in good shape, you don’t put a lot of miles on it, if you really wanna be paranoid, come in every 5 months instead of 6, which is what I did. My frustration is as it might be clear, I really try to be on annoyingly the ball and always come with concerns written down. I remember feeling ashamed/embarrassed for saying to the mechanic this is my first car, i don’t know anything about cars, can you please list what i need to be on the lookout for, what to do to keep it healthy, i want to keep this car for another 10 years etc. I’ve asked family/friends too. I have sticky tabs on marked pages on the user manual–i have read chunks of it, but only on issues that were cropping up. But I’d betcha, what it’s going to say is check it every 3000, which, idk how that would have helped since I’ve stayed under 3,000 miles between mechanical checkups.

There seems to be mixed feelings about oil drips. Some folks have said it’s an obvious red flag (of course, all after the fact), others say leak schmeak. My frustration is that I’ve asked the mechanic multiple times what I need to do, as well as family members. No one said anything about changing the oil every 3 months… but now after the fact “oh yeah, well you should have known that!” How? How would I have known that? I was told get your break pads checked from nyc driving, get all the hoses checked every visit, get the fluids checked, the oil changed.
The car actually started at 9,494 miles in NYC after it had been driven up from Philadelphia, was used a bit down there too. it was 8,700 when I the title was moved over to my name. Sorry for that mixup.

Within the past 6 month periods from:
Nov 14, 2013,
Feb 5, 2014,
June 18, 2014,
March 12, 2015,
Jul 17, 2015,
the miles driven were 439, 1371, 2493, 1151 Respectively. I’m assuming I’m simply missing a document between that June 18 2014 and March 12, 2015 date as I vaguely remember going into my file folder to retrieve an old invoice I had written notes on when I got my last check up in Nov 2015, which I also can’t find–they must be somewhere huddling together misplaced in the move. Oh boy, that’s annoying. But, you can kinda ballpark it at around what, 1400 miles every 6 monthsish? 1300? But basically. Not a ton of miles per 6 months.

The other thing that gives me slight hope, is the car never got overheated, the heat gauge never went up past it’s normal position. When we opened the hood, nothing was hot. I really really hope they can salvage it, pour some oil down, use some penetrating oil and time. It seems so crazy it was driving fine, no weird noises, no weird feeling, for it to then be Pow Dead.

And no noises when it died, I thought it’d stalled, but then just didn’t turn over again.

And not to blow this thread up, but could the temperature change have anything have to do with anything? The car has been parked outside this winter. Here in mass it gets to between minus 15 and 0 most nights of the winter. My friend is suddenly dealing with a leaking gas too. I could imagine with the cold, it might make some part shrink, then expand with the warmer weather? I’m just kicking myself, because I’m not at all in the position to shell out 6k, but am not sure how I could have avoided it knowing what I knew, but now know. :wink: How’s that tongue twister for ya?

db, every Toyota that I or my family has owned, except for my uncles V6 Camry. Also a lot of posts on two Toyota forums that I visit, but both of those are dedicated to the now discontinued A series engines.

Masha, I would not bother with the penetrating oil. If you need that to free up the engine, then it is too late. It will be a major oil burner. But if you just fill the crankcase and start it up and it runs normally, you would be very lucky indeed, but since you ran it for awhile with the oil light on, I don’t hold out much hope.

I would not put a used engine in this. You would be better off with a reman or a good mechanic rebuilding this engine. Considering the low miles and the good care, I would prefer the latter. This would be a premium engine for rebuilding and require less machining.

I will definitely bring that idea up to the mechanic–thank you. It’s really just crazy, I did not expect this expense, least of all in the middle of paying other bills off, and really can’t afford it, but cant"afford" to not fix the car either, because there’s absolutely no way to get around without a car. I don’t know anyone here. So I’m just, stuck. It’ll take me like a month to Maybe come up with 4k? then ordering it? Then installing it? Do you have any other ideas for options?

Maybe you will get lucky. It will either start and run or it won’t.

If it doesn’t, then there are three options, used engine, rebuid current engine or install a reman. A used engine is a crap shoot, but almost any engine that you find will be a lot closer to the end of its useful service life than your engine was last week. Remans are built from old worn out engines that are re-machined to have like new clearances.

Your current engine has little wear so it mostly needs new parts like rings and bearings. It will take less machining to bring it back to like new clearances, but that will take up quite a bit of the mechanics time, so labor cost will be up there.

Talk over your options with your mechanic. He might be willing to work with you by working on the engine during his dead time. Not asking for free, but maybe a break on the the cost. But you would need to be patient for this and it kinda sounds like you need this done sooner than later.

@Masha1234 Your finances are none of anyone’s business but you state you might come up with 4000.00 in a month. Rather than do that consider having the engine repaired properly with a loan from your bank or credit union and plan to make payments and also save to pay the loan off early. It is cheaper than a new car or a used engine that might not be better than what you have.

I Certainly apologize if that was weird to mention, I felt kind of weird rereading my last comment to be honest, you’re right, it was inappropriate. It was made in a highly stressed/anxious state. I was just being totally embarrassingly honest/grasping at hope as I really feel stuck, really have no clue what to do, what other people would do if they found themselves in a similar position–y’know?

I sincerely apologize if that was weird to mention. It’s not even really realistic as other things I Need to payL Insurances, Food, etc. first. Loans/credit cards aren’t really an option, as I don’t want to make my situation any worse down the line.

I Really–immensely and sincerely–appreciate the responses, and not being called dumb, as I already know I havn’t a clue, and have jotted down a bunch of notes. As someone mentioned recently, the only reason why I think the engine is seized is because the tow-truck driver said it was, and maybe I should wait until I get it to a shop before I absolutely lose my mind. So I’m going to go with that approach. :slight_smile: Until tomorrow… and then see what they say.