Seized-up engine

I bought a used 1998 Toyota Camry with 50K miles on the odometer,for my daughter, from a reputable leasing company. The car was prepped and oil and filter change She drove it approx.6K miles, in 3 months, when the engine seized. The mechanic told me the oil was 2 quarts low. My daughter says she checked the oil

Do you have a question?

Did your daughter ignore the oil light? If oil starvation caused the engine to seize, the oil light should have come on first. Whether or not she checked the oil isn’t as important as whether or not she ignored the oil light.

If the oil light never came on, I am willing to bet it was a failure of the cooling system. Did your daughter check the coolant level when she checked the oil?

(I must have clicked submit before I finished the Q) Is it common for an engine to seize when oil is 2 quarts low?

Thanks for the reply. I will look at the coolant level.

It would depend on the oil capacity. If the car holds four or five quarts, being down two quarts should not kill the engine. If the car holds three quarts and is down two quarts, the chances of it being the cause go up.

If the engine lost oil pressure because of something like a failing oil pump, it would not matter how much oil was in the pan.

If the coolant level is fine, the cooling system is still a possibility. A faulty coolant/water pump would normally leak if it was failing, but if you had a radiator fan failure or a thermostat failure, the car could have overheated just the same. Again, this would only be a problem if your daughter ignored the warning lights and kept driving in spite of the engine overheating.

She did drive the car after she heard engine “rattling noises”. After some distance, the engine died. She claims that no warning lights were on. The Camry has a 2.2L engine. I would think the crank case holds 5 quarts.
The fan belt was intact. When a water pump goes, doesn’t the shaft freeze up, and the belt burns-up as a result? How can I inspect the oil pump? It’s internal to the engine, isn’t it? The mechanic can install a low mileage, used engine for $3,200. A rebuilt engine would add $1K.

No, the water pump doesn’t always seize when it goes bad. Sometimes it just leaks.

Before you pay for another engine, you want to make sure you find out why this happened. My mother once toasted the engine of my Mercury Marquis. She had the engine replaced and it still overheated with the new engine because the problem was with the radiator. Fortunately, I fixed it before she had a chance to kill another engine. So get the radiator flow tested or just replace it when the new engine is installed. Make sure the heater core is thoroughly checked to make sure it isn’t the source of the problem (leak?). Do some more investigating before you order a new engine. Maybe you should get a second opinion from another mechanic. I would hate to see you go through another engine.

You need to find out whether the dashboard idiot lights failed or your daughter isn’t being honest. You don’t want to waste another engine because the idiot lights are not working.

Did you have a oil change scheduled? you put 6K on the engine it was due,putting 6K on the oil didn’t cause it to sieze but you would have known it was low.

After you first got the car did you frequently check the oil (every week, if not more)to establish how much oil this engine used?

In regards to the overheating idea,open the oil cap and give the engine a “sniff”, the oil in a engine that got so hot it siezed smells terrible,you wont forget the smell.

I like the overheating option. Most Toyotas use a temp gauge, not a light. An overheat would not flash a warning light or buzzer, just a needle going into the red zone. Easy to miss. Hearing the rattling before it seized could be either oil starvation or overheating, but oil starvation should have turned the light on.

Thanks to everyone for the responses. The car is sitting outside the repair shop. No work has been done. I will check the coolant and talk to the mechanic about the possibility of oil/water pump failure. I will get a second opinion, from another mechanic, as well. I will post the results on this forum.

I want to update everyone who posted a reply to this Q: coolant level is full. No leaks or stains on the ground below the engine. All belts are intact. Oil dip stick is bone dry. Owners manual indicates oil capacity is 3.8 quarts. Car was driven 6.5K miles since oil was changed by the seller. All indications point to my daughter not checking the oil level. Probably not since she got the car. Price for a used low mileage replacement installed is $3,500. She will have to find a way to pay for it. I’ve had it.

I got my current car for less than $3500

I was skeptical (very) about the 2 quarts down and daughter checking the oil claims to begin with.

No way could I see sinking 3500 into an 11 year old Camry. A better option would be to do some footwork on eBay, Craigslist, etc. and find a used engine in the vicinity. While this may not be the quickest method it could be the most cost effective since some have gone for around 500 to 1000 dollars.

A car with a 3.8 oil capacity just doesn’t feel good,probably more common than I realise.

We did go with 5 on small blocks for years.

I never understood why others felt comfortable with the overheating senario,it just didn’t fit.

It’s a tough lesson to learn, but sometimes the way it ends up being taught. Anyway, plenty of good cars to be had for under 3500 bucks, best of luck to you and her.

This is a follow-up to the seized 1998 Camry engine. I got a replacement used engine. When the sized engine oil pan was removed, it was full of sludge. I then discovered via internet searches that there was a class action suit which was settled in 2007 by Toyota. It covered 6 and 4 cylinder Toyota engines, in 1996 to 2001 Toyota’s that seized/failed due to oil starvation due to design problems with crankcase ventilation which caused the oil to overheat, burn off and turn to sludge. The car was bought used and only driven 6K miles in 3 months. The dealer refused to share the cost to replace the engine. I’m considering submitting it to small claims court.

What was the Dealers reasoning in refusing to “share the costs”? was this the Dealer that sold you the car? how was the sale made “as is” or with some kind of powertrain warranty?

Is it possible for you to file a claim with Toyota? they are the one’s to pursue the sludge issue with.

Did the Dealer object to you getting a used engine,having it installed,then asking for them to “share the costs”?

I stated on 2-8 the overheating senario did not fit. Where are my stars?

Oil low probably just beat it up. My guess the engine was sludged up due to lax oil changes by previous owner. Most engines can take it but a select few like Toyota Camry I4 & V6 both had tendency to sludge oil easily.

Most of the time oil sludging is due to failure to change the oil often enough.
The fact there is a class-action suit does not necessarily mean that Toyota is at fault on anything.

Suits are filed constantly and decisions on settlements are made by the bean counters amd management. They simply figure it’s more cost effective to pay any claims rather than be taken to court by a bunch of blood sucking ambulance chasers.

A ten year old car with a measly 50k miles on it is likely sludged due to very light use and short hop driving. That’s an owner caused problem; not a Toyota caused one.

I know how you feel pop! I once went out into my driveway to move her little Nissan and when I cranked it up it sounded like a sack of metal marbles. I shut it off immediately sensing there was probably little or no oil in the engine. When I checked the dipstick, it showed about a quart, but the pan only had a total of 4 qt capacity. I dumped in enough oil to fill and restarted. It clattered a bit til the oil hit the valve train and then quieted down and no obvious permanent damage done. When I bought her a Toyota Corolla I gave her instructions on checking the oil every time she filled up, A couple of years later she pulled into a station and filled it up and promptly checked the dipstick for oil…only then did I notice she was pulling the tranny dipstick. Oh well, they are our kids.