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To Scrap or Not to Scrap, that is the question

2005 Hyndai Accent with 135K miles, has been a reliable workhorse and now semi-retired to the short trips to and from the train station for my commute to NYC. Last week it overheated and came to a full stop - checked under the hood and coolant had all drained out. I waited for the engine to cool down and added coolant, then drove home when safe to do so – just heard from the mechanic today.

SO - water pump is kaput, radiator is melted, and a couple of other associated repairs - just under 1K in repairs to bring it back to life if I want to roll the dice. Mechanic is great, he laid out the associated risks before I decide to pull the trigger or not – i.e. head gasket may be damaged, or any of the other “unknowns” that could have occurred when it overheated.

So is it worth it to gamble and see if she still runs true after repairs? Or better to recognize that chances are, our best days are done and it’s time to move on. Thanks for the input!

There will be different opinions on this. It depends on what you can afford. If you can afford another car, yes, this one is risky. If you cannot afford another car at all, then you may have to take a chance and try to fix it. Only you can know that.

If you get another used one, normal recommendation here is to ask a mechanic to look at the proposed purchase car.

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I’d pull the plug on this one.

If the engine had no coolant and overheated, this means the oil broke down and possibly damaged the main/rod/cam bearings/journals.

Also when an engine overheats, not only is there possible damage to the head gasket/head, but also to the piston rings. Because the heat removed the temper from the piston rings, and the rings can no longer seal against the cylinder walls.

It would be one thing if you were doing the labor. It’s another thing when you’re paying someone else for the labor, on an iffy engine.


How many more miles did you drive after you added to coolant?

If the car is otherwise in good shape I would risk it and spend the $1K. You could also consider dumping a rebuilt engine into this car if things don’t work out with the repair. I know, it can be more costly, but that’t the trade-off when you take a risk.

The radiator melted? I’ve had them fail during overheating incidents and sprout a leak, but I’ve never heard of one melting. Is it possible the shop tech is exaggerating a little? Did you actually see where it melted? Usually what happens is the joint between the metal part and the plastic part fails and it leaks, generally nearer the top of the radiator than the bottom.

How much coolant did you have to add to fill the radiator when this happened, compared to the engine’s coolant capacity? (This info is probably in the owner’s manual). If you know, that would help determine how bad this overheating incident actually was.

hmmm … bottom line, a 2005 with 135K, if all it needs is a water pump and radiator, it should have a lot of miles left in it. I think what I’d do at this point is drain the oil, remove the filter, sieve for signs of metal debris, and if none found, refill the oil, new filter, then do a compression test. You don’t need to run the engine to do a compression test, the starter motor does all the work, so no need to worry about a leaky radiator and water pump for doing that. If it passes the compression test, I’d probably just replace the pump and radiator and hope for the best. If you were still feeling iffy after the compression test, your shop tech could do a leak down test on each cylinder, which would pretty much eliminate a head gasket breech if it passes.

I’d want to do the compression leakdown test before making any decisions.

But even if it fails, indicating a breeched headgasket and possible warped head, I might consider fixing it up if the rest of the car is in good shape. Your options if it fails depend on whether you have another vehicle, have the budget to replace it with a new car, or can accept the risk of replacing it with a used car. Used cars always come with risks.

If it were mine and I did decide to repair it, I’d want to be sure to replace all the cooling hoses too. They can fail due to heat by the internal liner separating from the outer layer, blockng the hose when the coolant heats up again and expands the air between the layers and killing yet another engine. They’ll be a very small additional cost but a very prudent preventative measure. And don’t overlook the thermostat.


If the best case scenario is that the necessary repairs will cost ~$1k, I don’t think that this is a very wise expenditure of money with a 12 year old car that is worth–at best–$2k if it was in decent condition. Others may disagree, but if the head gasket has been breached, the cost of that repair–plus the cost to repair damage that could have resulted from that breach–would undoubtedly bring the repair bill up to the full value of the car if it was in decent condition.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that if the OP is looking for a cheap, used replacement vehicle, he could wind up buying something that is in almost as bad a condition as his current car.

Personally, I would junk it, buy a new Accent or similarly low-priced commuter car, and maintain it very well.

Agree! I will venture to guess that $1000 is a dream figure. Internal engine work will be at least twice that and add a new radiator and other items will likely see a $2000+ bill.

Normally you would install a good used engine out of a wreck but still spend over $1000.

I would say goodbye to this one and move on!

Get another car because you will most likely exceed the value of the car in repair bills.