Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Warranty problem

I have a 2005 Honda Odyssey with a blown head gasket with 66,000 miles on it. When I bought it the dealership told me that the power train and related components would be covered under a lifetime warranty if all the maintenance was done at the dealership, which it has been. It was driven about ten minutes when smoke starting coming out from under the hood. My wife pulled over and let it cool and then drove less than a half mile to a gas station. There is no check engine light for overheating on the Odyssey so she had no warning other than the temp gauge. It was towed to the dealer where they did a cumbustion test and confirmed the blown head gasket, but the thermostat, radiator, fan, and everything else checked OK. They could not tell me why it overheated, but they did tell me they were not going to cover it under the warranty because it was driven hot. Since then a Honda rep. came in and he “thinks” it overheated because the thermostat stuck and Honda is not going to cover anything. The coolant was flushed and replaced in June 2008. What is the best plan of attack to get this covered under the warranty and if that fails what are my best repair options?

“There is no check engine light for overheating on the Odyssey so she had no warning other than the temp gauge”

The Check Engine Light (CEL) on every make of car with which I am familiar will light up if you have an ignition, fuel delivery, or emissions-related problem. No CEL with which I am familiar will light up for an overheating problem. That is what the temperature gauge is for.

When you say that your wife “let it cool”, do you mean that the temperature gauge was reading normally by the time that she drove the car again? Or did the absence of smoke (or more likely, steam) indicate to her that the engine was cool at that point?

While I am sympathetic, many modern engines do not take well to overheating, especially if they have aluminum cylinder heads. (I think that this engine uses aluminum heads, but I could be wrong on that point) So, operating the engine at all–rather than having the vehicle towed–after an overheating incident can be deadly for the engine.

At this point, it will be difficult to determine the chain of events. Did an overheating engine cause the head gaskets to blow, or was the head gasket already breached, thereby causing the engine to overheat? It is really difficult to positively determine the sequence of events here.

Like most manufacturers, Honda is trying to wiggle out of a warranty claim if they can, and since driving a “hot” engine is a no-no, naturally they are seizing on this situation. I hope that you prevail, but whether you do or not, please impress upon your wife that “smoke” or steam coming from under the hood is a very bad sign and it is best to have a vehicle towed under these circumstances. And, relying on the CEL for something that it does not do is futile–as you found out.

I guess I shouldn’t expect a warning light for an overheating engine. It’s not like I forgot to attach my seatbelt.

When she was driving the air conditioner started blowing warm air. She thought the smoke had something to do with the air conditioner. She let it sit for five to ten minutes until the smoke cleared and then drove the half mile to the gas station. The air conditioner may be a seperate issue.
It is an aluminum head and I have been told that they can start to warp as soon as the temp gets to H or a minute or two after.

Tom and Ray should start a National campaign to educate the public as to just what a check engine light could or is not designed to indicate.

Putting myself in the publics shoes,the light should not be called 'check engine".

For the OP read that lifetime warranty,thats the best place to start. Does it say “if driving while engine is overheated occurs, warranty void”?

There may be a warning light. Some coolant temperature gauges also have a warning light built in. The owner’s manual would tell you whether or not your Odyssey has such a light.

Regardless, temperature gauges and warning lights often don’t work when there is a loss of coolant from the engine cooling system. These devices rely on the presence of coolant to function correctly. They are not very good at measuring air temperature, so if the coolant is gone and there is air in the system these devices are worthless.

Now, did the overheating engine damage the head and the head gasket, or did a failed head gasket cause the engine overheating? Could be either one. You can’t prove which happened, and neither can they.

Honda says the engine overheated and damaged the other components, but it’s just as likely that the head gasket failed and caused the engine to overheat. Understand?

If you told them the engine overheated they will use that against you, and it’s too late. They’ll never back down.

Modern engines don’t take well to overheating, regardless of the cause. I think this is an excellent example of why extended warranties are not worth the money. You bought an extended warranty, right?

The standard Honda warranty is not “lifetime,” so you must have bought an extended warranty. I suggest you find that warranty, read it VERY carefully, and see if there’s anything in it that can save you.

I wish you the best of luck.

You are not going to like this, but I am going to say it anyway.

It really sounds like your wife took a bad situation and made it a whole lot worse.

By just waiting until the smoke (really steam, I am sure) cleared before she drove the car again, she did not wait for a sufficient amount of time for the engine to cool down. While I would personally only rely on a temperature gauge to accurately tell me when an overheating engine had cooled down, if I had to guess how long it would take for an overheated engine to cool down sufficiently to be able to drive safely, I would guess at least 40 minutes or so. If she drove the car within 5 to 10 minutes, she abused the engine.

What you were told about aluminum heads is fairly accurate. Unfortunately, by apparently not looking at the temperature gauge and by expecting a warning light to instruct her, she probably “cooked” the engine. In addition to the blown head gasket(s), she probably warped the heads and may have done internal damage (bearings and cylinder walls, among other things) that would be very expensive to repair.

It sounds like your wife focused solely on the A/C, and not on the engine that drives the A/C (and everything else in the car), and that is a real shame. The A/C was blowing hot air because the car’s radiator was boiling at that point, and since the A/C condensor is right in front of that boiling radiator, the condensor was not able to provide the normal cooling effect for the A/C. So…no…the A/C issue is not separate. It is part and parcel of an overheated engine.

This could be very expensive to repair if it involves damage to internal components in addition to the head gaskets and possibly the cylinder heads. In total, you could be looking at a repair bill in the $3k to $4k range. Sorry for the bad news.

The Owner’s Manual probably states that the car should not be driven if the engine is overheating. But, if one does not look at the temperature gauge, then I suppose that you might not be aware that it is overheating.

Perhaps we should have the government mandate a separate warning light that says, “Look at your temperature gauge”. (That statement was in jest.)

The warranty only covers the car for a certain mileage and time frame so you’re out of luck.

The temp gauge is not in place to simply take up space. When the needle is heading towards the H mark this means stop then and there.

The dealer and Honda Motor Co. are doing the right thing by refusing to warranty this and even if the car were not under warranty it should not be covered in my opinion.

Your wife ruined this vehicle, not Honda, and a thermostat is prone to failure at any time. In my opinion, a thermostat is a wear and tear, maintenance type of item that should be replaced every 3 or 4 years whether it’s faulty or not.
At worst, the initial overheating may have blown a head gasket but since your wife continued operating the car this means damage to the rings/cylinder walls.

This translates to a new engine and this one is on you.

Sorry to hear anyone has to go through this. I can’t offer a bit of help or advice. But I wanted to thank you for posting about this. The other day I was driving and was shocked to see the low fuel warning light turn on. Hadn’t thought to keep an eye on the gauge (driving with a beautiful woman in the car). Your posting has induced at least me to get more observant with the gauges again.

As I’ve stated on this forum before, about 90% of the head gasket jobs, engine overhauls or replacements, etc. that I’ve done were due to abuse; lack of maintenance, running very low on or out of oil, overheating, etc.

If the car makers were to install an overheat warning lamp it’s doubtful that few, if any, would stop for that either.
It only means they would motor on with the temp gauge pegged out and a light illuminated.

VW had what was called a Dynamic oil and temp light system in which the light would not only illuminate, it would flash repeatedly if a problem existed.
Did it make any difference? No, it only meant the light was flashing up to the point the engine quit.

My comment was slightly off topic,to many it is a mystery just what motivates a “check engine” light to come on. There is both overaction and undereaction. many people say “the light came on but then it went out” and feel the car healed its self.

Specifaly they think it is somehow giving a report on the engines mechanical condition.

Don’t ever believe in “lifetime” warranties. It is a dealer scam and they got you to service your car(good thing) however at dealer prices(bad thing) and give nothing in return.

Get a few quotes on repairing besides dealer. I would never visit their business again, the “lifetime warranty” is a joke and let them know.

Thanks for the response. It would be nice to know for sure if the head gasket just failed or something else caused it like a stuck thermostat.