Will driving to shop kill it?

1992 Dodge Caravan 4cyl manual (last of the breed)
Damn thing still runs, until yesterday.

Merging onto interstate, moderately hard accelleration.
Sudden reduction in power, engine running rough, won’t maintain 60mph in 5th, steering wheel shakes, engine bucks.
Tried to nurse it to my destination. (Bad idea, yeah.) Made it about 10 mi.
Symptoms got worse, pulled off next exit and drove a bit looking for a mechanic.
Same symptoms, lower speed, lower gear. Had to nurse it up even mild hills in first.
Got bad enough that I pulled into a gas station and got a tow home.

Check engine light is not on. No warning lights. Did not start to heat up until the very end.

Eats oil, but I just topped it up that morning. Also drinks coolant, also topped up.
Oil is not overfull. Did not drive through water or rain.
Timing belt was changed about 10,000 miles ago.

The question:
If I haven’t already destroyed the engine, is it likely that I will kill it if I drive it to the shop (a few miles)?
Or should I have it towed there?
(Or should I just have it junked.)

I had a hard time warming up to this car when we bought it new. It was, of course, my wife’s car until she got a new one and I inherited it. (Why does that always happen?) I’ve had it now for over half of my married life. It’s six years younger than my younger daughter, sort of a neglected and abused third child. But it just won’t die. And I’ve kind of formed a bond with it.

In any case, as a practical matter, it is worth more to me running than it is worth. How often do you find a companion that sticks with you no matter how badly you abuse it. Anyway, no one rides in it but me and my dogs.

If you have oil in it and coolant I can’t see how a short drive to a shop would “Kill” it. Of course if the oil hasn’t been changed in a zillion miles then it might have oil, but still not getting lubrication. It would be safer to tow it to a shop, but why pamper the old girl now? The car has taken enough abuse, a little more shouldn’t make a difference.

Is there any smoke coming out the tailpipe? What color?

Any coolant visible in the radiator after this incident? If so, what does it look like, color, clarity, etc?

What does the oil on the dipstick look like?

Sounds like a possible blown head gasket

The 92 Caravan probably should be scrapped. Get the coins out of the upholstery and from under the seats first.

A 1992 Dodge Caravan that uses oil and eats coolant is in for repairs that equal several times the value of a running 1992 sample.

So, as we say here in the West; you should “shoot it in the head”. It’s good money after bad if you try to fix it.

I’m not so sure about scrapping it. With the four cylinder and stick shift, this is a rare car. (see the post in General Discussions…). Then again, finding a decent used engine is going to be a needle in a haystack proposition.

I’d love to have one of these as my around town “truck”, rather than a small pickup. @TheRealJRogers: if you are anywhere near California, let me know!

To clarify, I’m worried that the timing belt might have jumped a tooth (or more) and that it could be so badly out of time that I would be destroying valves or pistons or something. Don’t jump on me, I don’t have any knowledge to back up that fear.

It is smoking white smoke. The coolant still seems OK. It has been smoking a little on starting in the last couple of months, but no more than many cars I’ve owned. (Course, things didn’t end up too well for them, either.)

@WesternRoadtripper, I’m in Delaware, but maybe it would hold up long enough to get out there…

I did have someone after me to buy it a few years ago. I figured he was after the engine or transmission. I told him that if he paid me what is was worth to me I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

@Docnick, I’ve done everything but shoot it in the head (up until now) and it still keeps hanging around for more. But you are right, it’s in it’s dumping money in a hole in the pavement days.

I’ll report back when I know what’s happened.

If it’s just the head gasket gone kaput, driving it for a short distance probably woulnd’t do much damage, provided the oil level and pressure is ok and the coolant is circulating and the temperature stays within limits. But it sounds like you are concerned about the timing belt too. So it is probably best to have it towed. This doesn’t sound like a timing belt issue to me though, sounds more like a blown head gasket as db above says. It could be something less or more serious too. Might just be a stuck open EGR valve. Hard to say. But I expect your mechanic will have no difficulty diagnosing the problem, since the symptoms are consistent and readily apparent. Tow it in and see what the shop says.

If the timing belt jumped, the damage is already done and driving it isn’t going to make it worse. I seriously doubt this is what happened though, as it wouldn’t likely run if this was the case. (though it sounds pretty stubborn) Is it really white smoke you’re seeing out the back or blue? Heck, the thing is likely only worth about 3-4 times the cost of a tow anyway to most people, so might as well drive it to the shop. Just keep an eye on the gauges and make sure it’s full of oil and coolant before you leave. And hopefully they aren’t mixing.

I'm in Delaware, but maybe it would hold up long enough to get out there...
Thanks, but a coast to coast trip is not in my future this year! ;=)

So, the rings are shot in two of the four cylinders. Don’t know why two, but I trust this guy and it is consistent with what’s coming out the tailpipe (which reaks of raw gas).
Thanks, all. This conversation was very useful to me.

Thanks for the update, but the question is: did you drive it to the shop - or tow it?


Don’t get upset at this please

I don’t think it makes financial sense to fix the van

And will drive it to the salvage yard.
I wouldn’t buy one today, but if you happen to be in 1992, I recommend the Dodge Caravan.

Just to get you all in a twist, there’s a Vanagon for sale on the next block back.
Don’t bother to tell me about it. I had an original van for years. And lived through it, although I don’t know how. (Might have been too stoned to notice.)
Not looking to be sentimental. It just seems like cosmic coincidence.