Author Topic: Ripoff Mechanic?  (Read 2293 times)

acepedro45

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Ripoff Mechanic?
« on: July 05, 2016, 05:28:13 PM »
A relative of mine badly overheated her minivan to the point where the check engine light was not just on, but was flashing (a more experienced driver would have known to stop immediately once the check engine light was flashing but she just kept driving, ugh).

English is not her first language and she's pretty much clueless when it comes to cars, so I ended up with the mechanic to do the postmortem. This is a random guy since the breakdown happened far away from her home but an hour's drive from mine (random guy = automatic Yellow Alert on the mechanic ripoff index).

The mechanic thought the car must have been overheating badly enough to have warped the engine block. He said when he refilled the coolant system with water and then cranked the engine, the fluid shot immediately out of the uncapped radiator. It hasn't started since the accident.

The way he explained it, the warped engine block meant that compression from the strokes would end up being dissipated uselessly into the coolant system.

He said the only option was to replace the engine, which just isn't economical when an identical model could be purchased for less, hence the car is basically junk now.

Couple questions for Mustachians with deeper car smarts than me:

1. Is it plausible that driving with an overheated engine could cause such catastrophic damage? I'm not sure how long they were driving with the check engine light flashing. My relatives thought 5 minutes or so; the mechanic said it would have to be 20-25 minutes to cause such damage.

2. Is the salvage value of a used Toyota Sienna with a blown engine truly nothing? I pressed him on this because I thought any car, even an immobile one, is worth a few hundred dollars in spare parts for salvage. He said the market for junked cars has collapsed lately and we might be able to get $50 for it. That seemed low to me and I have to admit I had my suspicions since the options he gave us were 1. figure out a way to haul it away ourselves or 2. sign it over to them for nothing.


whodidntante

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2016, 06:24:17 PM »

1. Is it plausible that driving with an overheated engine could cause such catastrophic damage? I'm not sure how long they were driving with the check engine light flashing. My relatives thought 5 minutes or so; the mechanic said it would have to be 20-25 minutes to cause such damage.

What failed to cause the engine to overheat?  An engine can survive hellish conditions, taxi service in traffic on the hottest day in Vegas, as long as everything is working correctly.  If she didn't know enough to quickly pull over with an overheated engine, you can't really trust her assessment of how long it was overheated IMO.   


2. Is the salvage value of a used Toyota Sienna with a blown engine truly nothing? I pressed him on this because I thought any car, even an immobile one, is worth a few hundred dollars in spare parts for salvage. He said the market for junked cars has collapsed lately and we might be able to get $50 for it. That seemed low to me and I have to admit I had my suspicions since the options he gave us were 1. figure out a way to haul it away ourselves or 2. sign it over to them for nothing.

What year, what mileage, what condition (besides the blown engine)?  Too many unknowns.  You might be able to buy a used engine, but it won't be cheap by the time you get it installed.  There is some risk the job will overrun on cost, too.  If the van was only worth 2 grand running, it's probably time to give up. 

Commodity prices have bottomed lately and scrap metal isn't worth what it used to be.  Years ago, I expected $300 for a car.  I don't know if you can expect that anymore. 

Get a second opinion if you don't trust the answers you got.  I would. 

brotatochip

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2016, 06:32:53 PM »
Why would he start the van with the radiator cap off?  No shit the coolant will shot out!  Worse case scenero she warped the cylinder heads and destroyed the headgasket.  If that's the case and the car is worth less than $2000 I would junk it. 

mlm808it

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2016, 07:36:12 PM »
the radiator cap should be on when starting the car. the fact that he left it off and coolant shot out is no surprise, and it leads me to believe he does not know what he is doing. has it not started since the accident because you chose not to start it or because you have tried but it won't start up? as far as the blown head gasket. have you checked the oil by looking at the dipstick? does it look like regular clear/brown/black oil or does it look milky like it possibly mixed with coolant? that would be signs of a blown head gasket. and NO.. the value of a used sienna with warped cylinder heads will not be $50.. you can get more money for it then that, do not sign over to this guy.

acepedro45

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2016, 07:40:53 PM »
I apreciate your responses so far. I feel awful because she definitely has no money for another car. She's a single mom doing her best but her skill suite doesn't include any auto common sense.

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What failed to cause the engine to overheat?

Our working theory (which I should have included in my original post; shame on me) is that there was a slow leak in the engine coolant and it slowly drained away over time. This was a rare long trip for her. She usually drives a couple of miles around her town at a time. I think it's even possible she could have been running without coolant around town but never far enough to overheat the engine.

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If she didn't know enough to quickly pull over with an overheated engine, you can't really trust her assessment of how long it was overheated IMO.   

I agree.

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Why would he start the van with the radiator cap off?... Worse case scenero she warped the cylinder heads and destroyed the headgasket. 

I thought that was a diagnostic technique to see how much extra pressure was leaking out of the engine into the coolant system. For what it's worth, the car did not actually run, just chugged as he turned the starter and then died.

Yes, the mechanic thought she warped the cylinder heads and basically ruined her engine.

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has it not started since the accident because you chose not to start it or because you have tried but it won't start up? as far as the blown head gasket. have you checked the oil by looking at the dipstick? does it look like regular clear/brown/black oil or does it look milky like it possibly mixed with coolant? that would be signs of a blown head gasket.

It would not start after the breakdown at all. Please don't laugh, but my relative tried jumping it with the help of a kindly passerby. Obviously that didn't do anything.

I just was reading about checking the oil and looking for the milky stuff as you posted. Unfortunately I had no idea earlier this afternoon.

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What year, what mileage, what condition (besides the blown engine)?


I'm not totally sure on the particulars, but probably a market value of $6000-7000 (if running) these days, which is a similar price to what he thought it would cost to purchase and install another engine.

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Commodity prices have bottomed lately and scrap metal isn't worth what it used to be.

So it sounds pretty much like the scrapping quote is on the up-and-up. Bummer.

v8rx7guy

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2016, 08:14:29 PM »
I'm not sure if some of you know what you are talking about. Yes you can absoutely start a car without the radiator cap on.  The system does not become pressurized until the vehicle gets up to temperature.  In fact, to fill the coolant system, you do this with the car running and the cap off. 

Now, if the head gasket is blown, the compresseion of the engine can leak into the cooling system and pressurize it as the mechanic is reporting, so thats believable... of course there are much more professional ways of checking this! 

The one thing I would wonder is if it's the head(s) which are warped, or th he block. Heads can be machined and the gaskets replaced, but as others have mentioned, that can easily be $2000 or more. 

The $50 scrap value is a bit of a lowball, but honestly maybe more like $150-$200 is more reasonable. Scrap value is way down.  Of course if someone had the knowlege, it could be parted out for probably over $1,000 but that takes a lot of work...

Clean Shaven

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2016, 11:50:11 AM »
I'm not sure if some of you know what you are talking about. Yes you can absoutely start a car without the radiator cap on.  The system does not become pressurized until the vehicle gets up to temperature.  In fact, to fill the coolant system, you do this with the car running and the cap off. 

Now, if the head gasket is blown, the compresseion of the engine can leak into the cooling system and pressurize it as the mechanic is reporting, so thats believable... of course there are much more professional ways of checking this! 

The one thing I would wonder is if it's the head(s) which are warped, or th he block. Heads can be machined and the gaskets replaced, but as others have mentioned, that can easily be $2000 or more. 

The $50 scrap value is a bit of a lowball, but honestly maybe more like $150-$200 is more reasonable. Scrap value is way down.  Of course if someone had the knowlege, it could be parted out for probably over $1,000 but that takes a lot of work...

X2 on everything quoted here.

HipGnosis

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2016, 02:29:53 PM »
I'm not sure if some of you know what you are talking about. Yes you can absoutely start a car without the radiator cap on.  The system does not become pressurized until the vehicle gets up to temperature.  In fact, to fill the coolant system, you do this with the car running and the cap off. 

Now, if the head gasket is blown, the compresseion of the engine can leak into the cooling system and pressurize it as the mechanic is reporting, so thats believable... of course there are much more professional ways of checking this! 

The one thing I would wonder is if it's the head(s) which are warped, or th he block. Heads can be machined and the gaskets replaced, but as others have mentioned, that can easily be $2000 or more. 

The $50 scrap value is a bit of a lowball, but honestly maybe more like $150-$200 is more reasonable. Scrap value is way down.  Of course if someone had the knowlege, it could be parted out for probably over $1,000 but that takes a lot of work...

+ 1
The $50 scrap value might be net after paying to have it towed to the scrap yard.  She might look into donating it to a charity (that accepts non-running vehicles) for the tax credit.

Google the shop it's at.  If it's been in business a while, they most probably know what they're talking about.  Check their customer reviews on a couple sites.
If needed; google the name of the town it's in.  Then go to the map of the town (in Google).  Then search ''Auto service" (without leaving the map of the town).  Pan around; noting the review ratings of the service shops.  Have it towed to a shop with a good (you don't need great) rating.
But I'd bet they just confirm what the 'random' shop told you. 

JAYSLOL

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Re: Ripoff Mechanic?
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2016, 06:56:55 PM »
I'm not sure if some of you know what you are talking about. Yes you can absoutely start a car without the radiator cap on.  The system does not become pressurized until the vehicle gets up to temperature.  In fact, to fill the coolant system, you do this with the car running and the cap off. 

Now, if the head gasket is blown, the compresseion of the engine can leak into the cooling system and pressurize it as the mechanic is reporting, so thats believable... of course there are much more professional ways of checking this! 

The one thing I would wonder is if it's the head(s) which are warped, or th he block. Heads can be machined and the gaskets replaced, but as others have mentioned, that can easily be $2000 or more. 

The $50 scrap value is a bit of a lowball, but honestly maybe more like $150-$200 is more reasonable. Scrap value is way down.  Of course if someone had the knowlege, it could be parted out for probably over $1,000 but that takes a lot of work...

What he said. 

From the sounds of it the engine is absolutely toast.  If the choice is between replacing the engine in this car or scraping it and buying one for the same cost.  SCRAP IT NOW.  If they drove it with the engine light blinking and without checking fluids or anything else for who knows how long, there are bound to be more issues with this vehicle.  The mechanic quoting the same price to replace the engine as replacing car may be his way of kindly discouraging them from spending a pile of money having the work done on a beat to shit car.  If they plan to buy the same model used, try to save the tires and rims off the old car if they are in decent shape before it gets sent to the junkyard (or even floor mats or whatever else can wear out thats easy to take).