The engine fitted to your car or truck is a very reliable piece of equipment and is over-engineered by its manufacturer to ensure that it can put up with a reasonable amount of abuse. As you may know, it cannot operate by itself and will rely on a constant mixture of petrol, air and electricity, and so long as you continue to feed it in this way, you should enjoy happy motoring. However, you will also need to ensure that you provide a constant flow of coolant to keep the internal temperature in check and while the engine will run without it, it won't be for long. If you've been very forgetful when it comes to routine maintenance and have suffered an engine failure, what can be done to rectify things?
Sometimes it doesn't matter how much coolant you put into the radiator or overflow container, as the vehicle will still overheat. This can be caused by something very small and quite cheap like the thermostat, which can stick in the open or closed position and prevent any coolant from flowing through into the engine block. Even though the thermostat only costs a few dollars, it can lead to a repair bill that runs into the thousands.
The Consequence of Overheating
When the engine does not receive an adequate amount of coolant, one of the first elements to break is the head gasket that sits in between the cylinder head and the engine block. This component is not meant to deal with extreme temperatures and will perforate, allowing coolant to flow into the oil chambers with devastating effect.
This process normally takes place over a matter of days and weeks and the driver should get an indication that something is wrong. Usually performance will suffer, strange noises will begin to emanate and a lot of white smoke will flow out of the exhaust. Any of these signs should prompt a visit to a mechanic for car service.
Time for a Rebuild
If damage has been done due to overheating, the engine will typically need to be removed and disassembled from top to bottom. The mechanic will look for any internal damage, in particular around the cylinders. These may need to be realigned so that any new pistons will fit correctly and operate as they should.
The rebuild will also call for a complete set of gaskets, o-rings, bearings, valve springs, filters and seals, while the mechanic will also use the occasion to replace the timing belt and oil pump.
Whenever you can, always opt to rebuild an engine rather than replace it. While replacement will typically be the cheaper approach, the original engine is mapped to work with the central computer and it will be easier to align all the sensors properly after the rebuild.
An engine rebuild is a very specialised job, so make sure that you choose a mechanic with experience in this area.