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Common Signs Of a Worn Out Engine

Date :

September 13, 2014

Common Signs Of a Worn Out Engine


1) SMOKING... USUALLY LOTS OF IT. Smoke comes in lots of forms each with a distinct color that tells us a bit about what's going on inside the engine. Those colors are white, black and blue – we'll look at each type and tell you what it can mean.

WHITE SMOKE: If you're getting a lot of white smoke from the tailpipe, chances are you've got a blown head gasket or damaged cylinder head. That white smoke you're seeing is coolant & water entering the combustion chamber, and it most likely started with the engine running hot. Check your engine oil dipstick and oil filler cap. If it's covered in a creamy brown or tan goo, there's water and coolant in your oil. Then,when the engine is cold, check the coolant level in your radiator. It's probably going to be low. If that's the case, the top end of your engine (cylinder head) needs to come off to determine the extent of failure and cost to repair.

BLACK SMOKE: Black smoke indicates your engine is running rich. Most of the time it doesn't mean your engine needs rebuilding, rather, it needs repairs related to the items that control the fuel/air mixture entering the combustion chamber. Too much fuel, or too little air and you have black smoke. There are times when black smoke can indicate serious internal engine troubles, but it's more an exception than the rule.

BLUE SMOKE: Only one thing burns blue and that's engine oil. Several components inside your engine can cause this to happen, but the basic condition is the same. Oil is getting past sealing surfaces due to wear or breakage. But, is it the top end of your engine that's the culprit or the bottom end? Could be one or the other, or both. 

At the top end of your engine is the cylinder head or cylinder heads (in the case of V type engines like V6 or V8 engines). What's happening is oil is leaking past worn valve guide seals or a broken valve guide. There are a few inspections and tests that can be performed to determine the extent of failure, but to fix these types of problems, the cylinder head(s) need to come off. 

Deeper into your engine is the bottom end where the pistons are found. Another common cause of blue smoke is worn, collapsed or broken piston rings. The pistons in your engine move up and down in cylinders machined into the engine block. Piston rings fit into small groves at the top of each piston creating a sealing surface that maintains an adequate amount of compression while still allowing enough oil by to lubricate the cylinder walls. When excessive wear or breakage occurs, oil gets past those sealing surfaces mixing with the fuel then burning off when the fuel mixture ignites. Once again, there are some tests that can be done to determine the extent of the wear or damage, but the bottom line is the engine needs to come apart for inspection and repair.

The first signs of these types of problems is an increase in oil consumption. If you've been used to topping off your engine oil level in between oil changes, but not too often, and now the amount of oil you're having to add in between those oil changes has risen, your engine is telling you something. If you find yourself having to add oil every few hundred miles, you've got trouble coming. The sooner you address the problem, the lower the bill can be. Wait too long and you'll pay dearly. 

2) NOISES... UGLY, LOUD BANGING AND KNOCKING NOISES. Hard to miss and scary as heck, loud engine noises that sound like someone banging on a anvil with a hammer are never good. Most of the time those loud noises are coming from the bottom end of your engine indicating that there's been a bearing failure at the crankshaft or at the point where the connecting rods meet the pistons... the piston wrist pins. The more load you put on the engine, like climbing a hill or accelerating quickly, the louder the noise. About the worst thing you can do in this case is to keep driving the vehicle! While the knocking sound is a sure sign on internal engine trouble that needs prompt attention, your engine is usually still serviceable – meaning that no irreparable damage has been done to the engine block, cylinder head(s) and crankshaft. But, and it's a big but, let it go and keep driving and you're sure to end up stranded on the side of the road with a hole in the engine block and worse. Our advice? Don't ignore warning signs that can lead to bigger problems and bigger repair bills. Get it checked out and repaired, whether you bring it to us or elsewhere... you'll save yourself time and money in the long run.

Now, not all knocking noises coming from your engine mean you need a rebuild. Knocking noises can come from the top end, or valve train. Sticking or leaking hydraulic valve lifters, worn camshafts or rocker arms and a host of other top end engine components can cause knocking noises as well. Most of the time, these types of problems can be solved without tearing apart the entire engine. 

3) MAJOR LOSS IN POWER AND ROUGH RUNNING.... SLOWLY OR ALL AT ONCE
Engines rely on tight tolerances to operate efficiently and effectively. Lose those critical tolerances and the ability of your engine to perform as intended falls by the wayside. A gradual loss in power over the course of years and thousands and thousands of miles is to be expected and falls into the category of wear and tear. A rapid or immediate loss of power can indicate a major component failure and should be addressed quickly. Usually, an immediate change comes with other symptoms like rough running or noises. If you're experiencing this type of trouble, get it into a shop now, and it might be a good idea to tow it in as opposed to risking catastrophic and expensive damage by driving it any longer.

CONCLUSION: No one ever wants to have engine troubles, But much like our own bodies, our car's engine will give us plenty of signs that it needs attention. In either case, if we ignore those signs long enough, they'll end up as bigger problems. Take a proactive stance when those signs start popping up and you can fix the trouble at a lower cost and with less hassle. 

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