Automotive Engine Failure – Warning Signs And Major Causes

Check Engine Light (CEL)
Check Engine Light (CEL)

Automotive engine failure, is usually one of the last things to happen in your vehicle.

Still, automotive engine failure, does happen, quite often. But, there are ways that you can, reduce the damage.

Consequently, there are a lot of potential causes, for automotive engine failure. But, some like overheating, poor lubrication and detonation, are more common than others.

So, if you have had, an automotive engine failure, don’t just fix it.

Because, you need to know what happened, to avoid a repeat failure. So, a good place to start your postmortem, is to review the circumstances, that lead up to the failure. Because, an engine runs incredibly hot, it relies on a complex system to cool it.

Automotive Engine Failure
Automotive Engine Failure

However, these systems themselves, may fail without you really knowing. Furthermore, letting the engine slowly decline over time. Consequently, coolant leaks and fans, that are not working, are all common factors.

Furthermore, lubrication issues arise from, not changing the oil often enough. Also, regular wear and tear and faulty delivery systems. In addition, detonation, which produces the telltale knocking sound, coming from under the hood.

Some Of The More Common Warning Signs

The best way to watch out for, automotive engine failure is to:

  • Look for warning lights, to flicker on.
  • Listen for popping, knocking or other unusual sounds, coming from your engine.
  • Check if your engine is producing, foul scents or the smell of, burning or melting rubber.
  • Feel for, sudden jerks and shaking.
  • Look for engine smoke.

So, the Major Causes Of, Automotive Engine Failure, Can Be Lumped Into, Three Basic Categories:

  • Overheating.
  • Lubrication.
  • Detonation.

Engine Overheating

So, engine overheating, can be caused by any number of things. And, is often the result of, coolant loss or a low coolant level. As a result, of leaks in hoses the radiator or the engine itself. Also, a weak radiator cap that leaks pressure, can allow coolant to escape from the system. And, result in, automotive engine failure.

Engine Overheating
Engine Overheating

Not getting the cooling system completely filled, after changing the engine coolant. Consequently, can allow steam pockets to form, that make the engine run hot. An electric cooling fan, that fails to come on. Most often, due to a faulty thermostat, relay, wiring or motor. Furthermore, so can a slipping fan clutch. Finally, even a missing fan shroud, that reduces the fan’s effectiveness, may be a factor.

The engine can overheat for several reasons, apart from just cooling system failure. For example, a faulty catalytic converter or other exhaust system restrictions. Because, this can make the engine work harder and eventually run hotter. Incorrect ignition timing, low fuel pressure, and overly restrictive air intake system.

Overheating engines can result in a complete seizure, since metal expands as temperatures increase. This can be catastrophic for the engine and in most cases is unrepairable.

Engine Lubrication

So, every engine needs oil, between its moving parts. Not only to reduce friction, but, also to carry away heat. Consequently, oil is the primary means, by which the rod and main bearings are cooled. And, is a common cause of, automotive engine failure.

Engine Lubrication
Engine Lubrication

So, any loss in oil flow, may cause these parts to run hot, and seize. Low oil pressure can also disrupt any oil pressure dependent systems. Including, (VVT) timing, which would result in poor fuel economy or worse. Low oil pressure can be caused by, a worn oil pump and low oil levels. And, low oil levels can be a result of, leakage and/or oil burning.

Detonation And Spark Knock

Piston detonation (Spark Knock ) is a form of, abnormal combustion. As a result, from too much heat and pressure, in the combustion chamber. The fuel ignites spontaneously, causing a sudden rise in cylinder pressure. The result is, a sharp hammer like blow, on the piston that produces, a metallic knocking or pinging noise. A common cause of, automotive engine failure.

Detonation And Spark Knock
Detonation And Spark Knock

So, light detonation, is considered normal and should not, cause any damage. But, heavy or prolonged detonation can:

  • Crack rings.
  • Pound out piston ring grooves.
  • Punch holes, through the tops of pistons.
  • Flatten, rod bearings.
  • Blow, head gaskets.


Consequently, poor maintenance, may cause more automotive engine failure, than almost anything else. Sometimes, having regular maintenance, could seem to be pricey. But, it is also important to do, to keep your vehicle in good working order.

Thank You !