Engine Failure – There Are Warning Signs – What To Watch For !

Engines are usually one of the last components that will fail on a car.

Still, engine failure does happen – but there are ways that you can mitigate the damage.

There are a lot of potential causes for an engine to fail, but some—like overheating, poor lubrication and detonation—are more common than others.

Engine Failure
Engine Failure

Because an engine runs incredibly hot, it relies on a complex system to cool it.

Engine Failure – There Are Warning Signs – What to Watch For !

However, these systems themselves may fail without you realizing, allowing the engine’s condition to deteriorate.

So, Coolant leaks and malfunctioning fans are common contributing factors.

Also, Lubrication issues arise from not changing the oil often enough, regular wear and tear, and faulty delivery systems.

And, 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 engine failure and avoid a massive auto repair bill is to:

  • Look for warning lights to flicker on
  • Listen for popping, knocking, or other unnatural sounds coming from your engine
  • Your engine producing foul scents or the distinct smell of burning or melting rubber
  • Feel for sudden jerks and shaking
  • If your car starts smoking

The major causes of engine failure can be lumped into three basic categories:

  • Overheating
  • Lubrication
  • Detonation

Overheating

Engine Overheating Topics - So, How Hot Is Too Hot
Engine Overheating Topics – So, How Hot Is Too Hot

Overheating can be caused by any number of things. It is often the result of coolant loss or a low coolant level, which is turn may be due to leaks in hoses, the radiator or the engine itself. A weak radiator cap that leaks pressure can allow coolant to escape from the system. Not getting the cooling system completely filled after changing the antifreeze can allow steam pockets to form that make the engine overheat or run hot. An electric cooling fan that fails to come on due to a faulty thermostat, relay, wiring or motor may be an overlooked cause of overheating. So too can a slipping fan clutch. Even a missing fan shroud that reduces the fan’s effectiveness may be a contributing factor.

Lubrication

Every engine needs oil between its moving parts not only to reduce friction but also to carry away heat. Oil is the primary means by which the rod and main bearings are cooled. So any reduction in oil flow may cause these parts to run hot, gall and seize.

Detonation

Spark Knock
Spark Knock

Piston detonation (Spark Knock ) is a form of abnormal combustion that results 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.

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
  • Smash rod bearings
  • Blow head gaskets

Engine Failure-Conclusion

Finally, In general, poor maintenance may do more damage your engine than almost anything else.

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About Danny Bender 175 Articles
I have been into cars for as long as I can remember but the engine is what interested me the most. Now with over 40 years in the engine rebuilding and machine shop industry I have retired. I will be spending my time sharing what I have learned while keeping up with the latest Technology - Helping Solve Engine Problems !