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'96 Toyota Camry isn't doing so well
May 13, 2010 10:40 AM   Subscribe

My daughter's car ruptured a radiator hose. I replaced it, and now it's not running properly. Help!

Last year I bought my teenage daughter a 1996 Toyota Camry LE, which has a 4-cylinder engine. It's been running just fine until last week when the upper radiator hose tore open while she was driving it. She was almost home, and drove maybe a 1/4-mile with steam coming out from under the hood.

I replaced the radiator hose, topped off the radiator fluid, and felt that everything should be fine. However, now the engine runs very choppy, The longer it runs, the choppier it gets. (By choppy, I mean it sounds like a lawnmower engine). When the engine is cold, it runs choppy but will idle and it can be driven. But as the engine gets warmer, I have to give the engine gas to keep it idling, and whenever the car is put into gear the engine dies.

All of the fluids are topped off, nothing seems out of place so I am at a loss here. Again, the car never had issues before this. The engine always ran smoothly. Any advice/tips/suggestions before I consult a mechanic?
posted by doh ray mii to Grab Bag (19 answers total)
 
I think you cooked the head gasket. If so, prepare to bend over.
posted by notsnot at 10:43 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like your headgasket is leaking coolant into your combustion chamber or chambers. You can pull the sparkplugs to see if they have a greenish tint to them. Is the car exhaust white. The car will run like you are describing if you are leaking coolant into the combustion chambers, the car should actually be running warmer than usual too.
posted by ionized at 10:48 AM on May 13, 2010


Seconding major engine badness. 1/4 mile with no coolant is 1/4 mile too far.
posted by zippy at 10:49 AM on May 13, 2010


Can you do a compression test?
posted by fritley at 10:49 AM on May 13, 2010


If you're very lucky something in the ignition system is wet, but it could very well be a blown head gasket or cracked head.

Pull the dipstick. Does the oil look like it has water mixed with it? If so, bad news.

Sending good luck vibes your way!
posted by Daddy-O at 10:55 AM on May 13, 2010


The car will run like you are describing if you are leaking coolant into the combustion chambers, the car should actually be running warmer than usual too.

Actually, the car will not get even up to halfway on the temperature gauge. By that time, the car is idling so roughly that I just turn it off. The oil looks fine - it doesn't have that tell-tale frothy chocolate milk look to it. Hadn't thought of checking the sparkplugs, I'll have to take a look later.

Thanks for the help so far. I was hoping it was some simple problem.
posted by doh ray mii at 11:25 AM on May 13, 2010


Daddy-O's suggestion about a wet ignition system is a good one, too. Check the distributor and any sensors associated with engine spark for wetness or fouling from coolant spraying and condensing everywhere. On my car, the distributor and crank sensor are right below the water pump, and so any leaks lead to the engine stumbling or being impossible to start.

Another thing I would consider is that you might have a lot of air in the cooling system after replacing a broken hose and then topping off the coolant. While I don't think this would make your engine run rough, it could cause problems with coolant circulation.
posted by zippy at 11:34 AM on May 13, 2010


A quarter mile should not cook the engine, unless it was a quarter mile of heavy traffic and took many minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if in performing the repair you didn't knock a vacuum hose loose.
posted by caddis at 11:40 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There won't necessarily be water in the oil - it sounds like it may be getting straight into the cylinder and burnt/preventing it burning properly.

How much water was topped up when you replaced the hose? Often if a hose bursts, it empties the coolant pretty damn quickly - within 30 seconds is usual. If the car was run for much longer than that (the time it ran is more important than the distance) then it is most likely screwed.

if the engine ran for more than a minute with no water in, there may be no point trying to repair it. The water pump relies on water for lubrication, so that'll be screwed, and it's possible the head will have warped and/or cracked. The block could also have been damaged.

It's not likely you will get a good result from this. Without knowing how long the car was driven for after the water getting out (did she hear the hose pop?) it's impossible to rule out serious damage, and even that is an outside chance.
posted by Brockles at 11:42 AM on May 13, 2010


Thirding the distributor. If you get water in there, it'll run like you're describing.
posted by schmod at 12:15 PM on May 13, 2010


I see no mention of replacing the thermostat.
posted by JayRwv at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2010


A 1/4 mile shouldn't blow the head gasket, but if it was weak or on its way out it might have. Its actually possible that the head gasket went and then the overpressure in the cooling system then blew the hose, this actually seems more likely to me than a short 1200 foot drive with little cooling. I would first check for water in the distributor/plug wires, and check for lose vacaum hoses. If you don't find a problem or this doesn't fix it, do a compression test on the cylinders and see if that isn't the problem. putting a new head on this car shouldn't be too hard, there are a ton in junkyards and aftermarket support is really good, and there are a lot of mechanics out there that know how to work on these.
posted by bartonlong at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2010


It could easily have been only 1/4 mile after she noticed it, but much further before she noticed it. I once blew a motor this way -- burnt out idiot light, and I never saw the steam until I got off the freeway.
posted by jon1270 at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2010


Having read you question over agian closer than I did before, I noticed this part:

When the engine is cold, it runs choppy but will idle and it can be driven. But as the engine gets warmer, I have to give the engine gas to keep it idling, and whenever the car is put into gear the engine dies.
The engine when it over heated could have taken out the coolant sensor that tells the computer in your car how warm it is. If it failed in the defualt position, the ECM (computer) would think the engine is cold all the time. This would drive your fuel system to a full rich condition. Full rich is fine when the engine is cold, but as the engine heats up the extra gas would cause it to run like crap, you giving it more gas when it is warm is actually just opening the butterfly on the throttle body to allow more air in. The extra air would mix with the extra gas to keep it running, but it would run sloppy as hell. Might be a cheap fix if it is just a bad temp sensor, on your car it is called a THW sensor.
posted by ionized at 3:48 PM on May 13, 2010


Autozone will read the computer error codes for you.
posted by caddis at 4:22 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


He has an OBD1 system that year, it dosnt store codes for the temp sensors, OBD2 would. Are there any check engine lights?
posted by ionized at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


He has an OBD1 system that year

Incorrect. The vehicle is a 1996 and is OBDII compliant. Also, many 1995 or 1995.5 model year Japanese cars have OBDII compliant data link connectors that can communicate with code readers. A malfunctioning coolant temp sensor almost always causes extended crank time or an eye-watteringly pig rich condition at a cold start, not a choppy misfire.

After obtaining the trouble codes, which will likely include P0300 Multiple Misfire and something additional pertaining to the overheating incident like a P0118, the next step is to examine the ignition system for moisture or melting. Remove the plug wires from the spark plug wells in the valve cover to make sure that moisture hasn't flooded the wells and is encouraging a short. Look for signs of plug wires shorting. The wire will appear white and burnt where the spark is leaking.
Remove the distributer cap and make sure it's dry. A quick easy check is to get a can of brake clean and spray it on the ignition system while it's running to displace the moisture.
The thermostat should be replaced after the vehicle has been overheated to make sure it's not damaged.
There's certainly a possibility that there's a big air pocket trapped in the cooling system, but that will cause a rolling idle as the air pockets travel past coolant sensors and cause false readings.

If the head gasket is blown, there a couple quick checks that you can try without using a compression tester.
With the radiator cap ON: Start the car. Let the vehicle idle for 3-5 minutes. Squeeze the upper radiator hose. If the hose has significant pressure without being hot to the touch, then the head gasket is leaking pressure into the cooling system. The cooling system pressure should be in linear and direct relation to system temperature. If you have pressure but no temperature, it's a fast and loose preliminary head gasket diagnosis.
Shut the vehicle off and carefully remove the radiator cap. Restart the engine and check if the coolant is bubbling out of the radiator cap when the engine is cold. If bubbles are forming, then it could be an indicator of combustion gas finding a way into the cooling system via a damaged head gasket.
The other check is to monitor oil level and condition. If the oil is exceeding the maximum mark on the dipstick and is on its way to becoming a milkshake, that's classic head gasket failure.

Remove the spark plugs and observe their condition. If they're dark, damp, and stink like raw gas, then you likely have an ignition related misfire. If they're bleached out, that could be an indicator that coolant is getting sucked into the cylinder. But, also check the throttle body and air filter. When the hose exploded, there's some potential the the coolant got sucked into the air intake and is now being drawn into the engine through the intake manifold. That's not the most likely scenario, but it's something I'd check when confronted with a coolant-soaked engine bay.
posted by Jon-o at 6:21 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to add that you should stop turning the engine on until you have a better idea of what is wrong. Running the engine could turn a cheap problem into an expensive one.
posted by twblalock at 8:39 PM on May 13, 2010


A quarter mile should not cook the engine, unless it was a quarter mile of heavy traffic and took many minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if in performing the repair you didn't knock a vacuum hose loose.

That's it!! There was a vacuum hose lose - replacing it made the car run just fine. Thanks to all who gave answers, though.
posted by doh ray mii at 3:17 PM on May 23, 2010


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