Car won't start
July 6, 2009 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Help Me find out what wrong with my car, or find a mechanic i can trust in Laguna Niguel, CA.

So i bought a '91 Ford Areostar that had the engine rebuilt on '01 for really cheap. It overheated on a big hill and now it won't start although it does turn over like it's trying to, it is also very slowly leaking water after the overheating incident. If it's something i can go in and check myself I'd prefer to do so but if not help me find a mechanic that's not out to gouge me.
posted by unsurmountable to Travel & Transportation around Laguna Niguel, CA (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Overheating can lead to a lot of pretty terrible, pretty damning things.

What happened when it overheated on the hill? (cut-off, blink the light at you, smoke or steam from any car orifice?)

If it overheated badly enough, you could have warped a head or blown a head gasket (the latter is better than the former, but they both suck). You would want to check for "compression" in this case (the mechanic will know what you are getting at). My guess is that if either of these issues are at fault here, you would probably be better off just retiring the car rather than fixing them.

It could be the case that the non-starting is unrelated (maybe try jump starting it after you are sure that you have plenty of coolant in the system). A decent mechanic would give this scenario a quick walk around and assess the other issues that could be at fault. You really want this to be something coincidental, and they probably do to.

Has anything else happened in the car's recent past that could be related?
posted by milqman at 11:24 AM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: RE: finding a mechanic, I've had reasonable success using Car Talk's Mechanics Files. You can usually find someone nearby with multiple favorable reviews.

Good luck!
posted by usonian at 11:36 AM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: There was visible smoke right before it cut out and the lights blinked as well.
posted by unsurmountable at 11:40 AM on July 6, 2009

I'm no mechanic but I've had pretty much the same thing happen to me (in that case it was something called the "freeze plugs") but ..... it basically cooked my engine. Well done. By all means take it to a reputable mechanic (ie have it towed) but I'd prepare for a "So, what new car were you looking at?" talk.
posted by elendil71 at 11:44 AM on July 6, 2009

I agree with milqman -- this sounds pretty much like every blown head gasket I've ever had.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:51 AM on July 6, 2009

Yeah, if you notice the car overheating and stop before it explodes, you can get away cheap sometimes. If you wait until the car quits moving and belches smoke, you are probably looking at quite a bill. Consider yourself lucky if it is only a head gasket.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:56 AM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, it sounds like I'm out of a car. Usonian's recommendation is exactly what i was looking for to find a mechanic though.
posted by unsurmountable at 1:14 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Cheap rebuild + overheating = destroyed head gasket. Sorry dude!
Your Aerostar is a 4.0 V6, I believe, which means you have two cylinder heads. Each head will need a new head gasket. You might be able to get away with one, depending on which bank exhibits low compression, but the best repair would be to replace both.
This might get expensive, unfortunately. Minivans don't leave much room to access the engine, since they've got that cab-forward design and really short hood. On vans like that, the Astro or even larger vans like the Express, to do any major engine work, the engine generally has to come out of the vehicle.
posted by Jon-o at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Not in Laguna, but I cannot recommend South Coast Auto Clinic in Costa Mesa enough. They are the singular most honest auto shop I've ever visited. Case in point: I brought my car in recently when it started making an awful grind-y noise whenever I'd turn left. Within 10 minutes of dropping my car off, the mechanic called me back with a chuckle and showed me the source of the noise: a bottle cap had lodged itself in the wheel-basin. I had them change my license-plate light while it was there, and the entire shebang cost $15. $15! I have never paid so little for any diagnostic work done to my car. The mechanic also let me know the remaining lifespan of my brake-pads - no up-sell, nothing! I can say with almost 100% certainty that if I had brought this problem into the dealer, I would have had to shell out $80 minimum. Jerks.

I know that this sounds like I'm in their pocket, but i have zero personal affiliation with this shop. They are just honestly awesome mechanics. Seriously, just check out the other glowing Yelp reviews! I have found an auto-shop for life (which I will drive out of my way to visit). Sal (the owner) is a hell of a nice guy, too. Aces all around.
posted by numinous at 4:59 PM on July 6, 2009

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