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Signs of a Seized Engine

Signs of a Seized Engine
Failure of even minor parts of a engine can eventually lead to severe problems. One of the major issues that can arise is a seized engine, which can lead to major repairs and expenses. Let us look at the various signs and symptoms of a seized engine to recognize and rectify this situation in time.
Anuj Mudaliar
Quick Tip
Repairing or replacing a seized engine can be extremely expensive, it can cost you around USD 10,000. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you get your car serviced and the engine oil changed regularly, as mentioned in the owner's manual.

Seized Engine Meaning
A smoothly running car engine is a synchronized movement of various components. Even if one small component malfunctions, or functions out of sync, the engine may get heavily damaged over time. Usually when an engine seizes, the internal components freeze or lock up to such an extent that, the crankshaft is unable to turn in the bearings. This happens because the internal parts such as pistons, rod bearings, piston rings, etc., overheat and weld together. Such conditions may require you to change the entire engine, and this can be terribly expensive. Hence, it is very important for car owners to recognize warning signs, and rectify the problem before it is too late. Let us now look at the causes and warning signs of a seized engine.
Seized Engine Causes
  • The most common cause for an engine to seize up is insufficient engine oil, which causes overheating, melting, and amalgamation of the engine parts.
  • Lack of engine oil also results in lowered lubrication, which results in damage of the bearings. Ordinarily, you will need to replace the engine in such a situation.
  • Accumulation of water inside the engine can cause it to seize, as water is not compressible like gasoline.
  • Accumulation of rust due to the car remaining unused for a long period of time can also cause the engine to seize up.
  • In rare cases, faulty components can fail or break and cause the engine to seize.

Early Warning Signs
Before the engine seizes, one can usually observe a number of signs which foretell the impending disaster.
  • Initially, one can hear faint tapping or knocking sounds coming from the running engine.
  • When an engine is close to seizing up, one may hear loud knocking sounds without any metallic pinging. This occurs when the piston rod hits the engine's crankshaft, and is called a 'dead knock'.
  • Poor engine performance, strange noises, and check oil lights on the dashboard, need to be addressed promptly to reduce the chance of engine seizures.

It is important to get your car to a mechanic as soon as you notice the first warning signs. Let us now look at the signs and symptoms that one sees after the engine has seized.
Seized Engine Symptoms
  • The most prominent seized engine sign is complete engine failure, i.e., no matter how much you try, the engine will not start. Even though the car battery-operated devices such as the radio, lights, blower, etc., are functioning, the engine will not turn on.
  • On cranking, loud clunking sounds can be heard from a seized engine, due to the stater hitting the flywheel.
  • In some cases, one may even observe an internal component, such as a piston, piercing through the engine block, because the loose components will lodge into another part of the engine with enough force to break through.
  • Due to the inability of the starter to turn the motor, the wiring can overheat, leading to fumes and even a fire, a sure sign of a seized engine.

Testing
  • Method 1: Put a socket and long ratchet on the front crankshaft bolt and try to turn the engine. If the engine does not turn, it is most probably seized.
  • Method 2: Remove the spark plugs and try to turn the engine.
  • Method 3: If the crankshaft is rotating properly, pour a little penetrating oil into the cylinders through the spark plug hole. If the oil goes in successfully, your engine might not have seized.

Repair
The process of repair usually depends on the cause of the seizure. The recommended procedure is to replace the engine completely, as the damage is normally very severe. However, in case of rare, high-performance engines, you will have to replace almost all the internal components, and take the engine to a machine shop to repair the engine block. All seized engine rectification procedures are almost guaranteed to be expensive.
Although it is sometimes possible to repair a seized engine on your own, it is recommended that you get the work done by a professional as the job is quite complicated, carrying out repairs on your own may damage the engine even further. Moreover, engine replacement cannot be done properly without expensive and sophisticated equipment, which are available only in auto repair shops.
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