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Thread: 97 Sebring craps out again.

  1. #1
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    97 Sebring craps out again.

    Here's what happened. On the freeway, just north of Carson City NV, I am going 70 MPH when the engine dies without warning. I then look at the gauges and notice the temp was pinned on "hot". It was a very cold night, well below 32F/0C. I never even thought about looking at the gauges before the engine died, so it's unknown how long it was "hot".

    I try to restart and hear nothing. No crank, no nothing, but headlights are still nice and bright. So I am thinking what's in common of both (engine dying and no cranking) when we (Tom & I) were being towed back here to NW Reno. I couldn't think of much, other than perhaps a fuse--I thought!

    But after we got it towed home, I discovered some very bad news. I tried to start again and it did crank and I assume it did on the freeway too, but I could not hear it next to the freeway because it cranked so fast! Obviously, there's no engine compression.

    I have done no more to figure it out yet, but I have a guess. The timing belt drives the water pump. I think perhaps the water pump froze and then the timing belt broke. That would explain the overheating as well as why the engine died suddenly at 70 MPH as well as why the starter spins at what seems like 10,000 RPMS. I was able to verify that the alternator was turning very fast on an attempted start when we got home. I had Tom try to start it when I looked under the hood.

    This water pump was changed by me 30,000 miles ago, along with the timing belt. That was two and a half years ago. I have not yet removed the timing belt cover or even started to work on it. But the timing belt should be changed in this every 60,000 miles. The water pump should last even longer, at least two timing belt changes. But both were changed 30K miles ago (2.5 years ago).

    It's a 2.5 L Mitsubishi V6 engine, in this 1997 Chrysler Sebring Convertible. It's listed as an interference engine. So what are my odds of major engine damage? Should I buy the belt, water pump and such and see what happens or should I just junk the car? There are 160,000 miles on this car. This car has broken down on me more than any vehicle I have owned. The distributor crapped out six months ago, which I mentioned in this forum. But when the car runs, it runs very well.

    Any comments or suggestions?

    BTW, I am now retired. I retired at the first of the year, so I have plenty of time to play with this stuff, but is it worth taking a chance with an interference engine?

    -Don- Reno, NV

  2. #2
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    An interference engine that breaks a timing belt at 70 is bound to have at least bent valves; probably all of them.
    ... and if any of the valve heads broke off, at least one broken or holed piston.
    As an educational experience, it might be fun to tear down the engine.
    ... but it's probably not worth fixing, even if your time is really cheap.
    If you like the car, replace the engine with a rebuild.
    If not, junk it.

  3. #3
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    I would also consider an oil pump failure. No oil, engine runs very hot and nips up/camshafts seize. Timing belt snaps. Was the anti-freeze concentration up to scratch for the ambient temperature? if it was then there was no reason for the water pump to freeze. If the belt drive is toothed and the water pump had seized the belt would, surely, have stripped/snapped when the car was started, after running a few miles the pump should have been warmed up and I doubt freezing would have occurred. If the timing belt stripped the engine would have turned the camshafts until the stripped area hit them, the crankshaft would still continue to run the belt but, with the timing way out there would, I would have thoought, been a few coughs and grunt then a load of mechanical noise as various bits of machinery collided.

    On balance I'll go for oil pump failure.

    Ken.
    Last edited by Ken; 01-05-2014 at 09:45 AM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    An interference engine that breaks a timing belt at 70 is bound to have at least bent valves; probably all of them.
    ... and if any of the valve heads broke off, at least one broken or holed piston.
    As an educational experience, it might be fun to tear down the engine.
    ... but it's probably not worth fixing, even if your time is really cheap.
    If you like the car, replace the engine with a rebuild.
    If not, junk it.
    Thanks Ken. I would bet you figured it out. Oil level is fine, I just now checked it. Coolant level is fine too. The thermostat was also changed 30K miles ago, so I would rule out that causing overheating, but I assume it's possible if it stuck closed. But I would doubt that as the engine was warm at the time of failure after around a 50 mile drive. The thermostat never should have even had time to close during the trip, so I would rule that out as the cause of overheating.

    So I expect you're correct with an oil pump failure. But in all my life, I never even heard of anybody having an oil pump failure. Isn't that quite rare? But it makes perfect sense and something I never thought about. The car was driven a good 50 miles when this happened and was perfectly normal before this.

    But thanks for saving me some money and time. I have decided to junk the car. I own too many cars anyway and I won't even miss this one.

    I will cancel the insurance and get it ready to be junked. However, this is a very nice looking car. It still has somewhat of a new look to it as it has always been garaged. It's a nice shinny red car with four new tires, The four tires only have around 500 miles on them. I will check later to see if they are the same size as any of my other cars. The four tires were just bought a couple of weeks ago.

    BTW, this is the second time I had to junk a vehicle just after buying new tires. I replaced all six tires in my old RV, also around 500 miles before a piston rod broke. And that was six tires and cost more than a thousand dollars for the six new tires. All junked, new tires and all.

    -Don- Reno, NV

  5. #5
    Ridin Dirty dom's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'd say the odds of that engine being toast are very good. I'd still want to see what exactly broke if it were my car and before I tossed it.

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  6. #6
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don
    So I expect you're correct with an oil pump failure. But in all my life, I never even heard of anybody having an oil pump failure. Isn't that quite rare? But it makes perfect sense and something I never thought about. The car was driven a good 50 miles when this happened and was perfectly normal before this.
    I don't know the engine in your car, Don, but the old 2L V4 and 3L V6 cast iron Ford lumps found in our Ford Transits were prone to pump drive failure. The pump was driven by a hexagonal shaft driving down from the distributor. The heat treatment of the metal shaft was poor and the edges rounded off after twenty or thirty thousand miles, bingo - no oil pump drive. On a fleet my bro' and I used to look after we changed the shafts every service - security of mind for five bucks.

    Ken.
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  7. #7
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dom View Post
    Yeah, I'd said the odds of that engine being toast are very good. I'd still want to see what exactly broke if it were my car and before I tossed it.
    Me too, Dom. Also, I bet there is someone out there, with a good engine in a crap bodyshell, who would pay out a good few bucks for a good shell and trim or maybe be quite prepared to sell his engine. Time for Google and Ebay.com I would think.

    Ken.

    p.s. Another scenario - The timing belt had a manufacturing fault and just snapped.
    Last edited by Ken; 01-05-2014 at 02:12 PM.
    Die dulci fruimini!
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  8. #8
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    Me too, Dom. Also, I bet there is someone out there, with a good engine in a crap bodyshell, who would pay out a good few bucks for a good shell and trim or maybe be quite prepared to sell his engine. Time for Google and Ebay.com I would think.

    Ken.

    p.s. Another scenario - The timing belt had a manufacturing fault and just snapped.
    A simple snapped belt won't explain the pinned temp gauge. I would also say that if it's the oil pump, I normally would have noticed a low oil pressure lamp lit, espcally since it was getting dark already. But . . . .

    I just checked . . . There is NO low oil pressure indicator in this car. Not of any type at all. No gauge, no lamp for it (at least no such lamp will light up when the ignition is turned on).

    Anyway, I decided I will tear the car down in a day or two and see if I can find anything frozen such as the cam or water pump. If it's not a frozen cam, I will buy another timing belt, align the belt up with TDC of the number once cylinder, try to start and see what happens.

    I know a guy who I used to work with who had a Honda with an interference engine. His timing belt also broke on the freeway. He gave the car away to a friend of his, assuming major engine damage. The very next day, that guy drove it to work! There was no noticeable engine damage. So it is possible, perhaps depending on what position the cam is in when the engine dies, that an interference engine will be okay when a timing belt breaks.

    I might work on the car tomorrow. I will post here what I find.

    -Don- Reno, NV

  9. #9
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    A simple snapped belt won't explain the pinned temp gauge. I would also say that if it's the oil pump, I normally would have noticed a low oil pressure lamp lit, espcally since it was getting dark already. But . . . -Don- Reno, NV
    Ha! - I'd forgotten that element of the beakdown, Don.

    Fingers crossed for a good outcome on the stripdown- it would make a good start to your New year.
    Ken.
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    Ken.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Bummer. The 2.5 is an engine that is hard to find as they fail fairly often. One salvage yard will buy any running car with a 2.5 as it's a ready market. I've got a Blazer that I spent $2000 fixing it up for a girlfriend to haul her kids. Then she decided to go back to the husband she had never got around to divorcing. Right about the time it was finished, it developed a rod knock.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    I just got done taking the Sebring apart. Here is what I found:

    Belt was NOT broke and still in place. Top of belt (the side with no teeth) very worn and damaged.

    The teeth of the belt under the crankshaft are worn to nothing. Rubber all over that area. Teeth at both cams are fine.

    Tensioner (actuator) is fine. Seems just like new. Very strong spring, requires a vice and some strength to close just as usual.

    After I removed the timing belt, I could move the crank by hand with the help of the crankshaft damper. I could turn it continuously by hand, either direction and hear nothing and feel no resistance at any point. Zero compression (either no valves closed or all are damaged). I turned it more than 360 degrees, didn't seem to hit anything.

    Both cams I can move about an inch by trying to turn each (DOHC) at the large sprockets, (free play by hand ).

    Water pump can be turned by hand, BUT there is strong resistance every 360 degrees and there it sounds like metal scraping inside the water pump.

    My conclusion is the water pump froze and messed up the top of the belt by slipping until the teeth at the crank stripped. The teethed crankshaft sprocket is very small and that is where the teeth wore down. IOW, the crank was spinning but the belt slipped right at the crank from a frozen water pump. The teeth at both cams looked fine, but the top of the belt is well worn and damaged everywhere on the belt. Some threading at places, but belt never broke or fell off.

    So what must have happened is the water pump froze, but belt still spinning normal for a while. Car overheats because pump is not spinning. Timing belt teeth strip at the crank a bit later from the very heavy load.

    The very expensive lesson learned here:

    If a timing belt drives the water pump, only buy the water pump from the dealer.

    Perhaps if I left in the old original water pump at 130,000 miles, this never would have happened. I only replaced it because of the miles on it. It came from Napa Auto Parts and I was a little concerned when I saw the stamp "Made in China". Too bad I wasn't concerned enough to not buy it and go to the dealer to buy the new water pump. Original water pump still fine at 130,000 miles. New Napa water pump craps out at 30,000 miles.

    I am now considering junking the car, but the car looks nice (almost always garaged) and had four new tires with less than 200 miles on each. But we have more than enough cars.

    I am also considering changing the belt and water pump and see what happens.

    I am also considering buying a used engine for it.

    Ever have to make up your mind? What would you guys do in this case?

    -Don- Reno, NV

  12. #12
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    Bummer. The 2.5 is an engine that is hard to find as they fail fairly often. One salvage yard will buy any running car with a 2.5 as it's a ready market. I've got a Blazer that I spent $2000 fixing it up for a girlfriend to haul her kids. Then she decided to go back to the husband she had never got around to divorcing. Right about the time it was finished, it developed a rod knock.
    I am not having any trouble finding the engine at junkyards, such as here (they have a few of them, with different prices depending on the miles).

    -Don- Reno, NV

  13. #13
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    I guess what I would do, Don, is whip off the heads and determine the extent of the damage. The fact that you can turn the engine over from the crank damper with no resistance anywhere does not sound promising. (I would expect to find, at least, some valve and probably piston damage.)

    From the damage you find you should be able to get some idea of repair costs to equate against the cost of a replacement engine. Then it is decision time - rebuild existing engine, fit a used replacement - unknown quantity - or a reconditioned engine with warranty - best option? - or just sell the car 'as is' and let the buyer sort out the problem.

    Personally, if the damage is more than moderate, I would probably go for recon engine as first choice or just sell 'as is'. One other option which someone on your side of the pond may have ideas on - is there any other engine which will fit? Back in my younger days we used to swap engines around all the time, Ford Escorts fitted with Rover V8 lumps, larger engines from the same range e.g 1.6L replacing 1.3L etc. One lad even fitted a big V8 into an old Ford Popular; It didn't last long before the chassis gave up under the strain but he had a lot of fun beating sports cars away from the lights.

    FWIW.

    Ken.
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    Ken.
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  14. #14
    I may be late to the party but I'll add a bit that may be helpful. I used car-part.com when the bearing failed in my frontier's differential. It was cheaper for me to buy a new unit than rebuild the existing one and it HD about 50k less miles. My mechanic was fine with them shipping direct to him and he's actually started using he service as well.

    I'm not doing a commercial for that site, but I put in your vehicle info and found one in AZ with ~20k miles and under $1000.

    I thought all those sebrings had transmission issues?

  15. #15
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve View Post
    I thought all those sebrings had transmission issues?
    In 160,000 miles, the only tranny problem has been a leaky rubber tranny hose, which was NBD.

    But here is an update, which I found out by accident:

    To remove the timing belt covers, the radiator overflow tank has to be removed. I had it laying in the garage. I accidentally kicked it and coolant leaked out from it and there was oil mixed in with the coolant. A lot of it. That proves major engine damage.

    Anyway, we decided to junk (donate) the car. We came back to SSF just to get the pink slip so we can junk the car. We have too many cars anyway.

    -Don- SSF, CA

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