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How to Tell If You Have a Cracked Block

All this depends on your car. Most of the time it's just better to sell your car and move on. Read on to see how this all works.

A scenario may find yourself in is parking your truck in the garage after a hard day’s play off-roading. The next day, a massive oil puddle surrounds the front of your car. When you check the dipstick, not a drop of oil registers on it. And when you foolishly try to start it, the worst grinding sound you’ve ever heard screeches from your engine. This is the notorious cracked engine block oil leak.

Both of these situations could have several causes, but both have one potential cause in common – a broken engine block. It’s perhaps the most serious problem you can experience with your vehicle, literally all but condemning the engine to a complete replacement. But what does it actually mean, and what can you do about it?

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A cracked engine block does not have a quick fix. The cost to replace or rebuild the engine can easily set you back atlest $3,000 to $5,000 or more! These repairs could potentially exceed your vehicle's value. The next best option is to avoid spending your hard earned cash on that car and sell it AS-IS for a fair price.

Fortunately, CarBrain is dedicated to buying cars in less than perfect condition! Whether the block is cracked or your engine is failing, were prepared to make you an online offer in just 90 seconds! We'll deliver the payment and tow your car for FREE in just 1 to 2 business days.

Cracked Engine Block – What Does It Mean?

Your engine block is a solid piece of metal, most likely cast out of aluminum or, more commonly, high-quality iron. Inside the engine block are cylinders, perfectly round and smooth to allow pistons to move up and down with very little friction (of course, lubricated by oil). The bottom of the oil pan houses the crankshaft which the downward force of your pistons rotates. And because all that moving metal creates a ton of heat, a water jacket is cast into the engine block also. Engine coolant flows through the sealed water jacket to the radiator, dissipating power-robbing heat, and is one answer to the question "why is my car overheating".

Symptoms of a Cracked Engine Block

When someone says ‘cracked engine block’, it sounds pretty bad, but it doesn’t always look that bad initially. In most cases, the engine block crack is barely visible to the naked eye. That is, until there are oils on the other side of it. 

The crack can be external meaning coolant or oils can leak outside of the engine. Block cracks can also be internal between the oil galleries and the coolant passages, causing the oil and antifreeze to mix. The two fluids aren’t compatible and oil mixing can cause just as much damage as an external leak, if not more.

Fluid leaking from your engine may barely be noticeable at first, but gets worse over time. It's still always inadvisable to be driving with a cracked engine block. Once the damage gets worse, the more obvious symptoms of a cracked block are engine smoke, and your engine overheating.

How Do Engine Blocks Crack?

In areas where the temperatures stay hot during a good chunk of the year, engines can overheat easily. At the start, overheating will cause a head gasket to leak or a cylinder head to warp. When overheating gets even worse, the rapidly-expanding metal causes a cracked cylinder head, either externally or internally.

In many cold-climate or cold weather cases, an engine’s cracked block is caused by freezing. The coolant strength isn’t up to par. When the coolant in the engine freezes, it expands. The frozen coolant pushes against the metal surrounding it, cracking the block, and will also soon cause the antifreeze to leak and the cooling system to fail. Once this happens you are instantly faced with cracked cylinder head repair costs, or selling your car. Should you repair a cracked engine block though? Let's take a look.

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Signs of a Cracked Engine Block

Cracked Engine Block SymptomsOne first sign of a cracked block is that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You can tell something is very wrong, either because of overheating, freezing, or coolant and oil all over the ground.

The physical signs of a busted engine block are sometimes very obvious, and other times obscure. A minor crack in the engine block can cause engine oil or coolant to slowly seep down the side of your engine. It will look like it’s coming from nowhere at all, or might even be just a spill. A tiny internal crack in your car engine may mean you find floating oil residue on top of the coolant in your radiator, or your engine oil may look like chocolate milk.

When your broken engine block is particularly bad, it can dump coolant or oil on the ground nearly as fast as you can put it in. If the crack is at the top of the cylinder, near the head, oil or coolant can be dumped into the cylinder. That will foul the spark plug, causing a misfire and causing smoky from your tailpipe.

Cracked engine block symptoms can range widely because it’s totally dependent on where the crack has formed.

Cracked Engine Block Repair

Can you fix a cracked engine block? Well, fixing a cracked engine block is no easy feat. Aside from a transmission overhaul, there’s probably no more difficult job when it comes to repairing vehicles. Finding someone who knows how to fix a cracked engine block is nearly as hard as the repair itself. The process is involved, takes hours upon hours, and is often prone to fail again, so cracked engine block repair costs can start climbing.

How Do You Fix a Cracked Engine Block?

Cracked Engine Block RepairTo start, everything needs to be stripped from the engine. No joke, every part has to be disassembled and removed from the block. Engine removal obviously has to happen.  Once it’s stripped down to the bare block, it has to be pressure tested to determine the engine’s integrity and the viability for a repair. In select cases, the crack can be welded or a machinist can insert repair plugs into the crack. Block replacement is much more common, however.

If you get extremely lucky and your engine block can be repaired, the assembly is still rigorous and engine repair costs are usually high. You’ll need new bearings, seals, and gaskets, as well as routine service parts and fluids. On top of that, there’s bound to be additional components that have dry rotted or broken during disassembly. Plus, you need to make sure your cylinder head hasn’t been damaged. If it needs to be replaced or repaired, that’s another project unto itself.

Cracked Engine Block Repair Cost

Start to finish, engine block crack repair costs will set you back at least $1,500 in parts and machining costs. The labor for an engine block repair could be anywhere from 12 to 35 hours, depending on the vehicle you drive. Diesel engines and truck engines are on the expensive end of the scale while small cars and more common models are usually less time-consuming. Assuming around 20 hours of labor at $100 per hour, you can expect no less than $3,500 to repair a cracked engine block. It could be much, much more. When faced with cracked engine block repair costs you really have to decide if you should fix your car or sell it. Engine block replacement costs can be even higher.

Engine Replacement Cost

Complete engine replacement either with a new, a remanufactured, or a used engine could be a better option. Still, according to CarCare.org, it’s usually between $3,000 and $5,000 for a rebuilt engine to be installed. The high cost to replace an engine often makes selling your car more appealing.

If you don’t have the time or money to be fooling around with a cracked engine block, then don’t! Sell it AS-IS instead. Get a guaranteed offer from CarBrain to buy your car from you as it is, cracked block and all. If you accept our offer, we’ll send someone to pick up your vehicle and put money in your hand. It’s easy and stress-free, and a great way to deal with a broken-down car that’s plugging up your driveway.

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