Catastrophic engine failure - share your stories

Joined
Jun 8, 2022
Messages
916
When I was a kid I bought a Ford pickup with a 300/6 not running. Got it running but it knocked pretty good under load. My neighbour was knowledgeable on those engines (heavy equipment mechanic) and he told me the piston skirts were broken, it was common on those, and just drive it as long as you could. I drove it about 50K miles over a bunch of years and it never quit. I did finally pull the engine and did a full rebuild. Sure enough there were two piston skirts in the bottom of the pan.

I worked as a helper at a GM dealer. I remember someone bought a brand new car and did the fist oil change themselves - forgot to refill the oil. Wife drove it down the road till it seized tight. They paid for the new engine. Shop manager told us at Coffee break they should have poured the old oil back in and called GM to come get their broken car.

Also when I was a kid my neighbor raced 1/4 mile dirt track racing. Just about every week someone put a rod through the side.
 
Joined
Dec 28, 2014
Messages
2,280
I’ve seen a few. When I was younger a friend of mine did donuts in a snow storm in a church parking lot. Kept doing them and doing them, and I thought…this is crazy. Then, bang. Stalled. Wouldn’t start. Engine blown.

I blew an engine in my lawnmower. Thing started really making some bearing noises, lot of shaking. Then stalled. Engine seized.

Most blown engines aren’t too dramatic, but I’ve also seen a connecting rod go through the block of a Dodge Caravan. And my brother in law blew the engine on his snow blower…decided to use a bolt as a shear pin, hit something and broke the camshaft in half. I took it apart - he told me, it just won’t start, think it’s bad gas. Well, it was more than bad gas. 🤣🤣
I probably should have mentioned as a side note that the Dodge Caravan (with the blown engine) was towed in to a place I worked for an oil change and a check over.

We were able to drive it in, but the SMELL FROM THIS THING as the combustion gases poured out of that crankcase?!! My lord! And the sound. Put it on the lift...connecting rod hanging out the side of the block.

Called the customer...good news, we were able to drive it in, and you don’t need an oil change after all. 😀
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2012
Messages
6,861
Location
Caldwell Idaho
I was pulling a primary tillage disk with one of our John Deere 7520s (531ci) when I was about 16. It started to act low on power, then blew a cloud of white smoke out the breather tube. I shut it off and it wouldn't restart. When it was torn down at the dealer, a spun main bearing was the culprit. If you are familiar with John Deere's design of the front half of most tractors from that vintage, you know that the engine block was used as part of the frame in four wheel drive and smaller two wheel drives. Many engine blocks in the four wheel drive tractors would flex just enough that main bearing #6 would eventually spin, ours did at 4000 hours.

Then there was the 8430 (466ci) four wheel drive that had the exhaust valve rocker on #6 break while I was moving between fields. When you have combustion and the exhaust valve doesn't open at 2000 RPMs, it's a VERY loud BANG as the head gasket gets launched into next week.
I watch the large tillage on the local dairy's corn fields in the fall or spring and the load on the engines is amazing when the the plows etc start to dig in. These things are almost as wide as a two lane street. I really enjoy the equipment.
 
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Messages
8,278
Location
Michigan
My brother and I built a V8 Vega when we were in high school. Got a 4-barrel 327 out of a '68 wagon with Turbo 400 transmission, and put it in a '71 Vega GT.
We reduced two of the spider gears in the original Vega diff into 9 pieces when the suspension went into wheel hop on one of our early acceleration trials.
After a couple of month's timeout for putting a narrowed 12-bolt and ladder bar suspension in, we were able to use its spritely acceleration on a number of occasions.
But we developed a habit of doing neutral drops at 4000 rpm, which produced inspirational vehicle dynamics, but after a number of these events, we noticed kind of a clunking sound coming from the engine. We disassembled the whole thing and found the oil pump pickup lying in the pan in a beat-up state. I guess we should have brazed the pickup into the pump, like Hot Rod magazine was recommending. The engine didn't stop running; it just wiped all of the lining off the bearings, and spun a couple of rod bearings. One of our mechanic friends nodded knowingly, and said "the engine ran in spite of you, not because of you".
 
Joined
Apr 1, 2020
Messages
2,531
Location
Pacific Northwest
What does that mean?
Big booms unless you're engine is super built. Even then...

It's a 380 horse power shot of nitrous oxide. The injected nitrous oxide instantly turns into oxygen and nitrogen and greatly increases the density of the fuel air mixture. It is only used at wide open throttle and is accompanied by a huge simultaneous shot of extra fuel. If things aren't tuned perfectly, at high levels, things go boink really quickly.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2018
Messages
2,978
Location
South Carolina
What does that mean?

The expected or theoretical horsepower increase based on nitrous oxide jet size. Nitrous jetting is usually referenced by the equivalent horsepower output such as 150 shot, 200 shot, 300 shot, etc... How much power that particular jet or amount of nitrous will add to the engine. The jets themselves are like .063", .092", .118", etc... orifice size. The jet we were running was equivalent to a 380 hp increase. Realistically, we were probably making 275-300 hp increase with the severely restricted OEM heads, shorty headers, etc... and the fact that we had it pig rich.

We had a built 408W ready to go in that car, had been running it on a much smaller shot before then, and decided to just send a hail mary to see if it would hold up a full pass or two cramming as much nitrous down it's throat as we could. It didn't. lol
 
Joined
Apr 1, 2020
Messages
2,531
Location
Pacific Northwest
The expected or theoretical horsepower increase based on nitrous jet size. Nitrous jetting is usually referenced by the equivalent horsepower output such as 150 shot, 200 shot, 300 shot, etc... The jets themselves are like .063", .092", .118", etc... orifice size. The jet we were running was equivalent to a 380 hp increase. Realistically, we were probably making 275-300 hp increase with the severely restricted OEM heads, shorty headers, etc... and the fact that we had it pig rich.
Really rich is the safe(r) way to be at that level.
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2022
Messages
19
I had a air cooled VW that dropped a valve into a piston. No real noise, just wouldn't go. Rebuilt if for $500.00
I've been driving for 60 years. I've only had the engines blow on two cars back in the 1960's. One was a 1962 Volkswagon beetle and the other was a 1968 square back. Both bought new; less than 80,000 miles on the odometer at the time of the disaster.
 
Joined
Feb 15, 2003
Messages
13,008
Location
Jupiter, Florida
My 1.8L Turbo Miata failed the main and rod bearings with 0-20, in an attempt at getting more normally aspirated HP during a period when the turbo was removed for overhaul. The engine had a stand alone computer (engine management) and ran to 8600 RPM. That was too much load for the ultra thin oil. The crank was fine, but the rod bearings failed fast.
 

JTK

Joined
Aug 14, 2003
Messages
14,769
Location
Buffalo, NY
I've never had one fail on me, but my wife had a 1980 Buick Skylark with the 2.8L V6 when I first met her. The throttle stuck wide open on a very cold, cold start and she revved until it blew. A piece of connecting rod and piston wound up on the front porch.
 
Joined
Aug 17, 2016
Messages
1,231
Location
Alberta
At age 16 I bought a '77 Dodge Colt wagon from the neighbour for $50. It had a slight knock, so I added two cans of STP to silence the knock (one can didn't quite do the trick). Friend and I hopped in for a test drive and made it about 4 blocks when there was a thud and then silence. Con rod through the block. Sold the Colt for $50, the buyer wanted the bucket seats.
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2006
Messages
1,768
Location
Ohio
Closest thing would probably be the plastic camshaft gear in an Iron Duke. Was driving along the interstate in my dad's 1988 Pontiac 6000. Engine started detonating a little, which was not unusual, it seemed to go through ignition wires regularly and that was a sign that at least one was bad. A minute later, started knocking harder, and the "Service Engine Soon" came on. Well, that's different. There was an exit coming up, so thought I'd pull off and see if there was anything obviously wrong. Soon as I let off the gas, the engine quit and I coasted off onto the exit ramp. Won't restart. Popped the hood, and it smelled like gas. Had it towed home, and we couldn't tell what was wrong until dad took the oil filler cap off and saw the rocker arms didn't move. Pulled the service manual out, it mentions that the camshaft gear is plastic. Actually had the engine out in just a couple hours, and it didn't take much to pull the lifters and slide the camshaft out. Engine was in good shape, so we pressed a new gear on, and the engine soldiered on for another 90,000 miles or so before the body rot got too bad.
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2016
Messages
3,527
Location
Western S.C.
The morning after my sister-in-law returned from a trip in her '94 four-cylinder Camry, my brother decided to move it to a more level spot in their yard to check the oil. Although he didn't depress the accelerator, as soon as he started it, the engine immediately revved up very high, promptly followed by a bang so loud people in the house came out to see what exploded. There was a hole in the oil pan. What exactly happened was unclear. He later heard Camry throttle plates of the vintage have been known to separate from their shaft. Another possibility might be that the oil level was lower than they thought.
 
Last edited:
Top