Engine destruction stories

Not open for further replies.
Sep 28, 2002
Since someone started an engine survival story topic. I figured that we should have an engine destruction topic.

Who has some obscure engine lunchings? Sure some will be the "my daughter didn't check her oil for 12 years" type stuff ..but let's see what the harvest brings here.

I'll start:

This was when I was 20. A friend and I were just driving up the road and the oil light came on in his Falcon wagon. We stopped ..check the oil ..FULL
...drove on ...we were okay for a bit ...then stuff started getting a bit noisy ..the thing had solid lifters ..so there was no warning there.

We made it to the gas station that we both worked at ..but just barely. The boss, a great wrench and racer, finally figured out that the distributor drive had rounded out ...no oil being pumped.


Second car (mine):

The first time I changed a canister type old style Chevy oil filter. I didn't notice that the old gasket didn't fall out when I dropped it ..put new gasket in ...didn't test for leaks ...lent car to friend that night ...got a call 3 hours later ...lunched engine. Actually the engine lasted about 500 miles from that point. It was loud and I knew it was just a matter of time. It just quit one day. Expensive lesson at 18 years old.
I had a four cylinder Nissan that ran with a dead cylinder for about three years, also no fifth gear. Finally I was going down the road and it threw a rod straight out of the bottom of the oil pan. It surprised me that it lasted as long as it did.

BTW in the sixty+ vehicles I've owned in the last twenty years this was the only one that wasn't running when I junked it( but I guess technically you could have gotten a couple of miles maybe out of it if you really wanted to...)
I really don't have any engine destruction stories. I SHOULD. I treated some of my Dad's cars & my first car like a red-headed stepchild. It still amazes me that I didn't kill any of those engines.
Back in 1990 a friend of mine had an eary 80's Camaro with a 305. He was cruising around one day when it started knocking but instead of pulling over he punched it up to redline. There came a loud clatter, crash and boom followed by silence and a cloud of smoke. We pulled the car to my place and yanked the engine to discover a ventilated block and oil pan(in several places), broken rods, a couple wrist pins pulled right out of the pistons and shrapnel everywhere. This engine was the poster child for the term "grenading"...lol!

Another one is an old Volvo brought into my dads shop with a siezed engine. We pulled the valve cover and oil pan to find it completely packed with sludge. The only open space was where the crankshaft used to turn. We found out later that the owner never changed the oil and filter, he just topped it up regularely because it burned a fair amount of oil.

Lastly is an 86 Olds 98 3.8L I used to own. I was 20 miles from home when the engine started to knock. I knew right away it was spun crank bearings. It was 4am and -25C outside so there was no way I was pulling over. I kept driving and the knock kept getting louder, the oil pressure light came on and the engine started losing power. The last 5 miles I had the pedal to the floor to keep the car moving. I managed to nurse it into my mechanics driveway and left it there. We never did open the enigine up to take a look-see at the carnage but it had to be ugly.
When I was in High School I rebuilt the 1 liter engine in a Austin Healy Bug Eye Sprite. Strangely, when I started it up it had no oil pressure? I drove it anyway, assuming the oil pressure gauge was broken. After about 100 miles it developed a rod knock. I looked around my garage and found funny looking plunger with a spring inside it. It was the oil pressure relief valve. Luckily, due to the simplicity of the car, I could pull the engine in 30 min. Parts were also cheap. It cost only about $100 to put in new rings, bearings, and get the crank polished. 25 years ago.
I'll get in on this too...

I lived w/ a family friend outside of the city for a while, and his son worked in landscaping. His car was a 1986 Pontiac Sunbird that had seen better days, and knocked and clattered like crazy, I figured it was just an old engine that was noisy.

One day I was leaving, and he had the car on the street with the hood up, so I went over to see if he needed help. He said he was just checking and topping off his oil. I looked a little closer, and was suprised to see RUST on the dipstick he pulled out! I commented on that, and he said "yeah, the oil pan gasket is totally shot, so I have to keep the oil level low enough, or it just leaks out all over the place. I just add enough oil so that it is on the edge of the dipstick, and then I have enough." I asked him how long he had been doing this, and he said the gasket started to leak bad at about 150,000 km's. I looked at the odo, and it said 263,000 km's!

So this guy had been running a 2.0 litre Pontiac OHC engine on about 1 - 1.5 litres of oil for over 100,000 kilometers! Oh, and add to this that he used it daily for about 500 km's delivering paving stones, soil and rocks...needless to say, about a month later, he didn't have the car.

So I dunno....should this go in the 'engine survival' stories, or here in 'engine destruction' stories?
IMO this thread has much more potential for hilarity than its sister thread. Awesome idea, Gary.

The only thing I have is my '79 Caprice. Man, if I knew then what I know now, that would've lasted a lot longer. I abused that thing terribly, sometimes even when I thought I was helping. I always got a lot of fouling on plug #8. It got worse to the point that I eventually junked it because of the smoke screen that eventually started pouring out the tailpipe. My dad actually followed me to the junkyard driving in that cloud! What a nut!

Oh well, it was a good car, actually. A high school friend referred to it as the "bootymobile".
I had access to a horrid 4x4 work truck on this mile-long summer vacation island... no vehicle ferry so the "normal people" didn't have wheels. Max speed of 10 MPH or so.

This thing was a one-ton GMC High Sierra, early 80's with a 350. The flywheel was shot so if one tried to start it there'd be a loud "vreeee" sound. Tug on the fan belt to rotate the engine just so slightly and the starter would engage. The carburetor was also garbage, I guess the choke was out. One would pump 20 times before trying to start it and once it caught you'd keep your foot on the gas literally halfway down to keep it running. The fan clutch was seized of course so it sounded like a plane taking off.

Anyway what you all wanted to hear about was one day I notice the oil pressure gage was bouncing between 0 and 15 psi, cold. It was usually around 60. I asked my boss if he'd check the oil and he pulled the tranny dipstick and declared all was well. I put 4 or 5 quarts of "Big A" 10w30 in later that morning and never told anyone but it was registering on the dipstick and gauge. That engine blew later that summer and was replaced with a 305 because it was cheaper and we didn't need the power.

They rigged the automatic transmission to be stuck in first no matter how fast one went so the new engine would see some revs. The general consensus (I was not part of this cadre of elite mechanics) was the old one died of carbon build-up

I asked my boss if he'd check the oil and he pulled the tranny dipstick and declared all was well.


I always admire confidence in a screwup ...it's so inspiring.

I still keep wondering why I'm not a millionaire just for being so critical of my environment. It all seems so easy to get along without it.
A friend of mine built a small block for his nephew's early '60's Chevy pickup. The truck was originally a 3-on-the-tree manual but they added an automatic along with the new engine. The nephew had to take the truck home, about an hour, at the end of a weekend. Everything was done except a floor shifter. My friend had rigged something up that would work until he could get the truck back, but cautioned his nephew to make sure it was in 3rd rather than 2nd.

The engine blew on the way home. There were no holes in the pan, but it had ballooned from the inside. The camshaft came out in 3-4 sections. Pistons and rods were in pieces. I remember one connecting rod nut that was cut through and then twisted, so the threads were facing outside rather than in.
I bought a brand new Mitsubishi pickup in 1986. 2.6 engine.
Thing needed a valve job @ 35K. By 40K it didn't have enough compression to start unless you poured oil down the carb to seal the rings.

45K the crank broke between #3 and #4 cyl. I drove it about 7 miles home like this. It actully made it to within 100ft of my driveway before it locked up completly.

I replaced the engine with a junkyard engine and drove it for a year or so. I gave it to my dad who double gasketed a oil filter on it.
A flight school friend of mine owned one of those hideous AMC Pacers, straight six of long-forgotten displacement, and what's important to this story, a 3-spd auto. One weekend, after the making of a complicated "drug deal" of favors, it was agreed that another friend would drive this gem from Pensacola up to somewhere in Michigan. Friend A, unfortunately however, forgot to brief Friend B on the delicate details of operating said 3-spd. In particular, the fact that the range indicator was a half-space off. So, Friend B unwittingly locks the car in 2nd gear and sets out for Michigan. He made it to his first gas stop, and the thing never started again. I'm still baffled as to how Friend B could have ignored the racket for as long as he did. When Friend A would gripe about this, we were quick to remind him that mere ownership of this car was darned near per se Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, and maybe he should actually thank B.
Not sure if this is survival or distruction. Abuse?...Yes!


Last weekend, MIL had oil changed in 160k mile Honda accord. Then lost the main and/or balance shaft seal. Pumped all oil onto highway. Drove to shop that did the oil change with oil light on...~20 miles with little to no oil in engine.

Now, just a little rod bearing knock!

At least that thing still runs. I remember a few years back, the in-laws smoked the engines in 3 cars in one month!

Update on the story above...MIL now understands how important it is to have oil INSIDE the engine, and not on the garage floor.

P.S. Didn't someone, a long time ago, post a link to some kids blowing a rotor on an RX-7?
This isn't an actual 'engine destruction story' but not from a lack of trying.
In 2003, my first year in a full size 360 sprint. I was on the 4th engine and obviously was going to be the last one as 3 in a year in these gets way way spendy. #1 was due to the builder installing the plug above the cam just ever so slightly too deep and starved 1/2 rod and 1 main.. seized up at approximately 115 mpn in front of 15 cars on a restart and never got crushed.... yes i'm still saying thankyou for that one.. #2 was the individual that re-assembled from #1 didnt stretch rod bolts even close to properly... 7 laps and boom.... #3 by 'expert' engine builder, add 900 bucks assembly fees as well stuffs a washer under 2 bolts on only one rod , why only 1? well he didnt wanna take the time to balance to the new rods weights so he used the OLD BOLTS but was shy 2 , so he used some he had but they were too long so logical thinking says washers( which actually hosed the balance theory ) and removed all 16 brand new bolts to do this by the way..?? again... 7 laps then boom. So...... I buy an assembled short block from schwanke and finish assembling everything myself, spend 10 days doin it all then re-checking and triple checking everything, then one more time to be safe.
So dad checks it over, 3 different friends that build their own and know whats up also inspected it at their leisure. all gave it a thumbs up. mind you this is a 14 to 1 sprint engine,no starter or clutch, etc etc... so 2 nights before the 360 nationals we set off to fire it up. it juststarted to try and fire then does a bang and backfire and I look down and the torque tube is ripped off the rear and the u-joint is ripped apart and rear end oil is runnin out the snout... *** I say... so we summize it was from the previous booms that weakened the ujoint.. install everything back to original with a welded input shaft in rear as we next day airing one from east coast. same exact thing only it ruins the input shaft past repair. and the ujoint needed welded ( this will haunt later on ) so I say forget it and figure im not gonna go. a friend in washington talks me in to loading all up and that he'll figure out what it is when I get there. so I stop get the new input shaft on the way, redo the rear, and a ll other is back together. try to fire it at the track on the day of the race and yep, it does it again. so now ive driven 600 miles and tore the rear out 4 times wasted a drive line, a u-joint, an input shaft, and all the holes on the snout for the torque tube. so we are sittin there scratching our heads when my buddy clayton says why does the left side plug wire say #6. so I tell him I had swapped 5 and 6 cause they fit better swapped and he says ok, then why does the other 3 say 2 4 and 8...??? needless to say I had the right side on the left, and the left on the right. and it was obviously firing at bottom and kickin things in massive backward action ripping it all loose before I could really feel what it was doing. needless to say it wont ever happen again , to me anyway... its those expensive lessons that ya never forget.
A couple years ago, there was a set of pictures going around the internet depicting the horrifying result of a kid attempting a 6-4 downshift in his red Integra, but hitting 2 instead by mistake. The engine pretty much exploded like a grenade. I particularly liked the close-ups of what was left of the pistons -- sorta looked like shiny little beat up potatos. Also impressive were the several "exit wounds" on the block itself where sharp chunks of metal propelled at speeds understood only by *** himself, blasted their way out of the block.

I've tried to again locate these gems, but can't. Anyone recognize this description and know where to find them?

I guess those red lines on tachometers really do mean something. . .
A co-worker and his friend were about to send an old Pinto to the boneyard. They decided to try to blow the engine.

Plan A:

They pinned the gas pedal to the floor with a stick, started the engine, and backed off. Nothing. It just revved until the valves floated and screamed away.

Plan B:

They shut it down again, removed the air cleaner and stuck the open end of a garden hose into the top of the carb. They then re-started the engine and let it develop maximum RPM before turning on the hose full bore. It ran exactly one more revolution. Now THAT would have been an interesting engine to autopsy.

Originally posted by BigAl:
They shut it down again, removed the air cleaner and stuck the open end of a garden hose into the top of the carb. They then re-started the engine and let it develop maximum RPM before turning on the hose full bore. It ran exactly one more revolution. Now THAT would have been an interesting engine to autopsy.

That also would have made a very cool video!
In the 1970s I was running some graveyard shift durability tests on some heavy off road equipment. A Cummins 903 threw a rod so one of the vehicles was sidelined until the Cummins rep could get a look at it next morning.

It was an important test on a program that was running behind schedule so there were some mucky-mucks from my company out there in the moring along with a Cummins VP who happened to be there on bussines and some Cummins tech reps.

The Cummins VP asked the driver what happened.

Driver: "It threw a rod"

VP: " I don't like it when people jump to conclusions, why do you say it threw rod"

Driver: "My first clue was when I opened the engine compartment and I saw a rod sticking through the ******* block."
Not open for further replies.