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Need a long-range car diagnosis again
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Tom A    Posted 04-18-2002 at 09:48:15       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Hey guys, 'nother car problem I could use some advice on. The kid and car are 1,000 miles away at college; kid is relatively reliable and so was the car before I loaned it to him.

First, some background: the kid learned on a stick shift and has lots of experience with them, but has only driven an automatic for a few weeks. Never had power brakes or steering before, either.

The car is a '95 Corsica, automatic tranny, power brakes. He said he had just left the Wendy's drive thru with dinner, and was going up a small hill. He said the car suddenly downshifted (in his judgement for no apparent reason), then there was a brief grinding or crunching noise and the engine just died. He said the brakes quit working altogether too, and he had to use the parking brake to stop it. (When I said he'd probably just lost the power when the engine died, he insists they didn't work at all).

Engine won't start any more. He had it towed back to the dorm. He said now when you turn the key it makes a whirring noise like just the starter motor is turning but not the engine.

ideas anybody?


Tom A -- an update    Posted 04-19-2002 at 04:23:00       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Thanks to all for the timing belt idea. Got the kid to go out and see what was happening. Interestingly, he said the car started (he'd been trying to start it many times prior to this) normally and ran normally for about 20-30 seconds. Then it died again--no odd noises, just quit--and now won't start again.

I asked the obvious question when he called last night with the news: "is the engine turning *now*?" but it wasn't so obvious to him and his friends so I don't know the answer.
So: any new ideas? I'm guessing that if it ran normally for a little while, it probably is not the timing chain...right??

Yes, I'm the one with the 73 VW too; different kid, different college. We limped that one back home a couple of weeks ago and I simply haven't had time to work on it yet. Since he's supposed to be studyin' I don't care whether he has a car or not!! :-)

thanks for the help!

Tom A

Mark A    Posted 04-19-2002 at 05:15:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
Could be an ignition problem now, if it started and cut off again. Or a computer problem. Most newer cars need to have a "code scanner" hooked up to read the dodes to find the problems. At least it doesnt sound as bad as bent valves and banged pistons as the earlier suggestions.

Nathan(GA)    Posted 04-18-2002 at 12:34:56       [Reply]  [No Email]
Tom, were you the one with the VW problem? What did you find to be the problem on it?

Know anybody near the college? Maybe you could post where and get someone to run over and check it out.

MikeH-Tx    Posted 04-18-2002 at 12:05:12       [Reply]  [No Email]
I think the others have it nailed with the timing belt guess. Pistons crunching the open valves would answer the grinding noise reported as the car died. (Kind of makes you cringe, no?)

I bet the sudden loss of power brakes just made it feel like no brakes at all. Almost can't be related to the engine issue.

Mark A    Posted 04-18-2002 at 10:57:40       [Reply]  [No Email]
Sounds to me like the timing belt/chain. The starter would only turn the crankshaft now, and the camshaft would not turn. Some valves would be stuck open, therefore no compression and the cranking of the engine would sound different. Hoefully this engine does not have a interference between the valves and the top of the pistons. Some motors do. If so, then all the open valves would have been bent or broken by the pistons moving up and down. If it has no interference, then a simple chain or belt replacement may be all it needs. I am sure the brakes did not work because of the loss of vacuum assist due to the engine dying and possibly the stuck open valves.

Dennis    Posted 04-18-2002 at 10:51:15       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Have someone turn the engine over while he looks at the distributer(with the cap off) to see if the rotor is turning, If not probably the timing belt or chain.
Let us know

Jim (Mi)    Posted 04-18-2002 at 10:25:07       [Reply]  [Send Email]
The brake problem is an all together different problem. Power or not all brake systems are designed to stop. Might of popped a line. Kinda like when you are being chain towed, the rear guy uses his brakes to stop even though the vehicle is not running to keep up the slack. So if he had none at all, that would be another major concern.

BB    Posted 04-18-2002 at 10:15:27       [Reply]  [Send Email]
An engine will make a funny sound when you try to start it if the timing chain (or belt) breaks. It is much higher pitched than the normal sound.
Have him raise the hood and then try to start the engine. He can see if the engine is actually turning over. If it makes a sound like the starter is turning but the engine is not, then there is some kind of problem with the starter engaging the flywheel. Could be a solenoid or gear problem.
It the engine is actually turning over faster than normal and making a higher pitched whining noise, I am betting on a timing chain (or belt).

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