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Engine Locked Up? What Should You Do!

Engine Locked Up

If your engine is locked up, you will find yourself in a tough situation. You cannot drive your car, so what do you do? It can be costly to fix a locked up engine, so that may not always be the best course of action.

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Maybe your auto is not worth as much as the cost of the repairs. Or maybe you cannot afford the repairs. Or perhaps you were thinking of replacing the car anyway, so you just do not want to deal with repairs. Regardless of the reason, there is the option to sell a car with a locked up engine instead of repairing it.


Before you make a decision, however, you will want to learn how to fix a locked up engine and what your options are.


What Does a Locked Up Car Engine Mean?

Why Does an Engine Lock Up? 

A locked up car engine can mean one of several things. For some reason, the engine is no longer functional, and it refuses to run. You may notice your engine locked up while driving, but if you are lucky, you were parked, and it just did not start.


Why Does an Engine Lock Up?


You cannot learn how to fix locked up engines without understanding the causes, since repairing the engine will require you to get to the source of the problem.


Oil Starvation


It is common for engines to lock up when they are starved of oil. This might happen if there is a problem stopping the oil from circulating or if you run out of oil in the engine. In either case, the lack of engine oil will cause various engine components to rub against each other. This creates friction, which generates heat. In extreme cases, the heat can even cause parts to weld together in areas that they are not supposed to.


Depending on how quickly the engine seizes and when you notice the problem, a locked up engine from oil starvation can be a quick fix, such as filling the oil, or it can require extensive repairs, such as a full engine replacement.


Lack of Use


Other times, engines will lock up because they have not been used for a long time. In this case, rust has occurred from disuse, causing the piston rings to get stuck into place against the cylinder walls. That particular cause of locked up engines is most common in older cars that the owners are considering restoring, but keep putting off. If you have any vehicle sitting unused for a long time, this rust can cause the engine to lock up.


Hydrolocked Engine


Some engine locking is from what is called a hydrolocked engine. In this case, water is the culprit, causing problems after it enters the combustion chamber of the engine. When the combustion stroke occurs, the water does not compress in the same way as air, making it impossible for the piston to get to the top of the stroke. Instead, the engine just stops suddenly.


As with locked up engines from oil starvation, this can lead to simple, inexpensive repairs or complex, expensive ones. More costly repairs are almost guaranteed if your engine locks while you are driving at higher RPMs since this will typically bend the connecting rods and bust the pistons.


Vapor Locked Engine


Although you are less likely to come across this problem, your engine may also lock-up due to being vapor locked. With a vapor locked engine, the engine does not start at all due to an issue with the fuel system. It is less common because it mostly occurs in low-pressure fuel systems, which are part of older cars, not newer ones.


Primarily, vapor-locked engines occur if the gas within the fuel pump or lines heats up and becomes a gas instead of the liquid it should be. This will prevent the engine from receiving fuel, so it cannot run. You can recognize this problem if your engine starts sputtering before losing power. All vapor-locked engines will occur due to extreme heat, whether that is the fuel temperature rising too quickly, leaving the car out in the sun, or something else.


Locked Up Engine Symptoms – How to Tell If Engine Is Locked Up


Locked Up Engine Symptoms



Before you can even confirm that this is a problem, you need to know how to tell if your engine is locked up.


The most significant indication of a locked engine is that your car will not start, and the engine does not turn at all. Keep in mind that not all locked engines will have these symptoms, and if yours does, you will likely be in for some expensive repairs.


What to Do If Your Engine Locked Up While Driving


If you are driving along and suddenly you notice your engine lock-up, you want to think quickly. Move your transmission to neutral then coast until you reach the side of the road, as this is a safe spot. If you are parked, you do not have to do anything, since your car will refuse to turn on and go anywhere.


You can try to turn your engine on a few times after it locks up, but do not do this too much. This could lead to other problems, such as burning out the starter. You will then want to have a mechanic look at your car, as the only sure answer to how do you know if your engine is locked up is to have a professional check it out.


How to Fix a Locked Up Engine

fix engine lucked up


As mentioned, the way to fix a locked up engine will depend on the cause of the problem.


If no oil locked up the engine, then you may be able to resolve the issue by adding oil. However, this is unlikely to be enough since the lack of oil probably already caused structural problems in the engine. Otherwise, your engine would not have locked up yet.


As a general rule, it is safe to assume that if your engine locked up as you were driving, you will have to deal with some extensive repairs. Not only was the damage significant enough to stop you while in motion, but the fact that the car was in motion then suddenly stopped will likely make it worse.


In the case of an engine sitting too long and then locking up, you may be able to fix it by soaking the cylinders in oil for several days. Before you add the oil, however, be sure to remove the spark plugs. After this, you can use a breaker bar to try to turn over the engine. Whether or not it moves at this point will determine if you can repair the engine or if it is a complete loss and requires rebuilding.


In the case of hydrolocked engines, remove the spark plugs and then crank your engine over. This should theoretically remove the water from the cylinders, letting it function again. However, this will only work if there is no or minimal damage. In most cases, there will also be damaged parts inside that require repairs.


In the case of a vapor locked engine, let your car cool down, so the fuel cools enough to return to its liquid state. If you are short on time, you can splash cold water on the fuel pump or lines or even put some ice on them.


What Does It Cost to Repair a Locked Up Engine?

how much


As mentioned, the cost of the repairs for your locked up engine will depend on the extent of the damage. A simple fix should be incredibly affordable. You may just need some oil and new spark plugs. On the other hand, you may find yourself paying up to $1,500 for a replacement fuel pump. In extreme cases, you may have to either buy a new engine, which costs thousands of dollars or pay for your mechanic to rebuild yours, which is equally costly.


Few mechanics or experts suggest rebuilding locked engines. This is due to the sheer size of the task. The mechanic needs to carefully take the engine apart and inspect every component to ensure that it was not damaged beyond repair. This process is incredibly labor-intensive and typically involves replacing at least some of the parts. As you pay for parts and labor, the cost can quickly add up. To make it worse, the mechanic may not realize your engine is a loss until he has already put in several hours of work, which you will still have to pay for.


Is It Worth It to Fix a Locked Up Engine?


You will need to carefully evaluate whether it is worth it to fix a locked up engine. It may or may not be worth it, depending on your particular situation.


Start by considering how severe the problem is and what it will cost to fix it. Some repairs are quick and nearly always worth it. By contrast, other causes of a locked up engine can require more intensive repairs, costing a lot more.


To decide whether it is worth fixing, you need to consider how much it will cost to fix and how long the repairs will take. Will you be able to get around while your mechanic takes care of the repairs, or will you miss several days of work? If so, factor those missed days into the cost of repairs.


You also need to think about the overall condition of the vehicle. If your car is getting older and seems to have a new problem every other month, it may not even be worth it to fix a locked engine in the case of a simple repair. On the other hand, if your car is relatively new and still in overall good condition, you may be willing to pay for more extensive or expensive repairs.


Use caution if the second situation applies to you. Make sure that the repairs are not more than the auto is worth, and that they will last. You do not want to cheap out engine repairs as they will not last and you will find yourself repeating them in a few years.


What Other Options Do You Have?


If you decide that it is not worth it to fix your locked up engine, you will still have some good options available. You do not just have to leave the car on your driveway or in your garage collecting dust and rust.


The best option is to sell the car as-is. This will give you the ability to get money in exchange for your vehicle. You can then use that cash as a down payment on a new or used car that runs properly. In many cases, this ends up being a much more financially savvy choice than trying to repair the engine. After all, you are not putting money into a car in hopes that it keeps running.


Where to Sell Your Car As-is

Cash Cars Buyer


As you can imagine, it is hard to find an individual who wants to buy your car if the engine does not work. If you decided the repairs were not worth it, they would probably feel the same. Luckily, there are as-is car buyers, like us, who will gladly buy your car regardless of its condition. Not all buyers, however, are created equal, as some have hidden fees or will not purchase particular autos.


Whether or not your car runs, our team will purchase it from you in exchange for cash. You can get a free quote nearly instantly without any obligations. If you take us up on our offer, we will come to you and handle towing the car away, without any extra fees. We always offer you a fair price and put cash in your hand so you can find a reliable mode of transportation. Because of our vast network, we can pick up your car with a locked engine quickly, so you get the money you need and get the unsightly vehicle off your driveway.

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