Driving on highway (during snow Storm) -.

  • 2006 VOLVO XC90
  • 75,000 MILES
Driving on highway (during snow storm) - suddenly get message "Oil Presure - stop safely". Within 60 seconds OR less my car went dead on the highway. Diagnosis has been "Engine seized" by a Dealership and a private mechanic and engine needs replaced. About $4400.00. THERE WAS Oil in the Car. I need to know 1) have similar problems been reported, 2) I can't make next decision until I know what caused the engine to seize when there was oil in car, 3) could there possibly oil compartment failure to pump oil to engine OR a sensor failure? Much appreciation. Lucy
Monday, January 7th, 2013 AT 12:48 AM

1 Reply

Any mechanic can replace or rebuild an engine but the really good ones will diagnose the cause of the failure first, as you're suggesting. The oil pump could have failed. The shaft or chain that drives the pump could have broken, or a tiny piece of debris could have lodged in the pressure relief valve. When the cause isn't known, it's impossible to know whether rebuilding, repairing, or replacing is the best option. Many newer engines have oil pumps that are driven by the end of the crankshaft, and failure of those is very rare.

What is working against you is continuing to drive it with that warning message. 60 seconds is way too long. The best action is to shift to neutral, turn the ignition switch off, and coast to the side of the road. Internal engine damage can occur within five seconds, but that doesn't necessarily mean your engine is destroyed. Some newer cars have a safety shutdown system to stall the engine to protect it. I'm sorry that I'm not familiar with them but I have read comments to that effect. If your engine lost oil pressure, there was still some oil splashing around and there would have been enough to lubricate the critical bearings for a few seconds.

Even when an engine seizes, that doesn't necessarily call for installing a used one that is identical to the one that just failed. Why would you want that? Only two things can cause an oil-related seizure, (other than resulting broken parts). The bearings need a constant supply of oil under pressure to isolate moving parts from each other. Those bearings are the first thing to go, and that repair requires new bearings and a new crankshaft or having the old one machined. The engine has to be removed for that repair, but that's a far cry from the cost of a total rebuild. The second thing is pistons getting overheated and stuck in the cylinders, and the metal starts to grind away. That repair is much more involved and costly but it takes a lot longer for that damage to occur. Oil pressure will be lost when any of the bearings fails but that oil will still be circulating and spraying onto the cylinder walls doing what it is supposed to do. Even that repair doesn't involve a lot of the stuff that has to be done during a complete rebuild. A hand-assembled rebuilt engine can be better than a new one, and will surely be better than a used one with an unknown history. I have to scratch my head when I read too often that people are told they need a replacement engine. Is it because the mechanics don't feel confident in their engine repair skills? Or is it more cost-effective to just dump another one in the car? There are engine machine shops all over that specialize in that, and they WILL be aware of any common shortcomings or failures, and they often have really good fixes to prevent them from occurring again. That's why professionally-rebuilt engines and transmissions can be a lot better than a good used one from a salvage yard.

If I'm reading your post right, two different people said the engine needs to be replaced. How did they determine that? Has anyone actually removed the oil pan and disassembled any of the bearings to look at them? Have they tried to restart the engine and check the actual oil pressure?

I can share how things worked at the very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership I worked at. The dealer is limited in what they can give away or ask the manufacturer to fix under warranty or what some people incorrectly refer to as "secret warranties". They didn't build the engine or damage it so do not look at them as an adversary. They are your advocate and you must have them in your corner if you request help from the manufacturer. What my dealer would do is set up an appointment with the district representative who visited each dealership once a month specifically to help with things the dealer couldn't. The dealer will back you up if they feel you have a case and that carries a lot of weight. The district rep. Is also limited in what he can do, but he has way more authority than anyone else in this regard. If the consensus is no one did anything wrong and the breakdown was just bad luck, they may still try to offer you something to help out, because after all, they want you to be a returning customer in the future. General Motors is very short-sighted when it comes to that. They want to squeeze every dollar they can from you right now rather than hope to squeeze a little in the future. Hyundai, Toyota, and Chrysler are on the other end of the extreme. They try to build a base of loyal returning customers. I don't know where Volvo fits on that scale but foreign manufacturers used to be real good at looking out for their customers. I haven't heard anything to suggest that has changed.

The first thing though is the district rep. Is going to want to know what caused the failure and what the total damages are. That might involve a few hours of diagnostic time that will be your responsibility. If it turns out to be a known problem they've seen before, they will be more likely to have a plan already. If this is something uncommon, they may offer to cover half or some other percentage of the total cost. They are trying to give you some help, but they're actually losing twice. If you pay half the cost, that may not fully cover their cost of the parts and the mechanic's labor. They're making a donation to you. Second, while that mechanic is working on your car, which could take many days, he can't work on other customers' cars and make a profit for the business. Contrary to what our current politicians would like you to believe, "profit" is not a bad thing. Without it that business wouldn't be there.

I can also share that they all know you are angry and frustrated, but they aren't going to do much to help a customer who is angry and screaming. There's no point. They want happy customers who spread positive word-of-mouth advertising, and they know angry people aren't going to do that regardless of the solution and outcome. They are going to double their efforts for people who are respectful and polite, especially when they know that's hard to be in this situation. Perhaps I witnessed how a lot of really caring people operated at my dealership, but we have a lot of new and used car dealers in my city that enjoy the same dandy reputations. That includes the Cadillac and GMC dealers. Only the Chevy dealer is a very well-known crook along with the two import dealerships he owns.

I'm going to go out on a limb here with a suggestion and share something I have no first-hand knowledge of, but my feeling is that writing a letter to Volvo will not be productive, at least once the repairs are completed. To write a letter stating the repair you already paid for will likely get shuffled aside by an office worker since the car is already fixed. Also, even if they wanted to help you, how would they decide how many dollars to give you? You might end up with a coupon for a free oil change! On the other hand, if you write a letter BEFORE the repair work is started, that may get handed off to the district rep. Who may commit to covering a percentage of the repair cost. I believe in that case the dealer would hand you the total bill and require you to pay only your percentage of it, then it would be submitted to the warranty people. Again, I don't know that for a fact, so I would be interested in knowing how things turn out for you. Volvo does a lot of things I don't like as a mechanic, but I've never heard any stories of them disregarding the needs of their customers like I regularly do of a few manufacturers.
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Monday, January 7th, 2013 AT 2:10 AM

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