Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (2023)

Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (1)

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Trying to start your car and your engine won’t turn over is a terrible feeling we can relate to. Your engine is the heart of your car and without it, your wheels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Engine locked up repair costs can be extremely high, but just because your engine seized up doesn’t mean your car, van, or SUV isn’t worth any money.

If you’d like to get money for your car with a locked up engine now, click here to get an instant value calculation.

Below, we’re going to cover the symptoms, types, and what you can do with a seized engine.

Seized Engine Symptoms

When your car's engine won't start, you might assume the problem is with the battery. While a dead battery and a seized engine might both prevent your car from turning over, you can tell the difference by looking for the symptoms of a locked up engine.

When a car battery is dead, your car won't start, and neither will its electronic components. When a car's engine has seized, the car won't start — however, the electronic components might work just fine!

Common seized engine symptoms include:

So, what happens if your engine locks up? What causes a seized engine? What are the repair costs to a locked up engine and is it worth it to complete those repairs?

Can A Seized Engine Be Fixed?

The first step is to determine whether the issues are severe or not. If the repair requires a quick fix, then go ahead and get that car fixed.

When a vehicle has a seized or blown engine,the cost of repair could potentially exceed the vehicle's value.

To avoid overspending on repairs, it's important to make the right decision and sell the vehicle AS-ISfor the best offer possible.


Our expert evaluators can help you get an accurate estimate for your cars value, FAST!

Get Your Expert Evaluation, FAST!

Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (2)

What is a Seized Engine?

Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (3)An engine seizes up due to mechanical failure, usually associated with oil starvation. When an engine runs out of oilor the oil isn’t circulating as it should, internal metal parts rub against each other, creating enormous amounts of heat from the friction.

Bearings that are meant to allow for smooth movement grind against the crankshaft and camshaft, sometimes literally welding themselves onto other parts.

What happens when an engine locks up while driving? It will suddenly sound rough and stop on its own. Seized engines due to lack of oil can range from a little engine damage to major damage.

An engine can seize from not running, too. In that case, it’s a little different. The piston rings ‘freeze’ against the cylinder walls from rusting. This is most commonly seen on old cars that are due for restoration.

Should you see white smoke coming from your engine bay, then that means the coolant within your engine is exposed to its combustion components. It could be an indication of a crack in your engine and a symptom of a soon-to-some engine seizure.

Hydrolocked Engine

Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (4)An engine hydrolockoccurs when water gets into the engine’s combustion chamber. On the combustion stroke, the piston is unable to reach the top of its stroke because the water won’t compress like the air-fuel mixture would. The engine suddenly stops.

If the engine is at low RPMs, you may escape without critical engine damage. At higher RPMs, bent connecting rods and busted pistons are almost guaranteed.

Vapor Locked Engine

This one’s a little different. Vapor lock doesn’t mean your engine doesn’t turn over, but your engine won’t start.

Vapor lock is a fuel system problem, usually found on older cars with low-pressure fuel systems. When gasoline in the fuel lines or fuel pump turns from liquid to gas, it starves the engine of fuel and it stops running.

When a vapor lock occurs, your engine will begin to sputter and lose power, then turn off. It won’t start no matter how hard you try.

What Causes a Locked Engine?

Bad Starter

  • Infrequent Oil Changes

  • Depleted Oil

  • A Broken Engine Oil Pump

  • A Sudden Engine Failure

This is due to a lack of lubrication provided by the oil within the engine. The non-lubricated components cannot smoothly interact with one another and, therefore, seize up.

Hydrolocked Engine

  • Too Much Water In Engine

It’s due to water getting into the engine through the air intake, probably from driving through a deep puddle or floodwaters.

Vapor Locked Engine

  • Extreme Heat

The fuel in the lines between the fuel pump and the engine turn to fuel vapor. It can be from sitting in traffic in sweltering heat or from turning off your engine when it’s hot out, and the fuel temperature quickly rises.

The fuel pump can’t move fuel vapor and the pump cavitates.

Now, can you "unseize an engine from sitting"?

What to Do When Your Engine Locks Up

If your engine locks up when you’re on the road, put your transmission in neutral and coast to the side of the road.

If it happens when you're already parked, you’re not going anywhere. Try turning your engine over once or twice.

If it doesn’t crank, don’t keep trying. You could burn out your starter or cause more problems.

How To Check If Your Engine Is Seized

A seized engine isn’t always immediately identifiable if your car is parked.

Oftentimes, it can be mistaken for a dead battery instead. Some symptoms that your engine seized or is about to are:

  • Your electronics all come on, but your car itself won’t start

  • A check engine light prior to the total seizure of the engine

  • Clunking sounds from the engine bay while driving

How to Unseize An Engine

Treating a locked up motor depends on its cause. You can tell if your engine is locked by trying to turn the crankshaft with a breaker bar. If it turns, the engine isn’t seized, and you should look for a different cause.

  • If your engine has seized up while you’re driving, there’s nothing you can do about it short of an intensive engine repair or replacement.

  • If you have an engine that is seized from sitting for a long time, pull the spark plugs out of all the cylinders. Fill the cylinders with engine oil and let it sit for a few days. Then, try turning the engine over with a breaker bar. If it moves, you may be able to salvage the engine. If not, you’ll have to pull it apart and rebuild it.

  • If your engine is hydrolocked, take out the spark plugs right away and crank the engine over. The water will pump out of the cylinders, releasing the hydrolock. That’s IF there are no damaged parts inside.

  • For a vapor locked engine, you need the fuel to cool to the point of condensing. It can happen frequently just by letting it sit and cool off. Or, if you need to get it going right away, you can cool off the fuel pump and lines by splashing cold water or ice on them, condensing the vapor back to liquid.

My Engine Locked Up - Repair Costs?

Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (5)A vapor locked engine requires no cost to repair if you’re able to cool off the system quickly. If the fuel pump has overheated, you can expect it to cost $500 to $1500 for a replacement.

An engine hydrolock could be as little as the cost of new spark plugs and an oil change. Or, if the engine was damaged when the hydrolock happened, you may need to replace the engine at a cost of thousands of dollars.

In short, if you have an engine that is seized, repair costs will probably be high. The same is true if your engine is locked up — costs will probably be higher than you care to pay for on your own.

If you want to know more about engine damage, we created a guide on blown engines on various makes and models of carsthroughout the years you can check out.

Can a Seized Engine be Rebuilt?

If an engine is seized due to oil starvation, you might be able to rebuild the seized engine, but the labor costs can reach epic heights.

A mechanic will have to inspect your engine to make sure no major irreparable damage was done, and particularly that a rod hasn't gone through the engine block.

Another thing to look out for is the overheating of an engine after it seized.

The heat can warp parts of the engine you won't be able to see, so it might be more costly than initially expected. It's probably better to explore options of selling a car with engine problems.

Can I Sell A Car With A Locked Up Engine?

Engine Seized? - What to Do With A Seized Engine Car (6)

If the engine has seized and needs a rebuild or replacement, it could easily become $3,000 or more for your repair.

So, can you get cash for a car with a seized engine? Simple answer: yes!

CarBrain is the ideal “final home” for vehicles near the end of their road-life.

We will make a guaranteed offer for your car in as-is condition. Our top-tier customer service representatives make the entire process as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Get your free quote! Simply enter some basic information about your car on our website and you’ll receive a free and guaranteed quote within 90 seconds.

    Towing is complementary, so you’ll never have to worry about hidden or additional fees taking away from the profits you take home.

  2. Schedule your pickup within 24-48 hours! If you’re happy with your quote, you’ll be able to schedule your vehicle retrieval with one of our partners within your area. They’re trusted to come to you at a time that works best for you.

  3. Complete your sale! After a quick inspection and transferring of your title, you’ll receive the amount you were quoted, no haggling or fuss. Your vehicle is taken off your hands and money is put in them!

Contact CarBrain today and sell your car quickly without leaving the comfort of your own home!

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