coolant cap left off and engine failed

20

Asked by Jul 27, 2015 at 10:55 PM about the 2003 Ford Expedition XLT

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

A local repair shop left off the coolant cap after service.  My daughter just drove the car to
school and back, just a couple of miles.  A few month later engine light comes on and it
dies.  We tow it to AAA and they say no coolant in the truck and coolant cap was wedged
in roof.  They fill and check and no leaks.  Do block test and it fails.   They say cap being
off caused failure. Tow back to repair shop and they are denying claim, say it would have
been impossible to go for a few months and not know cap was off.   AAA says it could
definitely happen.  Repair shop actually says cap must have been blown off somehow
and got lodged in roof and whatever the issue was was coincidentally there anyway.  
Crazy.... Is it probable that car could be driven for a while without the cap then when
coolant is empty/gone a few months later it was the cause (it was only local travel)?

11 Answers

28,045

yes..if it never got hot..a cap doesnt blow off if its but on right.. so check engine light came on ...overheated?...you said>A local repair shop left off the coolant cap after service......so, they made a booboo... but there should have been something to tell you all is not right...catch 22 here.

72,405

In my opinion, no. When coolant gets hot it expands, a lot. With the cap off you would have had coolant and steam gushing like a geyser! I once had a radiator hose blow without knowing it. I drove to work and parked the car. When I came back to leave it was dark outside. So if there was a puddle of coolant, I never saw it. From a cold start I made it about 3 miles down the road before the engine started knocking! The temp warning light never came on because the cooling system was bone dry. That can happen. The fact that you've been driving this vehicle for a few months since it was at the repair shop leads me to believe exactly what the shop told you. Either the cap blew off or was left off that day or or was taken off during the night before you used the car that morning. Sorry. HTH. -Jim

28,045

yes and no.....

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
20

Engine light went on and by the time she pulled off highway it shut down. No one else worked on car or touched it. She drove 2 miles per day so timeframe is not that long in my opinion and definitely not long enough to get too hot. When the truck came back they filled it back up with fluid and there were no leaks found. There was never any fluid in my driveway or and sign of a leak either. If somehow the cap was blown off wouldn't there be a sign or indication of something else wrong, also how does a cap get physically blown off and then wedged perfectly in a slot no where near where it came off?

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
72,405

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Since the coolant recovery tank is pressurized and the cap is plastic, it's very possible that it blew off. Especially if the cap is original. It's also possible, on these systems, that if the coolant is very low, topping off the recovery tank alone will not fill the system. In that case you must remove the upper radiator hose, thermostat and housing, and pour the coolant directly into the engine. Was the cooling system pressure tested for leaks? Sometimes a leak will only show up under pressure. It is also possible that the head gasket blew into the cooling jacket and the combustion pressure from that cylinder blew off the cap. At any event I still maintain, without seeing the vehicle, that whatever happened, happened that day, and not months prior. HTH. -Jim

263,915

I agree with the Kelly and Js, The problem is proving the cap was off from day one and the coolant slowly leaked out or it blew off. I don't think anyone can prove what happened at this point being months later. If the cap was truely off, there would have been warning signs, like the smell of coolant evaporating and or on the ground. Do you know the code since the check engine light was on? If the shop was nice, they would cut you a break on the replacement engine/labor. Good Luck.

20

Jim, they did do pressure test for leaks, no leaks found. If head gasket blew wouldn't it be noticeable (either when it happened or afterwards when they started it back up?)? The original shop said they tested the car and it was fine and head mechanoc said he drive it all over, it wasn't until I asked if they did block test that they went back and did it and it failed. Thanks.

55,225

First off coolant systems are pressurized to raise the boiling temperature of the coolant and coolant will expand an contract. With the reservoir left open the coolant will boil and evaporate away. If this vehicle was driven for several months did nobody ever raise the hood and check the oil and the coolant level? I think not. It is possible for a defective pressure cap to be blown off of the reservoir, but I would think the radiator would have split first. In my opinion if this car had quit with in a few days of being in the shop it likely would be the fault of the repair shop leaving the cap off, but several months? I think the OP is stuck with it. Best off luck.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Thanks all.for the feedback. Bob, we did not check oil as even though it was a few months it was still not due for oil changE as she drives short distances. Sounds like we are stuck. 170k miles, worth fixing? I think they said head gasket is the issue but costs almost the same to replace engine as make repair?? Thoughts?

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
72,405

Nope, it's 12 years old with 170,000 miles on it. Time to move on. HTH. -Jim

72,405

Also sounds like they found no external leaks with the pressure test but they should have suspected an internal leak since the system would not have held pressure for the minimum required 15 minutes. I'm assuming that the block test you referred to consisted of putting a chemical in the coolant and running the engine. If the chemical reacts, which it sounds like it did, combustion gasses are present in the cooling system. This would indicate a blown head gasket or cracked head. It could also blow the cap off the recovery tank. We once had a delivery vehicle blow a head gasket into the crankcase. The PCV valve and hose was blown out of the valve cover. We never did find the PCV valve. HTH. -Jim

Your Answer

Expedition

Looking for a Used Expedition in your area?

CarGurus has 17,192 nationwide Expedition listings starting at $1,500.

ZIP:

Ford Expedition Experts

  • #1
    T_S_T
    Reputation
    2,100
  • #2
    Larry Sturgis
    Reputation
    1,490
  • #3
    lightGear
    Reputation
    1,040
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Chevrolet Tahoe
821 Great Deals out of 41,738 listings starting at $1,987
Used Ford Explorer
1,232 Great Deals out of 69,037 listings starting at $750
Used Chevrolet Suburban
488 Great Deals out of 24,004 listings starting at $1,799
Used Ford F-150
3,201 Great Deals out of 219,867 listings starting at $1,200
Used Lincoln Navigator
98 Great Deals out of 3,754 listings starting at $1,955
Used GMC Yukon
600 Great Deals out of 20,717 listings starting at $2,600
Used GMC Yukon XL
279 Great Deals out of 14,446 listings starting at $2,495
Used Cadillac Escalade
259 Great Deals out of 11,936 listings starting at $1,200
Used Nissan Armada
172 Great Deals out of 9,771 listings starting at $2,900
Used Toyota Sequoia
126 Great Deals out of 5,158 listings starting at $1,500
Used Ford Excursion
8 Great Deals out of 837 listings starting at $2,300
Used Dodge Durango
356 Great Deals out of 24,131 listings starting at $1,500
Used Ford F-250 Super Duty
398 Great Deals out of 48,649 listings starting at $1,899
Used Toyota 4Runner
348 Great Deals out of 26,254 listings starting at $1,800
Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500
2,655 Great Deals out of 173,588 listings starting at $955

Used Cars For Sale

2018 Ford Expedition XLT For Sale
207 listings starting at $48,193
2017 Ford Expedition XLT For Sale
918 listings starting at $23,086
2016 Ford Expedition XLT For Sale
8 Great Deals out of 142 listings starting at $21,999
2015 Ford Expedition XLT For Sale
46 listings starting at $21,900
2014 Ford Expedition XLT For Sale
84 listings starting at $16,990

Content submitted by Users is not endorsed by CarGurus, does not express the opinions of CarGurus, and should not be considered reviewed, screened, or approved by CarGurus. Please refer to CarGurus Terms of Use.