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Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

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Old 24 Oct 2010, 11:35 pm
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Default Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

Hi all,

I bought my wife a 2003 PT Cruiser in the beginning of July of this year. Immediately it began giving us problems, but most of them were of a routine-maintenance nature. That is, brakes, gaskets, belt, etc... My father-in-law knew a mechanic that was able to help us out while saving us some money.

One of the issues was that the oil light was going off. I never saw this happen myself, but my father-in-law and the mechanic both verified it. We investigated it and it seemed to be an oil sensor. The mechanic said that the dealer that sold it tried to cover up the problem by putting a thicker grade oil in the engine. This was noticed several months ago.

The mechanic is now saying that the head is ruined. His take on this is that, in hiding what was a small and inexpensive problem with thicker oil, the dealer caused a more major fault in the engine. The car, he says, may last another six months or it may break down the next time it's driven. My father-in-law who drove it after bringing it home from the mechanic describes the symptoms: after turning on the car and driving for approx. 5 minutes, he presses the brake to slow or stop the car. When this happens the oil light goes off and a chime sounds. The mechanic is unsure exactly how much the repair will cost and will not know until he is able to get it apart and look at it.

What I am asking is if anyone has had a problem similar to this, and how was it solved? The repairs will be somewhat expensive and I am curious to see if there is another way or something no one has considered. With as much has gone wrong with this vehicle, I'd hate to pay for this repair only to find something else wrong in six months or so.

Thank you for your time.
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Old 25 Oct 2010, 10:21 am
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

I hope you mean that "when the oil light goes off" is really saying that the oil light comes on. However if you actually mean that the oil light does turn off, you do have very serious engine problems.

Years ago I had a car that the oil light would come on sometimes when I'd come to a stoplight. It was always due to low oil level. Putting some in always fixed the problem. The point is that having the oil pressure light come on means that you have low oil pressure. While it could be the sending unit, a better guess is that you either have a plugged pickup screen in the oil pan or the oil pump is bad. If it is something bad in the head, I doubt that the casting itself is damaged but instead replaceable bearing, cams, etc...

Find another mechanic, have them replace the sending unit with a oil pressure gauge that they can read true oil pressure and take for a drive. Does the oil pressure actually fall off at stop lights/stops or does it stay at an acceptable pressure.

If the pressure is at an acceptible rating, replace the sending unit. If the pressure falls off, check the oil pump pickup screen and/or pump. You'll need to at least drop the pan to access the pickup screen and probably the pump as well.
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Old 25 Oct 2010, 11:50 am
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

Oil lights comming on and off are common on PTs. Just replace the sender unit (it is near the oil filter on the back) and change the oil back to what it should be. 5/30 I think. The oil sending unit is said to be a bit hard to change but should be easy if the car is up on a lub rack. The wrong weight oil should not have anything to do with the Cylinder head.
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Old 25 Oct 2010, 01:58 pm
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

5w/30 is correct.

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Old 25 Oct 2010, 02:21 pm
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

Yup - get the proper oil in the car and go from there. The wrong weight oil can cause this, and it may have been an honest mistake. Start there and see what developes...
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Old 25 Oct 2010, 02:28 pm
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?


Yes, that is what I meant to say, that the light turns on when he stops. I have never seen the oil light on, but then again I have only been in the car a handful of times. The car is in another state with my in-laws, mainly because we haven't wanted to attempt the six-hour drive if there was something that could go wrong.

Father-in-Law said that as he was driving home he would step on the brakes and the oil light would come on, accompanied by a chime. He also said the mechanic described the head as 'chattering'. I am intrigued by what I am finding out here because several other people have said similar things, that the oil viscosity shouldn't have to do with the cylinder head.

I do know that we already replaced the oil sender unit. We knew about the oil viscosity problem a while back and the oil was replaced. Upon going back there in September we were almost ready to take the car. Father-in-Law wanted to have a noise under the hood checked out. He said it was coming from near the alternator, and it was a roar-type sound. It sounded to me like a fan turned up too high. Evidently it's gotten worse than this.


The oil was changed back in August or September, along with the oil sender.

Being that this car has had problems right and left since we bought it, and no one knows what else could go wrong, it seems more prudent to just cut our losses and get something else that won't be a money pit. It would be too much just to pay another mechanic to take a look at it.
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Old 25 Oct 2010, 02:40 pm
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

If you had a head problem, you'd have more than an occasional oil pressure light.

Get a second opinion. Your problem could be an oil pump as well.
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Old 26 Oct 2010, 06:21 am
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Default Re: Possible Destroyed Cylinder Head...Advice?

The car was taken for a second opinion and more people were asked. Many of the people I talked to said that it didn't sound like the oil should have damaged the head like that, and to get a second opinion. Father-in-Law told me that the oil removed from the engine in August/September was something like gear oil, extremely thick and something that shouldn't have been in the engine in the first place. Nonetheless, many people say it's the oil pump.

The car is immobile for the time being. One of the mechanics he asked had him start it to see if the oil light came on. After that, he told him to rev the engine to see if it stayed on. If it went off, then the issue wasn't so serious. If it stayed on however, there was something more seriously wrong and that further running of the engine could make matters worse.

When we visited MS in September (which is where the car is) he pointed out to me a noise he described as an 'unusual roar' in the engine. I heard it while driving but thought it was a normal engine noise. It sounded like a fan switched too high. Father-in-Law says that this noise is coming from the area of the timing belt cover. This is where the oil pump is, apparently. The oil pump might be the cause of that noise, as well as all of our other problems.

At this point, driving the car more could damage it so we will have to get it fixed regardless of what we are going to do with it. I don't know if we will trade it in or keep it yet. Even if replacing the oil pump will quiet that noise and restore the engine health no one knows what else could come up in the near future.

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