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You’re going about your daily business. You’ve just loaded the groceries into your car and are ready to bring them home. You turn the key in the ignition and… CLUNK. Your engine seized, and you’re stranded.

Can you get that seized engine fixed? How much do the repairs cost? Is it even worth it to take your car in to the shop? Let’s look at what causes a seized engine and whether it can be repaired.

Why is My Engine Seized?

The most common reason an engine will seize is that the oil is too low. Maybe you’ve put off getting an oil change for a little too long. Maybe your vehicle is leaking or burning oil. Or maybe your mechanic forgot to put oil in your car after the last change (it happens!).

Motor oil is absolutely essential to the health of your vehicle. It’s like its blood-if that oil isn’t circulating the way it should be, your car can be severely damaged by the heat and friction.

There are other reasons your engine may be seized. It could be hydrolocked; for example, from driving through deep puddles or flood waters. Maybe it is vapor locked-this usually happens when your fuel temperatures rise in extreme heat. Or maybe your car has just been sitting in disuse for a while.

The most important thing you can do when you discover that your engine is seized is to try to determine why. This can help you decide whether attempting to fix the car is worth it to you, or not.

Can You Fix a Seized Car Engine?

The answer to this question is usually “yes.” In most cases, you can fix a seized engine. But that depends upon the cause of the problem and how much you want to spend.

Sometimes you’ll already know the cause of the seizure. For instance, your car has been sitting in your driveway for a year, and now it won’t run properly. Or maybe you’ve just returned home after driving in heavy rainwaters and a few puddles along the way.

If your car won’t run because it’s been idle, you can try to remove the spark plugs from the cylinders. Fill the cylinders with the proper oil for your car and let it sit for a few days. Then, try to turn the engine with a breaker bar. If it turns, you’re in good shape! If not, it’s time to visit a mechanic.

If your engine is hydrolocked, you’ll need to remove the spark plugs and crank the engine. If the damage is minor, the water will pump right out of the cylinders.

If your engine seized due to vapor lock, you’ll need to cool it. If you have time, just let your vehicle sit until the fuel cools and condenses. If you’re stuck on the side of the road, you can try to cool it by splashing cool water on your fuel pump.

In any case, once you’ve gotten your vehicle up and running it’s best to take it to a qualified mechanic. He or she can further investigate the cause of the engine seizure, and let you know if any additional damage has been done to your vehicle or your engine.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Seized Engine?

Whether you can fix a seized engine or not sometimes depends upon the estimated cost of repairs. It may be worth it to fix or rebuild the engine. Or, in some cases, it may cost more than your vehicle is worth.

If you can “fix” your car simply by pumping out water, replacing spark plugs, or cooling the fuel, excellent! You’re one of the lucky ones! This will cost you anywhere from absolutely nothing to $1,500, depending upon whether the fuel pump and other parts were damaged.

If your seized engine was due to a hydrolock, it may be cheap and simple to fix … unless your engine was damaged in the process. If this is the case, it can cost thousands of dollars for an engine replacement.

One point to note is that your insurance generally will not cover the repair costs for a seized engine. However, if you can prove that your engine was damaged due to a flood or another natural disaster, you may be able to negotiate a payment with your insurer to either repair or total your vehicle.

Conclusion: Fixing a Seized Car Engine

A seized engine is no joke-it happens when you least expect it and can be very expensive to fix. Knowing the cause of the engine seizure is the first step in determining whether your vehicle can be fixed or if it’s just not worth the expense.