Last post on Jul 20, 2013 at 5:40 PM
You are in the Lexus ES
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Lexus ES 330, Lexus ES 350, Lexus ES 300, Engine, Sedan
#22 of 66 Engine Ring Replacement?
Jun 07, 2007 (11:04 am)
I purchased a '97 ES 300 in 2000 with 31,000 miles on it. Currently, the vehicle has 83K miles on it. During the past couple of years, I've used the car intermittantly, which I guess threw me off my regular maintenance schedule.
I periodically checked the oil and other resevoirs and had no problems, other than air conditioning, with the vehicle.
On a frigid January evening this year, I started the car at night after leaving class and I noticed what I thought was a plume of smoke in the rear view mirror. I convinced myself that it was just the exhaust tempered by the cold weather, and drove home with no incident. A few days later, I noticed the smoke, again and while driving home, the car started to stall and idle almost violently at a stop light. This would happen at every stop light. I made it home and checked what I thought was the oil dipstick, which was full. I noticed the car was very hot and unscrewed the top of the oil resevoir and steam and smoke poured out of it for minutes. It was late and dark in my garage and I decided to revisit the situation in the light of morning. I took the manual in the house and realized that I had been checking the dipstick right next to the oil resevoir, but that this was the power steering dipstick. The oil dipstick is located on the other side of the engine, towards the back. There was singed oil on the inside of the oil resevoir cap and the oil was nearly gone. I put 4 quarts in the engine and decided if the problem persisted, I'd take it into the dealership.
The problem perisisted, I took it into the dealership explaining same and they called saying I needed new plugs and wires. They charged me $400 and sent me on my way. The car drove beautifully, though there were hints of minor exhaust smoke a few days later.
After 2 months and 600 miles, the car started exhibiting the same exact symptoms as before. I took it back to Lexus and they then said I needed new rings on the engine pistons. They said the rings are failing and oil is mixing with the gas and the engine sensors are detecting it. He said the idling and near engine shutdown was caused by the wires falling out and the plugs being dirty with oil. When I questioned him as to what they did the first time to get it running back smoothly, he said they replaced the bad plugs, cleaned off the good ones and replaced the wires. He said the plugs were again oily and the wires were again fallng out. They told me they could get me a rebuilt engine for $7,800. Not an option.
At no point during this debacle did the oil light ever illuminate, other than when the car was idling violently and threatening to shut down.
Unfortunately, I don't have much confidence in the Lexus service repair department to tell me what is acutally going on, as I find it hard to believe that they didn't discern the problem was internal to the engine the first time I took it in, rather they felt it was unlikely I'd get the engine repaired there, so they sold me what they could to get what they could out of me. Call me paranoid (OK, along with stupid for checking the wrong dipstick all these months).
Finally, here are my questions: Does this diagnosis sound legitimate? What should I look for in terms of credentials and experience in an auto mechanic when/if I take it in for a second opinion or repair? What is a 'reasonable' charge to replace the rings on the pistons?
I'd really appreciate your help.
#23 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [shello]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jun 07, 2007 (11:24 am)
What needs to happen is this: A Cylinder Leakdown Test.
This gives a quantitative measurement of internal engine wear, and will tell you if its the rings, the valve guides, the valve stem seals, or just excessive crankcase pressure.
Without this test, everyone's just guessing.
If the test has been done, they should be able to show you actual results on a print-out.
#24 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jun 08, 2007 (6:03 pm)
Excellent! Thanks for your help. I can assume this test can be performed by Lexus. Can other mechanics specializing in foreign cars perform this test, too?
#25 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [shello]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jun 08, 2007 (8:03 pm)
Yes any mechanic who found his or her way out of their house this morning should know exactly how to do this test. I'm sure a Lexus dealer has this tool in their required tool shed they buy from Lexus when they open a dealership. It might be dusty (sounds like it) but they have one.
But any good import shop knows how to do this.
#26 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jun 09, 2007 (3:46 pm)
Thanks for your timely response.
I called the dealership today and they have yet to return the call.
Say that they did use this test and it does in fact reveal the rings need to be replaced. I know prices vary from shop to shop, but what is a reasonable price for this kind of repair? I need to decide whether to invest further in the vehicle or to trade it in.
#27 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [shello]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jun 09, 2007 (4:07 pm)
It will all depend on the condition of the pistons themselves and on the true-ness of the cylinder bores. Re-ringing an engine with 87K on it is tricky because you may want to do work on the cylinder heads as well, and the bearing clearances should be checked as well. It's one of those "while we're in there" kind of jobs where the costs are hard to control.
But since they haven't really tested it they don't know yet, or they didn't tell you properly what they found. Perhaps you have worn valve guides or valve stem seals, which would give the exact same symptoms but only require removal of the cylinder heads---perhaps a $1,500 repair.
#28 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jun 09, 2007 (9:00 pm)
I'm learning so much from your responses.
Do you think the rings or seals or guides could have been caused from not having enough oil? There was a lot of steam and heat built up in the engine when I took off the oil resevoir cap and noticed the singed oil on the underside of the cap.
I'm assuming that the cost of replacing the rings and/or the other ancillary things you mentioned would cost more than the $1,500 for guides or stem seals? Much more?
#29 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [shello]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jun 10, 2007 (8:10 am)
I think engine wear from lack of oil is pretty rapid and catastrophic. I don't think being low on oil causes subtle wear issues like worn rings or loose valve guides...if an engine is starving for oil, it will destroy itself pretty fast, not keep running in a mildly degraded state like yours.
The wear on valve guides could be construed as within "normal" wear at 87K....quite premature but not unheard of...maybe there should have been more frequent oil changes. I have no idea of the car's previous service records.
I think if they bust open the entire engine, that is "go into the lower end" rather than just stay on the "upper end" (cylinder heads", then you will surely exceed $1,500 unless it's some kind of down and dirty patch job. Most of the cost is a) the labor to disassemble and assemble the engine and b) the machining costs. The actual parts are not very expensive---rings, gaskets, hoses, clamps, belts, etc.
Offhand, I'd say your car is an excellent candidate for a used engine, should the cylinder leakdown test show excessive ring wear. Remember, you cannot successfully install a new, perfectly round ring on a worn piston running in an oblong cylinder bore. It won't last but a few thousand miles before burning oil again. Everything must be "trued up" and made factory tight again.
#30 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jun 12, 2007 (10:05 am)
I just LOVE what I'm learning about this whole procedure. Of course I'm less excited about how costly this is turning out to be
I finally heard back from the Lexus Service Manager.
He stated that they didn't arrive at the ring failure determination from performing a cylinder leakdown test. Instead, they determined that it had to be the failure of the rings because oil was 'fouling out' the spark plugs, even the newly installed ones, and the only way that oil could get to the spark plugs was if the rings had failed.
He said the rings were failing on multiple cylinders.
Like you, he also told me that is was highly unlikely on a "Lexus engine" that the trouble was being caused by a valve problem.
He went on to articulate what is involved in rebuilding the engine and said that with the labor involved (40-50 hours), it would exceed the cost of even a factory new engine from Lexus ($7,000).
So, now I guess my only option if I'm going to keep the vehicle is getting a used engine.
My only experience with such an endeavor is when I had a new transmission put into a Hyundai Excel. I shopped around at auto salvage yards and found a mechanic to install it. I then promptly drove it from his shop to an auto dealer and traded it in.
Should I just start calling auto salvage shops and shop around for engines? Are there internet sites where I can shop for the engines?
I know the price will vary depending on the mileage, but can you give me a ballpark figure of what is a good price given a certain mileage range? Also, what should be a reasonable labor charge for removing the old and installing the new engine?
I remember when I had the transmission done, the warranty for the transmission was only 90 days and the mechanics work was only guaranteed for 30. Would the warranty be much the same on engines?
I know I'm probably asking a lot of you, but any help you can provide will help me make a decision.
Thanks for all of your help and patience.
#31 of 66 Re: Engine Ring Replacement? [shello]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jun 12, 2007 (10:13 am)
"Instead, they determined that it had to be the failure of the rings because oil was 'fouling out' the spark plugs, even the newly installed ones, and the only way that oil could get to the spark plugs was if the rings had failed."
I'm sorry, but they are wrong about that.
Bad valve guides or valve stem seals could certainly foul spark plugs, and in fact could do so more easily than bad rings. Why? Because with bad valve stem seals or guides, the oil can drop into the combustion chamber with the engine shut off, putting a lot more oil onto the cold plugs than bad rings can do on warm plugs.
I'd still say that without a cylinder leakdown test, Lexus is just walking around with a blindfold throwing darts at your checkbook.
One step at a time. First, "nail" the problem. Automobiles are science, they are not sessions with a psychic.