What to do if the car engine is seized?

What To Do If The Car Engine Is Seized?

A seized engine is considered one of a driver’s worst nightmares, as it can cause major problems for your vehicle. Oftentimes called a locked engine, a seized engine means that it’s stuck because key engine parts, such as the pistons, crankshaft, and connecting rods, among others, have stopped moving, causing it to fail its functions.

An engine getting locked due to mechanical failure is typically triggered by oil starvation. Lack of oil in the engine means that the metal parts inside rub against each other, causing heat from the intense friction.

A vehicle suffering from a seized engine can cost its owner a lot of money, as engine repairs can be quite expensive, especially for serious cases like this.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Seized Engine?

A seized engine poses many different symptoms, such as the following:

  1. Failure To Start

    Your engine won’t turn when you start it, even if the electronics in your car are working, your battery is new, and your tank is full.

  2. Engine Noises

    If you hear a noise that sounds like faint knocking or light tapping, it might be caused by the piston connecting rod crashing into the crankshaft. These noises sometimes indicate a seized engine.

  3. Physical Defects

    There are times when internal parts of an engine become loose, so they become stuck in other parts and components. This can also be the cause of a locked engine.

  4. Burnt Wires/Smell

    Burnt wires occur after an engine seizes. Due to repeated failed attempts to start the engine, the wires start overheating, which leaves a burning smell and smoke as well.

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What Causes A Seized Engine?

There are several factors that cause a seized engine. Some are related to oil-related reasons, mechanical issues, and more. Here are some common factors behind a locked engine:

  1. Insufficient Engine Oil

    Oil plays a vital role in maintaining the proper functionality of the car engine. Apart from lubrication, it also helps in cooling down some engine components. If there isn’t enough oil in the engine, it could overheat and cause friction when the dry parts inside rub against each other.

  2. Quality Of Engine Oil

    The quality of engine oil is another factor in a seized engine. Low-quality oil can cause the engine to burn it or the oil to evaporate from the system. The engine must contain oil with the appropriate characteristics, preferably the type recommended by the car manufacturer. This is to avoid increased friction and heating.

  3. Bad Oil Circulation

    Oil circulation is important in ensuring proper maintenance of the engine. If the oil can’t reach all the parts and components, it could result in a locked engine. There are several reasons behind poor engine oil circulation, which include a faulty oil pump and clogs within the system and/or the filter.

  4. Car’s Lack Of Usage

    A car being idle for a prolonged period of time can also lead to a seized engine due to the parts drying up over time. A common sign of a locked engine due to lack of use is when the interior lights are working but the engine won’t crank after turning the ignition.

  5. Hydrolock

    An engine seized due to hydrolock means that sufficient water has entered the cylinder, and if water gets into the air intake and then into the combustion chamber. The water can cause serious damage to components, including the pistons and valves. It may be caused by driving through high waters, such as floods.

  6. Vapor Lock

    A vapor lock mainly happens with older cars with low-pressure fuel systems. It’s a fuel system issue where the liquid inside the system overheats and then turns to gas, starving your engine of fuel. A common sign of a vapor lock is when your engine begins to sputter and lose power.

What’s The Best Thing To Do If The Car Engine Is Seized?

There are several options you can take if your engine has seized: you can either have it repaired, rebuilt, or replaced. But before choosing, you have to consider various factors, such as cost, and whether or not the time and effort are worth it to have the engine fixed.

While these are reasonable options, you can also just put the car up for sale with the right buyer or junk yard, you can get your money’s worth compared to the expensive price of getting the engine fixed, and some junk yard companies also offer free towing services to save you the hassle of getting rid of your unfunctional vehicle.

Can A Seized Engine Be Fixed?

A seized engine can be fixed. However, it could get quite expensive, and it could also cost you a lot of time, effort, and patience. A common band-aid solution is to use penetrating oil to lubricate the parts and free up the seized engine. If you ever get to free up the engine, it is important to keep it running and well-maintained by ensuring that the parts are in good condition, or else it might seize up again.

How To Fix A Seized Engine

There are several ways that you can try to free up a seized engine. However, as stated above, it would take time, effort, and patience. The process also depends on the cause of the seized engine.

  • If your engine is locked up due to lack of usage, you can try pulling the spark plugs out of all the cylinders, filling them up with oil, and letting them rest for a few days. After that, try turning it over with a breaker bar. You might be able to salvage the engine if it moves, otherwise, you might have to rebuild it.
  • If the engine is seized up while you’re driving, the only solution might be a thorough repair or replacement.
  • For an engine that is hydrolocked, you can try taking out the spark plugs immediately and cranking the engine over. The water will then pump out of the cylinders. If there are no compromised parts inside, the engine should be freed up.
  • If your engine is vapor locked, you can try letting the engine repeatedly sit and let the fuel cool off to the point of condensing. However, if you need an urgent fix, try pouring cold water or ice on the fuel pump and lines so they can cool off and condense the vapor back to its liquid state.

It’s important to note that these tips are not guaranteed fixes. The best way to know is to consult with a professional so you can weigh out your options.

How Much Does It Cost If The Car Engine Is Seized?

If the mechanic says your engine is stuck, you may have to pay a lot to fix it. You may have to buy new parts, or you may have to replace the engine.

The cost of repairs for a seized engine varies on a lot of factors, including your location and the method of repair needed. The mechanic will also take into consideration the make and model of your vehicle, the severity of the seizure, and labor costs.

Engine repairs or replacement can cost you from $500 to $4,000, depending on the severity of the issues found. A new engine can cost you around $4,000 to $7,000, depending on its type and quality. Otherwise, you can also purchase used engines for around $1,500 to $3,000.

Does It Make Sense To Fix A Seized Engine?

This part can be answered depending on your needs and preferences. The cost is mostly the main point of concern, as repairs or replacements can get pretty expensive. Another factor to consider is the condition of the engine. Depending on the severity of the damage, the expensive repair cost may not be worth it anymore. Lastly, if it’s an old engine, it may be prone to seizing, so it’s important to weigh out if the expenses are justified.

If your vehicle has a seized engine, the best option to take is to send your car to a trusted junk yard or auto recyclers, especially for worn-out vehicles. Taking this option can get you cash offers for your used car.

If you’re considering selling your car with a locked engine and are looking for a reliable scrap car removal company that can offer you the most value for your vehicle, consider us at Towing and Scrap Car Removal. We offer top dollar for used cars, and if you’re around the GTA, we can offer free towing services as well, helping you get rid of your car without any problems. Feel free to reach out to us here for more details.



  1. What happens when an engine is seized?

    A seized engine means that the internal parts of the engine get stuck for various reasons, leaving it unusable as it will be unable to start.

  2. How can you spot if an engine is seized?

    There are various signs that you need to notice to know that the engine is seized, such as poor engine performance, knocking noises, a burnt smell, and the oil light being left on.

  3. If an engine is locked, will it still run?

    No, a locked engine will not be able to run due to internal failure.

  4. Is a seized engine still fixable?

    There are various ways to fix a seized engine. However, it can cost you lots of cash, and while there are several band-aid solutions to this issue, those methods do not offer a guaranteed fix.

  5. Can you trade your car with a seized engine?

    While it is possible to trade a vehicle with a seized engine, it will depend on the dealership you’re doing business with. However, due to the damage caused by a locked engine, most dealerships and private sellers refuse a trade-in offer. Therefore, the safest route to go is to sell your vehicle to a scrap car removal company for a quick, hassle-free transaction.