Scary event: Anyone know much about cars?

First, a brief description of my vehicle. It is a 1993 toyota tercel, this thing weighs 1800 lbs. It maxes out at 85 MPH, but gets 43 mpg, which is the only reason I want to keep it. Anyway, on to the story.

I was on a back road, cruising along at 35 mph. Suddenly, as I round a bend, a big white Dodge Ram (Four times the size of my 93 tercel) comes barreling around the corner at WAY unsafe speeds. My choices were as follows:

  1. Stand my ground and feel the wrath that is 4000 pounds of truck traveling at a minimum of 60 mph,


2.Take a sudden right turn, over a four foot drop, and into that lovely cornfield which I’d been wanting to explore.

Well, I chose the cornfield… I don’t know, it just seemed less threatening. The guy in the truck didn’t even stop, and I was stuck nose first in a foot of mud. For all he knew, I could have been seriously injured. (I escaped with nothing but a minor concussion) I only got the first letter of his license plate, so there is nothing the authorities could do.

So, anyway, I rocked myself out of the mud, putted along in the cornfield until the ledge was less than four feet high, and drove over it back onto the road. Power brakes were gone, and she would barely stay running. I was a good 30 miles away from home, without my cellphone.

I opened up my hood, and the engine was hanging askew, way too far down on the left side, so I assume it was the engine mount, and lots of hoses had been unplugged by the sudden movement of the engine. I plugged in what I could find and putted to a gas station. She didn’t overheat, but she came too close for comfort. When I parked her in a gas station 15 miles away to be towed, she was leaking oil. There was a puddle. The oil light hasn’t come on, and she still hasn’t overheated. Even though she smokes CLOUDS of white smoke when I start the engine (which I am now done doing)

I noticed this at the gas station as well: The serpentine belt was gone, and I appeared to have snapped an idler pulley of some sort off of the block.

I Came here because this forum is full of knowledge and experience, and I was wondering if anyone here thought the car to be even remotely salvageable. No body/frame damage, just a screwed up engine.

Here’s a link to pictures in slideshow form.

Thanks muchly,

It’s hard to see though, but it looks totaled. Lots of things gone wrong. Won’t stay on because belt to alternator probably broke. Radiator might have some slight damage, along with piping and headers, the cause of the white smoke. Seems odd that you had no body damage, but might be internal frame damage due to the jerking of the engine and transmission along with it. Good thing though that you were able to get it down to the gas station. Getting out of the truck’s way was a wise choice, guy may not have seen you, being most likeley a drunk driver. What time was this all? Man that’s an intense story. Glad you’re alright and hopefully insurance might be able to fix it, since you won’t be able to find a car that gets that good of mileage for a good value nowadays. I’m still surprised from a 4ft drop it still runs lol even though rally cars do bigger jumps, but they’re designed to handle that.

I’m going to say that assuming no body damage, you just need a new engine. (Ouch.) I’m also going to say that the only one qualified to assess whether the body is damaged or not for sure would be a mechanic. A reputable mechanic could also tell just how much it would cost to repair, and if the cost exceeds the value of the car, you’ve got a totaled car.

It’s possible you might be able to save it. I know my way around a car. While they are intimidating, they really aren’t as complicated as most people fear them to be. Just a pain to work on sometimes. For your car, the first thing I’d do is go invest $20 in a set of ramps to get the front end up in the air to take a good look at things. The ramps will always come in handy for oil changes and things.

With the motor mount issue, that’s a tough one. Hopefully you just sheared bolts or a bolted on mount itself. Hopefully you haven’t sheared/bent something that was welded to the frame. In that case, you’d need a new piece welded on, if one is even available. At that point it may be time for a new car. I don’t know if the mounts are separate or integrated in your cars.

For the leaking oil, how bad was it leaking? I suspect when the engine dropped you probably punched a hole in the oil pan. Oil leaks are very easy to trace. Just see what’s oily and trace it back to wherever it is coming from.

For the white smoke, that’s a tough one. Where was it coming out from? Was it smoke that lingered in the air or steam that dissipated? Since you mention it heating up, I’d suspect just the radiator and/or coolant hoses.

We really need stationary (non slide-show) large color pictures from many angles to tell you if it can be saved or not.

It is possible you’ve bent suspension or steering components. If that it is the case, it’s a loss and would be time for a new car. It may be time for a new car anyhow, as I suspect you’ve got at absolute least $400 in parts for repairs, and probably at very least another $600 in labor.

The serpentine belt would have been driving your water pump, without it you had no flow of cooling fluid. You may have overheated, but without flow, the sensor (and temp gauge) didn’t indicate it. Oil pumps are driven off the engine, so it appears that you maintained oil pressure to the gas station even though there was a slow leak.

White smoke (not steam) from either the engine compartment or through the exhaust generally means some serious engine damage. This is not something that can be diagnosed through a forum. You need a GOOD mechanic to look at the engine and determine the cause to get a full accounting of what the repair/replacement of the engine will be.

It’s good to hear that you escaped serious injury, Cody! Keep us posted.


I’m glad you are ok and escaped serious injury. If the engine is toast but the car is otherwise in good shape it sounds like an opportunity for a nifty project car to me. Put some of that FIRST ingenuity to work and turn it into some sort of eco-friendly vegetable oil powered solar charged electric hybrid wonder car or something.


So today I jacked up the engine to find that the motor mount is not broken.

I immediately thought “Sheared bolts”. To my surprise, there were no broken off bolts sticking out of the block where the mount attaches. I then looked on the plastic guard that is attached to my bumper, and found BOTH engine mount bolts just sitting there, unharmed. I am really confused. There is no way that they came undone on their own, and even with the engine knocking around, ended up just sitting in the mudguard.

The oil was being sprayed around the compartment by a broken off Oil dipstick sleeve, an easy enough fix, and All I need for the car to run right again, is an acc belt/idler. At least I hope.

I did find myself wondering how there was enough force to dislodge the engine, but leave the frame and body undamaged, So I guess the mount bolts being undone shouldn’t come as a surprise.

At this point, I’m happy that I can probably fix it, but really perturbed at the fact that the engine mount bolts seem to have unscrewed themselves.


hmm… maybe they were pretty loose already and the crash made them fall? or maybe the crash loosened them and the drive back after the crash loosened them.

eh… good that its fixable. You are one lucky guy (or unlucky, I guess its how you think about it)


You didn’t say if your family is the original owner so I am going to assume this is a used vehicle for you. My family once picked up a used vehicle and a few days after the buy, a switch from reverse to forward at high idle caused the motor to come out of it’s mounts. Bolts were also missing in the mounts. It turns out that someone tried (unsure as to the success) to remove the engine, and never fully finished the job of putting it back. Since no one just pulls an engine for fun, a closer inspection turned up some irregularities in the cooling system.
As to your engine, bolts don’t randomly come out and lay down in in the mud guard. They could have pulled out of the block but I would suspect they were placed there by someone who removed them. Since you have found the source of the oil leak, if you repair it, you might find other sources. As to the white smoke when started, this is likely an indication that collant is entering one or more of the cylinders or exhaust ports and is turned to steam when the engine is started. When you sheared the idler pulley (which is bolted to the block) it is possible that a crack developed. I would check the dipstick again as see if there is any indication of coolant. It may appear as water droplets or as a muddy looking, light brown sludge. If you find this, a cracked block is the likely culprit. As to the barely running, any of a number of vacuum hoses could cause poor idle and certainly that affects the power brakes. Replacing hoses to their proper position will clear up many issues if all else is OK.
Without closer examination though, I would put the car out of it’s misery and tow it to a junk yard. With this kind of damage, things will continue to break in the future and you will want to keep fixing it to save your prior investment. I know it’s hard, I had to watch a '57 Chevy get junked when I was in high school. It wasn’t pretty!