Toyota engine problem question

11-18-2009, 12:13 PM

I would greatly appreciate any advice! My 1989 Toyota Cressida engine might be consuming water. Starting the car first time in the day the car can be driven a few miles before engine overheats, at which time about 1 gallon of water needs to be added to the radiator. There is some excessive white smoke coming out of tailpipe, and hot water spouts out of the plastic water reserve container. You know, the container that's inside the engine compartment with a hose that goes to the radiator. So probably most of the water escapes out of the water reserve, but there is more white smoke than normal.

If there's a water leak in the engine, then wouldn't water build up overnight to the point of preventing it from starting? The car has sat for several weeks, and it starts up just fine. Well, other than it's usual sputter. The engine does not run that great. It sputters at idle. It has very low performance.

I've tried a few radiator sealants that are poured. They help only slightly, and only for a few days. The powdered Aluminum stuff works a lot better, but only for about 5 days at 15 minutes drive time per day. Actually the Aluminium stuff used to work great, to the point where the engine ran normal with good performance. These days it's getting so bad that even the powdered Aluminum stuff doesn't help that much.

Once the engine heats up, it's good for about 1/2 mile before it requires more water, often several gallons, and it gets real bad after awhile to the point where it needs to be turned off an hour.

When I got the car it had a lot of rust in the radiator water. I've tried to flush it, but the rust keeps coming back.

On final note, when smoging the car, the guy removed the cap on the top of the engine and said there should not be oil in there, but there was. Isn't that where the oil goes? He wanted to replace the head gaskets for $200.

Besides that, I can't hear any abnormal engine noises besides the sputter. The radiator fan runs. Transmission seems fine. Generator seems fine.

Could it be loose bolts, or bad gasket, or radiator thermostat? What about the more serious radiator leak sealants that are made for cracked blocks?

Thanks for any advice or recommendations!!

11-19-2009, 10:28 PM
You have the classic symptoms of a blown head gasket. On top of that, the Toyota 3.0 inline 6 has a reputation for blowing head gaskets. So if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

It can be checked with a compression test. You are right that the water in going into the cylinders but the reason that it only happens when it's running and not while parked overnight is that a) when the engine is running, the coolant is circulated by the water pump giving a continual supply to leak in and b) when the engine is running, the coolant heats up and pressurizes and is more likely to be forced into the cylinder.

$200 is a very good price for this job although I would guess that the mechanic is cutting a few corners (probably just lifting the head and dropping a new head gasket in there). Depends on how long you intend on keeping the car, a quickie job might suffice. But if you really want it to last, the head needs to be removed and resurfaced, you need to use the best quality gasket you can find and replace the head bolts with uprated ones.

Sorry to be giving you bad news and best of luck with it. Hopefully you have a good mechanic that you can trust to check it out, give you options and fix it right. Don't bother with sealants, you can't fix this with a can and may actually make matters worse.

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