Catastrophic engine failure? Help!

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#1
I have a 1987 Vw Cabriolet. 4cyl 5spd manual. It ran strong, started up every time, no noise from engine. . . nothing. Just passed smog and inspection. Has a new catalytic converter and the entire front end suspension redone 3 days ago.

Today while on a long road trip I start to hear a noise from the front right side. Like something in the new front end had come loose. I pull off right away and look underneath. Everything looks tight. Nothing loose. I double check the belts to make sure maybe they hadn't broken. They were fine.

Start it up and it still clunks. I notice it does it when going slow but when at speed, it doesnt seem to make any noise. Seeing as how I was in the middle of the Mojave desert on a sunday evening with nothing or no one around - I get on the freeway thinking "everything looks tight, drives fine, just a few clunks. . . " Go about 10 miles and suddenly it was as if the car had slipped out of gear and into neutral. It made a revving sound because my foot was on the gas and the RPMs went up but the car was not going anywhere. I tried shifting around thinking maybe it had slipped out of gear but there was nothing in any of the gears.

I pull over and look underneath and it is pouring what I assume was oil. I couldn't get that good of a look but it was thinner and black and did not look like gear oil.

What happened? Could it have been the timing belt letting loose? Would it have made a sound before it broke? I havent tried to restart the car but it was running quiet and smooth when I pulled off the freeway - it just felt like it had slipped into neutral but it hadn't.

It just ticks me off when you spend $1k on a repairs and then something like this happens that will probably cost another $1k.

Help!!

Thanks in advance.
 
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#2
Does the engine still sound ok when it is idling?....It sounds more like the clutch gave out....maybe the seal in the transmission gave out and the tranny fluid got on the clutch disc and that is why is is slipping...Jim
 
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#3
I thought the engine sounded ok but I turned it off right away when I got off the freeway so not to further any possible damage. I'll have to check that tomorrow.

The clutch seemed fine but who knows. Always shifted ok. I have some white cardboard under it tonight so to see the color of whats dripping. If its red, its gear oil.

I am soooooooo hoping it is a "cheap" (I crack myself up. . . ) fix. Or at least an easy one. I'm asking too much, huh?

Thanks for your response. It is something I'll check into tomorrow. I'll post back how the engine sounds etc. . :)
 

robian

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#4
sounds like the inner cv bolts have broken where they bolt on to the axle shaft at the gear box.
Chers Ian j
 
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#5
But how would that cause the car to seem not to be in gear and for it to lose oil? If thats the case, I can take it back to the place that just re-did the front end and say "FIX IT!" because they replaced all that stuff. . .
 
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#6
This is why it is nice to know if it has been worked on recently....If the CV joints let go they could cause the seals in the tranny to go and the tranny fluid would run out...The CV joints coming apart would make the car act like it is in neutral, because that is what drives the car...Good thought Ian...you are probably right on....Jim
 
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#7
Ahhhhhhh. . . ok. It makes more sense now. This is what my receipt shows for the repairs. - "Replace right outer tie rod and steering knuckle, front end alignment".

The sound was coming most definitely from the right side. No doubt at all.

Would any of this work be a factor in what went wrong?? Thanks so much for your answers. I'd like to go back to the mechanic informed.
 
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#8
And another question - to fix this if the CV joints are the culprits - do they just need to replace the CV joints and the seal on the transmission or are we talking about a different much bigger job?

Thanks again.
 
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#9
Just went out and turned on the car. Engine sounds as normal. Put in the clutch and shifted thru all 5 gears with the clutch in and it felt like it normally would.

Put the car in first, let out the clutch and . . . . . . nothing. Nothing at all. So that must have been my gear oil leaking out.

Should I just haul the car down to where they did the front end and let them see if something there caused this failure?

What should I look for underneath to see what might have come apart or would all that be internal??

Thanks again.
 
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#10
That is probably it...Look underneath where the drive axle goes into the transmission...you will probably see that it has come loose or broke...let us know....if the axle just broke they can probably just replace the seal and the drive axle..hopefully it didn't damage the transmission......Jim
 
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#11
I poked my head under there and wiggled what I could reach. Nothing seemed broken or loose. I'll just suck it up and haul it over to the mechanic tomorrow for a look-see. With gas prices the way they are now, I sure can't go back to driving my ol truck.

I'll come back and let you know what they say. :)
 
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#12
I got the car back from the shop today. This is what the workorder says; "D popped out due to loose C-clip. Not part of previous repairs. Reinstalled C clip and a bolt to help hold. Refilled oil and test drove. "

From what I understand, the axle where it is attached to the transmission on the passenger side popped out. Its a part that shouldn't come apart but did, according to the tech. He slid the axle back into/onto the trans, replaced the C clip and added an extra bolt to try and hold it together. No charge, I was good to go but he had no idea why that came apart in the first place and how long his repair would last. He also added that if it did come apart, to take it to a transmission shop.

It lasted about a mile and a half until the *Thunk*ing started again. This time tho, it didn't pop clear out and there was a transmission shop just 2 blocks further down that same road so I took it in and they will look at it tomorrow.

I do believe the Cabriolet has just become a parts car. Unless I get incredibly lucky tomorrow and they say "Quick, easy and cheap fix!"

What do y'all think?
 

dmac0923

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#13
i know you resolved the problem, but i had the same experience when i was making a hasty Uturn with a car full of people, the lower ball joint was severly worn and popped out of the knuckle under the load. since the knuckle wasnt attached on the bottom, it swung out and pulled the CV axle out of the transmission and tranny fluid went everywhere. the noise that made was like nails on a chalkboard lol first thing out of your mouth was OHHHH SH$$$$T
 
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#14
You said.....If thats the case, I can take it back to the place that just re-did the front end and say "FIX IT!" because they replaced all that stuff. . . Is this the same place you just took it to?.......Can you be more specific on what they did to front end as far as repairs before this happened?.....Jim
 
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#15
The original place I took it to that did the work had replaced the right outer tie rod and steering knuckle. They also did an alignment. They recommend new struts, springs, etc. . . . But I was fixing what little I could afford ($878. 00!! for what they did) and the rest was going to have to wait.

When things broke, I had it towed back to the same place. Their full explanation was;

"found right axle popped out. Tranny shaft had popped out due to loose C-clip. Not part of previous repairs. Reinstalled C-clip and a bolt to help hold. Refilled oil and test drove. Ok. Springs seem worse than before. Every time you lift the vehicle, springs move and steering wheel changes. Most likely alignment keeps changing also. Recommend replace both axles, all springs and struts and repair oil leaks soon. "

They put things back together and basically said "we did what we could, good luck".