How do you free up a seized engine?
What Is a Seized Engine? What Causes a Seized Engine?
Before you can learn how to fix a seized engine or if the repairs are worth it, you need to understand what does seized engine mean. Engines seize from mechanical failure.
In most cases, this comes from a lack of oil. The oil may not be circulating properly or you may have no oil. When this happens, there is no internal lubrication, so the metal parts create friction as they rub against each other. In extreme cases, this can even lead to various bearings welding against other parts.
This type of problem can occur if you let your engine run out of oil or if you do not take care of oil changes regularly. It is also possible to experience a no oil seized engine due to sudden interior failures of the engine or issues with the engine oil pump. In addition to situations where no oil seized up engines, this can also happen due to low oil. It will have a similar cause.
Not Running Enough
It is also possible that your engine will seize when it has enough oil. In this case, it would be because you did not run the auto enough. That particular cause occurs when rust “freezes” the piston rings onto the cylinder walls. You can prevent that cause of a seized engine by running your car occasionally.
You may also be dealing with a hydrolocked engine. This happens if water enters the combustion chamber of the engine. This makes the piston unable to make the top of the combustion stroke since the water does not compress in the same way that the air-fuel mixture is designed to.
If your engine is hydrolocked, it will likely stop working suddenly. If you get lucky and this happens at a lower speed, you may have minimal damage to the engine. However, if the RPMs are greater when it occurs, expect damaged pistons or bent connecting rods at the very least. Hydrolocked engines usually happen when water enters the engine via the air intake. That is most common if you accidentally drove through high water.
Vapor Locked Engines
Your engine may also be vapor locked. When this happens, the engine will not start due to an issue with the fuel system. This problem is more common in older vehicles that have low-pressure fuel systems. The gas in your fuel pump or fuel lines converts to gas from liquid, but this takes fuel from the engine, starving it. You can recognize a vapor lock by the engine sputtering and losing power before turning off and refusing to turn back on.
How to Free a Seized Engine
Engines rarely seize, but when they do, it is almost always due to a long period of nonoperation. When an engine seizes, one or more pistons have literally become stuck against the cylinder’s wall. Thankfully, just because an engine has seized does not necessarily mean that the entire engine must be rebuilt. The keys to freeing the engine are to reduce the air pressure within the engine’s cylinders and to reduce the amount of force necessary to break the piston free by disconnecting the components that the engine turns, such as the alternator and power steering pump.
Remove all of the engine’s spark plugs with a socket wrench to alleviate the air pressure within the engine’s cylinders. First, pull each spark plug’s wire off the tip of the spark plug. Attach an appropriate-sized spark plug socket to a socket wrench; then remove each spark plug by turning the wrench in a counterclockwise direction.
Remove the accessory belts from the alternator, power steering pump, and any other belt-driven accessory. Each accessory attaches to the front of the engine with one or more brackets. The brackets are in turn attached to the engine with retaining bolts. Loosen the retaining bolts on each accessory bracket with a wrench; then slide the accessory toward the engine to reduce the tension on the accessory’s belt. Slide the loose belt off the engine to remove it.
Remove the valve covers from both cylinder heads by removing each valve cover’s retaining bolts located on the lip of each valve cover with a wrench; then pull the valve covers off the cylinder heads to access the rocker arms.
Remove the rocker arms and pushrods to remove the amount of force necessary to turn the engine. Each rocker arm is held in place with a single nut located in the center of the rocker arm. Remove the nut for each rocker arm with a wrench, then pull the rocker arms off the cylinder heads. Removing the rocker arms will free the pushrods, which can simply be pulled out of the cylinder head.
Turn the crankshaft to free the seized engine. Since the engine’s pistons are attached to the crankshaft, turning the crankshaft will free the pistons. The engine’s crankshaft can be turned with the single bolt located in the center of the circular harmonic balancer, which is located on the bottom of the front of the engine. Attach the appropriate-sized deep socket to this single bolt; then apply steady force to the socket with a socket wrench. The bolt should be turned in a clockwise direction to avoid inadvertently loosening the crankshaft’s bolt before the crankshaft turns.
Two things you can’t have too much of in freeing a seized engine.
- Penetrating oil.
Usually there is a nut or bolt on the crank end that can be used to try and turn the engine but the danger of breaking it off means a safer alternative is to use a lever on the ring gear through the starter motor aperture. The engine will need to be out of gear,resist the temptation to force things quickly by using a socket and a long breaker bar,if the bolt breaks off it will be an added complication to extract the remains. If the engine seems to have locked up remove the spark plug holes and squirt or pour some releasing fluid like Plus Gas or diesel fuel in the plug holes trying to get as much as possible on the cylinder walls. Leave the plugs out and try and move the engine. With some engine designs it is quite difficult to wet the bores but spoonfull of oil or fluid should be enough,it will have to be removed before the plugs are back in and serious attempts are made to start the engine.Hopefully it will get to the stage where it can be spun over on the starter with the plugs out which should eject the oil.Some people advocate the use of petrol and two stroke oil mixed or even petrol and ATF fluid.Thin oils like WD40 are really designed to chase off water,redex or thin penetrating oils can be used. Penetrating fluids will take a while to have any effect,dont expect an instant result..
If possible fill the radiator or the block if the engine is not in a vehicle with some hot water,this will expand the block slightly.Whilst waiting it might be an idea to remove the rocker covers and air filters etc if they are still in place to see if corrosion is present deep inside the engine.It’s possible the engine might now have some movement on the crankshaft ,if so try and turn it back and forth gradually building up to a full revolution,if not try again with the release fluid and hot water but if it resists any attempts to turn after a few more goes more work will be needed.
Understanding water damage
If the water is from an external source such as rain, and it came into the air cleaner via the butterfly stud on the air cleaner, chances are there is only a small quantity in only a few of the engine bores. You can only have so many intake valves open at one time, and the water would have only migrated into those cylinder bores. Therefore, you could only have two or three stuck pistons at the worst, not all of them. In such a case, the likelihood of freeing the engine is much better. On the other hand, if the engine had been flooded by rising flood waters, water could have entered via the exhaust system. To make matters worse, water may have also entered through the oil breather and is now (or was) present in the oil pan. Flood waters also have a large presence of silt, chemicals of unknown nature, and varying pH.
Flood water damage
The silt particles present in flood water could accumulate deep inside of the engine and hang on to the rough casting surfaces of all the internal workings. These particles are so small that when they are in solution they will infiltrate the oil clearance of a bearing. When the water dries, they will form a layer of dust within the bearing. The dust will wick up the oil from the surface and water vapor from the air will start to rust the steel surface over time. The dust may also have acids and alkalies (caustics) attached to it, and together with water vapor will etch the bearing and journal surfaces.
After a flood, newer, essential and operational vehicles take priority for being repaired, others will have to wait. Many flooded engines will just have to wait, sometimes until after the winter freeze-up, sometimes even longer. Internal damage and cracked blocks and heads are often the result of frozen water. Sometimes they will end up being junked for the cast iron. If these engines are gotten to before such damage occurs, it may be possible to salvage them intact.
How do I fix the engine that is seized?
Lots of good answers to this question have been provided, but the engine seized for a reason … usually either because the rings rusted to the cylinder bores or because the bearings have fused or become stuck to the crankshaft. Neither situation is good, and forcing it to turn isn’t likely to make it better.
Using methods like pouring ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) or Diesel Fuel or WD-40 into the cylinders and crankcase may enable you to rotate the crank eventually, but I’d never trust the engine for any long trip, and I’d even question it for around-the-town driving. But I’d concede that if it were the zombie apocalypse and you really needed a car to get away … and maybe had several days to let the fluid work its magic … that such a solution might work fine. Indeed, I’ve heard of several such stories from friends and relatives that suggests that it can work.
But in most such cases, the engine actually has fairly significant damage internally — or will once you force it to run.