Like many things in life, 'you don't know what you got till it's gone'. Driving down the M4 rapidly losing speed and watching bits of engine fall out the bottom of your car in your rear view mirror is probably relevant here.
As with human illness, there are certain symptoms of engine sickness that could warrant an engine replacement. We're going to do the family car doctor bit here and suggest some signs that could signal this unwanted occurrence.
1. Don't freeze me out
Naturally we're all daunted by the cold on a dark winter morning. Of course, many old engines won't turn over in freezing conditions, but they’ll usually start. However, if your car doesn't start at all then you're probably looking at a cylinder casing that's cracked due to the pressures created by the temperature change. Bit of an obvious one we must admit, but nonetheless indicative of a trip to the breaker's yard in your immediate future.
2. Oil get you next time, gadget
Another sure-fire sign that something might not be quite right with your engine is the legendary oil patch your car leaves behind when it’s been parked somewhere for a while. If you find that it's depositing a tar lake - trapping cats and small children in its vastness - whilst other small cars skid on the surface, then there's a good chance you've got a severe oil leak in the engine. Should this occur, your engine could seize and give up the proverbial ghost.
3. I hear you knocking, but you can't come in
One of the most familiar symptoms of car engine problems is the famous knocking sound. This is almost as well known as a Beatles track and is indicative that your big end is going. Although there is a similar problem that happens to men over 55 in the bedroom, which can be solved with a liberal dose of Viagra, this problem is not so easily solved as it means that your camshaft is no longer working in time with the pistons. Very little you can do about this other than stop calling out for expensive takeaways and start saving your money for a new engine.
4. 20 Benson & Hedges please
For a long time we've known that smoking is bad for your health. It's certainly bad for your engine's health too, and if your exhaust is blowing out smoke like a 60-a-day puffer, then you're getting a bad mix of petrol and air into your engine. At the very best this means that you've got problems with your tappets, at the worst you've got flawed piston rings. If you're seeing a lot of smog coming out of the back end of your motor then you’d better hope it's not the latter as may require a new engine for your car.
5. Tea for two?
So often we associate steam with good things, like the kettle boiling for a refreshing cup of tea, or the condensation seen on a window after stepping out of a hot shower after a hard day’s work. Steam from your engine is not such a good sign unfortunately and is not an indication that it might be about to make you a cuppa. It's more likely to be down to the fact that your gasket, radiator or pipes are leaking and your engine could be a candidate to fall in half.
6. You got me burning up
Surprisingly, although it might be rather shocking, if your engine catches fire, it might not actually mean you need a new engine. Of course no one likes to see flames appearing from their bonnet, even if for some surreal reason they're trying to fry a steak on there
, to accompany the eggs they've fried on the radiator. If an engine's left burning it can damage fuel pumps and pipes, and could lead to an explosion. However, if you're handy with the fire extinguisher then you should be able to avoid too much damage.
7. There's no more fuel in our tank
So there we have it, our wry and slightly sideways look at how to tell that you might need a new engine. We can't leave you on a completely negative note however
. Despite the fact that the majority of problems are caused by lack of lubrication and overheating, we feel obliged to tell you that whatever you do make sure you engine is always well watered (a bit like your flower garden) and full of oil (just like the Middle East).
After all, the last thing you'd want to see under the tree as your big Christmas present is a new engine...
Disclosure: this article was sponsored by used car part location specialists BreakerLink, who are linked to hundreds of breaker yards across the United Kingdom and have over over 40 years combined experience.