Good afternoon, doctor. Here are the patients symptoms
On Monday I noticed my car (2006 Reno, 240K miles) had a very slight rough idle when I was stopped at red lights. I could feel my face vibrating as I was sitting there! I didn't think much of it since it ran fine while driving. On Tuesday I hop in, turn the key and CLUNK! I thought "Uh oh, starters going bad". So I continue to hit the key, all the while thinking the starter will only get me a handful more starts, it keeps doing the CLUNK! thing but I can hear it trying to turn over and I'm getting 1/4 to 1/2 revolution with each key turn. After 3 or 4 tries it starts, but feels like it's not firing on all 4 cylinders. It does eventually smooth out, but then I notice the check engine light is FLASHING! Oh, no! A flashing CEL is never a good sign. As I'm sitting there deciding what to do (and who to call about what appointments to cancel) I look in the rear view mirror and notice my garage is filling up with white smoke from the tailpipe. I move the car out of the garage and into the driveway, pop the hood... nothing seems out of the ordinary... pull the dipstick and there's what appears to be coolant on it. I back the car into the garage and shut it off. I happen to notice a fresh mark on the driveway where the car was sitting, but can't tell what it is. I push the car backwards and sure enough there's a small puddle of coolant on the floor under the engine. The coolant reservoir is also completely empty, and I know it was up to the fill line since I just did a timing belt/water pump/flush n' fill the summer.
I borrowed a car in the meantime, and I haven't even looked at the Reno to diagnose any further. Naturally, like many of you, I suspect a blown head gasket. Are there any sure-fire markers to confirm this? And can someone please explain the puddle of coolant on the ground, if indeed it is a blown head gasket? The car never got up to operating temperature, the whole scenario described above was probably 2 minutes, so assuming a blown head gasket, is there any chance I warped the head? Thanks for any input!
A colorful and detailed explanation of the symptoms! Thanks.
Yeah, head gasket or cracked head more than likely.
The difficulty in turning it over is probably coolant in the cylinders, causing a partial hydro-lock, followed by a start and volumous white smoke from the exhaust. Excessive coolant getting squeezed OUT of the piston / head area may have caused the external puddling.
Warped head, only way to tell is with a Machine Shop measurement assist.
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