By October 26, 20073 Comments Read More →

Pontiac Fiero Overheats – Oil Leak and Engine Damage?

Reader Question
Hello: I’m 56 yrs old and I’m a disabled mechanic from GMC Buick. My specialties are Automatics Transmissions. I hurt myself on the job May 2005.

I purchase a 1986 Pont Fiero 2.5 engine and 5 speed Manual from the dealership I was working at for $200.00 in 2004. They said the had been siting there for at least a yr. I installed a new battery and prime the throttle body and started it right up. Drove around the block (less then a mile) then started restoring it at the dealership in my spare time.

With the help of other mechanics that were familiar working on Fieros. I did buy Haynes repair manual which was my best investment. I did a compression check and all cylinder were within 5 pounds. It smoked a little when starting up which were the guides and I was going to do a valve job.

Once the head off, the cylinders look in perfect condition. i installed new water pump, New Alt, new lifers and push rods, replace computer and all sensors and relays. install brakes, Install new shocks and struts and tires.Had the alignment man do a alignment. Replaced all the oils, fluids and coolant. Learning how the flush and bleed the coolant system was a trip.

The last time I did a coolant flush, being some what experience with Fiero’s, it still takes me almost 2 hours. Anyway the car was in perfect condition now, with a 10 gallon tank the car got 32 miles to the gallon and 25 miles in town, it was cheap to fill up with gas. I gave the car to my wife and it been her toy ever since.

The car started leaking water and I thought it was coming from a freeze plug. Being disabled I took it to shop who said their mechanic had worked on many of Fiero’s and he knew what he was doing. They quoted me $500.00 out the door to replace the freeze plugs install new Alt/water pump belt and do and L.O.F. I agreed.

The next day the service adviser called me and said it was my cooling tubes that needed replacing and I needed a starter. The price out the door would be $639.91 I could pick up the car on Friday 09/14/07. On Friday, I took my wife to get her Fiero. It’s 5.2 miles to our home, I follow her home.

I notice the brake cable was hanging but everything else looked good. Once home, my wife told me that she smelled something burning. I ask how was the temp Gage (I installed mechanical water & temp gages) and she didn’t notice the Gage. I told her that it was probably the grease burning off the exhaust because they just worked on it.

The next day (Sat 09/15/07) I notice a oil leak about the size of a quarter right under the starter area. They were closed for the weekend so I would take it back on Monday 09/17/07 to have the leak fix. (Never had any type of oil or fluid leak before). My wife wanted to go for a drive. We went for a drive, her driving.

We drove to the freeway which was 2.6 miles and I started smelling an odor, we got on the freeway and I notice the temp Gage was getting hotter and the smell was getting worst. I wanted my wife to take the next exit then my temp Gage starting bouncing back and forth. We took the exit and parked at a 7-11. We had had driven the car 4.8 miles. My temp Gage was still going crazy.

I got out and I could hear it over heating. I open the truck and heard the engine making noises, I saw steam coming from the thermostat cap, the hoses looked like they were about to explode. I open the front hood and there was no coolant in the coolant recovery tank. There was a burger place next to the 7-11 so we had lunch there waiting for the car to cool down.

After waiting for 1 hour, the engine had cools off enough where I could put some water in the system and the hoses had no pressure in them but I could not get the thermostat cap off or the radiator cap off to put water in. I filled the recovery tank and we headed home. We baby it home and took the shortest route which was 3.3 miles. Once home it was hot, I let it cool off for 2 and half hours.

I had to use channel grip pliers to get both caps off. I could see no coolant in the radiator or in the thermostat housing. The mechanic had the thermostat in the wrong way. He had the legs in first then thermostat o-ring was cut and the thermostat cap, the gasket was broken about an inch. He had the arrow on the radiator cap pointing the wrong way.

I had a gallon of coolant at the house and I had an extra thermostat cap and radiator cap. I went to the parts house and purchase a new thermostat and two gallons of coolant. I put 3 gallons of coolant in the system then topped off with water. Put in the new thermostat and make sure it was seated then put the cap on. Bleed the system, I also had to replace the coolant temp sensor which I had and extra one.

Took off valve cover and re-torque heads. (When I rebuilt the engine I purchase two of everything plus I went to the junk yard and purchase a backup of anything I though was important. Bottom line is I got the car running perfect again, Gage was working again. Sunday my wife wanted to go for a drive so we went on a 3 hour drive. The car ran like new.

That Monday (09/17/07) I went to the shop(when I first took in car, the owner offer me a job) and told the owner how his mechanic was not much of a mechanic. We both went out to his bay and the owner told him what had happen. I then ask the owner and mechanic did either one know how to install a thermostat, thermostat cap and radiator cap.

The mechanic said he knew how and I ask him to explain to me how. He did not know and the owner did not know. I explained to both of them that A Fiero is tricky and there a certain way the radiator cap arrow must face and the same with the thermostat cap, you just don’t turn it and it on.

Then I ask about flushing and bleeding the coolant system and both said they did not know how to flush or bleed my system. Now I was bad. I showed the owner the parts bills plus the receipts for all the extra parts I had and told him I wanted my half my money back which would be $320.00.

The owner gave me a check for $109.00 I told the owner that he needed To fix the oil leak by the new starter that he installed which he agreed. On Monday 09/24/07 we took our car to his shop for the oil leak to be fixed. The car was running perfectly. The next day he called me and told me I had another water leak and he was not going to fix it without charging me more money.

I told him that all I wanted fix was the oil leak fix and touch nothing else, and I would take it another shop. He agreed. Tuesday morning (09/25/07) I went to have my car towed to another shop and I started the engine and seen the water leak but now my engine was idling rough. I turn off the engine and had it towed to another shop. This new shop I went to and spoke to the owner.

I asked him three questions and he knew the answers to all three questions. I was convinced he knew what he was doing. The next day, the owner called me and told me that my block was cracked and my head was bad, come down and see what the other shop had done to my car.

I went down to his shop and the new starter that he installed (Wrong) it was the solenoid that he replaced and on the invoice it said NEW stater. He splice my cooling tubes with two hoses that were 8 inches long and clamp them with single hose clamps.

He was to replace the tubes. He charged me for a new fan relay which the old one was still on my car and working fine. When he did my L.O.F. I told him to put a Fram filter on my car, the filter he installed was all white with no writing on it. He did not do a lube job because all the fitting were still dirty. I never really looked at the repair invoice but on the invoice he said that he charged me $13.89 for a master radiator flush and forgot to put the coolant in.

I know what is involved in doing a flush and bleed on a Fiero, I got 4 estimates, the highest being $245.00 and the lowest being $140.00 and all the people I got the estimates from all knew how to do a flush and the least time was 1 hour to do a flush. My question to you is and I have documentation from 3 other shops plus proof that he did not replace the parts that he said he did.

I want to know what you think went wrong. I think running the car without coolant damage the block but didn’t crack it yet. i think when I took my car in to have the oil leak fixed their mechanic took and impact gun to the starter bolts instead of torquing the starter bolts and that cracked my block. The head damage in my opinion is from running it without the coolant and the thermostat being in up side down.

This mechanic shop needs to be shut down. I have documentation now but I need all the help I can get. The new shop wants 2200.00 to replace my engine. Plus I’m a transmission specialist, the new shop said I also needed a clutch.

When I went to check it out, the pedal had no play what so ever. The clutch was working fine. When I dropped it of to them to fix the oil leak they put over a 100 miles on my car. And now its blown up. what gives?????
Thanks F.

Howdy there “F”

OUCHHHHHHHHHH…..I feel your pain. Honestly, I would need to look this vehicle over myself and run some tests to see what is really going on here. It does sound like you have been dealing with a shop that is either plain stupid or they are out right crooks. I would take the vehicle back to your old dealership and let one of the people you are familiar with and feel comfortable dealing with look at it.

Yes, running the engine without coolant is not good at all, and could be the cause of the internal damage. I would start from scratch, run a compression test AND a cooling system pressure test and see if there is any hope for this engine or is it time to cut your losses and move on to something else.

I don’t know why mechanic don’t want to perform a cooling system pressure test…you can not visually check the system for leaks PROPERLY, but most mechanics/shops don’t want to take the time to do it correctly these days.


Austin Davis

Posted in: Fluid Leaks

3 Comments on "Pontiac Fiero Overheats – Oil Leak and Engine Damage?"

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  1. Jim says:

    My Fiero was over heating and I couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I came up with the answer. Refill the coolant from the front radiator with the engine compartment cap off.(Where the thermostat is.) Fill until the coolant overflows. You must get all the air out of the lines. This solved my problem. You might want to be on slight incline with the rear of the car lower.

  2. Freddy says:

    I am running with the same problem ,,i have a 1984 Pontiac Fiero Indy,,i kust took it to the mechanic shop and got a new starter,new battery and new clutch pump..and a tune up,,i havent ran the car in about 2 years ,but as soon as i turned on the car and drove it for less than 1 mile,the car started to overheat and coolant started to come out,so i do think i would take it for a coolant system pressure test ans see whats wrong,r then again it could be the way the radiator cap was close.

  3. JOANNO says:

    Every shop owner has whats called “Garage Keepers Insurance” for incidents like yours you need to call their insurance company and if they refuse to pay out get a lawyer!!!!

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