I had an engine seizure that happened while I was driving the car: it ran low on oil and suddenly the engine stopped working (with a bit of smoke). Now after being towed, I have left the car (and added oil) for a couple of weeks, hoping to try and free up the engine.

I read online that you can only un-seize an engine if it's caused by long periods of inactivity. Apparently a seizure while-in-use is the most difficult to fix and costs the most.

I'm pretty close to accepting my loss here, however I need some reassurance (or closure) before I make this final decision. Should I choose to try and fix it, I'm going to need to get a few lubricants and to recharge the battery (which died while I was trying to restart by the roadside).

For the record it's a 2008 Toyota Yaris, 1.0 liter engine (1KR-FE).

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    If you wore the battery out on the side of the road, I'm assuming you did this by cranking the engine over. If you were cranking the engine over the engine is not seized, but has some other issue. Mind you, running an engine out of oil (or getting it very low on oil) is a serious engine malady which can cause plenty of damage. I'm just wondering what exactly is going on if it's not actually seized. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:27
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    Recharge the battery immediately. Never walk away from a lead acid battery in a discharged state, throw a charger on it immediately, only takes a minute. Time spent sitting discharged takes a toll on the battery's life. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 22:03
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    It is possible to fix a seized engine, it "just" requires a complete rebuild. Which means that it's usually cheaper to buy another, working engine and swap them. Which may or may not be cheaper than swapping the entire car.
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 8:46
  • for your source of another engine might i suggest car-part.com? and a local (independent) installer will probably put it in for you for about $1500 Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 16:14
  • @Agent_L That used to be true, but engine rebuilds are surprisingly cheap for some engines nowadays. Especially common engines with relatively low capacity (say anything up to 1.3L). Depending on your locale it might be cheaper than a car swap by quite some margin, especially if you consider a rebuild engine basically runs like new and in those cases where the rest of the car is still mighty fine. And a Yaris of 10 years old is basically still new, Toyota's are indestructible.
    – Mast
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 6:41

5 Answers 5


A seized engine due to not being used is usually due to the pistons / rings sticking in the bore, which with some freeing fluid may be easily solved, but this will not help the future life of the engine.

An engine seized due to lack of lubrication, such as you describe, means that the crankshaft bearings, main bearings and camshaft bearings have all probably seized - seizing in this situation means serious surface damage to the bearing surfaces in contact - in fact the surfaces can actually get welded together.

Just adding fresh oil will not solve the problem - this damage will need an engine re-build.

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    If you think about RPM, idling at 600 RPM means 10 rotations a second. If the car was on the road, you're going to be doing several times that many rotations. This type of sudden seizure is due to all the parts breaking down and building up so much friction it stopped an engine capable of over 100 HP. You have a lot of damaged parts all over the engine.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 5:56
  • @Nelson been to pick up cars where the engine has left itself all over the road in bits - not apparently the case for the OP...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 5:59
  • I don't expect a Yaris engine to rip itself apart... But the damage would be extensive nonetheless.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 6:00
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    @Nelson so when I put “this damage will need an engine re-build” and we are not meant to show costs due to location differences what was not clear?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 6:02
  • To the phantom downvoter, I seem to add points faster than you remove them...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:57

It's not practical to attempt a repair on that engine; it's toast. It also doesn't sound like you're in a position to do an engine replacement yourself, so you're now looking at a math problem rather than an engineering one;

a. How much is the car worth in a working condition?

b. How much is the car worth in it's current condition?

c. How much does a replacement engine (plus required parts etc - they don't just drop in) cost?

d. How much will a garage charge to install the replacement engine?

If a > b + c + d, then take it to a garage. Otherwise, sell the car as-is, and put that money, plus the engine money, into a replacement vehicle.

I'm pretty sure that emotionally, you'd like to keep this car; but logically, it's time for it to move on (with the aid of a tow-truck)

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    'Emotionally, you'd like to keep this car; but logically, it's time for it to move on' words have never cut so deep
    – Jalapeno
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:12
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    @JonasBezzubovas If you'd like to include an emotional attachment, you can add it to a. But don't expect your finances to notice.
    – AaronD
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 19:51
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    Out of curiosity and completeness, how would you approach finding B? I can't imagine a real-life situation where I would be able to get a "good" estimate of B. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 19:59
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    @MichaelMolter In the UK, we have Parker's Guide and Glass's Guide, which both cover the expected value of and common problems with all recent production cars. Parker's is partially free online; Glass's has gone paid-only; although I believe you can still get paper versions of both. Also check average prices on reputable second-hand websites such as Autotrader for the same model of car. I expect most countries will have similar sites.
    – Graham
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:30
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    @JonasBezzubovas You don't have to move on. Obtain a used engine, or (since apparently you don't need the car everyday) pull the engine and send it to a rebuilder. Or obtain a new engine if obtainable. A lot of people equate "engine wore out" to "time for a new car", but that's because they expect if the engine has run its normal life, therefore everything else on the car is worn out too. Not in your case; your engine failed early because oil wasn't checked. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 22:01

If you're willing to throw enough money at it, most mechanical failures can be fixed. However:

  • Money-wise, let's make up some numbers: If it would cost £1500 to disassemble and replace the ruined parts and buy new parts and reassemble the motor, and on the other hand it would cost £500 to buy and install a used motor, repairing the motor isn't a good deal.

  • Practically, if you replace most of the oscillation/rotating parts in the motor...you might has well replace the entire engine, if replacement is cheaper or easier.

You can't know the damage until it's disassembled, and that will begin to obligate you to pay for the work. All you can go on is what usually happens in these cases. Your car's engine was subject to a severe failure, and the best you can do is take counsel from those who've previously dealt with this sort of thing.

I'd talk to a workshop or three and ask what they think, and what they guess replacing the motor might cost. Rebuilt and guaranteed motors are available. My first thought — with a lifetime of fooling around with cars and motorcycles but no direct experience of Yaris mechanicals — would be that installing a used motor is better solution than rebuilding what you have...

...unless, of course, you're looking to replace the car. If that's so, now's your chance!


My personal rule is:

If a car has a failure in a major item - meaning "engine" and "transmission" - it's time to send it to the Great Scrap Yard In The Sky.

My other rule is:

Always disregard the above rule, because money flows through my fingers like water, and I'm a d*mn fool. Just had a head job done on a Toyota Sienna. Yeah, I'm sure it's gonna work out great!


Seriously - dump the car, get what you can for it, go get a decent replacement, and move on. Remind yourself - it's a hunk of tin. It's just a hunk of tin!!!!!

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    I am extremely tight with my car maintenance money. I average maybe $300/year tops on maintenance including a hired $1200 engine/clutch swap done several years ago. Knowing what's been recently maintained is priceless. Ask an aircraft owner how important their logbook is. Random replacement car = no logbook. Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 5:53
  • "it's a hunk of tin" : philistine, cars have personalities and need talking to nicely :) But yes one has to decide about the value.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 6:33
  • In addition to sending the car to the great scrapyard in the sky, you may reduce your losses by first removing high-value parts from the car to sell separately. Perhaps the audio system, perhaps the spare wheel, perhaps the supplied tool-kit, or the roof rack if it is an optional part.. Maybe scan ebay first to see what these higher value parts are, or look in a forum for you car to see which seem to be in demand. Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 11:14

When I was in the Marines decades ago (almost 40 years), my roommate picked up a Ford LTD with a seized engine. He had it towed in front of our trailer home. He then took off the spark plugs, filled the cylinders with motor oil and let it sit for a couple of weeks. Next time he checked, the car started right up after a tiny bit of hesitation at first. He drove that car for a year, then sold it.

If I were you I'd try this first before spending a lot of money on an engine rebuild or sending it to the scrapyard.

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    It really does depend on why it stopped in the first place... A seized crank will not come free with just some oil down the plug holes... Sometimes a seizure like that will break con-rods etc...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 22:40
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    If that's the case you don't lose anything by trying, except a bottle of motor oil... Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 19:34

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