So I have a 2004 Toyota Camry, and a few weeks ago I was driving home then I started smelling this foul burning smell, I didn’t think nothing of it ... I thought it was others cars because I was on the interstate. So I got off the exit and was just hitting an traffic light then all the sudden my car stopped and wouldn’t crank back on... I (of course) freaked out and realized the burning smell was me( basically my car overheated). But long story short.. I took my car to Pep boys. The guy gave me a (1 minute) review then told me to start my car and he smelt it and said “burning” and then he realized my car didn’t have water/coolant and immediately said it was the head gasket and I need a new engine. But I didn’t think that was the reason because my car wasn’t leaking and my oil was just fine, I didn’t have the symptoms of a head gasket like no bubble on the stick, my oil wasn’t milky, and it wasn’t leaking plus etc. Not only that I just got my oil changed a week before the incident. So I went to a friend for a second opinion and he was saying it wasn’t head gasket and that Pep boys was trying to scam me. He took a look at my car and we both put water in it and tried to crank it up but no hope. But I didn’t smell any burning. Also no dashboard light came on. So we did some research and we’re both thinking it’s the water pump and the timing belt.... but it doesn’t make sense because I still don’t know where my coolant/ water has ran off too. Could someone please help me !!?

  • Maybe you ran it so long without coolant that it seized up.
    – Huesmann
    Jun 3, 2019 at 19:28
  • When you try to start the car what happens. Does it Crank (engine turns) but not catch/sputter/try start, or does it not crank at all (i.e. engine wont turn at all). If the engine does not turn at all, disconnect the spark plugs and remove them and try to turn the engine manually from the Crank pulley. If it does turn without any hard resistance then engine is probably "ok", something else may be preventing the starter from starting activating. I say engine is probably ok, but head could be warped or etc, but will likely still run.
    – H. Daun
    Jun 13, 2019 at 8:03
  • 1
    tried to crank it up but no hope could you please be more accurate with that you mean when you say this? If you means the engine turns but won't start then say so. If you mean the engine doesn't turn, then say so
    – Caius Jard
    Mar 1, 2020 at 7:05
  • No temperature gauge or warning light of over-heat before you ruined the engine ? Mar 1, 2020 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


A head gasket can fail where there's a breach between the cylinder and the cooling jacket. When that happens it burns coolant. So it's very possible you have a bad head gasket. It's also possible you have a coolant leak and that's what caused the over heating. Try rotating the engine by hand using a socket and large ratchet on the front crankshaft bolt. If the engine won't rotate, it's toast.


If you run the car out of coolant your head gasket will very often fail.

When no coolant are circulating and the engine is running the cylinder head will heat up and expand,this will compress the head gasket and strech the head bolts.

When the engine cools down and the cylinder head contracts a lot less pressure will keep the head gasket sealed to the sylinderhead/engine block as the head bolts have been streched too far from the heat they where exposed to.

The next time you start the engine the head gasket will fail.

if you see the failiure before the engine overheats too bad you might avoid changing the head gasket and head bolts.

If you fill coolant and the head gasket is blown you might get liquid in the cylinders this is uncompressable so it might stop the engine from cranking over,if this is the case remove the sparkplugs to get the liquid out.


I want to add some answer on it.

  1. If your car won't crank (meaning the engine won't even turn). = your cylinder head is still good probably bending a bit (you just need to resurface). But the the other like crankshaft, crankshaft bearing, or even cylinder piston could wrap that makes your engine won't even crank

  2. Head gasket will not making your engine stuck. Unless you have a very bad luck that head gasket suck into chamber and making it stuck (won't happens in hundred years).

  3. The burning. If you smell burning oil = please check again your engine oil level, check from oil lever not warning light. if your engine drown to empty, then your car is almost 50/50 the crankshaft is wrapped (please check)

  4. The coolant. Please check the water pipe.. it could be the water come out from leaking water pipe or radiator itself.. but this is overshadowed by a fact your engine won't crank.

So i suggest you do overhaul your engine if your car won't even cranked (the motor starter like stalling).

sometimes you can be lucky that crankshaft didn't wrap but just need undersized or oversized because wrapped bearing.

check again with mechanic that understands the situation, and the shop with fully equip not only showing oil packing on the shop

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