Overheating engine!!!!! - Alfa Romeo Forum
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Simon C
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Overheating engine!!!!!

I have an Alfa (with a FSH) that went into the garage twice in 1 week due to overheating.

The first time the problem was put down to the electrics under the relays and I was charged 80 to have this put right. When it overheated 3 days later it went back in. The ECU was plugged in but they could find no fault and no reason for overheating (I have the printouts to show that the engine ran for 8 minutes before being switched off).

Less than 24 hours later the engine suffered a "massive mechanical failure". The car is under an extended warranty and neither the garage (Alfa dealer) nor the warranty company will accept responsibility as they claim the oil level was low.

The oil was topped up to max less than 4 days prior to its first visit for overheating. At no time did the oil low pressure light come on. After failure, the oil was drained at the garage and the engine turned on but still no oil light despite there being no oil in the engine.

Having spoken to the garage and the warranty people - where do I go from here?
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What was the mechanical failure?
Re warranty, they must be claiming that you were negligent by not checking engine oil level correctly. Insist the oil is tested by a laboratory, we use them all the time to verify if oil is old or new and the content and contamination of it. If as you say it was newly topped up oil this would show up.
Also the 156 does not have a level sensor but a low pressure warning light, this is easily checked to see if this works but whatever the outcome consequential damage is never covered on most extended warranties so this would not help you.
Finally what were the guages and lights telling you before the breakdown?
Simon C
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The garage have not told us what the mechanical failure was as they say they need to open the engine to find out. Sounds like a big end or snapped con rod.

The only warning lights that came on were the water temperature light which they reportedly fixed the first time (and charged me for) and the fuel injection light. Both were put down to a rewiring problem not covered under warranty.

When it expired (boo hoo!) there were no lights on the dashboard at all!!!

We did keep some of the oil that was drained from the engine - can you suggest a lab to send it to?

After going to the garage to see the car a few days after it had been towed in, underside of engine seems immaculately clean, however gearbox shows expected dirt, the underside of the engine had a lot of water on it and there were white vertical streaks down the side of the car as if the underside has been powerhosed. Does this sound normal to you if the car hasn't been cleaned as they claim?

Thanks for your help last time and I look forward to any thoughts you have on this.
rehan samee
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Hi Simon,

You did not mention the age / mileage of your car, so I'm not sure if my own experience is any relevant. Around March 2001, my 156 (2.5 V6) started running at a higher temperature than had been normal throughout my 2+ years of ownership. At the time, my car had clocked approximately 65,000 km.

I had never seen the temperature rise above 90, and now the car seldom ran below that temperature!!

You could say that I am absolutely a**l about checking, and topping up, the engine oil (I check it every weekend!!), so the issue of low oil level never arose. My concern was the head gasket, but I never saw any tell-tale signs of oil-in-coolant or coolant-in-oil.

The dealer insisted that since the car was not actually "overheating", there was absolutely nothing wrong with the engine. However, I was privately informed by one of the mechanics at my dealership that, in all probability, the radiator core had deposits on it leading to a reduction in the flow rate of the coolant.

I had the old radiator reverse-flushed a couple of times and noticed some improvement, but the temperature still stayed above 90!! I decided to cough up the cost of a new radiator in June 2001 and, since that day, the operating temperature on my car has never risen above 90!!

While not identical, I hope this account of my experience helps in your case.

Best regards,

Rehan Samee
Dubai, UAE
Simon C
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Thanks for the reply.

The car has done 70K miles and is 2 1/2 years old, so it's an above average mileage car, but I (stupidly) assumed that an extended warranty would protect me from anything going wrong. The most worrying thing about this is that the low oil pressure warning light failed to activate at any stage (including when the engine was totally drained and switched on for two minutes, the reasoning being that we could do no more damage to the engine at that point - only time it lit up was when ignition first turned on, so bulb does work(!)). This surely has potentially fatal consequences for Mr. German Alfa Driver on the Autobahn if his engine suddenly seizes due to no oil at 140mph, but Alfa's have said this faulty oil warning light problem is irrelevant. As a qualified Mechanial Engineer, and a member of the I.Mech.E, I beg to differ!!! Alfa UK still state that it's my fault and the engine failed due to it having no oil, despite me topping up with oil the day before it went in - I have the oil receipt, and for the record, it took just under a third of a litre. The dealers don't want to know, and just keep fire-walling anything I say. This episode has completely soured this car for me, and by association, Fiats too (same parent/warranty companies).
I hope your Alfa lasts longer than mine did, because I loved that car. Now, sadly, I can't wait to get rid of it.
Regards, S.

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