A: The way you describe your problem, I immediately think you have a head gasket problem. This problem can be expensive, there is no other way of saying it. If there is no coolant in the lower end of the engine, a head gasket replacement job may be all that is needed.
For a head gasket job, you can plan to spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,800, including the shop labor, as well as parts and machine shop labor. If coolant has gotten into the lower end of the engine, which can be detected by draining out a quart from the crankcase in a clear beaker, then you need to plan on replacing the engine.
A used engine will run around $3,500 installed after you factor in cost of the engine, labor to remove and reinstall, as well as needed parts like belts, spark plugs, sensors and liquids.
If you go with a remanufactured engine, you may be on the hook for close to $5,000. A quality remanufactured engine will come with a 100,000-mile warranty, which will give you peace of mind for the duration of this vehicle.
Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to email@example.com.