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Can an oil leak short out a starter and cause a brand new drive belt to snap?

Home Forums Stay Dirty Lounge Service and Repair Questions Answered Here Can an oil leak short out a starter and cause a brand new drive belt to snap?

This topic contains 6 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Arne Robinson Arne Robinson 5 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Topic
  • #990079
    Arne Robinson
    Arne Robinson
    Participant

    Dealer replaced old drive belt on 2011 Dodge Durango, changed oil, and advised me of what they implied was a non-urgent oil cooler leak which I had for a while and therefore didn’t want to pay the high price to fix ($1,000 or so, chose to continue to check oil level every now and then instead). An hour after I picked it up, I lost power, steering wheel locked up and smoke was coming from underneath the hood. I noticed that the drive belt they said they replaced had snapped. Towed the Durango back to dealer who told me that the oil cooler leak they warned me about is right above the starter and therefore shorted it out, causing the pully system to lock up and snap the belt. I find this odd since its supposed to be a brand new belt and also the mere coincidence/timing of it happening right after replacement and no time before or into the future. Does this add up?

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
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  • #990080
    Nightflyr *
    Richard Kirshy
    Participant

    Ok.. let take this apart and break it down…
    Can an oil leak cause a starter to fail ? Yes.
    You state there was smoke.
    Was it from the starter shorting out or the belt?
    In many cases if oil causes the death of a starter it usually just fails to crank the engine over.
    I suppose there are rare cases in which the starter can short and cause smoke and possible fire.
    What I do have an issue with is: “oil cooler leak they warned me about is right above the starter and therefore shorted it out, causing the pully system to lock up and snap the belt.”
    I’m not that familiar with your specific vehicle but, how exactly is the starter shorting out connected to the drive belt pulleys?
    And how would it lock them up to cause the belt to snap.
    Item:
    Did you hear any high pitched squealing prior to losing steering?
    That would show either the belt slipping or a locked up pulley.
    Personally I would dig a bit deeper into this.
    I would find out from service info if the starter is some how connected to the pulley system.
    If you find it is not, print out the documentation to prove it and then go back and question the shop.

    #990082
    Arne Robinson
    Arne Robinson
    Participant

    Thanks for replying.

    No idea if smoke was from the starter shorting out or the belt. Was concerned for safety so stood back. Smoke more or less subsided by the time I was brave enough to go under the hood.

    My oil leak was nothing new and nothing obviously severe. In fact, I forgot about it and never really checked the oil level regularly like I should have. Hence, the oil leak is just a trickle, not something you would expect to drench and short out an electrical component. I asked the dealer what the risk was of not addressing the oil leak and all they stated was that the engine could fail if I didn’t properly monitor and refill the lost oil. Nothing about risk of leaking onto an electrical component and shorting it out, probably not impossible but I would think highly improbable and statistically impossible to happen only within the one hour window of me picking the vehicle up (as opposed to not way before I brought it in and not way into the future).

    I spoke with an experienced mechanic I know and he sternly said, “a new, properly inspected/installed/tested belt without defects would NEVER snap as a result of a short in the starter or anything locking up”. He suspects they botched the belt replacement (didn’t inspect, properly install and/or properly test) and are trying to cover it up by blaming it on the oil leak (I’m not even sure the oil cooler is directly above the starter or not).

    I did not hear any noise prior to losing steering. I will search service info (any suggestions of sources)?

    #990084
    Nightflyr *
    Richard Kirshy
    Participant

    Trust me, one sniff would tell you if it was electrical or if it was rubber burning even after the fact.
    I have seen starters fail due to oil leaking on them.
    Doesn’t happen right away usually over the course of months or a couple of years, all depends on how large of a leak.
    Also most times it is due to valve cover gaskets leaking.

    I spoke with an experienced mechanic I know and he sternly said, “a new, properly inspected/installed/tested belt without defects would NEVER snap as a result of a short in the starter or anything locking up”.
    As I said don’t know your specific vehicle.
    I’ve never seen it myself, but that’s not to say some vehicles may have unique setups.
    If I had to guess either they installed the wrong belt or over tensioned it.

    I did not hear any noise prior to losing steering. I will search service info (any suggestions of sources)?
    This is in contradiction to what you were told.
    In almost all cases having a belt slide over a seized pulley, it will scream quite loud.
    Much like when you hear a car screaming when first started with a loose belt.
    As to service info…. Might try googling a factory service manual.
    You might get lucky and find it free on line.

    #990085
    Arne Robinson
    Arne Robinson
    Participant

    Man, I can’t remember what the smell was like (could have been either rubber or metal). Just got off the phone with the dealer rep again, said starter was probably “still engaged” when shorted. He clarified “engaged” meaning shorted out but still functioning/on/have power. Made no sense to me.

    I’ll look for more documented info and go inspect vehicle with dealer later. Will ask for foreman.

    Thanks again!

    #990086
    Nightflyr *
    Richard Kirshy
    Participant

    Not for nothing.
    45 years working on cars.. when a starter is engaged it means the bendix has pushed the starter gear forward to engage the flywheel.

    I assume you were driving the vehicle when you loss steering which means the engine was already running.
    If what this dealer rep is trying to tell you is that the starter shorted, reengaged with the flywheel after the engine was already running, you would know it because the two gears would not mesh and make the most god awful noise you will every hear.

    #990087
    Arne Robinson
    Arne Robinson
    Participant

    Yup, was driving. Nope, heard no noise, let alone god awful. Had radio on but not loud enough to block out that kind of noise.

    Thanks again!

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