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Same Old Grind - Revisited

Q. Hello Vince, I've emailed you before regarding transmission gear-grinding but now I've done another stupid mistake. Hope you can help me out with my new-car paranoia. My car is a manual 2000 Toyota Corolla with 6230 miles racked up in 3 months. I usually never drive the car hard but one morning I was in a hurry and had mistakenly tried to launch the car in third gear (instead of first) from a stop.

Needless to say knocking and pinging started to occur and then I realized I was in the wrong gear and quickly switched down to first. All this took place in about 2 seconds and the knocking came pretty hard before I realized what I did wrong. Basically, I pushed the engine to do a "power" launch in third gear. Not good. (The engine didn't stall BTW).

When I got to where I was going, I checked the engine, listened to it, checked for leaks, ran around the parking lot a few times and luckily nothing happened. For a few days after that, I did nothing but listened to the engine with the radio off while driving to and from work to try to find out any discrepancies in the sound, vibration, listened for valve clatter, and what not. So far so good, the engine is still running smooth.

Should I be concerned of any damage to the engine in that type of situation? Or would a new engine such as this be affected at all? How would I know or "feel" if there's any damage? My Dad told me that knocking at a tall gear would leave tiny "pits" on the piston head akin to a hammer leaving marks on metal. I'd appreciate your comments on this.


A. Okay Jonas, that's it. Give me the car keys. You're grounded. For those of you who are new here, I first met Jonas about two weeks ago in the Same Old Grind.

Knocking, or more correctly, pinging is not good for the engine. It will burn holes in the tops of the pistons. I have seen a piston burnt so bad, it looked like someone just cut the whole top of the piston off with a torch. Once in a while will not cause any lasting damage, it's the steady knocking or pinging that causes the damage. You'll know when the piston burns through when you lose that cylinder. You'll also lose power and the engine will start shaking and smoking.

Take it easy with your new baby. She's a good car and if you treat her right, she'll never let you down. Now, here's your keys back and drive safely.

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